How To Road trip From Edinburgh to Isle of Skye, Scotland

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One of the most beautiful road trips in Scotland you can do is driving from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye. The scenic drive passes through some of the most beautiful nature and iconic British holiday destinations, so you definitely don’t want to drive it all in one hit.

From the hilly and historical capital of Scotland, Edinburgh, past the scenic Glencoe area, and all the way to one of the most beautiful islands in the world, Skye, this is possibly the best road trip in Scotland.

jagged peaks on isle of skye

Although the drive can be completed in several hours, there are seven of the most beautiful stops along the way that will make you fall in love with Scotland.

But how to you take this road trip from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye, Scotland and what are the top attractions to stop off at? This guide will reveal all.

How to Get From Edinburgh to Isle of Skye

A large waterfall in front of a mountain
The Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye

The best way to get from Edinburgh to Isle of Skye is by road trip. Of course, you can take a Stagecoach bus or coach tour which departs from the Edinburgh bus station, but these don’t give you the flexibility and freedom to stay at each stop as long as you like.

If you can, we highly recommend you hire a car and drive yourself.

There is a train that takes you from Edinburgh to Inverness, and then you can take the The Kyle of Lochalsh line from Dingwall to Kyle of Lochalsh, and then a ferry over to the Isle of Skye.

Or from Inverness, you can drive for around four hours to the Isle of Skye through the Scottish Highlands, but to be honest, you miss a lot of stops by taking the train to Inverness. The section between Edinburgh and Inverness has more than a few great places to stop off at as well.

You can also get a direct bus with Citylink from Edinburgh or Glasgow to Inverness, and then another bus from Inverness to Isle of Skye. There is no direct bus from Edinburgh to Isle of Skye.

How Long Does it Take To Drive From Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye

The drive from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye (Portree) will take you 6 hours if driving via the Trossachs and Glencoe without stopping.

However, you absolutely must stop at these top Scottish attractions along the way. You could spend several hours in the Trossachs National Park or you could spend several days, the duration is entirely down to you and your availability.

However, we would suggest allowing for 3-4 full days to travel from Edinburgh to Isle of Skye, and after this, you can explore more of the Isle of Skye. This amount of time will allow you plenty of time to see the highlights at the stops along the way.

Before we introduce each stop, take a look at the map below to see how you can plan your itinerary.

13 Stops on the Edinburgh to Isle of Skye Road Trip

Don’t just rush through this scenic drive! Be sure to take a break and admire the following stops on the way to Isle of Skye from Edinburgh…

1. Calton Hill, Edinburgh

monument on calton hill with city view
Calton Hill

As you start your Scotland Travels in Edinburgh, I recommend spending some time on Calton Hill, especially at Sunset.

From there you have unobstructed views of the old town, Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle, and the volcanic Arthur’s Seat.

Locals and tourists alike (and wedding photographers) come to enjoy one of the most beautiful views in the country.

2. Wallace Monument

tower of the Wallace Monument

Located atop the 250-foot Abbey Craig, the Wallace Monument is an iconic structure dedicated to national hero Sir William Wallace.

Its was built in 1869 and adds a mix of historic charm in the surrounding stunning landscape. Visitors can not only explore its rooms filled with interactive exhibits and historical artifacts, but you can climb to some of its parts closed to everyday circulation through special guided tours.

Every year, more and more tourists visit this majestic tower for its remarkable views across the Ochil Hills, Stirling Castle and the Trossachs!

3. Cairngorms National Park

car driving on the road through the Cairngorms National Park

It’s a bit of a detour, but the Cairngorms National Park should not be skipped. It’s the largest national park in the UK and is known for its beautiful landscape made up of moorland and lochs.

It’s also home to the Grampian Mountains, one of the most famous mountain passes in Scotland since it’s where Ben Nevis is located.

Don’t miss the Blair Castle, a gorgeous stately home and the ancestral residence of the Clan Murray. It was used as the seat of the Duke of Atholl, though to the current Duke, Bruce Murray.

3. Trossachs National Park

river in the trossachs national park

The Trossachs National Park lies in one of Scotland’s most beautiful regions, and is bursting with history, activities, and amazing scenery.

The park was designated as a national park in 2002, though its cultural and historical roots date back much further. It has attracted visitors since the 18th century with its plentiful walking trails and stunning views along the shore of Loch Lomond.

Visitors can wander through ancient forests and look out for native wildlife, or even row a boat on the lake.

4. Buachaille Etive Mor, Glencoe

A field with a mountain in the background
Buachaille Etive Mor

When you reach Glencoe, you will see the impressive Buachaille Etive Mor Mountain from far away (1022m). This is probably the most photographed peak in Scotland because of its wonderful triangular shape.

As you drive towards it, the excitement builds up, as you know it is the beginning of a scenic valley.

And if you are a James Bond Movie fan, take the dead-end road at its foot called Glen Etive, to see some filming locations of the Skyfall movie!

5. Etive Beag, Glencoe

Etive Beag, Scotland with a grandiose view of Glencoe.
Etive Beag, Scotland

Not much further after that is another stop with a grandiose view of Glencoe. I just wish I had the technology to take a 360° panorama for you.

From there you can see many of the Glencoe summits. It is the departure point for several hikes including Munro Bagging options – like they say in Scotland (meaning climbing peaks over 3000ft-915m).

