11 Best Road Trips from Inverness for Scenic Routes (2023)

Best road trips from Inverness


Scotland is one of my favorite countries on the planet. It serves up hiking, cycling, friendly faces, ancient architecture, and a load of varied landscapes.

But it’s also a great place for road-tripping, with brilliant routes throughout the nation.

That’s why, in this guide, I’ve brought you the 11 best road trips from Inverness.

I’ve listed them in shortest-to-longest order, and I’ve given you a variety-packed selection of diverse stuff. Stick on your seatbelt and come join the pit-stopping party!

Best road trips from Inverness

1. Inverness to Fort Augustus

Urquhart Castle in Scotland

If you want to see the watery shores of famous ol’ Loch Ness, this is the road trip for you.

But listen up: for tackling the trip, you have two different options.

Loch Ness is a surprisingly narrow beast, forming a strip-like loch with two lengthy banks. Both sides of the loch have roads running along them… but these two different roads offer very different ways to see the place.

The northern stretch is much more popular and well-known, and it offers famous sites, places to eat and drink, and all the conveniences of a major route. You’ll see the villages of Drumnadrochit (home to Nessieland and the Loch Ness Center) and Invermoriston, the ruins of massive Urquhart Castle, and lots more well-known stuff.

But the southern stretch is much more beautiful and interesting. Remote and rural, you don’t pass many famous places, but you hit pretty villages, dense forests, and a bunch of tucked-away picnic spots. The second half of this route diverges away from the loch, heading slightly uphill and beyond some much-smaller bodies of water.

No matter which route you choose, this is one of the best road trips from Inverness… and it’s a great way to see a sprawling Scottish icon.

🏠 Where to Stay in Fort Augustus

Fort Augustus is packed with cozy places to stay. Two of the best are:

They’re both central, pretty, well-equipped, and relatively affordable.

What to Do in Fort Augustus

Fort Augustus is most famous for its big set of 5 lofty locks, which control the water flowing into the southern part of Loch Ness.

You should also wander up to the Allt na Criche viewpoint, and munch on some ice cream from Miele’s Gelateria.

  • Itinerary: Inverness – Lochend – Drumnadrochit – Urquhart Castle – Fort Augustus (if you choose the more-popular northern route)
  • Distance: 35 miles/56km
  • Time: 1-6 hours
  • Highlights: Urquhart Castle, the villages of Drumnadrochit and Fort Augustus, all the Nessie stuff, and the banks of famous Loch Ness

2. Inverness to Lossiemouth

Lossiemouth in Scotland

This is another great choice if you’re super short on time.

The route only measures in at around 45 miles (72km), but it’s packed with variety and highlights. You’ll hit Inverness suburbs, beautiful beaches, charming coastal settlements, some excellent historical insights, and a whole load of tasty seaside eats and treats.

For the whole route, make sure you stick as close to the coast as you can (instead of always driving on the main road). This way, you’ll hit the nicest (and most remote) parts, instead of perpetually riding along a busy highway.

Along the way, make sure you squeeze in the mini detour to Findhorn, a tiny seaside village found at the end of a one-way road. There’s not much to see here, but it’s quiet and pretty, and it has a great beach.

Boats at Findhorn, Scotland

Other good stops along the way include Fort George, Nairn Beach, Brodie Castle, Burghead Well, and Hopeman East Beach.

For short but action-packed, this is one of the best road trips from Inverness.

🏠 Where to Stay in Lossiemouth

Norland B&B offers warm welcomes, tasty food, and an excellent location right in the heart of the action.

For something a little more no-frills, head instead to Dune View Caravan.

What to Do in Lossiemouth

Lossiemouth is one of my favorite coastal towns in Scotland. Quaint, cozy, and famously family-friendly, it’s a charming little place.

Sit on the beach, eat some fish and chips, slurp on some ice cream, and just enjoy soaking up the atmosphere.

Oh, and head to Covesea Lighthouse.

  • Itinerary: Inverness – Nairn – Findhorn – Burghead – Lossiemouth
  • Distance: 45 miles/72km
  • Time: 2-6 hours
  • Highlights: Nairn Beach, Brodie Castle, Hopeman East Beach, Lossiemouth itself, lots of beautiful roadside views, and exploring an underrated part of the Scottish coastline

3. Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh

A view of the bridge joining the Island of Skye to mainland Scotland

As you probably already know, Kyle of Lochalsh is most famous for being the mainland gateway to the Isle of Skye.

