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Seeing Scotland in one week sounds amazing, but it’s also a challenge.
As you all know, Scotland is one of my favorite destinations of all time. I would be able to spend an entire month in Scotland and not feel bored. Actually I have so many plans to return to Scotland soon. For example, I want to experience Hogmanay and New Years in Edinburgh. Now that I’m getting healthier and stronger (more information to come in another post!), I also want to experience one of Scotland’s many famous long distance walks. And who doesn’t want to go to Up Hella Aa in Shetland? I’d feel like a living, breathing Viking! Haha.
However, despite my desire to take several trips to Scotland, I wanted to construct an itinerary that is realistic for most people. A simple self-guided tour focused on seeing Scotland in a week.
As you read this post, please keep in mind that these are my personal recommendations after two separate trips. I don’t pretend to be a travel agent or expert, just a fellow traveler with a passion for Scotland. Now I don’t live in Scotland (I wish) so if you’re a local, please don’t hesitate to contribute your own ideas into the comments section.
Furthermore, if you feel the itinerary is too “rushed,” then adjust your days however you see fit. Some people are zippy travelers, while others like a slower pace. It’s normal.
Without further ado, let’s tackle Scotland in a week, beautiful people!
One Week in Scotland – Day 1
What better place to start exploring Scotland in a week than its cultural and fun and literary city Edinburgh? Sigh, this is one of my favorite places in the world. Like most cities, Edinburgh has so much to see and do that reading a good guide is beneficial to maximize your time.
Personally, I would recommend enjoying Edinburgh’s most famous sites on your first day. Take a stroll along the Royal Mile. Is this Old Town street touristy? Yes, yes it is, but still, strolling the Royal Mile is an essential part of the Edinburgh experience. You can even go to one of my favorite pubs: The World’s End. And don’t forget to pop into St. Giles Cathedral on you meander toward the end of the Royal Mile.
Then, once you’ve arrived at the end of the road, you will want to enjoy a tour of Edinburgh Castle. You can see the Scottish Crown Jewels at this historic and mighty fortress. Not to mention, the views at the top of this hill are awesome!
At night, you should definitely book a creepy “adults only” ghost tour or a tour of Real Mary King’s Close. They are both historically fascinating and will give you the creeps. Shudder. Keep in mind, however, you will want to reserve Real Mary King’s Close well in advance. Tours are limited and sell out.
One Week in Scotland – Day 2
Loch Lomond and Oban
Now for our second day of our week in Scotland. Depart Edinburgh to explore through some of Scotland’s most beautiful “lowlands.” While not as spectacular as the famous highlands, the lowlands are beautifully green and lush, and have a certain charm to them that you don’t want to miss.
As for specifics, Loch Lomond is the most famous loch or lake in this geographical area and deserves your time. The castles on the loch provide the perfect scenery for a picnic lunch. One of the loveliest castles, Balloch Castle is definitely worth your time.
Without a doubt, Scotland has many incredible castles and sometimes it can be a challenge to determine the best ones. Carefully read your guidebook.
On your way to Loch Lomond, don’t miss Doune Castle which was featured in the film Monty Python and Leoch Castle in Outlander. Doune Castle is quite pretty and worth a visit – even if you choose not to go inside and pay the entry fee.
After Loch Loman you will want to drive to the seaside town of Oban. Upon arriving at Oban, you’ll enjoy majestic sea views, boats and ferries included, and you will also find plenty of fresh fish to keep your stomach satisfied. Climb McCaig’s Tower to see the entire area from a bird’s eye. If you’re interested in distilleries, more specifically Scottish whisky, then Oban Distillery offers some good quality tours.
One Week in Scotland – Day 3
Isles of Mull and Iona
Scotland’s many islands are as famous as its sweeping Highlands. Did you know Scotland has over 790 islands? Sadly, if we are gonna do Scotland in a week, we need to be selective about our islands, haha.
From Oban, you can take the ferry to Mull and from Mull, the ferry to Iona. Arrive to the ferry on time. The captain won’t wait for stragglers. The earlier you can leave, the better! It takes roughly an hour to reach Mull, but it’s an enjoyable ride and you can have coffee on the boat if you need to wake up. Not that I’m speaking from experience, of course.
Both Mull and Iona combined are definitely worth your entire day. Scottish Island culture is truly something else.
The main attraction that requires your attention is the breathtaking Iona Abbey.This incredible Benedict abbey has been a place of worship ever since Saint Columba’s arrival in … AD 563. Yes, you correctly read that date. AD 563. That is old.
In addition, you can add Staffa to your itinerary and see some puffins up close and personal, depending on the time of year. This uninhabited island looks like Giant’s Causeway cast out to sea, haha.
One Week in Scotland – Days 4 and 5
Isle of Skye
We’re smack in the middle of our 7 days in Scotland! Time for us to go even farther north.
En route to Skye, you will need to make a stop at Glencoe, which is an absolutely beautiful glen in western Scotland. You truly feel as if you have been transported back in time to a fairytale. Glencoe is definitely romantic. However, the history is super dark and was partly used as inspiration for the Red Wedding on Game of Thrones, truly saying everything you need to know. Read all about the Massacre of Glencoe to truly appreciate your visit. Scotland is stunning, but there’s no denying life in the Highlands was tough.
