Scotland was hands down our favorite part of the trip. Heck, it might be the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to. It is so lush and green and wonderful, offering endless places to explore. We spent a very full week in Scotland, starting and ending in Edinburgh, and driving our way through the highlands in between. Scotland is our must-go-back place, if only for the scenery.
We began with two days in Edinburgh, and stayed at the sweetest little bed and breakfast right near the city center. I would go back and do my entire honeymoon at this bed and breakfast, it was just that great. With Bells Brae as our home base on the Water of Leith, we made our way up and down the Royal Mile. We spent a solid two hours touring Edinburgh Castle, followed by the Scotch Whiskey Experience, then walked down to Holyrood Palace, which was unfortunately closed because of royals in residence. We then climbed Arthur’s Seat for an incredible view of the city (and a face-full of wind). We found some great pubs in Edinburgh for food, and were easily able to walk everywhere we needed in the city. Edinburgh was our favorite city that we visited because of its history and the overall feel of the city – not too stuffy, easy to maneuver, and just friendly all around.
After two wonderful days in Edinburgh, we headed north. Or really, northeast and then northwest, with a stop at St. Andrews before moving on towards Inverness. We putted our way through the Himalayas at St. Andrews, just adjacent to the old course. After a quick round, we moved on towards Inverness with a stop at Blair Castle (not totally worth it, but the bagpipes and narwhal tusks were cool) before making our way to Culloden, the battlefield where thousands of highlanders lost their lives for the Jacobite cause. We loved getting to experience that piece of history by walking through the moor. We opted to stay in Drumnadrochit instead of Inverness, which afforded us a great view of Loch Ness and proximity to the Urquhart Castle, which we did first thing the next day. We briefly explored Inverness one evening and found it to be nice and quaint, but were very pleased with our choice to stay in Drum. Urquhart Castle was our favorite castle stop, with the stone ruins set against the sparkling blue waters of Loch Ness. At the suggestion of our Edinburgh hosts, we opted out of a Loch Ness cruise and for a hike to Glen Affric instead. This was totally worth the stop as the views of Glen Affric, appropriately named the most beautiful glen in Scotland, were nothing short of stunning.
One of my favorite things about Scotland is just how pretty literally every corner of the country is. We spent a fair amount of time in the car driving from Loch Ness to Isle of Skye, and then once on Skye, there’s really no other transportation option than to drive by car, but even with all of that drive time, it never got old gazing out the window at the green cliffs and mountains that would spring up from nowhere. Isle of Skye was absolutely breathtaking, with some of the most unique rock formations and scenery in all of Scotland. We loved our time there, and could easily have spent an entire week exploring the landscape of that curious little island. When we could finally tear ourselves away from the views, we hit the road back towards Edinburgh (this was our longest driving day, a total of 8 hours when all other days were 4 or less), making stops at Stirling Castle and Rosslyn Chapel. Rosslyn Chapel was my favorite abbey/chapel/cathedral that we visited. It’s a tiny gem of a place, filled with ornate carvings and intrigue. I loved every second of our tour, and am so glad we got to see it. After our stop at Rosslyn, we made our way back to Edinburgh for a final evening of gathering last minute gifts before making our way back to London the next morning.
Our must-see Scotland stops:
- Edinburgh, specifically the Castle and Arthur’s Seat
- Culloden Moor
- Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness (stay in Drumnadrochit)
- Glen Affric
- Isle of Skye, specifically Kilt Rock and Quiraing (stay in Portree)
- Rosslyn Chapel
Our Scotland tips:
- Secret Scotland Tours – this site has extensively detailed driving tour itineraries of Scotland, and is seriously incredible. We purchased the Scenic 4 Day Tour and Accommodations Guide for a mere twenty pounds, and used that as the basis of our trip. We varied a lot from the tour, but having all of that wonderfully detailed information made me feel confident enough to plan an itinerary that worked best for us. We highly recommend using this company!
- Drive carefully! There are a lot of roads that don’t even have room for two-way traffic, so get used to proceeding with caution. Also, don’t pop a tire like we did.
- Be productive with your drives. Getting around Scotland via rental car is an easy way to travel, but there’s no use in just driving from Point A to Point B in a day – check out sights that are along the way and stop at a few! This is how we planned our driving routes, and it broke up the trip and we got to see a lot more this way!
- Stay at bed & breakfasts and get to know your hosts. They’ll have great local advice on where to eat and stops to make.
- Pack for wet weather. We never actually got soaked, which was awesome! There were a couple of times where it would rain lightly, but it was always when we were walking from one place to another, so it was never bad. We got super lucky with this weather, but it’s always best to be prepared!
- Plan for as many days as you can, then add a couple more. The only thing we would change about our trip is that we wished we had spent more days in Scotland and maybe a day or two less in London. While we got to see the things we wanted, there was easily more we could have packed into an extra couple of days.
For the long-story-short version: we loved every inch of Scotland we got to explore. I’m so glad that our trip planning evolved into what it was, and that we were able to learn and see and do so much! Shout out to our dog-watching family, house-watching friends, and all of our many cheerleaders along the way – we couldn’t do it without you!