Scotland self drive holidays

Self drive holidays to Scotland give you the freedom to go where you want to go. That means along roads that tunnel through thousand year old Caledonian forests; across the UK’s highest main road, Cairnwell Pass (670m); past the loch-splattered Highlands and the edge-of-the-map Shetland Islands; via spire-spiked Edinburgh and gallery-packed Glasgow. With wheels, it’s easy to escape off the tourist track, stopping off at Highlands farm shops or pausing to photograph a gaggle of wild Shetland ponies. There’s also the option to self drive in an electric car.

Top 5 driving routes in Scotland

1. Orkney self drive highlights

The islands of Orkney lie off the north coast of Scotland, just a 90-minute ferry journey from the mainland. You’ll drive through prehistory here, zipping between the round church and Viking museum in Orphir, Stenness standing stones, and the well preserved Skara Brae Neolithic settlement. The WWII-era Churchill Barriers link the Orkney Mainland to Lamb Holm, Glimps Holm, Burray and South Ronaldsay, giving drivers widescreen North Sea views along the way.

2. Shetland Islands self drive highlights

An overnight car ferry from Orkney Mainland or Aberdeen links the distant Shetland Islands to the rest of Scotland. Most self-drive holidays base you in Lerwick. From here, you can take a wildlife boat safari to Noss National Nature Reserve, where an onboard conservationist will translate the racket of gannets, guillemots and kittiwakes. You’ll be totally outnumbered and totally awestruck. Alternatively, drive down to the gold-sand beaches of St Ninian’s Isle.

3. Edinburgh & Perthshire self drive highlights

Make your starting line Edinburgh before taking the scenic route through Perthshire. Edinburgh is all fairy tale architecture set next to a dormant volcano, topped off with some of the oldest, creakiest pubs in Scotland. Out in the country, the River Tay dishes up snow-white villages like Dunkeld, giant fir forests and the crashing Black Linn falls.

4. Highlands self drive highlights

The Highlands tick off some of the most-wanted spots in Scotland: Aviemore, Loch Ness, Ben Nevis, Fort William, Urquhart Castle... So you can see those – but you can also take full advantage of having a car and escape to the empty roads of Glenshee or banks of Loch Tay. The dramatic pass of Glencoe is the star; stop off to hike the Devil’s Staircase and Lost Valley.

5. West coast self drive highlights

Lochs, mountains and valleys pleat the west coast of Scotland – and you’ll need a car to explore every nook and cranny. You could skim around the watery edges of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park or climb Ben A’an. Aim for fishing villages like Oban and Mallaig and catch the car ferry to Mull or Skye. Or park up for the day and ferry over to car-free Rum and Eigg for a different view of the islands.

Our top trip

Orkney & Shetland self drive holiday, Scotland

Orkney & Shetland self drive holiday, Scotland

Island hop the wild Scottish Northern Isles on this week's holiday to Orkney and Shetland

From £955 to £1045 7 days ex flights
Tailor made:
This trip can be tailor made throughout the year to suit your requirements
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Scotland or need help finding a holiday to suit you we're very happy to help.

Hybrid & electric cars

Make your Scottish holiday several shades greener by hiring a hybrid or electric car. We’re talking top of the range Teslas with leather interiors and touch screens showcasing battery life, GPS points and Bluetooth. Or you could choose something a little less fancy if you’re watching your budget. Most electric car holiday companies let you pick from a fleet of cars and help recommend the vehicle that suits you.
They’ll also answer any questions you have about driving an electric car in the wilds of Scotland. Are there enough power ports? (Yes.) Can electric cars keep pace with petrol and diesel cars? (Definitely.) Do you need to worry about losing charge? (Nope.)
A tour operator will sort the niggly details for you, arranging for your vehicle to be waiting for you in Edinburgh or Glasgow. Plus, every hotel on the itinerary will have a charging port, whether it’s a city stopover, hilltop castle hotel or island spa retreat.

Leave it to the experts

All in all, you’re best off travelling under the expert eye of a holiday company that specialises in self drive holidays to Scotland. They’ll suggest restaurants with Neolithic cairns in the car parks, the emptiest driving routes, book accommodation and give you a phone number to call should you need a hand with directions.

A week is usually a good amount of time for a Scottish road trip. Self drive holidays are tailor made by and large, so any itinerary can be tweaked depending on your budget or whether you’d prefer to explore emptier roads (spring and autumn) or drive when the days are longest (July).
Photo credits: [Page banner: Kevin Schmid] [Top box: Paul Rysz] [Edinburgh: liam Macleod] [Electric car: Jp Valery]