Ruins of Urquhart Castle

You’ve booked your time off, your flights and you’re now scratching your head wondering exactly where to go during your 10 days in Scotland. Well, we’re here to help! Despite its size, there really is so much to do in this big wee country. It’s actually quite difficult to suggest a one-size-fits-all itinerary as visitors have differing interests – some people have a hit list of places they’d like to tick off, others are looking for more off-the-beaten path places, others want to explore nature, others cities, some want to blow away the cobwebs – so we’ve tailored this itinerary with first time visitors in mind and have chosen a fairly classic itinerary. 

You’ll be scratching the surface of what Scotland has to offer but we’ll make sure you cover the essentials: history, whisky, culture, castles, nature, lochs, stunning landscapes and an island! We’re pretty confident that after visiting once, you’ll no doubt want to come back again (and again) and explore different areas.

Here’s a quick breakdown of the 10 day Scotland itinerary:

Why you can trust us

Scotland is our home, we live and breathe Scotland! We go out exploring, discovering and researching any opportunity we get. We get to call the Scottish Highlands our home and we love it! We’re based just under half an hour from Inverness, on the banks of Loch Ness and about an hour and a half from the Isle of Skye. Jonathan’s family moved from Orkney to the northern Highlands over 20 years ago so we’re no strangers to this part of Scotland. We also lived in Edinburgh for 11 years and most of Gillian’s family is from Glasgow so have pretty strong knowledge of this part of Scotland too.

Day 1 – 2: Explore Edinburgh

Victoria Street in Edinburgh

We’ll start our 10 Scotland itinerary in the Scottish capital, a must on your Scottish Bucket List! If you’re arriving by plane, there’s no need to hire a car whilst in Edinburgh as public transport options are fantastic in the capital. We recommend picking up a car on your departure day – you can pick it up in town, out of town near the zoo (west of the city) or at the airport. The advantage of picking up the rental car at the airport is that you’ll avoid the headache of driving in Edinburgh’s busy crazy one-way system city centre and you’ll already be on the right side of town for heading north!

Two days in Edinburgh will give you a taster of the city but chances are you’re probably going to want to come back another time to delve deeper into the Scottish capital as there’s quite frankly so much to see and discover! We have written a detailed 3 day Edinburgh itinerary and suggest you look over it. However, here is a list of the places we think you should feature on your hit list:

  • Edinburgh Castle in the Old Town
  • The Royal Mile
  • The Scotch Whisky Experience
  • Holyrood Palace
  • The Grassmarket
  • The National Museum of Scotland
  • Arthur’s Seat (weather dependent)
  • Princes Street Gardens
  • Calton Hill
  • New Town: George Street

This is quite a lot to pack into two days so make sure you pick and choose your activities carefully so that you don’t burn out after the first two days!

Day 3 – Drive up to Inverness (3 to 5 hours) + possible stops & Culloden Battlefield

Road to the Highlands

MORNING

Getting from Edinburgh to Inverness

On day 3, you’ll want to pick up your hire car or alternatively take public transport up to Inverness (bus or train from the city centre) or perhaps you even have your own transport. As mentioned previously, it might be easiest to catch the bus or tram out to the airport (or taxi) and pick up your rental car there. 

Check out our detailed guide on how to get from Edinburgh to Inverness. We cover all travel options (bus, train, your own transport) and include suggestions of places you might want to stop off on your journey up to Inverness.

The drive up north on the A9 (this is the name of the road) is beautiful. It’s approximately 160 miles (256 kms) and takes about 3 hours – without stopping – although the temptation to make many stops will be high! The scenery really comes into its own once you’re about 1h15 into the drive north as you hit the heart of Perthshire. Here are a few ideas of places to stretch your legs and explore on the drive up north:

  • The Hermitage (a great spot to have wander through nature, beautiful scenery)
  • Pitlochry (gorgeous Perthshire village)
  • House of Bruar (great place to eat and indulge in some retail therapy)
  • Dalwhinnie Distillery (when in Rome right? Fear not, they offer drivers’ takeaway samples)
  • Ruthven Barracks (for history enthusiasts)
  • Aviemore (alpine style resort)

AFTERNOON

Culloden Battlefield

Depending on how many stops you make along the way, you should have some time in the afternoon to do some exploring. In fact, the first stop is actually just outside of Inverness and can be reached on your drive north. We suggest that you head to the atmospheric and chilling Culloden Battlefield, You can either veer off the A9 at Daviot onto the B851 (south of Inverness) or drive up to Inverness but turn right onto the A96. 

