Moon Edinburgh, Glasgow & the Isle of Skye


By Sally Coffey

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From sipping scotch and sampling haggis to touring castles and historic museums, make the most of your Scottish adventure with Moon Edinburgh, Glasgow & the Isle of Skye. Inside you’ll find:
  • Flexible itineraries such as one to three days in Edinburgh and Glasgow, two days in the Highlands, and four days on the Isle of Skye that can be expanded or combined into a longer trip, including day trips to Loch Lomond, Ben Nevis, and more
  • Strategic advice for art lovers, history buffs, road trippers, and more
  • Explore the Cities: Walk along Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile from the Edinburgh Castle to the Queen’s Scottish Palace or climb the Arthur’s Seat peak. Sample authentic haggis and dine at innovative new restaurants. Catch a traditional music performance in Glasgow (the UNESCO City of Music!) or chat with locals at a corner pub over folk music and a pint
  • Escape the Crowds: Hike through wild moors and pine forests to deserted villages on Skye, sip your way through Islay’s whisky distilleries, or take a seaplane over Loch Lomond for dramatic views of the Highlands
  • Valuable perspective from Scotland expert Sally Coffey
  • Full-color photos and detailed maps throughout
  • Background information on the landscape, history, and cultural customs of Scotland
  • Handy tools such as visa information, a glossary and list of Scottish phrases, and helpful tips for seniors, disability access, families with children, LGBTQ visitors, and travelers of color
With Moon Edinburgh, Glasgow & the Isle of Skye’s practical tips and local insight, you can plan your trip your way.

Exploring beyond Scotland? Check out Moon London Walks or Moon Ireland.


National Wallace Monument, Stirling

the rural village of Torrin on the shores of Loch Slapin

DISCOVER Edinburgh, Glasgow & the Isle of Skye


Planning Your Trip



Best of Edinburgh, Glasgow & the Isle of Skye

City-Hopping from Edinburgh to Glasgow


From Lochs to Munros: Exploring the Highlands


Highland cattle on Islay

With the good looks, history, and intrigue of Edinburgh, the buzzy, post-industrial reinvention of Glasgow, and the sheer drama of Skye, Scotland can’t be accused of being a one-trick pony.

In Edinburgh and Glasgow, you can find high culture and heritage behind the venerable facades of eminent museums and galleries as well as boundary-pushing art shows and pulsating, pioneering music in the underground clubs and thrilling pop-ups that form the beating hearts of both cities.

But if what you’re looking for is peace and solitude, you don’t have to travel far. The Highlands, a huge region that covers much of the north and west of Scotland, is home to some of the country’s most remote communities, magnificent mountains that sweep down to glittering blue lochs, and a truly breathtaking array of wildlife.

The Isle of Skye is surely the Highlands’ showpiece. This prehistoric land still bears evidence of its former dinosaur residents, along with scars from the last Ice Age, when melting ice tore through the island, leading to landslips that left jagged peaks, soaring spires, and steep drops. The result is a land of stark contrasts—conical hillsides meet sharp crevices, barren-looking munros (Scottish mountains higher than 3,000 ft/914 m) hide glistening lochs—and only folklore can explain the incomprehensible.

Riverside Museum, Glasgow

Edinburgh Old Town

The Old Man of Storr, Isle of Skye

Scotland is a country of juxtapositions. Although the cities are undoubtedly dynamic and vibrant, what attracts travelers time and time again is the sense that the country has remained largely unchanged for eons—making it the ultimate destination for slow travel. A blank canvas for outdoor adventure, the Highlands offers trekkers the opportunity to camp under skies unpolluted by urban lights, to spot puffins, whales, red deer, and red squirrels in the wild, and to wander through abandoned villages. Or you can just take your time working through the country’s many single malt whiskies, preferably in a cozy old inn.

Whether you want to spend never-ending summer days exploring new sights, or “coorie doon” and escape the brooding winter nights by a fire, you’ll find that Edinburgh, Glasgow, and the Isle of Skye represent the best of all that Scotland has to offer. Hence the answer to the common question, “How long are you here for?,” is oft “For as long as possible.”

Edinburgh Castle

Highland wildflowers

University of Glasgow


1 Sampling the best Scottish whisky and gin, from single malts produced by Islay’s whisky distilleries to craft gin at Pickering’s, one of Edinburgh’s coolest hangouts.

2 Trekking to cut-off and deserted villages such as Boreraig on Skye, where the impact of the Highland Clearances can truly be felt, and stopping to take in the spectacular views en route.