This is a perfect place to stop for a while on your road trip from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye if you like hiking.

6. Loch Atriochtan

mountains in a valley
Loch Atriochtan

As you continue your Edinburgh to Isle of Skye road trip, you drive by other famous stops like the 3 Sisters but I recommend a stop often overlooked, the one near Loch Atriochtan.

At this point the valley is narrow and the small loch offers a great perspective of the mountain wall.

7. Glen Shiel

mountains next to a road
Glen Shiel

Further north, between Glencoe and the Isle of Skye, the main road takes you through Glen Shiel. There the road winds through the valley, following River Shiel and nested between towering mountains.

One of its most famous stops is the view of the Five Sisters of Kintail, a ridge with peaks rising to 3505ft (1068m).

You’ll also pass the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct, the famous route to Hogwarts, as well as pass Loch Duich.

8. Fort William

railway bridge across the green valley and foothills

Fort William in Scotland is an incredibly interesting and historical place. It’s located at the foothills of Ben Nevis, the Britain’s highest mountain.

The city dates back to around 1690, when explorers heading North started using Fort William as a port and military defence.

Nowadays, you can explore the fascinating history of the region by visiting the West Highland Museum, or go hiking in the nearby Lochaber Geopark.

You may also want to take the Hogwarts Express Jacobite steam train, which runs between Fort William and Mallaig over the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

9. Loch Ness

castle on the edge of loch ness

Scotland has lots of lochs, but none are as iconic and mysterious as Loch Ness. Loch Ness is a large lake located in Inverness-shire and is known to be full of mystery and secrets.

If you visit Loch Ness, you’ll be able to take the Jacobite Cruise across the lake where you can learn about its intriguing past or you can visit Urqhuart Castle which overlooks the mystic waters.

While there, take some time to enjoy the breathtaking views from all angles – whether from on land or from the tour boats.

Not only that, but there’s even a chance of spotting Nessie, the legendary monster!

Whether you’re a believer in of her existence or not, exploring Loch Ness should definitely be on your Edinburgh to Isle of Skye itinerary.

10. Eilean Donan Castle

an island next to mountains
Eilean Donan Castle

Our last stop on the Edinburgh to Isle of Sky road trip before the Isle of Skye is the famous Eilean Donan Castle. Built on an islet from the 13th century, it was to offer protection against the Vikings at the meeting of 3 lochs.

Abandoned in the 18th century, a passionate man restored it in the early 19th century and it can still be visited today.

One of the best views is actually not at the main parking spot but from the other side of the bridge. From there, you can capture the Castle, its bridge, and the stunning mountains of Glen Shiel in the background.

11. Old Man of Storr

a hillside next to a body of water
Old Man of Storr

As you arrive at Kyle of Lochalsh, you drive on the Skye Bridge to access the Isle of Skye. The road does not stop there though as the island is bigger than you think.

You still have to drive to the main town of Portree. And to finish your 7 stops on the road between Edinburgh and Skye, I recommend driving just a little North of Portree to admire the icon of the Isle of Skye the Old Man of Storr.

Legend says that the 48m (160ft) high pinnacle is the thumb of a giant lying on the Earth.

12. Kilt Rock

sheer cliffs on edge of sea

Kilt Rock is one of the most famous rock formations in Scotland that stands at a mighty 190 feet high. This impressive sea stack rises from the waters off the Isle of Skye and forms part of the Trotternish Ridge.

Geologists believe that Kilt Rock was formed by both erosional processes and landslides occurring thousands of years ago.

It has since become one of Scotland’s iconic sights and is best known for its kaleidoscope of colourful lichen and seemingly endless waterfall dropping from the summit – which looks like a pleated kilt; hence its well-known name.

If you’re feeling brave enough you can even try rock climbing up its 300 foot deep fissure!

If you enjoy walking, head over to the nearby Quiraing, the summit of the summit of the Trotternish, for a bit of hiking.

13. Dunvegan Castle

Castle on hill top
Dunvegan castle on the Isle of Skye – the seat of the MacLeod of MacLeod, Scotland

Dunvegan Castle is a fairytale-like castle has been standing for over 800 years and is the ancestral home of Clan MacLeod. It’s located on the northeast side of the Isle of Skye and is one of the most historic and famous castles on the isle.

The castle gardens are equally as beautiful, with stunning native plants.

It’s also located on the coast, and you’ll find many sea caves nearby to explore. Or walk along cliff paths and take in the stunning views.

Before Taking a Road Trip in Scotland

So there you have it, that’s how to road trip from Edinburgh to Ilse of Skye and as you can see, there is so much to see along the way. Whatever you do, be sure to allow plenty of time to visit each stop, and don’t rush it. It’s a road trip that takes in the best of Scotland, and should be number one on any Scotland itinerary.

Remember, peak season is between April and October, so you’ll find plenty of people doing a road trip this time of year – so make sure you book your rental car in advance.

Click here for accommodation options in Edinburgh and here for Isle of Skye. Read these tips from a local for Things to do in Edinburgh

For more ideas about things to do on that road trip, planning information, beautiful photos, and practical maps to help you plan your travels, check out ZigZag On Earth’s eBook: The Road Trip Guide: Edinburgh to Skye and if you are traveling further in Scotland, you will want her Road Trip Scotland guide.

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