Looking for the perfect Scotland Itinerary? Look no further!
Last May, Michael and I went to Scotland for my 25th birthday. Even though it’s almost been a year since we were there, I still can’t stop thinking about how incredible that country was. Scotland was this magical, gorgeous, wild place where we met some of the nicest human beings I’ve ever met in my life. Going on a trip to Scotland is guaranteed to be life-changing. Which is why I wanted to share my Scotland Itinerary with you, so you could experience some of the magic for yourself.
We didn’t have a chance to go to any of the Isles and we definitely missed a few must-see cities, but that just leaves room for next time. But trust me, there will be a next time.
The Perfect 10-Day Scotland Itinerary
Day .5: Arrive in Glasgow
Michael and I took KLM airlines from Zurich to Glasgow Airport. This was my first time trying out my new registered traveler status and it was amazing being able to go through the e-passport lanes!
Where to Stay: Holiday Inn – Glasgow Airport
I think the best way to start out your Scotland itinerary is by driving to the Highlands, so I’d suggest booking a room at the Holiday Inn Glasgow Airport to get a bit of a shut-eye before the long day ahead.
Holiday Inn Glasgow Airport was one of the best airport hotels I’ve ever stayed in because the people were so nice and they even gave us a free drink voucher just because it was my birthday! Book Your Stay.
Where to Eat: Hotel bar or Weatherspoon’s (because what’s a UK trip without a trip to Spoon’s?)
What to Do: Get some sleep! You’ve got a long day ahead of you!
Day One: Fort William
After renting a car with Europcar, we were on our way! Fort William should be your first spot because it is home to a very important literary landmark, The Jacobite Steam Train aka the Hogwarts Express. It’s also nestled in the middle of the Highlands, so driving there is incredibly scenic and you can reach any of the Isles or Inverness/Loch Ness pretty easily. Remember: this is your Scotland Itinerary so you can make any changes you want to create the perfect trip!
Things to See and Do On The Road from Glasgow to Fort William:
Driving from Glasgow to Fort William is a huge part of the adventure! There’s so much to see and do that you should definitely add an extra hour or two to your driving time because I guarantee you’ll want to stop and take pictures along the way!
Here are some suggestions for your drive:
- Have breakfast or lunch at Duck Bay Marina Hotel. Gorgeous Loch Lomond views with delicious traditional Scottish brekky.
- Take the scenic route and drive through Trossachs National Park!
- Glencoe is on this route, which has many Harry Potter and Game of Thrones sites to see.
- Stop at the Green Welly Rest Stop in Glencoe, cutest rest stop I’ve ever seen.
What to do In Fort William:
- Ride the Nevis Range Mountain Shuttle up to Ben Nevis (UK’s highest mountain range) and hike up the mountain (this was the most magical experience and I would highly recommend it to anyone! There are trails for all levels of athleticism).
- Visit Ben Nevis Distillery after hiking for a whisky tour (The distillery closes at 5 pm).
- Glenfinnan Viaduct and watch the steam train pass by (this is the shot used for the Hogwarts Express) The times for the trains vary, but you can find a schedule here.
- Hike Steall Waterfall, a 10 min hike after the parking lot
Where to Eat: Garrison West Pub
Nestled in the old town of Fort William, Garrison West is not your ordinary pub. All the food is farm to table and the menu changes constantly. They have an extensive whisky list, with some rare whisky’s that you can get for cheaper than anywhere else I’ve seen and delicious craft beers on tap. I’d suggest trying the Haggis here, paired with a Ben Nevis whisky. Incredible.
Where to Stay: The Garrison Hotel or The Imperial Hotel
We stayed in the Imperial because it was literally 50 quid for the night but I’ve heard incredible things about The Garrison. Book Your Stay.
Day Two: Jacobite Steam Train aka The Hogwarts Express (Fort William Continued)
I’m planning on writing a whole post about riding The Hogwarts Express (it’s on my bucket list), but if you’re a Harry Potter fan this is a MUST. If you’re not a big HP fan, you can choose to take advantage of the hiking that Fort William has to offer or just move straight to our next stop, Loch Ness.
