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1 Week Scotland Itinerary

If you need help planning a 1 week itinerary around Scotland, you’ve come to the right place.

Scotland is one of my favourite places to go on a road trip, and you can see a lot in just one week. So I’ve got the perfect itinerary for you that will take you through some of the most beautiful parts of Scotland. 

This itinerary does rely on having access to a car. To get the most out of Scotland you need to get away from the cities and into the more remote places. Although you could do some of this by public transport, it will take much longer and you’ll struggle to get it all done in one week.

So, here we go – the ultimate Scotland road trip itinerary.

Quick Reference: Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1: Edinburgh

Day 2: Drive to Fort William via Loch Lomond

Day 3: Drive to the Isle of Skye

Day 4: Explore Skye

Day 5: Drive to Inverness

Day 6: Explore Loch Ness

Day 7: Drive to Edinburgh via Cairngorms National Park

Detailed Itinerary

Exploring Edinburgh’s Royal Mile

Day 1: Edinburgh

You could spend several days in Edinburgh. It’s a beautiful city and there’s lots to see, however, the best bits of Scotland are the wide open spaces, so I’m limiting your time in the city to make the most of the stunning landscapes elsewhere.

Start your day by walking along Princes Street to see the Scott Memorial and Princes Street Gardens. Then head over to Edinburgh Castle to see the city’s most popular attraction. 

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is a historic fortress that dominates the city’s skyline. The exact castle has changed over the years, but there has been a castle on Castle Rock since the 11th century.

Visitors can explore its various galleries, including the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny. The castle also has many displays dedicated to military history, including a memorial to soldiers who died in World War I and other major conflicts since then. 

The castle also offers panoramic views of the city and is steeped in centuries of history, making it a must-see destination for anyone visiting Edinburgh.

A short distance down from the castle is the Scotch Whisky Experience. As whisky is one of Scotland’s most famous exports, I highly recommend trying some while you are here, and as this is a non-driving day it’s the best time for it.

The Scotch Whisky Experience runs tours and tasting sessions, however those can be expensive. Skip the tours and head down to the floor below to the whisky bar. 

The bar carries 450 types of whisky. I’ve been a few times and have always been impressed by the knowledge of the bar staff. They will be happy to recommend something for you to try within a reasonable price range and according to your preferred tastes. 

Scotch Whisky Experience bar

The main shop also has a wide range of small bottles of whisky so you can also buy a couple to try another time. 

Next, head down the Royal Mile, through Edinburgh’s Old Town. The Royal Mile is a series of streets that form a straight line from the castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. You’ll pass by several monuments, shops, pubs and St Giles’ Cathedral. 

The Palace of Holyroodhouse is the official Scottish residence of King Charles III. You can buy tickets to go inside, but if you are pressed for time don’t go all the way down to the palace.

Instead, walk down the Royal Mile until you reach South Bridge, and then cross over towards Chambers Street, and head to the National Museum of Scotland. This free museum is a great place to spend a few hours, exploring Scottish history from pre-historic times to recent times. 

National Museum of Scotland

Edinburgh has lots of hills so if you don’t use the South Bridge to get to Chambers Street you may find yourself having to up and down some steep streets to get back up to the level of the museum. 

End your day with some Scottish food. I highly rate the Whiski Rooms, their venison is excellent, they make an amazing smoky Old Fashioned, and it’s always cranachan for dessert. 

Day 2: Drive to Fort William via Loch Lomond

Leave Edinburgh and start your Scottish road trip by driving to Fort William. Your SatNav will suggest the most direct route, but in Scotland I almost always ignore the direct route in favour of the scenic route. 

Follow a short stint on the M9 towards Stirling. Spend a little time in Stirling, specifically at Stirling Castle

Views from Stirling Castle

You don’t need an overnight stop there but as you are passing by it’s a good place to stop briefly as the castle is lovely. Its place on top of a hill made it an ideal strategic location for a fortress, so it has played a role in several major events in Scottish history, as well as being pretty. 

Then head west on the A811 to Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. You’ll then be following the A82 all the way up to Fort William. 

This road takes you along the edge of Loch Lomond, with clear views over the loch. 

There isn’t much to do in Fort William itself, this is all about enjoying the journey. Stop off at the various viewing points on the way. 

The route takes you along several lochs and Glencoe. If you feel like a short hike, stop on Glencoe and take one of the trails leaving the village. 

