1 week in Scotland: what to do?
Want to explore Scotland and plan to spend your next vacation there?
To help you organize your trip, I have prepared a week-long Scotland itinerary to take full advantage of the must – see places of this wet but beautiful country!
Between cultural visits, wild excursions and exploration of historical remains, your stay promises to be well filled.
To visit Scotland in 6, 7 or 8 days, I suggest you to discover Edinburgh, to sail on Loch Ness or to browse the wilderness of the Highlands and the Isle of Skye. You will also find my selection of the best accommodations.
So, what to do and see in 1 week in Scotland?
Day 1-2: Edinburgh
To visit Scotland in 1 week, the best is to land in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh.
And as a week is short enough, to see the maximum of things and not waste time in transport, I recommend renting a car.
Once your car is recovered, get to Edinburgh city center, the first leg of this week-long Scotland itinerary.
Edinburgh is a city of history and the place of many legends. It is easily visited on foot and is divided into two parts: the medieval town (Old Town) and the contemporary city (New Town).
For this first day, I suggest you start with the visit of Old Town. Located in the hills, the medieval town extends all around its main artery called Royal Mile. The street starts from the castle and goes down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
On your first day of this 1 week Scotland itinerary, start by visiting Edinburgh Castle (Edinburg Castle). Perched on its ancient volcano, it majestically dominates the city and marks the beginning of the course in Old Town. The visit is very interesting, counting at least 2 hours to see everything. There is often a crowd at Edinburgh Castle, especially in summer.
Just after the castle, at the beginning of the Royal Mile, you will find one of the oldest attractions in the city: the “Camera Obscura and World of Illusions”. The visit is worth a look and is especially ideal for families with children.
It is an unusual museum that makes us discover the amazing universe of optical illusions through several funny and fun activities including a lively panorama of Edinburgh. Count 1 to 2 hours of visit.
You can then travel the Royal Mile. This beautiful cobblestone medieval street transports you back to the Middle Ages, in the middle of intact medieval architecture. Many arches overlook small alleys from side to side of the avenue, do not hesitate to explore at your leisure.
Some of the monuments to see on Royal Mile:
- Saint Gile’s Cathedral
- Canongate Kirk
- The Real Mary King’s Close
- Milne’s Court
- Dunbar’s Close Garden
- White Horse Close
- Scottish Parliament House
You will also find several free museums:
- Museum of Edinburgh on the history of the city
- Writer’s Museum interested in Scottish literature
- Museum of Childhood and its collection of old toys
- The People’s Story tells the story of the people of Edinburgh
For a snack, take a break at Clarinda’s Tearoom for tea in a “so British” atmosphere, with small floral tablecloths, lace and porcelain dishes. Located near the end of the Royal Mile, at 69 Canongate Street, this tea shop closes fairly early (4:30 pm).
Then visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse: at the end of the Royal Mile, it was the prestigious home of Mary Stuart and now one of the Queen’s second homes. One can visit the interior, the art galleries, the ruins of the abbey and the gardens.
Behind the Palace of Holyroodhouse, you can also walk to Arthur’s Seat. A nice walk in the moors on an old volcano of 251 meters above sea level and a superb 360 ° viewpoint awaits you at the top.
At the end of the day, I invite you to dine in town, for example David Bann restaurant which serves delicious food, light and original at an affordable price in a relaxed atmosphere. It is located on St Mary’s Street (book in advance).
To end the evening in apotheosis, why not give yourself some chills during a night walk in the picturesque graveyard of Greyfriars (on Candlemaker Row). It seems that it is the most haunted cemetery in the world!
Guided tours are organized every evening, you can book them right here.
After a good night’s sleep, I propose for this second day of your one-week Scotland itinerary to discover the other side of the city through the visit of the contemporary neighborhoods of New Town.
The modern face of Edinburgh was built at the end of the 18th century in order to unclog the old city. It extends around the 3 main avenues that are Princes Street, Queen Street and Georges Street.
Extensive elegant squares, green spaces, pretty half-moon streets and typical Georgian architecture await you for this day of sightseeing.
Do not miss in New Town:
- Princes Street Garden: These vast gardens mark the border with Old Town. There is a beautiful panorama of the medieval town, large and beautiful lawns on which to stroll and enjoy the view.
- Charlotte Square: one of the most beautiful areas of New Town. One can see among others the official residence of the Prime Minister (Bute House at No. 6), a typical Georgian house to visit (Georgian House at No. 7) and very pretty streets in a poetic setting.
- Calton Hill: This small hill is in the Regents Garden and offers a new view of Old Town and the sea.
- Museums (free): Scottish National Portrait Gallery and Scottish National Gallery
- Dean Village: this former village of millers offers a pretty bucolic walk to do along the river. It is accessible on foot from the city center in 15-20 minutes.
