Bubbly Tourist created this itinerary for a recent road trip in Scotland. Whether you have 4, 7 or 14 days you can use this itinerary to explore the best places to visit and things to do within Scotland. We have identified the must-see locations below that will dictate your minimum length of stay. Also within this post is a map of Scotland including these key locations and total miles with drive time.
Click on each location (it will expand for you) to find specific places to visit, things to do, and driving details for that location.
Stirling Castle (1 hour from Edinburgh) - "He who holds Stirling holds Scotland"
60 minutes out of Edinburgh is this amazing historic castle in the town of Stirling. You'll learn about Scotland's amazing history and about the fighting amongst themselves and with the British. Stirling Castle also gives you great 360° views of the surrounding countryside. This explains why it was one of the most important strategic castles in Scotland and why "He who holds Stirling holds Scotland". Book in advance and get a excellent guided tour inside and out.
Oban (one day) - The seafood capital of Scotland!
Head west from Stirling Castle for 2 hours to arrive along the coast in Oban.
Things to do and see in Oban (pronounced O bin):
Eat fresh seafood. Given it's the seafood capital of Scotland, there is no shortage of restaurants serving fresh caught fish. One place we ate at was the Oban Seafood Hut (Green Shack) right on the pier and had the fresh oysters.
The Oban Distillery. Founded in 1794. It's nestled right in the city center and provides tours. We learned how to properly drink whisky. This is a must-do.
Walk along the harbor. It's an easy and short stroll from the pier up along the bay on the Promenade. There are historical markers with QR codes that help guide your tour. On the north end of the bay, there is also a trail that cuts through the woods for a short walk to the Dunollie Museum, Castle and Grounds. It's quiet and picturesque!
Scottish music and dancing. Listen to the bagpipes and watch the lads and lasses dance authentically. We went to the View Oban to listen to the music and where we could also watch the sunset over the harbor with a drink in hand.
Buy some Harris Tweed. If you like fine woolen argyll patterns on your clothes or bags then there's a nice shop in town. And you won't have to go to the Isle of Harris - where they're made - to buy some.
Dunstaffnage Castle and Chapel. It's a ten minute drive out of Oban, but was worth it as we had a delightful walk along the castle grounds and saw the blue bells blooming in their glory. You can walk the grounds, woods and see the old ruined chapel for free. If you want to go into the castle, there's a fee. There's not many tourists, so it's quiet and peaceful. We saw several locals meeting there, so there's something about its serenity that attracts!
Eilean Donan Castle (between Oban and Isle of Skye) - Picture perfect postcard
Head 2.5 hours north from Oban to arrive at the Eilean Donan Castle. It is a pretty spectacular site making it a popular tourist destination. It's an opening scene in the movie, The Highlander, so that right there makes it worth visiting, right? There's a fee to walk the grounds and an additional fee to go in the castle. We did the walk outside and there were QR codes to help guide us.
Isle of Skye (one to two days) - spectacular desolate scenery. A must-see.
From the Eilean Donan Castle, its less than 30 minutes to the bridge that crosses over to the Isle of Skye at Kyle of Lochalsh.
Things to do and see in Isle of Skye:
The Quiraing walk. See photo above. It's very green but desolate. Drive the one lane tracks to the car park up in the mountain and there's a hike that takes you along a path that's not too difficult. The views are spectacular.
Fairy Glen. Rolling landscape that is very shire-esque. It's like Hobbiton without the gardens. The landscape has easy walkable paths that makes you feel like there are fairies hiding in the woods.
Dunvegan Castle and Gardens. The home of the clan MacLeod. There's no Highlander here but the MacLeod sword that's visible inside the castle makes you almost believe that there can be only one. The gardens are beautiful and extensive and the castle tour is quite interesting and loaded with history about the MacLeods throughout their 800 year history.
The Old Man of Storr. An ancient rock formation. There's a hike to the top that's moderately difficult. You can map yourself to the car park. Bubbly Tourist had this on top of our list to see, but when arrived here we couldn't see the "Old Man" and since the trail went straight up the mountain, we decided to pass on the hike.
