10 Days on the Road Well Travelled

It’s that time of year when enquiries start coming in from the well-prepared travellers out there as to how to plan their perfect trip to Scotland. I’m going to have to close my eyes, cover my ears and grind my way through this a bit I’ll be honest. A big part of my job is opening up all of Scotland to travellers and shining some spotlight on the oft-forgotten spots. I veer away from the best-known, over-promoted locations where I can. But, keeping my international travels in mind, I know that sometimes there are places you simply must see on any given trip. A 10 day Scotland itinerary seems to be the most common timeframe that comes in, so here’s my thoughts on how to get the most out of my homeland in that – appallingly – limited time.

I’m also making some assumptions with the below itinerary. Namely that this is your first visit to Scotland, that the thought of missing Skye and Loch Ness is unthinkable and that you’ll be moving at a pretty relentless pace. That you’ll want a variety of things in there including plenty of culture, history, Highland landscapes and a distillery or two. I’m also assuming you will be driving your own vehicle, the Highlands are pretty much impossible to do justice to otherwise. But if you are a repeat visitor, are looking for a fairly relaxing holiday and want to explore off the beaten path, IGNORE THIS COMPLETELY and instead dig deeper into this website.

 

10 Day Scotland Itinerary

Days 1 and 2 – Edinburgh

Let’s say you’ve flown in to the capital to keep things simple. I think it needs a minimum of 2 days and there are countless options here. Some of my recommended big hitters include:

  • Edinburgh Castle
  • Real Mary Kings Close
  • Scotch Whisky Experience
  • National Museum of Scotland
  • A walk up Arthur’s Seat (or Calton Hill for something easier)
  • Climb to the top of the Scott Monument
  • Water of Leith walkway and a wander into Dean Village

city view edinburgh itinerary

10 day scotland itinerary edinburgh cityscape

Edinburgh city centre is pretty easy to get around on foot, the alternative is by bus. You can delay hiring a car until you are ready to leave the city.

 

Day 3 – Dundee

I’m really chuffed that I feel the need to include Dundee on a 10 day Scotland itinerary, even one as ruthless as this. The City of Discovery has long been simmering quietly on an increasingly cultural footing, but there’s no question that the new V&A Museum of Design has kicked things up a level. Allow a couple of hours for the V&A, be sure to pop into Discovery Point next door and also to Verdant Works. The latter is an outstanding tribute to the city’s harsh industrial past, specifically its status as the jute capital of the world.

dundee itinerary 10 day scotland

v&a dundee scotland

 

Day 4 – The Drive to Inverness

Your first foray into the Highlands starts with the drive through Perthshire and this is where the landscape teasing begins. Time is tight within this timeframe but the ideally located Hermitage – or alternatively Killiecrankie a little further north – offer the perfect motorway stop to stretch the legs and appreciate the magnificence of these densely wooded landscapes. Allow around 90 minutes for this break.

perthshire 10 day scotland itinerary

killiecrankie scotland road trip

Before you know it, you’ll have crept into the western Cairngorms further north. One of the best whisky distilleries of them all, Dalwhinnie, is another helpfully placed roadside stop here. Driver kits are available for those behind the wheel and what they do with their whisky-chocolate pairings is genius. Allow around 90 minutes for a tour and a tasting.

whisky tours 10 day scotland itinerary

The final stop I advise for today is Culloden. Perhaps the most poignantly atmospheric battlefield you’ll ever visit, this was the scene of the last major land battle in Britain and the calamitous end point for the Jacobite cause. Outlander fans wouldn’t dream of missing this place but I think every history fan simply must find space for it over your 10 days. The Visitor Centre and desolate battlefield moor itself require a couple of hours.

 

Day 5 – Inverness to Skye

Having spent the night in or around Inverness, head south first of all to Loch Ness. Scots do not understand the fuss about our most famous loch, it’s a long way from being our most attractive. But I’ve had enough conversations with first time visitors to realise that there’s no getting around this one, so here it is. In its defence, Urquhart Castle on the lochside is a stunner and this is where I’d head. Allow around an hour for a nosey.

loch ness 10 day scotland itinerary

eilean donan castle 10 day scotland itinerary

Continue south and, once you reach Invergarry, head west to Skye. The island is seamlessly accessed by bridge but you’ll probably want another castle stop at the famous Eilean Donan on the mainland en route. Once you are on Skye, seek out accommodation in or near pretty Portree. Just be advised that you’ll have to book several months in advance.

