This post was originally published on A Globe Well Travelled in 2018. The content has been revised and updated with fresh information.
Scotland held one of the top spots on my destinations to-do list for years.
I’d been dreaming about its fairytale castles, rocky hills, and serene lakes, and I finally had the chance to see them on a summertime trip to the UK.
The plan was to meet up with some Aussie friends in Glasgow, then make our way around Scotland for an action-packed road trip around the countryside before ending up in Edinburgh. Here’s the complete itinerary for our 10 day epic Scotland road trip!
Days 1-2: Glasgow
Starting off in Glasgow, we checked out the major sites such as Glasgow Cathedral and Kelvingrove Art Gallery. My love of dark tourism made me especially excited to see the Glasgow Necropolis – a spooky cemetery dating back to the 1830s with graves and mausoleums of well-known Glaswegians.
A few hip cafes and restaurants were also on the itinerary, and I sought out some vegetarian haggis (an essential Scottish experience!). As we rented a car for our road trip, I looked for a hotel near the city centre that had parking and settled on one in West End near the Botanic Gardens.
Day 3: Glencoe
From Glasgow, we drove north through Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park to Glencoe. This area was used as a filming location for the Skyfall House in the respective Bond movie, and also numerous scenes in the Harry Potter film series. There’s plenty of things to do in Glencoe, and seeing as this area is of the wildest and most beautiful landscapes in Scotland, I was constantly snapping photos of the scenery!
We stayed overnight near Fort William at the Onich Hotel, in a room with views of the Loch and a full Scottish breakfast (which is not particularly vegetarian-friendly, but I made do with eggs and beans on toast).
Days 4-6: Isle of Skye
The next morning we continued onward to Glenfinnan Viaduct – a train bridge famous for carrying the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter! As a long-term Potter fan, I was pretty excited for this one. I timed our visit so that we could see the steam train passing over the bridge.
We intended to drive onwards is Mallaig to catch a ferry over to Isle of Skye, but the weather wasn’t cooperating so we ended up driving back to access the island via road. I booked us an Airbnb cottage in Portree, the major town on Isle of Skye, where we based ourselves for the next few days.
We filled two days with activities such as hiking around the impressive rocky landscape, stopping at viewpoints with spectacular natural scenery, sampling some Scottish Whiskey, visiting lighthouses and exploring castles.
Day 7: Loch Ness + Inverness
We drove our rental car over Skye Bridge back to the mainland, with our first stop being Eilean Donan Castle. This 13th century castle is apparently one of the most photographed in Scotland with a picture perfect lakeside location and mountain backdrop.
It’s an hour drive on to Loch Ness, famous for ‘Nessie’ – the monster that is rumoured to dwell beneath the surface of the lake. As a fan of mysteries, conspiracies, and unexplained phenomenons, I was dead keen to check out the Loch Ness Centre which has an exhibition featuring Nessie’s legendary tale!
I’d originally planned to have a glamping experience overnight at Loch Ness, but when I went to book it, I found that it had sold out for our dates. While looking for an alternative, I discovered some adorable glamping pods on a farm up past Inverness that were just as cosy a place to spend the night!
Day 8: Inverness + Cairngorms NP
We travelled onwards to Cairngorms National Park in the Scottish Highlands the next morning. I’d never heard of this park before the trip, but after doing a little research on activities in the area, I made the discovery that you can visit a free-roaming reindeer herd here! Seeing these arctic animals up close in their natural environment was really exciting.
We made our way further south to our traditional highland hotel – the Atholl Arms – which looked kind of like a historic Scottish mansion!
Days 9-10: Edinburgh
Due to my love of public art, we stopped in at The Kelpies which are some massive horse head statues just 45 minutes drive out of Edinburgh.
Once we made it to the city, there was plenty to keep us occupied for the next few days. We spent time casually hanging out as well as doing a few touristy activities such as an Edinburgh city tour.
A walk up to Calton Hill was definitely worth it for views of the city skyline, and we enjoyed our visit to Holyrood Palace and Royal Yacht Britannia to inspect the luxurious residences of the Royals.