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5 scenic driving routes with great places to picnic

Amy Robertson - View Comments

There are many options when it comes to how you’ll explore the length and breadth of Scotland. One of the ways that will give you the most freedom is to journey by car, campervan, motorbike, or whatever else you drive on the road. Simply sit back, soak up the scenery, and just enjoy the ride.

Whilst driving through the Scottish countryside, you’re never stuck for spectacular places to pull over when you want stretch your legs or feel a bit peckish; think sandy bays, grassy hillsides, densely-packed forests, and  rock-strewn loch shorelines.

With summer upon us, we urge you to embrace the great outdoors and have a true alfresco Scottish dining experience! Pack a picnic basket with your favourite treats and see where the road takes you, or try some of our tried and tested picnic spots along wonderful driving routes:

Bow Fiddle Rock, Portknockie, Moray

The Moray Firth and the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail

Portknockie and Cruden Bay

For those who like a good dose of fresh sea air with their picnic, the north east of Scotland won’t fail to deliver! The undulating coastline of the Moray Firth is dotted with pretty fishing hamlets and a striking rocky shoreline, and meets with the 165-mile Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail at Cullen. The Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail is a signposted route which boasts has a wealth of coastal wonders, including dramatic cliffs, hidden beaches, fascinating wildlife and quaint harbour towns.

There are lots of wonderful places to choose from when it comes to picnicking along the route. Get a glimpse of the coastline’s fascinating geology and stop at Portknockie to see Bow Fiddle Rock, a 50 ft high sea arch which sits just a short distance from the shore. You might find a sheltered spot at the pebbly bay, or a bench along the clifftop paths. For those who like a refreshing paddle before your picnic, check out the long stretches of pink sands and rolling dunes at Cruden Bay.


Loch Achray, The Trossachs. Photo by John Mcsporran via Flickr | Creative Commons

Queen Elizabeth Forest Park

Three Lochs Forest Drive

Venture through the woodlands of the Trossachs on this quiet forest road and find your perfect forest picnic spot. Stretching almost eight miles, the route is one-way, and takes you past three enchanting lochs – Lochan Reòidhte, Loch Drunkie and Loch Achray.

It’s easy to get to; the entrance to the Three Lochs Forest Drive is accessible from the A821 (known as the Duke’s Pass) just north of Aberfoyle. You can follow this forest road from Easter to October. There are several car parks along the route as well as picnic areas. If you fancy a walk, there are some delightful short trails too.

Make it a day out with the kids and take advantage of the great facilities and attractions nearby, including the Lodge Forest Visitor Centre in Aberfoyle and Loch Katrine.


Road to Glencarron © GMG Galleries

North Coast 500

Torridon and Golspie

Get your motors running! New for 2015 is the North Coast 500, a 500-mile route which skirts the coastline of the North Highlands. Along the way you’ll pass through some areas of dramatic wilderness, rugged coastline, mountain passes and rural settlements.

When it comes to where to make a pit stop and tuck into your picnic, you’re spoilt for choice. On the west, consider Torridon. You can follow short walks from the National Trust for Scotland Countryside Centre and find a spot on the shingle beach or in the field, where you’ll be surrounded by some breathtaking mountains scenery.

On the other side of the country, make the pretty Sutherland village of Golspie your picnic destination.  Stretch your legs along the Big Burn walk, which follows a wooded gorge to a series of tumbling waterfalls. Simply enchanting.


Bowhill House & Country Estate © Euan Myles/Bowhill

Borders Historic Route

Bowhill House & Estate

This National Tourist Route weaves 95 miles from the English city of Carlisle to Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh. It takes in charming Scottish Borders towns, many of which are former royal burghs, as well as passing fascinating castles, grand stately homes, and beautiful rolling countryside.

At Selkirk, take a slight detour west for a picnic break at Bowhill House & Estate, the majestic country home of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch. In the surrounding woodlands, there are some lovely walks, perfect for working up an appetite. Take the Lochs walk, on which you’ll find a bench overlooking the historic house which makes a pleasant spot to tuck into your nibbles, and then continue your stroll through the ancient woodlands. This is a place that the kids will love too; there’s an adventure playground as well as a soft play area, which is very handy if the weather suddenly changes!


The Crinan Canal

Argyll Coastal Route

Crinan Canal

Also a National Tourist Route, the entire 150-mile journey will take you from the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond along Argyll’s coast to Fort William in the Highlands. The route runs to length of Loch Fyne, famous for the traditional 18th century town of Inveraray, Loch Fyne Oysters and Fyne Ales, before heading north through Mid Argyll to the Oban and Lorn region.

One of the highlights of this drive is the Crinan Canal, often dubbed ‘Britain’s most beautiful shortcut.’ It’s a canal way which intersects Mid Argyll and saves vessels having to journey around the Kintyre Peninsula.

Park up at Crinan, and if you fancy a bit of exploring, wander along the towpaths before you can’t hold back the hunger anymore and find a grassy bank or a bench suitable for some picnicking. If you can, pick a spot near a canal lock; watching the process of boats lifting or lowering is strangely calming, and a pleasant way to spend a warm summer’s day.


In addition, you can find out about other scenic drives and Scotland’s National Tourist Routes.

Now for what to pack! Check out our delicious picnic recipe ideas and find top tips on how to create a picnic to impress.

Before you set off,  remember to check out the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, a guide on your rights and responsibilities in the countryside. Happy picnicking!