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 an Edinburgh to Inverness scenic drive is an excellent option for you. The perfect route for nature, history and whisky fans alike, if you want to go on an unforgettable road trip through some of the best regions that Scotland as to offer, then this is the guide for you!
When to Go on an Edinburgh to Inverness Drive
Before I get into all of the best stops on the Edinburgh to Inverness drive, let’s discuss when the best time of year to go on this road trip is. 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!
Planning an Edinburgh to Inverness Road Trip
Once you’ve determined what time of year you want to go on your Inverness to Edinburgh drive, we need to discuss some details about planning your Scotland road trip.
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.
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 the best deals in Scotland. The platform aggregates all of the best offers available across all car hire companies to ensure that you get the best price for what you need.
We also suggest taking out a third-party excess insurance policy with iCarHireInsurance. This will give you peace of mind should anything happen to your car without having to pay the high rates (or a deductible) imposed by the rental company.
In addition to excess insurance, it’s also a good idea to make sure you have a travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events. We like WorldNomads and always use them for our trips – click here to get a quote from WorldNomads
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!
Edinburgh to Inverness Drive Stops
1. St Andrews
The Royal Burgh of St Andrews makes for an excellent first stop on the Edinburgh to Inverness drive, 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.
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 the Edinburgh to Inverness 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 it’s 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.
Not to be confused with the Australian city of the same name, the small city of Perth makes for an excellent stop on the Edinburgh to Inverness drive. Situated on the banks of the River Tay, Perth is a stop that is often overlooked by tourists, 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. All in all, you won’t be disappointed if you include Perth as one of your Edinburgh to Inverness stops.
Stirling is one of the most popular places to visit in Scotland and makes for an unmissable stop on any drive from Edinburgh to Inverness. Known for its incredible Stirling Castle (make to buy skip-the-line tickets in advance to save time!), 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.
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 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.
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.
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 on the Inverness to Edinburgh drive — especially if you’re looking for some seaside charm and peated whiskies!
Glencoe is one of the most iconic places to visit in Scotland and no Edinburgh to Inverness 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.
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 Edinburgh to Inverness 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!
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 Edinburgh to Inverness road trip — or indeed a 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.
If you’re short on time, the could easily be your last stop on the Edinburgh to Inverness road trip as the city centre of Inverness is only a stone’s throw away. However, if you want to explore more, there are still a number of places to discover just a bit further east — especially if you like both stunning natural scenery and single malt whisky!
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.
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 Edinburgh to Inverness 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.
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 added 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.
Inverness is so near now, but no stop on this drive is complete without making a detour to the Culloden Battlefield (you can buy tickets in advance here), 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 which 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 consequence.
Visting 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.
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 from Inverness to 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 an Airbnb is a great choice for you as well — like this cool flat in the centre of Inverness. 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:
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. Click here to check their availability
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 onto the nightly rate. Click here to check their availability
Apex Waterloo Place Hotel — A luxury hotel in the centre of Edinburgh, this place has a number of plush rooms available and other amenities including an on-site restaurant, bar, and attentive staff. Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Edinburgh hotels
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. Click here to check their availability
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. Click here to check their availability
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. Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Glasgow hotels!
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. Click here to check availability
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 a number of comfortable, ensuite rooms to choose from, a great breakfast included, and a located in the centre of Fort William. Click here to check availability
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! Click here to check availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Fort William!
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. Click here to check their availability
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. Click here to check their availability
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. Click here to check their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Inverness!
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 from Edinburgh to Inverness or vice versa? Have you visited any of these stops? Let us know in the comments!