Icelandic Ring Road vs. Scottish Highlands and Isle of Skye
Visitors to Iceland return with incredible stories of lakes and fjords, mountains, and the Northern Lights. But what if we reminded you that you can see all this and more in the Highlands of Scotland?
Lush green countryside, craggy mountainsides and stunning beaches combine to make the Highlands a wonderful holiday. But this isn’t the only place that the similarity lies – at some times of the year, the climate in Scotland and Iceland can be similar. Travel between April to October to experience less harsh weather but, if snow is what you’re after, head straight to Cairngorm Mountain between late November and early May for its brilliant ski slopes.
Icelandic Ring Road
- Distance: 1,199 miles/1,930 kilometres
- Driving time: 25 hours
- Recommended holiday time: 25 days
Conditions on the Icelandic Ring Road vary incredibly throughout the year. We recommend driving over the course of 25 days in the summertime as in the winter, conditions can be tough. In Iceland’s summer, daylight lasts until 12 midnight and this elongation of the day is ideal for tourists wanting to get the most out of their time in the country.
Reykjavik is Iceland’s capital city and it has lots for visitors to enjoy, with an internationally recognised cultural scene as well as an excellent nightlife. Perlan Wonders of Iceland is a fantastic museum that includes the world’s only indoor ice cave. Here, visitors can learn about the secrets of the glacier and the impacts of global warming. Its interactive exhibitions are ideal for all the family, and it’s a great way to start your trip – learning about the history and geology of Iceland. North of Reykjavik, drive to Snæfellsnes to visit the black pebble beach, basalt cliffs and see lava fields, craters and the Snæfellsjökull glacier.
Akureyri is at the base of the Eyjafjörður Fjord in northern Iceland. Here, you can arrange a flight over an active volcano, and if you’re lucky you can even see an eruption! It’s also possible to go whale watching in the Fjords here between the months of June to October, where there are common sightings of bottlenose, humpback and minke whales. For delicious fresh food nearby, choose Skjaldarvik Guesthouse, a great B&B with a fantastic restaurant that serves traditional food and lots of fresh fish. On weekdays, they do a great buffet.
Myvatn is a volcanic lake with a naturally heated lagoon and views of the Northern Lights. Bathe in the Nature Baths here before exploring the region further. Námaskarð is an active geothermal area with a Mars-like landscape. Nearby, Hverir has bubbling mud pools and natural steam vents. Beware – the area stinks of sulphur and methane, so you may want to cover your face. The Dettifoss waterfall empties into an ice-covered ravine, and the Godafoss waterfall which is also known as the ‘Waterfall of the Gods’ is over 100 feet wide
- Distance: 443 miles/712 kilometres
- Driving time: Approx. 12 hours
- Recommended holiday time: 14 days
Like conditions on the Icelandic Ring Road, the Scottish Highlands can be treacherous in bad weather, so be sure to plan a trip in spring, summer or autumn. This travel route incorporates the Trossachs and the Cairngorms but also the Isle of Skye, one of the most beautiful Scottish islands to the north of the country. Although you may have thought that it’s only possible to view the Northern Lights in Iceland, you’d be mistaken – they’re also visible on the Isle of Skye. Choose a clear night, pack a picnic and pitch your chairs facing North.
Starting in Glasgow, you’ll head north past Loch Lomond, stopping off at Dumbarton Castle for excellent views over the Clyde. Here, the Trossachs National Park is one of the most stunning in the world. Stop off at one of the small villages around the perimeter of the Loch, such as Inverbeg, or further along, Tarbet, for an overnight stay, giving you enough time to explore the surrounding area. The next day, continue heading north, and if there’s time, go towards Oban, where you can enjoy a beautiful Scottish seaside resort with unspoilt white sands and clear sea.
On the way, visit Glencoe and the Folk Museum, which informs you about the history of Glencoe and the people that lived there, including costumes, toys and domestic utensils, as well as displays on the Glencoe massacre. Hitch a ride on board the Jacobite steam train on a return journey from Fort William to Mallaig, travelling along the Glenfinnan viaduct, made famous by the Harry Potter films.
There’s plenty of things to do on the Isle of Skye. This beautiful Hebridean island has picturesque fishing villages like Portree, with multicoloured houses. When there, treat yourself to dinner at Scorrybreac – a fine dining restaurant with a locally sourced Scottish menu. Camas Daraich Beach is a must-see for its stunning white sand. For all the whisky lovers out there, be sure to stop by at the Talisker Distillery and taste some of the best whisky in the world.