Culloden Battlefield

This historic site marks the location where the last battle was fought between the Jacobites (those faithful to the Stuart monarchy) and the government troops back in April 1746. Fifteen hundred Jacobites were slain within an hour and the battle marked the end of the Jacobite Rising. Visitors can walk on the ‘battlefield’, see some of the clan headstones and immerse themselves in the visitor centre. 

Clava Cairns

If you have some spare time, you could easily combine Culloden battlefield with a visit to nearby Clava Cairns just 5 minutes away (even more so if you’re Outlander fans!) This 4000-year-old bronze age cemetery has been firmly placed on the map following the incredible success of the Outlander series. It’s been said that Clava Cairns served as the inspiration for the fictitious Craigh na Dun stone circle in the series although there is much debate as to whether this is true or not. Located just 5 minutes’ drive from the battlefield, this well-preserved complex comprises stone circles, passage graves, and standing stones, offering a glimpse into the Neolithic period. 

EVENING

The mustard seed dinner in INverness

You’ve likely had a fairly action-packed day making your way to the capital of the Highlands and might just feel like resting for the evening… Inverness is a very small city and places can easily be reached on foot regardless of where your accommodation is located. We particularly like the “Crown” area which is a hop, skip and jump into town or the area close to the River and Ness Islands (both south and north of the river). There are lots of B&Bs in the Crown area if you’re looking for true Scottish hospitality.

There are lots of great restaurants and we strongly recommend booking ahead especially during peak season as places get booked up. Some of our favourites include the Mustard Seed down by the river, Rocpool, Houhou Mei (Asian fusion). There are a surprising amount of live music venues in Inverness and we highly recommend rounding off your evening with some fantastic live folk music at the Highlander.

DAY 4 – Explore Inverness & Go Nessie Hunting

MORNING

As mentioned earlier, Inverness is a very small city and so it won’t take you long to explore. If you’re looking for somewhere to have breakfast, we highly recommend Xoco (pronounced ‘Shaw-ko’) run by Mexican-Scottish couple Fernando and Tristan. The passionfruit and white chocolate croissants are to die for!

Wander around Ness Islands

Nessie on Ness Islands, Inverness

Our favourite area to explore is down by the river and Ness islands. Have a wander around the city centre and then head down towards the river. There is a lovely walk along its banks that includes crossing the river on a number of suspension bridges which link little islands. The nature walk is well signposted from the city centre. Cross one of the bridges to the north side of the river and admire the Cathedral. There’s a lovely café next to the cathedral or depending on your timing, there’s a fantastic Food and Drink Trail that consists of several food trucks serving great quality locally sourced food.

AFTERNOON

Go Nessie hunting

acobite Cruise boat on Loch Ness

Once you’ve explored the centre of Inverness, we recommend heading slightly further afield and embarking on a hunt for the elusive Loch Ness monster aboard a Jacobite cruise. There are several tour options (click on the links below to check prices and availability):

EVENING

Check out our guide to places to eat and drink in Inverness for some inspiration! If you didn’t make it to an evening of live music at the Highlander on day 3, then make sure you experience it tonight. Other great music venues include MacGregors, Gellions and Hootananny’s! If you haven’t managed to fit in a visit to a distillery yet then don’t miss out on a tipple in the Malt Room. The name might give away what it specialises in…!

DAY 5 – Drive to Skye (including stops along the way), Sligachan & Portree

MORNING

Getting from Inverness to Skye

The drive from Inverness to the isle of Skye takes around 2hrs30 mins (depending on which part of the island you go to) and covers about 115 miles. We suggest leaving Inverness fairly early in the morning in order to make the most of the lovely drive to Skye. You will journey along the scenic A82 which is located next to Loch Ness. We have written a detailed guide of places to visit around Loch Ness, you might want to have a read for more inspiration. And finally, check opening hours of the sites mentioned below as they will vary depending on the time of year and you may need to adjust your travel plans accordingly.

Drumnadrochit

Loch-Ness-Centre

You may wish to stop off in Drumnadrochit which is half an hour south of Inverness along the A82. It’s home to the Loch Ness Visitor Centre if you want to learn everything there is to know about the legend of Nessie.

There are some lovely walks as well as some great foodie options on the village green. It’s also a stone’s throw from Urquhart Castle if you didn’t make it on day 4. Check out our guide to Drumnadrochit for lots more ideas of things to do.

Invermoriston

Summer house in Invermoriston

Invermoriston is a very small village and is the point where you will veer off the A82 and onto the A87, the road that will take you to Skye. It’s just 20 minutes south of Drumnadrochit or 50 minutes from Inverness. There’s a lovely walk to the summer house and we also recommend a coffee and delicious homebakes at Glen Rowan cafe as you leave the village and head out on the Skye road.

