The Ultimate One Week Scotland Road Trip Itinerary
Looking to take a meaningful road trip in Scotland? Depending on your budget, there are plenty of things to explore. In this article, travel enthusiast Drew Lessard shares all the "can't miss" sites he visited when exploring Scotland over the course of a full week.
Last updated: February 17, 2024
9 min read
Planning a trip to Scotland can be overwhelming, given the country’s wealth of amazing sights. With just one week of vacation, you’ll need to make some tough decisions about what to include in your itinerary.
Fortunately, I recently embarked on a week-long road trip through Scotland, distilling my experiences and insights into the Ultimate 1-week Scotland Road Trip. Let’s dive into the adventure.
Choosing the Itinerary
When planning this itinerary, I began with a blank slate, considering all parts of Scotland and possible routes to provide the best taste of the country within a week. What I settled on was a journey through the Highlands along the western coast, offering an authentic Scottish experience centered around the magical Isle of Skye.
Below, you’ll find a well-balanced itinerary that lets you savor the most unique landscapes, relish the best cuisine, visit iconic Castles and attractions, and experience Scotland’s special culture and hospitality.
Know Before You Go
Before you start planning your ultimate road trip and arrive in Scotland, here are some essential things to keep in mind:
- Summer High Season: Scotland is bustling during the summer months, especially in July and August. To secure the best accommodations, book well in advance—months for accommodations and weeks for restaurants and activities, especially in rural areas with limited options. Even planning a trip three weeks beforehand can be a challenge.
- B&Bs vs. Chain Hotels: Beyond the major cities, most accommodations are Bed and Breakfasts and small inns. Selecting great B&Bs with comfortable lodging and delicious breakfast is crucial and can enhance your experience.
- Weather: Scotland’s weather is unpredictable. Pack for all seasons, as conditions can change rapidly. Be prepared with layers, rain jackets, sturdy walking shoes, and sun protection.
- Driving: Scotland’s picturesque drives come with challenges like single lanes and the need to pull over to let oncoming vehicles pass. Wayward livestock and deer on the roads are common. Opt for an automatic transmission if you’re not comfortable with a manual one, and consider an SUV for added comfort.
- Insect Repellant: In summer, tiny insects known as midges can be bothersome. Carry repellent and cover up during dawn and dusk.
- Tap Water: Scottish tap water is safe and delicious, so you can drink it without worry.
This road trip itinerary is one-way to allow for maximum time enjoying the destinations rather than driving. We started in Inverness and finished in Edinburgh because the flights from/to London worked better, but either direction is equally viable. Keep in mind that most car rental companies charge a small one-way fee (~$70 in our case), which is well worth it to maximize your time in Scotland.
Day 1: Inverness to Torridon
Start your adventure by landing in the morning in Inverness, where you’ll pick up your rental car. Inverness offers charm, but with limited time, head out after a coffee and croissant from XOKO Bakehouse and stroll through downtown along the River Ness. Enjoy a scenic drive west into the Highlands, passing through dramatic landscapes.
Before reaching Torridon, take a short detour to explore the Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail, a famous hike offering routes for various skill levels. Continue into Torridon and stop at The Torridon Stores & Cafe to pick up picnic supplies and savor a slice of their renowned carrot cake. You can have lunch at the neighboring Wee Whistle Stop Cafe.
Check into The Torridon, an impressive retreat that’s worth the splurge. The hotel offers various outdoor activities like mountain biking, golf, and guided hikes. Don’t miss dinner at the exceptional 1887 Restaurant, exclusive to hotel guests.
Note: The Stables is The Torridon’s budget-friendly accommodation, and provides access to all of the facilities at The Torridon Resort as well as the extensive grounds, but at about half the price.
Drive Time: ~2.5 hours
Day 2: Torridon to Applecross
The Torridon is the perfect place to experience your first Scottish breakfast – if you think you’ve tasted smoked salmon, think again! Also on the menu throughout your trip is a “full Scottish”: a hearty serving of some combination of bacon, sausage , black pudding, haggis, eggs, potato scones, sauteed mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, baked beans, and toast.
Dive into the day with a morning of kayaking on the serene Upper Loch Torridon. As you paddle, relish the view of the imposing Torridon Hills, a striking sandstone mountain range in the distance. For those seeking an extra adrenaline rush, consider booking a “gorge scrambling” adventure through the Beinn Damh gorge, an exhilarating experience of climbing over rocks and swimming beneath waterfalls.
