Of all the destinations in the world, if you’ve only got seven days available then Scotland is one of the best choices you could possibly make. Scotland is a ‘wee’ little nation, making it super-easy to get from A to B, but at the same time, it is jam packed full of everything you could want in a holiday to escape the mundane. Castles, waterfalls, festivals, history, culture, and those stunning highland landscapes…wow! From a more practical perspective you won’t have to worry about communication as everything is in English, their currency is interchangeable with England in the south, and the Scottish locals are so friendly you’ll never be short of a helping hand or word of advice if needed on your travels.
Yes, that’s right, it’s the perfect short stay!
Scotland Itinerary 7 Days
Day 1 and 2 – Edinburgh
Whether it’s history or nature that excites you, Edinburgh has it all.
Start your first day with a bracing walk to Arthur’s Seat. The spectacular view is the perfect way to acquaint yourself with Edinburgh from above and to prepare yourself for your exploration of Edinburgh’s bustling heart.
From Holyrood Palace, a walk up the Royal Mile is a must for any visitor to Edinburgh. Cobblestone alleys, hidden gardens, kilt merchants and pubs aplenty line this ancient road, with the prize at the end being the imposing Edinburgh Castle.
Allow at least a couple of hours to explore this old fortress, including a viewing of the Scottish Crown Jewels.
Finish your first day with a spot of shopping or a bite to eat in Edinburgh’s ‘New Town’, many of which are within arm’s reach of the unforgettably ornate gothic memorial to Scottish author Sir Walter Scott.
Stockbridge is the perfect place to base yourself today. If it’s a weekend then you can’t miss the Stockbridge Markets, followed by a stroll along the banks of the Water of Leith to Dean Village. It’s like a fairy tale!
If you still have time you could also make the short walk north to the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens where serenity awaits, before returning to central Edinburgh where foodies should consider dinner at the intriguing Edinburgh Food Studio.
Day 3 – Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye
While the drive to the Isle of Skye will take around six hours, there’s so much to see along the way that time will fly by.
For fans of the Outlander television series, close to Edinburgh is Midhope Castle, otherwise known as ‘Lallybroch’. Stirling Castle is another great diversion before you find yourself cutting through the beautiful lochs, glens, and braes of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.
You won’t believe it, but the best is still yet to come. The road leading into Glencoe is one of the most scenic you will find anywhere in the world. Winding across Rannoch Moor and past the looming Three Sisters, you’ll be wanting to stop and take a photo at every turn.
The Isle of Skye is large and there are many great places in which to stay. We really like Staffin as a base, as it’s close to many of the finest hikes on the island. Alternatively, if you prefer more dining options then Portree would be your best choice.
Day 4 and 5 – Isle of Skye
You could easily spend a week or more on the magical Isle of Skye, but two days is more than enough to experience the true Scottish Highland spirit.
On your first day, we recommend exploring the cliffs, valleys, and sweeping views of the Quiraing followed by fresh seafood for lunch at The Oyster Shed in Carbost. Talisker Whisky Distillery is right next door where tours can be booked. The Fairy Pools are only a short drive from Carbost and would be the perfect way to finish your first day on the island.
For your second day, only minutes from Staffin is the impressive Mealt Falls, where the outflow of Loch Mealt explodes over the cliff edge and into the sea more than 50 meters below. Travel to the far northwest tip of the island to Dunvegan where you can spend the morning exploring Dunvegan Castle.
There are many lunch options in Dunvegan itself or for something really special you could book a meal at the Michelin-starred The Three Chimneys restaurant.
To finish, continue to the car park at Neist Point and embrace the wild winds off The Minch as you walk down to Neist Point lighthouse.
Day 6 – Isle of Skye to Glasgow
There’s still time for one last hike. The Old Man of Storr is an iconic hike that could be squeezed into your morning if you’re early enough. As you leave the Isle of Skye you can’t miss the picturesque Eilean Donan Castle by the water’s edge. A great place to stop and imagine life back in the 1200s when the Vikings were on Scotland’s doorstep.
Day 7 – Glasgow
Glasgow used to be the industrial workhorse of Scotland but has reinvented itself as a buzzing, cosmopolitan city.
