Scotland for Beginners – My 5 Day Tour by Car

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You want to travel Scotland but you have no idea where to start planning? I had the same problem before my trip to Scotland! That’s why I’ve asked for tips on my Facebook page and also asked some friends who’ve been there before. And I got some great tips, and I think my Scotland trip was the perfect tour for beginners!

Scotland for Beginners – From Edinburgh through the Highlands to Inverness by car

I think the best way to travel Scotland is by car. I just loved to drive around in the Highlands and to decide spontaneously where to go, which is easy if you have a GPS which will bring you back on the right route. I took me five days to do the tour, and I think for a first impression you need at least five days, if you have more time: even better!

Scotland by carMy “ship” in the middle of nowhere

Day 1 – Edinburgh

My Scotland trip started in Edinburgh, a really pretty city. If you only plan to stay for one day – hope for good weather, walk around in the old town and enjoy sitting in one of the many parks!

Scotland Edinburgh

In the evening I recommend you to take one of the ghost tours! I’ve joined Ken from Auld Reekie Tours for a walk around the city and its vaults and it really gave me the creeps!

Scotland Ken Auld Reekie Tour EdinburghTourguide Ken of Auld Reekie Tours

I’ve stayed at The Bonham in Edinburgh. A really beautiful boutique hotel with its very own charm. And I’m not pretty sure, but it might be haunted… I had some strange dreams that night… (not weird strange but good strange) might be also have been an aftermath from the ghost tour… but: just saying!

Scotland The Bonham Edinburgh

If you decide to stay some more days in Edinburgh make sure to check out the Edinburgh tips on Budgettraveller by my friend Kash!

Day 2 Doune Castle, Glencoe

The next morning I was on my way to Doune Castle. All Monty Python, Game of Thrones and Outlander fans might know this castle! Yes, Doune Castle often was used as a filming location! I knew about Monty Python and Game of Thrones but didn’t know about the Outlander series. What a nice surprise to recognize Castle Leoch while watching the show! (Sigh. Jamie.)

But that’s not the only reason why you should visit Doune Castle. It’s a real beauty and if you go there during the week there’s a good chance there won’t be that many tourists around. Tip: take the audio guide and enjoy some Monty Python insiders while touring the castle!

Scotland Doune Castle

Scotland Doune Castle Monty Python

Next stop: Glencoe. Normally the drive takes around two hours, but, well, the journey is the destination, right? That’s true for this drive. The town Glencoe didn’t really convince me but Glencoe valley and the whole drive there… unbelievable beautiful! Definitely bring a LOT of time!

Scotland Loch LubnigLoch Lubnig

Scotland Glencoe ValleyGlencoe Valley

When you’ve passed Glencoe you will find one of the most charming B&B ever! Definitely want to go there AGAIN!

Scotland Creag Mhor LodgeThe view from the living room in Creag Mhor Lodge

Perfect location, perfect view, lovely interior and lovely owner! And it was that evening I fell in love with Scotland! When I found this place just a short two miles walk away from the Creag Mhor Lodge:

Scotland Onich Beach

Read: The whole love story and why I was crying for days after this evening.

Day 3 Glenfinnan Viaduct, Eilean Donean Castle

It was really hard for me to leave the next morning… but I wanted to see more of Scotland! I got a very good tip that hiking Ben Nevis is not the only way to get to the top… there’s also a gondola! So I decided to give it a try… just to find out the gondola was closed that day due to high winds. Well, I’ve tried… Instead I hit the road to Glenfinnan viaduct.. just to find out I’ve missed the train by FIVE minutes. Too bad!

Scotland Glennfinnan Viaduct

So I decided to hit the road again, listen to the Braveheart soundtrack in full volume and cry a bit more (and avoid as many tourists as possible).

Scotland trip by car

And then I was finally standing in front of Eilean Donan Castle. The castle I had as a screen saver for oh so many year. Sigh. It is really that beautiful! (And made me cry. AGAIN)

Scotland Eilean Donan Castle

I’ve stayed in a tiny little village called Strathcarron. The hotel there is pretty simple but the stuff is super friendly and you do have to visit the pub there!

Day 4 Highland Games

I was lucky enough to visit Scotland during the Highland Games, which normally happen during July and August. You can check out when and where here. I’ve decided to go for small village Highland Games, as I hoped to get the real “local” feeling and Lochcarron was definitely a great choice! Soon I will tell you more about my Highland Games experience… for now I leave you with this:

highland games

If there are no Highland Games to visit during your stay I recommend to use this day to drive deeper into the Highlands.

That night I finally made my way to most famous loch in Scotland: Loch Ness!

Day 5 Loch Ness/Inverness

If you’re staying at The Loch Ness Clansman Hotel there’s a huge chance you’ll meet Willie Cameron. He’s known as “Mr. Loch Ness (and director of the Clansman hotel).

Scotland Willie Cameron Loch Ness

He knows ALL the stories about Nessie and loves to tell them. Especially the story about Nessie and his father. Yes, his father saw Nessie in 1965. Willie himself hasn’t seen Nessie – yet. But he believes in Nessie…! But well, I did see Nessie… but it looked kind of different from expected…

Scotland Nessie Loch Ness

If you don’t want to do the typical touristic Loch Ness boat tour I recommend to take your car and drive up and down Loch Ness. There are many beautiful streets (but be careful: some of them are single-lane only!) but you’ll be rewarded with views like this:

Scotland Loch Ness

Inverness itself didn’t really impress me, but that might be because I fell in love with the Highlands so much I wasn’t that much into civilization that day… my favourite place in Inverness are the Ness Islands. Perfect for a walk in the evening! And if you have some more time to spend you should definitely see Culloden, not only if you’re a fan of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander Saga.