It’s time to journey to the hidden gem of the Highlands, Applecross. En route, make a stop in Shieldaig for lunch at the Shieldaig Bar & Coastal Kitchen. Don’t miss the Loch Torridon Langoustines, freshly plucked from the nearby waters. The seafood chowder is another delectable option.
Be sure to take the scenic inland route to Applecross, navigating the renowned Bealach na Bà, a winding single-track road celebrated as one of the world’s most breathtaking drives. Keep an eye out for adventurous cyclists attempting the ascent. On a clear day, the viewpoint treats you to picturesque panoramas in all directions (if it’s overcast, you’ll get another chance tomorrow on the way to Isle of Skye).
Upon reaching Applecross, you’ll be enchanted by the rustic yet cozy atmosphere of the Applecross Inn. This traditional pub doubles as a reception area and boasts welcoming staff, a convivial atmosphere, and some of the best cuisine you’ll encounter on your trip. Savor the scallops and, frankly, anything else on the menu. Sit outside, gaze across the water to the Isle of Skye, and savor a taste of local Isle of Raasay whisky for a truly memorable experience.
Drive Time: ~1 hour
Day 3: Applecross to Isle of Skye
Following breakfast, set off for the mystical Isle of Skye, retracing your route over Bealach na Bà. In the morning, explore the iconic Eilean Donan Castle, a picturesque fortress on a tidal island. As you cross the bridge to the castle, accompanied by the haunting melodies of bagpipes, you’ll understand why it’s a popular location for films and series, including James Bond.
The next leg of your journey is a culinary adventure in Carbost. Start at the Oyster Shed, where you can enjoy freshly shucked oysters served from a charming shed. Then, head to the Old Inn for a waterfront meal paired with a local cask ale (unfiltered and naturally carbonated beer). Across the street, embark on a tour and tasting at the Talisker Distillery, immersing yourself in the world of Scotch whisky. Don’t forget to stop by Caora Dhubh Coffee Company for the best caffeine fix of the trip and some homemade sweets.
Continue to Portree, the capital of the Isle of Skye, and check into Rock View Guest House. Rock View is the perfect base to explore the island, and welcoming hosts Andrew and Mairi provide incredible service and breakfast. Wander the vibrant harbor town and tranquil water views, before dining at Pizza in the Skye which serves delicious pies with a Scottish twist.
Drive Time: ~3 hours
Day 4: Isle of Skye
Today is a long day of highlights, so start your day early with a hearty breakfast at Rock View. It’s also wise to have some snacks on hand in case you get hungry on the hikes. Your first stop is Old Man of Storr, an iconic natural rock pinnacle. With a long day ahead, I recommend the shorter hike that still provides the same epic views as the more challenging trail.
Next, Rubha nam Brathairean (Brother’s Point) is a relatively unknown hike that offers more stunning coastal views and a sense of tranquility away from the crowds. Then continue your journey up the coast to Kilt Rock, a striking sea cliff formation that reveals magnificent views of the thunderous Mealt Falls plunging into the sea below.
Up next is Quiraing, our favorite hike of the week. Walk along the escarpment trails, surrounded by towering cliffs and breathtaking vistas. As you complete the loop of the Trotternish Peninsula stop by Fairy Glen, a mystical landscape where rolling green hills and bizarre rock formations create an otherworldly atmosphere that was the source of many fairy tales.
After a quick stop to tour Dunvegan Castle and Gardens, reward yourself with a late lunch at The Three Chimneys. If you need some extra caffeine, then Café Lephin is the perfect coffee break on the way to Neist Point. Arrive at Neist Point in the late afternoon, just in time for the magical sunset. The dramatic cliffs, historic lighthouse, and crashing waves create an unforgettable setting. If you are still hungry at the end of the day, then Edinbane Lodge is halfway back to Portee and its renowned kitchen is open until 10pm.
Drive Time: ~3.5 hours
Day 5: Isle of Skye to Glencoe
Grab a coffee to go from Birch Cafe after checking out of Rock View. Skip the overhyped and crowded Fairy Pools, and head straight to Armadale, where you’ll catch a car ferry to Mallaig on the mainland. The ferry journey offers breathtaking sea views, providing a relaxing break from driving, but make sure you book a few days in advance as car spots fill up quickly.