A walk down Buchanan Street, Glasgow’s ‘Style Mile’ is a tonic for the compulsive shopper in the family, before either walking or taking the subway to the University of Glasgow where you can spend the morning wandering the cloisters and corridors of this architectural masterpiece.
Cute little Ashton Lane is the perfect place for lunch (we recommend the Ubiquitous Chip for a delicious meal that won’t break the bank), while Kelvingrove Park and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (free!) are the ideal afternoon options to wind down after what has been an action-packed yet totally enthralling seven days.
Alternative options for Scotland Itinerary 7 days
Wanting to mix thing up a bit? Here are a couple of tweaks to the itinerary that may appeal.
Day 2 – Inverness
If two days in Edinburgh is too much, then you could always travel north on Day 2 to Inverness. The beautiful forests of Cairngorms National Park are on the way, with Culloden Battlefield a must-visit to any student of British history. On Day 3 the road to the Isle of Skye will provide the opportunity to visit the famous Loch Ness, and perhaps spend a quiet afternoon walking the shores of Loch Carron in the sleepy little village of Plockton.
Day 7 – Glasgow
An alternative to Glasgow’s west end is to walk east to the famous Necropolis, exploring the grand Victorian tombstones and monuments within, before driving across the River Clyde to Pollok Park where a spider web of trails leads you past grazing highland cows, along bubbling brooks and through the award-winning gardens of Pollok Country House.
Days 1 to 7 – The North Coast 500
If you don’t mind being on the move every day, you could also consider driving Scotland’s iconic North Coast 500 (NC500). This is one of the world’s best road trips and it can be done in seven days with some good planning. For more information on the NC500 we recommend visiting the NC500 official website, or for a traveler’s perspective, you can read our own travel diary at Fork and Foot.
Planning your holiday
Seven days isn’t a long time, so the more time spent planning the better your holiday is going to be.
Priorities first. What are you passionate about? The outdoors? History? Architecture? Scour the internet and identify a handful of ‘must do’ locations or activities and lock them into your Inspirock travel itinerary. These will form the skeleton of your travels, around which you can plan your days and other ‘nice to do’ activities.
Some critical tips to keep in mind:
- If you’re traveling in summer then you need to book early. This is peak tourist season and both accommodation and fine dining venues will book out months in advance.
- Winter travelers will quickly find that many accommodation providers and restaurants in the northwest and on the Isle of Skye close for a few months every year (typically January to March). Persistence is the key here, and don’t leave it to the last minute.
- Internet access is excellent near large cities but is very patchy in rural areas. GPS is generally fine in most locations but we recommend that you take a paper map and a written list of key addresses or other information just in case.
- For all the hiking information you could ever need, drop by the comprehensive Walkhighlands website.
- They drive on the left in Scotland, so brush up on your road rules and be prepared to use the tiny passing lanes to allow faster vehicles to overtake you.
- Use Inspirock to plan your holiday. It’s got some great features that will make the planning process a whole lot easier.
Making the most of your time
You’ve only got seven days, so making the most of your daylight hours is going to be critical to maximizing your holiday. This is particularly relevant in winter when it may be less than seven hours between sunrise and sunset.
Scotland is only a small country, so hiring a car and using it to explore the highways and byways is our recommended mode of transport. Public transport is the way to go in the larger cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
If you’re going to be visiting a lot of castles or other historical buildings then we recommend investing in a Historic Scotland Explorer Pass to save on entry fees. More information on this and many other passes can be found at Visit Britain.
In all your travels around Scotland, don’t forget that the Scots are some of the most welcoming and friendly you’ll find anywhere in the world, so if you’re geographically challenged or looking for a recommendation, don’t be afraid to say hello and ask for a wee spot of advice.
Most importantly, don’t forget to keep your Scotland Inspirock itinerary up to date both before and during your travels. It’s simple to use and yet it has so many fantastic little tips and tricks to make your holiday planning in Scotland an absolute breeze.
About Our Guest Blogger
Karen and Andrew are ‘Fork and Foot‘ and they LOVE food and travel! Giving up the corporate life they now travel the globe, opening up new holiday horizons to their readers through the cuisine, landscapes, and cultures of the world. Slow travel is their philosophy, taking the time to dig a little deeper and peel back the layers of a destination, sharing with their community through engaging stories, inspirational photography and an odd sense of humor. Tasting the world, one step at a time!