Boasting mile after mile of stretching coastline, sprawling countryside, open lakes and towering mountains, Scotland is truly a spectacular place to behold and explore. There’s plenty of incredible ways to travel across the country to soak up the sights on offer and to make the most of the sheer variety of landscapes. Take a look below at the top scenic travel routes you can journey on during your holidays in Scotland, either by train, road, walking or ferry.
Sit back and watch the landscape roll by on a train journey – perfect for seeing hundreds of miles’ worth of landscape in a relatively short amount of time. Passing everything from gentle lochs to impressive bridges, and spanning everything from classic steam railways to the luxury of the Royal Scotsman, there’s a train journey across Scotland to suit everyone.
Described as the greatest railway journey in the world, the Jacobite Steam Train offers a truly memorable journey between Fort William and Mallaig. Taking between two and three hours, the train departs from Fort William, which sits at the foot of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak. On the way it passes through many pretty villages, including Lochailort, Arisaig, nestled on the shore of Loch nan Ceall, and Morar, with far-reaching views out to the ‘Small Isles’.
The Jacobite Steam train passing over the Glenfinnan Viaduct
A highlight of the journey is passing over the 21-arch Glenfinnan Viaduct, as seen in the Harry Potter films, which offers truly spectacular views. Exploring Mallaig, at the end of the line, you will find a charming fishing port with plenty of shops, restaurants, and places to enjoy some fish and chips.
For the ultimate in luxury, step on-board the Belmont Royal Scotsman and experience a rail journey in real comfort, offering on-board meals, beverages, private tours and much more. Time aboard the train ranges from 2 nights for the Highland Journey to 7 nights for the all-encompassing Grand Tour of Great Britain.
Scotland's luxury railway
Departing from Edinburgh Waverley, this legendary train takes its passengers through Highland landscapes and past impressive castles, sweeping glens, vast lochs and towering peaks, offering some quintessentially Scottish experiences along the way, from whisky tasting to a round of golf.
Over the Forth Bridge
Crossing the Firth of Forth, the Forth Bridge is one of Scotland’s most famous landmarks, and is an impressive feat of engineering which has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site Status. It boasts the second-longest single cantilever span of any bridge in the world, and is something to be marvelled at whether you admire architecture, engineering or just an amazing view.
The unmissable Forth Bridge
Take a train from Edinburgh Waverley to Fife to cross this mighty bridge for yourself and enjoy the surrounding views out over the estuary.
Making its way through some of the most rural parts of Scotland, the Far North Line, operated by Abellio Scotrail, takes you from Inverness all the way to the mainland’s most northerly points at Thurso and Wick.
Discover Dunrobin Castle on the Far North Line
Throughout the four-hour journey, you’ll take in a variety of landscapes from boggy peatland to woodland, coastline and heathland, passing many of the country’s best golf courses as well as the grand sight of Dunrobin Castle, the largest house in the Highlands.
Stretching from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh, the Kyle Line is one of the most spectacular coastal railways you will ever come across. Across the two and a half hour-long journey, you’ll discover not only magnificent rocky shoreline but also tranquil beaches, dense forests, peaceful lochs, Highland hillsides and maybe even some wildlife – there’s a chance of spotting red deer, otters, herons and eagles.
Kyle of Lochalsh, the end destination
The line is also dotted with pretty villages throughout, from peaceful Plockton to alluring Attadale, home to some gardens that are well worth a visit. From Kyle of Lochalsh you can also make the trip over to the Isle of Skye.
Opening up even more of rural Scotland is the country’s road network, which boasts some of the most memorable drives you’ll find anywhere in the world. From breath-taking passes to roads which hug the edges of lochs, there’s many incredible adventures on four wheels to be had in Scotland.
Road to Applecross (Bealach Na Bà)
A twisty 14-mile-long ribbon of road from just past Kishorn to Applecross, the Road to Applecross climbs as high as 2000ft for truly unforgettable mountaintop views. It’s a thrilling ride too, not only as you’re scaling a mountain but also because of the tight hairpin bends that zig-zag their way up the mountainside.
Hairpin bends on the Road to Applecross
At the top of Bealach Na Bà, there’s a car park where you can stop and soak up the views, looking out over the mountainous landscape and across the water to the Skye and the Outer Hebrides.
Balloch to Trossachs Pier
This drive is perfect for those looking for endless views of Scotland’s famous lochs. Travelling on the A82, A85 and the A821, you may find it hard to tear yourself away from the views of Loch Lomond on offer for much of the journey, as well as the dominating heights of Glen Ogle.
Soak up the views of the gentle Loch Katrine
The road’s end destination, Trossachs Pier, is also located on another beautiful loch, Katrine, and here you can enjoy a relaxing cruise and soak up the views on board a steamboat.
Edinburgh to St Andrews
Connecting these two popular Scottish destinations is a scenic road following the eastern coast of Scotland. After passing the unique Forth Bridge, much of the road makes its way through the East Neuk, a peninsula lined with pretty coastline.
Make a stop in Anstruther along the way
If you’re looking to check out some charming fishing villages during your time in Scotland, then this is definitely the road to take. Along the way, you can make stops at Anstruther, Elie and Pittenweem and see a slice of the real Scotland.
For the ultimate Scottish road trip, look no further than the North Coast 500. Starting in Inverness, the route promises an epic journey of 516 miles, first of all heading west to Applecross, before heading north to Ullapool, further on to John O’Groats, the mainland’s most northerly point, and then venturing back south through Dingwall and back to Inverness.
A truly epic road trip
With the route being so long, you’re bound to tick a number of natural wonders of your to-see list, from mystical caves to sweeping beaches, dramatic mountains and romantic castles.
