Are you planning a 10 day trip to Scotland? Or perhaps you’ve already arrived and you’re looking for ideas of what you can do here. Bonnie Scotland may be on the small side, but there is plenty to see and do.
It was always my dream to move to Scotland and I am proud to call Edinburgh home. I’ve managed to explore almost every corner of this incredible country since moving to Edinburgh in 2018; I have travelled Scotland by car, train, bus, ferry and on foot. In 2018 I walked the length of Scotland which meant I visited some very off-the-beaten path places, many of which I will share with you in my ultimate 10 day Scotland itinerary.
I’ve even created a printable checklist for you to download for FREE! It includes all the activities I’ve mentioned in this itinerary, and there’s even some space to add your own bucket list items. You’ll find download link at the bottom of this article.
This itinerary contains the best of Scotland. You will visit many different cities, towns and villages. Of course, if you prefer slow travel, you don’t have to visit every location in this itinerary- simply pick the places that appeal to you the most and spend a little longer in these areas. The reason I’ve included so many attractions in this itinerary is so that you can choose which ones appeal the most to you. It’s not expected that you will get through absolutely everything! Also, if this isn’t your first visit to Scotland, you’ll find some more off-beat options too.
That’s not all- I’ve also made recommendations on accommodation and the best places to eat and drink!
I’m now excited to bring to you the perfect Scotland itinerary for 10 days of travel.
What can you see with 10 days in Scotland?
If you’re planning a Scotland itinerary 10 days should be enough time to see all the main attractions. Scotland is a relatively small country (it has a population of 5.4 million) and it takes just under 7 hours to drive from the bottom to the very top!
In my ultimate 10 day Scotland itinerary you will see ancient castles, cathedral and abbey ruins, highland cattle, medieval buildings. You will wander down cobble stone streets to the sound of bagpipers busking on the streets, and polish off a day of exploring with a hearty Scottish meal washed down with a dram of whisky. You’ll see the Scottish coast, visit a Scottish island, and lose your senses in the Scottish Highlands.
Basically, you will experience everything you should experience when visiting Scotland in 10 days- plus some wonderful off-beat options!
Car Hire for a 10 Day Scotland Road Trip
In order to see and experience all Scotland has to offer, you will need to hire a car. Scotland does have a great public transport system, however to experience the very best of Scotland [and to complete this itinerary] I highly recommend hiring a car.
Renting a car isn’t as cheap as it is in the United States, but it ultimately will save you time and money if you’re planning on spending some time here.
So what is the best option for car rental in Scotland?
Hiring a car in Scotland allows you to get off the beaten track- you may even run into some wildlife while doing so!
Auto Europe is a car rental agency I recommend for many reasons. Firstly, they compare prices from different rental agencies so you can find the vehicle you are looking for for the best price [they operate similarly to Skyscanner, but for car hire]. They also have great deals on car insurance.
For navigation, I rely on Google Maps which I use on my phone. You can also hire navigation for a small price through Auto Europe too.
You’ll drive on average for 3 hours per day on this 10 day scotland road trip itinerary, which is split up throughout the day.
The Very Best of Scotland Itinerary 10 days
Day 1: Explore Edinburgh
You’ll need a full day to experience the thriving capital of Scotland. You’ll want to rise early to make the most of your time here- there is plenty to see and do!
For those who are planning on spending more time in Edinburgh, I’ve written a more comprehensive list of activities here.
The view from Calton Hill in Edinburgh
Recommended accommodation in Edinburgh
Hostels: Castle Rock Hostel is a fantastic hostel and is one of Scotland’s top hostels [I once lived in this hostel and can confirm it is incredible]; if you’re wanting to save your pennies, Cowgate Tourist Hostel is one of the most affordable hostels in Edinburgh and has self-catering apartments for groups.
Bed and Breakfast: JustB, located on the edge of Edinburgh is hands-down the best bed and breakfast I’ve stayed in!
Things to do in Edinburgh
Explore the Royal Mile
Begin your day in the historic heart of Edinburgh. The Royal Mile is located in Edinburgh’s Old Town- the oldest part of the city which dates back to the 12th century. The Royal Mile connects Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace
Take in the medieval architecture, explore the hidden passageways (closes) and snap a photo of the bagpipers dotted along this iconic street. Fun fact: A Scots mile is actual longer than a traditional mile! The Royal Mile measures 1.81 kilometres, but this measurement system hasn’t been used since the eighteenth century.