3 Scaling the 822-foot-high (251-meter-high) peak of Arthur’s Seat to view the ancient yet cosmopolitan city of Edinburgh in relative peace.

4 Kicking back in one of the many beautiful parks and green spaces in Glasgow, such as the Victorian-landscaped Kelvingrove Park bordered by grand buildings.

5 Breaking away from the contemporary music scene for a traditional jam at Glasgow’s Ben Nevis or Edinburgh’s Sandy Bell’s.

6 Riding the Jacobite Steam Train over the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct and catching a glimpse of the Glenfinnan Monument on the banks of Loch Shiel.

7 Bagging a munro (Scottish hills higher than 3,000 feet/914 meters), such as Bla Bheinn on the Isle of Skye, and feeling like you’ve conquered Everest.

8 Pitching up for the night in the wilds of Scotland, whether in the middle of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park or by a stream in Glencoe, and embracing the freedom afforded by this vast landscape.

9 Exploring the cliffs of the Quiraing on the Isle of Skye and afterward perfecting the art of coorie (getting snug, Scottish-style) with a wee dram by the fire in a cozy inn.

10 Kayaking on Loch Ness and basking in the serenity of Scotland’s deepest—and most mysterious—loch.

11 Spotting Mull’s wildlife, such as red deer, killer whales, and both white-tailed and golden eagles.

12 Driving through Glencoe and being utterly humbled by the sheer majesty of the giant mountains that loom over the valley floor that drops below you.

13 Soaking up the history of the Culloden Battlefield, where the Jacobites took their last stand against the Duke of Cumberland’s government troops in what became one of the most pivotal days in Scottish history.

Planning Your Trip

Where To Go

Edinburgh, Scotland’s handsome capital, is full of history, and a visit here isn’t complete without exploring both the sophisticated 18th-century New Town and the crumbling but atmospheric Old Town, where medieval wynds (narrow lanes between houses) will bring you to the Royal Mile, a thoroughfare flanked by two of the city’s most celebrated attractions: Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The latter is overlooked by the volcanic peak of Arthur’s Seat, which stands in its own windswept hilly park—a small promise of what the Highlands might offer, right here in the city.

Edinburgh from Calton Hill


Cool, edgy, and with its tongue firmly in its cheek, Glasgow is a place that reveals a little more of itself on every visit. It has some beautiful architecture—including the old warehouses of the Merchant City and Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Art Nouveau buildings, which epitomized the “Glasgow Style”—but it’s for the non-stop energy that one should visit Scotland’s most populous city. In the city center, taking a tour of the City Chambers is a must, as is a visit to the Gallery of Modern Art, if only to grasp the scale of wealth that once poured through the city and straight into the pockets of Edinburgh’s tobacco lords. To the south you’ll find beautiful green spaces, whereas in the East End you can visit the famous Barras Market, Glasgow Cathedral, and the Necropolis. However, for a little bit of everything, from cultural houses and stunning architecture to cool thrift stores and great nightlife, head straight to the West End.

Loch Lomond and the Southern Highlands

Dominated by the expansive Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park—an outdoor playground where you can go kayaking on Scotland’s biggest loch, cycle along shaded woodland trails, or climb one of the many munros—this region is easily accessible from both Glasgow and Edinburgh. To the east of the park lies the historic city of Stirling, home to arguably Scotland’s finest castle, and a little further north will bring you to the “Fair City” of Perth—Scotland’s ancient capital. To the west of Loch Lomond, you’ll find Oban and its isles, including Mull; you need to travel a little farther south to reach the wildlife and whisky wonderland of Islay.

Hiking to the top of Ben Lomond, Loch Lomond

Inverness and The Central Highlands

Gateway to the Highlands, Inverness is an attractive enough city, but most people come here to go somewhere else. For a history lesson, a visit to Culloden just east of the city and scene of one of the most brutal battles on Scottish soil, is unforgettable. Just south of the city lies Loch Ness, and whether you believe in its mysterious monster or not, it would feel churlish not to visit it. Farther south will bring you to Fort William and the Lochaber region—the Outdoor Capital of the United Kingdom—where you can go skiing in winter and gorging, white-water rafting, and munro-bagging at other times. Whatever you do, make sure you travel farther south again to visit Glencoe, an epic landscape that will leave you open-mouthed in awe.

Isle of Skye and the Western Highlands

For good reason this sprawling isle is top of most people’s Scotland wish list; photos of the Fairy Pools, Quiraing, and the Old Man of Storr litter Instagram feeds. However, you won’t be the only one who will want to see them. To have a more authentic Skye experience, you’d do well to visit some lesser-known spots, such as the road from Broadford to Elgol, which takes you down and through the Cuillin mountain range and which is one of the best road trips with which few are familiar.

