Scotland is one of my favorite countries I’ve ever visited. It brings together natural beauty with rich and intense history (I’m a huge Mary Queen of Scots fan). There was never a moment where I wasn’t in love with this country (even when I was at the top of a mountain in the middle of a rain storm and couldn’t see more than 5 feet in front of me – still awesome).
Day 1: We flew into Edinburgh in the late morning, and immediately went to our hostel near St. Andrew Square. There’s a train from the airport to the square that’s super easy and only costs 6 pounds. We dropped off our bags at the hostel and spent the day exploring the city of Edinburgh.
I really suggest staying in the Old Town area of Edinburgh, as this is where all of the main sites are, and everything will be within walking distance of where you stay.
Day 2: For our first full day, we woke up early and headed out to hike up to Arthur’s Seat, which is a large hill on the outskirts of the Old Town area. We walked there from our hostel, and it only took us about 2 ½ hours to get to the top and then back in the Old Town area (and that’s with stopping for plenty of picture breaks). It’s a pretty easy hike, but there are some steeper areas where we needed to take a few breathing breaks. But the path itself is well marked and easy to follow. And when you get to the top, you’ll get some amazing views!
After the hike we spent the afternoon focusing on Harry Potter related sites. All of that won’t fit in this itinerary article, so I have a post focused on Harry Potter related activities in Edinburgh.
Day 3: The next day we did a free walking tour in the morning, which I HIGHLY recommend. Our guide was great, super funny, and we learned so much about the city. Then we went up to Edinburgh castle. We didn’t have time for a tour inside, but I would recommend it. We were kind of sad we didn’t do it.
We took a train to Inverness in the afternoon, and arrived in the evening. If you’re not interested in exploring Inverness, you can add another day in Isle of Skye or Edinburgh (or work in another city in Scotland if you can manage it). But we actually really enjoyed out day in Inverness.
Day 4: We started out by going to the Botanical gardens, and got some snacks and tea at the cafe there. We then found a park that had the biggest and best playground I’ve ever seen. And because school was in session, there was no one else there, so Hayley and I had a blast.
We then walked around Inverness and explored the afternoon away. We found a cool bookstore, and then went to an escape room with a friend we met up with from Edinburgh. We made it through in under 60 minutes!
Day 5: The next morning, we picked up our rental car. Make sure to leave at least 30 minutes in your schedule to do this, as it can take time to go through all the paperwork. Then began the road trip to the Isle of Skye!
Loch Ness and Eilean Donan Castle
It was a pretty simple 3-hour drive, and we made a couple stops along the way. One of these stops was the famous Loch Ness! We didn’t see a Loch Ness monster during our time there, but (in my opinion) you can’t do a trip to Scotland without seeing this lake.
We also stopped at Eilean Donan Castle, which was amazing, and one of my favorite castles I’ve been to so far. We went to the visitor’s center, and then paid the entrance fee (10 pounds) to go and explore the castle. The bridge over the lake leading to the castle makes it seem like a castle from a fairytale.
Isle of Skye
The castle is pretty close to the Isle of Skye, so it wasn’t much longer after this stop that we got to our hostel. We stayed at Saucy Mary’s Lodge, a hostel right by the bridge you cross to get to the Isle of Skye. While the hostel was nice, I wouldn’t stay in this area again. It was just too far from all of the activities we wanted to do on the Isle of Skye. It would be much better to stay right in Portree, which would have saved us at least an hour and a half of driving each day.
Day 6: The Isle of Skye is one of my all-time favorite places. If you love natural beauty, this is the place for you. We started off our first full day here at the Fairy Pools. We had read online that you can go swimming in the pools, so we brought our bathing suits with us. However, it was mid-May, raining, and cold, so no one else was in the water and we felt weird going in just us. I’d also love to go on a sunny day to really see all of the colors in the water you see from pictures online. However, it was still beautiful!
The Old Man of Storr
We went for lunch in Portree, and then headed went a bit further north to hire The Old Man of Storr. This was a really beautiful hike, though we encountered A LOT of fog, as you can see from the photos below. It made the whole hike kind of mysterious, and we still got some amazing views at the top.
Day 7: We began with a trip to the Fairy Glen. Despite its name, there isn’t any folklore associated with this area. However, it’s easy to imagine fairies running around this beautiful area, hiding in all the natural crevices. This was a fun start to our morning and there are some really beautiful views.
We then went on to my favorite place on the entire island: the Quiraing. This hike was absolutely beautiful with plunging cliffs and magnificent views. You can do this hike as a one way up and down trip, which is the quickest way. Or, you can do what we did and do the full loop. I definitely recommend this as there are so many views to see along the entire hike. We even got to see a mama sheep and her lamb!
We stopped along the trail to eat some “lunch” (canned spaghetti and canned beans. A true budget traveler’s lunch).
An important tip for hiking on the Isle of Skye: If it looks like its about to rain/storm, get out of there! We saw some dark clouds coming in about half way throughout our hike. However, we were so amazed by the views that when given the choice between walking back on the path we already knew or keep going (and we had no idea where the path ended up at the time! We didn’t realize it was one big loop) we decided to keep going.
And then the storm hit. The rain was very, very cold, and the fog made it so we could barely see three feet in front of us. Which of course made this hike extremely dangerous, as there are cliffs everywhere. We could no longer see a path, and just kept climbing the hill we’d been climbing, hoping to eventually find the path again. And when we did find the path again, it was extremely slippery and muddy. Thankfully the parking lot ended up being only a half hour walk away and no one had gotten hurt, but it was a little scary at some points (especially when we knew we were close to a cliff but couldn’t see it). However, we stayed positive and still had a great hike. I would just recommend keeping an eye on the weather and make sure you’re back at your car before it gets bad! If we had turned around when we’d first noticed the storm coming we would have gotten back in plenty of time.
After our time in the Isle of Skye ended, we drove back to Inverness, where we had a flight to Dublin to catch. If you want to change this itinerary to fit in more cities, you could drive to Glasgow after Isle of Skye.
Thanks for reading! I have a couple other posts about my time in Scotland coming up, including a more in depth article about the Isle of Skye, as well as a Harry Potter fan’s guide to Edinburgh!