Ullapool to Lochinver
A single-track road that meanders its way along part of the western coastline, spectacular mountains including Stac Polaidh and Ben More rise out of the landscape along the way, with the unique outline of Suilven in the distance being the route’s crowning glory. The geological features here make it feel as if you are on a different planet.
The unmistakable sight of Suilven
Views can also be enjoyed out to the Summer Isles, while the charming village of Achiltibuie is the ideal resting point halfway along.
What better way to discover the hidden corners of Scotland than on foot? Pull on your walking boots and discover mile after mile of amazing trails and pathways, leading you to secluded coves, over dramatic peaks and past some of the country’s most beautiful natural scenery.
Covering 96 miles of stunning Highland landscapes between Milngavie and Fort William, the West Highland Way is the perfect challenge for long distance walkers.
Walking the West Highland Way
Initially taking you through Mugdock Country Park, the route takes you along the shores of the tranquil Loch Lomond, past several towering hills, including Ben Lomond, and through sweeping glens. One of the most challenging elements of this route is climbing the Devil’s Staircase between Kinlochleven and Glencoe.
Stretching from the Firth of Forth near Edinburgh in the south to the Firth of Tay in the north, walks along the Fife Coastal Path range from gentle and level to tough and demanding, and rewards anyone who sets foot on it with unrivalled coastal views.
Beautiful beaches and more on the Fife Coastal Path
Soak up the variety of natural scenery, which spans rugged cliffs, wide estuaries, award-winning beaches and wildlife reserves, with a diverse choice of places to stop dotted along the way. Explore the fishing villages of the East Neuk, the coal mining towns of Central Fife, and the small yet cosmopolitan university town of St Andrews.
Spanning 212 miles between Portpatrick on the western coast and Cockburnspath in the east, the Southern Upland Way is one of Scotland’s longest walking routes. Its length guarantees a wealth of spectacular sights, whether you choose a short and gentle section or a more challenging stretch.
The picture-perfect Southern Uplands
Across some parts of the Way, it can be several miles between towns, leaving walkers to enjoy uninterrupted views of the remarkable landscape, changed over time by glaciation.
The John Muir Way is another coast-to-coast trail leading walkers for 215km from Dunbar, the birthplace of John Muir, to Helensburgh on the opposite side.
Behlhaven Bay on the eastern end of the John Muir Way
Along the way are a number of natural and manmade landmarks to take in, from Campsie Fells to Blackness Castle, Loch Lomond and the Strathkelvin Railway Path. The path also travels through the heart of Edinburgh, offering cultural and city sights, in stark contrast to the open countryside seen along most of the route. Many other walking routes also intersect the John Muir Way, giving walkers endless options for exploring Scotland on foot.
Combining parts of the Dava Way, Moray Coast Trail and the Speyside Way, the Moray Way is a 95-mile circular route on Scotland’s north-east coast. Along the coast you’ll discover many old fishing villages, unusual coastal sandstone landscapes and perhaps even some dolphins and seals when looking out to sea.
Bridge over the River Spey at Craigellachie
The River Spey is also fantastic for spotting wildlife, with a chance to see pine martens, deer and buzzards among others on your travels. History lovers will also marvel at the Pictish ruins found at Burghead.
There’s much more to Scotland than the mainland, and the best (and often only) way to explore the islands is by ferry. On a ferry ride there’s also an opportunity to see the wild coastline from the water and enjoy the wide-reaching views of the sea, while your end destination is sure to offer more incredible landscapes, diverse wildlife and charming villages to discover.
Though many prefer to take the Skye bridge over to the Isle of Skye, the ferry from Glenelg is a truly unforgettable and scenic journey, operating between Easter and mid-October.
Skip the road and take the ferry to Skye
The ferry whisks you across the narrow Kylerhea strait between the mainland and Skye, with amazing views of the coastline seen in both directions. There is also the chance to spot both seals and otters even before you step on board the ferry.
Taking just under five hours, this journey from the coastal town of Oban to Barra, an island of the Outer Hebrides, is a real adventure.
Marvel at Kisimul Castle on the Isle of Barra
Passing over the Sound of Mull, it’s a real delight to glide past the coastline of the Isle of Coll. As you approach Castlebay, the end destination, you can also marvel at Kisimul Castle, proudly standing in the middle of the bay.
Scrabster to Stromness
This 90-minute ferry from the mainland’s most northerly port, operated by NorthLink Ferries, is a must if you’re looking to visit the Orkneys, with the views greeted you as you approach Stromness being truly spectacular.
Passing the striking Old Man of Hoy
Along the way, the boat passes the Old Man of Hoy, a unique sea stack, before passing through the Scapa Flow, home to a series of historic shipwrecks.
Ardrossan to Brodick
Often described as a ‘miniature Scotland’, the Isle of Arran can be reached in 55 minutes thanks to this ferry journey, operated by CalMac, between Ardossan and Brodick.
Views of Goat Fell in the distance
The views as you near Arran are especially stunning, dominated by Goat Fell. This is the island’s highest mountain and also makes for a rewarding climb once you have arrived. Brodick is a lovely place to explore after the journey, crowned with a mighty castle.
Ellenabeich to Easdale
A short but sweet journey, this passenger ferry departs from Ellenabeich on the Isle of Sell, taking passengers to Easdale, the smallest permanently inhabited island of the Inner Hebrides. Ellenabeich is just seven miles south-west of Oban, and the Isle of Sell is easily reached via a short road bridge.
Approaching the island of Easdale
Both locations have a rich history of slate mining, which only adds to their unassuming coastal village charm. One of the highlights of the journey has to be the chance to spot dolphins appearing above the surface of the water.