The Ultimate 10-Day Scotland Itinerary: 3 Perfect Routes

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by Maggie Turansky

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Mapping out the ideal route for a Scotland trip can be a bit overwhelming at first glance, especially if you only have 10 days in Scotland to play around with.

A destination that draws countless tourists each year. Scotland’s beautiful landscapes, fascinating history, and incredibly friendly people attract people from all around the globe to explore this beautiful country.

Despite its relatively small land area and sparse population, there are a myriad of places to visit in this gorgeous country. Because of this, it’s impossible to fit everything that you may want to see within the span of 10 days.

However, there are countless incredible areas to visit depending on the route you choose. Below, we’ve outlined three different options that can suit whatever kind of trip you’re looking for!

Best Time to Visit Scotland

Known to be wet, grey, and chilly, Scotland isn’t famous for its nice weather, however, there are still some months that are better to visit than others.

It will come as no surprise that the best time to visit Scotland — that is if you want the best weather — is in the summer months of July and August. However, because the weather is at its warmest and the days are at their longest, these are also the most popular months for tourists, as well.

Especially during the month of August in Edinburgh (due to the famed Fringe Festival), expect there to be a LOT of tourist crowds in more popular areas – and expect prices to increase respectively.

However, there is a lot of Scotland that remains off of the typical tourist trail and these places are very much worth visiting. So, if you plan to visit in the summer, it is probably in your best interest to get a bit off the beaten path.

While July and August are the warmest months of the year, don’t expect very high temperatures. Further south, highs will be around 20°C (68°F) and, in the highlands and islands, expect highs to be closer to about 16-18° (60-64°F).

Spring and autumn can be attractive times to visit Scotland, as well, as the temperatures aren’t too low and the tourist crowds are unlikely to have arrived in hordes yet.

Late spring and early autumn are going to be the warmest months and the closer you get to winter on either end is going to be colder. Make sure that you bring a good waterproof jacket whatever the season, but especially in the chillier months.

Winters are cold and dark, the days can be short because of Scotland’s northern location and you may find some accommodation options and restaurants in more tourist-reliant towns and villages to be closed for the offseason.

This is, however, the most affordable time of year to visit. If you plan to head to Scotland in the months of December, you can also expect to have your pick of charming Christmas markets to explore and lots of decorations to look at, most notably in Edinburgh.

No matter when you plan your road trip in Scotland, you can also expect there to be a lot of rain. Along with good outerwear, you will also not regret finding a good pair of waterproof shoes for your Scotland trip.

Glencoe in Scotland
Glencoe in Scotland

Getting Around Scotland

Unless you’re taking an organised tour through Scotland, you are going to need to figure out how to get around the country independently and by far the easiest way to do this is by your own car.

Public transport does exist in Scotland and it can be a good option for those who are only interested in visiting major cities and towns, however, if you want to venture into the countryside or visit some far-flung areas, having your own vehicle is going to be necessary.

They drive on the left-hand side of the road in Scotland and the road conditions on the major motorways are good, however, they do tend to decline the more rural you go.

Some roads in the far north or on the islands, for instance, only have room for one car to get through and include small passing places for oncoming traffic every hundred metres or so.

This can seem overwhelming at first, however, these rural country roads aren’t ever too congested with traffic and people do tend to be apologetic to confused or stressed-out tourists. If you need to rent a car in Scotland, you can browse options here.

It can also be a good option to take out a third-party policy with iCarHireInsurance to be affordably covered for any excess. Don’t forget to buy a prepaid SIM card for the UK to ensure you can access your GPS at all times!

Finally, have you considered taking out travel insurance for your Scotland trip? World Nomads offers flexible and simple travel insurance policies with coverage for more than 150 activities that you can buy or extend while on the road.

Tobermory on the Isle of Mull
Tobermory on the Isle of Mull

10-Day Scotland Highlights Itinerary

One of the most classic Scotland itineraries, this route begins in the capital city of Edinburgh and ends in the “Gateway to the Highlands,” Inverness.

