Scotland itinerary, 4 days
Ah, Bonnie Scotland. I might be a Sassenach, but I like to think the Scots will accept me as one of their own. A significant portion of my blood is Scottish, and my Nanna used to tell me to ‘haud yer wheesht’ when she wanted peace and quiet. I practically grew up in Scotland anyway – Northumberland being the northernmost town in eastern England.
Why this Scotland itinerary? If you’re planning a trip to Scotland, 4 days is about long enough to get a real taste of Scotland. Perhaps even to develop a lifelong love for this part of Britain and her canny folk. I lived in Edinburgh for some months, and it’s one of my favourite cities in the world.
What to see on a Scotland itinerary, 4 days
As my Edinburgh two day itinerary hopefully shows, you can see more than just the main sights of the Scottish capital in that time. My top tip, then, for a 4 day Scotland itinerary is to arrive in Edinburgh early on the first day.
Spend the day and night there, seeing the highlights, before heading off to explore more of this lovely part of the UK. After Edinburgh, this is a 4 day driving itinerary for Scotland, so do book a hire car before you travel.
Alternatively, check out an organised tour that follows a similar route to this suggested itinerary. It’s for 3 days, but this leaves you that all-important day for touring Edinburgh itself!
- Average score: 4.6 / 5
- Duration: 3 days
Highlands, Skye & Loch Ness itinerary
- After leaving Edinburgh, visit Luss, a conservation village on the shores of Loch Lomond
- Stop in Glencoe to admire the landscape before a lunch break in Fort William
- Spend the night in Portree on the Isle of Skye
- A full day taking in the breathtaking sights on the Isle of Skye
- These may include Uig, Dunvegan or Duntulum Castle, Lealt Falls, The Old Man of Storr & more
- Stay for a second night in Portree
- Depart the Isle of Skye for Eilean Donan Castle as featured in Highlander
- Stop in scenic Fort Augustus by Loch Ness for lunch & some monster spotting
- Take a break in Pitlochry, a Victorian resort, before heading back to Edinburgh
Day 1 – Edinburgh
Arrive in Edinburgh as early as possible to maximise your time here – or why not come the night before, if you can? If you do arrive by car, plane or train in the morning, drop your bags at the accommodation then head straight out. There’s not a moment to lose when you have just 4 days in Scotland…
Day 1 Morning
Princes Street is the main thoroughfare in central Edinburgh. It’s where you’ll find the biggest shops, including famous Edinburgh department store Jenners. Edinburgh Waverley train station is at the easterly end, and I cannot think of a more central city train station in the UK.
Princes Street Gardens are a must – this flower-decked park allows you to catch your first proper glimpse of Edinburgh Castle, which looms over the city skyline. Spending a little time in this area allows you to get your bearings while experiencing your first encounter with this beguiling city.
New Town next. Cross Princes Street Gardens and follow Hanover or Frederick Street which will lead you to Queen Street Gardens. This route allows to to glimpse the honey-toned Georgian terraces of New Town.
Continue across the gardens to Heriot Row, which lies on the other side and runs parallel with Princes, George and Queen Streets. Some of Edinburgh’s most handsome properties can be seen here. If you can, continue onto Howe Street then cross Circus Place, where you can see the picture perfect Royal Circus.
New Town’s Scotland Street provides the setting for Alexander McCall Smith’s novels, a fabulous series, which I review HERE.
Day 1 Lunch
Continue through North West Circus Place and find a Stockbridge spot for lunch so you can experience this buzzing, bohemian neighbourhood. Alternatively, head back to the Princes Street area and grab a bite to eat there – perhaps to eat at as a picnic in the gardens if the weather is fine – before heading in the other direction to see the Old Town.
Day 1 Early Afternoon
Of all Edinburgh’s paid attractions, the castle is number one – in fact it is the top paid attraction in Scotland. This ancient Scottish castle has a complex history, with the oldest part, St Margaret’s Chapel dating from the 14th century.
