Scotland Road Trip Itinerary (7-10 Days)
Summary: I’m sharing an example Scotland road trip itinerary in this post for 7-10 days. This an itinerary through three different cities in Scotland.
Disclaimer: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links which just means I make a small commission if you purchase from them with no additional cost to you!
There is something about Scotland. I’m not sure what it is, but there’s something. The moment I arrived, I felt like I belonged. I felt like I wanted to see the entire country. I wanted to immerse myself in everyday life here. Obviously, we can’t do that to the fullest extent in just a week, but we can try to see as much of the country as we can.
With this Scotland Road Trip Itinerary, you’ll travel through Edinburgh, Isle of Skye, and Glasgow.
The Best Time to Visit Scotland
This is up for debate. I am partial to traveling in the fall to pretty much anywhere. I love the weather, the fact that it’s usually not as busy, and it’s often cheaper to travel in the fall than the summer.
We went to Scotland in the fall and it was beautiful! The autumn colors were everywhere and fog rolled in at night. I can’t recommend this time of year more.
Since Isle of Skye is in this itinerary, I’m going to have to recommend Fall, Spring, or Summer to travel to Scotland because the weather will be okay to hike. It may be rainy in the Fall, but it won’t be as cold as it gets in the Winter. That said, Edinburgh at Christmastime looks magical and I will be back specifically for that!
What to Pack for Scotland
This highly depends on when you’re visiting. If you choose to go in Fall, bring a lot of layers. It was chilly at times and borderline warm at other times. Typically, I wore a sweater with a down vest or a base layer, sweater, and rain jacket.
Speaking of rain jackets, you will need rain gear if you visit in Fall. I think Scotland scares some people away because of how much it rains, but it really is tolerable if you have the right gear with you. My favorite rain jacket is the Apollo Rain Jacket by Outdoor Research. I have it in the “Larch” color. It is very packable, light, and breathable. I loved that the hood stays up even in the harshest wind and rain.
In addition to a rain coat, I’d also suggest waterproof shoes (ideally boots). Part of this itinerary includes hiking on Isle of Skye. I brought my regular hiking boots and they worked perfectly.
I noticed the typical style change a bit in each city. I am NOT a fashion girlie, but here’s what I noticed:
Edinburgh: I describe this style as dark academia. A lot of plaid and dark leather. Wide leg trousers with boots. Long wool coats. This is one of my favorite styles!
Isle of Skye: Everyone I saw on Isle of Skye was dressed for the weather. You do not need to worry about fashion here. Dress for function and comfort. I saw a few people trying to hike Old Man of Storr in heeled booties and they looked miserable.
Glasgow: This was more of a typical city to me where there were a lot of different styles. The dark academia of Edinburgh would work here, or any other style you like. However, people did seem to care more about how they looked here than on Isle of Skye.
Where to Rent a Car in Scotland
If you’re flying or taking the train into Scotland, you’ll need to rent a car for this road trip itinerary. My partner gets a discount for Hertz through his work, so we typically use them. With Hertz in Scotland, we found that in order to return the car at a different spot than where we picked it up, we needed to pick up and drop off at airports.
We picked up our car at the Edinburgh Airport and dropped it off at the Glasgow Airport. We used Uber to get from our Edinburgh hotel to the airport and from the Glasgow airport to our hotel in that city. It wasn’t bad at all!
I’m not sure if this is common among other car rental companies, but Kayak can help you find what is available for you.
–> Looking for more Europe Itineraries? Here’s my exact 10-day Paris Itinerary! <–
Day 1: Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle
Day one of this Scotland road trip itinerary will be your first full day exploring Edinburgh. This city is magic and might just be your favorite part of the trip, so take it in.
This first day, I recommend walking along the Royal Mile (High Street). You’ll find a lot of different stores, restaurants, and things to do and see along this road. I’d start by popping into the Tron Kirk Market on the corner of High Street and South Bridge. This is a daily market with local artists and is a perfect place to buy something to take home and remind you of Scotland.
Continue on walking toward the Edinburgh Castle. This street was one of my favorites to shop for cashmere, tweed, and wool goods. You’ll see many stores that sell them. My recommendation is Kiltane. I picked up a cashmere scarf that I’m still obsessed with. It’s a bit pricier, but it’s more of a well-known brand. Other stores had very affordable options as well.
Along High Street, you’ll come to St. Giles’ Cathedral. Stop in and take a look at the pretty stained glass. This should only take about 10-20 minutes.
