10 Day Scotland Road Trip Itinerary: Our Epic Highlands Adventure

Scotland Road Trip

Planning a Scotland road trip and not sure where to start? Our 10 day adventure through the Scottish Highlands was such an amazing experience! Follow along with our Scotland itinerary as we take you to some of the most beautiful castles, lochs, and nature of the Scottish Highlands. 

Quick Tips For Your 10 Day Scotland Road Trip

Before we dive into our 10 day Scotland Itinerary there’s a few general tips you should know. When heading out on one week trip or longer you’ll want to be prepared for everything and anything.

This can be especially important during the popular summer months when tourists visit in bunches. Here are the basics before we get into more fun tips and our own experience driving in the Scottish Highlands.

Booking Your Rental Car: You will most likely be renting a car for your Scotland road trip. This is something you’ll want to book as far in advance as possible.

During the summer months of July and August you’ll find that cars are more expensive and can sell out quickly at the smaller locations. We always use this company in Europe to find the best prices and compare different companies.

Drive on the Left: Wait, the left?? Unless you’ve been to the U.K. before (or other parts of the world) where they drive on the left hand side of the road, this is sure to be confusing. Luckily, we had some practice driving our campervan around New Zealand the year prior.

Still, coming from the United States it is a little strange to get used to. Know that many of the roads (specifically around Loch Ness) are extremely tight. Be patient along your Scotland road trip and don’t be afraid to let speedy locals pass when you need to.

Plan In Advance: After you’ve secured your rental car, the next thing you’ll want to do is look into is accommodations. We were very surprised that even planning 2 months in advance many hotels in the Scotland Highlands were already sold out!

This is due to the fact that many of the towns and villages are tiny and there just isn’t that much available to begin with. Sometimes you’ll even have to plan your Scotland itinerary around where you can actually stay. 

Surprisingly enough, this can also go for dining out. In towns like Fort William and Oban we were often eating early dinners as many of the places already had full reservations from 6pm on. If you want to eat at the best restaurants be sure to make a reservation days or even weeks ahead of time.

Prepare for Weather: The weather can get crazy in the Scottish Highlands even in the warmer months of summertime. Bring all the necessary gear like raincoats, hats, and other essentials. Also, be sure to pack some good walking or hiking shoes for the beautiful mountains in the Isle of Skye. 

Watch Your Gas: Our last 10 day Scotland road trip tip is to keep an eye on that gas! In some parts of the highlands you can go hours without seeing the next station. For this reason, we always made sure to have plenty of fuel to not put it to chance. 

→ 9 Easy Tips to Know Before Renting a Car in Scotland

Fun Scotland Road Trip

How Did We Plan Our 10 Day Scotland Itinerary?

When deciding your own Scotland itinerary know that it likely depends on your starting point. Many travelers will begin in the major cities of Edinburgh or Glasgow as they’ll be flying into the larger airports from around Europe. If that’s what you’re thinking,  you may want to alter your route a bit in comparison to ours. 

For us, it made sense to start in Inverness from Stonehaven before continuing onto the Isle of Skye. This Inverness to Skye route took us through Loch Ness and past the Eilean Donan Castle to the Skye Bridge.

After spending two incredible days in the Isle of Skye, we still had a lot to see.!From there, we explored the mountains of Fort William and ended back in Edinburgh before flying out.

There were so many gorgeous small towns that we could’ve spent a night in, and totally would have if we had more time. Really, it all depends on your travel style and what you’re trying to do and experience. 

Best Scotland Itinerary

How Long Do You Need For a Road Trip Around Scotland?

That’s a pretty hard question to answer! Obviously, there is more to this country than the Scottish Highlands. Most travelers have limited time so they just concentrate on the towns and spectacular views of this famous region.

Even if you’re just heading to the Scotland Highlands we still would plan for a minimum of one week. Know that the longer you have the better. For a more extensive trip through Scotland you’ll probably want to be in the 10-14 day range if you can manage it.

It’s also popular to fly into London and combine that with a Scotland road trip to see more of the United Kingdom. Flights between London and Edinburgh run multiple times a day and are typically not that expensive. 

 

Scotland Road Trip Tips

10 Day Scotland Highlands Road Trip Itinerary

Day 1 & 2: Starting from Stonehaven

Our Scotland journey began on the northeast coast in the charming town of Stonehaven. We actually spent a month living and working from this stunning coastal village before our road trip. Life in Stonehaven was simple and just what we needed after a wild month in Greece. 