 

Day 6 – Skye

Aside from being overrun in peak season, and not far off the rest of the year, Skye wrestles with Assynt for me in the running for Scotland’s most jaw-dropping landscapes. Fitting all of these into one day is impossible, so pick 2 or 3 and make sure your camera memory card is empty:

  • Old Man of Storr – viewable from the roadside or as part of a 4-hour return hike to the summit
  • The Quiraing (best viewed from the Uig to Staffin road)
  • Fairy Pools
  • Talisker Distillery
  • Elgol – take a boat trip to Loch Coruisk
  • Neist Point – the spectacular view and walk to the lighthouse

isle of skye 10 day scotland itinerary

skye scotland waterfall itinerary

 

Days 7 and 8 – The Outer Hebrides

Hmmm. Yes, this lot were always going to make it on to the 10 day itinerary. I’m making no apologies. What you actually get up to here depends a lot on your interests, but the beaches will feature prominently. Last year I was immersing myself in outdoors activities like kayaking and coasteering, the year before was more about hiking. While there’s a lot to see, the simplest course of action is to focus on Harris and Lewis. The former is all about landscapes and beaches, the latter more on history. Callanish Standing Stones, Dun Carloway and Gearrannan Blackhouse Village are the obvious, excellent historic Lewis attractions. As for South Harris’ beaches, Luskentyre, Scarista and Hushinish are my favourites.

callanish 10 day scotland itinerary outlander

lewis outer hebrides itinerary

drone harris outer hebrides

Your ferry from Uig, will come in and out of Tarbert, Harris’ ‘capital’. This gives you an ideal opportunity to purchase some Harris Tweed and pop into the shiny new Harris Distillery, source of the gin that has taken the industry by storm.

 

Day 9 – Drive back to Glasgow

Today is a long journey, ending a trip that’s been full of them! If you’re still with me, get the ferry back to Skye and begin the 5 hour drive back to the bright city lights. Stops along the route are countless but allow at least half an hour for Glen Coe. This is hillwalking heaven and countless routes are open to you, but time will of course be tight. Another logical stop is Loch Lomond, and pretty Luss is the popular pit-stop ahead of the final stretch back to the city. You’ll get a great perspective of Scotland’s second most famous loch from the pier, including the sulking mound of Ben Lomond.

ben lomond view luss

glen coe 10 day scotland travel itinerary

glen coe road trip scotland itinerary

You’ll arrive just in time for a Glasgow curry!

 

Day 10 – Glasgow

My home city is a fitting end and deserves to be lauded with the same affection that travellers have for Edinburgh. It’s great to have seen Glasgow’s numbers on the rise in recent years and folk are seeing it as a wonderful accompaniment and source of comparison to the capital. Culture, architecture, nightlife and shopping are the city’s key assets. Give this lot plenty of consideration, and be sure to get to the West End if nothing else:

  • Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
  • Glasgow University campus
  • Glasgow Cathedral
  • Gallery of Modern Art
  • Botanic Gardens
  • The Riverside Musuem
  • Clydeside Distillery (if you’ve not had enough whisky yet)

10 day scotland itinerary glasgow cathedral

glasgow itinerary

Glasgow’s iconic Subway is the ideal way of getting around between the major sites and the city’s many green spaces will chill you out after this busy itinerary.

For departure, you will likely either be heading out of Glasgow Airport or Edinburgh (a regular bus leaves directly from Buchannan Street station to Edinburgh Airport).

 

Time of Year to Visit

I’ve made a job out of showing that Scotland is a year-round destination. Even in the depths of winter, my travels this year to the likes of the Isle of Mull have underlined that I think. That said, and based on my initial assumptions above, the best months to come are generally May, June, September and October. Climate change keeps increasingly messing with weather systems and upsetting normal expectations but those are usually the best weather-wise. The dreaded midges are not at their peak, days are long and fellow tourist numbers are much less challenging.

travels with a kilt outer hebrides

 

Summary

I’ve been twitching throughout this article. As a Scot, it goes against my entire focus and criminally misses out so many great spots that deserve your attention. But the truth is Scotland is a big wee country. It is completely impossible to cover it in one trip, regardless of how long, and you can only do so much. There’s no mention in this 10-day Scotland itinerary for Southern Scotland, for the North East, the Inner Hebrides or even the North Coast 500. Disgraceful, I know. My only excuse is that you’d send me hate mail if I’d pushed you any harder – these are your holidays after all.

