Scotland is a magical place with a rich history, amazing landscapes, and beautiful castles. Planning a trip to Scotland can be overwhelming since there are plenty of awesome things to do and see. But if you only have one week in Scotland, this itinerary takes you to some of the most popular sites and famous castles.
Before jumping into the itinerary, there are a couple of things you should know before hitting the road in Scotland:
You must drive on the left side of the road in Scotland (like everywhere in the UK). If you never drove on the left side, I would highly recommend taking some time to get used to it, especially in roundabouts.
No matter what time of year you visit Scotland, you should prepare yourself for cold and wet weather. Even during the summertime, it can be foggy and windy and the average temperature is between 15°C (59°F) and 17°C (63°F). So, make sure to pack warm, waterproof clothing and shoes.
Now let’s get started with your plan. I hope you enjoy this Scotland road trip itinerary.
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Day 1: Edinburgh
Visiting Edinburgh is a must-do when you travel to Scotland for the first time. It is also a great and convenient place to start your journey. Here are the top things to do in Edinburgh in one day.
Strolling around the city centre
Edinburgh is the second most visited city in the UK coming only after London. It is also a small city, which means you can easily walk to the main attractions including Edinburgh Castle. If you are interested in walking tours, you can join the two-hour free walking tour organised by Edinburgh City Explorers to get to familiar with the history of the city and its culture.
If you are a foodie, you can take a three-hour Guided Secret Food Tour. In this tour, you will sample a selection of traditional Scottish food while learning the culinary history and culture of the city. Check the price of the tour here.
Visit Makars Gourmet Mash Bar for the best Haggis
When you are in Edinburgh, you must try haggis, the most famous dish in Scotland. So, why not try the best in the city? Makars Gourmet Mash Bar (Mound) serves the best haggis in Edinburgh.
At the Makars Gourmet Mash Bar, you choose the main meat dish (chicken, sausages, lamb and so on) and the kind of mashed potatoes you want with it. If you want to try the typical Scottish haggis, you should go for minced sheep’s pluck. I know it sounds a little bit disgusting and, depending on how it is served, it doesn’t look very nice, but many people like it.
Where to stay in Edinburgh
There are various types of accommodation suitable for any budget in Edinburgh. One of the best hotel to stay in the city is The Scotsman Hotel which is located in the centre not far from Edinburgh Castle. This hotel offers discounted parking, available at Edinburgh Waverley Station car park. Most of the guests loved staying there, you can check the reviews on TripAdvisor and you can book it here.
If you like to stay somewhere cosy, ibis Styles St Andrew Square is your place. It is located in the city centre. There is a 24- hour public parking nearby which costs £12 per day. Guests love staying here, you can read their reviews here or check the prices on Booking.com.
Day 2: Doune Castle - Pitlochry
Between Edinburgh and Pitlochry lies Doune Castle, a popular filming location of not only Monty Python but also the TV series Outlander. You get an audio guide which tells you not only about the castle and its history but also about the filming of Monty Python as well as Outlander (this part spoken by Sam Heughen who played Jamie Fraser in the series).
If you want to learn more about the different filming locations and other details about Outlander in Scotland you can book a full day Outlander tour.
Until the law change and the birth of microbreweries all over Scotland, Edradour Distillery was the smallest Scotch Whiskey distillery in the country. In the tour, we learned how Scotch is made at the distillery and also how the different flavours come to be in a Whiskey from the same distillery.
We got to try two different kinds of Whiskeys produced at Edradour, which was very interesting even for people like me who don’t like Whiskey.
The distillery has a lot of charm with its white and red buildings and the guides wearing a traditional Scottish dress with kilts and all.
Dinner at Moulin Inn
When we arrived in Pitlochry, we were quite hungry and followed a food recommended by the Pitlochry Backpackers receptionist. So we walked all the way to the Moulin Inn, which is one kilometre outside of Pitlochry. This inn is a hotel and restaurant, and they serve delicious Scottish food.