Applecross Pass (between Isle of Skye and Northwest Highlands)
We were told by a local on Isle of Skye that this is a must-do while in Scotland, especially if you're on a motorcycle. Leaving Isle of Skye, there are one lane tracks through a harrowing mountain climb that awaits you. This is desolate country where nothing seems to grow and you can actually get above the clouds with an interesting view back across the water to Isle of Skye (see photo below). But then you descend back to the green pastoral land you've become accustomed to as you approach Applecross and once again you're WOW'd by its splendor. Applecross is a cute town at the water's edge that allows you to take a break.
Northwest Highlands (one to two days) - amazing lochs and beaches. A must-see.
Head north out of Applecross along the coast towards Kalnakill to continue the amazing pastoral views ahead. It's about 2.5 hours from Applecross to Ullapool. We chose to drive another 45 minutes from Ullapool to Polglass so we could stay further up the coast with views of the Summer Isles.
Things to Do and See in the Northwest Highlands:
Achmelvich Beach. Are you kidding with this view? See photo above. Map yourself to the car park and walk one of several trails to different beaches. You can't see them from the car park so prepared to be WOW'd! The water is cold so you know you're not in the Caribbean, but you could be fooled by the clear blue and green water with white sandy beaches. The beaches are also connected by trails through the hills.
Drive the One Lane tracks and absorb the scenery. Explore the landscape and pull over at the numerous breathtaking vistas across the green landscape and lochs. The vistas at each turn are simply gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! Note: you can't go anywhere in these parts without traveling down the one lane tracks. These roads are wide enough for one car but go both directions. No worries, there are clearly marked "passing places" where you can easily pass one another.
Descend from the north down to Altandhu. The views of the Summer Isles as you descend down to the town by car are spectacular. We pulled over at a passing place as we wound our way down the mountain just north of town and walked the very short trail marked with a "view" that was mind blowing. It was windy and still a bit cool in mid-June but well worth the view of the water and all the isles.
Hiking. The road from Ullapool to Polglass passes numerous mountains and lochs where you can hike. You'll find convenient car parks like the one at Stac Pollaidh. The scenery on the drive is so picturesque that you'll find yourself saying "wow" more than you can count. We did an easy 45 minute walk at the bay in Polglass on the Achlochan Coastal Path to pass a 2000 year old ruined broch while taking in sea life like seals and otters and enjoying sunset views of the Summer Isles.
Highland Stoneware Pottery. In case you like pottery, then this is a terrific storefront to visit that uses local minerals to enhance the colors in their pottery. It's not usually our thing, but surprisingly we ended up buying stoneware after noticing their plates being used at our hotel. You can find the store in Lochinver.
Speyside Whisky Country (one to two days) - "Today's rain is tomorrow's Whisky"
It's a 2.5 hour direct drive from Ullapool to the town of Craigellachie. However, there are the off-the-beaten-path sites of Corrieshalloch Gorge National Nature Reserve and the Balnuaran clava cairns that are worth seeing on the way there.
Things to do and see in Speyside Whisky Country:
Whisky distillery tour. It's the greatest concentration of whisky distilleries in the world, so take your pick. BUT, book way ahead for some of the bigger named distilleries. We booked Balvenie 3 months in advance and we still had to settle for a less desirable timeslot. Balvenie does virtually all phases of the entire whisky making process in house (including the cooperage) so this is a very interesting and educational tour. Be aware of the zero tolerance of drink driving. They test.
Drop in for a tasting and not the tour. Some of the distilleries will allow you taste right in the front store without a fee. We did this at Aberlour and Strathisla (home of Chivas Regal). The employees are more than happy to give you a chance to dry their various whiskies.
Visit the gardens at the whisky estates. Tired of spirits or just not interested (gasp)? We visited the gardens at Glen Grant estate and were blown away! A must-see. See the glorious rhododendrons and their private path along the stream tucked away in the woods and you'll be back in serenity bliss. They have done an amazing job of taking care of the gardens and are free to visit. We also saw the Packhorse Bridge at Glenlivet Estate quite by accident on our drive out. It's several stone arched bridges with grass growing over it with wild flowers in abundance. That was a lucky find!
Not interested in whisky, try gin. There are a fair number of gin distilleries in the area. We went to Eight Lands and drove a little ways through beautiful pastoral country to get there! They offer several spirits to taste and a tour with booking. Also, sample a local gin at the restaurants. There usually is quite a selection.