- Royal Botanic Gardens: admire the largest collection of rhododendrons in the world, discover a Chinese garden, greenhouses, an arboretum and stroll among the flowers in the company of squirrels, this is what you can do among other things in these beautiful gardens of 28 hectares.
Spend your last night in Edinburgh and get up early to get on the road the next morning.
More information about Edinburgh can be found in our detailed article: Top 20 things to do in Edinburgh.
Tips for your Scotland itinerary:
Parking spaces for parking in the city are expensive and limited to a maximum of 4 hours. There are also several long-term paid car parks, also expensive (including one just below the castle).
So you can try to find a free spot on the outskirts, near the Royal Botanic Garden, Inverleith Park or Murrayfield Stadium for example. You can also park for free in a park and ride outside the city and take a shuttle to the city center.
Accommodation in Edinburgh
- Edinburgh Central Youth Hostel: Hostel located just 800 meters from the station and Princes Street. Bed in dormitory from 30€, breakfast at 6€. Most: cleanliness, location, pleasant staff.
- Leonardo Royal Hotel Edinburgh Haymarket: Located right in the city centre, 10 minutes walk from the castle. Contemporary and elegant double room from €90, breakfast included. Most: the very helpful staff, the spacious rooms, the very comfortable bed. It is our favorite for its performance / price ratio!
- Radisson Blu Hotel, Edinburgh: Located on the historic Royal Mile, 10 minutes from the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Chic and refined double room from €200 per night, breakfast at €14. Most: the central location, the spa, the heated indoor pool, the gym, the excellent breakfast.
- Radisson Collection Hotel, Royal Mile Edinburgh: 5 star hotel located in Royal Mile, 600 meters from the castle. This luxury hotel offers design, comfortable and elegant rooms, from €300 per night, breakfast at €18. Most: in the heart of Edinburgh’s historic center, the interior decoration, the adorable staff, the absolute comfort. This is our recommendation for a luxury stay in Edinburgh.
Day 3-5: Highland Getaway
For this week’s stay in Scotland, I suggest you spend the next 3 days exploring the Highlands, one of the most beautiful regions of the country.
Its sometimes mystical, sometimes magical atmosphere , its hilly landscapes, its endless moors, its castles and its immense lakes are known all over the world. It’s not for nothing that so many films have chosen this splendid region as a backdrop. It’s impossible to miss the Highlands during your 1-week Scotland itinerary!
In this region, very few houses, many sheep and an immense wild nature. The program of the next 3 days is therefore mainly dedicated to hiking!
By car, it takes approximately 2.5 hours to 3 hours to reach the Highlands from Edinburgh. By bus, travel 4 to 5 hours by bus from the Scottish Citylink.
For the rest of your 6, 7 or 8 day itinerary in Scotland, join Glencoe, a charming little village in the heart of the Glen Coe Valley with its beautiful mountains dotted with small waterfalls.
Glencoe is the starting point for many walks and hikes including the forest walks of Lochan Trails (1 hour walk), which you can follow with the beautiful hiking of Pap of Glencoe which leads to the summit of the mountain of the same name .
The climb is not very difficult, even if it climbs quite a lot, and is in the middle of truly sumptuous landscapes, with a panoramic view of the valley and Loch Leven from the summit. Count around 4 hours round trip.
To do too if you have the time:
- The ride on Signal Rock Hill. The departure is just past the Glencoe Visitor Center and it is a very nice walk of about 45 minutes round trip.
- The Lost Valley hike is about 9 km from Glencoe. The walk will take you 2 to 3 hours round trip.
At the end of the day, I suggest you take the road towards Port Appin to admire the charming and tiny medieval castle of Castle Stalker, floating in the middle of Loch Linnhe. It is one of the most photographed castles in Scotland and dates back to the 14th century. It can only be reached by boat. Otherwise, you can watch it from the small beach just in front or from the road.
Spend the night in one of the accommodations I propose right after.
After the discovery of Glencoe, I propose to dedicate this second day in the Highlands to visit Glenfinnan.
This charming village just a few miles from Glencoe and Fort Williams has had a huge tourist success since the release of Harry Potter movies, as many scenes have been shot here.
You can admire the beautiful viaduct 21 arches, the same one that appears in the movie “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”. A high point of view (accessible from the Glenfinnan Visitor Center) overlooks the viaduct and is stormed twice a day by tourists who want to see the passage of the steam train, the Jacobite Express (almost confused with the Hogwarts Express!). The train runs every morning around 10:30 and the afternoon around 15:00.
Other points of interest to see in Glenfinann, Scotland:
- The Glenfinnan Monument, built on the edge of Loch Shiel as a tribute to one of the episodes of war in Scottish history. It is possible to climb to the top of the tower (with a guide) to admire a beautiful panorama of the loch and the surrounding hills.
