With rich forests, sky-piercing mountain ranges and endless stretches of breathtaking coastline, Scotland is home to some of the UK’s most beautiful scenery.
As such, it’s no wonder why people from all over flock to Scotland to explore its unspoilt views. With so many diverse routes on offer, one of the most exciting ways to discover the Scottish landscape is by touring. To narrow down the options then, here are some of the top touring routes in Scotland for motorcyclists.
Some of the following touring routes will take more than one day to conquer, which is why you’ll need to prepare a few things before you head off:
- First aid kit
- Motorcycle cover to protect the bike against unpredictable Scottish weather
- Waterproof/insulated gear to wear over your leathers if the weather takes a turn for the worse
- Food and water, for when you’re riding in more remote areas
- Small toolkit made up of wrenches, sockets and other tools in case you have any minor mechanical issues
If you’re an avid adventurer, you’re bound to own a few bikes, so make sure the one you choose to ride is appropriately insured and recently serviced – the last thing you want to do is break down in the middle of nowhere. You also need to keep in mind comfort, mileage and reliability when choosing your ride.
North Coast 500
If you’re already familiar with the Scottish landscape, then you’ve probably heard of the North Coast 500. If not, then this route is one for the bucket list. Starting and ending at Inverness, the route encompasses the UK’s northern coastline and stretches for a whopping 500 miles. Let’s just say, it can’t be done in a day.
In fact, you’ll probably want to allow yourself at least five days to explore the NC500, as there are plenty of opportunities to stop over and experience unique things – from hiking and camping expeditions to creel fishing and gourmet food experiences.
With six regions to explore, including the Black Isle, Caithness, Easter Ross, Inverness-Shire, Sutherland and Wester Ross, there is plenty to do, see and experience during your tour. It’s difficult to deny that the NC500 is one of the world’s best road trips, thanks to its epic scenery, challenging roads, and the amount of opportunities to explore off the beaten track.
Some top things to explore include Sandwood Bay, one of the most remote beaches in Europe, which is located just south of Cape Wrath. If you’re a fan of wildlife, head to the Black Isle where you’re sure to spot some of the 200 bottlenose dolphins that live in the surrounding sea all year round. Food lovers will be pleased to know that Scotland is home to some of the freshest seafood in the UK, and as such, features plenty of authentic restaurants and eateries dotted around the coastline, particularly on the Black Isle.
During the summertime it can get very busy, to the point that the single-lane roads on the west coast struggle to cope with the traffic. To experience the landscapes at a quieter time, and when the weather is good, you should try visiting in April/May or September/October.
On a related note, you should fuel up regularly due to the remote nature of the Scottish highlands. That said, many of the villages along the route are home to 24/7 automated fuel pumps so you should be okay as long as you fill up whenever you can.
Isle of Skye
If you’re looking for a shorter, but by no means less exciting ride, try touring the Isle of Skye. If you want to experience the island in its entirety, it’s best to start at the Skye bridge on the A87, which connects the Isle of Skye to the mainland. Stay on the A87 for the majority of the ride and head north-west onto the A850 then south on the A863 before rejoining the A87. From here you can either end the journey where you began, or turn south on the A851 all the way to Armadale, where the Ferry resides.
While it is possible to conquer this route in a day, if you really want to experience all that the island has to offer, it’s best to spend two or three days here.
Around one hour from the starting point, you should find yourself in Portree, the island’s largest town. As a serene fishing town, Portree features a sheltered bay along with shops, eateries, a school, a cinema, and more – a great stopping point if you wish to wander about the town before heading back on the road.
Slightly north of Portree lies the Old Man of Storr, a famous rock formation which is a very popular stop for hikers. Travel a little further and you’ll find Kilt Rock viewpoint where you can enjoy beautiful views of clear turquoise waters and endless stretches of coastline.
Towards the north of the island, you’ll find the Quiraing Pass, a narrow single track road with steep gradients and hairpin bends – an epic challenge for advanced riders. The road passes through the Quiraing, a popular hiking location formed from a landslip, which in turn created high cliffs, hidden plateaus and pinnacles of rock. Interestingly, the Quiraing continues to move today, which also means that unfortunately, the road at the base requires annual repairs.
No matter where you end up in Skye, expect to experience spectacular vistas, awe-inspiring mountain ranges and glorious coastlines wherever you go.
The North East 250
Similar to the North Coast 500, the North East 250 is a circular route that winds through six stunning regions including Speyside, the Cairngorms, Royal Deeside, Aberdeen, the East Coast and the Moray Coast. Shorter than the NC500 and slightly lengthier than the Isle of Skye route, the NE250 can be conquered within three days, but again, for a more immersive experience, you may want to stay a little bit longer to soak up the sights.
From the majestic mountain passes of the Cairngorms National Park and the captivating castles of Royal Deeside to the quaint coastal villages dotted along the Moray Firth Coast, there is plenty to experience on your motorbike adventure. Resting up after a long day’s ride is made all the more easier as the route is dotted with luxury hotels, campsites, B&Bs and lodges. You’ll also discover a variety of food options – from pub lunches to gourmet meals.
Whether you prefer a quick day trip or a full on adventure, there are plenty of routes to suit any type of rider. No matter which route you decide to go for, you’re sure to see spectacular sights and discover unique experiences that can only be found in Scotland.