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The Optimal Itinerary for Scotland in 7 days | 1 Week in Scotland

posted by Liza 4th January 2019 1 Comment
7 days in Scotland. Itinerary for 7 days in Scotland

Hi everyone. It’s been a while since I wrote about one of my favourite countries in the entire world – Scotland. Ever since we moved to London, we missed Scotland and even thought of moving back for a while. With all my love for Scotland, I must assure you that Scotland definitely deserves more than 7 days travelling there, however, if you only have 7 days in Scotland (I know how hard it is to combine working and travelling the world), that would do. So as you can imagine, in this post, I will share with you my suggested itinerary for Scotland in 7 days.

An optimal itinerary for 7 days in Scotland (because only a year in Scotland would be ideal): FAQ

Should you stay in one city in Scotland or move from city to city?

I wanted to start sharing with you my itinerary for Scotland in 7 days. However, I thought, that it makes sense to answer some questions first. When going somewhere for 7 days, people often wonder, whether to stay in one place for a week and explore the country from one place or move between different cities.

Well, Scotland isn’t huge, but it’s not small either. Some of the places you can’t visit in one day for sure, so I recommend you to change locations and stay in different cities.

What is the best time to go to Scotland?

Uhm, the best time to go to Scotland? Any time! Scotland is beautiful all year round. In September and October, it’s relatively warm so you can enjoy some sunny days, November and December are perfect for autumn colours (read my post about a road trip to Scottish Highlands in November – it was so beautiful). End of November could be very pricey though, as it’s the time when students graduate from 4 universities in Edinburgh. January and February don’t have that many tourists – it’s excellent for exploring and cheaper hotel prices. March and April and May in Scotland are my favourites – you can see some gorgeous flower blossoms. And the summer – well, it gets crowded, but it’s also warm (for Scottish standards).

The ultimate guide to Edinburgh, Scotland: Edinburgh travel tips - Meadows Cherry Blossom

How cold/warm is Scotland? What to wear in Scotland

Well, it’s not surprising for anyone that Scotland is pretty cold. Some places in Scotland are very windy, and the wind makes it even colder. I wrote a post about what to pack for a trip to the Isle of Skye in Scotland, but it would work for entire Scotland (except for the wellies maybe), so if you’re wondering what to wear in Scotland and what to pack for Scotland – read this post. I would definitely recommend bringing a waterproof parka and waterproof boots (e.g. Timberland) to Scotland. 

Okay, enough questions answered, so we can go ahead with the main part of the post.

The best itinerary for Scotland in 7 days: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Scottish Highlands and more

Days 1-3 of 7 days in Scotland: Edinburgh

If you’re going to Scotland from abroad, chances are, you will be flying to Edinburgh (or going by train from London, for example). That would make Edinburgh a perfect location to start your 7-day trip to Scotland. Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities in the entire world because of its unique architecture, friendly people and relatively small size.

Dean Village Non-touristy Edinburgh: 7 off-beaten path spots that are a must

Edinburgh: things to do & useful posts

The population of Edinburgh is slightly more than 450,000 people, so it’s a relatively small city; however, there’s a lot to see. As I lived in Edinburgh for 1.5 years, I have a lot of posts about Edinburgh that you might want to check out if you’re planning to visit Edinburgh: Ultimate guide to Edinburgh, 10 best attractions to visit in Edinburgh and 15 free things to do in Edinburgh.

Here I will only suggest what to see in Edinburgh during 3 days, but you’re free to replace the places I indicated with different places you liked from the posts.

Where to stay in Edinburgh:

I wrote a post about 10 best affordable hotels to stay in Edinburgh, so feel free to check it out as well. If you’re on a budget, I would recommend their hostels:

Some good affordable hotels in Edinburgh: The Lane Hotel, Summerside.

Great 4-5* hotels in Edinburgh: The Edinburgh Residence, Principal Edinburgh Charlotte Square. 