And it’s of course a great base for exploring the western and southern parts of the island—but before you drive off to those places, you first have to drive towards Kyle of Lochalsh (or just ‘Kyle,’ as most locals prefer to call it).

From Inverness, you’ll drive along the shores of Loch Ness (which we’ve already covered). When you hit Invermoriston, join the A887, and follow the River Moriston, which connects Loch Ness to the much-more-beautiful Loch Cluanie. You then keep heading west past River Shiel waterfall, and onto Loch Duich.

Eilean Donan Castle at Kyle of Lochalsh in Scotland

Loch Duich is one of my favorite parts of Scotland. Outrageously beautiful, it’s surrounded by loads of great walking trails. If you only do one of them, it should be the ridge walk Five Sisters of Kintail, one of the best wanders I’ve ever roved along.

If you want incredible mountain views without having to head further north, this is absolutely one of the best road trips from Inverness. I guarantee you’ll love it.

🏠 Where to Stay in Kyle of Lochalsh

Unsurprisingly, Kyle of Lochalsh has plenty of places to stay.

Skye View is a great little guesthouse, while pub-based Kyle Hotel is more of a ‘normal’ hotel (with great food and drinks, and a perfect location).

What to Do in Kyle of Lochalsh

If you overnight in Kyle of Lochalsh without visiting the Isle of Skye, you’re a big fat idiot (sorry).

But before you head on, munch some morsels at the so-called ‘Kyle of Lochalsh Viewpoint & Picnic Place.’

And make sure you also head to Plockton, one of the prettiest places in the whole of Scotland.

  • Itinerary: Inverness – Drumnadrochit – Invermoriston – Glenmoriston – Shiel Bridge – Kyle of Lochalsh
  • Distance: 79 miles/127km
  • Time: 1-2 days
  • Highlights: Loch Ness, Loch Cluanie, Loch Duich, lots of mountain views, hiking up the Five Sisters of Kintail, and arriving at the entry point to Skye

4. Inverness to Applecross

Bridge from North Kessock to Inverness in Scotland

Coming up soon, I’ve covered the entirety of the mega-famous North Coast 500.

But if you don’t have time for its entirety, you might want to do just this section of the route instead.

It’s the most southern stretch of the NC500… and the only non-coastal stretch of the NC500. Because it’s not coastal, lots of people overlook it. But they shouldn’t; if you’re looking for a relatively short ride, it’s one of the best road trips from Inverness

There are two major ways you can ride this route—but if you’re being a faithful follower of the official NC500, you want to take the northern of the two options, that’s the one going through Lochluichart, Achnasheen, and all the other little towns and villages.

(The other is the southern section along the A82 and the A87, which I’ve just covered above).

Along this northern stretch, you’ll first pass some pretty towns and villages surrounding western Inverness (Muir of Ord and Beauly are two of the best).

From here, you hit a load of small lochs, some low-level peaks, around ten million picnic spots, the insane beauty of the Lochcarron/Strathcarron area, and the infamous hairpins and sheer drops of the Bealach na Bà. Highly recommended!

Shieldaig Village on Beinn Alligin in Scotland

🏠 Where to Stay in Applecross

The only good place right in the center of the (tiny!) village is Sanctuary Cottage—which is great if you can nab it when it’s available.

But nearby Hartfield House Hostel is also pretty and welcoming, and in a great location.

What to Do in Applecross

You should mainly use Applecross to visit some of the nearby places on the west coast.

Some of my favorite close-by stop-offs include Shieldaig, Plockton and Lochcarron.

This part of Scotland is one of my favorite regions in the nation, and it’s brimming with beautiful places.

  • Itinerary: Inverness – Muir of Ord – Achnasheen – Stratcharron – Lochcarron – Applecross
  • Distance: 80 miles/129km
  • Time: 1-3 days
  • Highlights: Lots of small lochs, lots of small peaks, the great Stratcharron/Lochcarron area, the Bealach na Bà, and the endless exploring from Applecross

5. Inverness to Glenfinnan

Glenfinnan, Scotland

Glenfinnan is most famous for being home to the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which you might know from the Harry Potter movies.

But it’s also the final destination for one of the best road trips from Inverness.

Obviously, one of the highlights of riding from Inverness to Glenfinnan is the viaduct itself. But there’s loads more great stuff along the way.

First, you’ll ride all the way along the shores of Loch Ness, reaching Fort Augustus via one of the two routes we’ve already outlined above. From here, you’ll keep heading southwest, along Loch Lochy, and to the shores of Loch Eil. You then head west, all the way to Glenfinnan, which sits on the shores of Loch Shiel.