The Jacobite Steam Train drops you off in Mallaig, a small fishing town, for about two hours before you board the train and head back to Fort William.
Book your tickets for the steam train way in advance, they sell out quick! We bought ours literally 6 months beforehand and they were already almost sold out. Book your tickets here.
What To Do For Two Hours in Mallaig:
- Visit all the Harry Potter shops
- Have to-die-for fish and chips at the Steam Inn or Cornerstone. They get pretty crowded so maybe make a reservation ahead of time.
We ended up driving straight from the train in Fort William to Loch Ness but you can choose to stay another night in Fort William or any of the surrounding areas! Or, you can get off at Mallaig and take a ship to the Isle of Skye. Up to you!
Day Three: Loch Ness
Even if you don’t believe in Nessie, Loch Ness is one of the most gorgeous towns I’ve ever had the privilege of being in. It was literally breathtaking.
Things to Do:
- Go on a Boat Tour (We Took the Monster Hunting Tour with Jacobite and it was AMAZING!)
- Visit the Nessie Museum
- Watch the sun go down over Urquhart Castle
- Hike through the South Loch Ness Trail
Where to Stay: Loch Ness Inn
This was an adorable little B&B right on the Loch (so you can search for Nessie outside your window). They have beers on tap in their second bar that is brewed in house.
We accidentally showed up on 60s night, where they had a Rod Stewart impersonator named Bob Wyper who sang 60s show tunes all night. We were the youngest people in the restaurant and it was…hilarious. Book Your Stay.
Where to Eat: The Boathouse Loch Side
Day Four: Inverness
I’m amending this itinerary because we didn’t stay the night in Inverness but I wish we had. There’s so much to see, eat, drink, and do so I would highly suggest sticking around and staying a night here. We’re definitely going back so, this list is also for me (lol). It’s for my next Scotland Itinerary, right?
Things to Do:
- Drive to Cawdor Castle – the Castle where the fictional Macbeth became Thane. It’s gorgeous
- Go to the Victorian Market for some delicious eats and whisky tastings
- Inverness Museum and Art Gallery
- Inverness Castle Tour
- Inverness Botanic Gardens
- Tomatin Distillery Tour
Where to Stay: Caledonian Hotel (recommended to me by a friend)
Where to Eat: There are so many places to eat in Inverness so just going to list a few places that look good:
Days Five and Six: Glasgow
Glasgow’s motto is “People Make Glasgow” and it’s so true. Out of all the places that we stayed while in Scotland, everyone we met in Glasgow was the kindest and most interested in some banter. The original Scotland Itinerary that I wrote had us staying for three days in Glasgow but honestly, I think two days is enough to get a taste of everything the city has to offer. It’s a workers city, so it’s a bit spread out and not as breathtaking as the other places on this list. However, Glasgow had the best people and the best food. We mostly just sat in bars and ate in Glasgow and I’m not sorry about it.
Things to Do:
- Kelvingrove Museum (free entry! A really cool museum)
- University of Glasgow (basically Hogwarts)
- Gin Distillery Tour
- Duke of Wellington Statue
- Riverside Museum
- Hynland Bookshop
- A Play, A Pint, and A Pie
Where to Eat (And Drink)- I’m writing a separate post about all the places to eat in Glasgow because there are SO MANY but here are some of my faves:
Day Seven: Stay In A Castle Outside Edinburgh
I’ve always wanted to stay in a (preferably haunted) castle in Scotland. So, I decided to treat myself and book us a stay for me to spend my birthday night in Melville Castle. If this isn’t in your budget or doesn’t seem like your thing, just go straight to Edinburgh and stay there! As I said, make your Scotland Itinerary yours! However, staying in a castle in Scotland was literal magic so I would recommend it to anyone.
