I had always wanted to visit the Scottish highlands. And boy did they very much exceeded my expectations. There is something quite magical about the Scottish Highlands – the extreme and ridiculously fast weather is extraordinary and creates a different feel – you can imagine that if anywhere has fairies and dragons this place does.
If you’re planning a trip to Scotland, here is my Scotland Itinerary 10 days focussing on the Scottish Highlands.
- Getting to the Scottish Highlands and Getting Around:
- Days 1-3: Glen Coe & Fort William
- Days 4 and 5: The Isle of Skye
- Eilean Donan Castle
- The Cuillin Hills
- Drive the A87 and B roads around the top east side of The Isle of Skye
- Where to Stay on the Isle of Skye
- Day 6: Ullapool
- Day 7: Durness
- Day 8: Thurso
- Day 9: Inverness
- Day Ten
- When to do your 10 days in Scotland
- Things to know before you visit the Scottish Highlands
- What to Pack for ten days in Scotland
- Organised Self-Drive Options
- Guided Tour Options
- Who Paid for What in this Post
Getting to the Scottish Highlands and Getting Around:
Both Glasgow and Inverness are good points to stop and start a tour of the Scottish Highlands. This itinerary assumes that you start your Scotland road trip in Glasgow and finish it in Inverness.
Scotland also has some amazingly scenic train rides however if you really want to get under the skin of the Highlands I really believe that you need to hire a car.
British Rail Passes for Overseas Visitors
Rail is a brilliant way to get around Scotland. The BritRail Central Scotland Pass covers the key central cities in Scotland – Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling and Fife Station. If you’re planning on exploring the Highlands and the islands of Scotland then a better option is the BritRail Scottish Freedom Pass.
Days 1-3: Glen Coe & Fort William
Start off your trip by flying into Glasgow and picking up a hire car. If you have got time pop in and take a tour of lovely Glasgow – otherwise hop in the car and start driving towards the stunning Glen Coe.
When you leave Glasgow head north on the A82 main road. This drive takes you through the stunning Glen Coe. It is frequently commented on in travel books for good reason – it is absolutely beautiful.
But it is always about the light and the weather when it comes to photography – and you have to be quick in the Scottish Highlands.
The weather moves so fast that a beautiful shot would have disappeared by the time I found somewhere to pull over.
Fort William is the outdoor capital of the United Kingdom. There is rock climbing, ice climbing in the winter, trekking, canoeing, kayaking – you name it and Fort William probably offers it.
The reason that Fort William has become the outdoor capital of the United Kingdom is that it is home to Britain’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis.
I have written a separate blog post on climbing Ben Nevis which I highly recommend you read if you’re interested in taking on the mountain.
The key things to remember are that the weather can change unbelievably fast, it is quite a challenging climb and I highly recommend you go with a guide or in a group.
Balquhidder and Loch Fyne
Whilst there are many activities which you can do in Fort William, the highlight of this region for me was driving around its small roads and seeing its stunning landscapes.
The grave is in the church cemetery in Balquhidder. It is a big drive down the A34 and then small backroads to get to Balquhidder but it was a stunning drive.
The grave was very photogenic but to be honest the most important thing for me was having a destination in mind but being able to drive along and stop or take a turn off if something looked interesting.
This also allowed me to have another drive through Glen Coe. As this area is so stunning I do recommend driving through it again if you can – particularly with Scotland’s ever-changing weather.
From Balquhidder I put the original Loch Fyne into the sat nav. Again this was a decent drive but was perfect for exploring random B roads and making discoveries.
I managed to make it to Loch Fyne for a late afternoon oyster snack. The oysters were good – although I’m not sure they quite met my expectations.
I had mostly miserable weather over the day but there were several points where the sun shone and I got some stunning shots – so more than worth it.
There are some fantastic UK City and Sightseeing passes which offer free entry to all must-see attractions & great deals.
Where to stay in Fort William
Fort William has some fantastic accommodation options. If you’re after a beautiful Scottish B&B check out The Grange. This Victorian town house sits above the loch with beautiful views.
The Grange is luxurious but very comfortable. All of the fixtures and fittings are high end and the owners are absolutely delightful.
For a great value, super cute and stylish boutique hotel right in the heart of Fort William, look no farther than the Lime Tree. It is also home to an AA rosette restaurant and an art gallery. And their breakfast is amazing.
If you’re looking for complete luxury and fancy the idea of staying in a Scottish Castle check out Inverlochy Castle, which of course also has a fine dining restaurant.
Where to eat in Fort William
Fort William has some fantastic seafood. My favourite meal in Fort William was at Crannog Seafood restaurant. Crannog has the best location in town – right on the loch – and the seafood was outstanding.
If you’d like a traditional Scottish pub try the wonderfully named The Grog & Gruel. And the restaurants at both the Lime Tree and Inverlochy Castle are also both outstanding.
