A road trip from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye is a magical adventure through the pure natural beauty of Scotland. With picturesque towns and villages, meandering heather-filled glens, an abundance of wildlife, and the most amazing mountain backdrop, this road trip will leave you totally uplifted and inspired.
Enjoy the stunning 325-mile journey from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye, taking in the Kelpies, Stirling, Rannoch Moor and Glencoe, before passing Fort William, Loch Ness and Plockton, then a trip over the Bealach Na Ba to Applecross and Shieldaig.
This road trip is the perfect way to experience the best of the Scottish Highlands - with scenery unrivalled anywhere else in the UK - and is a stunning journey through the glorious wilderness. Continue reading to discover the best places to visit and some incredible overnight stopovers that offer the best in Scottish hospitality.
How far is the Isle of Skye from Edinburgh, and how long will the road trip take?
|The Glencoe Route||235 miles||5 hours 25 minutes|
|The Applecross Detour||325 miles||8 hours 10 minutes|
The drive from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye will take you at least 5 hours 25 minutes, on the most direct route. This of course will vary depending on traffic conditions and rest stops along the way.
The journey takes you through the picturesque Scottish Highlands, offering breathtaking views and a true taste of Scotland's natural beauty. You'll pass through charming villages, rolling hills, and stunning lochs as you make your way to the Isle of Skye. The A82 via Glencoe is the most popular route, which tracks along the shores of Loch Lomond, one of Scotland's most iconic landscapes.
Keep in mind that some roads in the Highlands can be narrow, winding, and steep at times, so be prepared for a bit of a challenging drive, especially if you're not used to such conditions. However, the scenic beauty and charm of the journey make it more than worth the effort.
Once you reach the Isle of Skye, you'll be greeted by its captivating landscapes, rich history, and welcoming locals. It's a great destination for those who love the outdoors, with countless opportunities for hiking, wildlife spotting, and photography.
Detouring to Applecross Pass offers a thrilling driving experience on one of Scotland's highest and most scenic roads, the Bealach na Bà. The dramatic hairpin bends and stunning views of the surrounding mountains, coastline, and the Isle of Skye make it an unforgettable addition to your journey.
The Applecross Detour will add almost 3 hours to your road trip, but we think it's totally worth it if you can spare the time. The views and scenery are incredible!
Best road trip route from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye
A road trip from Scotland's capital city to the Isle of Skye takes in the best of the Scottish lowlands with many historical sights to see before the route ventures into the incredibly scenic highlands, with mountains, lochs, and possibly a monster en route, before reaching the spectacular Isle of Skye.
The road to Applecross is one of the most memorable driving experiences in the UK, and taking the Applecross Detour will be one that makes the trip truly unforgettable.
The Glencoe Route
Leaving Edinburgh, or "Auld Reekie" as it is commonly known, head west along the A71 then onto the M8 briefly, before taking the M9 north towards Falkirk, passing the Wheel, and the Kelpies, before passing the historical battle site of Bannockburn before reaching Stirling. Home to the Wallace Monument, Stirling Castle, and many more historical sites.
From Stirling, take the A84 heading northwest towards Callander, one of the prettiest villages in Scotland, before entering Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, known for its stunning scenery and its excellent outdoor trails and activities.
Continue past Loch Lubnaig and Loch Earn, continuing on the A85 before taking the A827 for a short detour to the village of Killin, home to the spectacular Falls of Dochart and the delightful Falls of Dochart Inn. Rejoin the A85 and follow it past Loch Lubhair to Crianlarich.
Take the A82 heading north past Tyndrum, and Bridge of Orchy, where the views are spectacular in all directions and lochans and mountains surround the route before it reaches the wilderness of Rannoch Moor.
The famous Buachaille Etive Mor stands proudly as the route continues to Glencoe, and the impressive Aonach Eagach Ridge, one of the most fearsome ridge walks in the UK, towers over the road as it heads towards the valley and onwards to Fort William.
Home to Ben Nevis and many other tourist attractions, Fort William is an excellent place to take a break, and sample the delicious local seafood, and also a good chance to refuel before continuing the journey.
