The next in our series of Scottish road trips ventures to the Northern Highlands to explore one of the most remote parts of the country. The Moray Firth Tourist Route follows no less than three stunning firths, takes in some simply glorious views and gives you the chance to discover Scottish drinks, castles and ancient woodlands.
Join us as we set off on another great Scottish road trip on our way from Inverness to Loch Fleet, some 80 miles (128km) away.
Why drive the Moray Firth Tourist Route
This Scottish road trip is for you if you’re looking for the best of Scottish scenery and want to enjoy it mostly on your own. The Moray Firth Tourist Route makes its way through unspoilt landscapes with views that will take your breath away.
This route is also all about water as it follows the coast and firths along its way. The famed Scottish wild salmon head here in the summer so time your trip to coincide with their intrepid leads upriver. And finally, the Moray Firth road trip will appeal to those who love nature as its ancient best – expect a more than generous smattering of waterfalls and deep forests along the way.
Highlights along the way
This Scottish road trip begins at Inverness, one of Scotland’s largest towns in the north and the gateway to Loch Ness. Plan your route to include at least half a day in the area to ensure you all have maximum chances to spot Nessie.
Art and horticulture
While you’re in Inverness, don’t miss the Museum and Art Gallery, combining Highland history with the latest in Scottish contemporary art. Then visit the Botanic Gardens where coffee, cacti and orchids thrive in the Tropical House while spring and summer flowers flourish just as beautifully outside in the Inverness temperatures.
Did you see Nessie?
Whether you believe in the Loch Ness monster or not, a visit to his/her home is a must. One of Scotland’s most dramatic lochs, Loch Ness offers fine brooding scenery and makes an easy side trip from Inverness. If you do catch a sighting, you won’t be alone – Nessie has been ‘seen’ over 1,000 times since the first glimpse in 1933.
Fans of craft beer will want to pop over to Black Isle Brewery, just north of Inverness. It’s the only organic brewery in Scotland and produces eight types of craft beer. Join in a tour to discover sustainable brewing in a very pretty part of the country.
Beauty at Beauly
Once you cross the River Beauly, famous for its salmon fishing, you enter the village of Beauly itself. It might be small, but this pretty spot comes big on things to see. Campbell’s Highland Tweed House has been producing clothes and accessories in the famous Scottish tweed since 1858. Beauly Priory boasts a very scenic location on a bend in the river. Built by monks from the Valliscaulian order (they hailed from Val-des-Choux near Dijon) in 1230, the priory lies mostly in ruins, but boasts some impressive funerary monuments plus some fine trees including an ancient elm. If you’re doing the Moray Firth Tourist Route in summer, visit Beauly on a Thursday evening when the village Pipe Band plays in the square.
On your way north to Mur of Ord, make a side trip to Rogie Falls, the first impressive waterfalls on this Scottish road trip. Situated on Black Water, the cascades are particularly impressive after heavy rains, but crossing the suspension bridge to get up close to them is a thrill whatever the weather. Look for salmon leaping upstream in August and September, and then take one of the lovely forest and river trails.
India in sight
The Moray Firth Tourist Route then follows Cromarty Firth on its way north to Alness village. The biggest attraction here is the Fyrish Monument, on top of Fyrish Hill. Commissioned by Sir Hector Munro in 1782, the strange structure represents the Gate of Negapatam, a port in Madras. Munro was Commander in Chief of India from 1764-65 and his creation also commemorates the Highland Clearances, a time of dispute between local crofters and their landlords.
It’s something of a tough climb to the top of Fyrish Hill, but the far-stretching views across the rolling hills and waters are more than worth it. And you can reward yourselves with a visit to one of the distilleries – try Dalmore or Balblair – once you’re back on level ground again.
Salmon and tumbling water feature again once you cross Bonar Bridge and head around the northern stretch of Dornoch Firth. The Falls of Shin offer simply stunning landscapes and this is the best spot in Scotland to see salmon leaping. The kids in your party will love the play areas and don’t miss the trails into ancient woodland. If you’re all up for more beautiful scenery, head for Raven’s Rock, just a short drive away. The steep gorge provides a picture-perfect backdrop that is magnificent at any time of year.
A French chateau in Scotland?
This tourist route is now approaching its end, but it’s a dramatic one. No Scottish road trip would be complete without a castle and Dunrobin Castle provides the perfect finale. Built in the early 1300s, it’s the largest in the Northern Highlands and comes with no less than 189 rooms.
But as well as its size, you’ll all be impressed at its architecture. The towering white spires would be more at home on the Loire River, yet this castle lies deep in Scottish scenery. Enjoy a tour of the castle and admire the commanding views of Moray Firth on your way round.
Where to stay on the Moray Firth Tourist Route
Inspired by the fine scenery you’ll be looking for majestic accommodation to match. This Highland Castle just outside Beauly offers a stay fit for up to 18 Monarchs of the Glen. Built in the 13th century with later Georgian and Victorian additions, the Castle comes with original features such as a wood-panelled staircase and fireplaces. You’ll love the palatial extras in the form of a four-poster bed and mahogany dining table seating all 18 of you as well as a full-size billiard table, hot tub and 12,000 acres, yours to explore. Book your castle now.
Not convinced you should take a Scottish road trip? Read more in this series:
- Fife Coastal Route
- Angus Coastal Route
- Argyll Coastal Route
- Borders Historic Route
- Clyde Valley Historic Route
- Deeside Tourist Route
- Forth Valley Tourist Route
- Galloway Tourist Route
- North Coast 500
- North & West Highlands Route
- Perthshire Tourist Route
- 10 reasons to take a Scottish road trip
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