Scotland is unlike any other country in the world. For example…
…it boasts with 790 islands, of which 130 are inhabited
…it has 600 square miles of freshwater lakes
…famous Scottish inventions includes penicillin, the telephone and television
…Edinburgh was the first city in the world to have its own fire brigade
…and so much more.
Scotland stole our hearts, and by reading this 9 Day Itinerary of Scotland you will see why.
Day 1 & 2 – Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland. Research has deemed Edinburgh to be the safest city in the United Kingdom, and in our opinion it is also one of the most livable cities in the world.
The city perfectly combines history with 21st century living, and a visit to Scotland will be incomplete if it doesn’t include a day or two in the metropolitan.
We landed at Edinburgh Airport late in the afternoon, and started our 9 Day Tour of Scotland by taking a bus to Edinburgh city. Day 1 was primarily used for resting from a long flight and checking in at our hotel.
We used Day 2 to explore the city, and part of our day included a visit to a castle built on an extinct volcano, a cathedral and a tour of a medieval underground town.
For a full 2 Day Itinerary of Edinburgh please read our post on Edinburgh In A Day.
Day 3 – Drive To The Highlands
When we departed from Edinburgh it was with a sense of contentment. The city was everything we hoped for, and we were looking forward to driving to the Scottish Highlands.
The railway station was only a 5 minute walk from our hotel, and we took the train to where our rental car was waiting for us.
When it comes to rental cars, one never knows what you are going to get. However, we can with confidence recommend Arnold Clarke. By far this has been our best car rental experience to date.
For Day 3 you can drive through a small section of the Cairngorms National Park to get to the Scotland Highlands. We recommend staying at the Old Pier House Loch Ness Log Cabins for the following 2 nights.
Stewart Tower Dairy
On your way to the highlands, about 1 Hour and 10 Minutes north of Edinburgh is a place called Stewart Tower Dairy. This was not part of our itinerary, but we saw a sign on the freeway that said Ice Cream! We decided to be impetuous and took the turnoff.
Our reward? Real Dairy Ice Cream! While everybody claims their ice cream is real, this is actually where real ice cream comes from. While they have different flavours to choose form, you can even buy a truly non-vanilla plain ice cream which is just that, plain ice cream.
Fort Augustus is just before you get to Old Pier House where we checked in for 2 days.
The village has a population of less than 1,000 people and relies heavily on tourism. If you chose the self-catering option at Old Pier House you may want to get some supplies for your stay. There are also a few gift shops to visit and restaurants to choose from.
Old Pier House Loch Ness Cabins
Although it is easy to kill time in Fort Augustus, you don’t necessarily want to waste too much daylight. The view from Old Pier House is simply magnificent as it is situated right on the banks of the famous Loch Ness.
Old Pier House is also one of the private properties where you can see Highland Cattle and the Eriskay Pony.
Highland Cattle are a Scottish cattle breed with long horns and a woolly “oh-so-fluffy” coat.
The Eriskay Pony is a rare and endangered pony, also Scottish bred. The story goes that the ponies were cut off from the main land on Hebrides islands in Scotland, and remained pure due to their isolation.
Day 4 – Drive Around Loch Ness
We made breakfast and then enjoyed the early morning serenity that Loch Ness has to offer. The lake is truly magnificent, and it is staggering to think that it contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined.
While Loch Ness is best known for the alleged sightings of the Loch Ness Monster, few people know that the first “sighting” of the elusive creature actually occurred in 565 AD when a “Water Beast” attacked one of St. Columba’s followers in the loch.
We decided to make a day trip to Inverness but to combine it with a trip around the Loch Ness.
Falls Of Foyers
We chose to go around the loch in an anti-clockwise direction and our first stop was at Falls of Foyers. The waterfall is the 9th – highest waterfall in all of the United Kingdom, and the 4th – highest in Scotland.
The trail that takes you to the viewpoint is a short and an easy hike, but you will get showered so make sure you are adequately dressed for the occasion.
Waterfall Café is just above the falls and serves good food and really good coffee.
Inverness And Clava Cairn
Inverness is the largest city and the cultural capital of the Scottish Highlands. The word Inverness is a Gaelic word meaning “mouth of the River Ness”.
Just outside of Inverness is Clava Cairn, a 4,000 year old mound of rough stones built as a circular chamber tomb.
