Julie Scotland 64 Comments

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.

Drive to Isle of Skye Scotland

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)

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. You will need to get an early start in order to visit everything on the list. 

Places to Visit:

  • Edradour Whisky Distillery
  • Inverness (optional)
  • Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle 
  • Eilean Donan Castle

There are two routes to the Isle of Skye. You can either drive through Invergarry or drive through Inverness. Driving through Inverness is only worth it if you also plan to visit Loch Ness, and you should know that this will be a very big day. 

First, learn about the drive through Invergarry and then get details on how to do this through Inverness.

Via Invergarry

To drive directly to the Isle of Skye, it is a five hour drive without detours, distillery tours, and lunch. You have the option to add in Loch Ness, which adds an additional 50 miles to the drive for a total of 285 miles. You can visit Edradour Distillery, Loch Ness, and Eilean Donan Castle 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.

How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (points of interest and the driving route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
If you click the star, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.


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. A tasting at the bar costs £10. Tours with tastings cost £25 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 Scotland




Old Mill Inn Pitlochry

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.

Scotland Road Trip

Beautiful Scotland

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.

Urquhart Castle Loch Ness

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.

Eilean Donan

You can simply see it from land, for free, or pay the entrance fee to enter the castle.

The castle is open from 9 am to 6 pm (last admission at 5 pm) during the summer months, with shorter hours during other times of the year.

Tickets are £10 for adults, £29 for families.Visit the Eilean Donan website for year-round operating hours and to get updated pricing.

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle Scotland

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).

Skye Bridge

Welcome to the Isle of Skye!!

Continue on to your accommodation. Most people stay in Portree, just under an hour driving away.

Three 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 there’s not a lot of contingency time, should you get a late start, hit some traffic, or have some other mishap occur. Also, 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.

If you don’t plan on entering Eilean Donan Castle and only seeing it from the outside, there’s less of a rush 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

Option #3: Skip Loch Ness

8 am: Leave Edinburgh
10 am: Edradour Distillery Tour
11:30 am:  Drive to Invermoriston
1:45 pm:  Late lunch in Ivergarry
3:15 pm:  Drive to Eilean Donan Castle
4:15 pm: Tour Eilean Donan Castle
5:45 pm: Drive to the Isle of Skye

Via Inverness

If you drove directly to the Isle of Skye the fastest route (through Invergarry), it takes just over five hours. Adding on Inverness adds an additional hour of time. It’s actually the same amount of driving as the above route with the detour to Loch Ness. However, you are now adding on another destination, so you will have to pick and choose what you want to do today. There is no way to tour Edradour Distillery, explore Inverness (even quickly), tour Urquhart Castle, and tour Eilean Donan. 

If you prefer to drive through Inverness, my recommendation is to skip the tour of Eilean Donan Castle. It’s still wonderful to see it from the outside. By skipping the tour, you have much more time for Inverness, Loch Ness, and Edradour Distillery. 

Driving from the Isle of Skye to Glasgow or Edinburgh (Southern Route)

Places to Visit:

  • Glenfinnan Viaduct
  • Glencoe Valley
  • Loch Lomond

How to Use This Map:Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (points of interest and the driving route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
If you click the star, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

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.

Isle of Skye

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 £19.60. Tickets can be purchased directly on the Caledonian MacBrayne website.

Mallaig Ferry

Glenfinnan Viaduct

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 Aqueduct

Glencoe Valley

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 Valley Drone

Glencoe Scotland Drone

Loch Lomond

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.

Loch Lomond

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 Trail

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.

Do you have plans to drive to the Isle of Skye? If you have any questions, comment below!

More Information about Scotland

PLACES TO VISIT IN THE ISLE OF SKYE: For an overview of must-have experiences on the Isle of Skye, read our article Best Things to Do on the Isle of Skye. We also have detailed guides on the Old Man of Storr, the Fairy Pools, the Fairy Glen, Brother’s Point, and the Quiraing.

ISLE OF SKYE ITINERARY: We cover how to visit the Isle of Skye in our Isle of Skye Travel Guide. We also have travel itineraries for 1, 2, and 3 days on the Isle of Skye.

SCOTLAND ITINERARY: With 10 days in Scotland, visit the highlights, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, the Isle of Skye, and Glencoe.

EDINBURGH: Learn about the best things to do and how to plan your time in our 2 Day Edinburgh Itinerary. We also have detailed guides on how to hike to Arthur’s Seat, how to visit Edinburgh Castle, best things to do with kids in Edinburgh, and where to get the best views of Edinburgh.

TRAVEL INSPIRATION: Here are 15 fairytale destinations to visit around the world. And if you are considering a trip to Europe, check out our article 30 Beautiful Places to Visit in Europe.


Planning a trip to Scotland? Read all of our articles in our Scotland Travel Guide.