The Great Hall was constructed by James VI in the early 1500s. In the latter 1700s, the Regent Morton built the Half Moon Battery. It wasn’t until the early 20 century that The Scottish National War Memorial was built, however, in the wake of World War I.
Try to get to the castle in time for the famous One O’Clock Gun Salute. The Crown Jewels of Scotland are also here and should not be missed. It is worth booking Edinburgh Castle tickets in advance to avoid queueing and maximise the time available during your trip to Scotland.
Day 1 Late Afternoon & Evening
Spend the rest of your day exploring Edinburgh’s Old Town. Wandering the streets, dip into ancient pubs and appealing, quirky shops. Soak up the atmosphere during the late afternoon, before deciding where to spend the evening. Seeing the Old Town by night means drinking in the unforgettable spectacle of the illuminated castle.
The Grassmarket is lined with lively, characterful pubs – the ideal place to sample some authentic scotch whisky by night. Look out for St Giles Cathedral as you head along High Street, and don’t miss Victoria Street – especially if you’re a fan of Harry Potter.
This thoroughfare links George IV Bridge with Grassmarket, and there are plenty of bars and restaurants here. See if you spot the Elephant House cafe, where where J K Rowling penned parts of the Harry Potter series. In fact it’s said that the area inspired Diagon Alley.
Where to stay in Edinburgh
If you’re only in town for one night during your Scotland vacation, then it makes sense to stay centrally. Booking into one of the following hotels in the Princes Street or Old Town areas is therefore recommended. Plan in advance – the best Edinburgh hotels fill up very quickly. Especially in August when the festival is on.
Princes Street area
Market Street is near Edinburgh Waverley, making it ideal for anyone arriving by train. The Old Town can easily be reached on foot, with the New Town to the other side. Staying here can help you to make the most of a short time in Edinburgh. Market Street Hotel Edinburgh is contemporary and comfortable, and the interior decor reflects its location.
At the western end of Princes Street, the Rutland Hotel offers panoramic views over Edinburgh Castle. This boutique hotel has both guest rooms and serviced apartments, with up to 2 bedroom in each. Arran Aromatics products and Nespresso machines ramp up the luxury level, and the hotel also has two eateries. The Huxley, serves great burgers and all sorts of drinks, while and Kyloe Restaurant and Grill is a stylish steakhouse.
If you only have one night here, why not rest your head at a true Edinburgh institution? It is also much more affordable than a comparable hotel in London. The number 1 Princes Street address also means you can really make the most of every moment. Elegant, stylish rooms are decorated in a style that is distinctly Scottish. The glass-domed Palm Court has the Wow factor, while there are kilt-wearing ‘Whisky Ambassadors’ to advise on today’s top tipple.
Old Town & Grassmarket
Wilde is an 128-room Edinburgh aparthotel, offering a range of 1 and 2 bedroom apartments in Grassmarket. Apartment facilities include fully equipped kitchens, but there are also hotel perks like the 24-hour reception desk. Edinburgh Castle is just a third of a mile from here.
Cheval Old Town Chambers also has the best of both hotel luxury and apartment living. The property is near the Royal Mile and High Street, and visitors love the spacious rooms, attentive yet unobtrusive service and fabulous views.
For more accommodation options, things to see and do, and what to pack, you can check out my longer itinerary for Edinburgh HERE.
So day one is done. Where next? Your best bet now is to take to the road, so if you have arrived by train or plane then pick up a hire car before leaving the Scottish capital behind…
You can easily compare Car Hire rates with Travel Supermarket HERE
Day 2 – Edinburgh & Loch Ness
Day 2 – Morning & Afternoon
Edinburgh to Loch Ness
When in Scotland, you simply have to try and spot Nessie, right? Maximise your chances with an overnight stay – but first, you have a three-and-half hour drive ahead of you. Options for a pitstop along the way include the Blair Athol Distillery – which is actually closer to Pitlochry than Blair Atholl. Or there’s Dunkeld, the ‘Gateway to the Highlands’, with its impressive cathedral. You could stop instead on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park, perhaps for a lunch break with a picnic if the Scottish sun is shining.
