14 Best Stops on the Edinburgh to Inverness Drive

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by Maggie Turansky


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There is no better way to see Scotland than by getting behind the wheel and seeing where the road may take you. Though it is a small country, Scotland has surprises and charms lurking behind every corner and even the shortest of drives can be filled with delights and gorgeous scenery. If you’re planning on visiting the Scottish highlands and are looking for an epic road trip, then one of the best and most popular routes is the Edinburgh to Inverness drive.

Driving from the Scottish capital to the gateway to the highlands is filled with ultra-charming towns, historic sites, incredible natural scenery, and more whisky than is healthy to drink. There are infinite stops that you could make on an Edinburgh to Inverness road trip, so much so that you could plan an entire trip to Scotland just by visiting the areas between those two cities and feel extremely fulfilled.

So if you’re looking for the perfect Scottish road trip without committing to the precarious country lanes of the North Coast 500, then going on this scenic drive is an excellent option for you!

Planning an Edinburgh to Inverness Road Trip

The distance on the drive from Edinburgh to Inverness is about 155 miles (250 kilometres) and while it should only take about 3 hours and 15 minutes non-stop in a car without traffic, there are many interesting stops to take if you follow a scenic route meaning you could easily spend a few days driving between the two cities.

The 14 stops listed in this article outline a rough route that begins by going north from Edinburgh and up to St Andrews and Dundee before looping back down and heading west to Glasgow and the highland region north of there. If you’re short on time, you can pick and choose which stops make the most sense to take.

For instance, you could easily cut out the stops that include St Andrews, Dundee and Perth and head straight to Glasgow and the highlands from there.

Alternatively, you can eliminate the stops from Aviemore onward and drive straight to Inverness after enjoying the charms and mystique of Loch Ness. No matter how you structure your Inverness to Edinburgh road trip, you are sure to enjoy yourself and leave with lasting memories.

Inverness Castle from the Riverbank
Inverness Castle from the Riverbank

You’re also going to need a car to effectively go on this road trip, and for that, we recommend using Rentalcars.com to find deals in Scotland. The platform aggregates offers available across many car hire companies to help you find a great price!

You can also consider a third-party excess insurance policy with iCarHireInsurance. This will give you cheaper excess coverage should anything happen to your car compared to what you typically have to pay through rental company.

In addition to excess insurance, have you considered taking out a travel insurance policy? World Nomads offers flexible and simple travel insurance policies with coverage for more than 150 activities that you can buy or extend while on the road.

It is worth mentioning, as well, that Scotland does drive on the left side of the road and it does take some getting used to if you’re not familiar with driving on that side. It is also worth knowing that some rural roads can be narrow and winding, so make sure to be vigilant when driving — especially if it’s getting late.

All in all, driving in Scotland isn’t anything to worry about and you should have an amazing trip — especially if you include all of these fantastic stops!

When to Go on an Edinburgh to Inverness Drive

Obviously, there are some times of year that are better to go than others, especially when it comes to both weather and tourist numbers.

The most popular and busiest times to head out on a drive from Edinburgh to Inverness is going to be in the summer months of July and August. Though the Scottish summer is short, this time of year you will be blessed with long days and the warmest weather — though don’t expect it to get much warmer than about 20 degrees!

Alternatively, the coldest and least busy time to visit is in the winter months of December through February. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend embarking on a Scottish road trip during this time as it will be hard to visit everywhere that you might want to, especially if you’re short on time.

That’s because, due to Scotland’s northern location, the days are extremely short in the winter and you don’t get enough daylight to actually enjoy the places that you want to see. You can also expect temperatures to be quite low in the winter months.

The shoulder seasons are a great alternative if you don’t mind dealing with some unpredictable weather and cooler average temperatures.

Crowds will be fewer in the months of April-June and September-November and so long as you have a proper pair of shoes and a good rain jacket, you should be all set to head out to Scotland!

Edinburgh Castle on a beautiful clear day.
Edinburgh Castle on a beautiful clear day.

Edinburgh to Inverness Drive Stops

1. St Andrews

The Royal Burgh of St Andrews makes for an excellent first stop on an Edinburgh to Inverness road trip, as it’s located only about 50 miles north of the Scottish capital.

