The Ultimate 10-Day Scotland Itinerary: 3 Perfect Routes


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Mapping out the ideal route through Scotland can be a daunting task, especially if you only have the time for a 10-day Scotland itinerary. A destination that draws millions of 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 countless places to visit in Scotland that you’re never going to be able to see everything within the span of ten days. And while we’ve found is that planning the perfect 10-day Scotland itinerary can be tricky we have put together three perfect routes to help you begin exploring the Highlands and beyond!

When to Visit Scotland

Before I jump into this Scotland itinerary, it’s necessary to discuss what is the best time of year 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 it’s 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. 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 restaurant 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 Scotland itinerary, you can also expect there to be a lot of rain. Along with good outerwear, you will also no regret finding a good pair of waterproof shoes for your Scotland trip.

Ruins of Urquhart Castle at Loch Ness

How to Get 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 of visiting 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 of the country, 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 to congested with traffic and people do tend to be apologetic to confused or stressed out tourists.

If you want to rent a car in Scotland, we recommend using RentalCars.com to find the best deals across all available platforms. We would also suggest that you take out a third-party policy with iCarHireInsurance in order to be affordably covered for any excess. Finally, buying a prepaid SIM card for the UK will ensure you can access your GPS at all times!

The Glenfinnan Viaduct
The Glenfinnan Viaduct near Fort William

10 Day Scotland Itinerary: 3 Perfect Routes

If you only have 10 days in Scotland, mapping out the perfect route can be tricky. These three Scotland itineraries combine some of the best places to visit in the country, include options if you would like to extend, and can all be combined if you have a long time to spend exploring the incredible country that is Scotland!

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.

Days 1-3: Edinburgh

Begin your Scotland itinerary 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, hike to the top of Arthur’s Seat, enjoy the convivial atmosphere in a local pub and search for familiar names of Harry Potter characters in Greyfriar’s Cemetery. 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

Edinburgh is the second-most popular destination to visit in the UK (after London) and, therefore, there are countless accommodation options to choose from. If you’re wondering where to stay in Edinburgh, have a look at these suggestions:

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 a number of dorm and private rooms available and good common areas for meeting other travellers. Click here to see their latest prices

Cityroomz Edinburgh — A centrally-located hotel situated within easy walking distance of all Edinburgh has to offer, this is a great option for those looking for an intimidate and comfortable place to stay. They have a number of clean and comfortable rooms available and there is even an option to include breakfast. Click here to see their latest prices

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

Seeing Edinburgh Castle is one of the highlights of this 10 day Scotland itinerary
Edinburgh Castle on a beautiful clear, crisp fall day.

Days 4-5: Loch Lomond & the Trossachs

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.

Though this Loch Lomond can easily be visited as a day trip from Edinburgh or Glasgow, it is very much worth spending two days in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs so you can get the most out of 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.

Where to Stay in Loch Lomond

Finding a place to stay around Loch Lomond is an excellent option, especially if you’re keen to rest your head in a lovely Scottish village.

Global B&B — Located in the village of Luss, this is the perfect bed and breakfast to rest your head in when visiting Loch Lomond. They have a handful of clean and comfortable rooms available and a great breakfast cooked fresh each morning. Click here to see their availability

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. Click here to see their availability

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. Click here to see other private rentals in Loch Lomond!

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

Beautiful lakeside view of Loch Lomond
Beautiful lakeside view of Loch Lomond

Days 6-7: Fort William & Glencoe

From the Trossachs, it’s time to 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 destination 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.

However, if you don’t want to spend the entire two days in Fort William and Glencoe hiking and enjoying the incredible views, there are also plenty of things to do in the town of Fort William it that make it very much worth visiting.

While many may try to visit this area as a day trip, you are very much going to be happy that you decided to spend two full days exploring this area. It will very much allow you to do both Glencoe and Fort William justice.

Where to Stay in Fort William & Glencoe

Again, Fort William is actually a pretty popular town to visit in Scotland you aren’t going to be strapped for accommodation option. If you’re curious about where you should stay around Glencoe and Fort William, make sure to check out these suggestions:

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. Click here to check availability

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. Click here to check their availability

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

Glencoe is a great option if you have more than one day in Loch Lomond
Valley in Glencoe

Days 8-10: Inverness

Inverness is the likely first stop on any trip through the north of Scotland and, as such, dons the nickname “The Gateway to the Highlands.” Though small in size, this city packs a considerable amount of charm and is well worth spending at least one day exploring Inverness.

It is easy to get around the city on foot and take in the laid-back atmosphere. Stop by the Inverness Castle, 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.

On your second day, make sure to head out and on one of the many great day trips from Inverness — perhaps to the Culloden battlefield or to the mystical Loch Ness.

Where to Stay in Inverness

Inverness is a popular base for those looking to explore the Highlands of Scotland and therefore isn’t lacking in accommodation options for any size of budget. Here are some options:

Black Isle Hostel — This hostel is in a great location and is one of the best-rated hostels in Inverness. Aside from having multiple dorms of different, they also have private rooms, a welcoming and friendly staff, and a bar serving over 20 different kinds of local craft beers. This would be a great place to stay, especially if you’re travelling solo and want to meet like-minded travellers. Click here to see their availability

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. Click here to see their availability

Private RentalThis charming riverside cottage on the banks of the River Ness is a fantastic place to stay if you want your own space. Click here to see other private rentals in Inverness.

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

Scotland Road Trip Itinerary
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’d like to stick to this itinerary but add on a bit more adventure and get slightly off the beaten path, we would suggest heading to the town of Oban after visiting Fort William.