Day 2 – Afternoon & Evening
This legendary Scottish loch (lake) south of Inverness is 700 feet deep and over 20 miles long. So there are plenty of places for Nessie to hide. As well as the fabled loch, this section of the Scottish Highlands has charming villages like Fort Augustus and Drumnadrochit and Urquhart Castle dates from medieval times. Lovers of flora and fauna, meanwhile, can head to Glen Affric nature reserve. It takes a while to drive the entire length of the Loch, but there are lots of places to stop along the way for photo – and monster-spotting – opportunities. This is without a doubt one of the must sees in Scotland.
Where to stay at Loch Ness
Hotels on the banks of, or close to, Loch Ness gives you the chance to take in the magnificent scenery of the Scottish Highlands. A couple of my top picks are in Fort Augustus, while the rave reviews of a lodge fit for a Laird meant it just had to make the list.
This highly rated hotel is in a great position, with views over the loch from many rooms. It is in Fort Augustus, a pretty village on the shores of Loch Ness. The design skilfully blends the modern and Victorian style, and guests love the spacious, clean rooms, loch views, good food and helpful hosts.
The Inch Hotel is another popular, family-run option in Fort Augustus. This Highland hotel is on the Great Glen Way, overlooking the famous loch. Glen Affric nature reserve and the Caledonian Canal are also easily accessible. The hotel has 14 comfortable bedrooms and guests also praise both the excellent breakfast and the on site restaurant.
Live like a Scottish Laird (Lord) at Highland Bear Lodge, a baronial style property set in 14 acres. Spacious rooms feature four poster beds dressed with luxurious linens and there is a roaring log fire in the convivial guest lounge. Visitors report no Nessie sightings, but woodpeckers and red squirrels have been seen in the gardens. One guest even reports catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights – though perhaps they just had one dram too many…
As the sun sets over legendary Loch Ness, you can begin to look forward to what tomorrow will bring – a stay on the magical Isle of Skye.
Day 3 – The Isle of Skye
Day 3 – Morning
Loch Ness to Skye
You simply cannot visit Scotland without going to at least one island. Why Skye? It’s another must see when in Scotland. The scenic island is a breath of fresh Hebridean air, and deservedly popular with walkers, riders and water sports fans. It takes around two-and-a-half hours by car to reach Skye, and it’s worth stopping by Eilean Donan in the Kyle of Lochalsh area en-route to capture your own image of Scotland’s most photogenic castle.
Day 3 – Afternoon & Evening
All there is to say is – enjoy Skye! Whether it’s taking snaps of dramatic landscapes or Highland cattle, trekking in the hills or taking to the water, check into your chosen hotel and get out there. You could see Fairy Pools or a Fairy Glen, marvel at Kilt Rock, Quiraing or the Old Man of Storr, or the walk to Claigan Coral Beach is ideal for sand seekers.
Where to stay on Skye
This hotel in the Cuillin hills overlooks pretty Portree, Skye’s capital town. The four star deluxe property boasts it very own Malt Embassy, which stocks over 130 Scotch Malt Whiskies. There is also a lounge bar and The View restaurant. Many rooms offer stunning sea or mountain views. Guests love the scenic setting, the large rooms and the delicious dining options.
If you love a bay view – well this one’s for you. Set on a hill above Uig, this hotel is ideal for exploring North Skye. The Fairy Glen is among the hills behind. Spectacular local scenery has been featured in various films including the BFG, Macbeth, Stardust and Prometheus. The Isle of Skye Brewery and Uig Pottery are also close by. A friendly team give a warm welcome, and 11 of the comfortable bedrooms have sea views.
The owners of Uig Hotel also offer Uig Lodge in the grounds, a property first built in 1970 where the stables once stood. Another floor was added just a few years later. Like Uig hotel, there are superb views over the bay from here.
