Destinations Drives UK

The Great Glen – A Scottish Highlands Road Trip

Glencoe Scottish Highlands

Inverness, the cultural capital of the Highlands, and the perfect place to start a tour of the Scottish Highlands. With its airport and links to many cities across the UK, it is easily accessible. Whether you’re hiking the Great Glen Way, setting off on the North Coast 500, or just seeing where the road takes you, Inverness is the ideal setting-off point.

We flew to Inverness from Bristol with Easyjet and rented a car for our trip. The flight time was only just over an hour. The plan was to explore Inverness, then head off to the West Coast and head back along the Great Glen to Inverness. We stayed a total of 5 nights and 6 days and followed the following itinerary.

Day 1 – Arrive Inverness.

Day 2 – Explore Inverness and the North East Of Loch Ness.

Day 3 – Culloden Battlefield, Highland Folk Museum and drive to Oban on Scotland’s West Coast.

Day 4 – Explore Oban and the surrounding area.

Day 5 – Glencoe, Ben Nevis and back along the Great Glen to Fort Augustus on the South Western tip of Loch Ness.

Day 6 – Loch Ness and back to Inverness Airport.

Inverness, Loch Ness And Culloden

Inverness isn’t a large city. However, it is still worth spending some time there before starting your road trip. We took a walk along the banks of the River Ness to Ness Island. There is an Inverness circular walk which takes about 1 and a half to 2 hours.

It’s only a short drive to the North-East end of Loch Ness. This is the area where many Loch cruises depart. We took an hour’s cruise to the unmistakable remains of Urquhart Castle on the banks of the Loch. Alas, no sign of Nessie.

On the outskirts of Inverness, you’ll find the battlefield of Culloden. This was the location of the final brutal confrontation of the Jacobite rising on 16 April 1746. Entry to the museum was £11 although there was no charge to visit the battlefield itself.

After a morning at Culloden, it was then a drive across Scotland to the west coast and Oban. On route, we skirted the edge of the Cairngorms National Park and stopped off at the Highland Folk Museum. The museum has many old buildings including a reconstruction of a 1700s township. This location was actually used in the “Outlander” TV series as one of the McKenzie Clan villages.

Oban And Seil Island

The pretty seaside town of Oban lies on the west coast of Scotland and is known as the ‘Gateway to the Isles’. This is because it’s the busiest port for the Caledonian MacBrayne’s ferry service to the islands. These include neighbouring Mull, Tiree, Barra and Islay.

The town itself is centred around the bay and overlooked by McCaig’s Tower. A bizarre “Colosseum-like” Victorian folly, a steep 10 minutes walk uphill.

A short drive from Oban is Seil, a small slate island connected to the mainland by the dramatically named “Bridge Over the Atlantic”. In reality, it is just a stone arched bridge built in the 18th century.

Seil Island Scotland. Bridge Over The Atlantic

Just over the bridge is the Tigh an Truish Inn which means the “House of the Trousers”. Following the Jacobite rebellion, kilts were banned. So this is where islanders would change into trousers before crossing to the mainland and visiting the town.

Glencoe, Ben Nevis And Fort Augustus

On our final full day, it was a drive back up the Great Glen to Fort Augustus on the South-East end of Loch Ness. The drive takes you past the beautiful Scottish landscapes of Glencoe and Ben Nevis.

As James Bond fans we had to stop in Glencoe to visit the classic Scottish location from Skyfall. The exact location is about 20 minutes from the Glencoe visitors centre on the narrow road through Glen Etive.

On the way to Ben Nevis, we drove through Fort William. It may sound picturesque but unfortunately, it’s not. The dual carriageway through the town doesn’t help. However, once you have negotiated the town you are greeted by Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK.

Did we climb it? Well, we had lunch in the Ben Nevis Inn at the base of the mountain. I don’t know if that counts.

Our final night was spent alongside the canal locks in Fort Augustus. This is where the Caledonian Canal descends to join Loch Ness.

Fort Augustus Scotland

Finally, it was just over an hour’s drive along the banks of Loch Ness back to Inverness Airport.

We found one of the best things about this road trip was that the distances weren’t that long between stops. This left plenty of time to explore without rushing.

Don’t forget to check out some of our other road trips around Scotland, the UK and the rest of the world.

The Great Glen road trip. The Scottish Highlands

The Great Glen Scotland – Pin For Later

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