Scotland Road Trip: A 10-Day Itinerary
Scotland is one of my favorite places in Europe and I couldn’t wait for my second trip there this past fall. The country blew me away on my first trip and as a result of my obsession with the show Outlander, I had to go back and explore more!
This trip I focused mainly on the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye, arguably the 2 most beautiful areas in Scotland. You could spend weeks in Scotland and not even get to all the highlights, but this 10 day Scotland road trip hits most of the best places to visit in Scotland.
I also stopped at several Outlander filming locations throughout the country and I will say that all but 2 of the locations I would still recommend even if you don’t watch the show. These locations are absolutely stunning, trust me!
Driving in Scotland
Unless you’re just visiting Edinburgh, a car is essential to explore the best places in Scotland. However, I would try to pick up your rental after you leave Edinburgh because parking can be a disaster in the city.
There are MANY one lane roads in Scotland that go both ways with several passing spots, especially if you’re traveling in the Highlands. Make sure to go slow and keep an eye out for oncoming vehicles.
Tip: when driving in the Scottish Highlands, trips take about 30% longer than Google maps says so make sure to keep that in mind.
A note on the Isle of Skye: Parking can be a struggle as most of the sites on the Isle of Skye only have a TINY parking lot for 10 or less cars. Arrive early to assure your spot, especially in peak season.
PS: There are no tolls in Scotland. YAY!
Where are the Scottish Highlands?
The Scottish highlands are a sparsely populated area in the Northwest of Scotland consisting of gorgeous vast landscapes, stunning mountain drives, mysterious castles, beautiful lochs, wildlife, rugged coastlines, and various small islands. In other words, the Scottish Highlands are a nature lover’s dream! A Scotland road trip would not be complete without visiting the Highlands. Period.
It’s very wet in Scotland, so don’t even think about going there without a rain jacket and waterproof boots. The good news is that all that rain makes for a very GREEN landscape.
The weather is also very fickle in Scotland, especially in the Highlands, so expect ALL 4 seasons in one afternoon. The weather can be absolutely crazy and unpredictable at any time. Think sunny and gorgeous with endless blue skies, and 5 minutes later it’s monsoon raining and hailing. I experienced that a few times on my trip, especially on the Isle of Skye. Just make sure you’re prepared with the proper gear and you should be fine.
Tip: no matter how sunny and blue it looks outside, always bring a rain jacket out with you. Always.
Scotland 10-Day Itinerary
Day 1-2: Edinburgh
Day 3 Optional: Outlander tour all day
Day 4: Drive from Edinburgh to Portree with stops at Drummond Gardens
Day 5-6: Isle of Skye
Day 7: Drive to Eilean Donan Castle, Glencoe and Glenfinnan Viaduct (Harry Potter train)
Day 8: Glencoe hiking
Day 9: Drive to Edinburgh and stop in Finnich Glen and mystery castle
Day 10: Hopetoun House & Midhope Castle
NOTE: without the Outlander tour, this Scotland itinerary would be 9 days total
Day 1-2: Explore Edinburgh
Edinburgh is one of the most underrated capital cities in Europe. If you didn’t know, now you know! It’s actually in my top 5 favorite capital cities in Europe! The old world medieval architecture of the Old Town is a highlight for me, but if modern is more your style, the New Town is worth exploring as well. I would give yourself at least 2-3 days to explore this unique capital.
The Edinburgh castle sits atop an extinct volcano in the middle of the city which can be viewed from what seems like miles away. The Royal Mile street connects the Edinburgh Castle to the magnificent Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland.
Outlander fans: the Palace of Holyroodhouse is where Bonnie Prince Charles stayed for a month back in 1745 in real life, but was not actually in the show. Apparently the book mentions it (I haven’t read it).
What to See in Edinburgh
Edinburgh Castle-magnificent views overlooking the city, although a steep entrance fee of £19.50.
Royal Mile-a mile long street that is lined with many cute shops, pubs, cafes, and small museums.
Palace of Holyroodhouse– official residence of Queen Elizabeth II in Scotland.
Dean Village– a picturesque village in a quiet part of town. You can walk along the Water of Leith Walkway in about 15 minutes from the city. It’s a pretty and peaceful walk along the waterfront.
The Real Mary King’s Close-discover an amazing underground world of the 1700’s, still well preserved to this day. The close is located under the big buildings on the Royal mile and it’s really like you’re stepping back in time going down there.