Where to Stay in Pitlochry
Pitlochry is a favourite starting point for hikers, and the Pitlochry Backpackers is one of the most popular and budget-friendly accommodation in the area. Here is where you can get a comfortable private room while having hostel facilities. It has a lot of charm with the red wooden staircase leading through the old house. You can check the reviews here.
If you are looking for something cosier and a traditional Scottish style, you should stay at Pine Trees Hotel Pitlochry. It is located in the centre of the picturesque town of Pitlochry. A room comes with breakfast and free parking on site. Read the reviews of the guests on TripAdvisor and you can check the availability here.
If you want to treat yourself with something special, you can stay at Fonab Castle Hotel. It is a refurbished castle and truly a unique 5-star hotel. It offers luxurious rooms, scenic views, a swimming pool and free parking. Read what the guests think about this hotel here and check the price on Booking.com.
Day 3: Pitlochry - Blair Castle - Inverness
The Queens View in Pitlochry named after Queen Victoria is a viewing point over Loch Tummel. On a beautiful and sunny day, it is a great way to see the Scottish countryside. There is a big parking lot for only £2 and a souvenir shop, café and some restrooms close by.
While we did visit Doune Castle a couple of days earlier, Blair Castle was a completely different experience. First, it isn’t ruined but a beautifully kept building with even grander grounds. The museum in the castle is incredible with furnished rooms and countless antlers decorating the walls.
We parked outside the entrance gate of Blair Castle, but that is a walk of more than one kilometre, so I suggest you drive all the way to the official parking lot on the castle grounds.
Inverness City Centre
From Blair Castle, you can drive directly to the next destination: Inverness. You can explore Culloden Moor and the outlying area of Inverness the following day. In this way, you will be able to visit the Inverness city centre. In the centre, you can climb the Inverness Castle Towers to have an amazing 360-degree view of the city and the surrounding scenery. There are some restaurants and shopping opportunities along the Loch Ness river.
Where to stay in Inverness
Best Western Inverness Palace Hotel & Spa located on the banks of the River Ness, opposite of Inverness Castle, is a perfect place to end your day. This hotel offers an indoor swimming pool, steam room and parking. Check the reviews here.
The centrally located Heathmount Hotel is only a short walk from Inverness Castle offering free parking and breakfast. The rooms are modern and beautifully decorated. You can read the reviews on Tripadvisor and check the prices here.
Day 4: Inverness - Rogie Falls - Isle of Skye
One of the main reasons you should visit Inverness is the famous Culloden Moor where the Battle of Culloden took place in 1746. This battle marked the end of the Jacobite uprisings and the beginning of a tough time in Scottish history.
I learned about the history reading Outlander (and watching the TV series), but visiting the museum and the moor itself gives a new perspective on how many lives were lost and a detailed explanation who fought against whom.
Located just behind Culloden Moor is an old site almost forgotten, the Clava Cairn. This 4000-year-old site with stone circles and stone mounts is so old that people aren’t quite sure what they were initially used for. It is believed that it might have been a burial site, but people also seem to have lived at the site for hundreds of years.
Before heading to the Isle of Skye, you can head to Culloden Inn for lunch. On a sunny day during the weekend, it might be hard to find a table, it is wise to give them a call and book a table. This place is famous for local and British cuisine such as pies, fish and chips. Keep in mind the portions are huge, it is common here that couples share the main course.
On the way from Inverness to Kyleakin on the Isle of Skye lies a waterfall called Rogie Falls. It is only a short (10 minute) walk from the parking area. It is worth a short stop.
Where to stay on the Isle of Skye
Staying in the Isle of Skye is pretty special and it is all about being in nature, so why not spend a night at a unique accommodation in the countryside. Chalets Skeabost View Pods Skye offers a luxury glamping experience. All wooden pods here have a private bathroom, heating system, and a kitchenette. There is plenty of free parking and it is only 5 miles away from Portree, Skye's capital. You can check the availability here.
Day 5: Isle of Skye - Fort William
The Isle of Skye is one of the top destinations in Scotland with breathtaking scenery. This Island is home to cute towns and fantastic landscapes. There are a lot of things to do and see here. It is good to spend at least a couple of days on this island, but if you only have one day, here are the top things to do.
