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Direction of travel in Highlands - Clockwise or Counterclockwise from Edinburgh

We will be traveling to Scotland at the end of September and beginning of October. We will be driving and doing the Highlands loop starting from Edinburgh. Is there a better direction for the loop scenery-wise going to the below mentioned cities? We are undecided, at the moment, as to whether we are going to fit Glasgow into our 11 full day itinerary (not including travel days). We are also considering staying in Culbreach Castle and day tripping to Stirling at the end of either itineraries. We kind of thought it would be unique to have a real castle stay, and it appears the Culbreach Castle is the only one that fits in our itinerary.

Option 1 - Edinburgh, Oban, Portree/Skye, Inverness, Stirling (or Glasgow or Culbreach Castle) and back to Edinburgh airport for our flight home (day 12). Note we will be staying at each location for 2 nights except for Edinburgh which will be 3 nights.

Option 2 - Edinburgh, Inverness, Stirling (or Glasgow or Culbreach Castle) and back to Edinburgh airport for our flight home (day 12).

We would also like to see fall foliage if we are fortunate and the leaves are turning colors while we are there. So, the route options will be for seeing scenery along the way as well as trying to be in certain areas at the right time for fall foliage - but perhaps we are too early to really see the leaves turning color.

Your comments and advice are very much welcomed.

Posted by
1014 posts

Get the smallest car you can. Some of the roads are single lane and have single lane bridges. If anyone is doing this going through Tounge and Thurso, there are several miles of one way roads. Again, small car is suggested. A Valium taken early in the drive might help too. :)

Posted by
31 posts

John - We are planning to stay on the main roads (if you can call them that in Scotland). We are not going off on any remote drives. Please correct me if I am wrong though. So regardless of start/finish or which direction (clockwise or counterclockwise), we plan on taking:

Edinburgh to Oban (or vice versa) via Glasgow and by Loch Lomond: M8, A82 and A85
Oban to Mallaig: A828, A82, and A830 then ferry (fingers crossed) to Skye to Portree
Portree to Inverness: A87 and A82 by Loch Ness
Inverness to Stirling: A9 with modifications if going to Glasgow or Culbreach Castle

I don't think there are any one way roads along this path. Maybe bridges, but not the roads. Again I could be wrong. I have heard there is a gnarly stretch on the A82. Not sure if that is worse going in one direction versus the other. I am not sure if it still exists as the posts I saw on this were older.

Posted by
31 posts

John - haha on the valium. A nice whisky might be called for at the end of the driving day :-)

Posted by
1 posts

We just got back and basically went route 2. The nice thing about Option 2 is that you will be on less two lane roads at the beginning of your travels and give yourself more time to get used to the smaller roads. Just a thought. Have fun!!

Posted by
120 posts

We did a counter clockwise similar to your option two. We drove from Edinburgh airport after three nights there up to Stirling with many stops on the way. It isn't far and a easy highway drive but we made a ton of stops on our way up. Hopeton House, Blackness Castle, Falkirk Wheel, Kelpies, and finally Stirling for two nights. Stirling is a very pretty area and with the leaves changing I am sure it would be breathtaking at the top of the Wallace Momument. We drove from there to Aviemore but could have kept driving to Inverness. Beautiful drive and lots to see between Stirling and Inverness. After a few nights in Inverness we were off to Skye and after down through Glencoe and back to Edinburgh. We noticed a lot of people doing it clockwise. My husband and I found doing the city stuff first and the country side after a bit more relaxing for the end of our vacation.

Posted by
7419 posts

Yes, but even the main roads (e.g. A82) can feel pretty small when there's a truck or big bus or motorhome coming from the other direction . . .