For a stretch of land of relatively small size, the British Isles host some of the world’s most breathtaking scenic routes. Many will be familiar with the epically long trips found in larger countries, but few countries have as diverse and breathtaking scenic routes as the UK. There’s plenty of it, too; Britain hosts 200,000 miles of road with the majority of that connecting gorgeous, out-of-the-way areas to the grid.
Nature aficionados will be all too familiar with the allure of Scotland. Hosting dramatic landscapes and providing a way to holiday on a budget, its people are also famed for their warmth and humour. Within the country, two major routes snake around two coastal areas and provide the opportunity for an utterly unforgettable road trip.
Choice one: The Scotland 500
No road trip through Scotland is complete without a discussion of the Scotland 500. This trip takes in the full range of green countryside and wild coastlines, encompassing some of the most historically and scientifically important sites in the British Isles. Inverness, Ullapool and John o’ Groats are some of the more famous names on the trip. Depending on the time of year, you can face midges, sweltering sun or torrential cold and downpour. Wrap up accordingly, stock up between each urban leg of the trip, and consider using appropriate transportation – an SUV may be more appropriate for the rugged elements of the trip, and allows you to carry more gear.
What makes the Scotland 500 unforgettable? The highlands offer a piece of culture found nowhere else in the world, and incredible, otherworldly views. Fairy Glen evokes rugged wilderness more at home in Lord of the Rings, and history comes to life at the Castle of Mey, featured in The Crown. Elsewhere, Smoo Cave offers a curious lesson on chemical weathering, and Corrieshalloch Gorge is unique and picturesque.
Scotland 300, for calmer times
The dramatic and breathtaking wilderness of the 500 is counteracted by the understated but beautiful scenes taken in on the South-West coast. Here, green hills and coastline combine into a tasteful and idiosyncratic trip. It’s a little more civilised than heading up the map, too.
The 300 has deep roots in druidism, the history of Scotland’s venerated poet Robert Burns, and the earliest roots of Christianity in the UK. For someone interested in history, culture, and unique communities, there are few better places to visit. There’s some incredibly out-of-place sights, too; in Port Logan, famed botanic gardens play host to thriving palm trees, something you’d never expect to see in Scotland.
The Scotland 500 offers a dramatic painting of the wilderness, between crashing sea and rocky outcrops. Deeper South, the 300 offers the perfect antidote, a gentle course through green hills and human history. Whichever you pick, you’ll have a time to remember – Scotland truly is a world-class road trip destination.