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Although Scotland might not be the ultimate sunny destination, it does have rough mountain sights, ancient castles and interesting culture. The nature is at its best in spring and autumn, but you can have a great adventure here year-round. We think Scotland is the best place for a 2,5-week roadtrip, or even longer if you have some more time on your hands. To help you plan your trip to Scotland, we made this itinerary, which we feel is the perfect combination of nature and city destinations!
How to get to Scotland
If you’re not from the United Kingdom, the best way to get to Scotland is by ferry. We travelled with DFDS Seaways, a company that organizes European ferry travel. Their ferry line departs from IJmuiden, The Netherlands and arrives in Newcastle upon Tyne. It’s also possible to go from Dunkirk (France) to Dover, from Calais (France) to Dover or from Dieppe (France) to Newhaven. Still, if you arrive in either Dover or Newhaven, it’s a long drive to get to Scotland. That’s why we would advise you to go straight to Newcastle from IJmuiden.
The ferry from IJmuiden takes you to Newcastle in around 10,5 hours. It normally leaves at 17.30 (but you check-in around 14.30) and arrives at 09.00 the next day, so you’ll be asleep most of the journey. And the best part is: you can bring along your bicycle, car, motor(home), caravan or trailer along with you on the ferry.
TIP: Don’t spend all your time inside your cabin. If you head out to the observation deck you might be able to spot some dolphins or other sea creatures. And the North Sea sunsets are quite spectacular as well!
Exploring Scotland by car and tent
We found that exploring Scotland by car was a great way to do so. It gives you the freedom to go wherever you want and make spontaneous changes in your itinerary. We did have to get used to driving on the left side of the road, but within an hour you’ll get the hang of it.
By taking camping gear with us, we had a lot of flexibility. We didn’t have to book our accommodations in advance, because around dinnertime it was still possible to find a suitable campsite easily. Most of the time we could just pick a spot we liked and set up our tent there. Besides, there are good supermarkets all around, so it was easy to buy our own food and cook it ourselves. A great budget option!
TIP: Are you going to Scotland by airplane? Consider offsetting your carbon footprint to make your trip more sustainable. Read our blog about carbon offsetting here.
The ultimate 2,5-week Scotland itinerary
Day 1: IJmuiden – Newcastle upon Tyne
Your first day will be a travelling day. You’ll set sail from IJmuiden and head out to Newcastle upon Tyne. On board, you can enjoy some time at the observation deck, which has detailed maps of the sea creatures you’ll be able to spot. Or check out one of the restaurants and have a nice meal.
Day 2–4: Edinburgh
After arriving at Newcastle upon Tyne around 09.00, you can drive straight to Edinburgh. This is a short drive of around 2,5 hours. You can either take the coastal route or drive through Northumberland National Park. We chose to stay at the Mortonhall Caravan and Camping Park.
In Edinburgh, there’s a lot to see and do. We would definitely recommend you to go to the Royal Mile, which is the main thoroughfare of the old part of the city. Also the Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Victoria Street and the Grassmarket (a historical square with pubs and restaurants) are must-do’s. But mostly just wander around, because this city is filled with beautiful architecture and charming streets.
Day 5 & 6: Aberdeen
It’s time to drive up north to Aberdeen. We made a little detour on our way to Aberdeen to visit Blackness Castle, which is a castle on the edge of the Firth of Forth coast. All Outlander fans will know this place as Fort William, but even if you’re not familiar with the tv-series this is a fascinating place to visit. After your visit, you can continue your way to Aberdeen via Dundee (2,5 hours) or through the countryside (4 hours). We chose to stay at the Deeside Holiday Park.
Aberdeen is also referred to as the ‘Silver City’, because the buildings around the harbor are all made of granite. When the sun shines, the buildings look like they’re silver. It’s really cool to see! We also loved visiting Old Aberdeen, an area where it feels like time has stood still. Wander around the cobblestone streets (especially High Street) and take a look at Kings College University, which was founded in 1495.