A visit to Edinburgh isn’t complete without exploring Scotland’s most famous castle! Located at the top of the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle houses the Scottish Crown Jewels, and the Stone of Destiny (on which Scotland’s first kings were crowned). It was also where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to the future James VI of Scotland and I of England. Make sure you grab your tickets online in advance to skip the queue!
Want a quieter castle option? Craigmillar Castle has an incredible history and is a very romantic castle ruin. If you’re spending longer in Edinburgh, I highly recommend visiting.
The Grassmarket was the site where the city’s marketplaces were held. Cattle and horses were sold in this area (which is quite hard to believe today!). It was also the site of a bombing during WWI in 1916. It was also once the site of over 100 public executions.
Despite it’s dark history, the Grassmarket is a great place to grab a bite to eat. Hula on Victoria Street is a fantastic place to stop in for lunch and has plenty of delicious vegan options and juices.
Another iconic street in Edinburgh, Victoria Street is rumored to be the inspiration behind Diagon Alley in Harry Potter. Harry Potter fan or no’, the street still makes for an Instagram worthy snap!
Harry Potter fans rejoice- Greyfriars Kirkyard is a grave yard that J.K. Rowling sought inspiration for her characters names. Visit the real Tom Riddle’s grave, or just enjoy the fascinating architecture of a Scotland grave yard. Just don’t visit at night- it’s reportedly haunted!
Located a short walk from the Kirkyard on George IV Street is The Elephant House, a restuarant where J.K. Rowling wrote parts of the Harry Potter series.
New Town for drinks
During the evening head into New Town for cocktails or a dram of whisky. Rose Street has a great selection of bars and nightclubs. I recommend The Black Cat for whisky lovers and Panda and Sons for cocktails. The Picture House (a Wetherspoons brand) has excellently priced pub food and drinks if you’re travelling on a budget.
The picturesque Dean Village is a short stroll from New Town
Day 2: Explore Ancient Abbey’s in the Scottish Borders
Rise early to explore the area that has some of the richest history in Scotland: the Scottish Borders. You will explore the 4 abbeys in the area, which is also popular cycle route. You’ll then spend the night in the cute village of Peebles.
Jedburgh Abbey in the Scottish Borders
Recommended accommodation in the Scottish Borders
Hostels: Kailzie Bunkhouse is located 10 minutes from Peebles.
Things to do in the Scottish Borders
Kelso abbey was founded in the 12th century by a community of Tironensian monks. Prince Henry of Scotland (1114–1152) is buried here, as well as several of the Dukes of Roxburghe.
Kelso is also a very pretty town, being the subject for many artists since the late 17th century!
Jedburgh abbey is a ruined Augustinian abbey. It took over 70 years to build during the 12 century! It is known for its unusual mix of Romanesque and early Gothic architecture.
The town of Jedburgh was home to the Earl of Bothwell, Mary Queen of Scots third husband, who was accused of raping Queen Mary therefore forcing her hand.
Dryburgh Abbey is one of the most romantic locations in Scotland. It has some of the best Gothic church architecture in Scotland. It is most famously known for being the chosen burial place for Sir Walter Scott. There is a large tomb within the ruin of the abbey where this famous Scottish writer is buried alongside his family. The pretty River Tweed, is located near the site of the abbey.
Founded in 1136, Melrose Abbey is the most spectacular of the four abbeys and is the burial place for some notable Scottish figures. Alexander II of Scotland is buried here, and so is King Robert the Bruce’s heart! I recommend having lunch here at either the Ship Inn for cheap pub food or the George & Abottsford Restaurant.
The Peebles Kirk is quite magnificent- and a highly underrated attraction! It is thought to be the burial place of St Nicholas after a stone urn was discovered with his supposed remains. The site was associated with miracles, and Alexander III built the church on the site in the 1200s.
Peebles Kirk is beautiful in late April, early May when the large cherry blossom tree that towers over it is in flower.