Our days consisted of long strolls on the boardwalk, hanging at the cafes around town, and even the occasional lunch from our favorite fish n’ chips spot. We also took plenty of hikes to the nearby Dunnottar Castle which was truly magical. 

After a month of rest, we were ready to take on the Scottish Highlands! Jake’s dad joined us for our 10 day Scotland road trip which made it an even more exciting experience.

This also was great as they could take turns driving along our route. His father picked up the car in Edinburgh after landing and came to Stonehaven to spend a couple days before officially hitting the road. 

If you’re planning to start from this area of Scotland know that the closest airport is Aberdeen. You could easily fly into Aberdeen Airport and drive the same exact Scotland itinerary we did as it’s just a 20 minute drive from Stonehaven. 

There are some really cute bed and breakfast style accommodations right on the harbor. Some of the most popular are The Ship Inn, The Marine Hotel & Bayview Bed and Breakfast.

Scotland Road Trip Guide

Day 3: Afternoon at Balmoral Castle 

The first day of our 10 day Scotland itinerary began with a short 1 hour and 10 minute drive from Stonehaven to Balmoral Castle. This was a nice start to our Scotland itinerary as it didn’t entail too much driving before the first attraction.

The Balmoral Estate is known around the world as the summer residence of the British Royal Family. Between the months of April and July you are actually able to visit the castle grounds!

We had booked our tickets in advance as we did with most of the touristic stuff on our road trip. Arriving in early afternoon in July, the parking lot was already pretty packed with people. However, once we started our walk through the colorful gardens it was easy to spread out and didn’t feel overcrowded. 

After getting our first glimpse of the 19th century castle we headed towards the Ballroom exhibit. This is the only part of Balmoral you’re allowed to enter as it is still a working estate.

Don’t worry though! The rest of the castles on our Scotland itinerary you can thoroughly explore from top to bottom. We took about two hours here including a slightly pricey lunch at the Balmoral Cafe. 

→ Is Balmoral Castle Worth It? Our Day at the Royals’ Summer Estate

7 Day Scotland Road Trip Itinerary

Drive to Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands

After our visit to the Balmoral Castle we were off to see the Loch Ness monster! This is the most infamous folk tale of the Scottish Highlands and somewhere we were pumped to see. Although we may not have spotted Nessie, the two nights we spent on Scotland’s most popular Loch were such a fun time. 

The drive from Balmoral to Loch Ness took just over 2 hours, and was our first experience on the tight Scottish roads. Know that when we say tight, we mean it! We were constantly looking in the rear view mirrors to make sure we weren’t off the side while also watching for oncoming traffic. 

Keep in mind we were already trying to get used to driving on the left hand side. We consider ourselves pretty battle tested drivers after spending so much time in Europe and Southeast Asia. Still, nothing could’ve prepared us for the scenic route around Loch Ness. 

After a long day on the roads we were happy to arrive at the Loch Ness Clansman Hotel. It was right on the main road and had views of the water. Another great thing about Loch Ness Clansman Hotel is there is a dock running cruise tours right across the street. This means you can wake up and walk right down to your Loch Ness boat trip.

Scottish Highlands Road Trip

Day 4: Experiencing Loch Ness

Since we planned to circle Loch Ness completely that day, we decided to drive 10 minutes up the road to Dochgarroch Lock. This was a longer Loch Ness boat tour which allowed us to float up the canal and see a different side of the area. After a fun 2.5 hour cruise, we drove the rest of the way around Loch Ness and had lunch in Fort Augustus. 

This is a cute little town in the Scotland Highlands and definitely worth visiting if you have time. We enjoyed grabbing lunch in Fort Augustus and watching the 5 tiered loch raise water levels so boats could pass through. 

This was a great route as we had two days to explore Loch Ness. If you only plan to spend one night you can easily take a one hour Loch Ness cruise. They even have one cruise that includes a stop at the legendary Urquhart Castle.

Is a Loch Ness Cruise Worth It? Best Tips From Our Boat Tour!

Scotland Highlands Trip

Touring the Ruins of Urquhart Castle

On our way back to the hotel in Loch Ness we stopped at the first of two castles we would see in the Isle of Skye. Urquhart is one of the most famous in all of Scotland and it was amazing to see up close.

