A 1-week road trip to see all the best of Scotland!
This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.
A Scotland Road Trip
Year visited: 2022
Time of year: May
I haven’t been to that many countries, but of all the ones I have visited, Scotland is definitely my favorite! I can’t wait to go back and see more castles and mountains, and eat more Biscoff flavored everything!
If you are planning a Scotland road trip, here is the perfect 1-week itinerary for you, including what to eat and where to stay, and bonus days if you have more time (lucky you!).
This road trip takes you through all of my favorite places in Scotland:
Scotland Road Trip Route Map:
Tips for Driving in Scotland
I was nervous about renting a car for our Scotland road trip, but there were so many places I wanted to see on our own time, and not at the mercy of the tour bus.
If you would rather not rent a car in Scotland, you can get tours (or usually even public transportation) to all of these places.
As an American driving in Scotland, here are some things to note:
They drive on the left-hand side of the road in Scotland.
There are no public restrooms along the highway. You will have to stop at a cafe, a visitor’s centre or a community centre.
There are one lane roads in Scotland, but only in the more remote places.
They do have roundabouts (traffic circles).
There are lots of pull-off areas along the road to let people pass you, or to stop to take a picture.
There are currently no tolls in Scotland.
Be sure to take your own pictures of your rental car before and after to avoid getting fraudulent damage charges.
Read this article for more information about driving a rental car in Scotland.
What to Eat in Scotland
What is Biscoff?? It’s the European alternative to peanut butter. At least that’s what my mom told me when I developed an allergy to peanut butter and starting eating Biscoff sandwiches instead.
Of course, peanut butter is high in protein, and Biscoff is high in… sugar. It’s actually crushed up cookies (those ones you get on the airplane). And it’s delicious!
Now, I do have an overly strong tolerance of sugar (and I am used to eating Biscoff sandwiches), so you may not agree with me on this. But I LOVED being able to eat Biscoff flavored everything on our Scotland road trip! I had Biscoff ice cream, Biscoff hot chocolate and a Biscoff Krispy Kreme.
What is Haggis??? It’s best not to ask, actually. I did try a (tiny!) bite of this off of Jason’s plate of his full breakfast. Actually… now that I think of it, I might have had black pudding, not haggis.
They are both similar, although this guide to traditional Scottish foods explains that the difference is that black pudding is held together with pig’s blood… which sounds much worse to me!
For the record, I thought it was pretty tasty, and if I had grown up eating it, I would probably like it. But coming at it as an adult with lots of preconceived prejudices against it in my head, it was hard to get past the thought of… um… pig’s blood.
Tunnocks Tea Cakes
This is nothing like what I would picture a tea cake to be. It’s more of something in between a candy bar and a s’more. And it’s delicious! It’s a big fluffy dollop of marshmallow creme on a graham cracker crust and coated in chocolate.
And honestly, I would much rather just eat a chocolate bar than an actual s’more, but these were SO good! I can’t believe I didn’t buy a package to bring home with me!!
Because Dom & Billy drank it! It’s basically an orange-pop drink (or soda, if that’s what you call it…). I actually don’t like any carbonated drinks, so I never tried this. But Billy and Dom did (the actors who played Merry & Pippin), so that makes it a win in my book.
Fish & Chips
I’m not a huge fan of fish & chips, but I figured I had to get it at least once on our trip to the UK (Jason had it at least 5 times). I chose Portree Harbor on the Isle of Skye to get some (and Biscoff ice cream!). We got our fish and chips from a takeaway store, and sat on the poles at the harbor to eat it. Maybe not the most comfortable seat, but definitely a good view!
Scotland Road Trip Day 1 - Arrive in Edinburgh
Day 1 of our Scotland road trip! Today you will arrive at Edinburgh Airport. If you’re coming from the states, you will probably arrive early in the morning and have lots of time to explore the city!
Either way, there is not too much planned for today, so that you can recover from traveling and acclimate to the time zone.
How to Get to Edinburgh from the Airport:
Getting to the city of Edinburgh from the airport takes about 30 minutes and is very easy! When you arrive, follow the signs for the trams and rental cars and head out the main doors of the airport. There is a bright pink awning just to the left where you can get the tram to the city centre.
The rental car parking lot is also right in front of you, with the building at the far side of the parking lot. This is where you will come in a couple days to pick up your car.
Be sure to buy a tram ticket at the kiosk before you get on the tram! Hold onto it until you get off, because you never know when they will check. We took the tram from the city to the airport, and they didn’t check our tickets until we got off at the airport.
