Where to Start
We began our Scotland adventure by flying into Edinburgh Airport (EDI) after spending a day in London. The flight from London is approximately 90 minutes and cost about $100 round trip per person. Once we arrived at EDI, we proceeded to the rental car facility and picked our vehicle.
Note: The UK drives on the opposite side of the road (left side) and the steering wheel is on the right side. This takes some getting used to especially in congested city roads but once you get adjusted, this is definitely the way to go!
The Scottish Highlands are beautiful with rolling green hills, majestic ocean views, and filled with little white dots everywhere. Those little white dots are sheep and they outnumber humans in the country.
Driving through the Highlands is an amazing adventure; especially when you have a great travel partner to enjoy the sights. Self-driving also gives you the ultimate flexibility to pull over at any time, take in the beauty, and snap a few pictures.
The castle sits atop a large hill in the center of the city in Edinburgh. Its incredible that a modern city has been built around this ancient landmark. We were in a bit of a time crunch so we admired the castle from below but didn’t get a chance to tour the grounds. If you have an opportunity, make time to view this historic landmark.
The castle looks like something out of a fairy tale set atop a seaside cliff, it truly takes you back to another world. The castle is open to visitors but make sure to check the operating hours during your visit if you’d like to explore the inside.
This castle is set on a hill over the River Ness and offers beautiful panoramic shots of the city Inverness below. The city is more modern than you’d expect for Northern Scotland and offers a lot of food and shopping options so make sure to fill up (food and fuel) before continuing on your journey.
If you want to spot Nessie, bring your binoculars as you’ll have a great vantage point from this castle which sits besides Loch Ness. It is a bit of a walk to get from the parking area to the Castle itself so bring a jacket on a windy day so you don’t have trek all the way back to the car.
This is yet another picturesque castle with a beautiful water backdrop that makes for great pictures!
Isle of Skye/Elgol
After a few days of castle touring, we planned a boat tour launching from Elgol in the Isle of Skye.
Note: Always give yourself a sufficient time buffer when driving in the Highlands. Our drive from Portree to Elgol took twice the time quoted by Google Maps which didn’t account for delays due to all the sheep and cows roaming the one-way curvy roads through the steep slopes of the Highlands.
The boat tour we booked was a ½ day expedition on Loch Scavaig. During our voyage, we spotted:
Our boat ported at Isle of Canna (only 4.3 miles around) for about an hour where we enjoyed a nice cup of coffee and a pastry.
Don’t make the same mistake we did. When you come across an open gas station in the Highlands – fill up early and often!
After our boat trip, we had planned to go to the Fairy Pools however we were running dangerously low on gas. It was a Sunday and after asking several locals and googling the nearest gas stations we found that most had already closed for the day. We had just enough fuel to get back to our Airbnb for the night and very disappointingly had to cut our day short.
Self-driving tours are definitely the way to go after you get adjusted to driving on the other side
Fuel up early and often – gas stations are sparse and close early
Download maps so they are available offline and/or bring a standalone GPS Unit with you as cell signal is extremely spotty
Stay at Airbnb’s and book in advance; the major hotel brands do not exist in the Highlands and alternative lodging is limited and could be gone if you wait until the last minute
Pack snacks and lunches for your road trip, McDonalds may sound Scottish but you won’t find many fast food chains in these parts