Days 4 and 5: The Isle of Skye
I absolutely love The Isle of Skye. It is such a magical, mystical place and incredibly beautiful in this uniquely rugged way. If fairies etc do exist I am quite sure they would be hanging out on the Isle of Skye.
Eilean Donan Castle
It is now possible to drive to the Isle of Skye from the Scottish mainland which is great. The stunning Eilean Donan Castle is literally on the A87 road not far before it heads over to the Isle of Skye.
The castle is on a small tidal island that is located where three different lochs meet and it is extremely photogenic. Capture it both from a distance and up close.
Plus, you will pass Eilean Donan Castle again on your way out of the Isle of Skye. This is great news in the ever-changing weather that is Scotland.
There is loads of parking at Eilean Donan Castle. It is absolutely worth parking and having a look inside the castle. There isn’t loads inside the castle but it is extremely atmospheric.
Do make sure you check the opening hours before you go as they change throughout the year – plus the castle can be closed for weddings.
The Cuillin Hills
We headed to the base of the Cuillin Hills and grabbed a coffee at the little pub there. Mitchell then took me through the walk he had planned in detail and the different options we would have. I did think it was quite a bit of detail – until he explained why.
The year before another guide had gone out with one tourist on the Cuillin Hills. They were standing on a ledge and a freak gust of wind blew the guide off the cliff.
He could not move from where he landed so instructed the tourist that she needed to go and find help. She, of course, had no idea where she was so had to wander with his directions from there. She finally found help.
However, once she did she could not direct them to where the guide had fallen. The guide was found dead 3 days later. I paid a lot more attention after this story.
So we headed to the stunning Cuillin Hills. The winds were harsh and we managed about 1 ½ hour.
Mitchell from Skye Ghillie then told me that the weather was not looking great so I was very happy to suggest we head back to the car – particularly as he offered to give me a sight-seeing drive around the best attractions of the island!
Drive the A87 and B roads around the top east side of The Isle of Skye
This was one of my favourite drives on the whole trip – thanks to Mitchell from Skye Ghillie. The scenery in this area of the Isle of Skye was absolutely majestic – although of course, it was constantly changing with the weather.
Depending on the weather your first stop can be Quiraing – a very scenic rock formation. There is a walk to the prison but the weather was not on my side so we didn’t risk it.
The Old Man of Storr is also great for photos and is perhaps the most famous walk on the Isle of Skye as well as its icon.
Driving along the coast and you’ll then hit the stunning and windy Kilt Rock – so named as it does resemble a tartan print.
Then head inland to the picturesque Fairy Glen. Movies have been filmed here and it does have a genuinely magical feel – and a lot of sheep.
⇒ To find out more about this amazing area check out 10 Highlights of the Isle of Skye.
Where to Stay on the Isle of Skye
Portree is the main town on the Isle of Skye and has a good central location. If you’re looking to stay here check out The Cuillin Hills Hotel.
This Scottish Highland Hotel was much bigger than I expected – I think it is well set up for bus tours. But my room was lovely and I ate well there both nights.
If you’re looking for a more uniquely Scottish luxury hotel then Kinloch Lodge is for you. This stunning 16th-century hunting lodge is in the far south of the island at the foot of Kinloch Hill. It is also known for its outstanding restaurant.
Where to Eat
This is one foodie island. There are loads of fantastic bakeries and restaurants and even good coffee.
In Portree check out Scorrybreac. If you’re after something special there are several Michelin star restaurants on the island as well.
I really enjoyed this blog post from Boys eat Scotland who has personally tried out a lot of the best options.
Day 6: Ullapool
Ullapool is a small seaside town where it feels like time might have stopped at some point in the 1950s. It is really one street of shops, bars, and a petrol station.
The highlight of my trip to Ullapool was heading out on the loch on a boat trip. I went at Easter time and it was quite cold – I think this may have been one of the first boat trips of the season.
However, we did see lots of birdlife and quite a few seals and get some stunning views of the loch and general area. Shearwater Cruises and Seascape Expeditions both run boat trips from Ullapool harbour.
Around Ullapool and further south, there are lots of boat trips on offer. I think we managed to get on the first one of the season. It was cold but we did see quite a few seals and a lot of birdlife.
I would not have been surprised to see a calendar in Ullapool set to 1958. It really did feel like going back in time.
It’s a small seaside town – really just one street of shops, bars and a petrol station. We used this as a base for two nights and then drove south and explored.
Where to Stay in Ullapool
There aren’t a lot of options when it comes to accommodation in Ullapool so I am absolutely going to recommend staying at the rather unique Ceilidh Place.
This was like staying in someone’s large home. The rooms are a bit old but very comfy and there is a big lovely lounge on the top floor. The restaurant here was also excellent.
