Driving routes from England to Scotland (Cambridge to Inverness)

I'm often asked about driving to Scotland - since I do the journey myself pretty often. There are fewer main roads in Scotland which simplifies the choices, but there are still options for distance versus scenery. My main recommendations are presented below, based on a journey from Cambridge to Inverness - which raises the question: do I go East or West?

Option 1: Head West


The most scenic route in my opinion (for the scottish part) is the west - through GLENCOE- i.e. A82... 

My recommended way to take that from is:  (524 miles)

A1 north -> A66 at scotch corner to cut west -> M6/M74 north -> M8 round glasgow -> Erskine bridge -> (A82) Glencoe -> Fort William -> Inverness

Route Map

At the scottish end this is the more interesting route as it goes through Glencoe and past Loch Ness. The English end is basically just motoroway.

Option 2: A9 East Scotland

The M6 is the main motorway up the west of the country - and surprisingly it costs very little in extra miles to cut across to the west then back again. 

Via M6 / A9 (510 Miles)

Route Map

Google suggests this route - which is basically simplest, but also arguably most boring.. The English and lowland Scotland stretch is the same as option 1, but then it takes the A9 (i.e. the eastern side of the highlands) up to Inverness, so is more direct... saves about 15 miles - (amazingly you'd think it would be a lot more.. )

Option 3: Stay entirely East

499 miles

The natural inclination might be to stay East for the whole journey and head towards Edinburgh. Instead of doing that all the way up the A1, it is shorter and quicker and more scenic to cut across country from Newcastle. You CAN go through Northumberland National park which is a very scenic, but quite twisty route... so I tend to skirt round the edge on this route through COLDSTREAM:

Route Map

As you can see - this misses out Glencoe on the west and uses the A9 - i.e. stays East for the whole journey. Consequently it is the shortest route, but still by less than 30 miles...   this is the route I would take if pressed for time and wanting "just to get there" without being too bothered about scenery..

Option 4: The tourist route

535 miles

This is option is if you really want to go past Edinburgh and also do the scenic route through glencoe...  so overall, it probably is THE most scenic route..

This is longest - but picks up Edinburgh, Glencoe and Loch Ness

Route Map

As you can see, timewise and distance wise there is not a whole load in it..

[photos: Nik Sargent]