Welcome to the world of the wild and poetic, of rugged landscapes and proud traditions. Here's how to spend one week in Scotland, with the perfect Scotland road trip itinerary. Haggis, Harry Potter and history await.
(I also find it helpful to reduce the overwhelm by using a gorgeous road trip planner, like this.)
How to Spend One Week in Scotland
Map of Scotland Road Trip Itinerary
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Can you really see Scotland in one week?
Well, of course you can't see all of Scotland in one week. But you can get a great taste of what she has to offer in one week without feeling too rushed about the place.
This Scotland road trip itinerary gives you a taste of the two big cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh, some of Scotland's most famous sights and some hidden gems and opportunities for quiet reflection. It includes between 7-10 days drive, depending on how much hiking you want to do in the various parks and landscape spots.
And if you fall in love with Scotland? You can always come back some day. And have another perfect road trip.
One Week in Scotland: Your Scotland Road Trip Itinerary At a Glance
- Day One - Glasgow
- Day Two - Loch Lomond, Glen Coe & Fort William
- Day Three - Isle of Skye
- Day Four - Isle of Skye
- Day 5 - Eilean Dunan Castle, Loch Ness & Inverness
- Day 6 - Blair Castle, Pitlochy & Edinburgh
- Day 7 - Edinburgh
When to visit Scotland
Like the rest of Britain, the weather really does influence things. Winters can be cold, wet and harsh but they can also provide opportunities for cosy retreats by open fires and snow-tinged landscape views.
Summer, between May and September, offers the mildest and warmest time to visit Scotland, although it hardly ever really gets hot.
Spring and autumn work well if you want to beat the crowds. And for all the talk about the weather, Scotland never hits the kind of extremes that mean you would need to stay away.
Where to Stay in Scotland
You can find every type of accommodation your heart desires in Scotland, but not necessarily in every single spot.
You will find most of the big chains in the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, as well as boutique hotels, budget hostels and kooky design spots.
- See also: Where to Stay in Edinburgh
Your Scotland Road Trip Itinerary - One Week in Scotland
When touring Scotland by car for one week, it's often easier to fly in and out of the same airport for the sake of picking up a rental car. This Scotland road trip itinerary begins in Glasgow and ends on Edinburgh, which works well if you're driving up from London Heathrow or anywhere else in England.
It is possible to fly into Glasgow and out of Edinburgh but it will be harder to arrange and likely more expensive to drop off the rental car at a different airport.
However, it's only an hour's drive between the two cities, so start wherever it's easier for you to pick up your wheels and then just pick up the itinerary below.
Enjoy your 7 day Scotland itinerary!
As Scotland's biggest city, Glasgow mixes sophistication with grit, art with industry, and fine dining with, well, deep-fried mars bars.
With just one day in the city before you head out on your road trip through Scotland, take in the architecture, museums and good food before moving on to a more rural setting.
Highlights include the Gallery of Modern Art, Kelvingrove, Scotland Street School and the Burrell Collection. Expect to hear a lot about Charles Rennie Mackintosh, a pioneer of Art Nouveau architecture in Britain, and make the most of the live music and vintage shopping scene.
- Check out this Clydeside Distillery Tour & Whisky Tasting experience.
Loch Lomond & Around
Loch Lomond may not be the really famous loch in Scotland but as Britain's largest inland lake, it can truly hold its own. Only 20 minutes from Glasgow, it attracts the crowds at Balloch and Luss in the peak season, but the eastern shore is quieter if you want to make the most of the quiet sounds of nature.
Interestingly, Loch Lomond lies on the Highland border and the landscape reflects the change. The southern area is surrounded by lowland meadows, forests and small islands. North of Luss, the water narrows into its glacial Ice Age trench, with towering rock formations on either side.
The whole area, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, to give it its full name, is ideal for hiking and cycling, photography and just contemplating nature. The complete opposite to Glasgow, for example.
- Get a better view with a two hour cruise on the water of Loch Lomond. It's a popular activity so it's a good idea to book your tickets in advance.
The icy glaciers and volcanic explosions of the past created the charm of the present in the atmospheric village of Glencoe. Situatied in the deep ridges of the Glencoe valley in the Highlands on the bank of Loch Leven, the surrounding area is often known as the outdoor capital of the UK.
Is it Glencoe or Glen Coe?
No, it's not sloppy spelling. It turns out that it refers to two different things. Glencoe is the area and the valley. Glen Coe is the village.
Here you can hike, of course, but you can also turn the adventure dial up a notch with kayaking, skiing, snowboarding, and mountain biking.
Here is the land of legends, or at least Skyfall and Harry Potter movie-making.
Fort William adds a bit more of modern life to its outdoor hub status than nearby Glen Coe. If you want to spend more time hiking and less time in the car then perhaps skip Fort William and stay in Glen Coe for the atmosphere.
However, if you're looking to stock up for your trip, need to replace any equipment or just fancy a wider choice of places to eat, then stop off at Fort William instead.
The Jacobite Steam Train
For fun, you can always pause the road trip and hit the rails instead.
The iconic Jacobite Steam Railway carves an 84 mile round trip into the Scottish Highlands between Fort William and Mallaig, passing by Britain's highest peak, Ben Nevis, as it goes. In other words, it's the Harry Potter Train.
Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye is one of the best parts of any Scotland road trip itinerary and, happily, the island recommends you travel by car. Many parts are remote and public transport is infrequent: you'll just have a better time behind the wheel!
Although it is an island, you'll find yourself arriving by road via the bridge that leaves Kyle of Lochalsh on the mainland to bring you to Kyleakin on Skye. Many a SatNav has opted for the shorter route via Mallaig. However, from there you'll need to take the ferry which adds on another layer of complication.
On the Isle of Skye itself, the largest in the Inner Hebrides, you'll find rugged landscapes, great hiking routes, picturesque villages and a sense of wild and remote abandon. Pack your camera, and some waterproofs. You'll make the most of them both.
Pit Stop: Eilean Donan Castle
A slight detour to Eilean Donan Castle rewards with postcard perfect views of the 13th century stone castle at the meeting of three great sea lochs.
Loch Ness & Inverness
Ah, Loch Ness. The part of Scotland that every child already knows!
As you might expect, Loch Ness is a touristy area, often bursting with international visitors trying to get a glimpse of Nessie.
Loch Ness itself, astonishingly, holds more freshwater than all the lakes and reservoirs of England and Wales combined, and still makes for a pleasant sight, even if you don't get to see the monster.
- Maximise your chances of seeing Nessie and get on the water with a Loch Ness boat tour! Even if you fail, you will have had a wonderful time.
Most Scots would recommend you spend the night in nearby Inverness, rather than by Loch Ness but you can't really go wrong with either decision.
Inverness is a city, but a European one, so forget about the steel and chrome skyscrapers and vast urban sprawl of Asia and the Americas.
Now's your chance to swap hiking boots for art galleries and haggis for fine dining, so tweak your timing between the city and the Loch according to your own personal taste.
Blair Castle & Pitlochry
Well, it wouldn't be a trip to Scotland without a touch of Scotch, would it?
While you'll find many different distillery routes across Scotland, the uncomfortable truth is that whisky tasting doesn't fit all that well into a road trip unless someone else is driving.
But we are giving you one here.
Head to the picturesque village of Pitlochry and visit the Blair Atholl Distillery. Based at the foot of the Grampian mountains, it's one of the oldest working distilleries in Scotland.
Take an educational tour, sample a wee dram and then burn off the booze with a hike up to the Queen's View.
If, as sadly may often be the case, it is raining, a good place to look for shelter is within the grounds of Blair Castle, the ancestral home of the Clan Murray.
White and looking remarkably well kept, it's a long way from the crumbling stone ruins you may have run into during, say, a road trip itinerary in Wales.
The Deeside Tourist Route
If you have more than one week in Scotland or want to try a different route, check out the Deeside Tourist Route from Perth to Aberdeen through the magnificent Cairngorms National Park.
The Cairngorms National Park
The Cairngorms are the country's largest national park, covering more than 4,500 km2 and offering plenty of hiking and cycling roots through wild routes and stunning scenery.
But if you only have one week in Scotland, you may have to settle for driving through this majestic landscape and plan a longer visit whenever you're next in the country.
And so you end your Scotland road trip itinerary in the most famous place in the country: Edinburgh.
You'll find so many unusual things to do in Edinburgh but if it's your first time in Scotland, you're likely to want to see the classics of the capital city.
Edinburgh Castle houses the crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny, Arthur's Seat looms in Holyrood Park and Harry Potter fans linger in the cafes where J.K. Rowling penned one of the world's most famous wizards.
The Georgian New Town has elegance, the medieval Old Town has underground stories to tell and the National Museum of Scotland connects the country to its history, from geology to colonial endeavours to the present.
Plus, there's the experience of walking the Royal Mile, the main thoroughfare that leads from the castle through the old town.
- Top tip: skip the queues and buy your tickets to Edinburgh Castle in advance.
- Try this secret Underground Vaults Tour to see a part of the city that most visitors miss.
Practical Tips for Driving in Scotland
When you're planning your Scottish road trip, it may help to consider the following points. You can use the plan above as either a 7 or 10 day itinerary, depending on where you prefer to spend time and whether you wish to spend the night in each location or choose two or three bases and run day trips instead. The one week itinerary is the shortest time you can realistically see these sights.
Do people drive on the left in Scotland?
Yes, as part of the United Kingdom, people drive on the left in Scotland.
What currency does Scotland use?
Like the rest of the UK, Scotland uses pound sterling (GBP.) However, Scotland issues its own notes. You should be able to use Scottish bank notes in England and vice versa (except for the one pound Scottish note.)
How long does it take to travel across Scotland?
Pedants can debate the answer to this, depending on islands and other waterways, but a sensible estimate is 5-7 hours.
What places do you recommend for a 1 week trip to Scotland?
Well, the one week itinerary above covers the best of Scotland in a reasonable timeframe. If you're not keen on cities, you could swap those out and spend more time on the Deeside Tourist Route instead.
There are, of course, as many Scotland itineraries as you can imagine but use this one as a good base and then build your road trip of Scotland from there.
How to Put Together the Perfect Road Trip
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Happy road trip planning!
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