If you want to explore even further (and if you’re a whisky fan!), then you could even hop on a ferry and explore the islands of Islay and Jura for a few days before skirting back to the mainland and driving to Inverness.

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.

glasgow's modern skyline
Glasgow’s Modern Skyline

Highlands & Islands Itinerary

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

Days 1-3: Inverness

Start your 10-day 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.

Days 4-5: 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 numerous hiking routes that range in difficulty, and also opportunity to go horseback riding, kayaking, and any other number of outdoor activities. 

If hiking isn’t really your thing, the Cairngorms are situated in the Speyside region — one of the largest Scotch whisky-producing regions 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.

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

Where to Stay in the Cairngorms

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 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. Here are some options:

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. Click here to see their availability

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. This is one of the best places to stay in Aviemore. Click here to see their availability

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

Cairngorms is a great place to go hiking on this 10 day Scotland itinerary
A hike in the Cairngorms

Days 6-7: Fort William & Glencoe

From the Cairngorms, head northwest to explore the incredible scenery and history of Fort William and Glencoe. The easiest way to divide your time here is to spend one day in and around Fort William, and the other in and around Glencoe.

Days 8-10: Isle of Skye

From Fort William, 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 any 10 day Scotland itinerary. Though it is a popular destination, the island is also big enough that you can hike out and enjoy some solitude if that’s what you’re after.

Take the time to explore the main town on the island, Portree, and browse the shops along its high street and maybe pop in to a pub to enjoy the convivial vibes.

You also cannot miss the gorgeous scenery that Skye has to offer and you would be missing out if you didn’t embark on a walk or day hike or two. There are countless hill-walking opportunities on Skye that are suitable for all levels of fitness, so it’s certain that you’ll find something that will suit you.

Where to Stay on Skye

Skye is an immensely popular place to visit in Scotland and, therefore, there are tonnes of great places to stay on the island. If you’re curious about where were would suggest to rest your head, then make sure to browse through these options:

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. Click here to see their availability

Creag Dubh Bed & Breakfast — This charming bed and breakfast is considered to be one of the top-rated places to stay on Skye. They have a range of comfortable and cosy rooms available and very friendly owners. Of course, breakfast is included each morning. Click here to see their availability

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

The beautiful Isle of Skye
The beautiful Isle of Skye

Have More Time?

If you have more time to devote to this 10-day 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.

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 10-day Scotland 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 to Loch Ness, Culloden Battlefield, the Speyside whisky region and even to the 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 a number of shops along the high street worth browse, 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 a 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.

Where to Stay in Ullapool

Ullapool has lots of great places to stay that will suit all kinds of travellers. If you’re wondering where to rest your head in this fishing village, then check out these options:

Ladysmith Guesthouse — Located in the centre of town, this guesthouse is a wonderful place to rest your head in Ullapool. They have a number of cosy rooms available and a great, hearty breakfast on offer each morning. Click here to see their availability

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 plush rooms available and a wonderful breakfast included. Click here to see their availability

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

Ullapool Harbour
Ullapool Harbour

Days 5: Scotland’s North Coast

This part of the journey will provide you with possibly the most scenic drive of this whole Scotland road trip itinerary. 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

If you’re on a tight budget and want to save some money, we would suggest that you spend the night wild camping under the stars in Durness or nearby. It is legal to pitch a tent almost anywhere in Scotland, so long as you aren’t a nuisance to residents and clean up after yourself. However, if camping really isn’t your thing, here are some of our accommodation pick for Scotland’s north coast:

Durness Smoo Youth Hostel — This small hostel is a great place to rest your head in Durness. It is located close to the Smoo Cave and also some fantastic hiking routes. It has a couple of dorm rooms and comes very highly rated. Click here to check availability

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 a number of clean and comfortable rooms available and a great restaurant to grab a bit to eat. Click here to see their availability

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

Trip to Scotland Cost
Wild camping near Durness

Days 6-8: 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 10-Day Scotland 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. 

Where to Stay on Orkney

Orkney is a small island so we do recommend booking accommodation in advance as the good places go quickly.

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. They offer both dorm beds and private rooms and come with high ratings, is very clean, and has a great and helpful staff. Click here to see their availability

Heatherlea — Also located in the biggest town on Orkney, Kirkwall, Heatherlea is a lovely bed and breakfast to stay at if you’re looking for a bit more comfort on your Scotland itinerary. They have a range of rooms available and also include a full Scottish breakfast in their rates. Click here to see their availability

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

Things to do in Orkney
One of the four remaining stones of the Standing Stones of Stenness

Days 9-10: 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

Tain isn’t the most popular place to visit in the Scottish highlands, but it doesn’t mean there aren’t some great places to stay. If you’re searching for accommodation in Tain, make sure to check out these options:

Shandwick House — A lovely guesthouse in the heart of Tain, this is a perfect place to rest your head in the city. They have a number of clean and comfortable rooms available and a great full Scottish breakfast available each morning. Click here to see their availability

Carnegie Lodge Hotel — A fantastic hotel if you’re looking for something a bit more upmarket in Tain, this place has a number of lovely rooms available, room service on offer, and a full breakfast included in the morning. Click here to see their availability

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 than a 10-day Scotland itinerary, then consider heading even further north from the incredible Orkney’s 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 10-day Scotland road trip itinerary 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.

When travelling in Scotland, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events! We like WorldNomads and always use them for our trips – click here to get a quote from WorldNomads 

Are you planning the perfect Scotland itinerary? Have you been before? Let us know in the comments!

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Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. When she’s not dreaming of far-away lands, Maggie enjoys drinking copious amounts of coffee, Harry Potter, and coaxing stray cats into her home.

Comments

  1. 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.

    Reply
    • 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 🙂

      Reply

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