Day 1 – Edinburgh

Begin your trip to Scotland in the incredible capital city of Edinburgh, an absolutely lovely and historic city that is sure to instantly charm you. Though small, there are countless things to do in the Scottish capital that will ensure that you’re never bored while spending a couple of days in Edinburgh.

Take the time to explore Edinburgh’s main sites, stroll down the Royal Mile, enjoy the convivial atmosphere in a local pub and search for familiar names of Harry Potter characters in Greyfriars Cemetery.

On your first day in the city, it’s a great idea to head to the iconic Edinburgh Castle (book a skip-the-line tour here) that towers over the city or, if you want to put some context to the sites you’re seeing, consider taking a walking tour of the city centre.

Edinburgh is an incredibly beautiful city that is compact enough to explore entirely on foot but filled with interesting things that you’re sure never to be bored.

Where to Say in Edinburgh

Cityroomz Edinburgh – A centrally-located hotel situated within easy walking distance of all Edinburgh has to offer, they have several clean and comfortable rooms available and there is even an option to include breakfast.

Castle Rock Hostel – A great, small hostel centrally located near all of Edinburgh’s top sites, this is a fantastic choice for budget or solo travellers. They have several dorm and private rooms available and good common areas for meeting other travellers. 

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Edinburgh!

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle on a beautiful clear, crisp fall day.

Day 2 – Edinburgh

Plan to spend 2 full days in Edinburgh as the city has a lot to offer beyond the main sites you visited on the first day. For instance, begin your second day with an exhilarating hike up Arthur’s Seat. This hill in Holyrood Park is a bit of a trek to the top, but it provides excellent views of the city spanned out below.

You can also take the time to visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Scottish Parliament. Take the time to wander through Edinburgh’s cosmopolitan New Town or maybe pop into one of the city’s many museums.

The Writer’s Museum is a great option, as is the National Museum of Scotland – what’s great is that most museums are free to enter!

End your day taking in some live music or, perhaps, a comedy show. There is a lot on offer in Edinburgh and it can be a great opportunity to experience the arts and culture of this city – even if you’re not visiting during the Fringe!

Scotland's Parliament
Scottish Parliament

Day 3 – Edinburgh to Loch Lomond

From Edinburgh, it’s time to leave the big city (though Edinburgh does retain a lovely, pastoral charm) and head out into some of the incredible nature that Scotland is famed for. And one of the best places to do this is by paying a visit to Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.

While en route, however, consider making a pit stop in the city of Stirling to take in the gorgeous Stirling Castle. This is one of the most popular day trips from Edinburgh and it makes a lot of sense to include it while heading west.

Along with the castle, you can also see the site of the Battle of Stirling Bridge where, in the 13th Century, William Wallace defeated the English (as depicted in Braveheart). There is also a monument to William Wallace in the town.

There is a lot of history to experience in Stirling and it’s worth spending the better part of a day exploring the town. It’s located about an hour outside of Edinburgh and it’s roughly a further 1.5 hours to Loch Lomond – depending on where along the lake you choose to make as your base.

Peaceful Loch Lomond
Peaceful Loch Lomond

Where to Stay in Loch Lomond

Global B&B – Located in the village of Luss, this bed and breakfast has several clean and comfortable rooms available and a great breakfast cooked fresh each morning.

The Loch Lomond Arms Hotel – A wonderful hotel located on the banks of Loch Lomond, this is a great option for those looking for a bit of luxury on your trip to Scotland. They have a number of great rooms available, and a great restaurant and bar on site.

Private Rental – Having a private place to stay is a great way to enjoy the serenity of Loch Lomond. There are a number of great options such as this delightful barn cottage.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Loch Lomond!

Day 4 – Loch Lomond & the Trossachs

Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is one of Scotland’s most beautiful natural areas and it’s worth taking the time to enjoy the gorgeous scenery that lies within it.

