Last updated on November 24, 2023

Many roads lead the motorcyclist to Scotland. A very good, but often overlooked option, is the route via Northern Ireland.


At the narrowest point, Northern Ireland and Scotland are barely 20 kilometres apart.The ferry between Larne in Northern Ireland and Stranraer in Scotland has a few more kilometres to cover.

But it does so easily in a journey time of little more than an hour. There are several ferries a day, and for motorcyclists, the connection is also very inexpensive.

This opens up unimagined possibilities in the truest sense of the word: With a rental motorbike, you can easily make a combined Ireland-Northern Ireland-Scotland tour from Ireland!

In this episode, I present a combination of a Northern Ireland round trip with a tour along the famous North Coast 500 in the Scottish Highlands.

I have done this route on my own motorcycle tours. Coming from Germany, my family and I live in Ireland (part time). At our location, south of Dublin, we run our ow motorcycle rental service ( in summer and also offer accommodation (

The highlights of this tour:

1) Londonderry
2) The Causeway Coastal Route
3) The North Antrim Coastal Route
4) Glasgow
5) Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park
6) Glencoe
7) Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle
8) Inverness
9) John O’Groats and the North Coast
10) The North Coast 500 Route via Ullapool and the West Coast
11) The Applecross Pass
12) Eilean Donan Castle
13) Belfast and Titanic Belfast Exhibition

1) Londonderry

From our motorbike hire in Ireland, is a day’s drive to Londonderry in Northern Ireland.
Londonderry, as the British call it, or Derry as the Irish call it, has one of the best preserved historic city walls in Europe. The wall almost completely encloses the old city centre and you can walk around the old town in about two hours, walking on the wall.

In more recent history, Londonderry also played an important role in the Northern Ireland conflict of the 1970s and 1980s. Today it is a popular tourist city with many attractions.

2) The Causeway Coastal Route

You may have heard of the Giants Causeway, a geological feature on the north coast of Ireland. There, some 40,000 basalt columns rise from the ground to form bizarre steps.

According to legend, the Irish giant Fionn built a dam here out of chunks of stone in order to reach Scotland and challenge his adversary, the giant Benandonner, to battle.

Or maybe the pillars were formed by a volcanic eruption about 60 million years ago – who knows, anything is possible on the Irish island. In any case, the Causeway Coastal Route is named after the Giants Causeway and runs along almost the entire north coast.

On the north coast you will also find the mighty ruins of Dunluce Castle. The castle ruins stand directly on the rugged cliff. In fact, part of the cliff has broken off, taking a piece of the castle with it into the foaming sea. According to legend – yes, another legend – the entire kitchen and kitchen staff disappeared into the sea.

Another highlight, only a few kilometres away, is Carrick a Reede, a long suspension bridge leading to a small island.

3) The North Antrim Coastal Route

This beautiful stretch of coastline is particularly scenic and wonderful to ride by motorbike. It is much less busy than the Causeway and the small coastal road often runs right along the water.

Torr Head is particularly impressive. From there, in good weather, you can see the Scottish coast, which is only 20 kilometres away at this point.

4) Glasgow

The ferry takes you from Larne to Cairnryan in Scotland in barely two hours. From there you follow the coast north. Leave the A77 at Turnberry and follow the small coastal road. A short distance further on you will come to Culzean Castle.

The magnificent castle was built in the late 18th century and sits majestically directly on the edge of a large cliff. The huge park is beautifully landscaped and can be visited, as can the luxuriously furnished castle with its large collection of historic pistols and sabres.

You can spend the evening in Glasgow, a modern and very lively city with lots of art, culture, pubs and restaurants. Just drive into the city centre and enjoy the hustle and bustle. If you don’t like the hustle and bustle, it’s better to stay outside the city, which also has quite a lot of traffic due to its size.

5) Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park

A bridge takes you over the River Clyde and after a short drive you reach Loch Lomond near Alexandria. Follow the A82 along the west coast of the great lake. At first you will see more forest than lake, but as the road narrows it leads picturesquely along the shore.

At Crianlarich the A82 turns off towards Glencoe.

6) Glencoe

The Glencoe valley is one of the most beautiful landscapes in the Highlands. On the left after a while you will see a striking mountain formation, the Three Sisters.

Take your time and stop often for photo stops. Look back too, the valley is picturesque in both directions! Shortly after Glencoe you will reach Loch Linnhe, which is actually a fjord or sea loch.

7) Loch Ness

You follow the Caledonian Rift to the north. This is a fault of tectonic plates over a distance of about 150km. Some of the lochs along this stretch are several hundred metres deep.

After Loch Linnhe, the Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and finally the famous Loch Ness follow along this rift. Everyone knows the stories about the Loch Ness sea monster. Keep an eye out, who knows…?

8) Inverness

Inverness is the capital of the Northern Highlands. It has many hotels and B&Bs, but is also well frequented. It is therefore advisable to book your accommodation well in advance.

An evening stroll through the historic city centre and to Inverness Castle is very nice and there are also all kinds of restaurants and pubs to round off a nice day of motorcycling.

Inverness is the start and finish of the North Coast 500, which you will ride tomorrow.