You may also want to make a stop at Fort William for lunch. This town is well known as the gateway to Ben Nevis, which is the highest mountain point in the United Kingdom. Sure you can hike Ben Nevis, but since we’re doing Scotland in a week, you may want to save scaling the mountains for another trip.
What about the Isle of Skye? It’s my favorite place in Scotland!
The Isle of Skye is a playground for natural wonders. Luckily for us, this magical place is easily accessible every since the construction of the Skye Bridge, which opened in 1995. Great for tourists, but watch your carbon footprint and respect the locals. Clean up after yourselves. I was a bit shocked at how many visitors littered (!!), but that’s another rant for another day.
Portree is the biggest town on Skye and a great place to grab some dinner, but Skye is really known for its spectacular geography. Some of my favorite parts of the Isle of Skye consist of the following natural wonders:
- Quiraing: This beautiful and sweeping landslip is a place of wonder and amazement. You can definitely see why parts of Stardust was filmed here.
- The Cuillin (Black & Red Mountains): Incredible mountain ranges that serve as the backdrop to Skye.
- Neist Point: Home to one of the most beautiful lighthouses I have ever seen in my life.
- Kilt Rock: One of the many amazing waterfalls that Skye has to offer. Careful not to drop your phone while snapping a perfect Instagram photo!
- Fairy Glenn: Ahhhh, what a magical place! So green and lush and very much like a fairytale. Climb to the top of the many accessible hills, make smiley faces out of rocks, and wave to the sheep.
When you leave Skye, you don’t want to miss Eilean Donan Castle. I personally think this is the most iconic castle in all of Scotland. Even more iconic than Edinburgh Castle!
One Week in Scotland – Day 6
Fort Augustus and Loch Ness
Ready to find the Loch Ness Monster? I know you are! Loch Ness is a very long and deep loch, so you want to find a good place to lay your head as you explore everything this cool corner of the Highlands has to offer you. In particular, Fort Augustus is located on the southwest end of Loch Ness, and this bustling town is a great place to base yourself.
Once you arrive, you can book a Loch Ness boat ride in order to learn all about the infamous monster, such as theories and possible sightings. Personally, I’ve traveled with Cruise Loch Ness twice and enjoyed myself on both trips, although I still haven’t seen the monster.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, then Cruise Loch Ness offers high speed rib boat rides that look like a ton of fun! Plus you can see Urquhart Castle, which is absolutely stunning among the lush green mountains.
In addition to learning about the Loch Ness monster, you can take several hikes in the immediate Fort Augustus area. There are hikes to suit all fitness levels and time restraints. Walk Highlands is a great resource to help you.
One Week in Scotland – Day 7
Scotland for a week is a great trip and now it’s slowly coming to an end. Leave Fort Augustus early in the morning to enjoy your remaining time in Edinburgh. If you have time, swing by the Stirling Moment, which is dedicated to William Wallace of Braveheart fame.
Now, as for your second day in Edinburgh, I would explore all fun and colorful neighborhoods and purposely get lost in the city. One of my favorite areas of the city is Dean Village. I honestly think this is the most picturesque part of Edinburgh. Take a lovely walk along the Leith River and enjoy the rare quiet in the middle of a bustling city.
If you’re want a “more active” day, then hike to Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat. Calton Hill offers an outstanding view of the city, and is well known for its Athenian acropolis jutting into the (hopefully blue!) sky.
Arthur’s Seat, on the other hand, is a more intensive hike and requires a few hours. Bring a small bagged lunch with you.
Tonight completes your “Scotland in a Week” tour. Which means it is time to book another airline ticket, bwhaha.
Is it Safe to Explore Scotland?
However, a couple things you should note prior to your trip. Firstly, weather changes quickly and drastically in the Highlands. I’m not kidding, you can experience all four seasons in a single day even in the summer months. If you’re a hiker, then please take proper precautions before setting off on your journey, including letting someone know a rough itinerary of your hike. You don’t want to be caught off guard.
In addition, when you are in Scotland, you drive on the left side of the road. So a self-guided driving tour may be an adjustment for visitors coming from the United States or Canada. Some roads may be narrow and remote, too, especially in rugged western Scotland. So play it extra safe and don’t speed. Road rage has no place here.
Finally, depending on the exchange rate, the British pound could pose an immediate danger to your wallet and credit card. But, hey, don’t let that stop you from having a blast! Since you’re only doing Scotland in a week, you can minimize the damage, especially if you focus on the many free hikes, haha.
Is A Week In Scotland Enough Time?
“I have a 7 day Scotland itinerary written,” you’re thinking. “But is that enough time to see everything I want?”
Oh man. Not the best question to ask me considering how much I love Scotland. There’s never enough time to appreciate the nature, whisky, history, everything. And to fully enjoy Scotland in a week? Uhhh, if you want to see every single city and natural wonder, then “no,” I wouldn’t say a week is enough time to truly soak up the essence of this beautiful travel destination.
However, a week should be enough to give you a “taste” of Scotland. Be warned, however, once you visit, you’ll want to come again in the near future.
What are your favorite spots in Scotland? What suggestions would you give for exploring Scotland in a week? What is your favorite Scotland itinerary?