The Isle of Skye is one of Scotland’s most popular destinations. It may seem like a long drive to get there, but by adding in scenic pitstops along the way, you can turn the journey into a sightseeing adventure. In fact, the journey through Scotland is almost as good as the destination! Keep reading to learn how to make the most out of driving to the Isle of Skye.
Sights to See Along the Way
Incredible scenery, old castles, whisky distilleries, hiking trails, and Scottish pubs are just a few of the sights and places you can visit on a drive to the Isle of Skye.
We recommend driving two different routes to and from the Isle of Skye. The “northern” route takes drivers through Pitlochry, past Loch Ness, past Eilean Donan Castle, and across the Skye Bridge onto the Isle of Skye. Our “southern” route involves taking the car ferry to Mallaig, visiting the Glenfinnan Viaduct, taking the scenic route through beautiful Glencoe Valley, and driving alongside Loch Lomond.
Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye (Northern Route)
Places to Visit:
- Edradour Whisky Distillery
- Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle
- Eilean Donan Castle
The drive from Edinburgh to Portree (without making any stops along the way).
If you were to drive from Edinburgh directly to the Isle of Skye, it would take between five and six hours with 235 miles of driving.
If you want to turn this drive into a scenic road trip, adding places like Edradour Distillery and Eilean Donan Castle, this drive will take one full day. Adding in Loch Ness adds an additional 50 miles to the drive for a total of 285 miles. You can visit all three places in one day, but you will need to get an early start and you won’t be able to stay long at Loch Ness or Edradour Distillery.
Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye, the “scenic route,” with driving directions
Edinburgh to Pitlochry: 71 miles, 1.75 hours
Plan on starting the drive at 8 am so you arrive at Edradour Distillery by 10 am, opening time. From Edinburgh, head north on M90 towards Perth and Pitlochry. This first part of the drive will be one of the few times that you will drive on a divided highway (dual carriageway).
The small town of Pitlochry is your first chance to get out and stretch your legs. Why visit Pitlochry? This quaint town is home to Edradour, Scotland’s smallest whisky distillery.
Guided tours and whisky tastings are offered Monday through Saturday (closed Sundays). Or, just visit their shop and bring home some whisky as a souvenir. Tours cost £10 per person and last one hour.
Children under 12 years old are not permitted on the site. If you are doing this drive with kids, you might want to consider skipping the distillery.
Edradour Distillery is open to visitors from late-March to late-October, with limited hours during the winter months. Visit their website for full details.
Have an early lunch in Pitlochry or continue on your way (we have another lunch recommendation near Loch Ness).
Pitlochry to Invergarry
Pitlochry to Invergarry: 84 miles, two hours
Continue your journey northwest from Pitlochry, on A9. Now you are driving along the southern border of the Cairngorms. The rolling hills are becoming mountains, the roads are getting narrower, and your cell service is probably starting to fade. If you are renting a car, it’s a great idea to get a car with the built in navigational system. Once you are in the Highlands and on the Isle of Skye, it can be very difficult to get a good signal on your cellphone.
At Dalwhinnie, take A889 to Laggan, then A86 to Spean Bridge. The road name changes again to A82, taking you to Invergarry.
On the road
Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle
Invergarry to Urquhart Castle: 50 miles round trip, 1.25 hours
Now you have a choice to make. Continue directly to the Isle of Skye or take a detour to Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle. To get to Urquhart Castle, the detour takes an hour and twenty minutes with 50 miles of driving (round trip).
For us, the detour to Loch Ness was worth it. Seeing Urquhart Castle against the backdrop of one of Scotland’s most famous lochs was wonderful. And of course, if you get lucky, maybe you will spot Nessie, the Loch Ness monster.
For a late lunch, consider dining at the Glenmoriston Arms Hotel, located in Invermoriston. Stop here on your way to Urquhart Castle.
Urquhart Castle is open daily. In order to tour the castle, you have to pay an entrance fee. Allow approximately one hour for a visit to the castle, although speed demons can see it in a half an hour or less. For full details on hours of operation and ticket prices, visit the Urquhart Castle website.
Eilean Donan Castle
Invergarry to Eilean Donan Castle: 41 miles, one hour
From Invergarry, you are just one hour away from the highlight of the day, Eilean Donan Castle. This castle gets our vote for coolest castle in Scotland.
You can simply see it from land, for free, or pay the entrance fee to enter the castle.
The castle is open from 10 am to 6 pm (last admission at 5 pm) during the summer months, with shorter hours during other times of the year.
Tickets are £7.50 for adults, £20 for families.Visit the Eilean Donan website for full details.
Isle of Skye
Eilean Donan Castle to the Isle of Skye: 10 miles, 15 minutes
From Eilean Donan Castle, you are just 15 minutes away from the Skye Bridge, the gateway to the Isle of Skye. Continue on A87 through Kyle of Lochalsh and cross the Skye Bridge (there is no toll to cross the bridge).
Welcome to the Isle of Skye!!
Continue on to your accommodation. Most people stay in Portree, just under an hour driving away.