Though the town is small in size, it packs a lot of history and charm and it is known the world over for a couple of things. First, it is home to the University of St Andrews, one of the top universities in the United Kingdom and where many a famous Briton — including Prince William — have studied.

St Andrews is also known as the birthplace of the sport of golf, and its golf course is world-famous — making this the perfect place for golfers!

Make sure to take the time to explore both the grounds of the Univesity of St Andrews and also the town itself, including a stop in a couple of museums — you won’t be sorry!

There are organised walking tours of the city and even ghost tours that you can do in the evening if you want to learn more about St Andrews.

Beautiful St Andrews
Beautiful St Andrews

2. Dundee

As Scotland’s 4th-largest city after Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, Dundee is often overlooked by visitors to Scotland. However, the city is really coming into its own as a tourist destination and it rightly deserves its spot as a great stop on this drive.

Though it doesn’t have a lot of traditional tourist spots, Dundee has a thriving arts scene and it also has quite an up-and-coming culinary scene.

On a stopover in Dundee, you can hop from art gallery to gallery, take in a couple of museums about the history of this Scottish port city, and maybe take in some of its world-class performing arts as well.

Located only about 60 miles north of Edinburgh, it makes the perfect addition to this road trip, especially if you want a good glimpse into Scottish city life.

3. Perth

Not to be confused with the Australian city of the same name, the small city of Perth makes for an excellent stop. Situated on the banks of the River Tay, Perth is a stop that tourists often overlook, however, it is very much worth exploring.

Located about 45 miles north of Edinburgh and a great stop if you’re heading west after visiting St Andrews and Dundee, you don’t need long in Perth to get a lot out of it.

Take the time to visit the historic Scone Palace, where 42 Scottish kings have been crowned, and enjoy a leisurely stroll in a park if the weather allows.

4. Stirling

Stirling is one of the most popular places to visit in Scotland and makes for an unmissable stop on any drive.

Known for its incredible Stirling Castle, this charming highland town is worth stopping over for a few hours if you want to get in some beautiful Scottish charm and take in some history.

Besides the castle, which is very much worth visiting, you also cannot miss the monument to William Wallace — most commonly known from the 1995 movie “Braveheart.” This Scottish knight fought for his country’s independence from England and defeated the English army in Stirling in 1297.

Stirling has a lot to offer and seeing as it’s located only about 35 miles west of Edinburgh, makes an excellent stop on this epic Scotland road trip.

Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle

5. Glasgow

After exploring small, historic towns and driving the long way from Edinburgh, it’s time to head to Scotland’s largest city: Glasgow. Though it has a gritty reputation, the city has been coming into its own in recent years and is quickly becoming a hopping tourist destination.

Though it doesn’t have the classic charms or beauty of Edinburgh, Glasgow has a LOT to offer visitors and you could easily spend two or more days in the city and not get bored.

It’s true that Glasgow is far more than just a standard stop on the Edinburgh to Inverness drive and we encourage you to find room in your itinerary to give it the time it deserves.

Boasting a thriving restaurant scene, fascinating history, and a world-famous music scene, you can’t go wrong with exploring a bit of Glasgow.

Glasgow is also an excellent stop on any Scotland itinerary if you want a bit of a change from all of the historic and natural sites and are keen to explore a more urban environment. Though it has different things to offer than Edinburgh, you are sure to enjoy any length of time spent in Glasgow.

glasgow's modern skyline
Glasgow’s Modern Skyline

6. Loch Lomond & The Trossachs

Just north of Glasgow lies one of Scotland’s most notable and breathtaking natural areas — Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.

Loch Lomond is Scotland’s largest loch, however, this incredible national park has much more to offer than just that. There are ample hillwalking opportunities — including the option to summit the imposing Ben Lomond — or you could just occupy yourself by exploring some charming villages like Balloch or Luss.

You can enjoy a lot of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs as a day trip, which is why it makes such a great stop on the Edinburgh or Glasgow to Inverness drive, however, you could easily spend a number of days exploring the beautiful area of Scotland.

Beautiful Loch Lomond
Beautiful Loch Lomond

7. Oban

Though this stop is a little bit out of the way compared to the other destinations on this list, Oban makes for an excellent stop on a scenic drive from Edinburgh to Inverness.

An excellent stop for whisky and seafood fans alike, Oban is also known to be the gateway to the Hebridean islands and makes for the perfect jumping-off point if you’re looking to catch a ferry to islands like Islay, Mull, Lismore and more.

