If you’re looking for a vacation that will help you hit reset on life while experiencing stunning nature, deep history and a wee bit of magic, this Scotland road trip itinerary is for you.
Starting in Glasgow and ending in Edinburgh, you’ll explore big cities and small villages, wander ancient islands, sip world-renowned Scotch, get up close and personal with those adorable hairy cows, and drive through some of the country’s most stunning scenery.
Like any travel destination, Scotland should be savored slowly. And while there is a lot of movement from place to place on this itinerary, the joy is the journey, as much as each destination.
Scotland Road Trip Itinerary
Explore cities, islands and a touch of the highlands with this 12-day road trip of Scotland from Glasgow to Edinburgh.
Getting There and Around
There are plenty of international flights into Glasgow or Edinburgh, however, we decided to fly into London from NYC and take the train to and from Scotland. Why? For us, the airfare to London plus the train tickets were cheaper than flying into either Scottish city directly. We also got to enjoy a few days in London to bookend the trip. Plus a train ride through the Lake Country and north of England just added to the slow and scenic intention of the trip.
Renting a car in Scotland was super easy. Driving, on the other hand, took some getting used to. Scots drive on the left side of the road, so if you’re not used to it, it’s imperative to pay extra close attention to the direction of traffic and traffic signs.
Beyond that, many of the roads in Scotland, especially as you leave the city, are single-track roads, meaning you and an opposing car could be coming at one another at the same time. We experienced this nearly all of the time on the islands, and while it’s intimidating at first, you will get used to it. Just remember to always pull over and one of the many passing places and let others drive by. This video on driving in Scotland will help you visualize it.
This Scotland road trip itinerary also includes a lot of ferry rides. The main ferry company in Scotland is CalMac and you can find schedules and prices on their website. Tip: Look at ferry times before planning the rest of your trip because there may be only one or two trips per day in some locations.
Day 1 Glasgow
Arrive in Glasgow and explore the city. The Glasgow city center is quite small and walkable, so it’s a great place to wander off your jetlag, have a hearty pub meal and stock up on road trip snacks.
Day 2 Glasgow → Isle of Islay
Pick up your rental car early and begin your drive along A82 through the stunning Trossachs National Park on your way to Kennacraig, where you’ll take the ferry to the Isle of Islay (pronounced Eye-lah). Stop along the way at the village of Luss, the Rest and be Thankful Pass and Inveraray Castle.
Nestled on the western shore of Loch Lomond, Luss is a medieval village that was once used to house slate workers. Today, it’s a charming stop on your way through the Trossachs with shops, restaurants, and a lake boardwalk with mesmerizing views of Ben Lomond and the surrounding mountain-scape.
Continue along A83, stop to stretch your legs while taking in the view at the Rest and be Thankful Pass, the highest viewpoint along the highway.
As you make your way toward Kennacraig to catch the CalMac ferry to Islay, stop in Inverary on the way. Explore the famous Inveraray Castle, the ancestral home of the Duke of Argyll, Chief of the Clan Campbell.
Day 3 Isle of Islay
Islay is famous for its Scotch distilleries, including Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Caol Ila, but there’s still more to explore if you’re not a Scotch fan.
For those who do like imbibe, book a tour or two at your favorite distilleries and taste your way through the island’s collection of peated, smokey Scotch. Just remember: don’t drink and drive. Book a taxi or a tour instead.
After all that Scotch, you’ll probably be hungry. Stop for lunch in the quaint town of Port Ellen followed by a leisurely walk along the shore.
Day 4 Isle of Islay
Beyond being home to some of the top Scotch distilleries in the world, Islay also has incredible nature and coastlines to explore.
Don’t miss the chance to hike to the American Monument for breathtaking views and to spot the local wildlife. It doesn’t get more breathtakingly Scottish than seeing sheep and hairy coo graze along a green and rocky coastline.