Fort William is the closest town to Ben Nevis – the UK’s highest mountain. If you are an avid, experienced hiker you could spend a day here instead of going to Skye. There are two tracks, the Mountain Track which is more suitable for intermediate hikers. 

The Carn Mor Dearg Arête route should only be undertaken by experienced and physically fit hikers who have appropriate equipment with them for an 11-hour challenging route. 

Another option to fill any leftover time is to do a round trip from Fort William to Glenfinnan Viaduct, famous for being part of the route taken by the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films. 

On the road to Skye

Day 3: Drive to the Isle of Skye

The road from Fort William to Skye is absolutely stunning. Some itineraries recommend a route that takes you in the other direction, but in my experience, you get better views by using an itinerary that goes from Fort William to Skye. 

Once again, this is about the scenery and the drive rather than specific things to do in Skye. You’ll take the A87 to Kyle of Lochalsh, and then cross the bridge to Skye. You’ll pass by lots of places to stop and take in the view.

One of the most famous places to stop is Eilean Donan Castle. This is a castle on a tiny island where three lochs converge. There is a footbridge over to the castle from the car park on the A87, as well as a cafe and gift shop. 

The road to Skye is beautiful but can be frustrating in places – there’ll be slower caravans on the road which can be difficult to get around. They also aren’t always very good about being aware of the queue they are causing and finding somewhere to pull over and release the traffic behind them. 

If you start to get frustrated with the view being blocked by other vehicles, try to relax and find somewhere to stop for a bit. 

Portree is the main town on Skye and has the most restaurant and accommodation options, however, they are still limited. Make sure you book in advance as Skye is a very popular place to visit and you could find yourself in difficulty if you haven’t booked anything before you get there. 

Fairy Pools and Old Man of Storr on the Isle of Skye

Day 4: Explore Skye

When I’m on Skye I like to just drive around and see as much of it as possible. You can see a lot of it in one day just by driving around.

A few highlights are:

Fairy Pools

The Fairy Pools on the Isle of Skye are a popular natural attraction known for their crystal-clear waters and picturesque surroundings. At the foot of the Black Cuillin mountains, these pools are perfect for visitors looking to explore Scotland’s rugged beauty.

The Old Man of Storr

The Old Man of Storr is a large pinnacle rock, standing at 165 feet high. It is a popular landmark for hikers and photographers, offering stunning views of the surrounding landscapes and sea. The rock formation is composed of ancient volcanic rock.

Talisker Distillery

Talisker is the main whisky distillery on Skye. You can visit to do a tour, or buy some of their whisky to take away with you. It’s a great place to learn about whisky and also see some more of Skye’s amazing scenery.

Dunvegan Castle

Dunvegan Castle is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and has been the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod for over 800 years. The castle is a popular tourist attraction and offers visitors a glimpse into its rich history and stunning surroundings. The castle closes over winter, so make sure you check the website before planning a visit.

Neist Point

Neist Point is a prominent headland on the Isle of Skye. It is known for its rugged cliffs and beautiful views of the surrounding landscape. The area is another popular spot for tourists and photographers.

You could easily spend 3 days exploring Skye, but if you only have one week in Scotland that would limit what else you can do. I just enjoy driving around Skye and seeing what I come across – it’s all very pretty so you can’t really go wrong. 

The remote B885 road across Skye from Bracadale to Portree

Just be aware that there are quite a lot of single-track roads. Don’t drive too fast, keep an eye up ahead and make use of the passing points. 

It’s better to wait in a passing space for a minute if you see something coming towards you in the distance than having to reverse down a narrow road because you can’t get around each other anywhere else. 

The road between Bracadale and Portree (the B885) can be impassable in winter. If you are visiting Skye during the colder months, make sure you check local traffic reports before setting out in case you reach a closed road – alternative routes can be a very long detour. 

On the road to Inverness

Day 5: Drive to Inverness

There are two main routes between Skye and Inverness – you’ll be taking the northern route, along the A890. This takes around 3 hours, not including any stops, so you could explore a bit more of Skye before setting off. 

Once you are on the road, you’ll pass by Attadale Gardens and several lochs on the route towards Inverness.

Once you arrive, there are several things you could do in Inverness. Unfortunately, Inverness Castle is closed until 2025, but there are still several other options. The Battle of Culloden is one of the most famous battles in Scottish history, and Culloden is just a short distance from Inverness. There is a museum and visitor centre dedicated to the history of this 1746 battle which brought the Jacobite Rising to an end. 