The ruins which sit on the banks of Loch Ness date back to the 13th century. Although much of Urquhart lies in rubble, we enjoyed walking through what’s still in tact and reading the placards around the site. 

The most interesting part about Urquhart was seeing how many battles it was involved in throughout history. Whether it was a daring raid by the MacDonald Clan, the fight for Scottish independence, or the Jacobite Rebellion, this castle saw so much! 

Our 2nd night we decided to leave the hotel and get dinner at Fiddlers Highland Restaurant. This was the first of many times we would get to taste Haggis which is the national dish of Scotland.

It ended up being one of the best dinners of our entire trip! Whiskey lovers will also appreciate this restaurant as the walls are literally lined with bottles.

→ 10 Amazing Facts About Urquhart Castle On Loch Ness

Best Highlands Road Trip

Day 5: Fun Drive to the Isle of Skye

After our full day on Loch Ness we woke up refreshed and ready to head to the Isle of Skye. This was a portion of our Scotland itinerary that we were ecstatic for.

It would also be one of the longest days of driving for us on our entire road trip. From Loch Ness to where we were staying in Carbost it took about 3 hours. Even so, we were happy to get off the narrow roads around Loch Ness and onto some easier ones.

The drive took us through the rugged mountains of Scotland where we saw the beautiful heather flowers blooming. Once we started to approach the Isle of Skye, it only became a more glorious scenic route than we could’ve imagined… And we weren’t even to the best parts yet! 

One Incredible Day in the Isle of Skye! Our Experience in Scotland

Scottish Road Trip Route

Visiting Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland’s Highlands

One of our first official stops in the Isle of Skye was yet another majestic castle. Eilean Donan is set on a small island and holds hundreds of years of history.

The first castle was built here in the mid-13th century to defend the Western Highlands from the devastating viking raids of its time. Much like Urquhart Castle, Eilean Donan saw its fair share of battles and bloodshed. 

The castle was actually destroyed during the Jacobite Rebellion in 1719 and would lay in ruin for the next 200 years. It would be purchased in 1911 and rebuilt over the next 20 years into what you see today.

Even though it is a reconstruction of the original, it was still amazing to walk through Eilean Donan Castle. We enjoyed reading about the history of the castle ruins and taking in the views of the sea loch.  

→ How to Visit Eilean Donan: Our Tour of the Famous Scotland Castle

Eilean Donan Castle Scotland

Hiking to the Scotland Highlands Fairy Pools

Since we couldn’t check into our Airbnb in Carbost until 4pm we decided to head straight to the Fairy Pools hike. Check out the Trien Lodge if you’re looking for a highly rated place to stay on the way into town.

The cascading waterfalls in Glen Brittle are definitely a highlight of the Isle of Skye. They get their name after the mythological creatures called selkies who once were said to have frequented the waters. 

One reason we chose to stay in Carbost was that it was just a 15 minute drive to the Fairy Pools. This meant after our hike we were super close to our accommodation. 

The drive up was another tight Scotland Highland road that you need to pay attention on. It’s mostly one lane with various passing places along the route. Try and stay courteous of your fellow drivers and be the one to pull over when the designated passing spots come about.

On the afternoon we went to the Fairy Pools it was cloudy and misty with light rain. However, this only added to the mystique of this special place! As soon as we arrived, we immediately saw why the Scots could imagine a supernatural presence here.

The waterfalls seemed to go on forever, flowing endlessly underneath the Black Cuillin mountains. The out of this world views only got better as we got closer to the top. 

The hike itself is 2.4 km round trip and not too difficult. Just beware of the loose pebbly path as you walk along the waterfalls. Some travelers will even swim in the pools during the summer, but we didn’t see anyone taking a dip during our trip. 

Unfortunately, on our walk back down from the Fairy Pools we were hit with an unrelenting rain storm. This would be the worst weather we’d experience on our entire Scotland Road trip and get to our place in Carbost to dry off.

→ 7 Must Know Tips For the Isle of Skye Fairy Pools in Scotland

Nothing Familiar Fairy Pools

Staying in Carbost Scotland

We decided to stay in Carbost as it was a central location to some of the best things to do in the Isle of Skye. From here, we could easily get to the greatest hikes and coastal areas on our 10 day Scotland itinerary.

If there was more hotels available we may have stayed in the main town of Portree or somewhere else. As we mentioned before though, even planning months in advance we didn’t see many options to stay in the actual Isle of Skye. 