Day 7 & 8: Inverness
Today you’ll be entering the famous Scottisch Highlands. An area known for its rugged nature (including the highest mountain in the Brittish isles), clan history and, of course, whiskey. We drove to Inverness (3 hours) via the Culloden Battlefield, an important historical site of the Highland region. This was where the Jacobite rising came to a bloody ending. The site also has an interesting museum that tells all about the Jacobite history. We chose to stay at the Ardtower Caravan Park, which is close to the Culloden Battlefield.
Another historical and impressive site is the Culloden Viaduct, which crosses the wide valley of the River Nairn and is 549 meters in length. A stone’s throw from the viaduct you’ll find Clava Cairn, a chamber tomb dating all the way back to the Bronze Age.
If you’re going into Inverness itself, head out to Castle Inverness. Although it’s prohibited to go inside the castle, the exterior will make up for it. After that visit, take a walk along the river Ness and visit the Victoria Market on your way back. We also loved the Kiltmaker visitor center, which tells you a lot about the Highland clan culture and the kilts.
Day 8–10: Sligachan
This was one of our favourite destinations during our Scotland roadtrip. Sligachan is situated on the Isle of Skye, one of the most stunning Scottish islands. We chose to stay at the Sligachan Camping.
It takes you around 2,5 hours to get to Sligachan from Inverness, but again we made a detour on the way there. We went to Urquhart Castle, an ancient castle from the 13th century overlooking the famous Loch Ness. We also went to Eilean Donan Castle, the most photographed castle in Scotland. That’s not for no reason – see for yourself in the photograph below.
In and around Sligachan you’ll find lots see and do. For instance, make a trip to the colourful town Portree or go to Kilt Rock Viewpoint. Hike to the ‘Old Mann of the Storr’ or go up the ‘Glen Sligachan’ for some outdoor adventures.
Day 11 & 12: Fort William
When you make your way to Fort William from Sligachan, make a stop in Plockton. This idyllic coastal village has Scottish Highlanders roaming around freely and offers great seal-spotting boat trips. We did a boat trip with Calum’s Sealtrips and really enjoyed our time on the water.
In Fort William we chose to stay at the Glen Nevis Holiday Park. This is quite close to the starting point of the hike to the Steall Waterfall and the Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the United Kingdom. We would also recommend to go to the Glenfinnan Viaduct. During summertime, a steam locomotive passes by several times a day. For all the Harry Potter fans out there it’s nice to know that some scenes of the famous film series were shot here!
Day 13 – 15: Glasgow
Time to head out to Glasgow! It will be a 2,5 hours drive, but you can stop at the Three Sisters: three steeply-sided ridges that extend north into Glen Coe (a volcano valley). Make a 1-kilometer hike to get there. In Glasgow, we chose to stay at Red Deer Village Holiday.
It’s easy to spend 2 to 3 days in lively Glasgow. The George Square is at the heart of the city and has some imposing buildings surrounding it. Behind the Glasgow Cathedral you’ll find an immense graveyard. From here, you’ll get a pretty decent view over the cathedral and the city. Close to the graveyard lies the Provand’s Lordship: the oldest building in Glasgow (which is now a museum), dating from 1471.
Day 16 & 17: Newcastle upon Tyne
We’ll finish our Scotland roadtrip where we started it. It’s a 3 hours drive to Newcastle upon Tyne, but there’s enough to see along the way. If you’re not already tired of castles, definitely go and see Caerlaverock Castle. It was built in the 13th century and is unique because of its triangular form. In Newcastle, we chose to stay at the Bobby Shafto Caravan Park.
Newcastle is especially known for the seven iconic bridges over the Tyne, including the Tyne Bridge and the modern Millenium Bridge. But that’s not all! In Grey Street you’ll find typical English pubs, shops and Victorian style buildings. A few blocks from Grey Street lies Grainger Market: an indoor fleemarket with lots of little shops and eateries. You can also make your way to Ouseborn, which used to be an industrial district, but is now an area filled with creative initiatives, such as the Biscuit Factory (an old biscuit factory turned into an art gallery). Or go underground and walk through the Victoria Tunnel!
Day 18: IJmuiden
Time to head home! Catch the ferry of DFDS Seaways back to IJmuiden and enjoy the last hours of your trip.
If you have any questions regarding the 2,5 week Scotland roadtrip, please drop a comment in the comment section below!