If you only have 3 days, I would recommend staying close to the Old Town or Princes Street, and all the mentioned hotels are located conveniently for exploring Edinburgh.

Most Instagrammable spots in Edinburgh, Scotland - tips from a local

Day 1 itinerary for Edinburgh:

On the first day in Edinburgh (and the first day of your 7 days in Scotland)(assuming you have a full day), you should wear comfortable shoes, because you’re going to walk A LOT.

I would recommend you to start exploring around 9am. Head to the Royal Mile all the way up to the Edinburgh Castle. You will probably want to go inside (and there is even one day a year when the entrance is free – that’s St. Andrew’s day). Sometimes it’s cheaper to buy tickets onlin beforehand.

After visiting Edinburgh Castle and enjoying the beautiful city panorama, you shop in some souvenir shops nearby (they have reasonable prices actually). Now you should start going down the Royal Mile and on your way, you can also visit the St. Giles Cathedral. You can stop for a quick cream tea break in Clarinda’s Tearoom (that’s one of Edinburgh’s most Instagrammable spots).

Clarinda's Tearoom Edinburgh

After a quick stop, continue going down until you reach the Holyrood Palace (you can visit it if you want and if you have enough time) or you can go in the Scottish Parliament – that’s absolutely free of charge, but the building is very modern, keep that in mind. Check the opening times of the Parliament on their website here.

If you want to have lunch, there are plenty of spots nearby.

Another thing you should do in Edinburgh is to climb Arthur’s seat – that wouldn’t take more than an hour, but the view of the entire city is just spectacular. Depending on the season of the year when you’re visiting Scotland for a week, the sunset times are very different. For example, the sunset in November is already at 3:45 pm, so you’ll be up Arthur’s Seat to see the sunset. However, if it’s summer, you can continue exploring the city later for quite a while.

Most Instagrammable spots in Edinburgh, Scotland - tips from a local

After you’re done with Arthur’s seat, you can visit one of the tours, e.g. the Ghost tour, or my favourite Edinburgh Vaults tour or Mary King’s Close (they all start around the middle of Royal Mile). All the tours you need to book in advance.

Now when you’re done exploring, I totally recommend you to have a dinner in the Witchery by the Castle – a unique medieval-style Gothic restaurant very close to the Royal Mile. You also need to book this one in advance.

Day 2 of a week in Scotland: Edinburgh (continuation)

On the second day in Edinburgh, you can start your morning getting to the Royal Yacht Britannia – it’s 40 min by bus from the city centre, but it’s definitely worth a visit. Later on, you can head to the Calton Hill, another great place to see the panorama of Edinburgh, however, it’s right in the heart of the city, and it’s not that tall.

Beautiful Calton Hill - Best Instagrammable spots in Edinburgh, Scotland | Tripsget

You can have a nice Scottish lunch in the restaurant “Howies” nearby – it’s one of my favourite restaurants in the city.

Later on, head to the Princes street – the main street of Edinburgh and walk it all the way to the hotel Astoria, hopping in some shops on your way. Princes Street is also the most important shopping street in Edinburgh.

At the end of Princes street, turn right and walk to the Dean Village – a dreamy town in the middle of Edinburgh that looks like a beautiful medieval village.

You can walk back through the George’s Street – an important street of Edinburgh’s posh New Town. There are plenty of restaurants, e.g. the Dome where you can have dinner. Alternatively, there are also plenty of spots at St. Andrew’s Square nearby.

Christmas at the Dome, 7 days in Scotland

Day 3 in Edinburgh: 7-day-itinerary for Scotland

The last day in Edinburgh you can start from exploring Edinburgh University (walk through Nicholson street) – one of the oldest universities in Scotland. The Old College is lovely and definitely worth taking a photo. Head to the Bristo Square – it would be lively and full of students.

Walk to the Bobby Greyfriar’s Monument and then all the way to the Victoria street – the most unique street in Scotland – it has two levels, and it’s beautiful. Later on, go to the Grassmarket and grab lunch in one of the pubs/restaurants there.