En-route, you’ll pass lots of distant mountains, including stuff from the Cairngorms (more on that place later) and Glencoe—and you’ll even get views of the mighty Ben Nevis (which, if you don’t already know, is the loftiest peak in the whole of Scotland).

If you’re looking for an overnight stay along this ride, mega-popular Fort William is of course the logical choice.

What to Do in Glenfinnan

Of course, you want to check out Glenfinnan Viaduct. Whether you’re interested in Harry Potter or not, this place is mega famous, mega pretty, and mega interesting.

For a much more immersive experience, you can ride a themed steam train over the viaduct from Fort William to Mallaig (or vice-versa).

  • Itinerary: Inverness – Drumnadrochit – Fort Augustus – Invergarry – Spean Bridge – Glenfinnan
  • Distance: 81 miles/130km
  • Time: 1-3 days
  • Highlights: All the lovely lochs, driving along Loch Ness, views of both Glencoe and the Cairngorms, the mega-famous Glenfinnan Viaduct, and riding along in a stream train

6. Inverness to Pitlochry

Wooden pier on Loch Dunmore in Pitlochry, Scotland

Sitting at the southern tip of Cairngorms National Park, you have the quaint coziness of pretty Pitlochry.

And it’s a nice little town… but getting here is even better.

The Cairngorms is the biggest national park in the UK, and it’s packed with peaks, passes and panoramas. If you like mountains, you’ll absolutely love the ride… and you’ll find endless places where you’ll want to stop off and hike.

Some of the park’s most famous ascents are Braeriach, Ben Macdui and (of course) Cairngorm—and they’re all accessible from this road trip.

Cairngorms in Scotland

Along the way, you’ll also pass some other pretty little settlements before you get to Pitlochry. Aviemore is a popular favorite, while Kincraig and Boat of Garten are also great places.

If you’re traveling with kids, make sure you stop off at Highland Wildlife Park, which is right on the route. A safari-style wildlife park with rare and endangered animals, it’s full of fun stuff. And just before it, you have Zip Trek Adventure Park, an outdoor funfest brimming with ziplines, aerial challenges, and loads more exciting adventures.

🏠 Where to Stay in Pitlochry

Pitlochry is packed with endless accommodation options.

Craigvrack Hotel & Restaurant is a relatively classy joint with excellent food, while Pitlochry Backpackers is the perfect low-frills option for anyone on a budget.

What to Do in Pitlochry

Pitlochry is mainly made up of one main street, which is dotted with places to eat and drink.

Make sure you chow down in Cafe Biba, which serves up unpretentious portions of hearty Scottish classics.

And for low-level outdoor adventures, head to Tay Forest Park.

  • Itinerary: Inverness – Boat of Garten – Aviemore – Dalwhinnie – Pitlochry
  • Distance: 85 miles/137km
  • Time: 1-7 days (depending on how much hiking you want to do)
  • Highlights: The cute towns and villages, exploring the full length of Cairngorms National Park, and all the excellent hikes you can ascend along the way

7. Inverness to Blairgowrie

Cairnwell Pass in Scotland

Here’s an even better way to explore Cairngorms National Park.

Just south of the eastern side of the park, you have the little town of Blairgowrie. And 35 miles southeast of Inverness, you have Grantown-on-Spey, which sits in the northern part of the park.

But here’s where things get interesting: running between Blairgowrie and Grantown-on-Spey, you have the so-called ‘Snow Roads Scenic Route.’ A 90-mile (145km) adventure taking in forests, mountains, and tiny towns and villages, this is one of the most dramatic rides on our list.

The route gets its name because these are usually the first roads in Britain to be covered by snow. Vast and vertiginous, the trip is full of tight curves, sudden switchbacks, and a whole bunch of lofty panoramas.

It offers a ridiculous number of viewpoints, and lots of lesser-known hikes in an unexplored part of the park. If you like hiking without crowds, you’ll find loads of worthy stop-offs.

For fun driving and a challenging route, this is one of the best road trips from Inverness. You could make zero en-route stops, and still have one of the best rides of your life.

🏠 Where to Stay in Blairgowrie

The two most central (and best!) options are Ivybank Lodge and The Angus Hotel & Spa.

The latter is set in a cozy old pub, while the former is an alluring Victorian guesthouse with classy rooms and an atmospheric garden.

What to Do in Blairgowrie

Blairgowrie is actually part of a twin town, named ‘Blairgowrie and Rattray.’