Continue north on the A82, passing Spean Bridge and the popular Commando Monument, before passing Invergarry and taking the short detour to Fort Augustus, an ideal place for an overnight stopover on the shores of Loch Ness.
Leaving Fort Augustus on the A82, head back to Invergarry before taking the A87 west, following the banks of Loch Garry before the route heads north to Bun Loyne, past Loch Cluanie into Glen Shiel where the Five Sisters of Kintail line the route as it descends to Sheil Bridge.
The road follows the banks of Loch Duich to Dornie, where Eilean Donan Castle sits impressively on its own island in the Loch, before continuing onwards to Kyle of Lochalsh and over the bridge to the Isle of Skye. The A87 heads past Broadford and Loch Ainort before reaching Sligachan.
The Applecross Detour
The route to the detour mirrors the Glencoe Route past Eilean Donan Castle on the A87, before taking the A890 north at Auchtertyre.
From here the road winds its way through the hills before descending down to Stromeferry on the banks of Loch Carron, with impressive views over the Loch.
Continue onwards past Attadale Gardens to Strathcarron where the road skirts around the end of the Loch before continuing to the village of Lochcarron, before passing Kishorn, where the Seafood Shack makes an excellent place to stop for lunch, before arriving at Tornapress.
A left turn onto the Applecross Pass starts the ascent to the Bealach-na-ba, the original Pass of the Cattle. The road is just over 11 miles long, and is mainly single track, with passing places, and is one of the highest in the UK.
As it nears the summit, the road has a series of hairpin bends and steep gradients where you can look back at Loch Kishorn as you approach the summit at 2,054 feet. The road can be closed in winter and snow gates will be closed if the road is not clear.
Once over the summit, the viewpoint offers a panoramic view over Skye and Raasay and beyond, a perfect place for a photo opportunity before starting the winding descent down to Applecross. A stop at the Applecross Inn is a must before continuing north where the single-track road heads along the coastline with views across to Raasay and Rona before reaching Kenmore, with the 800 million-year-old mountains of Torridon filling the horizon.
Following the southern shoreline of Loch Torridon, and then Loch Shieldaig, the route meets up with the A896 where heading north takes you near Shieldaig, our recommended place for a truly unique highland stopover.
After Shieldaig, head south on the A896, all the way back to Strathcarron, where the A890 runs along the banks of Lochcarron and Stromeferry, before heading for Achmore and following the single-track road to the delightful village of Plockton, the setting for tv series Hamish Macbeth.
Leaving Plockton, retrace the route back to the A890 and head south back to Auchtertyre, before rejoining the A87 towards Kyle of Lochalsh and the Skye Bridge.
Best places to stop between Edinburgh and the Isle of Skye
This road trip takes you through the best of Scotland's majestic scenery, passing many historical and cultural landmarks along the way. Continue reading to find out all about the best places to make an overnight stay.
Experience the Great Glen in Fort Augustus
Fort Augustus is situated around two-thirds of the way along the journey to the Isle of Skye and its position on the shores of the southwest end of Loch Ness makes it an ideal place for a stopover.
Originally an important stronghold in the Jacobite uprising in the 18th Century, Fort Augustus today is a bustling village popular with tourists who flock in their thousands each year to try and catch a glimpse of one of the most famous and elusive creatures in the world: the Loch Ness Monster.
Loch Ness is one of the largest, and deepest expanses of water in the UK, and at over 800ft deep, it's easy to see why the legend of Nessie lives on. The views down the Loch from Fort Augustus are spectacular, and there are many trails and cycle paths from the village, and the popular Great Glen Way takes you up into the hills offering a superb vantage point over the Loch and surrounding wilderness.
The Caledonian Canal was created to link the Lochs in the Great Glen, and the impressive lock structure in Fort Augustus is a sight to behold before it flows into Loch Ness, and the recently opened Caledonian Canal Centre is a great place to learn more about the local heritage, the area, and enjoy homemade local produce in the cafe.
The Lovat is a fabulous place to stay in Fort Augustus, and its luxurious and stylish decor extends throughout, with many of the rooms having stunning views over Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal.
The award-winning Station Road Restaurant offers the finest local seafood and sources many local ingredients and offers a stunning tasting menu. After dinner, enjoy a drink in the eclectic Waypoint Bar, or relax in the lounge with a whisky by a roaring log fire.
