This post's overview:
- 1 Here’s an overview of useful links mentioned in this article:
- 2 Scotland itinerary FAQs:
- 3 The perfect itinerary for 1 week in Scotland by car: Edinburgh, Loch Ness, The Isle of Skye and more
- 3.1 Days 1-3 of 7 days in Scotland: Edinburgh
- 3.2 Edinburgh: things to do & useful posts
- 3.3 Where to stay in Edinburgh:
- 3.4 Day 1: Get to know Edinburgh
- 3.5 Day 2: the best of Edinburgh
- 3.6 Day 3: Edinburgh University and Whiskey
- 3.7 Day 4 of 1 week in Scotland: Inverness & Loch Ness
- 3.8 Inverness
- 3.9 Day 5 of 7-day trip to Scotland: Eileen Donan Castle & The Isle of Skye
- 3.10 Day 6: The Isle of Skye and Scottish Highlands
- 3.11 Day 7: Oban, Stirling and Edinburgh
- 4 Some other articles you might find useful:
In this article, I will share with you the perfect itinerary of 7 days in Scotland by car. However, don’t worry! If you don’t want to hire a car, I will also provide you with some options on how to get to different points of interest by public transport and using various tours.
Ever since we moved to London, we’ve been missing Scotland and even thought of moving back for a while. With all my love for Scotland, I must assure you that Scotland definitely need more than 7 days to see all the Scotland bucket list locations, however, if you only have one week in Scotland (I know how hard it is to take time off when you work a lot), you can try to see as much as possible! So as you can imagine, in this post, I will share with you my suggested itinerary for 1 week in Scotland by car (and public transport).
- Car rental in Scotland: Rentalcars.com
- Insurance: VisitorsCoverage
- Flights to Scotland: check availability now
- Buses: Omio, BusBud
- Trains: Trainline
- Clothes: rain coat is a must
- Hotels: Market Street Hotel Edinburgh, Strome Lodge Inverness, Kiloran Isle of Skye, Queen of the Loch in the Highlands
- Tickets: Edinburgh City Pass, Mary King’s Close, Edinburgh Castle, Scotch Whiskey Experience
- Tours: Edinburgh walking tour, Edinburgh Vaults Ghost Tour, Loch Ness boat tour,
- Must-visit restaurant: The Witchery by the castle
Scotland itinerary FAQs:
Do you need a car to travel around Scotland?
If you’re wondering, whether you need a car to travel in Scotland, I’d say yes, it will be very convenient to have a car. However, I would recommend hiring a car after visiting Edinburgh, as Edinburgh is definitely not a car-friendly city. We always rent cars from Rentalcars.com and I can definitely recommend it.
If you don’t want to rent a car, it is possible to visit most of the destinations on this itinerary for Scotland using public transport. You can use Trainline to book rail tickets and BusBud for bus tickets.
Should you stay in one city in Scotland or move from city to city?
Scotland is quite large – which means that you won’t be able to explore the country from just one location, e.g. Edinburgh. Driving to the Isle of Skye alone takes over 4 hours. That’s why I recommend staying in Edinburgh for a couple of days to see the city and then moving to the hear of Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye to minimise driving.
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 a lot of 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).
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.
The perfect itinerary for 1 week in Scotland by car: Edinburgh, Loch Ness, The Isle of Skye 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.
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:
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.
Day 1: Get to know 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. If you want to learn more about the history of Edinburgh, I recommend taking this walking tour.
If you’re keen on visiting multiple landmarks as well as taking a sightseeing tour, you can buy The Royal Edinburgh City Pass that gives you skip-the-line access to a lot of attractions as well as a gives you access to a couple of tours!
If you want to explore at your own pace, I would recommend you to start exploring around
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).
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.
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: the best of Edinburgh
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.
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.
Day 3: Edinburgh University and Whiskey
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.
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.
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 1 week in Scotland: Inverness & Loch Ness
Renting a car in Scotland
On your fourth day in Scotland, 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 – you can 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 multi-day tour from Edinburgh, where you will be brought to the major points of interest in Scotland during your week in Scotland. Check the availability of the best-rated multi-day tour to the Scottish Highlands from Edinburgh.
However, if you still manage to rent a car (or buy a train ticket), keep reading.
Head to Inverness via Cairngorms National Park – you will definitely stop on the way to take some photos.
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.
Day 5 of 7-day trip to Scotland: Eileen Donan Castle & The Isle of Skye
It’s time to move again: long drive ahead. Leave the hotel around 7-8 am to be able to take the most of the day.
If you don’t have a car, there’s a bus from Inverness to the Isle of Skye (Portree)
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.
The best things to see on the Isle of Skye
Here are some of the best places to see on the Isle of Skye that British audiences might enjoy:
- The Old Man of Storr – This iconic rock formation is one of the most popular attractions on the island and offers stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
- Fairy Pools – These crystal-clear pools of water are located at the foot of the Black Cuillin Mountains and are a popular spot for swimming and hiking.
- Talisker Distillery – This famous whisky distillery offers tours and tastings of their award-winning Scotch whisky.
- Dunvegan Castle – This historic castle has been the seat of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod for over 800 years and offers tours of its beautiful gardens and historic interior.
- Neist Point Lighthouse – This picturesque lighthouse offers stunning views of the surrounding coastline and is a popular spot for photographers.
- Quiraing – This otherworldly landscape features unique rock formations and dramatic cliffs, making it a popular spot for hiking and photography.
- Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls – These stunning geological formations are located on the eastern coast of the island and offer breathtaking views of the sea and surrounding landscape.
- The Cuillin Mountains – These rugged and dramatic mountains offer some of the best hiking and mountaineering opportunities on the island, with stunning views of the surrounding landscape from their peaks.
- Portree – This picturesque fishing village is the largest town on the island and offers a range of shops, restaurants, and accommodations for visitors.
- Skye Museum of Island Life – This fascinating museum offers insights into the traditional way of life on the island, with exhibits on crofting, fishing, and the history of the island’s people.
Day 6: 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 leaving 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.
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.
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!