Whether it’s one place or two (I don’t know either), it’s a good base for golfing, visiting both Perth and Dundee, and exploring the southern side of Cairngorms National Park.

  • Itinerary: Inverness – Grantown-on-Spey – Tomintoul – Braemar – Spittal of Glenshee – Blairgowrie
  • Distance: 35 miles/56km
  • Time: 2-7 days (depending on how much hiking you’re keen on doing)
  • Highlights: Cairnwell Pass (the highest point of the route, which sits at 670 meters (2,200 feet), Braemar, Tomintoul, underrated hikes, and endless dramatic driving

8. Inverness to John O’Groats

Sea stacks of Duncansby Head, northeast of John o' Groats in Caithness, northeast Scotland

This is another option if you want to do some of the North Coast 500 but don’t have the time (or the energy) to tackle the whole thing.

That said, this stretch is the worst stretch of the North Coast 500 by far. It’s still pretty good—it’s just that the other parts are (much) better.

Anyway, if you like shoreline riding, you might just love this route. It takes you north out of Inverness, and follows Scotland’s east coast all the way to iconic (but frankly vaguely underwhelming) John O’Groats.

While the western side of northern Scotland’s coast is famous for quiet places and remote landscapes, this part offers way more civilization and convenience. Along the way, you’ll pass Dunrobin Castle & Gardens, the Whaligoe Steps, and some surprisingly-big towns.

Dunrobin Castle in Golspie, Scotland

Oh, and make sure you stop off at Ulbster Alpaca Trekking, which is exactly what you think it is.

En-route, you mainly drive along a big busy road. So this route isn’t as atmospheric or interesting as some of the others we’ve covered… but you can zip along it quickly and easily, which you might enjoy if you’re short on time (or if you’re not a confident driver).

🏠 Where to Stay in John O’Groats

Hamnavoe B&B is really friendly and welcoming (and offers a great breakfast!), while the imaginatively-named John O’Groats studio apartment is perfect if you’re looking for a peaceful slice of self-sufficiency.

What to Do in John O’Groats

First up, make sure you visit Dunnet Head, the most northerly point in mainland Britain.

You should also visit Duncansby Head, and take some boat trips to see all the area’s nesting birds.

Oh, and make sure you find the town’s famous sign, which points you in the direction of Land’s End.

  • Itinerary: Inverness – Dingwall – Golspie – Helmsdale – Wick – John O’Groats
  • Distance: 120 miles/193km
  • Time: 1-2 days
  • Highlights: Ticking off a part of the NC500, some nice easy driving, Dunrobin Castle, the Whaligoe Steps, comfort and convenience, and all the great John O’Groats day trips

9. Inverness to Aberdeen

A golf course near a beach in Cruden Bay, Scotland

If you’re on the hunt for an underrated coastal adventure, this is a brilliant choice.

You should hug the coast as tightly as you can for lots of excellent and underrated stuff—this isn’t the quickest route from Inverness to Aberdeen, but it’s definitely the best route.

For the first part of the ride, you’ll head to (and beyond) Lossiemouth, a route we’ve already covered earlier in this guide. From here, you should keep following the coast. Always take the smaller roads over the big roads where you get the option, and you’ll see lots of great stuff.

Some of the en-route highlights include Portknockie, Boyne Castle, Macduff, RSPB Scotland Troup Head, Rosehearty Beach, Fraserburgh, Rattray Head Lighthouse, Peterhead, Cruden Bay, and the excellent Bullers of Buchan hike.

Rattray Head Lighthouse in Scotland

If you like coastal walks, this is one of the best road trips from Inverness. The area offers a great compromise between built-up and rural, so there are lots of easy-to-reach starting points for remote shoreline wanders. There are lots of great ideas here.

This route is also a good option if you’re riding with kids. Though you find lots of adventures along the way, you also get lots of large settlements, where you can find all the conveniences you and your little ones need.

What to Do in Aberdeen

I reckon Aberdeen is the most underrated city in Scotland. You might not know much about it now, but you’ll have fallen in love with it by the time you leave.

Check out Girdle Ness Lighthouse, Greyhope Bay (the top dolphin-watching spot in the UK!), Aberdeen Science Center, and Donmouth Local Nature Reserve.

  • Itinerary: Inverness – Lossiemouth – Fraserburgh – Peterhead – Boddam – Aberdeen
  • Distance: 145 miles/233km
  • Time: 2-4 days
  • Highlights: RSPB Scotland Troup Head, Rosehearty Beach, the Bullers of Buchan hike, dolphin-watching at Greyhope Bay, and exploring what might just be the most underrated city in Scotland

10. Inverness to Edinburgh

St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh, Scotland

If you want to extend the ride from Inverness to Aberdeen into an even-lengthier trip of bumper proportions, this is the route for you.