Where to Eat in Ullapool
Head to The Seafood Shack for fish and chips. And I really enjoyed the food at Ceilidh Place – they have a fantastic seafood menu which I highly recommend.
And make sure you head for dinner quite early as during the trip it appeared that the Highlands shut down by 930pm in the month of April.
Day 7: Durness
Scotland has some stunning beaches. It is difficult to imagine that it would ever be warm enough to wear bathers and actually swim in those beaches but they are very scenic.
I discovered the beach at Durness when I took a stroll from our B&B. It is literally called Durness Beach which makes it easy. There is a very picturesque dilapidated church just before you hit the beach.
And then just walk and walk along the beach and into the dunes. I went at sunset and this was a fantastic time for photos.
⇒ Looking to explore the South and South West of England? Check out my posts on Ockenden Manor Spa in Sussex, wonderful Things to do in Winchester, a Day trip to Brighton, Exeter Cafes, Exmouth Boat Trip options, Fun things to do in Cardiff, Places to visit in South Wales, Where to Stay in the Cotswolds, Cotswolds Tour from London, Luxury Hotels Yorkshire and spa hotels South West England.
The cute Smoo Cave is also worth a visit. Smoo Cave is one mile east of Durness so this is a perfect stop on your way out of Durness.
BritRail Passes for Overseas Visitors
If you’re planning on travelling around England and Scotland then the best option is to buy the BritRail GB Pass. This covers all train journeys across all of the United Kingdom. There is a BritRail MPass which has an e-ticket that can be downloaded onto a mobile. However, it has one key restriction which is that the travel must be taken on consecutive days so make sure you check if this suits your plans before purchasing.
Where to stay in Durness
Accommodation options in Durness are quite limited. There are several B&Bs but boutique hotels are yet to hit this part of the world.
My most unique Scottish Highlands Hotel was definitely Glengolly in Durness. I was enticed by the fact that the owner is a crofter and anticipated lots of friendly dogs – there were a few but not as many as I expected.
Glengolly Durness was shall we say a rather old fashioned B&B. As I mentioned, there are not a lot of places in this area and to be honest if it is only one night well as long as it’s clean etc.
Opt-out of the whiskey porridge in the morning if you’re the driver.
Where to eat in Durness
During the day head to the Balnakeil Craft Village. It has cute little shops but best of all it is home to Cocoa Mountain which serves amazing hot chocolates.
Day 8: Thurso
Thurso is the most northwesterly town in the UK and sits on the ocean on a beautiful spot called Thurso Bay which is lovely for a walk. Nearby attractions include the Castle and Gardens of Mey and Castle Sinclair Girnigoe.
So obviously that needed to be visited. However, to be complete we also felt we needed to head to John O’Groats as well. They’re conveniently close together but there is a lot more going on at John O’Groats.
John O’Groats has the signposts for photos, coastal walks and boat trips – including those that can take you to the nearby Orkney Islands. Dunnet Head is a raw and wild nature reserve. It has some stunning cliffs and masses of birdlife.
Where to stay in Thurso
Thurso and Pennyland House B&B was the Scottish Highlands hotel highlight of the trip – the hosts Carol and Raymond are so so lovely and it is a gorgeous and modern B&B. I highly recommend staying at Pennyland House.
If you’re after something a bit more luxurious and unique check out Forss House Hotel. It is located a bit outside of Thurso and is a grand old-style country house.
Where to eat in Thurso
Day 9: Inverness
From Thurso, it is a lovely drive down the Eastern coast of Scotland to get to Inverness. Do try to give yourself quite a bit of time to drive this road as it is quite stunning.
If the weather is good you will want to pull over several times. Once in Inverness, head to its Victorian Market where there are loads of cute independent shops, head up to the top of Inverness Castle and check out some fantastic views, take an Inverness walking tour or if you have a bit more time visit the famous Loch Ness.
Where to Stay in Inverness
A great easy option in Inverness is The Heathmount Hotel. This is also a pub which is a huge plus as you don’t have to go anywhere once you got there.
If you’re looking for a more upmarket boutique hotel option then RocPool Reserve and its private hot tubs may be for you – and they have a 2 Red Rosette restaurant.
Stay in Touch in the UK
Grab a WorldSIM PrePaid Global SIM Card to stay in touch at reasonable prices. Access WIFI at local rates with the mobile wi-fi rental wireless internet anywhere you go in Britain. This in your pocket wifi can be picked up at Heathrow or Paddington Station.
Where to Eat in Inverness
There are lots of options for great food in Inverness – including the restaurants at the two hotels I have mentioned above. Mustard Seed is a local gem serving up European food made with local Scottish produce.
Or enjoy real ale and excellent pub grub at The Castle Tavern.
⇒ If you’re looking for some relaxation after your Scottish Highlands trip check out my post on the top Scotland Spa Breaks.