Most Instagrammable spots in Edinburgh, Scotland - tips from a local

Climb up to the Royal Mile and visit the Scotch Whisky experience to learn more about Whisky. It’s an interactive museum with a tour and tasting included, so it’s definitely worth the price. Again, it also requires an advance reservation.

Edinburgh Whiskey Experience

Finally, climb down the Royal Mile to the Princes Street gardens and go to the National Gallery of Scotland. The museum is free, so it’s definitely worth taking a look.

You can have dinner around the George Street / St. Andrew’s Square again (you can visit the Standing Order, one of the most impressive pubs in Edinburgh that is converted from a bank).

Day 4 of 7 days in Scotland

Rent a car in Scotland

Good morning, now it’s time to change the location and go up North as part of your 7 days in Scotland itinerary. Take a train or rent a car (preferred option) – we always rent from Avis – they have high prices in Scotland and the newest cars. Alternatively, check the best prices on Rentalcars.com.

If you don’t want to drive, it’s totally fine. You have two options: either buy a train ticket to Inverness (check the availability here) or buy a tour from Edinburgh, where you will be brought to the major points of interest in Scotland during your week in Scotland. You can check the itinerary and the price of such tours here. 

However, if you still manage to rent a car (or buy a train ticket), keep reading.

Inverness

Head to Inverness via Cairngorms National Park – you will definitely stop on the way to take some photos.

Beautiful Scotland

The drive to Inverness takes about 3.5 hours. In Inverness, you can have a quick lunch (or buy something for lunch) and head further to the famous Loch Ness. You can take a boat cruise (you can book it in advance) in the lake and enjoy the beautiful views. Who knows, you might see Nessie as well.

You can stay overnight in Inverness. These accommodations are recommended: Old Drynie House, Crown House, Strome Lodge. 

Loch Ness & Inverness day trip from Edinburgh

Day 5 of 7-day trip to Scotland

It’s time to move again: long drive ahead. Leave the hotel around 7-8 am.

If you don’t have a car, there’s a bus from Inverness to the Isle of Skye (Portree) that runs twice a day. Make sure to check the schedule and book it in advance. 

In about 3 hours you will reach the Isle of Skye. But before that, definitely visit the famous Eilean Donan Castle

Beautiful Eilean Donan Castle

On the Isle of Skye, there’s a lot to see. I have a post about our road trip around the Isle of Skye – definitely check it out for all the information of what to see and where to start.

I recommend staying overnight on the Isle of Skye. These places are a good option: Skye Lodges, Kiloran B&B. 

Day 6 in Scotland. The Isle of Skye and Scottish Highlands

Good morning! To see as much as possible, start early – head to the Fairy Pools and a couple of other spots of your choice in the morning and around 11 am start exiting the Isle of Skye and driving towards the Scottish Highlands. I also have another post about driving around the Scottish Highlands for a day so it might be useful for you as well.

The fairy pools, Isle of Skye

Head to Glenfinnan Viaduct to see the famous bridge from Harry Potter and then to Glencoe. It’s about 3 hours away from the Isle of Skye. If you still have time left, you can explore the Loch Lomond National Park.

You can stay overnight is one of the gorgeous B&Bs in the Scottish Highlands such as: The Ballachulish Hotel, Queen of the Loch. 

Road trip to Highlands Scotland in November - Glencoe,, Loch Lubnaig, Glenfinnan Viaduct and Ben Nevis

Day 7: Oban, Stirling and Edinburgh

On day 7, you can leave your accommodation early and head to Oban. Oban is a town in Scotland that definitely has its charm. It’s is famous for its fresh and very affordable seafood, good chocolate and great whiskey. I have a separate post about things to do in Oban as well, so if you’re interested, you can definitely check it out.

Finally, drive back to Edinburgh through Stirling (and visit the Castle if you still have time before flying/taking a train back).

Hopefully, this 7-day itinerary for Scotland was useful for you, and you got some ideas for your perfect week in Scotland. In case you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

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