Over half of the people who tour Scotland every year come for the scenery, according to VisitScotland. We may not have the grandeur of the Grand Canyon, Uluru or the Victoria Falls but you’re never far from a grand view and the Scottish scenery changes round every corner. One minute you have a fabulous mountain vista, the next you’re up close to a stunning seascape. And one of the best ways to see them is travelling in a motorhome.
If you hire your motorhome from Motorhome Escapes, you’ll likely be starting your tour in Edinburgh, you have two superb hill-top views: from the tops of both Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat, Scotland’s capital city is laid out below you. From Calton Hill you can see the elegant New Town, while Arthur’s Seat sits above Holyrood Palace, the Scottish Parliament building and the Castle with the old town behind it.
If you go north from Edinburgh across the Forth Bridge (sadly you can’t stop on it, but passengers will have excellent views both east and west along the Firth of Forth) head up the east coast, through the picturesque fishing villages of the East Neuk of Fife, Crail and Anstruther. St Andrews, further up the coast, has a stunning ruined Castle and Cathedral as well as the world-famous Old Course golf course. The beach is a great place for dawn photos – best in spring and autumn, as this part of Scotland gets up to 20 hours daylight in summer.
Continuing up the coast, just before you cross the Tay Bridge into Dundee stop and look north towards the city. It climbs the hills above the “silvery Tay” River in a very eye-pleasing fashion. The county north of Dundee, Angus, is a largely unknown gem. It has everything: sea, mountains, forests, lochs and rich farmland. The Angus Glens provide wonderful opportunities for scenic photography, and the hills are not too steep for walking. The roads are very narrow, though, so take care if your motorhome’s much bigger than a car.
One of my favourite views in the whole of Scotland doesn’t appear on any lists. It’s called the Cairn o’ Mount, and it’s on the winding B974 road between Fettercairn and Banchory, so if you’re heading up to Royal Deeside it’s on your way. There’s a stopping place with room for several vehicles, so you don’t even need to get out of your motorhome to take in the view. You can see all the way from Aberdeen to Fife along the coast, and inland as far as the hills of Perthshire.
If you want to stick to the coast – and the whole of Scotland’s east coast is very photogenic – go to Dunottar Castle instead of climbing the Mount. You can reach it very easily from the A90, the main road from Perth to Aberdeen. Dunottar is a real romantic ruined castle, built on a promontory above the sea, with a heroic history and spectacular coastal views. If you don’t want to climb out to it, the castle makes a spectacular view in its own right.
The road along the River Dee from Banchory to Ballater runs past Balmoral Castle, where The Queen spends the summer, and climbs over Glen Shee and down to Bridge of Cally. If you turn right there, towards Pitlochry, you’ll have gone right over the top of the Cairngorms. The whole area is a National Park, and the river and mountain scenery is – I’m running out of superlatives – fabulous. Scotland’s largest ski centre is at Glenshee, and if you take the ski-lift to the top of the hill you’ll see half Scotland laid out below you.
From Pitlochry head south and then turn right to Aberfeldy, where the famous Birks o’Aberfeldy make a very pretty climb up the hill beside a tumbling stream (or burn, in Scots). Follow the road on to Kenmore and along the north side of Loch Tay to Killin for wonderful views of the loch.
Just after Killin, turn right onto the A85 and follow the road through Crianlarich and Tyndrum to get to another of my favourite places in Scotland: Rannoch Moor. On a sunny or frosty day the peat bogs sparkle and there are photo opportunities on every side. The road leads you on to Glencoe, a classic Scottish mountain landscape, and Fort William. There are several small roads along the way where you can park your motorhome and go walking.
Another of the very best scenic routes in Scotland is the road from Fort William to Mallaig. It passes the Glenfinnan Monument to Bonnie Prince Charlie and the famous Glenfinnan railway viaduct, both worth a detour. From Glenfinnan onwards the views on both sides are very fine, especially once you reach the coast. You can see the Small Isles (Rhum, Eigg, Canna and Muck) across the water from Arisaig; at sunset that really is one of the best views in Scotland. Mallaig, a busy little ferry port, is the end of the road.
On your way back turn off at Lochailort towards Strontian. Again, the road’s quite narrow for a motorhome. Follow it across the Moidart peninsula to the Corran ferry and then, instead of going back via Tyndrum, follow the coast road south to Oban. This stretch is just as spectacular as California’s Pacific Coast road, but very few people know about it. You’ll be wanting to stop in every lay-by to take photos.
From Oban carry on over the hills to Lochgilphead, then turn north-east towards Inveraray, with its glorious view down Loch Fyne, and then head for Glasgow along the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. There’s plenty to see in Glasgow, but my favourite building is the Kelvin Museum, a gloriously self-important piece of Victorian architecture containing a fascinating collection of art and artefacts. The Park surrounding it is very photogenic, too.
There are so many great views in Scotland – after nearly 1000 words I’ve still only covered the middle third of the country. Head south for big hills and the pretty River Tweed; head north for the dramatic coastline around Durness and Duncansby Head; head west for the white beaches and colourful houses of the Hebridean islands. It doesn’t matter where you travel in Scotland, there are breath-taking views. Just remember to bring plenty of memory cards and batteries for your camera!