In December in 2016, Stu and I decided it was time to hit the road and explore Scotland for the first time. To this day it’s still one of my favourite road trips, so if you’re planning a trip I hope my blog will help you.
This blog highlights all of the must see places we saw and loved across Scotland, as well as some FAQs at the end. If I’ve missed anything or if you have any questions always feel free to message me in the comments section or via instagram @wheresawalton – I’d love your feedback!
This guide starts in Glasgow and ended in Edinburgh.
I was surprised by this city, it’s a lot bigger than I expected and it was really enjoyable to explore.
- My number 1 free tip for Glasgow: Do the street art self guided tour. If you visit the tourist information office on Buchanan Street, they have a Street Art/Murals Trail brochure with a map and a lot of the murals indicated, otherwise download a map here and mark the points on Maps.me.
- Eat at Hillhead Bookclub for dinner (recommended to me by a local and it the food was delicious and interior was really cool!)
A morning visiting Falkirk Wheel (optional, Stu really loved this). It’s a rotating boat lift.
The town of Stirling is also worth a visit to wander around but you won’t need much time here: 1-2 hours. There’s lots of medieval history to be learnt here and there’s a castle at the top of the town to explore (or if you’re like us, take a nice pic from outside for free).
Drive to Loch Lomond National Park (towards Arrochar).
- Loch Tay
- Dochart Falls, Killin
Drive through Glencoe (the whole A82 road is incredible).
Go to Glennfinnan (View point and walk to Harry Potter train track). You park up and walk for about 10 mins, then you find a hill and you get to see this view. We had a train time table and patiently waited for it to come by, only to find it didn’t run during this season. 😦 But it’s still 100% worth seeing!
Wander around Fort William, here you will find a quaint little town with lots of little bakery’s, pubs and restaurants. Most people come here to climb Ben Nevis, for us it was a good stop before heading north.
Drive through Invergarry
Eilean Donan Castle, Kyle
Isle of Skye:
- The Fairy Pools (park up, walk about 20-30 mins and you’ll find the pools – just keep walking!)
- Old Man Storr – an hour hike (steep at times and a bit of a scramble at points) and the view is incredible!!
- Neist Point
- Quiraing (this is drive up a hill and down again, but there are some hikes here or you can simply drive through like we did). The colours of the hills here were unreal!
Get back on mainland of Scotland and drive up to Ullapool (as a sleepover spot). The views on the way are worth the drive. There’s not much in Ullapool but we did enjoy a nice Fish & Chips there.
Drive towards the Drumberg\Smoo Cave. We went further north after this but found there was not much to see so I’d advise drive back down after this point.
Then headed back down towards Inverness and stayed at a pretty pink castle called Dunnatar Castle.
Via the Cairngorms (to see Reindeers) we stayed at a place outside Aberdeen.
Loch Ness (we didn’t pay to see it, and we sadly didn’t see Nessy)
Stonehaven (Dunnatar Castle) – we didn’t go in, we just looked at it for free 😉
- Carlton Hill
- The Christmas Market
This is a ‘secret location’ I can’t tell you about but maybe google it…
- Just explore the town, it’s magical!
How long did you sleep in each town?
In the locations marked in bold above, we stayed 1 night except Glasgow, Edinburgh and Isle of Skye where we had 2 nights.
All accommodation was booked last minute and not really worth recommending (I’m sure you can find better ones suited to you via Booking.com) if you just look at your plan for the day and time to get there (and allowing time for photo stops!!!!)
The only I’d highly recommend is Bunchrew House (the pink castle). We got a Premium room with bathrobes, toiletries and a 4 post king size bed for £42 for the night – the same price as a hostel (off peak season).
Food and Drink you have to try in Scotland?
Haggis & Iron Bru.
Added things to try…
Also go to a cheese shop in Glasgow or Edinburgh and sample some delicious cheese! My favourite was blue Gorgonzola.
There’s a whiskey tour you can do in Edinburgh, but instead we sampled the different flavours of gin in a store for free.
How long would you recommend in Scotland?
For the majority of Scotland, for us 9 nights and 10 days was a good amount of time as there really is so much to see, I know we also missed a lot and could have spent longer. If you had a long weekend I’d probably stick to Edinburgh with a day trip to St Andrews and Dunnatar Castle.
What time of year is best to go?
I can’t say for certain as I’ve heard the weather is very unpredictable in Scotland and that it can get crazy busy for cars in the summer. I loved going around Christmas time as so many towns were decorated, and were super lucky with the weather in December as the roads were quiet and the views were incredible surrounded by misty grey clouds. It really added a mysterious atmosphere to our surroundings particularly driving through Glencoe and hiking the Old Man of Storr.
Personally I’d avoid summer as I’ve heard it’s so busy, especially on the Isle of Skye.
How did you find everything?
For every road trip we do, we use the app maps.me and we plot things we want to see then when driving (and can see our location/GPS) we can see what’s coming up next. When we have WiFi we download the country and it saves every street, petrol station, shop, viewpoint etc. It’s so useful and we find it more reliable than Google Maps. In the evenings of our trip, to plan for the next day find the points on the map we want to see and ‘save’ them (again you can do this without the internet). Then it makes it so easy to ‘route to’ them without having data/internet access. We LOVE maps.me.
For everything else in Scotland, we just drove and looked out of the window in amazement.
How much should did you budget for the trip?
Hostels/hostels were about £18-25 each a night and many had a free breakfast! We drove my car up so didn’t need to hire one. We ate out most of the time (which is rare for us), but also chose a few hostels where we could cook at to save on £.
I’d say we spent about £500 each for 10 days (includes food, petrol) so budget around £50 a day (less if you don’t eat out).