A visit to Clava Cairn may remind you of a mini version of Newgrange in Ireland. It is not as well preserved as Newgrange, but it does give you a different perspective of the chamber tombs of old.
Glen Ord Distillery
If you are in to whisky, you will really enjoy a visit to the Glen Ord whisky distillery. Founded in 1838 by Thomas Mackenzie, the distillery lies in the Muir of Ord in the Northern Highlands of Scotland.
The visitor center is very informative, and the guided tour includes a taste of their 12 Year Old Singleton of Glen Ord specialty.
As you make your way back to Loch Ness, continue in an anti-clockwise direction down the loch and back towards Fort Augustus. The present ruins of what used to be Urquhart Castle dates back to the 13th to the 16th centuries, and can be found approximately 20 km southwest from Inverness.
In our opinion, the best way to explore the ruins is by taking a 2.5 hour boat cruise on the Loch Ness, which also includes a visit to the castle. However, for this option you will have to watch your available daylight time and maybe skip the Loch Ness Visitor Center or the Glen Ord Distillery.
Loch Ness Exhibition Centre
The Loch Ness Centre & Exhibition has seven themed areas that covers everything from the geographical details of the lake to the legendary Loch Ness Monster.
Personally we found the coffee shop right next to the centre to be more value for money, but it is a great stop if you are travelling with kids.
Enjoy The Scenic Drive
Regardless of which stops you make, the most important thing is to enjoy the scenic drive all along the western bank of the Loch Ness.
We were captivated by the beautiful sunset on the lake, and here is just one of the photos we got from one of the many stops we made.
We headed back to Old Pier House where we spent an enjoyable evening next to the loch.
Days 5 To 7 –Isle Of Skye
The Isle of Skye is one of the most visited destinations in Scotland, especially during the summer months. It is about a 2 hour drive from Fort Augustus, but you will want to take your time as the scenery is really beautiful.
While most people will reserve only one or two days for Skye, we wanted to do a lot of hiking so we decided to span our visit over 3 days instead.
For Skye you have the option of staying on the island, or to find alternative but cheaper accommodation on the mainland. We found accommodation on the mainland to be almost half the price of what you will pay on the island itself, which might make commuting worth your while.
Eilean Donan Castle
One of our favourite castles is Eilean Donan Castle, and can be found on your way towards Skye. Made famous by calendars and many shortbread tins, Eilean Donan Castle has become one of the most iconic images of Scotland.
Geographically speaking the castle is positioned where Loch Long, Loch Duich and Loch Alsh meet.
We absolutely loved the self-guided tour of the castle, and you can either buy tickets at the venue or book a tour online which includes a visit to Skye and Eilean Donan Castle.
Where We Stayed
We commuted to Skye from Kyle, which is just around the corner from Eilean Donan Castle. The area is beautiful and we didn’t mind the drive, but you would probably be better off staying a bit closer to Skye if you want to sleep on the mainland (Kyle of Lochalsh will be much closer but not necessarily much cheaper than Skye itself).
Visiting Isle Of Skye
When you explore Skye you will be awarded with famous landmarks and beautiful locations which will include…
… Skye Bridge
… Old Man of Storr
… The Quaraing Pass
… Fairy Pools
… Dunvegan Castle
… and more!
We dedicated an entire post to the Isle of Skye where you can read all about our visit to the island.
Day 8 – Glencoe
Take your time to drive from Skye to Glencoe, which is one of the most scenic drives in Scotland (we seem to be thinking that for most of Scotland). There are also many hiking trails in the Glencoe area for you to explore.
Even if you don’t get to do the hikes, just driving the area is absolutely amazing and we were able to take even more beautiful pictures of Scotland.
If you have time left in your day, you may want to drive through to Oban and either return to Glencoe where you can sleep for the night, or alternatively find accommodation in Oban.
Oban is a picturesque town really worth visiting, and for us it served like a bonus on our trip.
Back in Glencoe we had dinner at a pub called Clachaig Inn… which they claim are “probably” the best pub in the world. Here we were able to relax for the evening with a decent meal and good whiskey.
Day 9 – Head Back To Edinburgh Airport
We took the road back to Edinburgh via the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, and from the park we drove through Glasgow to get an idea what the city looks like as well.
In short, we had a great trip and to be honest, Scotland is one of our favourite places in the world!
We can summarise Scotland as the place where you can truly experience nature in its splendor. It is just incredible to see how many trees there are, how much water there is and how beautiful the landscape with the snow-capped mountains are.