Next up in our series of road trips around Scotland, we go to one of the country’s most spectacular natural spots and discover its highest mountains. But the Deeside Tourist Route isn’t just about height – this Scottish road trip includes picturesque scenery along two lush rivers, a good dose of castles and one big granite cauldron. The 108-mile route (174km) offers plenty to do for all the family as it travels from the market town of Perth to the great city of Aberdeen.
Why drive the Deeside Tourist Route
The biggest attraction of this Scottish road trip comes in the Cairngorms National Park, which the Deeside Tourist Route takes in full stride. This vast mountainous area breaks lots of natural records and provides some of the best outdoor activities anywhere in Europe. With big open spaces comes plenty of wildlife and this road trip does wild animals and birds like no other. Expect to tick plenty off your list while you’re out and about.
Children will also love this road trip, not just for the great outdoors and the animals. There are art activities and castle visits aplenty along the way plus lots of great spots for picnics. And last but not least, the Deeside Tourist Route includes a stop off at one of Scotland’s most famous distilleries because no Scottish road trip would be complete without a wee dram (or two!).
Highlights along the way
You’ll find it hard to get started on the actual road trip because your first port of call is the lively market town of Perth on the banks of the River Tay, Scotland’s longest river. The attractive town packs in the activities and there’s plenty to do for everyone.
The first castle on the route, Balhousie Castle, is also the oldest and dates back to the 12th century, although extensive restorations took place in the 1860s. Home to the oldest Highland regiment, the Black Watch, the castle has an interesting museum.
Also in Perth is the city Museum and Art Gallery, home to over half a million objects so set aside a bit of time to see this one. Children of all ages will love the in-gallery activities and art enthusiasts shouldn’t miss the John Everette Millais portraits. Finish your visit to Perth with a flutter on the horses at the Racecourse before starting the Deeside Tourist Route proper.
Stone of Destiny
The road sets off due north along the banks of the Tay before the next stop at the historic centre of Scone. Positively oozing history, Scone Palace was once the seat of Scottish monarchs – Robert the Bruce was crowned at Scone in 1306 – and home to the Stone of Destiny. You can now see the replica (the original is in Edinburgh Castle) before exploring the challenging Murray Star Maze or admiring the castle rooms.
As high as it gets
Mile after mile of pretty river scenery soon gives way to higher ground as you cross the River Isla and leave the Tay behind. Soon you enter the highlight of the journey, the Cairngorms National Park, one of the most spectacular natural areas in the UK. The vast area is also something of a record breaker – five of the UK’s six highest mountains soar above the park, which is also home to 55 Munros. As well as mountains, the Cairngorms also do waterfalls and forests quite like nowhere else in the country.
This is something of a paradise for outdoor activities that include skiing at Aviemore and endless walking and hiking opportunities. While you’re out and about, keep an eye open for the wildlife where the list runs truly long. Reindeer, mountain hares and wildcats roam the Cairngorms where you can also spot golden eagles high above. Back down on the ground, look out for the difficult to pronounce (and spell!) grouse-like birds, the ptarmigan and capercaillie.
Wee dram and a cauldron
The Deeside Tourist Route now takes a right on its final section towards Aberdeen in the east. But there’s still more to pack in the Cairngorms. Whisky lovers shouldn’t miss the Royal Lochnagar Distillery, a classic spot for a tour and tasting. The Distillery received the Royal Warrant in 1848 after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert visited and made the first ever tour. And while you’re in the area, you might like to see Balmoral Castle, the Queen’s summer holiday home.
It’s then on to the Muir of Dinnet National Natural Reserve, one of the most unusual spots in Scotland. The site contains the Burn o’Vat, a giant granite cauldron carved out by rocks under a glacier during the Ice Age. Walking through the narrow entrance and looking up at the smooth walls that rise high above you is a definite highlight on this Scottish road trip.
Castles and gardens
The River Dee now becomes the main focal point as you follow its meanders to Aberdeen. Before you arrive at the city, stop off at Crathes Castle, a 16th-century delight with some of the best gardens in Scotland. The topiary section is particularly impressive along with the yew hedges dating back to 1702!
And then finally to the Deeside Tourist Route end at the stunning city of Aberdeen. Like Edinburgh, it’s famed for its light and again, like the capital, the granite buildings sparkle in the sunshine. Don’t miss the historic quarter or the fishing district of Footdee. And for some of Scotland’s sands at their best, take a stroll along the beach.
Intrigued? Read 10 compelling reasons why you should take a Scottish road trip.
Where to stay on the Deeside Tourist Route
Their sheer size and magnificence make the Cairngorms a natural stop-off point on this Scottish road trip and you’ll probably want to stay a few days to make the most of the scenery. A great retreat comes in this modern lodge in the heart of the National Park. The River Dee lies appropriately on the doorstep and together with the snow-capped peaks makes up your views from the main rooms. This large holiday home in Scotland sleeps up to 10 more than comfortably and makes the perfect stop-off for your road trip. Book your stay, or have a peek at at our collection of fabulous big holiday houses in Scotland.
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