Dundreggan Rewilding Centre

Dundreggan-Rewilding-centre-architect-designed-building

Another possible place to stop is the recently opened Dundreggan Rewilding Centre where you’ll find some very interesting interactive display boards explaining the rewilding concept, which are great for both adults and kids alike. There is an excellent children’s play park that uses natural materials to create a fun area for active little ones. A pond has been built for aquatic life to thrive in and there is wooden viewing platform complete with a sturdy bench to relax on. If you feel like a little exercise, there are 4 clearly marked walking routes that range from 1km to 4kms, the latter one being quite rocky and steep, but with an incredible view of Binnilidh Bheag.

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle, Highlands

The rest of the drive along the A87 cuts through stunning countryside and follows the vast expanse of Loch Cluanie and Loch Ducih until you eventually reach one of the most photographed castles in Scotland, Eilean Donan.

Situated on an island where the three sea lochs meet, Eilean Donan is a must on your journey to Skye. You’ll get to visit the castle (seasonal opening), the visitor centre and have a tasty coffee in the restaurant whilst admiring the breathtaking surroundings.

The Skye Bridge

Skye Bridge

From Eilean Donan, you’re now just a short drive over to Skye. There are several ways to get across to the island but the simplest is travel across the Skye Bridge.

The Skye Bridge is a significant engineering marvel that spans the Kyle of Lochalsh to connect the mainland of Scotland with the Isle of Skye. Completed in 1995, the bridge replaced the aging ferry service, providing a more efficient and reliable transportation link to the picturesque Isle of Skye. The bridge has been free to cross since 2004. We’ll travel up the east of the Isle of Skye and loop round over to the west of the island during the course of the next 2 days.

AFTERNOON

Sligachan

Sligachan Old Bridge, Skye

Depending on how many stops you’ve made, it is likely that it’s mid-afternoon by the time you’ve reached the Isle of Skye. We suggest spending a night in Portree which is located on the east of the island.

To get there, carry on driving on the A87 and stop off at Sligachan which is about half an hour’s drive from the Skye bridge. This is the perfect spot to stretch your legs and admire the majestic Black Cuillin mountains in the distance. There is a fantastic viewpoint just after the Old Sligachan Bridge (built by Thomas Telford). You’ll also find a statue of two mountaineers – Mackenzie and Collie – who famously mapped the Cuillin mountain range. There’s the nearby Sligachan hotel if you fancy a drink or something to eat.

Portree

Portree, Skye

After you leave Sligachan, you can stop off at the Isle of Skye Candle Company visitor centre which is located just south of Portree. Here you’ll not only find their flagship store but a fantastic restaurant, Gasta, a wellness centre and a cinema. The views from the eatery are stunning.

Next head to Portree and spend some time exploring this quaint seaside town. Located along the shores of Loch Portree, the town serves as the capital and cultural hub of the island. Its name, derived from the Gaelic word “Port-an-Righ,” meaning “King’s Port,” reflects its historical significance as a royal haven. The town’s colourful harborside houses, with their distinctive architecture and vibrant facades, create a postcard-worthy scene against the backdrop of the rugged Cuillin Mountains. Visitors to Portree can explore its quaint streets, lined with shops, cafes, and galleries showcasing local art and crafts. We recommend spending the night in Portree – check here for accommodation.

Day 6 – The Trotternish Peninsula: Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock, Staffin Dinosaur Footprints & The Quiraing

Today, we’ll head north to the breathtaking Trotternish Peninsula for an action-packed day. Make sure you have decent walking shoes and gear.

MORNING

Hike up Old Man of Storr

Old Man of Storr, Skye

Drive just 15 minutes north of Portree to the other-worldy Old Man of Storr. This iconic rock formation is a must-visit destination on Skye and is therefore very popular. It’s a good idea to get there early to beat the crowds!

This natural wonder rises dramatically from the landscape, its towering pinnacle reaching a height of 165 feet. Surrounded by breathtaking landscapes, including lush greenery and panoramic views of the sea, the site attracts hikers, photographers, and nature enthusiasts from around the world. There is a large car park at the foot of the area and the hike takes around an hour.

Admire Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls

Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls

Just 15 minutes north of the Old Man of Storr and you’ll reach a large viewpoint carpark where you’ll be able to admire these impressive falls. Kilt Rock is so-called because of its shape – the cliffside resembles a gigantic pleated skirt. Mealt Falls tumble from the pleats, cascading into the sea beneath. Kilt Rock is around 90 metres tall, and the falls are over 50 metres high. 