Check which stop is nearest to your hotel. If you’re staying in the city centre, get off at one of the last two stops:
St. Andrew Square
Where to Eat in Edinburgh:
There are so many great places to eat in Edinburgh! The city is very walkable, so it’s easy to walk out your door and just go exploring.
We ate at Nicolson’s Cafe, where J.K. Rowling used to hang out. The cafe is on a second floor of a building, and seems to have trouble keeping in business, as it has changed names/owners several times. We were there in May 2022, but according to Google, it’s kind of hard to tell if it’s still open or not!
If there is a cafe there (whatever its name), I highly recommend it, because it is a super cool space! The food at Nicolson’s was delicious as well.
J.K. also wrote at The Elephant House, but unfortunately they had a fire, and are still closed down. Everyone agrees, however, that the food was not that great. You only go there for the Harry Potter connection.
You can read all about our (FIVE!) attempts to eat at a place where my favorite writer’s hung out in the UK here.
We also ate at the Wanderlust Cafe, and this was a very cute and delicious cafe to visit. I got Biscoff hot chocolate here!
Where to Stay in Edinburgh:
We stayed at the Hub by Premier Inn on the Royal Mile. This was recommended to us by another travel blogging family. It is right behind Waverley Station, the main train station in Edinburgh.
This hotel was perfect! It was a great location, a very nice, good sized room, and a great price. I was very happy with this hotel!
Premier Inn is the UK’s largest hotel chain, and they have several different hotels around the city of Edinburgh, so you have lots of options.
Things to Do in Edinburgh:
I would suggest not having too much planned for your first day in Edinburgh. You never know if your flight will get delayed, or how tired you might feel. This would be a good day to just wander around the city and take in some of the sites:
Take a free walking tour of the city.
Browse around some cozy bookshops. Armchair Books is a good one!
Look for a souvenir along the Royal Mile.
Hang out in a local cafe.
Get afternoon tea.
Catch a movie at a fancy “picturehouse.”
Day 2-Explore Edinburgh
Now it’s time to really explore Edinburgh!
The first stop of the day should be Edinburgh Castle. Try to go close to the opening time (9:30 am), before the castle gets too crowded. Be sure to book your tickets ahead of time.
The castle is on top of a hill. This means you will have a bit of a climb to reach the entrance.
Be sure to wear a coat or a sweater! It gets very windy and cold on top of the hill, even if the weather is nicer down in the city.
The castle is spread out through many different buildings; it’s not just one big building.
Other Things to Do in Edinburgh:
The Chocolatarium-chocolate shop and tour.
Camera-Obscura-Optical-illusion museum that also has a great view of the city.
So many great museums! Here are a few:
Hike to Arthur’s Seat.
The Real Mary King’s Close-Underground tour of Edinburgh!
Day 3-Eilean Donan Castle
It’s now time to say goodbye to Edinburgh, pick up the rental car, and really get this Scotland road trip started!
Pick Up Your Rental Car:
Head back to Edinburgh Airport the same way that you came into the city a couple days ago. Take the tram from Princes Street or St. Andrew Square 30 minutes back to the airport.
Then walk across the parking lot to the rental car building. You’ll be able to see it from the tram stop.
Drive to Dornie:
It’s a 4 hour drive from Edinburgh Airport to the village of Dornie, home of Eilean Donan Castle. The first half of this drive will be on the carriageway (highway) through populated areas. Look out for three-lane traffic circles here!
You will not have to drive on any one-lane roads unless you make a pit stop somewhere like a dairy farm (we did!). We drove this route in the opposite direction, from Dornie to Edinburgh. These are the pit stops we made:
We stopped here on our way to the Isle of Skye. It’s only 10 minutes from Dornie.
Read my whole guide for staying in Dornie.
Where to Eat in Dornie:
Dornie is a very small village, so there are not a lot of options for dinner. If you want to eat at The Dornie Hotel or The Clachan, make sure to book a table ahead of time.
Also be sure to check the opening hours of all the cafes, as they vary, and some are very limited.
Here are some places to eat in Dornie:
Where to Stay in Dornie:
There are a lot of great Airbnbs in the area, so be sure to check on there if that’s something you’re interested in.
We stayed at Schoolhouse Dornie. Our host baked a whole loaf of bread for each guest room, and also provided eggs, cereal, yogurt and the like to cook our own breakfast in the communal kitchen.