For lunch, make a stop at the no-frills Shellfish Shack in Arisaig , where you can indulge in fresh seafood dishes while taking in the coastal surroundings. On the way to Glencoe, “Dumbledore’s grave” and the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct, are must-visits, particularly for Harry Potter enthusiasts.
As you journey deeper into the Highland landscape, you’ll be greeted by rolling hills, serene lochs, and rugged beauty. Take time to explore the hauntingly beautiful Glencoe Valley, where hiking trails and a visitor center offer insights into the history of the Massacre of Glencoe. Finally, as the sun begins to set, Arrive at your charming evening retreat, Strath Lodge Glencoe, then take in the beauty of the dramatic valley by taking a walk as the sun begins to set.
Take in the lake views from Lochleven Seafood Café’s terrace, before relaxing next to the fire back at Strath Lodge.
Drive Time: ~4 hours (includes 1 hour ferry trip)
Day 6: Glencoe to Oban
Begin your day at Strath Lodge, where Dawn and Laurence will treat you to an incredible breakfast. Once fueled up, set out for an invigorating ~2 hour hike to the Lost Valley, also known as Coire Gabhail, a place of remarkable natural beauty.
Next, it’s time to head to Oban. If you need a caffeine fix, then pass by Hinba on your way to lunch at the Seafood Shack where you will dine on the freshest oysters and scallops.. The long line moves quickly, but make sure you have cash as credit card is not accepted.
In the afternoon, decide between two options: take a ferry to Kerrera for a hike to castle ruins, or explore the charming town of Oban and its namesake Distillery. As the day comes to a close, check in at Four Oaks B&B, where Cherry and Duncan have thought of your every need, ensuring a comfortable and relaxing stay.
For dinner, choose between fine dining at Etive, a restaurant known for its innovative Scottish cuisine, or savor casual yet delicious fish and chips at Oban Fish and Chip, widely regarded as the best in Scotland.
Drive Time: ~1.5 hours
Day 7: Oban to Edinburgh
Enjoy one of Cherry’s famous fruit smoothies along with breakfast before departing for Edinburgh. Along the way, stop in Inveraray for Campbell Coffee and a tour of Inveraray Castle, a grand estate on the shores of Loch Fyne.
The drive quickly takes you into The Trossachs National Park, which becomes extremely crowded due to its proximity to Glasglow and Edinburgh. I recommend a picturesque stop in Luss for a satisfying lunch at The Village Rest and stroll around one of Scotland’s most charming villages, then a quick jaunt to the top of Conic Hill for stunning panoramic views of Loch Lomond.
Drive on to Stirling and explore the Stirling Castle, a historic fortress with a rich past. If you’re in need of a coffee break, visit Unorthodox Roasters As you approach Edinburgh, keep an eye out for the striking Kelpies, unique horse head statues that are tough to miss.
Check in at Hub by Premier Inn Royal Mile for comfortable and affordable accommodation in prime Edinburgh Old Town. Take some time to freshen up and relax before wandering along the historic Royal Mile. For a change of cuisine, I recommend dinner at Solti, a tasty Nepalese restaurant that is a short walk from the hotel. For whiskey fans, be sure to book an after dinner tasting at the Scotch Whisky Bar in the Balmoral Hotel.
Drive Time: ~3.5 hours
Day 8: Depart from Edinburgh
Breakfast isn’t included for the first time on your trip, so head to Tepuy for the best coffee in the city, imported from the owner’s native Colombia. is a must-visit destination that’s worth a slight detour from your route.
To savor one last glimpse of Scotland’s splendid natural beauty, embark on a brief hike up Arthur’s Seat. This ancient volcano, Edinburgh’s highest point, offers panoramic vistas of the city.
Next, your journey takes you to the iconic Edinburgh Castle, perched majestically on Castle Rock. As you explore the castle’s historic halls, marvel at the dazzling crown jewels and the legendary Stone of Destiny. Witness the One O’Clock Gun firing, a captivating tradition, as you make your way back to the hotel to check out and catch your flight.
Scotland is nothing short of amazing. With so much to see and do, it’s essential to have an itinerary that guarantees an authentic taste of this remarkable country.
From the rugged beauty of the Highlands to the mystical allure of Skye, from savoring the finest Scottish cuisine to wandering the timeless streets of Edinburgh’s Old Town, this carefully crafted journey ensures you’ll experience the very essence of Scotland in one week.