Today’s post is a 9-day Scotland itinerary for those who want to see the best of the Scottish Highlands, by Katie from Best Scottish Tours. This is such an epic Scotland itinerary that I want to book a campervan and hit the road!
You’re planning to spend 9 days in Scotland and you’ve researched all the top places to visit…and it’s completely overwhelming! There’s so much to see in Scotland. Ruined castle and royal mansion. Small fishing villages and secluded beaches. Rugged mountains, sparkling lakes.
For the past few years, I have made it my mission to explore every small town and climb every mountain peak in this beautiful country. If you’re a bit short on time, we’ve got a range of Scottish Highlands tours that allow you to experience the best of Scotland in 9 days.
Day 1 of your Scottish Highlands tour | Loch Lomond, Inveraray & Glencoe
Our nine-day itinerary to Scotland starts early in the morning from Loch Lomond and the Trossachs, Scotland’s first national park.
It’s just a 40 minute drive from Glasgow (1 hour 20 minutes from Edinburgh) and you’ll arrive at ‘Bonnie, Bonnie Bank’ on Loch Lomond.
It is Britain’s largest freshwater lake and considered by many to be its most beautiful. Once upon a time, this body of water would have been a busy thoroughfare. The remains of dugout canoes and clinker-built Burling galleys dating from the early 13th century have been discovered.
Spend some time exploring the picturesque lakeside village of Luss. This is a great place to have an early lunch at a local cafe. We recommend Coach House Coffee Shop (which has a nice patio on warmer days) or The Village Rest.
beautiful village of Rus
Next, head to Inveraray, a charming town located on the shores of Loch Fyne. It’s just a 30-minute drive along the breathtaking “Rest and Be Thankful” road deep in the mountains. Park in the observation parking lot and take Instagram-worthy photos!
Inveraray is the domain of Clan Campbell and is home to the romantic, fairytale-like Inverae Castle. Situated on the shores of Loch Fyne, it is one of Scotland’s finest stately homes and is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Argyll and the Chiefs of Clan Campbell, who have lived here for generations. It is perhaps best known today as the setting for the Christmas special edition of Downton Abbey. The famous Armory Hall houses hundreds of artifacts, including Brown’s Bess musket, Lochaber’s axe and an 18th-century Scottish broadsword, and is of great interest to history buffs. It will be. A sword preserved from the Battle of Culloden is also on display. His eighth day of the Scottish Highlands tour included a visit to the site of this important battle. Spend an hour or two visiting the castle and gardens, and don’t forget to try the homemade scones at the cafe.
Then head north to Glencoe for a drive you’ll never forget…
A vast and eerie wilderness, the hauntingly beautiful Rannoch Moor awaits travelers heading to Glencoe from the south. This is one of my favorite places in Scotland, where the fading light of late afternoon reveals it at its mystical best. The drive through Glencoe is equally dramatic, with impressive mountains lining both sides of the narrow road. Again, there are plenty of places to park your car and take in the views.
much of Scotland’s early recorded history is filled with violence, including battles, feuds, and betrayals. But the incident that arouses the strongest passions to this day is the massacre of the MacDonald clan of Glencoe in 1692. The village of Glencoe is home to the Glencoe Massacre Memorial, erected to commemorate fallen members of the clan. Find out more about what happened here: https://discoverglencoe.scot/key-information/history/about-glencoe/glencoe-massacre/
After an exhilarating first day in Scotland, you’re probably ready for an early night, but if you still have energy left, one of the best pubs in the Scottish Highlands, located on the northern edge of Glencoe Be sure to visit Krachaig Inn. We have a large selection of Scottish whiskies, and there are often live bands where you can listen to traditional Scottish music.
Read more: How to spend 48 hours in Glasgow
Day 2 in Scotland | Jacobite Steam Train, Mallaig
The second day of our tour is definitely a highlight for Harry Potter fans. Let’s all ride the “Hogwarts Express”! The Jacobite steam locomotive is located in Fort William and the train itself travels from Fort William to Mallaig and back again. Britain’s highest peak, Ben, offers stunning views from his seat, with stunning views of Mt Nevis and beyond. When I rode the steam train, the tour company dropped me off at Fort William station and picked me up at Mallaig on the other side. He could also travel to and from Fort William, but this would take up most of his day. If you just want to watch the trains go by, head to Glenfinnan, located at the head of Loch Shiel.
there are several viewpoints in Glenfinnan where you can see the trains. Trains only run twice a day so be sure to check departure times: https://westcoastrailways.co.uk/jacobite/timetables. As well as the great views of the railway line from the main Glenfinnan Lookout, the views of Loch Shile in the opposite direction are equally spectacular. The Glenfinnan Monument was erected here in his 1815 year and marks the place where ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ Prince Charles Edward Stuart raised royal standards at the beginning of the Jacobite Rebellion in 1745.