Search for Dinosaur Footprints in Staffin

Dinosaur footprint at Staffin on Skye

One of the more unique things to do on Skye is to head to Staffin in search of dinosaur footprints. An Corran Beach, just two minutes from Kilt Rock, is the place to head to, and you should hunt around for the fossilised prints on the flat rocks behind the large boulders.

AFTERNOON

Explore The Quiraing

The Quiraing, Skye, Scotland
Image credit: Through An Aussie’s Eyes

Quiraing – or The Quiraing – is also the result of ancient times. In this case it’s a landslide located on the Trotternish Ridge, specifically on the Meall na Suiramach’s eastern face. The escarpments here are particularly singular, and also very photogenic. 

Active types will enjoy hiking here, and there’s a popular four mile route that allows you to explore this unique landscape. You can join this from Staffin, and it’s a challenging route that takes around two hours to complete. 

EVENING

We suggest spending the night in Uig as it’s located very near to the Quiraing. Confusingly, there are TWO Uigs so make sure you put the one close to the Quiraing into your Satnav! We are particularly fond of the pods at the Skye Cowshed in Uig.

DAY 7 – Fairy Glen, Coral Beach, Dunvegan Castle and Neist Point

Today, we’ll explore the north-west of the island and will cover quite a few miles.

MORNING

Explore The Fairy Glen

As you’ll be located in Uig, you’re just a short 5 minute drive from Fairy Glen. Like The Quiraing, the Fairy Glen was created by an old landslip. The landscape here has an ethereal, otherworldly air, which is perhaps why legends about fairies continue to circulate. To find it, take the right turn just before the Uig Hotel.

Blow away the Cobwebs at Coral Beach

You’ll now need to drive an hour to reach Coral beach. Head along a single track road from Dunvegan, drive for around 15 minutes and you’ll get to Coral Beach. It’s an incredibly colourful stretch of coastline, and instead of sand it comprises crushed white coral. Hence the name.

The walk from the car park to the beach and back again takes around three quarters of an hour. As you’re passing through farmland, you might see cows and sheep along the way. 

A taste of History at Dunvegan Castle [seasonal opening]

After blowing away the cobwebs, go back on your tracks and you’ll find yourself at Dunvegan Castle, just 15 minute drive from Coral beach. You can also swap round visiting the castle first and then the beach if you prefer. The castle has a great café so could be an handy option for lunch.

Dunvegan castle is one dramatically sited fortress, perched on a rocky outcrop overlooking the waters of Loch Dunvegan. In addition to discovering the castle and gardens here, you can learn about the history of the MacLeod clan, visit the café and gift shops, stay at a cottage or even book a seal-spotting boat trip.

AFTERNOON

Neist Point Lighthouse

After you’ve finished exploring Dunvegan castle and have fuelled up on some tasty food from the café, it’s time to head to the edge of the world! Drive about 30 minutes west along the B884 and discover Isle of Skye’s most westerly headland, Neist Point. The lighthouse was first used in 1909, and was designed by David Alan Stevenson, a Scottish engineer who specialised in lighthouses. As you might expect, the dramatic views from Neist Point Lighthouse are among the reasons to pay it a visit. Head back to Portree (about an hour’s drive) and enjoy a relaxing evening.

DAY 8 – Fairy Pools, Talisker Distillery and Back to Mainland

It’s your final day on Skye and we’ll fit in some whisky tasting, stunning natural wonders before heading back to the mainland.

MORNING

Hunting for Fairies at the Fairy Pools

Fairy Pools, Skye, Scotland
Image credit: 2 Traveling Texans

From Portree, it’s a 40 minute drive to the Fairy Pools. Here it’s all about nature’s bounty, with local wildlife and wild swimming among the reasons to visit. The unique colour of the water – a bright aqua blue – is also a draw. Expect picturesque rock pools that are fed by waterfalls, and filled with mountain spring water. 

The walk from the car park via a gravel path is around a mile-and-a-half. It’s a very popular spot for wild swimming so if you want to take a dip then it’s best to bring a wetsuit, as conditions can be rather bracing at the Fairy Pools!

Whisky Tasting at Talisker Distillery

It’s a short 15 minute drive to Carbost where you’ll find the Talisker Distillery. As the island’s oldest working whisky distillery, it produces fine single malts, including Taliskers’ 10 year old whisky. As well as taking a tour and sampling the spirits, you can enjoy panoramic views over the Cuillins from here. 

Taking a tour comes highly recommended, and we recommend allowing around 1 hour 30 mins for your visit in total. 

LUNCH

You’ll be ready for a late lunch by now and we strongly recommend heading to the Oyster Shed in Carbost if you’re a fan of seafood. Although they do far more than just oysters, you’ll also find scallops, lobster, crab, fish and chips, mussels and more. This place is a real gem!

