A Highland Fling
- 1 Week
This tour takes in Scotland's scenic and historical highlights.
No trip to Scotland would be complete without a visit to Edinburgh, and even if your Scottish trip lasts only a week, the capital is worth two days of your time. On day three, head northwest to Stirling to see Scotland's other great castle, then on to the Trossachs for your first taste of Highland scenery (overnight in Callander).
Day four starts with a scenic drive north via Glen Coe and Fort William, then along the Great Glen to Loch Ness in time for an afternoon visiting Urquhart Castle and the Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition. An evening cruise on Loch Ness rounds off the day; spend the night in Inverness.
On day five visit Culloden Battlefield, then drive west via Achnasheen and Plockton to Kyle of Lochalsh and cross the bridge to the Isle of Skye. Devote day six to Dunvegan Castle and the Trotternish peninsula.
Spend your last day taking the long drive back south – the scenic route goes via Glen Shiel, Invergarry, Spean Bridge (pause at the Commando Monument), Laggan and then south on the A9 to Edinburgh, with a stop in Pitlochry.
Best of Scotland
- 2 Weeks
Castles, whisky, mountain scenery and the legendary Isle of Skye – this route covers the best that Scotland has to offer.
From Edinburgh head north to Fife and turn east along the coastal road through the fishing villages of the East Neuk (pause for a seafood lunch at Anstruther or St Monans) to the home of golf, St Andrews. Stay a night or two – heck, play a round of golf – before continuing north to Dundee and Glamis Castle, with its royal associations. A scenic drive north through the mountains leads to Braemar, a good place to spend the night.
A feast of castles lies ahead as you make your way east along Royal Deeside – take your time and visit (at the very least) the royal residence of Balmoral Castle and the fairy-tale Crathes Castle on your way to the granite city of Aberdeen. Plan to overnight here.
Now strike west again along the A944, visiting Castle Fraser and Craigievar Castle before heading north to Dufftown and Aberlour in the heart of Speyside. Base yourself here for at least a day while you explore the local whisky distilleries – there are some good places to eat, plus the Quaich whisky bar at the nearby Craigellachie Hotel.
Head northwest to Elgin and its magnificent ruined cathedral, then west on the A96, visiting Fort George and Culloden on the way to Inverness (you'll probably need a stopover in Nairn). Inverness itself is worth a night or two – there are some excellent hotels and restaurants, and the opportunity for a side trip to Loch Ness (Drumnadrochit for monster spotters; Dores Inn for foodies).
Now for a glorious drive from Inverness to Torridon via Kinlochewe through some of the country's finest mountain scenery; try to spend a night at the Torridon hotel. Then head south via Applecross and the pretty village of Plockton to Kyle of Lochalsh and the bridge to Skye.
Spend two days exploring Scotland's most famous island before taking the ferry from Armadale to Mallaig, and follow the Road to the Isles in reverse, stopping to visit Glenfinnan, where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his Highland army in 1745. Overnight at Fort William, and drive back to Edinburgh via the scenic road through Glen Coe and along the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond.
- 5 Days
Southern Scotland is often overlooked by visitors, but fans of Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott will find much to enjoy on this short tour.
From Edinburgh your first objective should be a visit to Sir Walter Scott's former home at Abbotsford, followed by the beautiful Border abbeys of Melrose and nearby Dryburgh; Melrose is a charming place to stay the night, with a choice of good hotels.
Next morning head west along the A708 to Moffat, passing through glorious scenery around St Mary's Loch. Continue to Dumfries (and stop for the night), where you can visit the first of several sights related to Scotland's national poet Robert Burns, and make a short side trip to see spectacular Caerlaverock Castle.
North now to Wemyss Bay and the ferry to Rothesay on the Isle of Bute, where you can visit stunning Mount Stuart, one of Scotland's most impressive stately homes. Spend the night on the island, then return to the mainland and head east to Glasgow.
- 1 Week
This scenic, island-hopping route is usually done by car, but it also makes a brilliant cycling tour (270 miles, including the 60 miles from Ullapool to Inverness train station, making both start and finish accessible by rail).
From Oban it's a five-hour ferry crossing to Barra; plan to spend the night here and book ahead. On day two, after a visit to Kisimul Castle and a tour around the island, take the ferry to South Uist. Walk the wild beaches of the west coast, sample the local seafood and perhaps go fishing on the island's trout lochs. Continue through Benbecula and North Uist, prime birdwatching country.
Overnight at Lochmaddy on North Uist (if you're camping or hostelling, a night at Berneray is a must) before taking the ferry to Harris, whose west coast has some of the most spectacular beaches in Scotland. The road continues north from Tarbert, where you'll find good hotels, through rugged hills to Lewis.
Don't go directly to Stornoway, but loop west via the Callanish Standing Stones and Arnol Blackhouse museum. Spend your final night in Stornoway (eat at Digby Chick), then take the ferry to Ullapool for a scenic drive to Inverness.