The Ultimate Scotland Road Trip

Thinking about a Scotland road trip, but aren’t sure where to start? Then this is the post for you! This road trip takes 18-20 days and takes you to about 40 castles, forts, historical and archeological sites around Scotland. Staying in 5 different towns that you’ll use as your bases, you’ll spend nearly three weeks seeing some of Scotlands most picturesque countryside and famous sights while getting off the beaten path and exploring some of Scotlands lesser known treasures, as well.

CLICK ON THE MAP FOR A DETAILED VIEW OF ROUTE AND STOPS

Trip Duration: 18 days

MAIN STOPS (sleeping destinations):

  1. Edinburgh
  2. Aberdeen
  3. Inverness
  4. Portree
  5. Stirling

COST OF TRIP: ~$5000US for two people (airfare, accommodations, transportation, sights/attractions, dining, & spending cash included)

MODE OF TRANSPORTATION: Rental Car

STOPS/SIGHTS ALONG ROUTE: (1) Edinburgh Castle, (2) Calton Hill, (3) The Royal Mile, (4) Holyrood Palace & Park, (5) Mary King’s Close, (6) King Arthur’s Seat, (7) Queen Mary’s Bath House, (8) St. Andrews Castle, (9) St. Andrews Cathedral, (10) St. Andrews Castle, (11) Glamis Castle, (12) Dunnottar Castle, (13) Castle Fraser, (14) Craigievar Castle, (15) Corgarff Castle, (16) Cawdor Castle, (17) Inverness Castle, (18) Culloden Battlefield, (19) Clava Cairns, (20) Loch Ness, (21) Urquhart Castle, (22) Fort Augustus, (23) Eilean Donan, (24) Portree, (25), The Storr, (26) Quiraing, (27) Kilt Rock, (28) The Fairy Glen, (29) Duntulm Castle, (30) Dunvegan Castle, (31) The Fairy Pools, (32) Invergarry Castle, (33) Glencoe, (34) Doune Castle, (35) The Kelpies, (36) William Wallace’s Cave, (37) Stirling Castle, (38) The William Wallace Monument,

MUST TRY FOOD & DRINK: Gamma Ray IPA, fish & chips, scotch pies, scotch egg, Cullen skink, local game, haggis, traditional Scottish breakfast, Scotch/Whiskey (obviously!)

TIME OF YEAR: Middle of May to beginning of August (Ave temps in the high 50s*F)

MUST HAVE: Scottish Heritage Pass

CLOTHES TO BRING: Lots and lots of layers, pants and even tights/leggings to go underneath them, hiking shoes/sneakers, rain jackets, long pea coats, scarves, gloves, and an umbrella.

GEAR TO BRING: Digital camera (preferably DSLR), collapsible backpack for hiking, tablet (I never go anywhere without my IPad)

Edinburgh

The capital City of Scotland, Edinburgh is home to Edinburgh Castle, the Scottish Crown Jewels, the Stone of Destiny, the Royal Mile, and many more exciting sites, artifacts, and tales.

We took a cab from the airport to the city center for about £20 and arrived at our airbnb around 6p. The sun doesn’t set until nearly 10p during the summer months so there was plenty of light for us to explore the city a bit and gain our bearings before setting out the next morning.

DAY 1: The Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle, Calton Hill

DAY 2: Holyrood Palace & Park, Queen Mary’s Bath House, Margaret’s Well, King Arthur’s Seat

DAY 3: Mary King’s Close, Dean Village & Surrounding area

On our final day in Edinburgh we woke up early to grab breakfast at The Black Fox before making our way back to the airport to pick up our rental car; a Nissan Jazz 4 door compact car. It was a bitchin’ ride 😉

St. Andrews

A small university town located along the east coast about 30 miles (50km) northeast of Edinburgh. St. Andrews is famous for being the birthplace of golf, and it’s university which was founded in 1412. There are also numerous ruins in the area to explore including, but definitely not limited to, St. Andrews Castle and Cathedral. We were just passing through St. Andrews on our way to Aberdeen so we didn’t spend the evening (I definitely wish we had), but we did have lunch at this adorable Italian restaurant (my boyfriend is a fiend for pizza) and were able to see some of the more famous sites.