Scotland CullodenFraser memorial in Culloden

And last but not least here’s a little map of my Scotland trip… as you can see you COULD drive this tour in one day… but that doesn’t make any sense, right?

Have you been to Scotland? What do you think one can’t miss when visiting Scotland for the first time?

Disclosure: This post is part of a cooperation between Reiseblogger Kollektiv and Visit Britain. Thanks to sunnycars.de for providing me with the rental car! Some links in this post are affiliate links.

Hi, I'm Yvonne. Travel addict. Guilty as charged. Right now I'm probably falling off a camel somewhere in a desert, getting a new tattoo from a monk in Thailand or am carrying my luggage through a river in the jungle. But just as well I could be sitting on my sofa in Berlin, in my pyjamas. Good girls to to heaven, bad girls go everywhere. Everywhere sounds much more promising. So be travelous and follow me!

Discussion23 Comments

  1. Looks beautiful. I am planning a trip through the Highlands myself and have been debating renting a car. If you don’t mind me asking, about how much did you spend for 5 days on a rental? I want to figure out if it will be in my budget. Thanks!

    • Yvonne

      Hi Christy, I’ve spent around 400€ (incl GPS, gas and one-way fee as I picked it up in Edinburgh but gave it back in Inverness)

      Have fun in Scotland!

  2. Nice post Yvonne, glad you enjoyed Scotland! Can recommend the Western Isles for more great scenery and the North Highlands particularly around Torridon too. Car hire is definitely the way to go if possible, can’t beat a great scottish road trip. Hope you make it back sometime.

    • Yvonne

      Definitely have to go there again! Alone this comment section here includes so many great tips where I want to go next time! 😀

  3. Scotland is without a doubt my country of the year, and I haven’t been to a more charming city than Edinburgh (despite the gloomy weather and the spooky underground!). Although like Neil, I too recommend the Outer Hebrides–especially if you’re looking for another astonishing “middle of nowhere”.

  4. Pingback: Follow Me In Scotland: A Culinary Countryside Itinerary

  5. Hi Yvonne, What a great post… Your tour is very similar to what I’m considering doing, but a little nervous about trying alone. Did you find navigating the roads via GPS to be difficult? Did you make hotel & B&B reservations in advance, or just stayed at whatever you found along the way?

    • Hi Sush, happy you liked my post. And actually traveling alone through Scotland was one of the best things I’ve ever done. I would definitely recommend to use a GPS, for me it was pretty easy to use and I never got lost. And yes, I did have reservations in advance just to be safe. I didn’t wanted to spend time looking for a place to stay for the night, which especially in high season could be a bit annoying. Enjoy your trip!

  6. That’s a great itinerary ! I went to the Highland Games in Pitlochry and it was really amazing (there’s my account of it on my blog for those who plan on going).

    Also, don’t worry I also cried in Scotland, there’s just something about the place …

  7. Some great places for me to put on my next trip back to Scotland. Next time you go don’t miss Dunnottar near Aberdeen. It’s my favorite castle of all time. I can envision being Mary Queen of Scots and being held there for a time or being William Wallace and spending some time visiting there. Both did!

  8. Hi Yvonne, an amazing and thrilling post, and also an motivational one. Thanks to your post I was able to finally decide whether to go on a solo road trip in Scotland or not. Finally I am going, and since this will be my first time in Scotland I expect it to be full of adventures.

    Keep travelling,
    Lokesh

  9. Nice and informative post. I am planning to visit Scotland with family. After reading the post it would be easier for me to decide the places. I would appreciate if you could post the best driving routes .

  10. Yvonne,
    I really enjoyed your post. My daughter and I are going to Scotland the end of July, I’ve booked our hotels and tours of Edinburgh and the Highlands. Just wondering what to pack besides my comfy walking shoes. Any suggestions?

    • hey 🙂 im from Scotland, live about 30 miles from Edinburgh! Recommendation – if you can get some Avon in your country, my suggestion would be to get “skin so soft”… it keeps the midges at bay! (little buggers that are like flys that bite!) especially if your doing walking etc up in the highlands. Also a good waterproof, just incase. Other than that, your spirit, and a camera and you will both get on just fine 🙂

      if you ever need anything else, feel free to drop me an email and ill be more than happy to offer some help!

      Cheers

      V

  11. hey! i’m actually from Scotland, lived here all my days, and really the best country in the world. im blessed. Recommend the Isle of Skye to anyone traveling in Scotland. utterly breath taking. i want to go back to see the fairy pools. and travel through Glen Coe! I live about 3 miles from the falls of Clyde in New Lanark. utterly glorious too if your starting from Edinburgh or Glasgow, its about 30 miles from there. so blessed.

    if you ever need any more information or tips, feel free to reach out to me 🙂

    so glad you loved my country as much as i do 🙂

    Cheers

    Vicky

  12. Hi Yvone!

    Were you by yourself in this trip? I’m thinking about rent a car to explore the Highlands, but I’m a solo traveler and a little bit insecure about it.

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