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Scottish National Tourist Routes

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Scotland is, in many people's view, a very scenic country worth exploring in detail. As such, it is perhaps unsurprising that it has a number of official Tourist Routes (Map), as well as some less official, local routes and trails designed to guide tourists around some of the more interesting sites and sights that this fabulous country has to offer. The routes don't always lead you from door to door of the attractions along the way, and whilst some visitors will undoubtedly stick doggedly to the routes as signed, there is plenty of scope to turn off here and there, either following the brown signs to nearby destinations, or to make your own discoveries along the numerous side roads and country lanes.


The National Tourist Routes

Contents

The routes

Route From To Length
Angus Coastal Tourist Route Dundee Stonehaven 58 miles View
Argyll Coastal Route Tarbet North Ballachulish 149 miles View
Borders Historic Route Edinburgh border nr Carlisle 95 miles View
Clyde Valley Tourist Route Elvenfoot Hamilton 42 miles View
Deeside Tourist Route Perth Aberdeen 107 miles View
Fife Coastal Tourist Route Kincardine Newport-on-Tay 85 miles View
Forth Valley Tourist Route South Queensferry Bannockburn 39 miles View
Galloway Tourist Route Gretna Green Ayr 96 miles View
Highland Tourist Route Aberdeen Inverness 118 miles View
Moray Firth Tourist Route Inverness Mound Rock 80 miles View
North & West Highlands Route Ullapool John o' Groats 160 miles View
Perthshire Tourist Route Greenloaning Pitlochry 45 miles View
Pictish Trail Inverness Dunrobin Castle, Golspie 145 miles View
Solway Coast Heritage Trail Annan Stranraer 180 miles View 

Angus Coastal Tourist Route

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Bervie Bridge at Inverbervie on the A92
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The Angus Coastal Tourist Route runs from Dundee to Stonehaven, via the historic coastal towns of Arbroath and Montrose. It provides a 55-mile coastal alternative to the A90 via Forfar, which is a dual carriageway journey of 52 miles.

Argyll Coastal Route

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The new Butter Bridge on the A83 over the Allt Kinglas
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Main Article: Argyll Coastal Route

The Argyll Coastal Route is the second longest of the main tourist routes in Scotland as it runs around the county of Argyll from the shores of Loch Lomond south west via Loch Fyne to Lochgilphead and then north through Oban to the historic county boundary at Loch Leven. In truth, the coast is often out of sight but in this peaceful landscape the route is not so much about what lies along it, as what can be accessed from it, so take a bit longer, follow the side roads and see what you find whether a quiet bay on one of the many sea lochs, a tranquil forest glade or a picturesque valley in the foothills of the Mountains.

Borders Historic Route

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Teindside Bridge, spanning the River Teviot on the A7 near Teviothead
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The Borders Historic Route exclusively follows the A7 between Edinburgh and Carlisle. Nevertheless, it is a fine drive, through a selection of the Borders Towns such as Galashiels, Selkirk and Hawick, before climbing up through the hills and crossing the watershed at Teviothead to drop steadily down to the flat lands around Carlisle. Along the way there is plenty of scope for stopping and taking short detours to fully explore this varied and often overlooked corner of Scotland

Clyde Valley Tourist Route

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Wolfclyde Bridge on the A72
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The Clyde Valley Tourist Route provides an alternative to the M74 between Abington (J14) and Hamilton (J6), serving the World Heritage Site at New Lanark.


Deeside Tourist Route

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Heading north out of Spittal of Glenshee
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Main Article: Deeside Tourist Route

The Deeside Tourist Route runs from Perth to Aberdeen on the A93 via Braemar. It provides a 107-mile alternative route through the eastern Cairngorm Mountains, taking in historic castles, scenic glens and wild mountains as well as passing near a range of sites associated with Queen Victoria near Balmoral Castle. The direct route on the A90 dual carriageway between the two cities is 83 miles. However, with Balmoral, and Scone Palace en route, the A93 is a route fit for Royalty.


Fife Coastal Tourist Route

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A917 Anstruther High Street
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The Fife Coastal Tourist Route doesn't offer the splendour of Highland Scenery found on some of the other routes listed here, instead it guides the visitor through some of the most picturesque and interesting coastal villages Scotland has to offer. Culross comes first, and whets the appetite, but it is the villages of the East Neuk: Elie, St Monans, Pittenweem, Anstruther and Crail that are the real jewels along this fascinating coast. Fishing villages aside, there are ruinous castles, old industrial sites and a myriad other places of interest at which to pause. Of course, the best way to explore this coast is on the Fife Coast Path, but for those short on time, driving this route is the next best thing, and avoids some of the less salubrious stretches of the path. Beyond the East Neuk, the route visits the historic Cathedral City of St Andrews, before finishing in Newport on Tay opposite Dundee.