The Skye Inn is a modern, centrally located property in Portree. It’s just a minute’s walk to the main square, and there is a well-stocked bar on site. Rooms are contemporary and clean, and staff are most welcoming and helpful. Visitors particularly like the great Scottish breakfast and the resident pooch.
Day 4 – Skye to Edinburgh
Today’s the last day of your Scotland tour. Start off as early as you like, depending on where you’d like to stop along the way. The road trip between the Isle of Skye and Edinburgh passes close to several major Scottish sights, including Fort William, Glencoe, Loch Lomond, Stirling Castle and the city of Glasgow. Here is a brief outline of each, to help you decide where to spend this last precious day trip in Scotland.
Fort William is the first place you could stop when heading south. This western Scottish Highlands town is the location of Loch Linnhe and is also the gateway to the UK’s highest peak – Ben Nevis. In town, there’s the West Highland Museum, while the Ben Nevis Whisky Distillery lies to the north-east.
Glencoe is only around half an hour’s drive south of Fort William. The village was the site of the bloody Glencoe massacre of 1692, and thatched cottages from the 1700s are home to the Folk Museum here. This area is also famous for natural wonders, including trails, waterfalls, golden eagles and red deer.
Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park occupy a more southerly position as you begin to approach Glasgow or Edinburgh. This scenic Scottish loch makes a great picnic spot or place to stretch your legs, as there are lakeside paths and lots of green space.
This impressive Scottish castle may require a slight detour, depending on your route – but when will you next be in the area? It is one of the most popular castles in the whole of the UK, and dates from medieval times. Highlights include the Great Hall, Chapel Royal, Great Kitchens and south-facing Queen Anne Gardens.
You can choose whether to end your time in Scotland in Edinburgh or Glasgow. You may have to head for the former if you have a flight or train to catch, but if not then it’s certainly worth staying in Glasgow for at least the day. Scotland’s largest city lies on the banks of the River Clyde and it known for its art nouveau and Victorian architecture. This thriving city is now a vibrant cultural hub, with lots of great museums, theatres, bars, music venues, galleries and restaurants. If you have another night to spare, then do stay overnight while you’re in western Scotland.
Where to stay in Glasgow
This central hotel attracts consistent five-star reviews from guests. The deluxe property has ultra comfortable beds, monsoon showers and a great restaurant. Service is described as ‘faultless’, and visitors also appreciate the squeaky-clean, spacious and luxurious rooms.
The Ibis Styles brand is a serious new contender from a well-known hotel chain, specialising in stylish, contemporary accommodation. The Glasgow City West hotel on Waterloo Street is impressive – especially when you consider the modest price tag. Guests love the little personal touches, musical theme, central location and fabulous food.
Ibis Styles really have done the double with their Glasgow hotels. This one is also sleek and modern, yet packed with local character. Guests rate the bar and restaurant, location and bold decor most highly. Rooms are comfortable, stylish and ultra clean, while staff are helpful and friendly.
This hotel is a little hidden gem with a very Scottish feel. This restaurant with rooms has 8 we–equipped, cosy bedrooms. Guests rave about the food, warm welcome and it attracts a lot of repeat business. The small hotel is located on McPhater Street within the National Piping Centre.
If you fancy staying somewhere a little more peaceful, how about this baronial property? It is located in the Pollockshields area, a leafy south Glasgow suburb. Modern facilities combine seamlessly with the impressive turreted building, and there is great service, food and rooms here too.
Your Scotland itinerary for 4 days
I hope this suggested Scotland itinerary gives you some pointers. It’s your holiday, so do it your way. The itinerary is based loosely on a guided tour of Scotland I’ve taken, but the idea is to make it very much your own trip.
While 4 days isn’t a huge amount of time, you can clearly take in so much more than a small group, couple, family or single on a day trip or weekend break. This is my recommendations regarding what to see in Scotland, although hopefully you’ll be back to travel in Scotland again one day…
If you’re interested in taking day trips from Edinburgh instead, check out this post listing all the best ones. You might also like to take a look at my suggested itinerary for 2 days in Edinburgh, which you can see here.
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