- The Glenfinnan Church: an authentic and charming Gothic church overlooking Loch Shiel
- The Glenfinnan Station Museum: This tiny museum in the old restored train station shows the history of the Scottish Railways and the viaduct.
- The walks from Glenfinnan Visitor Center: lasting from 45 minutes to 1 hour, they make a nice loop in the heights of the village.
In the late afternoon, I advise you to return to Fort William which is only 30 minutes by car or bus from Glenfinann.
You can walk there to discover this pretty tourist town with its cobbled streets center, its few pubs and its beautiful bookstore.
I strongly advise you to go to the Steall Falls site, about 20 minutes drive from downtown Fort William. You will be able to make a pretty stroll in a shimmering nature in the middle of waterfalls, torrents and heaths of a bright green. Little mentioned in the guides, it is however one of the most beautiful walks that I could make during my 1 week Scotland itinerary!
Spend a second night in the Highlands.
For this third day in the Highlands, I propose you to finish in style with the discovery of the famous Loch Ness. Impossible to visit Scotland in a week, without going there!
Everyone has of course heard about it and its reputation does not detract from the real charm of the place (even if Nessie is rather fierce, and you will have little chance to see it …).
It is the second largest loch in the country with a length of more than 30 kilometers for 2 kilometers wide. It is located between Inverness (the capital of the Highlands, north) and Fort Augustus (south).
In the morning, head for Fort Augustus, about 50 minutes drive from Fort William. This pretty village built at the southern tip of Loch Ness allows you to have beautiful views of the lake and make a cruise: zodiac for speed lovers, or quieter on a small liner. To do absolutely during your 1-week Scotland itinerary.
Then lunch at Fort Augustus, then leave along the loch, towards Drumnadrochit (40 minutes), not to miss to admire the sublime landscapes from the road.
The village of Drumnadrochit is cute, with some pretty terraces, an interesting museum about the myth of the Loch Ness monster and beautiful walks to do, including that of Glen Urquhart.
But do not miss out on Drumnadrochit’s visit to Urquhart Castle. From this medieval castle built on the edge of Loch Ness there are only ruins but the visit is great and offers a breathtaking view of the water. It is located a little outside the city.
To combine the two flagship activities to be done at Loch Ness, namely the cruise and the Urquhart Castle, you can also opt for an excursion for only 25 € per person. It includes 1 hour boat ride on Loch Ness and a visit to the castle.
Then go back to Inverness, where you can make a stop, and then drive up to Dores about 13 km south on the east side of the loch. This charming village has a beautiful pebble beach and offers a beautiful view of the length of the loch Ness.
You can also meet Steve Feltham, the monster hunter who has been here since 1991 and continues his tireless quest to find Nessie. To finance his activities, he offers for sale small clay figurines.
After this day around Loch Ness, it’s time to get back to Fort William and spend a last night there before the change of course the next day.
Tips for your Scotland itinerary:
If you travel to Scotland between June and September, consider protecting yourself from the midges, the voracious midges that invade the wetlands in high season. There is even a site that lists the areas of infestation in real time.
Accommodation in the Highlands
- Fort William Backpackers: Located in downtown Fort William. Bed in dormitory from 22 €. The most: the warm atmosphere, the welcome, the location.
- Ben Nevis Hotel & Leisure Club: Located 1.5 km from Fort William. Double room of pure traditional Scottish style from 100 € per night, breakfast included. Plus: the indoor heated pool, free parking, full breakfast.
- Nevis Bank Inn: Located on the banks of the Nevis River, 10 minutes from the center of Fort William. Spacious and cozy double room from 190 € per night, breakfast included. The most: friendly staff, cleanliness, the good restaurant of the hotel.
- Inverlochy Castle Hotel: 5 star hotel located 6 km from Fort William. The establishment is actually a small castle which offers double rooms overlooking the gardens and the summit of the Glen Nevis from 550 €, breakfast included. Most: the sumptuous and extraordinary, the breakfast very rich, the attentive staff. This is our recommendation for a luxury stay in the Highlands.
Day 6-7: Isle of Skye
For this last leg of your 1 week Scotland itinerary, I suggest you spend 2 days on the Isle of Skye, one of the must-see destinations, even for a 7 or 8 day itinerary.
Two days is the minimum for the trip from the mainland is worth because there is much to see on this beautiful island that is called the Isle of Mists. If there is one island to see absolutely during a car tour in Scotland, this is it!
In the program of these two days: tour of the island by car, walk in the middle of the moors and peat bogs, at the edge of the steep cliffs, facing the waterfalls and under a sky often misty.