Day 3: Shopping and Site-seeing in Glasgow
While Edinburgh may be known for its pretty gothic architecture, Glasgow is known for its slogan ‘People Make Glasgow’.
If you’re going to spend a night out anywhere in Scotland- it’s in Glasgow! This lively city has an abundance of bars and pubs, cheap places to eat, and vibrant nightlife.
You’ll have a lie in and make your way to Glasgow, where I recommend getting your shopping fix in the city centre and then donning your finest outfit and heading out for cocktails! Or a whisky- it’s up to you!
Or if shopping isn’t your thing, there are a range of other interesting things to do.
The Glasgow Necropolis
Recommended accommodation in Glasgow
Hostels: The Glasgow Youth Hostel.
Bed and Breakfast: Argyll Guest House.
Things to do in Glasgow
Visit Glasgow University
Glasgow University is known for being the inspiration for Hogwarts from Harry Potter. It is a truly spectacular building- make sure you visit the cloisters located inside the main building. Glasgow University also offers some spectacular views across the city.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum
Located next to Glasgow University is Kelvin Grove Art Gallery and Museum- which is completely free to enter! Explore the 22 galleries which feature everything from art to Ancient Egypt. They also have changing exhibitions and displays- so there is bound to be something new to see every visit.
Admire the Glasgow City Centre Mural Trail
Glasgow is home to an array of beautiful treet art, sprinkled throughout the city. They have even created a cool Mural Trail you can follow to ensure you get some great snaps for Instagram. Be sure to check out the Billy Connolly murals, which were created to mark the 75th birthday of the much-loved Glaswegian comedian.
Glasgow Cathedral & the Necropolis
Glasgow Cathedral (also known as the High Kirk of Glasgow) was built in the 1100s on the site of where St Mungo’s was supposedly buried in AD 612. It’s the only cathedral on the Scottish mainland to survive the Reformation of 1560!
The Necropolis is a stunning Victorian graveyard located behind Glasgow Cathedral. Over 50,000 people are buried here, and the highest point of the cemetary offers fantastic views of Glasgow!
Day 4: Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park & Glen Coe
On day four of this Scotland itinerary for 10 days you will begin your adventure into the Scottish Highlands!
You will depart Glasgow in the morning and drive through Scotland’s first national park: The Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, which shows off some of Scotland’s most spectacular scenery. Today will be a leisure drive- there are many lay-bys and car parks you can pull into on your way to Glencoe to take photos and admire the rugged mountains and vast lochs!
The road through to the village of Glencoe takes you through the heart of an ancient volcano.
Glen Coe has been used as a filming location for many films, including James Bond’s Skyfall and the Harry Potter movies.
You can easily fit in all the recommendation stops on this itinerary in one day.
Glencoe- perfect for nature lovers
Recommended accommodation in Glen Coe
Hostels: Glencoe Youth Hostel.
Things to do in The Trossachs National Park + Glencoe
You will drive alongside the bonnie Loch Lomond for 25 miles (the total shoreline is 153 km!). As you drive deeper into the highlands, keep your eyes peeled for red deer and oak woodlands. There are many things to do in and around Loch Lomond, so much so that it deserves a post of its own!
Stop at The Drovers Inn [for lunch]
The Drover’s Inn is truly wonderful. Walking through the door of the stone building is like walking into another century; the inn was opened in 1705 as a cattle drovers lodging and the interior seems unchanged. It’s got everything you’d picture a traditional Scottish inn should have: tartan carpeting,antique furnishings, live music- even an impressive Taxidermy collection of animals from Scotland’s past and present.
Legend has it that Rob Roy MacGregor used to drink here!
Admire the Falls of Falloch
Located just 2.2 miles from The Drover’s Inn is the Falls of Falloch, a spectacular 30 ft waterfall well worth the short walk.
Snap a photo of the ‘Wee White Hoose’ [aka the Glencoe house]
One of the most iconic images of Glencoe is the ‘wee white hoose’ that is nestled right in front of one of Scotland’s most impressive munros: Buachaille Etive Mor. There is a car park on the A82 you can park your car in [search for ”Parking for Buachaille Etive Mor” on Google maps], to wander down to take a snap. Just be cautious of oncoming traffic as this is a popular spot for tourists to stop!