Before You Go
When To Go

When you visit depends on what you plan to do here. In August there is no other place on Earth like Edinburgh—a heady art, comedy, and music pageant at which you can wander from show to show making new friends. But for some, Edinburgh’s atmosphere in August is overwhelming, so if you want to explore Edinburgh’s historic attractions, it’s probably best to avoid this month.

Spring in Scotland is when many of the wild flowers come into bloom, bringing the hillsides and meadows to life with vibrant displays. It is also a time when the weather is reasonably clement (though you never really can tell in Scotland), and you’ll get good daylight hours for attempting any of the many munros on Skye, in Loch Lomond, or elsewhere in the Highlands.

For many, autumn is a favored time of year when a sea of reds, auburns, browns, and purples appears to glow in each sunset’s golden haze. Cool temperatures give you a good excuse to wrap yourself in a cashmere or lamb’s wool blanket and snuggle up by the fire in a traditional cottage or an old inn with a wee dram in hand.

And who can forget Hogmanay, a lively celebration of the year’s end, when Scottish hospitality and geniality comes into its own. Other major events worth visiting for include Burns Night, a celebration of the Scottish poet Robert Burns held on his birthday of January 25 each year, when traditional suppers are hosted throughout Scotland, and Halloween, the Celtic origins of which can be traced back here.


Both Glasgow and Edinburgh are well connected with international flights from the United States, Canada, and Europe, and they are accessible via numerous flights and trains from London and other parts of the United Kingdom. However, traveling within Scotland can take a good deal of planning if you are using public transport. Despite Edinburgh being the capital, Glasgow is by far the most well-connected hub, with direct trains and buses to all main towns and cities. If you are traveling from Edinburgh, you will often have to pick up a connection in Glasgow.

The main train operator is Scotrail (, and the main bus operators are Scottish Citylink ( and Stagecoach (

Passports and Visas

There are few visa restrictions if you are visiting Scotland for no more than six months. If you are an EU citizen or come from Switzerland or one of the non-EU member states of the EEA (Norway, Liechtenstein, and Iceland), you do not need a visa. Nor do you need a visa if you are a member of the Overseas Countries and Territories (OCT).

Currently, there is no visa requirement for citizens of the United States, Canada, Australia, or New Zealand who plan to visit Scotland for six or fewer months. Anyone planning to come for more than six months will need to get an entry clearance certificate from the British Embassy in their home country before they travel.

To enter the United Kingdom, travelers from South Africa do need a Standard visitor visa (, which currently costs £93 and allows stays of up to six months.

You will of course need a passport if you are traveling here from outside the United Kingdom (unless you are traveling from an EEA country, in which case you can travel with a National Identity Card, at least until Brexit, which could result in new passport requirements).

For the latest advice on travel documents, check the U.K. and Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s website (

Best of Edinburgh, Glasgow & the Isle of Skye

Day 1: Edinburgh

Spend your first day in Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh. Start with a hike up to Arthur’s Seat in the morning, when you’ll likely have more space to enjoy the panoramic views of the city. After your hike, head to the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the bottom of the Royal Mile to learn about the royal history of Edinburgh. Have lunch in the café in the palace before browsing the shops of the Grassmarket, at the top of the Royal Mile. If you have time, you can take a tour of Edinburgh Castle, or you can just snap a photo of its exterior from the Grassmarket. Don’t leave the city before you’ve sampled a few whiskies and heard some traditional music in one of its many historic taverns, such as Sandy Bell’s.

Day 2: Glasgow

After an early breakfast at your hotel, take a morning train to Glasgow Queen Street. Join a free tour of the City Chambers, and afterward walk up to Glasgow Cathedral. Stroll amid the aging headstones of the Necropolis, which looks out over the city from above the cathedral and keep an eye out for the overblown statue of the divisive leader of the Scottish Reformation, John Knox. Head back to the city center for a hearty afternoon tea at Mackintosh at the Willow, where you can admire the designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh while sipping tea and eating finger sandwiches. For art of a more subversive nature, head to the Gallery of Modern Art—be sure to snap a picture with the cone-headed Duke of Marlborough outside. After dinner, spend the night dancing and rocking out to whatever band is playing at the Barrowland in the East End.