To get to the Isle of Skye from Fort William, the easiest way is to take the ferry to Mallaig 1 hour away.
Mallaig is a pretty cute little fishing port, with some nice snacks and restaurants and it’s where the Jacobite Express from Fort William stops.
I advise you to arrive early in the morning to catch one of the first ferries and have as much time as possible on Skye. There are 9 crossings per day. Allow around £ 6 per return passenger and £ 20 for the car.
For this first day, discover the South West of the Isle of Skye.
At the arrival of the ferry, take the road towards Sligachan : you will probably take a few breaks to admire the most beautiful views of the moors, mountains, lochs and waterfalls.
Make a stop at Sligachan and its very photogenic stone bridge over a rough river, with the beautiful Cuillin Hills in the background.
Not far from Sligachan, about 20 minutes drive, do not miss the Fairy Pools, in the heart of the Cuillin Hills. This succession of cascades flowing into a translucent pool takes on a tropical landscape as soon as the sun pierces the clouds.
The Fairy Pools is accessible after about 30 minutes of walking in the countryside from the car park. It’s a magical place for a picnic if it’s already lunch time.
You can then continue to explore the Cuillin Hills, whose landscapes are some of the most beautiful on the island.
Take the road back to Dunvegan to visit the castle (£ 14 for the castle and gardens) and / or why not go on a sea trip to meet the seals (from Dunvegan Castle, around £ 7 per person).
You can also visit the Neist Point Lighthouse, the famous lighthouse on many of the island’s postcards.
Then head to the town of Portree where you will spend the night.
The next day, continue your one-week Scotland itinerary and on the Isle of Skye, to discover the North East Coast. From Portree, take the A 855 road along the coast.
You will have several stops to see the Old Man of Storr : a beautiful natural site about 10 km north of Portree. Parking allows you to park your car and is the starting point for a small hike of about 2 hours round trip (count 3 hours with photo breaks and exploration of the surroundings).
You will discover the Old Man of Storr, an impressive rock planted vertically, like a strange menhir 50 meters high. The views of the Trotternish Peninsula are superb!
About 15 kilometers further north, do not miss the Kilt Rock waterfall that flows into the sea directly from a high cliff.
We continue your week-long Scotland itinerary north to Quiraing and its mountain range covered with moors and peat bogs. There are some very nice hikes to do here and great views of Staffin Bay.
Continuing on the road, you will soon arrive at the ruins of Duntulm Castle, which seems abandoned in front of the sea. It can be approached but the site of the ruins is not accessible to the public. In this enchanting setting, it’s time to be rocked by the gusts of wind and soak up the mysterious atmosphere of the place.
Shortly after the castle, make a stop at the Skye Museum of Island Life to visit a group of typical 19th and 20th century thatched cottages and plunge into the daily life of rural Scotland in the past (entry costs £ 2.5 per person).
After this long epic, go down quietly to Portree where you will spend your last night on the island before taking the ferry the next day.
It will then be time to return to Edinburgh or Glasgow to catch your return flight during the day.
Just think about a 4-hour drive from Mallaig (not counting the return ferry ride) to Edinburgh. So if your flight takes off early, it may be better to remove a day from this route (eg spend only 2 days in the Highlands) to dedicate the penultimate day of this week-long Scotland itinerary on the return trip. and be sure not to miss your plane the next day.
Feel free to read our full article to know everything about Isle of Skye: A detailed guide to the Isle of Skye.
Tips for your Scotland itinerary:
If you only have 6 days in Scotland and not a full week, I advise you to delete a day in the Highlands.
If you have an extra day and your stay in Scotland lasts 8 days : after 2 days on the Isle of Skye, make a one-day stop at Loch Lomond and the beautiful Trossachs National Park. Located halfway between Skye and Edinburgh, this is the ideal stop for a day and cut the route.
Accommodation on the Isle of Skye
- Portree Youth Hostel: Hostel located in the city center of Portree. Bed in dormitory from 23 €. Most: the ideal situation, cleanliness, staff.
- Sky Lodges: Located 2.9 km from Portree. You will stay in small wooden chalets well equipped and tastefully decorated from 130 € per night. The most: the ecological concept, modern amenities, cleanliness.
- Cuillin Hills Hotel: Situated in a 6 hectare estate facing Portree Bay. Double room with traditional decoration and warm from 210 € per night, breakfast included. The most: the magnificent view, the succulent meals, the charming staff. This is our favorite for its location on the Isle of Skye.
- Skeabost House Hotel: Located on the Loch Snizort in Portree. Double room very cozy and view of the park or Loch from 270 €, breakfast included. The most: the superb view, the comfort of the rooms, the very warm atmosphere, the golf course. This is our recommendation for a romantic getaway on the Isle of Skye.
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