You can also stay at the Dornie Hotel.
Eilean Donan Castle
You should arrive in Dornie by early afternoon, depending on how early you decide to leave Edinburgh, and how slowly you decide to take your first day driving in Scotland.
If you want to tour inside Eilean Donan Castle, you should have plenty of time for that this afternoon. The castle’s last admission is at 3 pm in the winter, and 5 pm the rest of the year.
We did not tour the inside of the castle, but just took pictures from the outside. There are two good spots to get pictures of the castle:
The Eilean Donan Lookout point gives you a view of the castle from above. This is a good spot for sunset photos.
We took our photos at the Dornie Community Hall, just across the loch from the castle. You have to pay for parking during the day, but not after 8 pm. This is a good spot for sunrise photos.
Day 4-The Isle of Skye
Dornie is just 15 minutes from the Skye Bridge, that takes you over to the famous Isle of Skye. It’s an hour drive from Dornie to Portree, the main city on the Isle of Skye.
Today is all about exploring the Isle of Skye. You can choose to stay in Dornie for 2 nights, and just drive over to Skye and back for the day. Or you can stay in Portree.
There are no one-lane roads on the drive to Portree. If you are staying at a hotel in Portree, you should be able to park at your hotel without having to drive down a one-lane road. If you are not staying overnight, park at the Visitor Centre.
Note: There are no restrooms at the Visitor Centre. You will have to pay for a public toilet in Portree. There are some by the harbour and some in the town centre.
Where to Eat on the Isle of Skye:
While you might find some hidden gems all over the island, the main place to eat (and sleep) on the Isle of Skye is Portree.
We ate at the Harbour Fish & Chip Shop, a takeaway place right along the Portree Harbour. We also found a little ice cream shop down there with Biscoff ice cream syrup (although once I licked off all the syrup, it was just boring ice cream…)!
You can stop at the Visitor Centre for more information on where to eat in Portree.
Where to Stay on the Isle of Skye:
There are several good hotels and Airbnbs in Portree. We were originally intending to stay at an Airbnb here, but ended up just staying in Dornie.
If you do choose to stay in Portree, make sure to book your accommodations well in advance, as the island does fill up quickly.
This complete guide to the Isle of Skye will give you more information on where to stay, where to eat, when to visit and all the best things to do!
Things to do on the Isle of Skye:
It is good to have a car to drive yourself around to all of these places on the Isle of Skye. However, if you want to avoid driving on one-lane roads, you can book tours from Portree to all of these places, so you will not have to drive yourself.
Hike the magical Fairy Glen.
Hike the magical Fairy Pools.
Hike to the famous Old Man of Storr.
Explore Dunvegan Castle.
Day 5-Glenfinnan Viaduct & Fort William
Today is something really special—you’re going to see a working steam train (yes, the one they used in Harry Potter), cross a stunning viaduct. This was one of my favorite things in Scotland.
How to Get to Glenfinnan Viaduct:
If you are staying in Dornie, it is just an hour and 45 minute drive from Dornie to the Glenfinnan Viaduct Visitor Centre.
If you are staying in Portree, you can choose to drive an hour back across the bridge to Dornie, and from there the hour and 45 minutes to Glenfinnan, or you can take the ferry from Armadale to Mallaig. This route will only take 2 1/2 hours, but you will have to time it around the ferry schedule. Also be sure to book your ferry ahead of time.
You will have to pay for parking at the Visitor Centre, but they have free restrooms. They also have a cafe, gift shop, and lots of walking trails.
The Glenfinnan Viaduct
I think this imposing structure is impressive, even if you don’t see the train come by. It’s huge when you actually stand up next to it, plus the beautiful mountains make the perfect back drop!
Lots of trains cross the viaduct, but the Jacobite Steam Train is the one you want to see. It runs from April-October, with 2 trains a day from May-September. You want to be here for one of the first two trains, on the way from Fort William to Mallaig.
The times the trains cross are approximate and subject to change (our train was delayed 30 minutes on our way back to Fort William!), but the general times are:
Morning train crosses the viaduct around 10:45 am
Afternoon train crosses the viaduct around 1:30 pm
Be sure to get there early to make sure you don’t miss the train, and to claim your photo spot! The hillsides can get pretty crowded.
Read all about watching the steam train cross Glenfinnan Viaduct.