Of course, there are endless ways to get from Inverness to Edinburgh. But I reckon the best route (and you’re probably gonna expect this advice by now) is by following the coast the entirety of the way.

En-route (apart from the stuff we’ve just covered), you’ll pass the big settlements of Dundee, Perth, and St Andrews.

St Andrews Cathedral Ruins
St Andrews Cathedral Ruins

But you’ll also see lots more highlights, including Stonehaven Harbor, Dunnottar Castle, St. Cyrus National Nature Reserve, pretty Crail and Anstruther, and a whole load of brilliant beaches.

Again, if you’re traveling with kids, you’ll find lots of child-friendly excitement and attractions along the way… so this is a great route for families.

To get back to where you started, you can either ride the Snow Roads Scenic Route, or go via Pitlochry and Aviemore. Whichever way you go, you’re set for an incredible loop.

If you’re looking for lengthy and varied, this is obviously one of the best road trips from Inverness. You get remote adventures, rural stuff, a whole load of excellent cities, and stuff for all ages.

  • Itinerary: Inverness – Fraserburgh – Peterhead – Aberdeen – Montrose – St Andrews – Edinburgh
  • Distance: 300 miles/483km
  • Time: 3-5 days
  • Highlights: Aberdeen, the Bullers of Buchan hike, St Andrews, Crail, Anstruther, a whole load of brilliant shoreline wanders, lots of excellent beaches, endless family-friendly entertainment, and finishing up in Scotland’s alluring capital

11. The North Coast 500

Road to Torridon in Scottish Highlands, Western Scotland

Last up, this mega-famous beefy behemoth. If you have time to tackle it, the North Coast 500 is definitely the route you should choose. Yeah, the rest of the routes on this list are great but this one is genuinely world-class.

I even wrote a full guide about it: The Ultimate Guide to the North Coast 500.

The most famous road trip in Scotland, this big lengthy loop usually starts (and therefore ends) in Inverness. Measuring in at 500 miles (800km), it heads west to Applecross before then running around the western, northern and eastern coasts of the nation.

Because this is a sparsely-populated area of Scotland, most of the highlights here are quiet and calm. If you like secluded hikes, untouched beaches, dramatic landscapes, or tiny villages, you’ll absolutely love it.

Kylesku Bridge along the NC500 in Northern Scotland
Kylesku Bridge along the NC500 in Northern Scotland

You could feasibly spend months on this trip, and not even tackle 10% of its outdoor adventures. But because you only have time for a few, you should prioritize Stac Pollaidh, Achmelvich Bay, Balnakeil Beach, and the mountains of Torridon.

Spend most of your time on the northern part of the west coast, because it’s the best part by far.

This isn’t just one of the best road trips from Inverness—it’s one of the best road trips in the world. I’ve done it twice, I’ve done other stretches more than twice, and one day I’ll probably do the entire thing again.

🏠 Where to Stay in Inverness

When you’re finished, you’ll be right back where you started: the center of Inverness.

For a basic but brilliant hotel, head to the ever-reliable Holiday Inn Express.

Or if you’re on the hunt for no-frills and low-budget, choose Inverness Youth Hostel.

What to Do Along the North Coast 500

There are way too many highlights to properly list. But some of my favorite places to stop are Ullapool, Stac Pollaidh, Achmelvich Bay, Balnakeil Beach, the Bealach na Bà, and the mountains of Torridon.

Give yourself more time than you think you need, because you’ll want to constantly stop en-route.

  • Itinerary: Inverness – Applecross – Gairloch – Ullapool – Durness – Thurso – Wick – … and back to Inverness!
  • Distance: 500 miles/800km
  • Time: At least 10 days, but more is always better
  • Highlights: Ullapool, the Bealach na Bà, countless possible day trips, fantastic hikes, fantastic beaches, the most beautiful landscapes in the nation, and riding around the best (and most famous!) road trip in Scotland

Before You Go

And just like that, we’ve put the brakes on, parked up the car, and reached the end of this guide. They’re the 11 best road trips from Inverness, and you’ll love riding around all of them.

For more four-wheeled fun, check out our guides to the best road trips from Edinburgh, the best road trips from Glasgow, and the best road trips around the entirety of Scotland. Oh, and here are all the best hikes and walks in and around Inverness.

Thanks for reading, and make sure you stick around with Travelness for much more!


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