Often lauded as the “seafood capital of Scotland,” Oban is the perfect place to stop off if you want to try some of the delicious seafood swimming in the chilly Scottish waters and experience some of the best fish & chips of your life.

Oban is also home to its own whisky distillery and their peaty, honey-coloured 14-year-old single malt is one of my absolute favourites. You can tour the distillery and sample some of their whiskies when you do.

All in all, there is no denying that, despite the detour, Oban is an excellent stop — especially if you’re looking for some seaside charm and peated whiskies!

Town of Oban
Town of Oban

8. Glencoe

Glencoe is one of the most iconic places to visit in Scotland and no road trip is complete without including a stop here. Known for its incredible mountain scenery and bloody history, you cannot go wrong with visiting Glencoe while on this drive.

Located within easy driving distance from both Edinburgh and Glasgow, you can easily occupy yourself in Glencoe for a number of hours — or even a few days if you’re really keen to explore the stunning nature.

Take the time to explore the charming Glencoe village and learn about the area’s history and then take to the hills, work up a sweat and get some proper Scottish hillwalking in! End your time warming up in a cosy pub over a hearty meal and maybe a pint.

Glencoe Mountains
Glencoe Mountains

9. Fort William

Fort William, located only about fifteen miles north of Glencoe at the base of Scotland’s highest peak, Ben Nevis, is an absolutely unmissable stop on this road trip and it makes a great halfway point on the drive.

Famous as either the endpoint or beginning of the iconic West Highland Way walking trail, the town of Fort William itself is also worth exploring.

Charming and easy to get around on foot, you can spend a couple of hours browsing the streets and popping into the West Highland Museum here before heading out to explore some of the natural sites surrounding the town — or even braving to summit Ben Nevis if you think you’re up for it!

Want to spend the night in Fort William? Check out this traditional cottage with majestic views!

10. Loch Ness

About 50 miles northeast from Fort William and incredibly close to our final destination of Inverness lies Scotland’s most famous and most storied loch — the infamous Loch Ness.

Said to be home to the elusive monster Nessie and home to many a myth and legend, no trip to Scotland — would be complete without visiting Loch Ness.

You can enjoy the beautiful scenery around the loch on foot, but if you truly want to enjoy the thrills of this majestic body of water, we recommend getting out onto the lake and taking a boat trip.

Most will ferry you around the loch and also include a stop at the ruined 16th-Century Urquhart Castle. You can book in advance here.

If you’re short on time, this could easily be your last stop as the city centre of Inverness is only a stone’s throw away.

However, if you want to explore more, there are still several places to discover just a bit further east — especially if you like both stunning natural scenery and single malt whisky!

Ruins of Urquhart Castle at Loch Ness
Ruins of Urquhart Castle at Loch Ness

11. Aviemore

If you’re looking for an active stop on the Edinburgh to Inverness drive in one of Scotland’s most beautiful natural areas, then you cannot go wrong with visiting Aviemore.

Known as the gateway to the Cairngorms National Park and Scotland’s “outdoor capital,” Aviemore is a charming town in and of itself, but it is also ideally located to both go for a ramble in the gorgeous Cairngorms National Park or go distillery hopping in the Speyside region.

If you’re a fan of the former idea, there are so many action adventures that you could choose to do from Aviemore that aren’t solely limited to hiking or hillwalking, In fact, you can find such activities like kayaking and rock climbing excursions from Aviemore, as well.

If you’re more interested in swilling some spicy Speyside whisky, head a little bit further afield to towns like Dalwhinnie, Aberlour, or Glenlivet where you can find eponymous distilleries that all offer tours and a dram or two of their single malts.

A hike in the Cairngorms
A hike in the Cairngorms

12. Elgin

If you’re still keen to give yourself more stops before getting to Inverness, then it’s time to head to Elgin, a lovely small town located in the Moray region and only about 40 miles east of Inverness.

Known as the home to the Glen Moray whisky distillery, Elgin is also home to its own cashmere wool factory and also just one of the most picturesque city centres you will find in the area.

Elgin also is a fairly offbeat stop to make on this road trip so it’s unlikely that you will find it to be crammed with tourists, even if you’re travelling in the peak of high season.