Glasgow Cathedral

Day 3: Loch Lomond and Glencoe

Rent a car and drive north out of Glasgow to the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Rent a kayak from Loch Lomond Leisure in Luss and spend the morning paddling along the shore or exploring one of the isles. After lunch in the old slate village of Luss, head north out of the park, past the desolate and raw landscape of Rannoch Moor and up through the mountainous Glencoe. Stop to take photos of the Three Sisters before pitching up for the night at the Red Squirrel Campsite and having dinner and drinks at the Clachaig Inn.

Loch Lomond

Day 4: Fort William to Skye

After breakfast, drive 45 minutes to Fort William and ride the Nevis Range mountain gondola for great views of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis. After lunch at the Ben Nevis Inn, drive the Road to the Isles, stopping at the Glenfinnan Monument that stands on the shores of Loch Shiel (near the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct), all the way to Mallaig, where you can have a delicious seafood supper at the Cornerstone Restaurant before catching the ferry over to Skye and staying the night at Eilean Iarmain on Sleat, in the south of the isle.

Days 5-6: Isle of Skye

Spend your first morning on Skye driving the Broadford to Elgol road for incredible views of the Red Cuillin and Bla Bheinn, stopping for tea and cake at the Blue Shed Cafe. From Elgol, take a boat ride over to Loch Coruisk, an eerily still deep-blue loch surrounded by mountains, looking out for resident seals and the occasional visiting whale en route. Back on dry land, take a late afternoon whisky tour of Talisker Distillery before going for dinner at Loch Bay on the Waternish peninsula and bedding down for the night next door at the Stein Inn, Skye’s oldest inn.

The next day, start early with a drive to the northeast of the isle to hike the ethereal and mind-boggling landscape of the Quiraing, carved out by landslips at the end of the last Ice Age. Have a hearty lunch at Skye Restaurant before paying a visit to The Old Man of Storr. You can view it from the road, but if lunch has restored your energy, walk out to the base of the pinnacle (about 1.5 hours round-trip). Afterward, treat yourself to a three-course supper at Scorrybreac in Portree before either staying the night in town or heading back to the mainland via the Kyle of Lochalsh bridge.

City-Hopping from Edinburgh to Glasgow

Days 1-2: Edinburgh

Start your day in Edinburgh with an early hike up through Holyrood Park to the summit of Arthur’s Seat. The steep climb is tough at times but it’s worth it: there are few cities you can peer over from atop an ancient volcano. Take your time descending to the city and head to the National Museum of Scotland to see the 12th-century Lewis Chessmen and more fabulous city views from the 7th-floor roof terrace. Book an afternoon tour of Pickering’s Gin Distillery and, if it’s a Saturday, pop into the Captain’s Bar to listen to some afternoon live music. Alternatively, meander back to the Old Town and pop into Edinburgh Castle just before closing, when it should be relatively quiet. Afterward, head to The Grain Store for dinner before going for a nightcap in the Bow Bar.

Start your day at the National Portrait Gallery in the New Town—a visual feast of who’s who in terms of Scotland’s heroes and heroines. Stroll down to the Scott Monument, a Gothic masterpiece that overlooks Princes Street Gardens and that celebrates the man who shone the tourism spotlight on Scotland, Sir Walter Scott. Walk to Charlotte Square and see if the first minister is at home at Bute House and afterward pop into the Oxford Bar for an afternoon pint or two. Well oiled, wander down to pretty Stockbridge to browse the many independent stores before having an intimate dinner at


On Sale
Jun 25, 2019
Page Count
416 pages
Moon Travel

Sally Coffey

About the Author

Little did Sally Coffey know that a holiday with friends to the Western Highlands 12 years ago would ignite a passion for Scotland that would see her return time and time again. With each visit she would fall a little deeper in love, bewitched by the fact that no two trips are ever the same.

Ensconced in a remote loch-side cottage that New Year's Eve, Sally and her friends were astonished when the tradition of first footing they had read about was upheld, and a trio of jovial locals appeared (seemingly from nowhere) bearing gifts, including a lump of coal and the obligatory wee dram. Since then she's been disarmed by the warmth of Scottish people everywhere she's gone, from the folk pubs of Edinburgh to the shores of Loch Lomond. Her travels have taken her to the wilds of Skye and by seaplane to Oban. She's mastered single-track roads and learned what it really means to be cold.

Born in London to Irish parents, Sally has spent the past five years writing about British travel. She was the editor of BRITAIN, the official magazine of VisitBritain for four years and has written for national newspapers, glossy travel magazines and websites. She is also the author of Moon Edinburgh, Glasgow & the Isle of Skye.

Learn more about this author