Day 5 Isle of Islay → Oban
Today, you’ll take the ferry back to Kennacraig and drive north to Oban, home of its namesake Scotch, delicious fish and chips, and notoriously rainy weather (like much of Scotland). Pack appropriately!
Once you arrive and get settled, tuck into a dish at one of the famous ‘chippies’ along the main drag. The three top rivals for “best fish and chips in Oban” are Oban Fish and Chip Shop, George Street Chip Shop and Nories. We tried Oban Fish and Chip and loved every last bite (and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t usually like fish).
Day 6 Oban
Use this day to explore the small, seaside port of Oban with its local shops, modern restaurants and, of course, the Oban Distillery.
Feeling active? Climb the 144 steps to McCaig’s Tower for sweeping views of the entire bay. Hopefully, it won’t be as rainy for you as it was for us!
Day 7 Oban → Isle of Mull
Wake up in time to take a morning ferry from Oban to the Isle of Mull. We chose to put Mull on our Scotland road trip itinerary instead of the super-popular Isle of Skye, opting for a less-touristed option and couldn’t be happier with our decision.
Once you arrive in Craignure, make your first stop at Duart Castle, not far from the ferry terminal. Then drive along the southern coast of Mull toward Kilvickeon beach. Make a pit-stop at the pre-historic Lochbuie standing stones if you’re into that kind of thing. Have dinner in the colorful town of Tobermory.
Day 8 Isle of Mull
Start your morning with a walk along the white sands of Calgary Beach. Next, drive south to explore the Eas Fors Waterfall then continue on to Ulva island for an afternoon of incredible hiking. You do have to catch a 2-minute “ferry” ride to Ulva but it’s just a single fisherman who transports people back and forth on his boat.
Fuel up for your hike at the Ulva Boathouse Restaurant (there’s no other establishment on the island so you’ll want to take care of business here.) This is also where you’ll buy the return ticket for your “ferry” ride…yes, even though you’ve already taken one leg of the journey.
The last ferry leaves at 5 pm so make sure you’ve left the island by that point, unless you’re wild camping (there are no accommodations).
Day 9 Isle of Mull → Edinburgh
You’re driving across the country to Edinburgh today! First up: Take the ferry back to Oban, fill up on gas and snacks and buckle in for a 3-hour drive.
If you have extra time to spare, head north first to Glencoe for hiking and more stunning scenery. Otherwise, after a scenic drive through the northern part of the Trossachs, you’ll arrive in Scotland’s charming capital city by evening.
Tip: Return your rental car once you arrive in Edinburgh, there’s no need for it in the city.
Day 10 Edinburgh
Kick-off your first full day in Edinburgh by learning about its incredible history with a walking tour of the Old City. Sandeman is a good (free!) one. You’ll explore the Royal Mile, Greyfriars Kirkyard, the Grassmarket and hear the wild and wacky tales of the city’s checkered past. Strap on your sneakers because Edinburgh is an extremely hilly city. And stairs…so many stairs.
After you’ve had a peek into the city’s historical past, rest and refresh with a High Tea experience. Try The Tower Restaurant atop the National Museum of Scotland with views of Edinburgh Castle. End the day with dinner, a beer and live music at a pub.
Day 11 Edinburgh
Wander! Visit Edinburgh Castle or venture outside of the Old City with a little shopping, dining and exploring in the New City or surrounding neighborhoods. You could also hike up to Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park for the best view of the city or tour Harry Potter filming sites.
Day 12 Edinburgh
Enjoy a slow Scottish breakfast and do any last whiskey or souvenir shopping before your departure.
Savor Your Road Trip of Scotland
Even though this Scotland road trip itinerary is packed with places to see and things to do, don’t feel like you have to do everything. The country’s natural beauty and kind people are enough to make the trip worthwhile regardless of how many must-sees you visit.
Scotland is made for going slow and savoring your experience fully. To help you do just that don’t forget to pack the Discover Journal, a mindful travel journal with prompts that cultivate self-discovery, curiosity and personal growth while documenting your travel memories in a quick and meaningful way.
Leave a Reply