Hello from Scotland!
I’m sure you cannot wait to visit Scotland – after all, it is a dream destination of yours, or else you would not be here!
But planning a trip to Scotland can be a daunting task – whether it is your very first overseas trip or the umpteenth time abroad – and that is because Scotland is not only awe-inspiringly beautiful but also incredibly diverse. There are many different regions in Scotland and they all have something different to offer. Each of them is big enough to keep you occupied for weeks on end, but I’m sure you would like to see a little bit of everything, especially if it is your first time in Scotland.
This page will guide you through the jungle of planning your perfect Scotland trip, includes overviews of the different regions of Scotland, suggestions for itineraries and lots of practical advice and tips for your holiday. But first, let’s cover some of the basics.
Where to begin?
If you are right at the beginning of planning your Scotland vacation, start by familiarising yourself with some of the foundations of travelling Scotland. Before you get into routes and itineraries, you will have to decide when you want to visit, how long you’d like to stay, how you plan to get around, what kind of accommodation to book and how to cut corners when it comes to deciding on activities.
That’s a lot, right? Luckily I have just the post for you, which covers answers to all these questions and more:
Now that you have decided on the basics, it is time to put together your Scotland itinerary. What you want to include in your route depends on a lot of things, first and foremost on your preferences and personal interests, but also on the things I discussed before – the time of the year, the duration of your trip and your mode of transport. Here are some suggestions for itineraries that I have developed and tested myself:
- Best of Scotland: A 7-day itinerary including Edinburgh, the Scottish Highlands, the Isle of Skye and Glasgow.
- West Coast of Scotland: A 1- or 2-week itinerary with island hopping along Scotland’s beautiful west coast, including Kintyre, Islay, Jura, Colonsay and Mid-Argyll.
- For Outlander Fans: A 10-day itinerary including Outlander locations from the books & TV show.
- North East Scotland: A 7-day itinerary through Aberdeenshire, Fife, Perthshire and the Cairngorms National Park.
- South Scotland: A 7-day itinerary through the Scottish Borders and Dumfries & Galloway.
- Active holiday: A 7-day itinerary through the Highlands with outdoor activities like hiking and kayaking at the forefront.
Overview: Scottish Regions
In Scotland’s capital, you will find medieval cobbled lanes, a castle throning on an extinct volcano, views of the sea from the city’s viewpoints, great local hikes and lots of history to indulge in.
- Where to Stay in Edinburgh with options for every budget
- 2 days in Edinburgh: The Perfect Weekend Getaway
- The best Tours of Edinburgh: Walking tours, Harry Potter and more.
- The best vegan food in Edinburgh
- Hogmanay in Edinburgh, or how to rock New Year’s Eve this year!
Scotland’s largest city is an underdog but makes for a perfect city trip. If you love grand architecture, free museums, tasty food, atmospheric pubs and live music, Glasgow is for you. The city has a thriving arts scene and there are always new markets or happenings to explore.
- Book a Private Glasgow Walking Tour with me – I offer them in German and English
- 50+ things to do in Glasgow that are mostly free (!)
- One Day in Glasgow with itineraries for different travel types
- Where to Stay in Glasgow with options for every budget
- 50 unmissable Travel Tips for Glasgow you must not miss
- 10 Unusual Guided Tours in Glasgow that are better than your guidebook
- A Feminist Guide to Glasgow including feminist institutions, events and female-owned businesses
- 6 Adventurous Indoor & Outdoor Activities in Glasgow for a different kind of city trip
- Mackintosh’s Glasgow: A Guide to the Architecture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh
- A Vegan Guide to Glasgow including my favourite vegan-friendly restaurants and cafes in Glasgow
- Day tours from Glasgow with Different Tour Companies
There is more to Central Scotland than the two cities, Glasgow and Edinburgh. The counties of Lanarkshire and Lothian and the areas around Falkirk, Linlithgow and Stirling also have a lot to offer – from the rolling hills of the Pentlands to magnificent castles and palaces.
- Visiting the Kelpies near Falkirk
- 10 Unusual Things to do in Stirling beyond the Castle and Wallace Monument
The border region in the south-east of Scotland – also called the Scottish Border – is characterised by rolling hills, Roman ruins and excavations, magnificent chapels and abbeys and quaint medieval market towns.