On the other side of the railway, the seaside village of Mallaig is a charming fishing village with ferry access to ‘Across the Sea to the Isle of Skye’. There is now a bridge across to the Isle of Skye…but the ferry is definitely more fun! Depending on what time you arrive on the Isle of Skye, you may have time to do some sightseeing before dinner. If so, we recommend a visit to Armadale Castle and Gardens.
Day 3 | Isle of Skye
Waking up to stunning views of the Isle of Skye will make you feel truly alive and will be one of the highlights of your Scottish Highlands tour.
Although it is commonly known as “Island of the Mist,” there is actually no place quite like it. The jagged Cuillin Ridge Mountains rise above picturesque greenery and white sand beaches. It’s a feast for the eyes everywhere you look.
The Isle of Skye has many famous ‘must see’ places, one of which is the Fairy Pools. Yes, they are beautiful, but they are often busy with visitors, which can take away the magic.
When I last visited Fairy Pool in August 2020, the parking lot was being expanded and toilets were being built, so things should improve. My recommendation is to go early! You have to walk a bit, but the path is in good condition. However, I’m not sure if I’ll be packing swimsuits or not. The water freezes so it is for experienced wild swimmers only!
Did you know that the original Fairy Pools are actually located a few miles away in Glenbrittle? Alternatively, you can visit this equally beautiful collection of waterfalls and pools. According to local residents, the reason Fairy Pool was “relocated” is because Glenbrittle doesn’t have a lot of parking space and access to the pool is a little dangerous, so locals are worried that visitors trying to go to the pool could get hurt. He says it was because he was worried that he would do something wrong swim. Please use caution when visiting these.
Other great places to visit include the town of Broadford and Portree, the capital of the Isle of Skye. Here you’ll find a traditional port with colorful houses lining the water. Visiting the northern part of the island offers stunning scenery and sea views, including the Kilt Rock Falls (yes, these are meant to look like traditional Scottish kilts!) and the Old Man of Storr rock formations will welcome you.
You can see the Old Man of Storr from a distance or take a short walk. However, be careful as it can get very slippery and muddy, especially after heavy rain. If you are traveling with children, be careful not to let them run here. Otherwise you could end up with some very dirty kids.
Day 4 of your Scottish Highlands tour | Outer Hebrides – Harris
Why not spend the next two days exploring the Outer Hebrides? The ferry from Uig, north-east of Skye, to the Isle of Harris takes less than two hours.
There are over 100 miles of beaches around the Hebrides, some of which regularly feature on lists of the world’s most beautiful beaches. The southern part of the Isle of Harris is largely unspoiled, so take your time and enjoy the wild, windswept scenery.
The most famous of the Hebridean beaches is at Rathkentry, on the southern tip of the Isle of Harris. The northern part of Harris is also beautiful and is home to Anne Chryssem, the highest “mountain” in the Hebrides, although it is still quite small at 8,621 feet. I’ve never actually climbed An Chryseem, but despite its small size, the views of the surrounding islands are out of this world.
Day 5 | Outer Hebrides – Lewis
The island next to Harris (connected by road) is Lewis, or “Leodus”, which means “marsh” in Gaelic. The Isle of Lewis has been inhabited for over 5,000 years and has a great history. Harris Tweed clothing, bags, and other items are sold all over the world, and production is most often based in Lewis rather than Harris itself. You can visit shops on both the Isle of Lewis and the Isle of Harris. It’s the perfect place to buy authentic Scottish souvenirs for family and friends back home.
One of my best friends from college grew up in Lewes, and the first time I visited her parents’ home, I took a tour with a wonderful local guide. I spent several days roaming the coast, enjoying the glorious sunshine, and visiting quaint little cafes and historic sites. My two favorite places are her mysterious 5,000-year-old Kalanai Standing Stones and the traditional Blackhouse Village of Guiaranan.
Day 6 | Inverness
Take a few hours in the morning to explore more of Lewes. Stroll through the shops in Stornaway and buy handcrafted goods, or visit Lewes Castle, which has exhibits showing life in the Outer Hebrides from prehistoric times to the present day.