The shores of Loch Lomond (Scotland’s largest loch) are absolutely gorgeous and the ample hiking opportunities are sure to keep you busy. There are also countless charming villages worth paying a visit to.

Spend your full day in the area by taking a boat cruise on the Loch – here you can get a beautiful panoramic view of the lake and of the surrounding Munros – including Ben Lomond. Of course, it’s also essential to visit the charming town of Luss that lies on the shores of the lake – there are plenty of charming stone cottages to take in.

You also could simply spend your day walking – there are several well-marked walking routes to take advantage of. You could do a bit of the Three Lochs Way or simply stroll from Tarbet to Arrochar – the world is really your oyster!

Hiking on the Three Lochs Way
Hiking on the Three Lochs Way

Day 5 – Oban

From Loch Lomond, it’s time to head further west until you meet the sea – with your final destination being the seafood capital of Scotland – Oban!

Oban is located about 1.5 hours from Loch Lomond (depending on where you’re staying) and, if you’d like, you could consider stopping the the charming town of Inverary along the way.

Once in Oban itself, there are a number of things to do. Though the town is known primarily for being a jumping-off point to the inner Hebridean islands (more on that later!), it’s worth exploring the town itself.

There’s a lovely little high street where you can browse some shops, a delightful waterfront and harbour to stroll along and, of course, the Oban Distillery is in the centre of town. You can pop into the visitor’s centre for a tasting or you can opt to go on a tour of the distillery if that suits.

It’s also worth walking up to McCaig’s Tower, a colosseum-like structure that looms over the town and provides excellent views of Oban and the surrounding islands.

Where to Stay in Oban

Adelphi Villa – This cosy guesthouse is a great option for mid-range visitors in Oban. They have a great location on a quiet, central street, free on-site parking, friendly owners and comfortable rooms.

The Manor House Hotel – A great luxury option in the town of Oban, this hotel is set in an old manor house. There are plenty of opulent rooms on offer along with countless plush amenities for guests.

Oban Backpackers – This backpacker’s hostel is perfect for budget travellers. They have a great location in the centre of Oban, good self-catering facilities and plenty of room types to choose from.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Oban hotels!

Town of Oban
Town of Oban

Day 6 – Isles of Mull & Iona

On you’re sixth day, it’s time to leave the Scottish mainland and go for a day trip to some of the country’s loveliest Hebridean islands – Mull and Iona! Though you could spend a number of days on Mull taking in all it has to offer, it is accessible as a day trip from Oban – provided you get an early start!

Car ferries from Oban to the town of Craignure on Mull take about 1 hour – make sure to get there at least half an hour in advance to sailing, though! Once you arrive on Mull, hit the road (they’re pretty small and narrow here!) and head south.

You’ll pass some of the island’s most incredible scenery by following this route along the Rodd of Mull before you reach the town of Fionnphort. Here, hop on another (passenger) ferry to the Isle of Iona. Tourists cannot bring a car to Iona so you must rely on your own two feet (or a bicycle) to get around.

Iona is absolutely charming, but it’s most notable for the Iona Abbey – which dates back to the 6th Century CE and is said to be the birthplace of Christianity in Scotland.

After exploring Iona, head back to Mull to take in more of this incredible island. There are plenty of natural sites to take in (the views along Loch Na Keal may be some of the most stunning in Scotland) as you drive up the west coast en route to Tobermory – the largest town on the island.

Of course, make sure to take the time to explore Tobermory (it’s home to its own whisky and gin distillery!) before hopping on the ferry back to Oban.

Iona Abbey
Iona Abbey

Day 7 – Glencoe & Fort William

From Oban, head a bit north to some of the most iconic places in the Scottish Highlands, the gorgeous and historic Glencoe and the lovely town of Fort William.

Like the destinations before this, Fort William and Glencoe boast some of the most spectacular scenery in all of Scotland and it is an area that is best seen by hitting the trails and doing some walking.

Glencoe lies about an hour’s drive north of Oban and a spectacular drive it is – it winds all along the west coast and you can even take in view of the old Castel Stalker while on your way. Do try to get an early start as Glencoe can get incredibly busyand the carparks at viewpoints and trailheads fill up quickly.