Where to Eat in Fort William:
We ended up just grabbing food at a local grocery store (which is always a good idea!), but here are some restaurant recommendations from our Airbnb hosts:
Where to Stay in Fort William:
We stay at an Airbnb in Fort William (there are lots to choose from!) called Solmar Bed & Breakfast. Our hosts were so friendly and welcoming, and cooked a delicious breakfast for us every morning. It was also fun because the Jacobite Steam Train goes right by the house!
If you’re looking for a chain hotel to stay in, I recommend trying a Premier Inn, which is where we stayed in Edinburgh.
Other Things to Do in Fort William:
You can take a cruise around Loch Linnhe.
Go hiking and “bag a munro” on one of the many peaks nearby.
Visit Steall Falls, a beautiful walk, and featured in the Harry Potter movies!
Explore Glencoe! Glencoe is the first stop on our road trip tomorrow, but you can also visit it this afternoon too (or instead of tomorrow morning). It’s a good idea to have some spare time, in case it’s pouring rain one of the days.
Day 6-Glencoe & Stirling Castle
If you didn’t visit Glencoe yesterday (or even if you did!!), now is the time to do it! It’s only a half hour drive from Fort William to the Glencoe Valley area. This is famed as one of the most beautiful parts of Scotland, and I honestly was not disappointed!!
Drive/Hike Through Glencoe
Start off by driving to the Glencoe Visitor Centre. You can get some maps and information about the hikes (there is even a trail and a viewpoint here), get a snack, explore the gift shop, and of course, use the restroom! The restrooms are free, but you will have to pay for parking here.
There are a lot of pull off spots as you drive through Glencoe. You can stop here and just take a picture from the viewpoints, or you can follow the paths down into the valley to walk around and explore for a while (and escape the buses that stop in the parking areas).
The best and most popular view is at Three Sisters Viewpoint.
Drive to Stirling
It is just under a 2 hour drive from Glencoe to Stirling. Spend as much time or as little as you like exploring Glencoe. Then you have the rest of the afternoon to visit Stirling Castle and explore the area.
Where to Eat in Stirling:
We unfortunately were not able to fit Stirling into our final itinerary for Scotland, so I have no pictures or firsthand experience of this stop. So here are the ten best restaurants in Stirling, according to Trip Advisor. My personal pick is for the Lion & Unicorn Hotel!
Or you can always go with a quick trip to McDonald’s, because even though I would never (yes, Jim Gaffigan, never!) eat at a McDonald’s in the US, they have different foods (and better service!) around the world, so it’s always fun to try them out.
Where to Stay in Stirling:
Premier Inn is always a good choice for where to stay.
Some others that look perfectly cute and cozy are:
Rent an apartment in Menstrie Castle
Things to Do in Stirling:
Here are all the cool places in Stirling I was planning to visit:
Visit Stirling Castle, the city’s main attraction, on top of the hill!
Next to the castle—the beautiful Church of the Holy Rude.
See the William Wallace Monument.
Participate in an epic, immersive battle reenactment at the Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre.
Day 7-Drive Back to Edinburgh
This is a sad day, because it is the day we are driving back to Edinburgh and ending our Scotland road trip (unless you have more time, in which case check out the bonus days below!).
It is a 1-hour drive from Stirling back to Edinburgh Airport, where you can return the rental car, pick up some last minute Biscoff flavored treats, and hop on your plane home.
Bonus Day Ideas
If you have more time for your Scotland road trip, consider adding some of these cities/activities to your itinerary:
Stay an extra day in Fort William and ride on the Jacobite Steam Train.
Before you get to Dornie, explore the highland city of Inverness, and take a cruise on nearby Loch Ness.
Explore Glasgow. The locals we met scolded us for skipping Glasgow on our trip. I promised to visit it next time… You can stop here before going to Stirling, or day trip here from Edinburgh (it’s a 1-hour train ride).
Go castle hunting through Aberdeenshire. There are over 260 castles in the area, including Dunnottar, the inspiration for the castle in “Brave.”
Movies to Watch
Here are some movies to watch before your Scotland road trip to get you in the mood! Or you can check out my full list of what to watch (AND read) before going to the UK.
Secrets of Great British Castles
Season 1, Episode 5-Stirling Castle
Season 2, Episode 1-Edinburgh Castle
Now you are all set for your perfect 1-week Scotland road trip!
If you have any other ideas of great places to visit in Scotland, or any tips to share with your fellow travelers, be sure to add them in the comments below!
Any more questions?
If you have any questions about visiting Scotland, or driving in Scotland, feel free to email me.
Planning a trip?
Save the pin below for your Scotland road trip: