Welcome to Scotland, the “ideal destination for active holidays since the 18th century, when fear of wilderness and mountains gave way to the Romantic movement that celebrated the majesty and wonder of the natural landscape.” Here we give you our Best of Scotland itinerary for you to inspire your own adventure.
And nothing has changed in 200 years if you no longer are afraid of wilderness and mountains then Scotland is still a popular location for A weekend break!
I have a wee bit of a reputation for being an obsessive planner when it comes to our family holidays.
I always want to visit everything I have planned to see on our trip before we have so much as stepped out of our front door.
I wanted to visit the Best of Scotland with my family of 6 (including 1 child) with the smallest possible budget. In fact, I was using the most popular travel metasearch engine focusing on hotels – Trivago.
I also had to take into account the short winter days we experience in Scotland (6-7 hours of full daylight) and the fact that we would start and finish in Edinburgh.
I hope this itinerary gives you some tips for your own trips around Scotland. I’ve also listed extra places to go if your trip is for a few days longer than ours.
Edinburgh > Loch Lomond > Glencoe > Fort William > Neptune’s Staircase > Glenfinnan Monument and Viaduct / Added Extra: Arisaig*
Loch Lomond “An Ceann Mor”
This beautiful viewpoint with its new visitor attraction the pyramid-shaped “An Ceann Mor” allows you to climb 8m to its summit and take in the stunning views of Loch Lomond, the Arrochar Alps and Ben Lomond.
Part of the new Scottish Scenic Route that was built around Loch Lomond and through the Trossachs National Park. Inveruglas Visitor Centre facilities include the cafe, toilet, outdoor benches and free on-site parking.
Loch Tulla viewpoint
While driving north on the scenic A82 don’t miss out on the beautiful waterfalls behind the Drovers Inn, situated at the northern end of Loch Lomond.
Further along, this road is our next stop at the Loch Tulla viewpoint. This popular viewpoint was our first stop that showcased the dramatic beauty that makes you feel you’re really entering the Scottish Highlands.
Loch Tulla viewpoint facilities include burger van and free on-site parking.
There is no other place that I have visited that features such majestic landscapes as Glencoe. This iconic spot everyday wows visitors from all around the world.
Is there anywhere else in Scotland that you will see such beauty bound together with such a dramatic and mysterious past?
Just before the main car park is a little car park on the right from where you can climb the hillside and enjoy majestic views of the glen from higher than everyone else!
A major tourist centre that can be used as a base for hillwalking and climbing the surrounding hills and also the perfect place for lunch. It’s also known for historical sightseeing like West Highland Museum, shopping, walking and cycling.
There is also the fact that it is at the base of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis (all 4406 ft/1343m of it). This place cannot be missed if you’re planning to discover the western Highlands.
Lunch: Nico’s Takeaway and Restaurant.
This is a nice little restaurant where the fish ‘n’ chips and burgers were nice and at a budget price. It’s located right in the town centre path.
This famous section of the Caledonian Canal was built between 1803 and 1822 and is a lovely spot for a walk. This impressive bit of engineering is actually a ladder of 8 locks that were built to raise boats 70 ft above sea level and is the biggest staircase lock in Britain.
It’s also, on a clear day, one of the best viewpoints for the dark NW side of Ben Nevis! Facilities include a cafe and outdoor benches.
Glenfinnan Monument and Viaduct
This is a beautiful spot with a special place in Scottish history. Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his Standard here in 1745 to begin the final Jacobite Rising.
The Glenfinnan Monument commemorates this event in the midst of some spectacular scenery at the head of Loch Shiel. The beautiful landscape attracts thousands of visitors from around the world.
Close to the Monument is the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct which carries the railway line across a 1000 ft span, 100 ft above the ground on to Hogwarts! Yes, the area appears in the second and third Harry Potter movies.
* Added Extra: Arisaig
The village of Arisaig is located on the shore of Loch nan Ceall at the base of the rocky Creag Mhor.
There are plenty of B&Bs to stay and local rangers offer Guided Walks twice a week from April and September.
The lovely local beach of Camusdarach with its dunes, stream and wide arching sands and beautiful views of Eigg, Rum and Skye is rightly famous.
The whole area provides plenty of activities including walking, cycling and watersports.
No wonder the Sound of Arisaig is one of the top sea-kayaking destinations.
Stay at: Richmond House Hotel in Fort Augustus
I would definitely recommend this hotel for a lot of reasons- excellent friendly staff, clean rooms and toilets with all the essentials, very comfortable beds, delicious food, free fast Wi-Fi and, oh, the whole hotel smells absolutely beautiful.
Fort Augustus > Loch Ness Cruise > Inverness / Added Extra: Culloden Battlefield* > Carrbride*
Situated on the southern end of Loch Ness in the Great Glen, this historic and scenic hamlet is a popular place to visit before exploring Loch Ness. Lying on the impressive 60 miles long Caledonian Canal Fort Augustus is situated halfway between Fort William and Inverness.
It offers unforgettable views down Loch Ness and is a paradise for cyclists and keen walkers. There are many beautiful walks around the local area, the most popular being the Great Glen Way.
Loch Ness Cruise
Surely the best way to explore Loch Ness is to see it from afloat. A relaxing cruise will take you down Loch Ness, past the ancient remains of Urquhart Castle and maybe, if you’re really lucky, to sail past Loch Ness monster “Nessie”.
The friendly staff will answer all your questions about the loch and the monster, it’s victims and those who tried to find it.
If your not lucky enough to have spotted “Nessie” the captain of the cruise ship may still allow you to take the wheel for a while! The Loch Ness by Jacobite inspiring one hour cruise cost £14.00 per adult, £11.50 per child or £45.00 per family.
Inverness is one of Scotland’s seven cities (it is a city but it’s a small one) and sits at the northern end of Loch Ness on the banks of the River Ness.
A red stone castle overlooks the city centre and it’s a brilliant viewpoint. Called the capital of the Highlands, Inverness is always buzzing with many pubs and restaurants.
Events are happening all year. The most popular are Inverness Highland Games (staged in the world’s oldest Highland Games Stadium).
Eat lunch at: Bella Italia.
We were looking for Italian food and the sat nav gave this restaurant as an option. We hadn’t booked and didn’t think we would get a table for six as it looked to be full. We were seated quickly. The food was nice, arrived quickly, and was reasonably priced.
*Added Extra: Culloden Battlefield
The Battle of Culloden was the last act of the Jacobite Uprising of 1745/46, which began over at Glenfinnan. This short bloody battle was the last to be fought on British soil.
The Battlefield lies 3 miles from Inverness, it’s open all year and it’s free. An award-winning Visitors Centre tells the story of “the ’45”, the battle and it’s the aftermath.
There are displays of original Gaelic and English source material which makes the history easy to understand. Admission for Adult is £11.00, Family £26.00, Concession £8.50 and Single Adult Family £22.00.
National Trust for Scotland members has admission free.
*Added Extra: Carrbridge
The village of Carrbridge is part of the scenic Cairngorms National Park.
Famous for its 18th-century packhorse bridge, the river Dulnain winds its way through this beautiful village before emptying into the River Spey.
There’s plenty of walks to suit beginners as well as more advanced walkers. Don’t miss out take a photo of the famous Old Packhorse Bridge.
Stay at: The Highlander Hotel in Newtonmore.
We stayed in two 3-bed rooms. The rooms were fine and freshly decorated.
The common areas were clean and the customer service was very good. We did find, however, that the breakfast wasn’t great and that the Wi-Fi was limited to the reception area.
Added Extra: Newtonmore Highland Folk Museum* / Aberfeldy > The Scottish Crannog Centre > Falls of Dochart > Callander > Edinburgh
*Added Extra: Newtonmore Highland Folk Museum
This unique place named Britain’s first open-air museum features over 30 furnished buildings that give visitors a feel how Scottish people lived and worked from the 1700s up until the 1960s. Some have been built from scratch on site and some have been moved from other locations.
It’s a mile long site with 1700s Township at one end through to 1930s working croft at the other. There is also a cafe, gift shop and a fantastic children’s playground.
With free admission, this place cannot be missed in my opinion. Visitor Centre is closed for winter but it will be reopened March 24, 2016 and then open till August from 10.30am to 5.30pm and September to October 11.00pm to 4.30pm.
Visitor Centre facilities include a cafe, toilet, outdoor benches and free on-site parking. Dogs are welcome.
Situated on the longest river in Scotland, the River Tay, an Aberfeldy highlight is “The Birks of Aberfeldy”, a very popular walk offering views of several waterfalls. These are the beautiful Birch tree woods which so enchanted Scottish poet Robert Burns that he wrote a poem about them in 1787. This lovely town also offers many places to eat and rest.
However, once you’ve had your rest you can go white-water rafting, abseiling, gorge walking, mountain biking or even on a Highland Safari! Don’t miss out to spot Black Watch Memorial & Tay Bridge too!
Eat Lunch at: The Fountain.
The food at “The Fountain” was good value for money with plenty of choice from the menu. The staff provided service with a smile, making sure we had everything we needed for an enjoyable meal.
The atmosphere and surroundings were very relaxing and pets are welcome!
The Scottish Crannog Centre
A “crannog” is a type of dwelling on stilts found on lochs throughout Scotland and Ireland popular 2,500 years ago.
This centre, near Kenmore on Loch Tay, features a reconstruction of one of these Iron Age houses built by the Scottish Trust for Underwater Archaeology. This authentic recreation is based on the excavation evidence from the site of the “Oakbank Crannog”, one of the 18 crannogs preserved on Loch Tay.
Scottish Crannog Centre is open daily 26th March to 30th Oct. 10am to 5:30pm. Standard admissions are £8.75 for Adults, £8.00 Seniors; £6.50 Children aged 5-16. Families (2+1) from £23 and Children under 5 go free.
The Falls of Dochart
In the small town of Killin, you can admire the stunning Falls of Dochart. It’s a great wee place to visit. These waterfalls are on the River Dochart which runs into the western end of Loch Tay. They can be viewed from the village’s bridge.
The place is also known as the traditional burial place of the MacNab Clan.
The town of Callander is the largest and most interesting town in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.
There are shops, a leisure centre with swimming pool and a climbing wall and a dry sports club.
Every autumn Callander hosts The Callander Jazz & Blues Festival. There are plenty of B&Bs and places to stay in the town and the surrounding area is great for hill walkers and cyclists, you can even try fishing if you wish.