Where to Stay: Melville Castle
I’m writing an entire post about this but here’s a quick history: Melville Castle is located just 40 minutes outside of Edinburgh and has been a staple in Scottish history since 1155. Mary Queen of Scots was a frequent visitor here and when her lover, David Rizzio, was murdered, she planted two majestic Spanish Chestnut trees on the grounds in his memory. The trees still survive and the hotel managers told me that Mary still haunts the halls today, among other guests who never left. Best. Hotel. Stay. Ever. Book Your Stay.
Things to Do:
- I mean, you’re in a castle so lounging, reading, and exploring are all you should be doing during your stay.
- The Library Bar is open 24 hours a day (yes, you heard that right) and has beers on tap, cocktails, and whisky. You can borrow some books from the shelves or play some board games. We celebrated my 25th birthday at midnight at the bar, drinking whisky with the lovely staff and looking for ghosts. It was perfect.
Where to Eat: Melville Castle Brasserie Restaurant
The Castle restaurant’s chef prides himself on making everything from scratch daily. And it shows. Located in the dungeons of the castle, you’ll find some of the best food and banter. They’ll seriously treat you like royalty!
Day Eight: Edinburgh – Harry Potter Edition
If you didn’t know by now, I am a huge Harry Potter fan and Edinburgh is the birthplace of Harry Potter. I’ll be listing all the Harry Potter stuff to do here and in another blog post, but the next two days afterward will list normal things to do if HP isn’t your thing.
Things to Do (Harry Potter):
- Breakfast at The Elephant House – the cafe where JK Rowling wrote parts of Sorcerer’s Stone on napkins. They don’t take reservations but if you get there early enough, you shouldn’t have to wait.
- Have a coffee at Spoons, the cafe where JK Rowling also wrote HP.
- Walk down Victoria Street (the inspiration for Diagon Alley)
- Go to Diagon House — Diagon Alley themed shop
- See Tom Riddle’s Grave at Greyfrair’s Kirkyard (Check out this handy Harry Potter Graveyard Map that’ll help you find all the relevant tombstones)
- Peek over the fence at George Heriot’s School (the inspiration for Hogwarts)
- Have High Tea (with champagne) at Balmoral Hotel— the hotel where JK Rowling stayed to write and finish Deathly Hallows. She often had tea at Palm Court, where they serve a delicious high tea.
Where to Eat: The Albanach
For amazing Haggis and burgers. Don’t knock haggis till you try it.
Where to Stay: Bruntsfield Hotel
An adorable and very comfy Best Western hotel that’s just a bus ride away from everything good! Book Your Stay.
Days Nine-Ten: Edinburgh
Things to Do:
- Scotch Whisky Experience – even if you don’t like whisky, this is a must. You may even be converted. I’d recommend the Platinum Tour because you get the best bang for your buck. Book tickets here.
- Edinburgh Writer’s Museum
- The Royal Palace
- Edinburgh City Chambers (cast of JK Rowling’s hands)
- Browse the many Edinburgh bookshops
- Optical Illusion Museum
- Mary King’s Close tour
- Gin Distillery Tour
- Museum of Scotland
- White Hart Inn (most haunted pub in Edinburgh)
- Maison de Moggy (a cat cafe!! Tickets have to be booked in advance).
We took the Hidden and Haunted Tour with Mercatt Tours, which Michael thought was silly but it brings you down into the catacombs underneath Edinburgh and I thought it was spooky AF. Book it here with Tiquets.
Where to Eat (and Drink):
- Tuk Tuk Indian Street Food (AMAZING)
- Frizzante Proseccheria
- The Witchery
- The Devil’s Advocate.
- The Voodoo Rooms
- Heads and Tails
- Cool quirky vintage bar
- Panda and Sons
- The Edinburgh Gin Distillery
Day 11: Fly Home and Be Prepared to Miss Scotland Everyday Afterwards
And there you have it, 10 wonderful days in Scotland with a full Scotland Itinerary!
I hope this Scotland Itinerary can help you plan the trip of your dreams. Please let me know if you go to any of the places I’ve recommended or tag me on Instagram @femalehemingway! I want to hear your thoughts.