- How to spend 4 Days in the Scottish Borders – included in my South Scotland itinerary
- 12+ Things to do in Melrose and beyond in the Scottish Borders
dumfries & Galloway
The south-westernmost region of Scotland is called Dumfries and Galloway. The new South West 250 (SW250) route is the ideal itinerary to discover the beautiful coastal towns of the region, but there is more to see inland, such as the Galloway Forest Park – one of Scotland’s Dark Sky Parks.
- How to spend 3 Days in Dumfries & Galloway – included in my South Scotland itinerary
- Hiking the Grey Mare’s Tail in Dumfries & Galloway
Ayrshire & the Isle of Arran
Ayrshire, south of Glasgow, is the home of Scotland’s national bard, Robert “Rabbie” Burns and offers a plethora of seaside towns, castles and parks for outdoor activities. The Isle of Arran, off the coast of Ayrshire, is also called Scotland in Miniature – and not for nothing!
- A 3-day tour to Ayrshire and the Isle of Arran with Rabbie’s [review]
- Hiking Goatfell on the Isle of Arran [Day Trip from Glasgow]
Argyll & The Isles
The region of Argyll encompasses the south-western Highlands between Loch Lomond and Oban and includes an array of islands and peninsulas, such as Bute, Cowal, Kintyre, Mull, Islay and Jura. Visit here if you love mountain vistas, endless lakes and lochs, outdoor activities and quaint fishing villages.
- A 3-day itinerary for Argyll including Loch Lomond, Loch Awe, Oban and the Kintyre Peninsula
- A 3-day itinerary for the Isle of Mull including trips to the Isles of Iona, Staffa and Ulva
- Comprehensive Travel Guide to Oban: The best things to do, where to stay, day trips and more.
- Visiting the Isle of Coll for a Dark Sky Adventure
- Hiking the West Island Way and Wild Camping on the Isle of Bute
- A Road Trip through Argyll from Glasgow to Dunoon [One Day Itinerary]
- 7 Outdoor Activities in Argyll for your next adventure
Perthshire lies in the heart of Scotland and is also known as Big Tree Country. It is covered in widespread forests and woodlands, dotted by numerous lochs and rises high with multiple mountain ranges and Munro peaks. Perthshire is a great getaway for the active and indulgent types – close to the big cities, beautiful Highland nature and countless romantic hotels & food experiences.
- Things to do in Perthshire in Autumn including the best hikes for autumn foliage, quaint towns and road trips in the region
The Scottish Highlands are without a doubt on any visitor’s bucket list. They stretch from the south near Loch Lomond to the very far north of Sunderland and Assynt, from the eastern hills near Aviemore to the western peaks on the Isle of Skye. Some of the most popular destinations in the Scottish Highlands include Glencoe, Fort William, Loch Ness and the area around Torridon and the North Coast 500 (NC500).
- 20 Things to do in Glencoe from hiking to saunas
- The most scenic road trips in Scotland
- Driving from Glasgow to Fort William and all the best stops
- Riding the Hogwarts Express and Top Tips for the Jacobite Steam Train
- A Day Trip to Loch Ness from Glasgow
- 10+ Day Trips from Inverness
- 25 Things to do on the Noth Coast 500 to make it your best road trip
Isle of Skye
The Isle of Skye is Scotland’s most popular island, not at last because it is easy to reach via the Skye Bridge, but also because of its breathtaking landscapes and lovely people. While it gets busy during the summer months, it is still a perfect off-season destination with plenty of things to do.
- 30+ Things to do on the Isle of Skye plus practical tips, road trip itineraries and a full accommodation guide
Aberdeenshire & North East Scotland
The northeast of Scotland is a hidden gem that many leave aside in their itinerary plans – big mistake! Aberdeenshire and surrounding regions, such as the Moray Coast, the Angus Coast and Dundee are well worth a visit, home to beautiful harbour towns and the Scottish Castle Trail.
- A 3-day itinerary through Aberdeenshire including Aberdeen, the Aberdeenshire Coastal Trail, the Scottish Castle Trail and the Royal Deeside
- North East Open Studios – a festival to connect with locals and artists in Aberdeenshire
- 5 Reasons to Visit Dunnottar Castle, the beautiful ruined castle by the coast
- A Guide to Visiting Balmoral Castle, the Queen’s Summer Retreat
- Hiking in the Royal Deeside
Speyside & Cairngorms
At the heart of Scotland lies the Cairngorms mountain range and from it flow the rivers that feed Scotland’s most cherished heritage: the whisky. The Speyside whisky region has the highest density of distilleries in Scotland. Whisky lovers and outdoor junkies will find all they need in this region.