Forth Valley Tourist Route

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Hopetoun Wood on the A904
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The Forth Valley Tourist Route provides an alternative to the M9 between Edinburgh and Stirling. At first glance, it seems to be one of the least interesting routes described on this page, however, delve a little deeper, be prepared to make those additional little detours and this is an absorbing and rewarding corner of Scotland that offers plenty for the keen explorer to discover.

Galloway Tourist Route

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Parton Village on the A713
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The Galloway Tourist Route runs from Gretna on the English border to Ayr on the Clyde Coast. It is a route which starts on the flat lands of the Solway coast, skirting the shore to Dumfries, and then turns inland through low hills to Castle Douglas. From there the landscape becomes somewhat more dramatic as it climbs through the Glenkens on the banks of the River Ken, crosses the open moorland around Carsphairn and plunges down Glen Muck into Ayrshire. The final destination of Ayr is a worthy finishing post with a fine town centre and vast beach to relax on.

Highland Tourist Route

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A939 near Lecht Summit
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The Highland Tourist Route runs from Aberdeen to Inverness via the Cairngorms and Alford. It provides a 113-mile alternative to the 102-mile A96 route. Along the way, the landscape changes from the fertile flat lands of the east coast to the forested glens of Strathdon and then the wild high moorlands of the Cairngorm fringe. The descent is perhaps more dramatic as the road plunges into the lush Speyside before continuing north west to the fertile ground of the Moray Firth and the Highland Capital. This is a route of ever changing landscapes and great roads which is just begging the driver to explore.

Moray Firth Tourist Route

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The A862 leaving Inverness
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The Moray Firth Tourist Route takes some of the former route of the A9 between Inverness and The Mound (between Dornoch and Golspie), with other scenic routes included. It consists of two main loops off the A9, with a brief return in-between.

The Moray Firth Tourist Route follows the former A9 route from Inverness to Bonar Bridge and then runs via Lairg to the coast north of Dornoch. At nearly 70 miles, versus the 42 for the A9 it is longer but takes in a range of different attractions, and some wildly different scenery, as it curls inland around the heads of the firths and then climbs over the hills.

North & West Highlands Route

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Kylesku Bridge on the A894
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The North & West Highlands Route runs from Ullapool to John o' Groats. For 160 miles it loosely follows the coast north through Sutherland and then east across the top of Scotland along the A835, A837, A894, A838 and A836, the route goes through some of the most remote and scenic locations in Scotland. Whilst there are few of your modern attractions designed to entertain and excite, the landscape is the attraction on this route from vast sandy beaches to intimate wooded glens, high mountain summits to the prettiest of lochs, this is a route worth dawdling along and enjoying. The scenery changes as often as the weather, and to catch a view just as the sun comes out is truly magical.

Perthshire Tourist Route

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Crieff High Street on the A85
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The Perthshire Tourist Route provides an alternative to the A9 between Dunblane and Pitlochry, avoiding Perth. It is a far more interesting route than the somewhat dull A9, even if Scotlands Fair City of Perth is missed. Instead the route takes in the pretty towns of Crieff and Aberfeldy, exploring some of the wild country in between.

Other Tourist Routes in Scotland

There are several tourist routes in Scotland that are not listed as national routes. Some are signed, some not, but all offer a range of scenery and attractions along their routes.

Highlands

NC500

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The Bealach na Ba.
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Main Article: NC500

The NC500 is an unsigned route combining the Wester Ross Coastal Trail, North and West Highlands Route, A99, and parts of the Moray Firth Tourist Route, A9 and A835 to form a 500-plus mile loop around the north of Scotland, starting and finishing at Inverness Castle. Although one of the newest tourist routes in Scotland, it is already proving popular.

Wester Ross Coastal Trail

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Warning sign for the Bealach na Ba route to Applecross
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Around the coast of Wester Ross (no not Westeros!), including the famous Bealach na Ba pass. The Wester Ross Coastal Trail takes in some of the wildest and most scenic landscapes Scotland has to offer. From the vast empty glens around Achnasheen to the rugged coastlines of Gairloch and the high pass of the Bealach na Ba, for those looking to 'get away from it all', Wester Ross is hard to beat.

Road to the Isles

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Signs at the start of the Road to the Isles
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Main Article: Road to the Isles
The Road to the Isles is not signed, but is essentially the A830 between Fort William and Mallaig, with signed coastal alternatives via the B8008 at Arisaig. This is a route packed with real Jacobite History around Glenfinnan and Lochailort, and fictional links from Harry Potter, amongst other films. At the western end, the white beaches are a magnet for people of all ages, whilst Mallaig and Arisaig offer boat trips to the Islands. It also has its own website.

North East

North East Coastal Trail

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Coastal Trail sign
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The North East Coat Trail follows the coast through the former Grampian Region in Scotland. It starts at Montrose in Angus and heads north via Stonehaven, Aberdeen, Peterhead and Fraserburgh before turning the corner and heading west past Banff to Moray and coming to an end at Forres. Along the way it passes some dramatic clifftop castle ruins, secluded fishing villages hidden in the folds of cliffs and through the city of Aberdeen.

