Holidays in Scotland were my favourites as a kid, but the long journey to Inverness from Essex was always a struggle (more for my parents than me). As an adult, the distance between my home and the Scottish Highlands seems smaller… yet the drive seems longer!
So, if you’re driving to Scotland from the Southern areas of England, I’ve highlighted a few brilliant places you can stop overnight. After all, you are on holiday so why not enjoy the journey as well?
My three recommended places to stop on the way to Scotland are split depending on where your starting point is.
Travelling from the South
Image by @hiddengems_walks on Instagram.
Bournemouth, Southampton, Portsmouth and places at the very southern edge of our country are pretty far away from Scotland – but your journey is pretty much a straight line upwards. From Southampton to the Scottish border, which is roughly the journey you take if you’re heading to the southern cities of Scotland like Glasgow and Edinburgh, you’re looking at a journey of about 5 and a half hours.
Add in toilet breaks, lunch stops and traffic, it’s still a whole day of travelling to reach Edinburgh for example.
For Glasgow, the M6 takes you past Oxford, Birmingham, and Lancaster. I recommend stopping overnight somewhere near Lancaster. The area isn’t overly commercialised and the coastline from Morecambe to Silverdale (The Cove, near Silverdale, pictured above) is stunning. Take a morning beach walk before getting back in the car and travelling up to Scotland.
If you’re heading for Edinburgh, you can also go up past London (M3, M25) then A1M and A1. This takes you past Cambridge, Sheffield and Leeds. I recommend spending the night in York (or somewhere cheap nearby) to spend some time taking in the fantastic architecture and history.
Travelling from the South East
Travelling from the South East of England, particularly Southern Essex and Kent, gives you the dilemma of London. There’s no easy way around it – the M25 is a huge pain. So, leaving extra early to beat the traffic is essential.
The A1M and A1 is the fastest route to Scotland, whether you’re heading to Glasgow or Edinburgh. It’s quicker to reach Edinburgh first and travel over to Glasgow from there.
You can certainly stop in York for your halfway point, but if you’re travelling deeper into Scotland (the highlands or Inverness area) you’ll want to get more travelling done on the first day. So, I recommend stopping in one of my favourite places: Bamburgh. Pictured is a shot I took when we visited Bamburgh Castle in mid-2020, during the lull between lockdowns. It’s quite close to the Scottish border, but it means you’ve got most of England behind you on the first day, so you can take the scenic route to your destination at a leisurely pace on the second.
The roads around here are quite narrow, but the coastline is beautiful and it gives you a break from the motorways. Journey times from Bamburgh to Edinburgh are 1:30 to 2 hours. Bamburgh to Inverness is 4:30 to 5 hours.
Travelling from the South West
This is a long journey, especially if you’re driving from the very tip of Cornwall. So, I recommend you make a road trip out of it. You want at least one stop overnight, if not two, if you’re aiming for a stress-free journey.
Penzance to Edinburgh can take you 12 hours when you calculate in toilet breaks and traffic. I recommend you take a massive detour and spend a day or two in Wales instead! Penzance to Swansea is roughly 4 hours of driving, then you can take a fun drive up through Wales. Spend the night somewhere cosy in the Snowdonia National Park, then take the A55 back towards England and re-join the M6 around Warrington on your way towards Glasgow.
I took the image above on a road trip through Snowdonia before the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s truly stunning and the roads make for smooth driving.
If you want to stop again, check out my Morecambe recommendation under ‘Travelling from the South’.
It’s a lot of work but planning a holiday to Scotland is brilliant fun. If you don’t fancy driving, you can actually take a plane to Scotland… which is particularly useful if you’re heading somewhere very far north. You’ll turn days of driving into short flight through the air. London to Aberdeen takes roughly 1 hour and 30 minutes.
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