Make sure to stop at the Glencoe Viewpoint and at the Meeting of Three Waters. There are views just off the road here, but you can also embark on some longer hikes if that’s what you’d like to do.

In Glencoe Village, you can also learn about the infamous 17th Century Massacre of Glencoe and also stop for a bite to eat. You also could opt to walk a bit along lovely Loch Lochan for more views.

You can end your day in the nearby city of Fort William, which sits in the foothills of Ben Nevis – Scotland’s highest peak. Otherwise, there are also a handful of places to stay near Glencoe if you fancy something a bit more rural.

Valley in Glencoe

Where to Stay in Fort William & Glencoe

Gowan Brae Bed & Breakfast – A cosy bed and breakfast located in the centre of Fort William, this place makes for a perfect base for exploring the region. They have a number of great rooms available and a wonderful breakfast included in the nightly rate.

Loch Leven Hotel & Distillery – A lovely family-run hotel on the banks of Loch Levan, this place makes for the perfect place to stay in Glencoe. They have a number of great rooms available, a restaurant on site, and a bar serving locally distilled spirits including whisky and gin.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Fort William or Glencoe!

Day 8 – Fort William to Inverness

Day 8 of your Scotland road trip is a bit of a driving day – though it is less than 2 hours to your final destination (Inverness) so you can spend the morning exploring a bit of Fort William if you’d like.

Here, you can head to the West Highland Museum to learn about the history of the area or even take a detour to the Genfinnian Viaduct – known for being a shooting location for the Harry Potter movies.

Take the longer route from Fort William to Inverness and drive through Cairngorms National Park rather than along Loch Ness – you will be spending the whole next day there, so don’t fret about not getting views of Scotland’s most iconic lake!

Cairngorms is a gorgeous natural area and it’s also home to the Speyside whisky region, so there are plenty of different distilleries to top at if you’re interested. Just keep note that Scotland has a zero-tolerance drink driving limit so all samples and tastings should be reserved for those who are only passengers in the car.

End your day in the city of Inverness – which will be your final destination for this 10-day Scotland itinerary.

The Glenfinnan Viaduct
The Glenfinnan Viaduct

Where to Stay in Inverness

Torridon Guest House — This quaint guesthouse is one of the best places to stay in Inverness if your budget allows for a little bit more than a hostel. It is located within a short walking distance of the city centre, has great ratings, comfortable rooms, breakfast included, and free parking. 

Black Isle Hostel – This hostel is in a great location and is one of the best-rated options in the city. Aside from having multiple dorms of different sizes, they also have private rooms and a bar serving local craft beers.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Inverness!

Day 9 – Loch Ness

Inverness dons the nickname “The Gateway to the Highlands” for a reason – many of the Scottish Highland’s most iconic places to visit are within easy reach of this small city. And the most famous of which is Loch Ness.

Located only about 20 minutes from the centre of Inverness, you can easily get an early start and beat the crowds to this majestic and mysterious lake. Though you’re unlikely to glimpse Nessie in the depths of the loch, it’s still worth taking a cruise on the waters.

Of course, you should visit the ruined remains of Urquhart Castle and take in the gorgeous Falls of Foyers. The latter is located just a stone’s throw from the shore of the loch.

End your time in Loch Ness in the southernmost town on the lake, Fort Augustus. Here, there are lots of shops and amenities along with ample tranquil walks along the Caledonian Canal.

Magical Loch Ness
Magical Loch Ness

Day 10 – Inverness

Spend your final day in Scotland exploring the city of Inverness itself. Though small in size, this city packs a considerable amount of charm and is well worth spending the time to visit some of the sites here.

It is easy to get around the city on foot and take in the laid-back atmosphere. Stop by the Inverness Castle museum, enjoy some peace and quiet on the Ness Islands, and kick back with a pint at one of the many convivial pubs.

