Self-drive Scotland tour (8 nights)
Craggy mountains, vast lochs, stunning scenery, beautiful islands, world famous whisky and its own unique culture: Scotland is easily a holiday in itself.
Our Introduction to Scotland itinerary gives you the chance to sample a little bit of everything: the lively and historic city of Edinburgh, the castles and distilleries of the North West, the commanding mountains and deep glens of the Highlands and some island gems of the Inner Hebrides.
There are many other fantastic options in Scotland, so see the end of the itinerary for suggested alternatives and extensions or get in touch to discuss your requirements and interests.
Days 1 and 2: Edinburgh
Scotland’s capital well deserves its UNESCO World Heritage status. The Old Town is dominated by the impressive Edinburgh Castle, perched on top of Castle Rock. Having faced endless invasions from the South over the centuries, Edinburgh Castle has a captivating history.
Edinburgh is a city for walking. From the steep, winding alleyways of the Old Town to the graceful Georgian terraces of the New Town, there is a pleasant surprise around every corner.
If you have energy to spare, consider walking through the old royal hunting ground of Holyrood Park to the top of Arthur’s Seat, for panoramas over the city, or head south of town to the beautiful Rosslyn Chapel, one of the prettiest churches in Scotland and famed for its appearance in the Da Vinci Code.
The many restaurants, pubs and bars in Edinburgh make for a lively nightlife and if you visit during August you will find yourself enveloped in the carnival atmosphere of the world famous Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Accommodation: Stay in the ultimate combination of old meets new – a modern luxury hotel complete with vast roof terrace overlooking the city, hidden behind the façade of a 150 year old church - or a trendy boutique B&B in a Victorian townhouse.
Days 3 and 4: Royal Deeside, Speyside and the Cairngorms
On your way north, take a short detour to stunning Stirling Castle, perched menacingly on a hill top on the western edge of town. The views, the architecture and the fascinating history make this a very worthwhile stop.
Another short detour east will take you to both the Angus Pictish Trail, where you can discover the 2000 year old intricately carved stones of the Pictish communities, and baronial Glamis Castle, which lays claim to being the setting of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and was the childhood home of the Queen Mother.
On reaching your base in the beautiful valley of Royal Deeside you will have to choose between the variety of options on offer. If you still have an appetite for castles, there are many to explore here, including the Royal residence of Balmoral Castle and fairy-tale 16th century Crathes Castle, with its formal gardens and extensive grounds.
Alternatively, head north into Speyside, the home of Scottish Whisky, and tour some of the many distilleries in the area.
For something more active, head into the Cairngorms mountains for a bracing mountain walk in striking scenery.
Accommodation: Stay in an old Victorian hunting lodge in a pretty village surrounded by mountains or an eighteenth century country house in beautiful grounds.
Days 5 and 6: Fort William and Glen Coe via Loch Ness
Scotland’s most famous Loch is much more than just a mythical monster. Enjoy a scenic drive either down the popular western shore of Loch Ness, taking in the spectacularly located Urquhart Castle ruins, or the quiet eastern shore with its pretty loch-side villages.
Arriving in Fort William, you will be surrounded by towering mountains. The self-proclaimed ‘outdoor capital of the UK’ makes an excellent base for exploring the area.
Explore beautiful Glen Nevis, hike to the summit of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain (or, for a more relaxed journey, take the cable car!), or admire gorgeous Glen Coe, the setting of many big-budget movies including Brave Heart and Harry Potter.
To explore the stunning scenery west of Fort William, brave the fantastic roller coaster of a road or take the scenic steam train ride towards the coast.
Accommodation: Stay in bustling Fort William in an ‘art gallery and restaurant with rooms’ or opt for a quieter life in a 17th century coaching inn at the centre of a small village in beautiful ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie Country’.
Days 7 and 8: Isles of Islay, Jura and Colonsay
A tour of Scotland wouldn’t be complete without taking in at least one of its many beautiful islands.
Hop on a ferry to your base on the Isle of Islay. There is plenty on offer in Islay to keep you busy for a couple of days. One of Scotland’s most famous whisky producing areas, the distinctive smokey whisky of Islay can be tasted at any one of its 8 distilleries, which all welcome visitors and several can be accessed by bike and by boat tour, as well as by car or on foot.
Other options include good walking trails, lovely sandy beaches, trying to spot some of the 250 bird species or joining a wildlife tour of the coastline or forests.
If you want to venture further afield, opt for a day trip to the rugged and remote Isle of Jura or the tiny gem of the Isle of Colonsay, with its 14th century abbey ruins, accessible only at low tide.
Back on Islay, enjoy some seafood straight from the sea at one of many restaurants serving unbeatably fresh local produce.
Accommodation: Stay in a Georgian hotel with lovely rooms, views out to sea and a fantastic restaurant or a remote farmhouse B&B with stunning views all the way to the Irish coast (on a clear day!).
Day 9: Return home
Head back to Edinburgh to drop off your car and catch your flight home or connecting flight.
Extra time: With a few extra days, consider:
- Heading south from Edinburgh to the border regions. An area that many overlook, it has a lot to offer and often without crowds. Romantic Medieval abbey ruins, imposing castles, excellent walking and cycling and the Robert Burns Heritage Trail, celebrating Scotland’s most famous poet, all await.
- Venturing further north to the dramatic northern Highlands, the beautiful Isle of Skye or the historic Orkney Islands.
If you have been inspired by this example itinerary, why not request your own tailor-made holiday itinerary.