9) John O’Groats

The small town of John O’Groats is considered the northernmost point of the British mainland. In fact, the headland of Dunnet Head, a little further west, is even further north. But there is no place there to market. Well, what the heck, a little photo at the position sign and on we go!

10) The North Coast 500 Route

Inverness is the start and finish of the North Coast 500, which you’ve been riding for a while now. The NC500 is about 500 miles long and leads from Inverness to the north coast, along the west coast to the Isle of Skye and back to Inverness via Loch Ness.

You follow the coast further west to Durness and then further and further south to the harbour town of Ullapool. On this stretch, the roads become narrower, the towns smaller and the petrol stations fewer. Better fill up in good time, the next petrol station might be closed at the weekend!

Via Poolewe, and Torridon, the route continues to Tornapress. From there, a small road leads over the mountain to Applecross.

11) The Applecross Pass

The small road leads to the famous Applecross Pass, or “Bealach na Ba” as it is called in Gaelic. It is considered Scotland’s and Britain’s most dangerous pass. The small road is partly single-lane and you have to swerve to avoid oncoming traffic.

The road surface is not always good and there are a few tighter hairpin bends at the top. But if you take it slowly and drive with foresight, you will have no problems with the pass and can really enjoy the magnificent view from the vantage point at 626 metres above sea level. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Isle of Skye!

If you have enough time, you can make a detour over the magnificent Isle of Sky, all others have to continue southwards.

12) Eilean Donan Castle

At the junction of Loch Duich and Loch Alsh lies Eilean Donan Castle. A long stone arch bridge leads to the castle, which is perched on a rock.
The fantastic castle has often been used as a film set, including for the films Braveheart, Highlander, Rob Roy and James Bond’s “The World is Not Enough”.

The castle is one of the most photographed sights in Scotland and can also be visited.

On the way back, you can make a detour via the beautiful town of Oban and then the ferry will take you back to Northern Ireland.

From Cairnryan you can either take the P&O ferry to Larne or the Stenaline ferry directly to Belfast.

Re 13) Belfast and the Titanic Belfast Exhibition
Belfast is a rather modern city that offers many places to stay, including in the harbour area. There you will also find the very interesting Titanic exhibition.
Many great ships were built in the shipyards of Belfast, including the famous Titanic and her sister ships Olympic and Britannic.The multimedia exhibition tells of this time and also of the Titanic and its tragic sinking.

Another short drive, perhaps a break at Trim Castle, a huge Norman castle, and you will return to our rental station.

Tour information

Route length and duration

This route has a total length of about 2400 kilometres. You can expect to cover around 250-300 kilometres per day on most of this route. On the northwest coast of Scotland, between John O`Groats and Applecross, I would reckon with about 200-250 kilometres per day.

So you can allow at least 9-10 days for this tour. If you have less time, you can shorten the route a little in Northern Ireland or Scotland, and if you have more time, you can also extend the route according to your wishes.

It is a good idea to take a break in the historic cities of Edinburgh or Stirling and take advantage of the many sightseeing opportunities.

Londonderry has historical and modern elements and the more modern cities of Belfast or Glasgow also offer many opportunities to take advantage of a break day.

So, depending on your preferences, you can easily make this tour into a 12 or 14 day trip.

General travel information

Northern Ireland and Scotland are part of the United Kingdom. You will need a passport to enter the country and the currency is the pound.

The Republic of Ireland is completely independent and a member of the EU. For EU members, an identity card is sufficient for entry and the currency is the euro.

On all islands you drive on the left. In Ireland the speed is in kilometres per hour, in the UK it is miles per hour.

As a motorcyclist, you get used to driving on the left very quickly, as the controls on the motorbike are in the usual place, whereas in a car the steering wheel is on the right and the gears are changed with the left hand. Also, the often quite narrow country roads are less frightening for the motorcyclist than for the car driver.


The ferry service from Larne to Cairnryan is operated by P&O Ferries. The journey time is barely two hours. Check their website for times and prices:
On the route from Belfast to Cairnryan, Stenaline operates. The journey time is just over two hours. All dates can be found at:


There are many wonderful possibilities to combine a motorbike tour in Ireland or Northern Ireland with a tour in Scotland.

On this Tour 1, I introduced you to the North Coast 500. In the very north of the West Highlands, the NC500 tour impresses above all with its wonderful motorcycling in fantastic mountain scenery with many routes directly on the picturesque coast.

There are also some sightseeing opportunities, but not too many. This makes the NC500 Tour particularly suitable for motorcyclists for whom riding and the scenery are the most important things.

In Tour 2, I present a variant where the Northern Ireland part is the same, but the route in Scotland varies.

You get more opportunities for sightseeing and experiencing city culture, but you are also on the road in the beautiful landscapes of the central Highlands and the Isle of Skye. In return, the trip doesn’t go quite as far north.

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Photo credits cover photo: Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg (,,,

Picture credits maps: Google Maps

Uli Written by:

Hello and welcome to my blog. Originating from Germany, my family and I now live in Ireland (at least part time). We have travelled this amazing isle many times and know many parts of it very well. In this blog, I would like to share valuabe tips and information for your next trip to Ireland with you. Enjoy the content, yours, Ulrich Knüppel-Gertberg