Inverness also has a great restaurant and craft beer scene, so there is something for everyone’s taste in this compact Scottish city.

If you’d like to head out on another day trip, then consider visiting the nearby Culloden Battlefield. This is a heartbreaking but excellent open-air museum where you can learn all about the Jacobite uprising in the 18th Century. Outlander fans will love it, but it’s just as interesting for those who’ve never read/seen the series.

Inverness Castle
Inverness Castle

Have More Time?

If you have more than ten days to devote to this Scotland itinerary, there are a number of different options you can make to extend your time.

If you would like to experience another big, Scottish city other than Edinburgh, you also to head over to Glasgow before venturing onto Loch Lomond. Though it has a gritty reputation, there are lots of things to do in Glasgow and it is very much worth visiting.

You could also opt to extend your time on the Isle of Mull – there is enough to do for several days. Especially if you’re visiting in the summer months, it can be worth taking a wildlife tour to the incredible isles of Staffa and Lunga – the latter is known for its massive puffin colony where you can view hundreds of these sea birds up close.

Alternatively, after visiting Glencoe, you could head north to the Isle of Skye and spend a few days there before driving all the way back to Inverness. As you can see, the possibilities are really endless.

glasgow's modern skyline
Glasgow’s Modern Skyline

10-Day Scottish Highlands & Islands Itinerary

If you’re more interested in exploring the highlights of Scotland’s incredible highlands and islands during your 10 days here, then this is the itinerary for you to follow!

Day 1 – Inverness

Start your Scotland road trip in the “Gateway to the Highlands,” Inverness. Well-poised to explore a lot of what this region has to offer, spend one day exploring the city itself and another two going on a number of day trips that are available.

Day 2 – Loch Ness

Spend your second day with Inverness as your base as an opportunity to visit the inimitable Loch Ness. Located only about 20 minutes from Inverness, we recommend getting an early start this day to avoid the inevitable large crowds that will descend upon the lake by midday.

Day 3 – Culloden Battlefield & Cawdor Castle

Still using Inverness as your base, spend your third day on a day trip to the Culloden Battlefield and to nearby Cawdor Castle.

The latter is one of Scotland’s lesser-known castles, but it’s within easy reach of Inverness and visitors can easily spend a few hours touring the castle and its extensive grounds. Still home to the Dowager Countess of Cawdor, this castle has been in the Campbell family since the 16th Century.

Culloden Battlefield
Culloden Battlefield.

Day 4 – Cairngorms National Park

From Inverness, it’s time to head a bit south to the Cairngorms National Park. This sub-arctic plateau offers ample outdoor activities to delight even the most adrenaline-seeking of travellers. There are numerous hiking routes that range in difficulty, and also opportunities to go horseback riding, kayaking, and any other number of outdoor activities. 

The Cairngorms are really great for those who want to spend time hiking outside and taking in the wilderness. However, there are also a few charming little towns to visit and plenty of fun sites that aren’t necessarily all about being active outside.

Those who came to Scotland to see impressive royal castles, for instance, will swoon over the grand Balmoral Castle located in Cairngorms. And if you’re travelling with children, make sure to visit the Highland Wildlife Park. There are lots of things to do that’s it’s very much worth taking a day to explore this area, even if you don’t want to summit a Munro!

Plan to spend 2 nights in the area. If you want to get the most out of all of the beautiful nature in the Cairngorms, then camping is a great option. There are a number of lovely campsites scattered around the national park such as The Lazy Duck.

If you don’t plan on camping, I would suggest staying in the town of Aviemore, which has the most amenities and accommodation options for tourists.

Where to Stay in the Cairngorms

The Cairngorm Hotel – If you’re looking for a nice and romantic place to stay on Aviemore’s main street, then the Cairngorm Hotel is for you. This hotel has a range of rooms, great ratings, and has breakfast included in the rate.

Aviemore Youth Hostel – If you are on a budget and would prefer to stay closer to civilization, then Aviemore Youth Hostel is the place for you. They offer affordable dorm beds and come very highly rated.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in the Cairngorms!