A Taste of the Highlands in Shieldaig
The Applecross Detour takes you through some of the most remote and stunning scenery in the Highlands, and such an amazing drive deserves an extra special stay, and you can enjoy a fabulous experience at the Tigh an Eilen Hotel, a charming hotel with unrivalled views.
With mountain views from many of the bedrooms and adjoining restaurant, Tigh an Eilen Hotel is a modern hotel set in a quaint old building, packed with charm and style. The beautiful bedrooms are a delight to relax in at the end of a busy day, with lovely interiors and views to die for.
The on-site restaurant and bar offers fine dining using fresh seafood, and speciality pizzas to whet any appetite. Make sure to also take time relaxing in the bar area to enjoy pre-dinner drinks or a cosy nightcap.
This fabulous accommodation has a lovely outdoor terrace, with lake views, where you can take a stroll around the grounds before heading back to the comfort of the hotel for some much needed rest and relaxation.
Want to stay on the move? Then you can enjoy sea-kayaking, archery, gorge-scrambling, mountain biking, close by with one of the many activity centers dotted long the lake including Shieldaig Outdoor Adventures. The area is also blessed with a variety of wildlife with Red and Roe Deer roaming the hills, along with Pine Marten and Golden Eagles, and Otters are a common sight in the local Lochs.
Where to stay when you reach the Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye, the largest of the Inner Hebridean Islands, is blessed with rugged landscapes, the iconic Black Cuillins, picturesque villages, rich cultural history and mystical fairy legends.
Once over the Bridge, the road south leads to the Garden of Skye, the Sleat Peninsula, known for its breathtaking scenery, with the landscape carpeted in heather, and beautiful clear blue seas. It is also home to the ruins of Armadale Castle and its enchanting woodland gardens, and the Torobhaig Distillery.
Many visitors choose to head north, to the Capital of the Island, Portree, and this makes an excellent final destination for the journey, with a stay at the Cuillin Hills Hotel.
Situated in an idyllic setting overlooking Portree Bay, the hotel offers luxury accommodation and is ideally placed for exploring Portree and the north of the island. Dining at the hotel offers a superb view over Portree Harbour, and the a la carte dinner menu offers the best in Scottish produce and, as you would expect, specialises in delightful seafood dishes.
When it comes to decor, the rooms at Cuillin Hills strike that perfect balance between contemporary flair and traditional elegance, and are uniquely styled with a nod to the Scottish Highlands.
The picture-postcard harbour with its multi-coloured buildings is well worth a visit, and the Aros Centre is popular with locals and visitors alike, offering exhibitions, live music, galleries, cinema and a gift shop.
Things to see on a road trip from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye
The road trip from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye showcases the best of Scotland, with wonderful scenery, and historical and cultural attractions as it passes through some amazing little towns and villages that all add their unique charm. Below are some of our recommendations for things to see and do along the way.
- Falkirk Wheel - The Falkirk wheel is an incredible sight, this rotating boat lift standing 35 metres tall connects 2 canals in a truly unique and impressive manner. There's also fun for all the family with the splash zone, canoeing, bike hire and segway safaris.
- The Kelpies - The Kelpies are two magnificent horse sculptures, the largest of their kind anywhere in the world. Each statute weighs over 300 tonnes and they stand 100ft high and are located at Helix Park near Falkirk
- Killin - Visit the beautiful little village of Killin and witness the spectacular rapids at the Falls of Dochart. A trip to the Breadalbane Folklore Centre is a great place to learn more about Killin's historic past.
- The Green Welly Stop - Famous for many visitors to the area from around the world, The Green Welly Stop at Tyndrum is so much more than just a filling station. It's an ideal place to take a break with its restaurant, excellent outdoor clothing, food and gift shop and a fine collection of rare whiskies.
- Glencoe - Glencoe is renowned for hillwalking and climbing, and it's easy to see why as the drive through the valley is lined with magnificent peaks and ridges. You can learn all about the Glencoe massacre of 1692 in the local Folk Museum.
- Fort William - The outdoor capital of the UK and the home of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK. Take a scenic gondola ride up Aonach Mor and take in the impressive views over the neighbouring peaks and beyond.