13. Cawdor

Though there have been lots of towns and interesting historic sites on this list of stops between Edinburgh and Inverness, there have been very few stand-along castles to visit, Well, that’s all about to change as a stop at the beautiful Cawdor Castle is unmissable if you’re driving to Inverness.

The original castle was constructed in the 15th Century, however, numerous additions have been made to the residence in the centuries following making it a truly spectacular regal home.

The castle itself is packed with history and it absolutely beautiful, but it is also surrounded by lovely gardens and grounds that are very much worth exploring.

Cawdor Castle
Cawdor Castle

14. Culloden

Inverness is so near now, but no stop on this drive is complete without making a detour to the Culloden Battlefield, located only about 5 miles from the Inverness city centre.

Fans of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series (or the Starz TV adaptation) will certainly be aware of the heartbreaking history of this place, but for those who don’t — Culloden was the site of the devastating Battle of Culloden on 16 April 1746.

In this battle English forces either killed or injured anywhere from 1,500-2,000 Scottish Jacobite troops and ended the Jacobite uprising altogether — quelling the Scottish independence movement and stripping Scots of their rights and traditions as a consequence.

Visiting the Culloden Battlefield includes a stop at fascinating the visitor centre museum where they expertly explain the conflict from both the English and Jacobite sides and entry also includes a guided tour of the battlefield.

This is a very popular day trip from Inverness given its proximity to the city, however, it also makes a great stop before reaching the highland capital.

Culloden Battlefield
Culloden Battlefield

Where to Stay on the Edinburgh to Inverness Drive

With all of these stops to make, you’re going to want to find the perfect place to stop off for the night on a road trip to Inverness from Edinburgh. Obviously, you’re going to want to find a great place to sleep in both Edinburgh and Inverness, but what about along the way?

Well, if you’re interested in city life, then we recommend stopping off in Glasgow for at least one night. However, if you want a well-located halfway point with good facilities and options, then we recommend staying in the town of Fort William.

While hotels, B&Bs and hostels are prevalent throughout all of these cities, finding a private rental is a great choice as well — like this delightful barn cottage in Loch Lomond.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to pinch your pennies while travelling, then consider camping — either at a traditional campsite or wild camping. However, if you’re looking for a more traditional accommodation option, have a look at these suggestions:

Edinburgh

Cityroomz Edinburgh— A clean and comfortable mid-range hotel, it is centrally located to explore Edinburgh on foot and there are numerous rooms available. There is also the option to add a hearty breakfast to the nightly rate.

Apex Waterloo Place Hotel — A luxury hotel in the centre of Edinburgh, this place has several plush rooms available and other amenities including an on-site restaurant, bar, and attentive staff.

Castle Rock Hostel — Located at the foot of Edinburgh Castle, this centrally-located hostel is the ideal place for budget and solo travellers. There are clean facilities and great common areas, as well, making it easy to meet other travellers.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Edinburgh hotels

Glasgow

citizenM Glasgow — A trendy mid-range hotel in central Glasgow, this makes the perfect base to explore the city. There are numerous comfortable rooms available and there is also a great breakfast that’s included in the nightly rate.

Apex City of Glasgow Hotel — A fantastic luxury option in Glasgow for those looking for a lot of comfort on their road trip to the Highlands. Boasting a great central location, chic and comfortable rooms, and a fantastic breakfast included, this is the place to stay to pamper yourself in Glasgow.

Glasgow Youth Hostel — The perfect place for budget and solo travellers, this centrally located hostel is a great choice. Its West End location means that you’re perfectly poised to explore Glasgow, they have a range of dorm and private rooms available and good common areas to meet other travellers.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Glasgow hotels!

Fort William

Gowan Brae Bed & Breakfast — This family-run B&B is the perfect place for mid-range travellers looking for a cosy and charming Scottish experience. They have comfortable, ensuite rooms to choose from, a great breakfast included, and a location in the centre of Fort William.

Lime Tree An Ealdhain — A small boutique hotel perfect for those looking for a bit of luxury on their trip to Fort William. There are a handful of chic and comfortable rooms available along with a restaurant and contemporary art gallery on-site!

Fort William Backpackers — The budget option in Fort William, this is also a great hostel for solo travellers looking to make some friends on their Scotland road trip. Offering both dorm and private rooms, there is also a good atmosphere and great communal areas.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Fort William!