Cairngorms National Park
A hike in the Cairngorms

Day 5 – Speyside Whisky Region

The Cairngorms also happens to be situated in the Speyside region – the largest Scotch whisky-producing region in the country.

There are over fifty distilleries that you could tour and learn a little more about how Scotch is made and how to taste it. If you’re interested, you could opt to drive some of the malt Whisky Trail, a heritage trail that takes you by some of the region’s most notable distilleries. Keep in mind that this is best with a hired driver or a designated sober driver!

Otherwise, the village of Dufftown is home to six working distilleries all of its own – this can be a great place to walk between different places and sample some single malts!

Some of the distilleries in this region include Macallan, Glenfiddich, Arberlour, Glen Moray, Glenlivit and countless more.

Whisky tasting is also possible as a day trip from Inverness and there are plenty of tours that also include parts of the Cairngorms that you can do if you want to avoid driving after all of that whisky!

Day 6 – Isle of Skye

From Cairngorms, it’s time to head to one of Scotland’s most well-known (and gorgeous!) islands — the Isle of Skye! Known for its dramatic scenery and bucolic charm, Skye is really an essential stop on this Highlands route.

The drive from Cairngorms National Park will take around 3 hours, so make sure to et an early start to ensure that you don’t miss a thing. En route to Skye, you also can make a stop at the beautiful Eilean Donan Castle which is situated just before you reach the bridge to the island.

On your first day, visit some of the sites that make up the Trotternish Loop, beginning with the Old Man of Storr. Continue onto Lealt Falls, Mealt Falls and Kilt Rock and, of course, drive the iconic Quirang for absolutely stunning views.

End your day in Portree, the main town on the island. There are lots of shops to browse and pubs to relax in here.

Old Man of Storr on Skye
Old Man of Storr

Where to Stay on Skye

An-Airidh Bed & Breakfast Portree – Located just south of central Portree on the eponymous loch, this cosy B&B is a great base on the island. There are several comfortable rooms and a great breakfast each morning.

Skyewalker Hostel – A great, family-run hostel perfect for budget and solo travellers. They have a range of both dorm and private rooms, good facilities and occasionally organise social events in the evening.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Skye!

Day 7 – Isle of Skye

On your second day on Skye, take even more time to explore the island. On this day, you can head to the lovely Talisker Beach before visiting the Talisker Distillery – yet another whisky distillery! Note that Talisker Beach is accessible via a footpath about a mile from the car park, so you will need to walk a bit to take in this gorgeous stretch of sand.

Continue on to visit another one of Skye’s most famous attractions – the Fairy Pools. Again, these are only accessible via a short walk, but it’s 100% worth it. These pools are majestic and worth spending some time enjoying – you can even swim here if you’re brave enough to enter the freezing cold water!

You can end your day exploring some of the island’s castles. You can visit Armadale Castle, which was only built in the 19th Century or venture on to the ruined Dunscaith Castle, which has a far older history. Both are interesting and worth a stop.

Armadale Castle
Armadale Castle

Day 8 – Isle of Skye

Your final day on Skye should be dedicated to exploring even more of the island’s most beautiful natural sites. Begin your day at the incredible Fairy Glen – you need to hike for about 30 minutes to reach here but it’s definitely worth it. The scenery is just breathtaking and it can be incredibly peaceful.

From here, take in the white sand and turquoise waters of Claigan Coral Beach before visiting the historic Dunvegan Castle. Originally built in the 13th Century, this is one of Skye’s most impressive castles – and it’s one of many!

And for more seaside views, venture over the Neist Point Lighthouse. Another point that is only accessible via a decent walk, you can get incredible sea views and take in some dramatic cliffside scenery here. You also may have the opportunity to see sea life like whales and basking sharks here!

Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye
Fairy Glen

Day 9 – Skye to Fort William

On your penultimate day in Scotland, it’s time to leave Skye and drive south to Fort William. Expect the drive to take about 2.5 hours without stopping and you will be treated to some truly gorgeous, bucolic scenery in rural highland Scotland.