Scotland road trip: Driving to the Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye Edinburgh Glasgow Scotland


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Comments 64

  1. Avatar for Shashank

    Hello Julie,
    I really appreciate all the content in your website, it is just so useful and accurate. Thank you very much for the content. We are planning a planning a drive from Cambridge to Isle of Skye and back in July. Yeah, a loooong drive. Can you give me an idea of fuelling stations between Edinburgh and Portree? Are they easy to find or few and far between?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Great question! I don’t recall any issues finding gas stations to fill up. But since it is a long drive from Edinburgh to Portree, it would be a good idea to refuel around Invergarry or Fort Augustus, because gas stations may be sparse between Fort Augustus and Portree. If you use Google, you can also search for gas stations along the route now and save them to your map now, just in case you don’t have good cellular service along the drive. Cheers, Julie

  2. Avatar for Ai-Kwang Warren
    Ai-Kwang Warren

    Hello Julie,
    Thank you for your very informative posts and beautiful photographs!
    My son who is 26 is working is London, England. My husband and I as well as our daughter will be visiting him (from Toronto,Canada) and the 4 of us will be catching an early train to Edinburgh on Monday Sept 14.
    We don’t have much time but are planning to spend the night in Edinburgh and leaving around midday the following day for Glencoe by car. We will spend 2 nights in Glencoe before going to the Isle of Skype (3 nights). Our plan is to drive back to either Glasgow or Edinburgh on Saturday Spet 19 and return to London the same day.
    Please tell me if we should head to the Isle of Skype first and stop in Glencoe on the way back. We love to hike!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Thanks for writing in to us! You can visit Glencoe and the Isle of Skye in either order, I don’t think that it makes much of a difference either way. We visited the Isle of Skye first, but that was purely random when we came up with our itinerary. If you went to the Isle of Skye first, you could visit Glasgow at the end of your trip (Edinburgh -> Skye -> Glencoe -> Glasgow -> maybe Edinburgh). I did a quick search and it looks like you can get direct trains from both Edinburgh and Glasgow to London, just take note of your arrival station in London. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Geronimo

        Other factors being equal I would make the choice based on availabilty of accomodation or where (is the lesser evil) to spend the weekend when it typically gets crowdier.

        However, if you are interested in Eilean Donnan castle, you may want to start with Glencoe and do the northern route on your way back.

  3. Avatar for Nicole T.
    Nicole T.

    Hi there! I am absolutely loving the information about Scotland! My family is traveling to Scotland in August and I was wondering what you would suggest as a good itinerary for first timers. We have two boys (8 and 10). I also wanted to know what your thoughts were about taking kids to the Military Tattoo.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Hello Nicole. Have a look at our 10 day Scotland itinerary, which is a good starting point for planning your time here. I have not been to the Military Tattoo but it looks amazing. I say take the kids…I would have taken ours at the same ages. Cheers, Julie

      1. Avatar for Nicole
  4. Avatar for Hanneke Beck
    Hanneke Beck

    Our granddaughter is getting married on the Isle of Skye…we live in the USA. We’re in our late seventies and are struggling in taking this trip. Flying to Inverness I believe would be the easiest. Any good advice?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Wow, what a place for a wedding! Inverness is not far from the Isle of Skye. However, from the US, it might be a little challenging to get a flight to Inverness. Most likely, it will be easier to get a flight into Edinburgh and then drive from there. You will have to research flights into both cities to see what works best for you, with regards to timing and cost. But if you end up flying into Edinburgh, it’s a wonderful drive to the Isle of Skye! Cheers, Julie

    2. Avatar for Brian Beverage
      Brian Beverage

      We just made this trip in the spring with my mother and father in law. They are also in their late seventies and early 80s. We flew from DFW to London Heathrow then to Inverness. I have to say I did not care for London Heathrow but you can definitely fly to Inverness from the US. We then did about 1000 miles of driving around Scotland. I think flying into Inverness is good if you are new too driving on the left since Inverness is a smaller city and the airport is a few miles out of the city. The Edinburgh airport is located on the west side so you do not need to drive downtown if driving up to Isle of Skye from Edinburgh but traffic is a bit heavier around that area.

      I am just planning another trip this spring 2020 as well. That is how I run across your comment. I think this time I am going to fly to Edinburgh and do the drive from that airport. We will be going via the Isle of Mull then ferry up to Lochaline then drive over to Mallaig to ferry to the Isle of Skye. You would have a much easier drive from Inverness I think. You could also stop at Urquhart, Lochness and Eilean Donan on your way to the Isle of Sky. I have a few blog posts of my driving to give you a sense of the roads.
      I have several more posts I could make but I am behind! 🙂

  5. Avatar for Liyana Devi
  6. Avatar for Hugh Scott
    Hugh Scott

    Hello Julie; My adult son and I are coming to a wedding in Scotland on November 2. Is the first week of November (ie after the wedding) too late to go to Skye?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      The weather will be cold/chilly with short days and longer nights. The weather can be sunny or it can be rainy and windy. So, the weather and the daylight hours won’t be ideal but crowds will be very low. If you don’t mind taking a chance on the weather, it might be nice to see the sights and go hiking during the day and relax in a cozy hotel/apartment in the evenings. I don’t have experience with being on the Isle of Skye in November. I assume hotels and some restaurants will still be open, but probably not everything. If you find a hotel that interests you, contact them about restaurants just to make sure that you have options. Cheers, Julie

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