The A82 Drive - Scotland's must-do road trip
If you are in Scotland and have a car, then the A82 drive is highly recommended. Going from Inverness to Glasgow, this picturesque drive takes you from the majestic Scottish Highlands through the boggy Rannoch Moor to the lush greenery of the Trossachs National Park. Dramatic changes in landscape and viewpoints every few miles – this road trip is a MUST DO. This post is your guide to all the sights that you absolutely should not miss on this very scenic route!
The A82 highway goes from the north of Scotland to the south via the west. You can choose to go North-South from Inverness to Glasgow or the other way around. The total distance is around 200 miles and counting stops and detours, it will take you the whole day.
What we did
We started from Inverness just after breakfast and drove down to Edinburgh via Glasgow. We did not stop in Glasgow except for a quick dinner. The entire drive, including stops and detours took us 12 hours.
The road was quite good, though we encountered some drizzle in the Highlands. Traffic was very light, there were long stretches where we saw no one. Though the temperature was around 7-9°C, the wind made it feel much colder.
In the Trossachs National Park, there are areas where the narrow road winds along sharp curves and we encountered huge trucks coming the other way without really slowing down, which was a bit unnerving.
Around Glasgow, we switched to the M8 which we followed till we reached Edinburgh.
Inverness to Drumnadrochit
This stretch of the A82 goes along the famous Loch Ness, a lake formed between two tectonic plates giving it its strange elongated shape. It takes about 30 minutes to drive the 15 miles to Drumnadrochit, where you can find the Loch Ness Center and Exhibition.
Drumnadrochit has a Loch Ness Center, which is a popular tourist attraction showcasing a surprisingly informative short documentary about Loch Ness and an exhibition of artefacts associated with the history and geography of this region. For tourists interested in Loch Ness and the myth of Nessie, this is a spot worth visiting.
Approximate visit duration
A visit to the Loch Ness Center (including the short film, exhibition and the souvenir shop) should take you under 2 hours.
If you want to stop along Loch Ness for a quick photo stop, there are several lay-bys where you can park the car and in some cases, even walk down to the lake.
- Around 7 miles before you reach the Loch Ness Center, look out for the popular Wellington lay-by, which offers a beautiful view of the lake.
- Around 8 miles before the Loch Ness Center, the the north end of Loch Ness, look left to see the beautiful Aldourie Castle across the lake.
Fun fact: Loch Ness has strong underwater currents, making it seem like there’s something large moving just beneath the surface… or wait, is it just Nessie? 🙂
View of Loch Ness from Wellington lay-by
A few minutes away from Drumnadrochit is the Urquhart Castle, an iconic Scottish castle on the banks of Loch Ness. The castle is in ruins now, but even today, standing inside what’s left of it, one can imagine the stunning views it must have had.
Urquhart Castle is a popular tourist attraction, and it would also take about a couple of hours to cover the castle grounds. Parking is available but limited.
The visit starts through the souvenir shop which has a small auditorium where a short film about the castle’s history runs every 15-20 minutes. I highly recommend watching this before you start your tour.
Given the fairly informative documentary and the signs around the castle, the average tourist won’t miss having a guided tour.
The castle grounds are beautiful, complete with a massive trebuchet (aka catapult). You can take a leisurely walk through the ruins – stone steps lead to upper and lower floors and a path outside leads straight to the lake.
Approximate visit duration
A leisurely visit to this castle (covering everything) should take you under 2 hours. Urquhart castle is one of the most famous castles in Scotland, and it is a definite must-see in this area.
Ben Nevis and Loch Lochy
The south end of Loch Ness is near Fort Augustus, after which you will encounter Loch Lochy on your right and beyond it, the Nevis range. The next stop is Spean Bridge, where you will find the Commando Memorial and the Ben Nevis range.
Commando Memorial & Ben Nevis
The Commando Memorial is a 17-ft high World War II memorial depicting 3 bronze commandos looking towards Ben Nevis, the highest point in the UK (4412ft high).
There is ample parking, no crowd, no lines, no tickets. Just park your car, walk around the monument and take in the spectacular sight of the highest peak in the UK.
Approximate visit duration
We took a 15 minute break here, mostly to take photos and walk around. There is nothing much here except the monument itself and the view of Ben Nevis.
Technically, the Glenfinnan Viaduct is not on the A82. But Harry Potter fans would like to take this detour to see the this iconic bridge over which the Jacobite Express aka Hogwarts Express periodically chugs along.
In Fort William, after the Ben Nevis Distillery, you can take a detour of about 15 miles (one way) on A830. The bridge is situated near Loch Shiel, which also has the Glenfinnan Monument.
Approximate visit duration
If you want to just view the bridge, the whole visit should not take you more than 30 minutes. However, given that you have come all the way, you might want to wait for the Jacobite Express to pass over the bridge. This happens twice a day. We spent around 90 minutes at this location and were able to see the train.
A detailed blog post about Glenfinnan Viaduct is coming soon!
On the A830 back from Glenfinnan Viaduct
On the way back to the A82 from Glenfinnan Viaduct, there are two places of interest. If you don’t want to go all the way to Glenfinnan, you can still see these because they are hardly a couple of miles away from the A82.