After lunch, sail to Ullapool to return to the mainland before heading to the highland capital of Inverness. If there is some daylight left when you arrive, Black She recommends visiting Logie Falls on the Water River. You may even be able to witness the strange sight of salmon swimming upstream.
Day 7 | Loch Ness & Whisky
After an early breakfast, enjoy some time in the highland capital. Inverness is a prosperous city, with many historic buildings in the old town. Enjoy a lovely walk from Inverness Castle, past St Andrew’s Cathedral and along the River Ness.
No trip to Scotland is complete without a visit to a whiskey distillery. Not far north of Inverness is Glen Ord Distillery, which offers great tours and tastings. Founded in 1838, Glen Ord is one of Scotland’s oldest companies and continues to use the long fermentation and slow distillation methods that have been used there for generations.
I think you’re starting to wonder when Nessie will appear! A drive along the 33-mile Loch Ness is the perfect way to see the most famous stretch of water. We can’t promise you’ll find the site of the elusive prehistoric monster, but there are plenty of other interesting locations along the way.
The magnificent Urquhart Castle is located halfway up the lake and is well worth exploring. There is also a visitor center and cafe. Further down the lake is Fort Augustus, a picturesque village at the southern end of the lake at the entrance to the Caledonian Canal.
Day 8 | Central Highlands
Earlier we mentioned the infamous Battle of Culloden… On the penultimate day of our 9-day Scotland itinerary, it’s time to reveal the tragic events of April 16, 1746. Culloden Moor is just east of Inverness and was the site of the Jacobites in 1745. This short but devastating battle left around 1,500 to 2,000 Jacobites dead and wounded, and the Rising was destroyed. As you walk through the battlefield, think about that day when proud Scotsmen made a last-ditch attempt to defeat the English, only to have their dreams of freedom stolen from them.
Pass through the majestic Cairngorms National Park and enjoy views of the Monadrias and Grampian Mountains on your way back to central Scotland. The Cairngorms are home to beautiful evergreen Caledonian pine forests, including rare species of pine trees found only in Scotland and Norway. The Cairngorms heather moorland is the perfect home for much of Scotland’s best wildlife. Keep an eye out for golden eagles, osprey, and red deer.
The Cairngorms has many great walking routes, from climbs up the high mountains to peaceful walks along the shores of Loch An Eileen. Its highlight is an ancient ruined castle on a small island in the middle of the lake.
The beach at Loch Morlik is one of my favorite spots with views of snowy mountains with a stunning pine forest in the background. If you have a little extra time and decide to spend the night here, head to Lake Morlich and watch the sunset.
Not far from the Cairngorms is the beautiful Victorian town of Pitlochry, which has plenty of great overnight accommodation.
Day 9 and the final day of your Scottish Highlands tour | Edinburgh
Ah, the last day! How did our nine days in Scotland end so quickly?
Travel south to our magnificent capital, Edinburgh. You’ll find a city full of heritage sites, stunning architecture, great food and nightlife, and a World Heritage-listed old town. It’s better not to fall in love! I grew up in Glasgow but lived in Edinburgh for five years for both study and work. I now live near the mountains, which I love, but every time I think of Edinburgh, my feelings of longing grow. It’s a very lively and romantic place. Cobblestone street. A lush garden. A summer festival that brings together the world’s best performers. And who can forget Edinburgh Castle, which towers over the city? The view from Princes Street is amazing at night when it is illuminated in stunning colors. My Glasgow mates will give me a hard time for saying this.. but Edinburgh is by far the coolest city in all of Scotland.
Attractions outside the city include South Queensferry’s famous Forth Rail Bridge and Roslyn Chapel, made famous by Dan Brown’s book (and movie starring Tom Hanks) The Da Vinci Code. Built between 1446 and 1484, the chapel has been described as an “architectural wonder” and a “library of stone”, as almost all its surfaces are covered with carvings of individual figures and scenes. Masu. Both are really worth a visit…if you can escape the temptations of the city.
Read more: Beginner’s guide to Edinburgh: 11 must-see things on your first trip to Edinburgh
And Edinburgh’s underground secrets
and, dear reader, I believe this is the best 9-day Scottish Highlands tour, showcasing the best of Scotland’s diverse landscapes, fascinating history, plateaus, islands and, of course, the lochs. If this sounds like your dream holiday… check out the tour that inspired this blog here: https://www.best-scottish-tours.co.uk/custom-tours-of-scotland/ 9-day-highlands-island tour (including JST
If you haven’t booked your flight yet, please do so. We can’t wait to welcome you to Scotland.
Read all Scottish blog posts here