- Fort Augustus - Lying on the Caledonian Canal, and the banks of Loch Ness, Fort Augustus is a mecca for walkers and cyclists alike with many excellent trails. Take a cruise on Loch Ness and watch in anticipation as the onboard sonar equipment scans the depths for Nessie
- Eilean Donan Castle - Sitting on its own island where Loch Alsh, Loch Long and Loch Duich converge, the iconic 13th Century Eilean Donan Castle is one of the most recognisable Scottish landmarks. Explore the castle and visitor centre and discover the castle's importance amongst the feuding clans.
- Elgol - Lying on the shores of Loch Scavaig, Elgol is only a small hamlet, reached by a fantastic drive through the Red Cuillins. It's excellent for hiking, or taking a boat trip to the glacial Loch Coruisk giving breathtaking views of the Black Cuillin
- Trotternish Peninsula - The northernmost peninsula on Skye, and home to the Old Man of Storr and Quiraing, well worth the 2-hour hike through some of the most spectacular landscapes in Scotland. With dramatic cliffs and jagged rock pinnacles formed during a giant landslide.
- Talisker and Toribhaig - Visit the two whisky distilleries on Skye. Talisker is the oldest, and more famous, where you can see the traditional copper pot stills in action on a whisky tour before having a wee dram to finish in the visitor centre.
- Fairy Pools - Skye is known to have a mystical and magical history when fairies lived on the island. The Fairy Pools near Glenbrittle are a great place for wild swimming in the crystal clear waters below cascading waterfalls. The trek to the pools at a little over 2km is worth the trip alone.
- Neist Point Lighthouse - Situated in Durinish on the West of the island, a walk to the lighthouse is a must for any visitor. It's relatively easygoing and gives excellent views of the high cliffs and some amazing photographic opportunities.
The Applecross Detour
- Applecross - Famous for the drive to reach it, over the Bealach Na Ba, and for the Applecross Inn, with its reputation for excellent hospitality and delicious seafood, and its delightful beach.
- Plockton - Known as "The Jewel of the Highlands", Plockton is an idyllic little village on the banks of Loch Carron, with stunning views overlooking the water. It has Palm Trees lining the main street and is an ideal place for wildlife spotting, and boat trips that guarantee you'll see Seals.
- Lochcarron - Another beautiful Village blessed with incredible scenery and home to Strome Castle and Lochcarron Weavers - the world's leading tartan manufacturer and an ideal place to pick up a souvenir.
- Shieldaig - Originally established for its fishing industry, this picturesque village on the shores of Loch Shieldaig with its whitewashed cottages is well worth a visit.
- Torridon - A mecca for hillwalkers, outdoor enthusiasts and wildlife lovers alike. Torridon is home to some of the most spectacular Mountains in the UK, including the Liathach massif, Beinn Alligin and Beinn Eighe.
Best time to go on a road trip from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye
Skye is beautiful whatever time of year you choose to visit. With many outdoor attractions and activities on offer, visiting in the warmer springer months is more popular, and there is a better chance of seeing all of the magnificent scenery and mountains.
Known as the Misty Isle, there can often be a sea of mist across the skyline, making views of the Red and Black Cuillin Ranges impossible. But seeing them in clear skies in the summer, or snowcapped in winter is equally impressive.
Skye is extremely popular in the summer months, so booking accommodation in advance is essential. Unfortunately, the famous Scottish midges are also out in force, especially on the West Coast. If there is a breeze in the air, they are less likely to be a nuisance. Hotel prices on Skye are at their highest in the summer months as accommodation is at a premium.
The weather on Skye is best between May and September. July is usually the warmest month, with average temperatures between 16 and 20 degrees Celsius.
Skye can be cold, and wet, in winter but seeing the hills with a fresh coating of snow is a beautiful sight. The roads on Skye, and the Highlands, are treated more regularly than the rest of the UK as it is essential the locals are able to get out in the most adverse weather conditions.
Spring and Fall are probably the best time to visit Skye. It avoids the peak tourism season and the period when the midges are at their worst. The weather will be mild and pleasant and ideal for seeing the many attractions that Skye is famous for.