WHERE TO STAY: Anywhere right around the Cathedral/University

DURATION OF STAY: 1-2 days

WHERE TO EAT: Zizzi Italian Restaurant; or anywhere else along A918.

SITES TO SEE: St Andrews Cathedral, St Andrews Castle, Old Course, St Andrews Botanic Garden, University of St Andrews

You’ll need at least two days to see all the main sights that St. Andrews has to offer and the ones listed above barely start to scratch the surface

Aberdeenshire

A little further north up the coast from St. Andrews, Aberdeen makes an amazing base for exploring the region known as Aberdeenshire. The area is famous for it’s numerous archeological sites, castles, and other historic buildings. The city itself is business and education driven with a large university (SECRET TIP: There is a student run restaurant within the University that is supposed to be one of the best spots to eat in Aberdeen but it’s difficult to get in as it’s only open for diners on Thursday and not open to the direct public).

From Aberdeen there are literally countless sites and excursions for you to take so plan on waking up early daily and having a rental car to maximize your ability to site-see.

WHERE TO STAY: Aberdeen AirBnB

DURATION OF STAY: 2-3 days

WHERE TO EAT: BrewDog Aberdeen

SITES TO SEE: Castle Trail (Craigievar castle, Fraser Castle, Cawdor Castle, Glamis Castle, Dunnottar Castle), Corgarff Castle

SIDE NOTE: Aberdeenshire is home to over 260 castles (many privately owned) and you can explore 19 of them on the castle trail so plan accordingly.

Driving from Aberdeen to Inverness along the route we took was one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever taken in my life. I wish we had stopped more often to snag more pictures of the landscape because it was stunning, to say the least!

Inverness

Loving referred to as the Gateway to the North, Inverness is a taste of both the lowlands and the highlands in one compact little bite. Of all the places that we visited, Inverness is the one that hit home for me. Perhaps it was the chic dining and shopping mixed with the rugged highlander origins, but I would drop anything to up and move to Inverness. Not only was our AirBnB the absolute most amazing unit we’ve ever stayed in, but the city itself is a gem and absolutely CANNOT be missed along any Scottish tour. *If you’re an Outlander fan, this is a must-see on your trip* You’ll see Urquhart Castle and Eilean Donan along the way towards Isle of Skye.

DURATION OF STAY: 2-3days

WHERE TO STAY: Grieg Street Apartment AirBnB

SITES TO SEE: Inverness Castle, Culloden Battle Field, Clava Cairns, Fort Augustus, Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness, Eilean Donan

WHERE TO EAT: The Kitchen Brasserie

Isle of Skye

A tough runner up to Inverness for me was Isle of Skye. Not only was it some of the most stunning landscapes that I’ve ever seen but it’s got endless activities to keep you entertained during your stay.

DURATION OF STAY: 3-4 days

WHERE TO STAY: Portree AirBnB , or anywhere near the direct city center

WHERE TO EAT: No*2 (Get the mussels if they’re available)

SITES TO SEE: Portree waterfall, Kilt Rock, Duntulm Castle, Dunvegan Castle, Fairy Glen, Fairy Pools, Quiraing, Old Man of Storr

Stirling

If I was to move anywhere in Scotland besides Inverness it would be Stirling. It has those big city feels of Edinburgh while still having the quiet, quaintness of Inverness.

DURATION OF STAY: 2-3 days

WHERE TO STAY: Friars Wynd Hotel

WHERE TO EAT: Brew Dog Stirling, Brea Restaurant, Herrmann’s, The Gallery Restaurant (on campus restaurant)

SITES TO SEE: Stirling Castle, The William Wallace Monument, Dunblane Cathedral, Old Town jail, Doune Castle, the Falkirk Kelpies

Wherever you choose to go in Scotland you wont be disappointed, and renting a car is definitely the way to go as you’ll have the freedom to stop and explore at your leisure. My #1 tip? Research. Research. Research. I know I probably sound like a broken record as I say this in nearly every post, but having the due diligence to research ahead of time and find things to see and do that are of direct interest to you. Believe me though, whether you’re hiking around the countryside, exploring castles a plenty, or enjoying time strolling through the cities, you’re sure to fall in love with Scotland.

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