Inverness

Torridon Guest House — Situated a stone’s throw away from the River Ness, this cosy guesthouse is a great place for mid-range travellers and families. There are a range of rooms available, free parking, and a great Scottish breakfast included in the nightly rate.

Heathmount Hotel — This is an excellent place to stay in Inverness if you’re after a luxury option. Located in the city centre within easy walking distance of everything the city has to offer, they have a range of rooms available, free breakfast and parking, and numerous other amenities to make your trip a great one.

Black Isle Hostel — The best place to rest your head if you’re travelling solo or on a tight budget, this centrally-located hostel offers a range of dorm and private rooms. There are also great common areas, clean facilities and a popular bar on site.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Inverness!

The famous "Harry Potter" Steam Train that departs from Fort William
The famous “Harry Potter” Steam Train that departs from Fort William

Planning an Edinburgh to Inverness drive can only seem like a daunting task when you realise just how many incredible places there are to see! The stops on this Scottish road trip and both varied and memorable and are sure to leave you in awe long after you leave Scotland.

Are you planning to drive between Edinburgh and Inverness? Have you visited any of these stops? Let us know in the comments!

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Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from the US, she has lived in five different countries and has travelled to dozens more, both solo and with her partner, Michael. She particularly loves exploring Spain and spending time in the Caucasus and the Baltics. Read more about Maggie

Comments

  1. Hi, Ian and Anne from AU. We did a 8-9 day road trip in early September 2023 from Glasgow to the Highlands up as far as Ft William and taking in Stirling, Cupar, Dunkeld, Pitlochry and Perth and on the way back Loch Lomond. Some of the sights you have not mentioned include: around Stirling you have Bannockburn Museum and the Falkirk Wheel; around Cupar – Hill of Tarvit and Falkland Castle Nat Trust properties really impressive; Dunkeld – the Beatrix Potter Garden and Museum; Pitlochry – the Theatre and the Salmon Ladder up to the dam with its beautiful view; Perth – yes definitely endorse the Scone Palace and their Restaurant downstairs; Ft William – spent several hours in the Museum and The Highland Cinema cafe and bar and a Loch Lomond Cruise from Balloch. Could also recommend an all day train trip from Glasgow to Mallaig and return, leaving just after 8am and returning around 12 + hours later; wonderful scenery and very relaxing.

    Reply
  2. Hello Maggie:
    I have really enjoyed your tips with traveling to Scotland and find myself wanted to see all and do all I will be traveling to Scotland in February 2021 I will be there for 9 days I am into all things historic and wanting to learn all about Scotland and see all the scenic views my question to you is how hard is it to drive in Scotland if I decide to hire a car? or can I do it all on train? also I am a plan and make itineraries kind of person but if I want to see all in the time frame I have is it better to just fly by the seat of my pants kind of thing? Thank you very much

    Reply
    • Hi Kristina — I would honestly recommend hiring a car in Scotland rather than planning to rely on the train or bus. The train network isn’t super robust in Scotland and you will be more at odds with timetables that you will be able to enjoy the destination that you’ve travelled to. Driving in Scotland really isn’t hard at all — there are great motorways, however, some of the country roads can get a bit narrow and winding — nothing to worry about, though! For 9 days, I would recommend planning a bit of an itinerary, but I also would leave yourself room to be flexible if you want to be. Hope you’re able to plan a great trip!

      Reply
    • Hi Laura, if you want to make all of these stops and properly do them justice, I would recommend at least 7-10 days for this trip.

      Reply
  3. Hello Maggie
    A friend of mine put me onto this blog of yours. She knows me well because I love the way you describe everything in such an unpretentious way and all you’re tips are designed to suit travellers of all budgets.
    I have a question though regarding your Edinburgh to Inverness itinerary. If we only had 7 nights in Scotland where would we spend them? In other words, which places and how many nights in each place should we stay?
    Thanks
    Catherine

    Reply
    • Hi Catherine, thanks so much for your comment and I’m so happy that you’ve found our website helpful! There is so much to see and do in Scotland and I don’t know your personal preferences, so it’s hard for me to recommend a proper itinerary for you, but have a look at our Scotland itinerary to see if you can find a route that suits you for a week: https://www.theworldwasherefirst.com/scotland-road-trip-itinerary/
      Hope you have a great trip!

      Reply

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