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The land of magnificent castles, exquisite modern designs, and maybe, just maybe, a certain mythical monster in Loch Ness, Scotland has an incredible array of attractions. Where else in the world can you absorb the rich cultural highlights of Edinburgh or Glasgow in the morning and be in the dramatic island landscapes of the Hebrides or Orkneys by dinner? Whether you explore the hiking trails of the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond on foot, tackle the North Coast 500 by campervan, or take the West Highland Rail Line over curving viaducts to Fort William, you are sure to head home with a newfound appreciation of Scotland.
Scotland’s relatively small size, roughly equal to the US state of South Carolina, means it is rarely more than a couple of hours between destinations. Add to that a phenomenally good transport infrastructure, and you can easily get to the heart of Scottish culture in five days or less. You can add the Highlands to your itinerary without issue if you have a week or ten days to spare. But with a two-week Scotland itinerary, you could also explore the whiskey-scented islands that arc around the country from north to west for the ultimate in Scottish vacations.
There are so many potential options when it comes to a Scotland itinerary of five days or less that it can be difficult to know where to start. However, to see Scotland at its most magical, we would suggest heading to the Orkney islands via the Highlands. Ride the rails through sublime vistas on day one from Inverness to Thurso and enjoy the sight of the Old Man of Hoy – the tallest sea stack in the UK. On reaching the islands, start in the capital, Kirkwall, an area rich in Viking heritage. Then take in the islands’ intriguing history, which includes the 5,000-year-old Neolithic village and UNESCO World Heritage site of Skara Brae, a must-see during any trip to the region.
Alternatively, get your fill of the Scottish Lowlands by donning your walking boots and heading out on the trails of the Cairngorms National Park. Not only is it the UK’s largest, but it is also one of the most striking, with high peaks seeming to pierce the sky. Base yourself in Aviemore and you can take a number of different day hikes, each of which reveals something new about the area’s flora and fauna.
A ten-day Scotland itinerary gives you the opportunity to head far and wide. Start among the museums of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile before spending a day in the Cairngorms and another watching for Nessie in Loch Ness. Then cross the Highlands en route to the Isles of Skye and Mull. Here you have the choice of close-up encounters with Scotland’s wildlife, including seals and puffins. You can also delve into the islands’ unique history, or experience their warm welcome alongside a dram or two of local whiskey.
Should you prefer, you can spend ten days in Scotland exploring the West Highland Way. A long-distance walking route established in 1980, it stretches for 154 kilometers. Along the way, it takes in some of Scotland’s most treasured natural sights, including Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain. Follow the shores of Loch Lomond, the largest lake in Britain, en route from Milngavie to Fort William and visit the country’s oldest inn.
Another exciting walking route is Saint Cuthbert’s Way, which winds itself among the Cheviot Hills, the ancient border between Scotland and England, taking in the Norman-era Bamburgh Castle and Holy Island (Lindisfarne).
Do not worry if you cannot stretch your stay to ten days in Scotland. A one-week Scotland itinerary still allows you to take in the best the region has to offer. The perfect place to start any Scotland itinerary has to Edinburgh, whose long list of attractions need little introduction, but include the castle and queen’s official residence at Holyrood House.
If you can tear yourself away, head north into the Highlands, where a wealth of attractions await. These include the Firth of Tay and the site of the Battle of Culloden. Then wind your way along with the fantastic scenery of Scotland’s B-roads via Stirling Castle to Glasgow, arguably Scotland’s trendiest city. Home to the architect Charles Rene Mackintosh, its streets are awash with impressive works of architecture at any time of day, though the fun only really starts when the pubs fill up come evening.
If you have opted for a two-week Scotland itinerary, you are lucky indeed. For one thing, fourteen days in this place allows you to fully immerse yourself in the culture of the Highlands. As well as visiting Inverness and Loch Ness, you can take in the awesome might of Ben Nevis as well as the spectacular setting of the Great Glen.
Follow the world-class route of the North Coast 500 to the village of John O’Groats, mainland Britain’s northernmost point, and on to the Isle of Skye. Turning back south, begin the second week of your two-week Scotland itinerary on the footpaths of Cairngorms National Park. Having bathed in its glorious blend of hills and streams, head for the bright lights of Edinburgh followed by Glasgow.
Get in touch with one of our travel experts if you have fallen in love with the idea of a vacation in Scotland. They will be able to customize your trip to your exact desires. Alternatively, if you would like to book a package tour or join a group, do not forget to check out our full range of tours in Scotland!