We were honestly super lucky to find the Airbnb we did! Otherwise, we probably would’ve had to stay in Inverness or somewhere else and take day trips. From here it would’ve been a lot more time driving and less time actually experiencing this beautiful region. 

We decided to book our place for two nights as we arrived in the late afternoon. If you’re planning to stay or visit Carbost then there’s a couple of places you have to go. The first stop should be at the Oyster Shed which is located just above town. Here they sell cheap oyster, lobsters, and more delicious seafood! 

Also, know that Carbost is home to one of the best whiskey distilleries in the Scottish Highlands. Take a tour of the Talisker Distillery and grab a bottle as a souvenir or to drink on your Scotland road trip.

For your morning cup of joe be sure to head to Caora Dhubh Coffee Company. Aside from a little grocery store, this is actually the extent of food and drink options available in this tiny Scotland Highlands town.

Scottish Highlands Road Trip Guide

Day 6: Hiking the Old Man of Storr 

The next day we woke up bright and early ready for another hike. The Old Man of Storr is one of the most famous hikes in Scotland and the jagged rock formations are something you may have seen in photos. Unlike the Fairy Pools, we arrived at 9am before many other tourists did. 

We definitely appreciated the extra room on the path as it can get very busy in the afternoon. The 3.8km hike took us about 1.5 hours from start to finish. It’s definitely a more difficult incline than the Fairy Pools, but we saw plenty of younger kids and older folks walking it. 

The views as you approach the Old Man of Storr are unreal. At the very top, you’ll have an epic view of the special rocks and the Scotland Highlands in the distance.  

→ 8 Top Things to Know For the Old Man of Storr Hike in Scotland

Scotland Route Old Man of Storr

Old Man of Storr

Scotland Road Trip Isle of Skye

Day 7: Dinner in Fort William 

On day five of our Scotland road trip we started making our way back towards Edinburgh. Our next stop would be in Fort William where we would stay overnight and do some mountain biking at Nevis Range the following day. 

While we could’ve driven back over the bridge then cut down to Fort William, we decided to take the ferry instead. The short 30 minute boat ride went took us from Armadale to Mallaig.

This saved us a bit of time and was also a fun way to get on the water with our car. We recommend booking the ferry at least a week in advance during the summer months. It was packed full so it’s doubtful you would’ve been able to get a ticket the day of. 

Since we would be mountain biking early the next morning, we decided to stay at Nevis Range Base Camp Hotel instead of in Fort William. Nevis Range is a popular ski resort in the wintertime in Scotland. Yet, in the summer it turns into a mountain biking paradise. It even plays host to the World Cup of Downhill Cycling in August!

Fort William is the large town about 20 minutes drive from Nevis Range. After checking in, we took a rest for a couple hours before heading out for dinner.

Once we got to Fort William we realized we had made a mistake not pre-booking a reservation. We ended up missing out on some of the higher rated restaurants because of this but found a table at the local Tavern Restaurant. 

Nothing Familiar Scotland Route

Day 8: Nevis Range & Oban Scotland

The next morning we woke up and headed down for breakfast at the cafe hotel. We had reserved our mountain bikes a couple weeks prior and they were ready for us to ride at 9am. 

It’s important to know that even the easier downhill mountain biking trails here take some level of experience. We stuck to the blue runs and didn’t attempt any of the more advanced tracks. There were also miles of flat trails from the parking lot which are more for beginners. 

Not planning on mountain biking at Nevis Range? Well, know that it’s still worth visiting and taking the Gondola up. From the top you’ll have epic views of the Britain’s largest mountain range and beyond!

What’s it Like Biking at Nevis Range Mountain Resort? 2023 Guide

Ben Nevis Cable Car

Fun Highlands Scotland Road Trip

​One Night in the Seafood Capital of the Scottish Highlands

After a fun day at Nevis Range we were off to our final stop before the capital city. Oban was the perfect place to use as a midway point between Fort William and Edinburgh. And, oh are we so glad we stopped in the seafood capital of Scotland! 

Once we’d checked into the No17 The Promenade hotel we headed straight to the city center to eat. Oban Seafood Hut is located near the ferry terminal and has classics like scallops, lobsters, oysters, and so much more. The mixed seafood platter we got here was a highlight of our food tour of Scotland! 

Oban is known as the “Gateway to the Isles” for its close proximity to the Isle of Mull, Kerrera, and Lisborne. In fact, you can take the ferry right from Oban’s port to any of them. 