Day 5: Drive over the sea to the Isle of Skye
Today you will depart Glencoe and drive to the magical Isle of Skye- one of Scotland’s most magnificant islands known for its rugged landscapes, cute fishing villages and medieval castles.
The drive itself takes you through the outdoor capital of Lochaber to Lochalsh, home of the Five Sisters of Kintail, before you drive over the bridge to the Isle of Skye (that’s right- there’s a bridge so there’s no need to catch a boat across!). You’ll spend two nights in the main town of Portree, a great base for exploring the island, features harbourside pubs and boutique shops.
On your journey to Scotland’s largest island you’ll discover two ancient castles. When you arrive on the island, you’ll make your way around the east coast of the island to discover its natural beauty.
You will spend two days in the Isle of Skye (the absolute minimal amount of time I recommend) but you are welcome to spend longer here if you want to see everything. I’ve written a comprehensive guide to the Isle of Skye here.
Neist Point Lighthouse in the Isle of Skye.
Recommended accommodation in the Isle of Skye
Bed and Breakfast: Airbnb have some nice options.
Things to do in the Isle of Skye
Spot some Heilan’ Coos
Highland cows or ‘heilan coos’ are a Scottish cattle breed known for their long horns and shaggy caramel coats. I’ve been to Invergarry during the summer, autumn and winter and I always spot this herd in the paddock next to the bridge on the A82 as you drive into Invergarry. It’s well worth a quick photo stop! There is a carpark at a hotel which is close to the paddock as you enter the village.
Eilean Donan Castle
Just before you cross the bridge into Skye, make sure you visit Scotland’s most photographed castle. Seat to the MacRae clan, Eilean Donan Castle is often referred to as the most romantic castle in Scotland- with good reason. It is situated on an island at the point where three sea lochs meet and surrounded by stunning scenery. It’s appeared in many films, including Highlander andThe World is Not Enough.
There is a visitors centre and ample parking available next to the castle.
Old Man of Storr
This iconic landmark is closely located north of Portree. You can view the Old Man of Storr from the roadside, or there is a popular hike to the landmark you can do if you have time. For the adventurous looking for a challenge, there is a hike to the summit of the Old Man of Storr. Be mindful of loose rocks and rock falls- you will need good quality hiking boots to attempt these hikes. Allow 1.5 – 5 hours for each of these hikes. The Old Man of Storr can also be seen from The Lump in Portree in you look carefully.
The Quiraing is my favourite location in the Isle of Skye. There is a small car park you can park your car.
Hike along the hill circuit [3-4 hours] to get the best views; you don’t have to do the whole thing, but make sure you walk to The Prison and The Needle, two impressive rock formations. This location is also the perfect place to watch the sunrise, so you may want to delay visiting until the following day.
Just like the Old Man of Storr, be mindful of rock falls and loose rocks in this area.
Day 6: Explore the Sleat Peninsula
On your second day in the Isle of Skye, you can choose to relax in the tiny town of Portree or drive around the stunning Sleat Peninsula. Your first day on Skye is spent visiting the common tourist attractions that attract thousands of tourists every year, but on day two it’s time to get off the beaten track!
The Sleat Peninsula is a less visited area in Skye, which is surprising considering it is one of the nicest drives I’ve done in Scotland. Just picture violet, heather-clad mountains contrasted with glittering blue sea and rocky shorelines and this will give you an indication on just why this drive is one for the bucket list!
”Merry of soul, she sailed on a day…”
If you decide to relax in Portree…
Go for a walk around The Lump and climb the Apothecary’s Tower for views of the town all the way to the Old Man of Storr. Follow the path back into the town and marvel at the famous colourful houses along Portree harbour, and go for a spot of shopping in the town centre.
Driving the Sleat Peninsula
The Sleat Peninsula is known as the ”garden of Skye” and is home to clan MacDonald of Sleat.
This is the route I recommend taking:
This route will take you through the Cuillen mountains to Dunscaith Castle, a ruin that sits on the coast. It once belonged to the Clan MacDonald of Sleat, but some time in the 14th century it was taken from them by the Clan MacLeod. It was held briefly by the MacAskill (allies of the MacLeods) but it was recaptured by the MacDonalds sometime in the 15th century.
There isn’t much left of Dunscaith Castle, but the views surround the ruin are simply spectacular! This is certainly an off the beaten track experience you can brag about.
When you return to your car you can continue on in the same direction, as the road eventually loops back to the A851 that will take you to Portree via the A87.
Day 7: Visit the Highland’s capital city Inverness
On day 7 you will visit the capital of the highlands: Inverness.
Inverness is located at the north-eastern end of the Great Glen, a line of five lochs extending from Fort William in the south-west and which has historically been an important area of trade and movement through the highlands. It’s also known as the gateway to the north west highlands, and is the starting point for the popular North Coast 500.
The drive from Portree to Inverness takes just over 3 hours- but the scenery of the highlands makes up for the long drive. There are many scenic stops along the way to enjoy.
Inverness: the gateway city to the highlands
Recommended accommodation in Inverness
Hotels: Culloden House if you’re after luxury (the location of the Jacobite camp the night before the Battle of Culloden in 1476- it’s now been transformed into luxury accommodation); The Wee Lodge is great if you can find availability (so popular it’s almost always booked out) or Kilcumin Guest House is a good medium-budget option.
Things to do in Inverness
Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness
It’s easy to combine Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness because the castle sits beside the legendary loch! The ruin of Urquhart castle was once a royal castle, and later gifted to clan Grant. The present ruin dates back to the 13th century, although it is speculated that it used to be the fortress of Bridei, King of the Northern Picts! It’s also said that St Columba visited Bridei in the 6th century. It’s also said Columba converted a Pictish nobleman who was on his deathbed to Christianity!
Loch Ness is ”home” to the legendary Loch Ness Monster- or Nessie, as the locals like to call her! While it’s unlikely you’ll spot Nessie, the views from atop the castle ruin make for a fantastic photo opportunity.
Inverness Castle is a more modern Scottish castle, and by modern I mean it was built in 1836! The red sandstone structure sits on a cliff overlooking River Ness. This is a castle you can just marvel at from the outside- which is definitely its most aesthetically pleasing point.
Clava Cairns is a well-preserved cemetery from the Bronze Age (dating back around 4,000 years!). It consists of a complex of passage graves; ring cairns, kerb cairns and standing stones.
The Battlefield of Culloden is the site of the fateful final Jacobite Uprising in 1746, where supporters of the Bonnie Prince Charlie clashed with the Duke of Cumberland’s government troops.
If you’re an Outlander fan, you’ll recall this was the battle that Claire and Jamie were trying to prevent from happening.
We all know how the battle of Culloden ended on Drumossie Moor; the battle was over within an hour and with 1500-2000 men massacred. It’s conclusion led to the Highland Clearances, where the Scottish were stripped of their lands, their tartan, and their culture.
The battle site is free to visit, but the interactive Culloden Visitor Centre is worth paying to see.
Day 8: Cairngorms National Park & Pitlochry
Day 8 is a little more relaxed; you can either tick off some more activities in Inverness in the morning or drive straight to Pitlochry, a charming burgh located at the foot of the Cairngorms National Park.
A good stopping point between Inverness and Pitlochry is Blair Atholl. This does require a slight detour from the A9, but the drive is much more appealing.
Option: If you’d prefer to spend more time in another area, you can cut this day out of the itinerary and spend the extra day somewhere else!
Recommended accommodation in the Cairngorms National Park
Hotels: McKays Hotel is fabulously located in the centre of the town and has a bar and restuarant downstairs.
Hostels: Pitlochry Youth Hostel.
Bed and Breakfast: Ellangowan House Bed and Breakfast.
Things to do in the Cairngorms National Park & Pitlochry
Blair Castle, the ancestral home of the Clan Murray, is a vast white castle set amongst a nine acre walled garden. There is a lot to see here: a ruined kirk, peacocks, a red deer park, Highland cattle and the native red squirrel can often be spotted in the garden’s trees.
Stroll through the town
Pitlochry is a picturesque wee burgh, sitting cosily below Beinn Bhracaigh (Ben Vrackie), the speckled mountain and beside the River Tummel, in some of the most beautiful scenery in Scotland. There is a nice viewpoint of the town from the Pitlochry Youth Hostel.
You’ll want to spend your time in Pitlochry by browsing the shops on the main street, admire the locks on the Iron Suspension Bridge, or going for a walk on one of the many walking trails.
You’ll spend the evening relaxing in one of the cosy pubs for a warm meal.
The wonderful Blair Castle in Blair Atholl
Day 9: Visit the seaside town of St. Andrews
St Andrews is known as the ”home of golf” because the sport was first played on the Links at The Old Course in St Andrews!
St Andrews is also a lovely town full of interesting things to see and do. It’s also the location where Prince William met his future wife, Kate Middleton while they were attending St Andrews University- one of the oldest universities in the world!
PLACES TO EAT: Popular with students, The Vic serves great food at an affordable price; Jannettas Gelateria– known as the ‘Home of gelato’ is a must visit; Greyfriars Inn and The Keys Bar are popular drinking holes.
St Andrews Cathedral was once Scotland’s largest church
Recommended accommodation in St. Andrews
Hostels: St. Andrews Tourist Hostel is fantastically priced and right in the heart of St. Andrews.
Bed and Breakfast: Shangri-la bed and breakfast.
Things to do in St Andrews
St. Andrews Cathdral
Once Scotland’s largest church, St. Andrews Cathedral is the most famous attraction in the town, and perhaps the most famous ruin in Scotland. It is free to explore the ruin and accompanying graveyard. For a small fee, you can climb to the top of St Rule’s Tower for spectacular views across St Andrews!
St Mary’s Chapel on the Rock is also locaed nearby; this chapel was built in the late 1300s on the site believed to be the original location of St Andrew’s relics. It was ruined after the Scottish Reformation, but the foundations are still visible.
St. Andrews Castle
This castle ruin has been by turns a stronghold, palace and a prison. Explore the infamous ‘bottle dungeon’ and the underground mine and countermine.
It costs £6 per adult to go inside St. Andrews castle- or if you’re trying to save money, there is a good view of the castle from the small beach next to the castle!
The Old Course
The oldest gold course in the world, The Old Course attracts famous golfers and celebrities from all over the world! Each year in fall, amatuer celebrities will play against the pros at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship. Celebrities that have played in the past include Michael Douglas, Samuel L Jackson, Morgan Freeman, Hugh Grant and Jamie Dornan.
The Old Course is the world’s oldest golf course
Day 10: History and culture in Stirling, Falkirk & Linlithgow
On your final day you’ll drive back to Edinburgh but stop off at some important historical attractions on the way. You’ll pass through Stirling first, followed by Falkirk and then Linlithgow- birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots!
Things to do in Stirling, Falkirk & Linlithgow
Stirling Castle [in Stirling] is one of the largest and most important castles in Scotland, both historically and architecturally. It sits atop a steep crag, which gives it an excellent defensive position. Here are some fascinating facts about Stirling Castle:
- After the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, Robert the Bruce destroyed Stirling Castle to stop it falling into English hands.
- There is a hole in the wall of the castle that is reputed to have been made so a young Mary Queen of Scots could look at the view of Stirling.
- Several Kings and Queens were crowned at Stirling, including Mary Queen of Scots.
- The oldest football in the world was found in the Palace at Stirling Castle.
- William, the 8th Earl of Douglas, was murdered at Stirling Castle. In 1452, James II had the Earl assassinated and his body was flung from a castle window down into the gardens.
The Kelpies are 30-metre-high horse-head sculptures- the largest equine sculptures in the world. They are located in Falkirk, and there is a visitors centre on site.
Linlithgow Palace is the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots and James V. It has also been the location for several films and tv series, including Outlaw King and Outlander.
It was a favoured residence of the Stewart kings and queens from James I onward. There is a fantastic view of Linlithgow Palace from across the loch it sits next to.
The Kelpies, the worlds largest equine sculptures
There is a lot to squeeze into this 10-day itinerary so don’t feel the pressure to tick everything off. You can also extend this itinerary by a few days if you so desire.
It’s best to pick 2-3 attractions in each area, and visit those, and then plan to visit whatever you missed on your next trip to Scotland!
If you have any questions about planning a trip to Scotland, why not join my Scotland Travel Tips group on Facebook?