You’ll keep walking down High Street until you come to Edinburgh Castle at the very end of the street. You can purchase tickets ahead of time, or when you arrive, but either way, you’ll need to buy them on your phone/computer and then pick up the tickets at the castle.
When your time arrives, you can enter the castle grounds. They have audio guides available in different languages. The castle grounds are quite large and they have several buildings and small museums to enter, so this can take a few hours if you want to see everything.
Day 2: Harry Potter Tour and Princes Street
Day two is going to be fun! I had high hopes for our Harry Potter tour and they surpased my expectations! You’ll need to book with Potter Trail ahead of time. It’s a free walking tour, but they ask that if you’re able, you pay what you think the tour was worth at the end. Walking tours like this are usually 10-15 pounds per person, so I would plan on that. The tour runs pretty much every day at 12pm.
You’ll end the tour on Victoria’s Street (the inspiration for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter!), so I’d recommend exploring more of this street a bit while you’re there. There are a number of specialty shops to peruse.
In the afternoon, take a walk over to Princes Street. This is another main road with stores and restaurants lining it. You can stroll through Princes Street Gardens and marvel at the gothic Scott Monument.
As you’re walking, you’ll come to the National Scottish Gallery. This is a free art gallery that’s worth a stop. Right next to it is another gallery (that’s not free) that had a Monet exhibit while we were there!
If you continue far enough down Princes Street, you’ll come to the Johnny Walker tasting room. Perfect time and place to try some whisky! Just know you’ll need to book a table before you go.
Optional Extra Days in Edinburgh
If you have any extra time to spend in Scotland, this is where I’d spend it. I knew I’d fall in love with Edinburgh, so we planned a total of 5 full days here. If you’re able to allocate more time to Edinburgh in your Scotland itinerary, here are examples of what to do:
- The Real Mary King’s Close tour: an excellent tour that details how life was centuries ago and how people lived during the plague.
- Tour the Palace of HolyroodHouse: the estate in Edinburgh where royals stay when they come to visit.
- Dean Village: a quaint residential village that looks like it was plucked out of a storybook. Perfect to walk around for an hour or two.
- Camera Obscura: this was a highly recommended activity everywhere I looked. We didn’t end up doing it, but if you have extra time on day one, it’s near Edinburgh Castle.
- The Scotch Whisky Experience: also near the Edinburgh Castle, this experience is perfect to learn more about how Scotch is made and try some for yourself!
Day 3: Rent a Car and Drive to Portree, Isle of Skye
On day three, you’ll pick up a rental car that you hopefully booked before you left for your trip. Like I mentioned above, we Ubered to the Edinburgh airport and picked our car up there. It was relatively easy.
The drive from Edinburgh to Portree is about 5.5 hours straight through, however, we made a few stops and I’d recommed you do that, too.
Our first stop was Midhope Castle. This was the castle that was used as Lallybroch in the show Outlander. It was Jamie’s family’s home that was passed down to him from his parents. This castle is set in the middle of a residental neighborhood. There was only one other family there when we visited, so we almost had it to ourselves! For six pounds each, we were able to walk around the grounds, but you cannot go inside.
On your way, I’d also suggest stopping at a whisky distillery. There are a few very pretty options, but the one that was most on the way was Dalwhinnie Distillery. It is Scotland’s highest (in elevation) and coldest distillery. As someone who doesn’t like whisky too much, their’s was pretty good! It’s nicknamed “the gental spirit” for a reason. Book a tour before you arrive to learn how it’s made and then try a few whiskies at the end.
Fair warning: they let my partner (the driver) take a few sips to try it, but they seem very strict on not serving drivers any drinks at all. This was much appreciated once we started driving on the narrow, curvy roads that took us to Portree.
There are plenty of other options for stops between Edinburgh and Portree, including Inverness. That would be a very pretty place to spend an hour or two along the drive.
Day 4: Old Man of Storr Hike and Kilt Rock
Prepare yourself. This will likely be one of your favorite days of the whole trip. Head out in late morning and drive to the Old Man of Storr trailhead. There is a building with bathrooms and ample parking here.
The hike is about 3.5mi long and most of it is steep, but this is one of the best hikes I’ve ever done! The entire trail feels otherworldly. It feels like you’re on the set of Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. It’s at this point that you’ll realize why so many movies and shows are filmed in Scotland. It will take your breath away.
When you get to the top, just take it all in for a little while before you hike back down. The whole hike will likely take about 3 hours.
If you can, I’d highly recommend bringing hiking boots for this, but I understand that it’s a pain to pack hiking boots to use for only one or two days of the trip, especially if you’re trying to fit everything into a carryon suitcase. At the very least, wear tennis shoes.
