The Valley of the Tweed: The waters originate in Scotland, define the border with England for part of their length, and are noted for some of Britain's top salmon fishing. Ruins of once-wealthy abbeys dot the landscape like beacons of long-lost power and prestige. Most travelers begin in Kelso and move west through Dryburgh, Selkirk, Melrose, Innerleithen, and Peebles. Although the total distance is less than 81km (50 miles), with a bit of backtracking en route, the many historic sites call for at least a full day's exploration.
The Isle of Arran: Situated off Scotland's southwestern edge, Arran combines radically different climates and topographies in a relatively small space. Lush, temperate vegetation grows in its southern tier -- which is warmed by the Gulf Stream -- while the moors and hills of its northern edge are as wild and craggy as the Highlands. You'll find prehistoric monuments, a red-sandstone pile beloved by medievalists, and sweeping vistas of Northern Ireland. Allow half a day, not including stopover times, for the 90km (56-mile) circumnavigation of the island's coastal road.
The Lochs & Mountains South of Oban: In this solitary but dramatic area are Scotland's longest freshwater lake (Loch Awe), one of its longest saltwater fjords (Loch Fyne), some of its most historic buildings (Kilchurn Castle, Carnasserie Castle, and the Kilmartin Church), and one of its most notorious battlefields (the slopes of Ben Cruachan). Locals refer to it as the Hinterlands near Oban, though the 140km (87-mile) route follows an excellent network of highways along the jagged coast. Major towns through which it passes are Dalmally, Inveraray, Lochgilphead, and Oban.
The Trossachs: Located at the narrowest point of the mainland, just north of Glasgow, the Trossachs have been famous for their scenery since Queen Victoria called them lovely in 1869. Mystery seems to shroud the waters of lochs Lomond and Katrine. According to legend, the region's highest mountain, Ben Venue, is the traditional meeting point for Scotland's goblins. Ruled for generations by the MacGregor clan, this is the setting of Sir Walter Scott's Rob Roy and The Lady of the Lake. A tour through the region, beginning at Callander and meandering through Aberfoyle, Stronachlacher, and Inversnaid, should take about half a day. In summer, expect lots of traffic, often from tour buses.
The Road to the Isles (Hwy. A830): It begins in Fort William, western terminus of the Caledonian Canal, and ends at Mallaig, the departure point for ferries servicing several offshore islands, including Mull, 74km (46 miles) northwest. Along the way, it passes the highest mountains in Britain as well as one of the Victorian Age's engineering triumphs -- Neptune's Staircase, a network of eight lochs that raise the level of the canal 19m (62 ft.) in a span of less than 455m (1,500 ft.). Although summer traffic can be heavy, services en route are scarce, so start with a full tank of gas.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.