Scotland Itinerary: Best of Edinburgh, Glasgow and the 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. Whether you want to spend never-ending summer days exploring new sights, or “coorie doon” and escape the brooding winter nights by a fire, this weeklong itinerary through Edinburgh, Glasgow, and the Isle of Skye represents the best of all that Scotland has to offer.

A row of cafe tables along a balcony walkway, overlooking a busy street.
Ancient part of Edinburgh city centre, the old town and Grassmarket, a popular cafe and bar area and tourist attraction. Photo © Lou Armor/iStock.

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.

Four red kayaks resting on the sandy beach of Loch Lomond, Scotland.
Red kayaks on the sandy beach of Loch Lomond, Scotland. Photo © font83/iStock.

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.

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.

Narrow road passing through the green Quiraing mountains in Isle of Skye.
Scenic view of Quiraing mountains in Isle of Skye, Scottish highlands. Photo © MartinM303/iStock.

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.

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