Balmoral Castle (between Whisky and St. Andrews) - where the Royals vacation
We chose to see the Balmoral Castle because it is where the Royal family vacations every August (be aware: it's not open in August). Book your timeslot in advance. You can walk the entire grounds but you'll only see a small fraction of the castle, the Ballroom. It makes sense that the royals don't want you mucking up their living space. What's interesting are all the royal family pictures on display in the Ballroom. It feels like a glimpse onto their fireplace mantle with this all the numerous photos throughout time. There are plenty of walks on the grounds and even a very pretty and sparsely used path along the river which is quite serene. It's 1.25 hours by car from Craigellachie to Balmoral Castle. From the castle, it's only a 30 minute drive to the Douneside House and Health Club.
The Old Course, St. Andrews (1.5 hours drive from Edinburgh) - the birthplace of golf
Before heading to The Old Course, take the 1 hour drive southeast from Douneside to the coastal town of Stonehaven and visit the must-see historic and ruined Dunnottar Castle. Allow yourself at least a couple of hours. Then head south and pay homage to the OG of golf where the game was first played 600 years ago and legends have since left their mark. It's surprisingly easy to access but to golf is a different story. We drove right up to the golf shop and parked 10 meters from it and purchased golf attire and strolled through the hotel that borders the infamous golf course. To play, you'll need to submit a ballot on their website that is drawn two days ahead of play. For golfers, this is an absolute must-see and for golf fanatics this is a must-do.
Edinburgh (two to three days) - beautiful old city with a rich history. A must-see.
Head south 1.25 hours from St. Andrews to Edinburgh and drop off your car. You won't need it in the city because of the city transportation and the central proximity of everything. Tip: taking the tram into the city from Edinburgh airport is cheap and is a piece of cake. Simply walk out the front doors and follow the signs to "trams" and buy your ticket before getting on.
Things to see and do in Edinburgh:
Edinburgh Castle. This is the number one tourist attraction in Edinburgh but is soo worth it. For one, it holds the Honours: The Scottish Crown Jewels. These are the Crown, Scepter and Sword of State used in the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots in 1543 and are displayed in the Ancient Crown room. Secondly, there's the Stone of Destiny used to coronate King Charles and many Kings and Queens throughout history. Finally, at one o'clock. there's the cannon fire announcing the time to the rest of the city. It's found at the top of the Royal Mile, a gradual incline from the Royal Palace. You'll need to book in advance.
Sir Walter Scott Monument. See photo above. You can't help but notice this from many vantage points throughout Edinburgh. This tribute to the infamous Scotsman is centrally located along the Victoria Street parks near the train station and quite frequently has performing artists playing right in the street.
Saint Giles Cathedral. This cathedral founded in 1124 is located on the Royal Mile is magnificent and is free. The naves are stunning and can also be found in a royal blue.
The Closes of the Royal Mile. Today there remains over 84 'closes', 'wynds' and 'courts' which are the narrow streets that jut off the Royal Mile to a secret world behind. These are so much fun to explore individually because each one is so unique. Take the time to do so and you'll find museums, restaurants, courtyards, pubs, vistas and more. One of our favorites takes you to the Writer's Museum which is a small court walk to Jolly Judge, an out of the way pub with character inside and outdoor seating.
Arthur's Seat. At the bottom of the Royal Mile near the Palace and Scottish Parliament Building in Holyrood Park you'll find the trail head to Arthur's Seat. This is a strenuous hike straight up an ancient volcano to the main peak of a group of hills with magnificent views. It will take you at least 45 minutes to climb to the top. If you prefer a shorter but still strenuous walk, you can branch off to the right of the trail head immediately in the park and still see beautiful views of Edinburgh without the time commitment of the full walk to Arthur's Seat.
Stockbridge. This cute part of Edinburgh has a village vibe and is a 20 minute cobble stoned walk from city center. This affluent part of town is lined with Elegant Georgian and Victorian terraced house and offers excellent restaurants, drink establishments and is home to the Royal Botanic Garden along the Water of Leith. Come here to chill from the tourists and explore more of its features.
Itinerary Map of the Best Places to Visit in One Week (or two) in Scotland
Our trip followed this map clockwise originating and ending in Edinburgh. It's almost 21 hours of drive time (over 800 miles), and that doesn't include any side trips. Each of the stops along this drive are discussed in detail above.