After the hike, drive up to Kilt Rock and marvel at the water rushing over the edge of the cliffside.
After this, you’ll probably be hungry, so head back to Portree, grab a bit to eat, and explore some of the town. It’s a small town, but there are a few gift shops and the walk to the harbor is very pretty.
Day 5: Fairy Pools Hike and Neist Point
Day 5 starts off with another great hike on Isle of Skye: the Fairy Pools hike. This isn’t as strenuous as the hike yesterday. It’s more of a trail walk. You’ll park in a designated parking lot (with bathrooms!) and then walk along the trail. There will likely be others here, but if not, it’s not hard to see where you should walk.
Along the way, you’ll spot various waterfalls. Toward the end, you’ll find the Fairy Pools. In order to get the iconic photo you see whenever you Google “Fairy Pools”, you actually have to climb down to the water’s level. The trail is higher up. It’s a little scary, but totally doable.
You can keep walking even further after this, or turn back and walk the same trail you came in on.
When you make it back to your car, I’d suggest driving up to Neist Point. This is the Western-most point in Scotland and it’s beautiful. There is a penninsula with a lighthouse on it that makes for an amazing photo from the cliff’s edge. If you’re visiting in the fall like we did, just be warned that it can get VERY windy and rainy on that edge. It wasn’t easy getting to the point where we took the photo below, but it made for a great story of challenge and triumph!
You can walk down to the lighthouse if you’d like, or park and view it from the mainland.
Optional Extra Days in Portree
If you have more time to spend in Portree, or if you’d like to pack more activities into your days, here are a few more places worth visiting on Isle of Skye:
- Dunvegan Castle and Gardens: The castle is open for tours in April through October. After your tour of the grounds, there are also a few cafes here to eat at.
- Search for Highland Cows: There’s no one place to find highland cows, but if you have some extra time, drive around and try to spot some! They are beautiful.
- Quiraing Hike: This is a bit more strenuous of a hike and it’s only recommended in the summer because it can get very muddy. The views look beautiful!
- Eat at Three Chimneys: This is an excellent restaurant that serves only local foods. It was pricey, but it was one of the best meals of our lives. Make a reservation if you’d like to go!
–> Check out this post for more info on Isle of Skye: 10 Things to do on Isle of Skye <–
Day 6: Drive to Glasgow and Return Rental Car
You’ll be headed to your last stop on this Scotland road trip itinerary today. Hop in the rental car and head to Glasgow. In order to return our car in a different location than where we picked it up, we had to return it to the Glasgow airport. It was easy to do this and then catch a taxi at the taxi stand. Uber is also an option.
It takes about five and a half hours to drive from Portree to Glasgow. With stops along the way, there wasn’t much time to do anything besides get dinner when we arrived.
We decided to try some kebab and it was so good that we got it twice more while we were in Glasgow! I don’t even remember the name of the place we went, but any of the little kebab shops are going to be incredible.
Day 7: Glasgow Cathedral, Necropolis, and Buchanan Street
If I’m being completely honest, Glasgow wasn’t my favorite part of our trip, so I didn’t allocate too much time to it in this Scotland road trip itinerary. I didn’t like it nearly as much as I did Edinburgh and Isle of Skye. That said, I think it’s still worth visiting for a day or two.
The top things I’d recommend doing in Glasgow are touring the Cathedral and Necropolis. The Cathedral is beautiful and one of the older buildings in Glasgow. Necropolis is the gothic cemetary right behind the Cathedral. It sits upon a hill and is quite interesting to walk around and see the names of people who lived hundreds of years ago.
The other part of Glasgow that I’d recommend visiting is Buchanan Street. This is a pedestrian-only street and the older architecture with the cobblestone street gave me that European vibe I was craving.
There are a bunch of restaurants and shops down this street. You can make a reservation for afternoon tea, or just see where the day takes you.
If you’ve been to Glasgow and you recommend other things to do in the city, please leave them in the comments below! Like I mentioned before, if you have extra days to add onto your trip, I’d highly suggest allocating them to Edinburgh or Isle of Skye.
Scotland Road trip Itinerary for 7-10 Days
Day 1-2: Edinburgh
Day 3: Drive to Isle of Skye
Day 4-5: Isle of Skye
Day 6: Drive to Glasgow
Day 7: Glasgow
Days 8-10: Add some time onto Edinburgh or Isle of Skye
If you follow this Scotland road trip itinerary, or any part of it, please let me know in the comments below!