You can only go by guided tour and it costs £16.50 (100% worth it). The tour takes 1 hour and 15 minutes. Get tickets in advance because they do sell out almost every day. DON’T MISS IT! This was my absolute favorite attraction in Edinburgh. It’s truly unique and you won’t see anything like it anywhere else. PS: you can’t take photos down there.
Calton Hill–one of the best spots to view the sunset in the city. It’s a quick 10 minute walk from the center and offers a panoramic view over Edinburgh.
Hike Arthur’s Seat-a hike that gives you the BEST view over the city. It takes about 45 minutes from the bottom of the hill. Start the hike at Holyroodhouse. It’s a semi steep hike that’s beginner to moderate in intensity. You don’t need hiking boots but definitely need sneakers with good grip. At the top you’ll be climbing up rocks. You can view all of Edinburgh and the Craigs from the top (see photo below).
Waterstones Edinburgh-a bookstore that has an amazing view of Edinburgh Castle. Grab a coffee and enjoy the views.
If you’re gluten free (GF) and in Edinburgh, go to Smoov Gelato for awesome gluten free waffles. Also try Eteaket for GF scones and tea. Hula Juice Bar has GF açaí bowls and GF avocado toast.
Outlander fans: While walking the Royal Mile, stop by Bakehouse close, the scene of Jamie’s print shop. where Claire and Jamie reunited in season 3.
Day 3 Optional: Outlander Tour
I spent one day doing an Outlander filming site tour but if you’re not an Outlander fan, you can totally skip this day. But if you are a fan, I highly recommend this tour! What locations we visited on this tour:
Doune Castle-Castle Leoch in Outlander. It is also used as Winterfell in the pilot of Game of Thrones. The entrance fee is £9, but it’s more impressive from the outside than the inside.
Linlithgow Palace–the oldest palace in Scotland and also where those infamous almost-impossible-to-watch scenes from the season one finale took place, if you know what I mean. The entrance fee is £7.20. There are awesome view of the water from above and you can see the old cells on the bottom. It’s pretty cool even if you’re not an Outlander fan.
Blackness Castle-used as Fort William and Blackjack Randall’s headquarters. It is also on the water in a cute little town.
Midhope Castle-the real life Lallybroch! The entrance fee is £3.50. It is very busy and tour busses are only allowed to stay 20 minutes. However, I returned on a later date to go on my own and it was so worth it! (more on this at the end of this article).
Day 4: Drive to Portree & Stop in Dunalastair Castle & Kinloch Rannoch (optional)
Day 4 will be a long drive and take up half your day so make sure to start early. Drive from Edinburgh to Portree and stop at Dunalastair Castle.
Dunalastair Castle–a really cool abandoned castle out in nowhere. You have to drive down a gravel road to get to it but you’ll likely have it to yourself. It’s very spooky/eerie. It takes about 2 hours and 45 minutes from Edinburgh.
For Outlander fans (skip this one if you don’t watch the show!):
Kinloch Rannoch (aka Craigh Na Dun in Outlander): before you get too excited, there aren’t actually any stones like there are in the show. However, you can still visit the famous little hill where they set up the stone. I was totaling fangirling at this site and it’s so worth it if you watch the show, even without the actual stones.
I went on a windy day and with the location on the little hill, it created this swirly sound and it freaked me out because it sounded very similar to the swishing/swirling sound they hear on Outlander before they go through the stones. No joke, it was unreal!
**I would ONLY go here if you watch Outlander because it probably won’t seem too impressive to you otherwise. It is only about 10-15 minutes from Dunalastair Castle. It’s kinda tricky to find and I had to stop at the little inn in town to ask for directions. They had an Outlander map and it really helped!
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Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye is arguably the prettiest area of Scotland. The Isle of Skye is is an island connected to the mainland by bridge. It’s about 226 miles from Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye and will take about 5-6 hours by car if you drive direct. Everything on Isle of Skye is pretty close together so it makes it really convenient to explore, even without lots of time.
To explore the Isle of Skye, base yourself in Portree, a cute colorful seaside town in a central area. Portree is known for seafood so make sure to go to the harbor and try some mussels or smoked salmon.
Accommodations are limited so plan to book way in advance, especially during peak season. I rented a small room in an Airbnb that was a 5 minute walk to town. It was perfect because it had free parking right in front of the house. It was very basic but great if you’re on a budget. Portree accommodation is generally pretty expensive. You can view the Airbnb listing HERE. An if you’re new to Airbnb, here is a $55 coupon to use on your first trip!