For any Outlander fans, you’ll also find Clava Cairns nearby which is the location of the stones where Claire was transported back in time.  

If you prefer to have some time indoors, visit Inverness Museum and Art Gallery. And if you want to continue your whisky journey, head to the bar at The Malt Room for a dram or two. 

Loch Ness from the Loch Ness View Point in Fort Augustus

Day 6: Explore Loch Ness

One of Scotland’s most famous places, how could I send you around the highlands without stopping at Loch Ness?

This is one of the reasons for stopping in Inverness – it’s the perfect place to start a trip to explore Loch Ness. 

To get the best views and boat trips to Loch Ness, you’ll need to head down to Fort Augustus. There isn’t a huge amount of parking for the number of visitors it gets, so make sure you get there in the morning before too many people arrive. 

There is a road on either side of the loch so it doesn’t really matter which way you go, but the best option is to drive down on the A82 and back up on the B852 as this will put you on the side of the road closest to the loch in each direction. 

You’ll pass by Urquhart Castle on the way down which is worth stopping at for a few minutes to take a look at. 

Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness

As Loch Ness is of course famous for its mythical monster, what better way to spend an hour than on a boat ride?

I would recommend that you book this in advance – every day Fort Augustus is full of visitors joining boat tours and you don’t want to miss out by not booking in time. 

Book your Loch Ness boat trip here!

If you aren’t keen on a boat ride, walk up Oich Road to the Loch Ness View Point to get the best views from land. 

Day 7: Drive to Edinburgh via Cairngorms National Park

If you have a SatNav and enter Inverness to Edinburgh, it’ll take you down the A9. That’s the quickest route, but it’s there for practicality, not scenery. 

The road you want is the A939 and then the A93. This takes you through Cairngorms National Park. This route takes an extra hour or so, but it’s worth it for the views. 

This route is the main alternative to the A9 so your device should be able to find it easily. Otherwise, you can enter Crathie as a halfway point to make sure you are on the right road. 

Cairngorms National Park

There are a few walking paths you can stop to enjoy, but check the park’s website in advance to see which ones are open. The Cairngorms are beautiful – a combination of mountains, heather moors and lochs. 

If you do end up on the A9, don’t worry too much. There are still some nice views from this road, but you’ll be sharing it with trucks and other traffic. The A93 is better. 

If you have more time

To explore more of Scotland, you could do the NC 500 – a route that takes you around the coast of Scotland, including to John O’Groats. You’ll get some stunning ocean views. 

If you like twisting mountain roads, you could do a day trip from Fort William or Inverness to Applecross via Bealach Na Bà. The views from Applecross over the water towards Skye are lovely, but the point is the road.

Just avoid it at the weekend as it can get busy, it’s narrow and you’ll need to make lots of use of passing places for traffic coming the other way. 

Views from Bealach Na Bà

I’ve deliberately skipped Glasgow on this itinerary. I wanted to limit the time in cities, and I think Edinburgh is a nicer city for a quick visit, however, if you have more time then a visit to Glasgow and some more time in Edinburgh would be a good choice. 

FAQs

When is the best time to go?

Aim for late spring through to early autumn. Some of the roads on this route become very difficult, and even dangerous in winter. You’ll find driving far easier in warmer weather.

Do I need a 4×4 rental car?

No, I’ve driven all of these roads in my little manual Citroen C3. Don’t hire the most basic car as you may regret not having much power, but also don’t hire the biggest car you can. Many of these roads are narrow, one track with passing places. The bigger the car, the more awkward some of these roads become. 

The photo below is from one of my detours through the most remote roads I could find – this isn’t representative of all Scottish roads!

Having a smaller car like mine is better for narrow Scottish roads

What is the weather like?

The weather can vary a lot, and you might experience a lot of rain even in summer. On the plus side, Scotland is even more beautiful in the rain, with mist across the roads in the highlands. Pack layers and include a raincoat!

Do I need to book things in advance?

I highly recommend advance booking restaurants and hotels, especially in smaller towns and during the summer. Places like Skye don’t have many restaurants and hotels, and if you turn up and can’t get a room it’s a long drive back to another town. 

Is 1 week in Scotland enough?

You can see a lot in one week, but you could easily spend 3 weeks touring Scotland and not run out of things to do. This Scotland road trip is designed to help you see as much of Scotland’s beauty as possible in a short time. 

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