But we have covered several magnificent ruins; the best Glen of them all; our most famous lochs; maybe the most beautiful beaches you’ll ever see; our best standing stone site and our most complimentary cities. You’ll have poked around a couple of the classiest distilleries and sampled plenty of local seafood. Obviously if you have more time, spread out your journey a bit and you’ll enjoy it all the better. If you have less, the Outer Hebrides chunk may be beyond you.

If 10 days it is, you’ll be shattered but you’ll have a full understanding of what brilliantly diverse Scotland is all about. Enjoy the journey.

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14 Comments

  1. Hey, if one has a mere 10 days, you have hit some fabulous high points. I love that you mention Luss, always a favorite for me, with the Coach Inn being a must stop. Well done!

  2. Heartfelt thanks Neil for including Dundee in this. Tbh, if I had to make up a similar 10 day trip, I don’t know if I would have included my bonnie wee toon as there is so much else to see and do in Scotland. I finally visited the V&A the other week. The “Liners” exhibition was wonderful, really enjoyed it. We spent so long looking at that that we didn’t have time to look at the permanent stuff so we’ll return another day. I still think the V&A is magnificent but must admit to being slightly disappointed with the inside as compared to the outside. I didn’t like the ground floor, and really don’t see the need for two places to eat or two gift shops. Sadly, I suppose I just have to accept it as part of the price for Dundee having such a wonderful attraction.

    1. My pleasure Jacqui, was great to get Dundee in there! Loved the V&A I must say but appreciate that the layout may not be for everyone. Looking forward to the next exhibits and hope that folk take the time to spend a day or two and explore Discovery, Verdant Works et al as well.

  3. Hello Neil,
    great post as usual and a lovely itinerary for first time visitors. 🙂
    As an avid Scotland traveller I have visited most of the spots (except the Isle of Harris/Lewis which is already booked for September 2019 and Glasgow). I can imagine how difficult it is to pick as Scotland is really a beautiful country.

    1. It was nightmarish having to omit things but this covered the broadest range of interests I could come up with. I’ll have to do another one though I fear. You’ll love the Outer Hebs and I hope the weather is kind to you!

  4. I am lucky enough to be spending nearly five full weeks in Scotland in June/July including a week-long walking tour of the Orkney Islands. Do you have a longer suggested itinerary on your blog? I am a photographer, love hiking, don’t like whisky (sorry!!). I will have a car. So far I am spending at least four days in Harris/Lewis/Uist. A few days in Glasgow, a few more in Edinburgh. The rest of the time I thought I’d follow the coast around from Skye – John O’Groats- Inverness and then around to Aberdeen (via Moray) I am just wondering if I should also be heading south of Glasgow as well?? As an Australian, I am very used to long drives! What would you recommend?

    1. Oh you’re doing it right, great amount of time to see what we’re all about! You’ll see other itineraries in the Itinerary tab in the main menu – there’s a 3 week one and a Southern Scotland one in there which you can combine easily. You’ll find blog posts for Orkney, Aberdeenshire, the Outer Hebrides and parts of the North Coast 500 via a search on the site as well that should be useful in parts for you as well. I’m planning on covering more of the north east in the coming months so stay tuned for more from those parts too. Happy travels!

  5. 10 days is definitely too short but that’s all most of us can take off work at one time so no, there is no way to discover everything worth seeing but it’s a good start. We’re coming for 10 days exactly in May and we know already it will be just a teaser of what this beautiful country has to offer but we’re grateful for the opportunity to discover even the most popular spots, they’re so popular for a reason after all. I’ve prepared our itinerary before I found your blog, all the bookings are done and seem almost impossible to change anything now, all reasonable priced lodgings are already gone, but it looks we made mostly good decisions, our plan is not very far off you presented and now reading your blog we’re learning a lot more details that will help us use the time efficiently. Although I wish we could stay longer in Oban (and maybe skip Pitlochry, but the Cairngorms so look worth at least a day!). As basically every other place so we’ll just have to come back.
    Thank you so much for this blog, it’s so great to discover new place through eyes of a local that appreciates its beauty.

    1. Very glad you found it helpful Beata, to add to your existing plans! Completely agree, the Oban area and the Cairngorms deserve plenty of time – too much for me to fit into this 10 day itinerary as it turned out – but both are explored thoroughly in other posts. Have a fantastic trip and hope Scotland meets your expectations!

  6. Headed out on Saturday, Your 10 days looks much like what we have sketched out. Your walking routes were a smashing find!! thank you.

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