- Walking the Speyside Way from Aviemore to Buckie [Long-Distance Walk]
Kingdom of Fife
While St Andrews has always been a visitor magnet, Outlander and The Outlaw King have put the rest of Fife on the map in recent years as well. The Kingdom of Fife is home to many film locations and historically meaningful places, but also wonderful coastal paths and views of the Forth bridges.
- Great Day Trips in Fife from hiking the coastal path to visiting Outlander locations
- Travel Guide to St Andrews including things to do, where to eat and places to stay
- A Day Trip to Outlander Locations in Fife [Review]
- Staying at a vegan B&B near Dunfermline
Outer Hebrides / Western Isles
The Outer Hebrides or Western Isles are a group of islands off the west coast of Scotland that can only be reached by ferry or plane. The islands are as diverse as far-flung from the standing stones of Lewis and mountainous Harris to the endless beaches of the Uists and sheltered bays of Barra. This is also where you will still hear Gaelic spoken as a living language.
- Walking Holiday on the Hebridean Way – a 12-day walking itinerary from Vatersay to Lewis
- 24 hours on the Isle of Lewis: A road trip itinerary
- A Day Trip to St Kilda, a Natural and Cultural World Heritage Site
Orkney & Shetland
Orkney and Shetland are two island groups in the north of Scotland. Orkney lies close to the north-western tip of Scotland and is comprised of several islands. Shetland lies further north in the North Sea. Both boast important archaeological sites, Viking excavations and unique mix of Scottish and Scandinavian traditions.
Active Travel & Hiking in Scotland
Scotland is a top-notch hiking destination. From the rolling hills of the southern regions to the rugged peaks of the western and northern Highlands, there are trails to suit any level of experience or fitness. You could book organised walking holidays or mix and match day hikes to fit your road trip itinerary.
- Hiking Ben A’an in the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park
- The Best Hiking Boots for Scotland [Zamberlan Boots Review]
Apart from shorter hiking trails and high summits, there are many long-distance walks in Scotland, which leads eager hikers far off the beaten track and through some of the country’s most beautiful and isolated landscapes.
- Planning a Walking Holiday in Scotland in 6 easy steps
- Long-Distance Hikes in Scotland for your Bucket List
- How to Pack for Long-Distance Hiking plus a Packing List
- West Highland Way from Milngavie to Fort William: Complete Hiking Guide
- Speyside Way from Aviemore to Buckie: Complete Hiking Guide, Accommodation Guide, Vegan Food Guide
- West Island Way on the Isle of Bute
- Hebridean Way from Vatersay to Stornoway on Lewis: Complete Hiking Guide, Accommodation Guide
But hiking is not everything – Scotland offers many other outdoor activities, such as sea-kayaking, coasteering, rock climbing, mountain-biking, wild-camping and more – you name it!
- 5 Places for Wild Swimming in Scotland
- Ziplining at Queen Elisabeth Forest in the Trossachs National Park
Finally, if you like spending time outdoors and want to see wild animals in Scotland, check out this post with the best places for wildlife tours in Scotland.
Practical advice for Scotland
You have made your itinerary and decided all the key points of your Scotland holiday – you are good to go, right? Well, not entirely! There are still some open questions, like what to pack, what to expect of the weather or how to stick to your budget. You might wonder whether you have all the essential Scotland experiences for first-timers covered in your itinerary, or what it’s like to travel Scotland along as a woman. But don’t worry – I’ve got your back!
- A Complete Packing List for Scotland with Tips for All Seasons
- Top 10 Driving Tips to Stay Safe on Scottish Roads
- What to Expect from Scottish Weather and How to Deal with Rainy Days
- 50 Useful Tips to Travel Scotland on Budget
- 20 Essential Experiences you Must Not Miss as Scotland First-Timer
- 8 Reasons to Travel Scotland as a Female Solo Traveller
- 20 Winter Travel Tips for Scotland
- An Essential Guide to Trying Scottish Whisky and How to Order It
- 24 Tips for Visiting Scotland with Kids