Two Potential Itineraries: Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye
The Full Itinerary
8 am: Leave Edinburgh
10 am: Edradour Distillery Tour
11:30 am: Drive to Invermoriston
1:45 pm: Late lunch at Glenmoriston Arms Hotel
2:45 pm: Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness
3:30 pm: Drive to Eilean Donan Castle
4:45 pm: Eilean Donan Castle
6 pm: Drive to the Isle of Skye
7:15 pm: Arrive in Portree
On this itinerary, you can visit everything, but you can’t linger a long time at Urquhart Castle. We only spent about 45 minutes and for us it was more than enough time. Also, if you don’t plan on entering Eilean Donan Castle and only seeing it from the outside, there’s less of a rush for leaving Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness to get here before the last admission at 5 pm.
Option #2: Skip the Edradour Distillery (Perfect for Families)
8 am: Leave Edinburgh, skip Edradour
12:30 pm: Lunch at Glenmoriston Arms
1:30 pm: Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness
3:00 pm: Drive to Eilean Donan Castle
4:00 pm: Eilean Donan Castle
5:00 pm: Drive to Portree
6:15 pm: Arrive in Portree
Driving from the Isle of Skye to Glasgow or Edinburgh (Southern Route)
Places to Visit:
- Glenfinnan Viaduct
- Glencoe Valley
- Loch Lomond
This route requires a ferry crossing from the Isle of Skye to the mainland. This route takes drivers past the Glenfinnan Viaduct, through gorgeous Glencoe Valley, along Loch Lomond, and on to Glasgow or Edinburgh.
View of Sleat Peninsula, Isle of Skye
Ferry Crossing: Armadale to Mallaig
From Portree, it takes between an hour to an hour and a half to drive to Armadale. From here, you will take the ferry to Mallaig, on the mainland. It is highly recommended that you book your ferry tickets at least several days in advance, especially during the busy summer months.
The ferry is operated by Caledonian MacBrayne. The journey takes 40 minutes and ferries run all day. For a family of four with one car, a one-way ticket costs £18.40. Tickets can be purchased directly on the Caledonian MacBrayne website.
Mallaig to Glenfinnan: 26 miles, 40 minutes
From Mallaig, take A830 to the Glenfinnan Viaduct. Park in the very small car park (during peak visiting hours it can be nearly impossible to find a spot here!). A short walk uphill takes you to a viewpoint over the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
For Harry Potter fans, this is well worth it. The Glenfinnan Viaduct was used in the filming of the Hogwart’s Express.
We were here under less than ideal weather conditions. The Viaduct looks rather dreary in rainy weather. Hopefully, you will have better luck, but it is Scotland, and wee bit of rain here and there is expected.
Glenfinnan to Glencoe: 33 miles, one hour
Now it is time to visit the gorgeous Glencoe Valley. This place blew us away!
From the Glenfinnan Viaduct, continue on to Fort William and then drive south on A82.
For full details about what to see and do in Glencoe, do not miss this post: Postcards from Glencoe, Scotland
Glencoe to Glasgow: 94 miles, 2 hours
From Glencoe, continue south on A82 towards Glasgow. This drive takes you along Loch Lomond. It is another scenic spot in Scotland, although after what you have already seen on the Isle of Skye, in Glencoe, and near Kyle of Lochalsh, Loch Lomond may not seem that thrilling. Even so, it is a very nice drive.
From Glencoe, it takes about two hours to reach Glasgow. If you are continuing on to Edinburgh, it’s about one more hour of driving.
Timeline: Portree to Glasgow & Edinburgh
9:15 am: Leave Portree
10:40 am: Ferry Armadale to Mallaig
11:25 am: Arrive Mallaig, drive to Glenfinnan Viaduct
12:15 pm: Glenfinnan Viaduct
1:15 pm: Drive to Glencoe
2:15 pm: Late Lunch in Glencoe, see Glencoe
6 pm: Drive to Glasgow or Edinburgh
There is an earlier ferry that leaves Armadale at 8:40 am. If you want to spend a full afternoon in Glencoe, catch this earlier ferry.
With More Time
Here are some recommended side trips.
Whisky lovers may want to add two days into this itinerary to drive the whisky trail. On our northern route, from Dalwhinnie, continue north on A9 and then A89 to Glenlivet. You can spend several days here touring the whisky distilleries.
Isle of Mull
From Glencoe, head south to Oban and take the ferry over to the Isle of Mull.
Tips for Driving in Scotland
If you have a valid license in your home country, you can drive in Scotland.
In the UK, they drive on the left. Roundabouts are very common and can be intimidating to first time drivers in the UK, especially if you are accustomed to driving on the right. It takes a little getting used to!
In rural areas, it is not uncommon for sheep and other livestock to cross the roads.
In the most remote areas, including much of the Isle of Skye, you will drive on singletrack roads. These one-lane roads are only wide enough for one car. There are frequent passing zones, areas of the road that have been widened for two cars to pass. At times, this may require that you put your car in reverse, backing into one of these spots, to let oncoming traffic pass.
Slower drivers are expected to pull over into these passing zones in order to let faster traffic pass them.
Post updated April 2018.
Do you have plans to drive to the Isle of Skye? If you have any questions, comment below!