AFTERNOON

Return to the mainland

There are several ways that you can get back to the mainland including the Skye Bridge, a unique turntable ferry to Glenelg or a Caledonian MacBrayne ferry to Mallaig. We feel that an experience on a ferry is a must and so will opt for a ferry to the stunning area around Mallaig. However, if you don’t fancy catching a ferry, you can simply drive to the Skye Bridge and rejoin the mainland that way, perhaps with an overnight stay in Dornie before your onward journey to Glencoe on Day 9.

Ferry from Armadale to Mallaig

Leave Carbost and drive an hour to the southern village of Armadale. If you have some spare time, you can always visit Armadale Castle. The journey on the ferry takes half an hour and it’s worth noting that crossings are much reduced during the winter months so ensure you check the official website for up-to-date timetable information. We recommend booking tickets ahead and bear in mind that you need to check-in 20 minutes before departure.

The ferry will take you to Mallaig and we suggest you drive the short 10 minutes for an overnight stay in the cute seaside town of Arisaig. We’ve enjoyed staying at the Arisaig hotel over the years although there are plenty of options in the area. Check Arisaig accommodation options here. We also really enjoy eating at the Shellfish Shack located in the grounds of the Arisaig hotel or Soundbytes in the main street. You will get a very small taste of the area but we’re confident you’ll want to come back and explore further!

Day 9 – Beaches, Glenfinnan Viaduct and Glencoe

MORNING

Explore tropical looking beaches

Traigh beach

The drive from Arisaig to Glencoe takes about 1hr 15 mins so you can enjoy a more leisurely day of travel. Depending on the weather, you might want to visit some of the stunning beaches that can be found in this area. Our favourites are the Silver Sands of Morar (just south of Mallaig), nearby Camusdarach beach and Traigh.

History or Harry Potter at Glenfinnan

Glenfinnan monument

Carry on the A830 for about half an hour and you’ll reach the very popular Glenfinnan Monument. There’s a large visitor centre where you can find out about this historically important landmark. It’s also here that you’ll find the Glenfinnan viaduct where the Harry Potter steam train famously rode. It’s become an incredibly BUSY place due to the JK Rowling connection and can feel a little overwhelming depending on the time of year and day that you head there. There are two large carparks so parking shouldn’t be a problem. There’s also a café so you can have a bite here if you’re hungry.

AFTERNOON

Explore Glencoe

Turf House at Glencoe visitor centre

You’ll now carry on towards Glencoe and simply soak up the incredibly beauty of the area. This picturesque glen, or valley, is surrounded by majestic mountains, including the iconic Buachaille Etive Mor and the Three Sisters, creating a dramatic backdrop that attracts nature enthusiasts and hikers alike. Glencoe is not only a haven for outdoor enthusiasts but also holds a significant place in Scottish history, particularly due to the infamous Glencoe Massacre of 1692. The glen’s charming villages, such as Ballachulish and Glencoe Village, offer a warm welcome to visitors.

We recommend visiting the Glencoe Visitor Centre which is managed by the National Trust for Scotland. Here, you’ll get to step back in time and tour round a replica turf and creel house as it would have stood at the time of the Glencoe massacres.

Day 10 – Glasgow or Edinburgh

You’ll spend today driving to either Glasgow or Edinburgh. The 2.5 hrs drive to Glasgow crosses through gorgeous landscape and takes in the stunning Loch Lomond and Trossachs area. The drive from Glencoe to Edinburgh is almost 3 hours long and journeys across equally breathtaking scenery.

A Day in Glasgow

Museum of modern art in Glasgow

Glasgow is often overlooked in favour of Edinburgh, however it’s well worth the detour. If you leave Glencoe at a reasonable time, you should get to Glasgow around lunchtime. Given the time constraints, we recommend going on the Glasgow Sightseeing Bus Tour as it will allow you to see the main sites in a short space of time. The Merchant City, the Cathedral and the West End are some of our top places to visit.

We have lots of detailed posts on Glasgow which we suggest you have a look at if you’re looking to create a more customised visit:

A Day in Edinburgh

View towards Arthur Seat from Edinburgh Castle
View towards Arthur Seat from Edinburgh Castle.

The drive from Glencoe to Edinburgh is about half an hour longer and you should therefore get there early afternoon. It would be worth dropping off you hire car at this point and catching public transport into the city centre. As above, you might want to simply book onto the Hop-on Hop-off bus to get an overview of the city and we have lots of detailed posts of things to do in Edinburgh if you’re looking for inspiration:

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