Treasures of the Earth – Gemstone Museum
About 2.5 miles (5-10 minutes) away from Ben Nevis Distillery on the A830 in Corpach is the Treasures of the Earth – Gemstone, Crystal and Fossil Museum. We had a 10 year old who fascinated by gemstones and fossils and we were crossing the museum on our way back from Glenfinnan, so we decided to stop here. Also – as is usually the case in Scotland, it was raining, so it was nice to get out of the rain for while 🙂
The place is fairly small, but has an interesting collection of items and information nuggets if you are crazy about stones and geology in general. It also has a few fossils. The gift shop has a lot of options if you want to purchase a souvenir or two.
If geology is not particularly interesting to you, it is okay to skip this museum. On the plus side, when we visited, there was hardly anyone there so we had the whole place to ourselves and parking was free.
Approximate Visit Duration
The museum is very small, and we spent about 40 minutes here, including time spent in the gift shop.
Though it is possible to see it from the A830, it is very easy to miss. You can turn into a small road that runs parallel to the canal where you can take a quick photo stop. Even then, the best view is probably from up above rather than ground level.
Back to the A82, as you proceed south, the next landmark is the Ballachulish Bridge where you cross Loch Leven to reach the picturesque village of Glencoe.
On the banks of Loch Leven, nestled in the Glencoe valley, this is a picture perfect little community. There is a Glencoe Folk Museum, and you can stop here to understand more about the history and culture of this region. Honestly, though, you will probably want to stop every 5 minutes for a photo stop because literally EVERYWHERE in Glencoe is just breathtaking.
This area is well-known for its hiking trails where you can experience the best of the Scottish Highlands. Outside the village, nestled into the landscape of the glen is the beautiful Glencoe Visitor Center.
Signal Rock and An Torr
A short distance from the Glencoe Visitor Center (about a mile and a half) is the Signal Rock and An Torr walking trail. This 60-90 minute, 1.5 mile walk through the forest is said to be one of the easier short walks in the Highlands.
Less than a mile from Signal Rock lies the gorgeous Loch Achtriochtan. Huge snow-capped peaks with icy streams of water cascading down into a serene loch, complete with a wooden bridge and a walking path leading to a quaint house. While you will find beautiful views all over the Scottish Highlands, this one was just picture perfect.
Photo tip: Rather than stopping at the Loch Achtriochtan View Point Car Park (marked on Google Maps), you can stop directly in front of Loch Achtriochtan for a better view.
The Three Sisters
As you drive on, you will see the River Coe to your right. About two miles from Loch Achtriochtan is the next quick stop.
The famous Three Sisters are a set of 3 peaks also called the Bidean nam Bian Mountain. Google Maps will direct you to the parking lot. The view is stunning and a sign put up at the viewpoint tells you exactly what you are looking at.
Meeting of the Three Waters
Half a mile from The Three Sisters, you will arrive at the Meeting of the Three Waters, a small waterfall in the foothills of the The Sisters. Water from three sources meets here to join the River Coe.
As waterfalls go, this is not anything extraordinary. Don’t sweat it if you miss this stop, but if you do stop, it’s just another beautiful view point in the one of the most scenic glens of Scotland.
Buachaille Etive Mor
About 2-2.5 miles from the Meeting of the Three Waters, the mountains start falling away from the road. Quite suddenly, you are treated to a jaw-dropping expanse of road and mountains.
Two peaks on either side of you – one of which is the famous Buachaille Etive Mor, and the other, just as beautiful but unnamed for some reason – form a staggeringly huge, almost perfect arc in the horizon.
The Buachaille lies at the head of Glen Etive on your right. It is a popular peak for hiking and climbing and is famous for its almost perfectly conical shape (though you can’t see that from the A82)
This view is something you MUST NOT MISS.
Be aware, there are NO signs here, NO car park, NO view point here. Just the road and the expanse. But you really, really can’t miss it. Look out for the Buachaille Etive Mor peak on Google Maps (should be on your right). If you cross the Glencoe Mountain Resort, you’ve gone too far.
If you do want to ask someone for directions – First, good luck finding someone here! Second, it’s pronounced “Boo ach keel yi echiv ore“.
You’re welcome 🙂
Just after this, in stark contrast to the beautiful glen that surrounded the A82, the landscape almost instantly changes to miles of boggy marshland. This is the Rannoch Moor, near Loch Rannoch which lies somewhere to your left (not visible from the A82).
There are various small lochs scattered around this area, and most of the landscape has the same dreary beauty.
Trossachs National Park
Continuing down the A82, you will pass Loch Tulla on your right and finally, the Bridge of Orchy, which incidentally, is not a bridge but a village in Argyll and Bute.
After this comes the village of Tyndrum, which marks the beginning of the Trossachs National Park. The scenery changes suddenly once again, turning into lush green forests, with the River Falloch on the left.
There is a small waterfall called the Falls of Falloch about 4 miles from Crianlarich, which could be a quick stop.
The road here is beautiful, but narrow and winding with some sharp turns.
After Inverarnan, the A82 runs along the huge Loch Lomond through a number of small villages. There are many places to stop and grab a quick bite here.
After Loch Lomond, the A82 splits into a dual carriageway that leads to Glasgow. If you are continuing to Edinburgh or bypassing Glasgow, then turn into the M8 near the town of Old Kilpatrick.
Hope you enjoyed our A82 drive photo journal. Do let us know your questions or comments below!