Day 5: Hike Old Mann of Storr, Kilt Rock/Mealt falls, Duntulm Castle & Fairy Glenn
Old Mann of Storr hike
A quick 15 minute drive from Portree will get you to the parking lot for the Old Mann of Storr hike. There is a TINY parking lot for cars so get there early. There is also some paid street parking, but overall there aren’t many spots. Try to start the hike by 8:30am to avoid the crowds.
I would consider it an easy hike for any level of fitness. It takes about 45 minutes to get to the main area at the top and then you can hike around and explore more if you wish. If you want the iconic photo spot with the old Mann of Storr with the dramatic landscape in the back and the sea, go to the right when you get to the top and hike a little bit more to get that epic view.
If you look at the above pictures you will never guess that 10 minuted later it started monsoon raining and hailing and I had to run down the mountain as fast as I could. Typical Scotland weather!
Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls
Drive to Kilt Rock/Mealt falls (it’s only 15minutes from Old Man Storr). It’s just a viewpoint so it’s a quick stop to hop out of your car and walk a few feet to see the viewpoint.
From Kilt Rock/Mealt falls, drive to Duntulm castle (remains of clan Macdonald). It’s less of a castle and more like ruins on a dramatic cliff overlooking the sea. It’s gorgeous and worth a walk down to the bottom for the best views!
The Fairy Glenn was one of my favorite areas in Isle of Skye. It’s an outstanding hilly green landscape with a circular rock pattern formation. You can walk around and explore the area and hike up the little hills for spectacular views. It really is a unique place like I’ve never seen before.
The drive to it is on a TINY one lane track and can be stressful but it is SO worth it. Avoid the middle of the day so there aren’t as many cars on the road.
Day 6: Dunvegan castle, Neisse Point Lighthouse, & Fairy Pools
Home to the MacLeod family for over 800 years, Dunvegan Castle is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in all of Scotland. Honestly the inside wasn’t that interesting to me, but there were pretty gardens and nice view if you walk around the castle and to the back. I would say it’s only worth it if you’re really into history or want a cool Instagram picture. The entrance fee is £14.
Neisse Point Lighthouse
The road here is very scary, I’m not going to lie. It’s a one lane road on a windy cliff road with no rails in most places. There is a tiny car park at the top and you can get out and takes pics from there. There is a well marked path if you want to go walk out to the lighthouse. It was WAY too windy and stormy when I arrived so I didn’t make it out there unfortunately. I couldn’t even take my camera or phone out to take a photo.
Unfortunately the weather was crazy that day with heavy rain and strong winds so I didn’t make it here. You will only get that crystal blue color of the water if the sun is shining on the pools so keep that in mind. I read that it is a 20 minute walk to the first pool.
Day 7: Drive to Eilean Donan Castle, Fort William, Old Inverlocky Castle, & Glenfinnan Viaduct
Eilean Donan Castle
Eilean Donan Castle is located right before you cross the bridge to the Isle of Skye so you can either stop on the way in or the way out. It it one of the most beautiful castles in Scotland and also one of the most recognizable. This castle is located at a point where 3 sea lochs meet, creating a spectacular landscape for this fairytale castle. When the weather is foggy, it looks extra eerie/etherial. It’s a smaller castle, but it’s my favorite one in Scotland!
This is where you should base yourself to explore Glencoe. It’s affordable and not too far from everything that you will want to see.
Old Inverlocky Castle
Some cool ruins in Fort William that are worth a quick stop at. The entrance is free and you will probably only spend 5-10 minutes here.
Glenfinnan Viaduct is the famous train from Harry Potter, and is worth a visit even if you’re not a fan (I am not and it was still awesome).
Tip: go past the visitor’s center parking for free parking. Instead of going to the “viewpoint”, walk under the viaduct and to the right and climb up the hill. This way you can get a picture without the crowds and it’s also a better view because you get the water and ALL the landscape in the background. Check HERE for the Jacobite train times so you can plan accordingly.
Day 8: Glencoe: Lost Valley hike, Glen Etive drive, & Glencoe Lochan
Lost Valley Hike
Park at the 3 sisters viewpoint parking and take the trail to the left. The hike is moderate and definitely requires good supportive and waterproof shoes. Most the hike is up slippery rocks, but it’s doable. The hike took me one hour each way and then time to explore at the top and take pics and eat a snack. Allow 3 hours total from start to finish including photos.
Glen Etive drive
This is a 12 mile drive on a one way road with spectacular views. It is also where parts of James Bond Skyfall was shot. Go past Dalness estate about 6-7 minutes for the most spectacular views. Make sure to drive slow and look out for cars ahead to allow them to pass.