The biggest city on the Isle of Skye is Portree. It is a cute little town with some shops and cafes and really not much else. It is a perfect place to spend the night and explore more of the Isle of Skye.
The waterfall at Kilt Rock is flowing into the ocean in the north-east of the Isle of Skye and is a popular tourist spot. It is located conveniently close to the road and a parking area and therefore also a great destination on a rainy day.
Other places on Skye
Other destinations on the Isle of Skye I highly recommend you to visit (if you have time) are the Fairy Pools, where you can swim, and Old Man Storr, which is a perfect place for a hike.
Where to Stay in Fort William
Cruachan Hotel located only a 5-minute walk from the centre of Fort William offers free parking and breakfast. Some rooms on the top floors have stunning views of the Loch and the Morvern Hills. You can read the guests reviews here and check the availability on Booking.com.
If you like to get more familiar with the locals’ lives, I highly recommend booking an Airbnb. You can join now and get £50 off for your first stay by clicking here. To find a suitable location you can check the map below.
Day 6: Glencoe - Balloch Castle - Stirling - Falkirk
The drive from Fort William in the direction of Stirling leads through Glencoe, one of the most impressive areas you will pass through. Fortunately, along the road, there are plenty of opportunities to stop and take pictures of the fantastic scenery.
Balloch Castle and Country Park
Balloch Castle and Country Park is a 200-acre country park on the southeast shores and 20 miles north of Glasgow. There is free parking. You can walk around the park and visit the castle and its beautiful gardens.
Only a short drive from Balloch Castle and Country Park lies a small Scottish city, Stirling. In the centre, you can visit the medieval Stirling Castle located on a craggy volcanic rock. This city is one of the most vibrant cities in Scotland. The interesting fact about Stirling is that 20% of the population is aged between 16 and 29 years (in 2016). There are plenty of bars, restaurants and cafes in the centre.
Where to stay in Falkirk
Weedingshall Lodges located in Falkirk offers a unique luxury glamping experience. It has free parking and each lodge has a fully equipped kitchen with a microwave and a fridge. You can check the photos and prices here or book it on Booking.com.
If you like to stay closer to the centre, Park Hotel is a perfect place. It is only a 5-minute walk from the centre of Falkirk. It offers free parking and comfortable rooms. You can check the prices on Hotels.com or on Booking.com.
There are more options available on Airbnb’s website. You can check the map below.
Day 7: Falkirk
Unexpectedly Falkirk has a lot to offer, and because we wanted to kill some time before heading to Edinburgh Airport, we looked up what we could do there.
The first thing that comes up when you try to find out anything about Falkirk and what to do here are the Kelpies, mystical shapeshifting Scottish water spirits that often take the shape of horses. The Falkirk Kelpies are two giant horse heads made from metal. The structures are imposing and beautifully designed and definitely worth a visit, especially because the entrance is free.
The Falkirk Wheel
The rotating boat lift connecting two canals in Falkirk is called the Falkirk Wheel. Constructed in 2002, it is now possible to pass from one canal to the other in only a couple of minutes, something that used to take a whole day. It is the only boat lift of its kind, and it is a trendy destination for tourists, not only to watch a boat getting lifted but also riding a boat through the two canals.
Falkirk city centre
Falkirk is a charming and lively city with shops and a couple of cafes and pubs. If you have some time to kill (or you are looking for something to eat) check the centre out.
Falkirk is only a 24-minute (19 miles) drive away from Edinburgh Airport, where you can end your one week trip in Scotland.
Renting a car in Scotland
There are many car rental companies to choose from and finding good deals can be overwhelming, this is why I usually use Rentalcars.com (which is part of Booking.com). This website has more than 900 car rental companies in 60,000 locations across 160 countries. Basically, by searching on Rentalcars, you are able to compare prices and find different deals.
I don’t recommend choosing the cheapest one, read all the term and conditions instead, especially the mileage limitations. Some car rental company let you add an additional driver without charging extra. Last but not least, you can usually get a better deal if your pick-up location is at the airport.
This article was written by Mansoureh and Lena who travelled to Scotland separately.