If you’re up to it, this is a great opportunity to stop by some of the attractions outside of Fort William, such as the Glenfinnian Viaduct, before making your way to the town itself. This will be your final destination for this 10-day Scotland itinerary.

Day 10 – Glencoe

End this Scottish Highlands route in the incredible Glencoe, taking in all of the jaw-dropping scenery, going for a hike or two and learning a bit about the history of this beautiful area. No visit to the Scottish highlands is complete without spending time in Glencoe, and this itinerary is no different!

Loch Achtriochtan at Glencoe
Loch Achtriochtan at Glencoe

Have More Time?

If you have more time to devote to this Scotland road trip itinerary, then there are a few options available to you. If you’re keen to explore more of island life, then consider hopping on a ferry to the Outer Hebridean island of Lewis and Harris.

Alternatively, if you want to explore just one more quaint town before you head back, then consider making a stop in Ullapool, a lovely fishing village with a lot to offer visitors.

10-Day North Coast & Orkney Itinerary

If you’d like to see some of the most spectacular scenery in Scotland and a bit off the beaten path compared to the other itineraries listed here, then this is the route for you.

Roughly following the North Coast 500 route, this itinerary takes you to some of the most beautiful, sparsely populated and historic places in all of the country.

Days 1-3 – Inverness

Start your itinerary in Inverness and make sure to take the time to explore this lovely, compact city.

With three days in the highland capital, you will have ample time to explore the handful of sites in the city itself as well as embark on a number of day trips — including Loch Ness, Culloden Battlefield, the Speyside whisky region and even Cairngorms National Park.

Day 4 – Ullapool

From Inverness, hit the road and head northwest to the absolutely lovely town of Ullapool.

The town of Ullapool itself is absolutely charming, with many shops along the high street worth browsing, inviting pubs that are a great place to escape the rain in, and chippies that will serve some of the best fish and chips to be found on the Scottish seaside.

Visiting Ullapool is also a great way to get out on the water and take a little tour of the small islands that lie off the coast, and even see some marine life. It is not uncommon to see pods of dolphins and lazy sea lions just off of Ullapool harbour.

Ullapool is very small, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth visiting. While you don’t need to devote a tonne of time here, one full day is more than enough to so the town justice.

Ullapool Harbour
Ullapool Harbour

Where to Stay in Ullapool

Ladysmith Guesthouse – Located in the centre of town, this guesthouse has many cosy rooms available and a great, hearty breakfast on offer each morning.

Clachan Farmhouse B&B – Located just a bit outside of the central Ullapool, this bed and breakfast is perfect for those looking for a lovely, pastoral escape. They have a range of rooms available and a wonderful breakfast included.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in the Ullapool!

Day 5 – Scotland’s North Coast

This part of the journey will provide you with possibly the most scenic drive of this whole road trip. Make your way along the windy, one-lane roads of the Northwest Highlands to the small, sleepy town of Durness and make sure to pull over and take a lot of pictures — the scenery is truly spectacular.

Make sure to check out the Smoo Cave in Durness but, besides that, there isn’t much in this tiny town. However, it is a great place to spend the night and enjoy the beautiful, pristine coast.

Where to Stay on the North Coast

Bettyhill Hotel – This charming hotel located in the fishing village of Bettyhill is the perfect place to stop for the night on Scotland’s north coast. They have several clean and comfortable rooms available and a great restaurant to grab a bite to eat.

Durness Smoo Youth Hostel – This small hostel is a great budget option with a couple of dorms to choose from. It is located close to the Smoo Cave and several fantastic hiking routes.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options on the North Coast!

Wild camping near Durness. Scotland
Wild camping near Durness

Days 6 to 8 – Orkney

Your sixth day sees you leaving mainland Britain and heading to the wonderful, peaceful Orkney Islands. There is a comfortable car ferry that leaves from the town of Scrabster a few times per day and the journey takes about ninety minutes.