Snow Roads Scenic Route

A new route following the A93 and A93 through the Cairngorms National Park and crossing the Cairnwell and Lechd Passes, running from Blairgowrie to Grantown on Spey.

Scotland's Castle Trail

The Castle Trail visits 19 out of around 300 Castles, Tower Houses and old manor houses dotted around the landscape of Aberdeenshire and the north east.

Victorian Heritage Trail

The Victorian Heritage Trail links a number of sites associated with Queen Victoria in and around Balmoral on Deeside. It covers similar territory to parts of the Deeside Tourist Route.

Malt Whisky Trail

As with some of the other minor tourist trails, this is not a specific route as such, rather a set of signs connecting 8 distilleries and a cooperage in the Speyside area. Speyside is almost home to more distilleries than the rest of Scotland put together, and these 8 are just a few of those offering visitor centres and tours. Malt Whisky trail

Southern Scotland

Solway Coast Heritage Trail

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Passing through Whithorn
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The Solway Coast Heritage Trail follows classified roads west from Annan along Scotland's southern coast through Dumfries and Galloway to the former ferry port of Stranraer. Along the way it passes coastal nature reserves, ruined Castles and Abbeys and perhaps Scotland's oldest mainland Christian site at Isle of Whithorn. It also takes in the southern most point of the country at the Mull of Galloway.

Burns Heritage Trail

The Burns Heritage Trail connects a series of locations related to Scotland's Poet Robbie Burns. Including places where he is known to have stayed, such as his birthplace at Alloway, as well as places mentioned in his poems, such as Brig O Doon.

Argyll, Lomond and Trossachs

Trossachs Trail

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The A821 through the Achray Forest
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Main Article: Trossachs Trail

An alternate route to the A84, going through the Trossachs via Aberfoyle. The route is not always well signed, but easy enough to follow as it circles around the popular sites of Callander, Loch Katrine, Aberfoyle, the Lake of Menteith and the Trossachs Forest. There are visitor centres, a ruinous abbey on an island, forest adventure park and so much more to explore in one of Central Scotlands most scenic areas.

Clyde Sea Lochs Trail

Main Article: Clyde Sea Lochs Trail

This route follows the A814 from Dumbarton to Arrochar, taking in the Gare Loch and Loch Long area as well as a loop around the popular Rosneath Peninsula. With fantastic sea views along the way, and a variety of low-key attractions to explore, it is a route for a lazy summer afternoon, pausing for an ice cream in the sunshine.

Kintyre Trail

Main Article: Kintyre Trail

Rarely signed, the Kintyre Trail makes a loop of the Kintyre Peninsula along the A83, B8001 and B842, taking in both the east and west coasts, and also the famopus Mull of Kintyre to the south of Campbeltown.

Clackmannanshire Tower Trail

This is not so much a specific route as a set of signs guiding between a handful of Tower Houses and castles in the wee county. The sites visited are Clackmannan Tower, Alloa Tower, Sauchie Tower, Menstrie Castle and Castle Campbell.

East Lothian

Three alternate routes to the A1 between Dunbar and Edinburgh - Coastal Trail, Hillfoots Trail and Saltire Trail. In the same area, Scotland's Golf Coast Road is a route labelled by East Lothian Council and inaugurated in 2013; it runs from Musselburgh to Dunbar, passing 22 golf courses including Muirfield.



Scottish National Tourist Routes
RoadsAngus Coastal Tourist Route • Argyll Coastal Route • Borders Historic Route • Clyde Valley Tourist Route • Deeside Tourist Route • Fife Coastal Tourist Route • Forth Valley Tourist Route • Galloway Tourist Route • Highland Tourist Route • Moray Firth Tourist Route • North and West Highlands Route • Perthshire Tourist Route • Pictish Trail • Solway Coast Heritage Trail
MiscellaneousTourist Routes
Scottish Tourist Routes
National RoutesAngus Coastal Tourist Route • Argyll Coastal Route • Borders Historic Route • Clyde Valley Tourist Route • Deeside Tourist Route • Fife Coastal Tourist Route • Forth Valley Tourist Route • Galloway Tourist Route • Highland Tourist Route • Moray Firth Tourist Route • North & West Highlands Tourist Route • Perthshire Tourist Route
TrailsBurns Heritage Trail • Castles Trail • Clyde Sea Lochs Trail • East Lothian Coastal Trail • East Lothian Hillfoots Trail • East Lothian Saltire Trail • Kintyre Trail • North East Coastal Trail • Solway Coast Heritage Trail • Tower Trail • Trossachs Trail • Victorian Heritage Trail • Wester Ross Coastal Trail • Whisky Trail
OtherNC500 • Road to the Isles • Snow Roads Scenic Route