I’ve travelled a lot and I have to say the Scottish Highlands is one of the most stunning places I have ever visited. The strangest thing is how often I was the only person around – it feels like there are places here that should be teaming with tourists. We can thank the Scottish weather for that.
Don’t let the weather put you off though because it will change within the hour.
⇒ Heading to London? Check out my posts on 13 Unusual Experiences in London, the best London Food Tours, my virtual London Travel Blog, some great Earlsfield restaurants, restaurants near Clapham Junction and Victoria Station restaurants, a mad hatter afternoon tea party and a day trip to Brighton and Cotswolds tour from London options.
Head home! If you’d like to reduce this to a 7-day itinerary I suggest dropping Durness and Thurso from the itinerary. This will make for considerably less driving.
⇒ A fantastic way to get to the Scottish Highlands is to take the Sleeper Train from London – find out everything you need to know about Catching the Sleeper Train to Scotland here.
When to do your 10 days in Scotland
The most popular time to visit the Scottish Highlands is between May and September. I visited in April over Easter. It was a bit cold but everything was open and it was quite easy to get a table/book a hotel.
July and August are the peak months. It never gets that warm in the Scottish Highlands. Even in the peak of summer 21 degrees, Celcius is the average temperature. Winter (Nov-Feb) is very cold and many of the businesses and attractions in this Scottish Highlands Itinerary will be shut.
March is a little early to visit – it is normally after Easter that everything starts to open up.
Personally, I would recommend planning your 10-day Itinerary Scotland focussed on the Highlands for May, June or September.
⇒ Looking for some travel inspiration? Itineraries not only help you plan a trip they can also help you to figure out where you want to go next. Check out my Austria Itinerary, Nova Scotia Itinerary, Colombia Itinerary 2 Weeks, Chile Itinerary 2 Weeks, Everest Base Camp Trek Itinerary, Self Drive Namibia, Jordan Itinerary, Sicily Itinerary 7 Days, Turkey Itinerary 7 Days, Cappadocia Itinerary in Turkey, 3 Days in Iceland, 5 Day Itinerary Iceland, Sydney Itinerary, Gold Coast Itinerary, Perth Itinerary, Scotland Itinerary 7 Days, Scotland Itinerary 10 Days, Seoul Itinerary 5 Days Istanbul 3 Day Itinerary and Korea Itinerary.
Things to know before you visit the Scottish Highlands
⇒ Scotland is all over connectivity. There is even free wifi available in Portree, Ullapool, Fort William, and Thurso. The signal is generally good but you never can tell with small B roads and bad weather. Do get a car with sat-nav rather than just having your phone.
⇒ Whilst restaurants and hotels in most of the towns in this Scotland road trip Itinerary will accept credit cards it is a good idea to carry some cash for areas like around Durness and for those small stops on the road.
⇒ Scotland has its own pounds. But don’t worry these can also be used in England so you don’t need to use them all up before leaving Scotland. If you’re heading to Scotland from outside of the UK there are some fantastic deals to be had when you purchase certain passes ahead of time.
I have a full list further down this post but the ones that I think are the best value for visiting the Scottish Highlands are here:
⇒ If you’re keen on taking the train around the Scottish Highlands and exploring some of the islands of Scotland as well check out the BritRail Scottish Freedom Pass. This covers all rail within Scotland and even some of the ferries to the islands.
⇒ The Historic Scotland Explorer Pass covers more than 75 properties including Edinburgh and Stirling Castles, Urquhart Castle at Lochness and many more.
⇒ The Scottish Heritage Pass covers over 120 properties but can only be used between April 1 and October 31.
What to Pack for ten days in Scotland
No matter what time of year you visit the Scottish Highlands it is unlikely to be terribly warm. The weather varies massively throughout the day so layers are essential – as are a waterproof version of everything.
Bring a hat, gloves and scarf no matter what for when the wind picks up. Unless you are staying at a top-end hotel, this part of the world isn’t much into dressing up so there is no need for frocks and heels.
It is more important to have some great walking shoes with a sturdy grip and good ankle support so you’re ready to explore when the weather picks up.
Organised Self-Drive Options
There are a couple of companies that will organise a self-drive Scottish highland road trip itinerary for you and sort out car hire and accommodation.
Guided Tour Options
If you love the sound of the Scottish Highlands but would rather not do all the driving in this 10 day Scotland Itinerary a guided tour can be a great option.
⇒ For a range of different Scottish Highlands organised tours check out Tourradar
⇒ Highland Explorer Tours are local experts who offer tours between 2 and 10 days
⇒ Intrepid doesn’t go all the way due North but they cover some of the highlights of the highlands as well as Glasgow and Edinburgh
Who Paid for What in this Post
I covered all of the costs associated with writing this post. This post does contain affiliate links. This means if you click through on them and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure that you were aware of this.
Like this post? Why not Pin it?