I ended the day at Glencoe Lochan and it was so relaxing and peaceful. There are 3 paths you can take. Take the yellow path and walk through the green moss covered forest and huge trees.
The red path is flat and takes you right to the loch (lake). You can complete it in 30 minutes. Bring snacks for a little picnic by the loch.
Outlander fans: Glencoe Valley is where the opening credits for Outlander were filmed.
Day 9: Drive back to Edinburg and stop in Finnich Glen, mystery castle, & Drummond Gardens
Finnich Glen (The Devil’s Pulpit)
Finnich Glen is an impressive 100-foot gorge with red waters hidden inside a wooded area out in nowhere. You will see a narrow entrance with stairs and a rope to get down. It’s not for anyone who has mobility issues and can be very slippery. But getting down into the gorge is half the fun! You will get dirty, so don’t wear anything you wouldn’t mind getting messy.
How to find it (it’s really confusing, i’m not going to lie!): You will want to park at the intersection of A809. You walk to the left on road A809 for about 5 minutes. (You will see a pasture on your left). Pass a bridge where you will hear the water and then you will see a metal door on the left side. Walk past the door and you will find an opening in the fence. Go through this opening and walk left and follow the trail. There is a fence that should be on your right and the gorge will be on your left. Stay close to the fence because this is where you will see the steps to the entrance (if you start walking down by the water you will miss it). Walk about 4-5 minutes and you will see the opening to the steps on the left. The steps are really slippery and there is a rope for you to hold onto. Your hands will get all muddy from hanging onto the rope so bring some wet wipes!
Outlander fans: the red water at Finnich Glen was used in Outlander as the Liar’s Spring. Dougal made Claire drink from the spring to see if he could trust her (with a knife behind his back).
Another secret abandoned castle about 8 minutes away from Finnich Glen. You’re not technically supposed to go inside but you can take photos of the outside.
While you can’t technically visit the castle, you can still photograph it. However, you CAN visit the gardens. The garden is huge and you could spend an hour or so wandering around. It was also used as the Palace of Versailles in Outlander.
I am not lying when I say this is the most spectacular and gorgeous garden I have ever seen! The entrance fee is £6.
Day 10: Hopetoun House & Midhope Castle
Hopetoun House & Estate
Hopetoun House is another not-to-miss destination just outside of Edinburgh. It’s a grande mansion set on 6,500 green acres of land that was built back in 1699. Hopetoun House is Scotland’s largest stately home in the country and is the ancestral home of the Hope family for the past 300 years. Currently the Earl of Hopetoun and The 4th Marquess of Linlithgow live in this house.
What is really unique about this estate is that the front of the estate and the back of the estate were built by 2 different architectures who had completely different styles, which is blatantly apparent upon seeing it.
The entrance fee is £10.50 and it is opened from 10:30-5pm. Check the website for seasonal closures.
The Hopetoun House estate is featured over and over in the series Outlander. It is pretty impressive and very picturesque and grande. You can walk around the property and view it from all angles. Its a very peaceful place! There weren’t too many people there so it was a very nice experience. I would visit this place wether you watch the show or not! It’s worth it.
Outlander fans: Hopetoun House was used for MANY Outlander scenes. The most noteworthy are the Duke of Sandringham’s residence, the side streets used for Paris where Mary got attacked, the stables in season 3, and where Jamie taught little Willie to ride a horse.
Midhope castle (Lallybroch ️ in Outlander)
A 20 minute drive outside of Edinburgh and down a one lane road you’ll find Midhope castle, aka Lallybroch, in Outlander. It’s open from 9-5pm but often is closed due to events or filming. Check the website for closures.
Ps: everything online said you need to obtain a parking pass in order to visit Midhope Castle on your own but this it not true. I drove up right when it opened and the attendant let me in and I had the whole place to myself for a good 20 minutes! There is an attendant in a little booth that will collect the entrance fee of £3.50. They only accept cash so make sure you bring it!
Travel Insurance for Scotland
I would never travel without travel insurance anymore. I learned my lesson. Too many bad things can happen (and they have unfortunately). Travel insurance is especially important when traveling to islands, as you may need to be air-lifted to the mainland in the worst case scenario. Do you know how much air-lifting costs? Think at least 5 digits (I.e. Expensive AF!).
My favorite travel insurance that I have been using for the past 4 years is World Nomads. I have made 3 claims so far and have been fully reimbursed for all 3 without any hassle. I highly recommend them.
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