While very small, there are so many things to do in Orkney and one could easily spend more than the three nights I recommend for this itinerary.

These beautiful islands are packed to the gills with fascinating Neolithic sites, there is a very interesting Viking history here as well as breathtaking bucolic scenery and some very friendly locals. 

Spend your first day exploring the UNESCO-listed Heart of Neolithic Orkney. These sites include the Ring of Brodgar, Maeshowe Chambered Cairn and the Neolithic village of Skara Brae.

On your second day, take the time to explore the lovely town of Kirkwall, the capital of the islands. there’s a lot to do here and it’s a charming little town with plenty of cute shops and inviting pubs. You can also opt to visit the Highland Park Distillery.

And on your third day, you can spend it exploring the island of South Ronaldsay. Here, there are sites like the Italian Chapel and some more Neolithic wonders to take in.

Standing Stones of Stenness in Orkney
One of the four remaining stones of the Standing Stones of Stenness

Where to Stay on Orkney

Heatherlea – Also located in the biggest town on Orkney, Kirkwall, Heatherlea is a lovely bed and breakfast to stay at. They have a range of rooms available and also include a full Scottish breakfast available each morning.

Kirkwall Youth Hostel – Located in the biggest town on the Mainland island of Orkney, Kirkwall Youth Hostel is a great budget option on the islands.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in the Orkney!

Days 9 to 10 – Tain & Scotland’s Northeast Coast

After three nights in Orkney, it’s time to head back to the mainland and begin working your way south. Your stop for the evening will be the lovely town of Tain, the oldest of the royal burghs in Scotland and home to the Glenmorangie whisky distillery.

Tain is a lovely town to explore and doesn’t really see much tourism at all, so it’s very much worth exploring. The beautiful streets and landmarks are really something to enjoy and you’re sure to love the vibes of the city, especially as it’s a relatively “off the beaten path” destination to visit.

Where to Stay in Tain

Shandwick House – A charming guesthouse with a range of rooms to choose from including singles & doubles.

Carnegie Lodge Hotel – A fantastic hotel if you’re looking for something a bit more upmarket in Tain, this place has some lovely rooms available, room service on offer, and a full breakfast included in the morning.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in the Tain!

The Glenmorangie Distillery in Tain
The Glenmorangie Distillery in Tain

Have More Time?

If you have more time to spare, then consider heading even further north from the incredible Orkney Islands all the way to Shetland! These islands have a fascinating history (lots of Viking invasions!) and a unique landscape that are sure to have you awe-struck.

As you can see planning the ideal itinerary through Scotland can be a bit complicated, with so many different routes available to you. However, no matter which route you decide to take, there is no denying that you will come back with countless amazing memories.

Are you planning to visit Scotland? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from the US, she has lived in five different countries and has travelled to dozens more, both solo and with her partner, Michael. She particularly loves exploring Spain and spending time in the Caucasus and the Baltics. Read more about Maggie


  1. Thanks for the ideas. I’m working out my itenary for 10 days now I. late September – early October 2023. I really enjoyed your suggestions. I am more excited now.

  2. Went to Orkney & Highlands ‘75 in October when I was 23. Zero other tourists until Ben Nevis, there were dozens there, mostly from Europe. No one else at Ring of Brodgar and Skara Brae. 45 years later, going back in 2020. I know will be vastly different. Ireland: no other tourists at Blarney Castle, no one but lighthouse keeper at Old Head of Kinsale. Only met Australians in both Scotland & Ireland. Loved quiet stay at Aviemore Youth Hostel. Advise go as Winter descends or very early Spring. Hitchhiked, trains, buses. Meet locals that way. Forget the car.

    • Thanks for your comment, Neil! I think that you’ll find just a few more tourists in Orkney and the Highlands in 2020 than you did in 1975 — probably a few more Aussies as well! Sounds like you’re gonna have a great time walking down memory lane, hope it’s as good as the first 🙂


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