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The Grand Tour of Scotland - the best journeys north of the border

Petrolheads were celebrating the return of Amazon Prime series The Grand Tour last week, as hosts Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May returned to the road.

This third series, which will span 13 weeks, will see the trio visiting Mongolia, Spain, Azerbaijan, Colombia, Georgia and Doha, while the initial episode saw them making muscle car skid marks through Detroit, USA.

But in an upcoming instalment Clarkson and co will also take a trip around Scotland as they enjoyed a variation on the infamous ‘North Coast 500’ route.

And former Top Gear star Clarkson, 58, says the majesty of Scotland left a real impression on him.

Writing in his weekend newspaper column, he described the journey as ‘up there alongside a trip on gravel roads through the Northern Territory in Australia in a BMW M6 Gran Coupé and another through the Atacama desert in Chile in an on-its-last-legs Range Rover. I shall never forget it.”

And if you want to have your own Scottish Grand Tour, these are the stretches of highway to head to. We've compiled a list of the most awe-inspiring, tantalizing trips you can take north of the border.

North Coast 500 (Inverness - John O’Groats - Inverness)


The North Coast 500 was set up 2015 by the tourist board and billed as Scotland’s answer to America’s Route 66. And while that might sound ambitious, it’s without a doubt one of Europe’s best road trips. Most people do the trip in five days, though you might want to take a little longer to enjoy the views, which includes beaches, coastal castles and granite cliffs. If you want to skip the B&B, you can even wild camp, with the practice being legal in Scotland.

North East 250 (Aberdeen, Cairngorms, the east coast).


If you’ve not got enough time to do the NC500, the North East 250 might be worth a look instead. This is one of Scotland’s newest self-drive routes and became a ‘thing’ in 2017. Most drivers start in Aberdeen before heading in a circular motion through Speyside, Royal Deeside, Aberdeen, Cairngorms, the east coast and the Moray Firth coast. The route takes you through the heart of whisky country, with a pick of distilleries to visit - from Glenlivet and Tomintoul to Strathisla and Royal Lochnagar. There’s also a ‘North East 250 Passport’ scheme, where you can get a stamp from 20 participating businesses.

A82 (Glasgow to Inverness)

Covering around 170 miles, the A82 has drama around every corner. Once you leave the metropolis of Glasgow, you’ll head around the shores of Loch Lomond, and hopefully not get snarled-up behind a host of caravan-pullers. The roads here are tight and twisty, with astonishing views out to Ben Lomond. You’ll next head west across barren moors until you hit Glencoe, a glorious mountain pass where peaks rise up on either side of you like vast stone walls. Watch out for deer in Glencoe, particularly if you’re driving at night, as they love to amble out in front of motorists. And after the climber’s paradise Fort William, you’ll skim the shores of Loch Lochy and Loch Ness before arriving in Inverness.

A85, A84, (Crianlarich to Stirling)


The Trossachs attract hikers and mountain bikers aplenty each year. And those impressive hills and huge swathes of forest are also a playground for drivers, too. Many of the stretches here are straight and fast, but you won’t want to put your foot down too hard as you’ll miss out on the views, as blue lochs lurch into view through gaps in the trees. When you get to Callander, take a detour on the A821 - aka the ‘Duke’s Pass’ - which is 15 miles of tyre-warming twists and turns. The A821 is popular with bikers - and coach parties - so an early morning run might be best if you want the place to yourself.

A836 (John O’Groats to Glen Morangie)

While the North Coast 500 hugs the east coast of Scotland, this route heads west at John O’Groats, sticking to the very northern shores until Tongue, before heading south towards Lairg and Bonar Bridge. The 20 miles between John O’Groats and Tongue is smooth, fast and pretty much deserted and you’ll have uninterrupted views across loch, land and sea. You might even spot snow-capped mountains on the horizon, which will retain the white stuff well into spring.

A87 (Invergarry to Skye)

You don’t need to get on a ferry to get to the isle of Skye - you can take the A87 from Invergarry instead, hopping over the bridge at the Kyle of Lochalsh. The A87 runs all the way up to Uig in the north of Skye, and passes close to the infamous Cuillin mountains, popular with mountaineers and rock climbers and more than enough eye-candy for motorists. Skye is also home to two distilleries - Talisker and Torabhaig - meaning you’re never far away from an interesting excursion.

A68 (Kielder to Edinburgh)


Most drivers heading from England to the east of Scotland take the M74 or the A1 across the border. Forget that, and join the A68 near Kielder forest instead, which weaves its way from the Tyne Valley up the lines of the old Dere Street Roman road up towards Edinburgh. It’s a route of real contrasts, going from the bleak moorland of County Durham to the beautiful Northumberland countryside and then on through the Scottish lowlands. Watch out for blind summits and slow moving trucks, but there are ample sections of dual carriageway for you to get past anything that’s holding you up.

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