Later that evening we explored more of Oban and went to dinner at the Waterfront Fishhouse Restaurant. This was a more upscale dining experience than earlier in the day and the food was delicious. The next morning we drove up to Mccaig’s Tower for a better view of the city before taking off. 

→ Oban Scotland: Why You’ll Love the Seafood Capital of Scotland

Best Highlands Scotland Road Trip

Day 9 & 10: Edinburgh History and More Delicious Food  

The next day we would have quite a long 3 hour drive from Oban to Edinburgh. It was a tad bittersweet that our 10 day Scotland road trip was coming to an end, but we were so excited to see the capital city! We also planned to end here so we could fly out of Edinburgh Airport to our next destination.

We had learned from past mistakes and made dinner reservations beforehand for our nights in Edinburgh. Th first night we went to Mother India’s Cafe which was one of the best Indian meals we’ve had! The UK is known to have great Indian food this spot definitely lived up to the hype. 

What’s the Best Food in Scotland? 26 Must Try Dishes & Drinks

Exploring Edinburgh Castle 

Our second day in Edinburgh was spent exploring by foot. One thing we love about this city is that it’s large, but also very walkable. After a nice coffee and scone we headed to the massive castle above Edinburgh. Definitely make sure you book a time slot to enter the castle if you’re visiting in the summer like we did!

As you could expect the castle was crowded in mid-July with tourists. We toured the grounds ourselves and took in the views of Edinburgh. We even saw one of the country’s most sacred treasures here called the Jewels of Scotland.

​In total, we spent about 3 hours wandering around the inside of the castle and experiencing the many exhibits. You could probably spend an entire day here with how much there is to do and see!

5 Awesome Edinburgh Castle Tips to Help Plan Your First Visit

Scotland Itinerary Road Trip

Walking the Royal Mile

The Royal Mile is a long shopping street full of great restaurants and cafes. This used to be the very place where Scotland’s great Kings and Queens would come for their processions en route to the castle.

Now maybe this wasn’t the best time of year to visit as some places felt like we could barely move with people. Still, it was very cool to see this historic street in all its glory.

That night for dinner we knew we had to go out with a bang. We reserved a 5pm table at Miller & Carter as we had flights early the next morning. Here we would have a tremendous steak dinner we will never forget! Definitely check this spot out if you’re heading to Edinburgh old town. 

The airport is just a short 20-30 minute drive from Edinburgh depending on the traffic. Know that Glasgow isn’t so far away either if you can find better flights from the neighboring city.

Royal Mile Edinburgh: Tourist Trap or Worth Seeing in Scotland?

Scotland Travel Guide

What Would We Change About Our 10 Day Scotland Road Trip?

All in all, we had such an incredible 10 day Scotland itinerary! Of course, we always could’ve used a little more time to fully take in the Scottish Highlands. Our trip was technically 8 days because we ended up staying an extra night in Edinburgh. 

Also, if you want to include Stonehaven (where we started from) we would recommended adding 2 more nights to your trip! We would say that the route we did is considered the “popular” tourist route.

However, it never felt too busy or crowded turning our trip. We would love to see other parts of the country such as the north coast of the Scottish Highlands. 

One the hardest parts about planning out a trip like this is managing the driving. It’s difficult to balance how much time to be in the car vs the number of stops you’ll make.

No matter where you plan to visit you’re sure to have a great time on your Scotland road trip! If you have any questions or want to share your own 10 day Scotland road trip please let us know in the comments below. 

Safe Travels,
Brigitte & Jake

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Scotland

Scotland Travel Planning

 Rental Car: The best way to get around Scotland is by rental car! We always use Discover Cars when traveling in Europe and have found some great deals by booking in advance.

Transportation: Omio is a great place to search for trains, buses, and transfers while traveling through Scotland.

 Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for activities all over Scotland. You can find everything from a Scottish Highlands tour from Edinburgh to a Loch Ness boat cruise, Harry Potter Magical Guided Walking Tour, and even chocolate making classes.

 Flights: It’s easy to find cheap flight deals using Skyscanner and Kayak. That’s how we got flights from London to Aberdeen for $30 USD and Edinburgh to Budapest for less than $80! 

 Accommodation: Compare multiple sites for the best prices such as Booking.com and Agoda. Also,  Hostelworld should be your go-to if you’re traveling on a budget. 

 Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without protection. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.

 Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials

Scotland Travel

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