Scotland's natural beauty is on full display with this active 13-day adventure. Starting in Edinburgh, you'll jump behind the wheel and road trip across the Scottish Highlands, exploring the best of the Isle of Skye, Cairngorms National Park, the scenic drive called the NC500, and Glen Coe before finishing in Loch Lomond and Glasgow. This itinerary includes epic hikes, biking tours, sea kayaking, fishing, horseback riding, and loch cruises, with plenty of free time to explore at your own pace.


  • Join local guides for urban biking tours in Edinburgh and Glasgow
  • Embark on a full-day wildlife safari through Cairngorms National Park
  • Take a cruise on Loch Ness and hunt for the legendary monster yourself
  • Drive part of the North Coast 500 (NC500), Scotland's most famous road trip
  • Explore the Isle of Skye during a sea kayak tour and a self-guided hike

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Edinburgh, Private Walking Tour Edinburgh
Day 2 Ultimate Cycle Tour, Free Time Edinburgh
Day 3 Collect a Rental Car, Wild River Fishing Experience, Drive to Aviemore Aviemore
Day 4 Cairngorms National Park Wildlife Safari Tour, Drive to Inverness Inverness
Day 5 Full-Day Loch Ness Boat Cruise & Walk Tour Inverness
Day 6 Drive to Lochinver via the North Coast 500, Explore Beaches Lochinver
Day 7 Drive to the Isle of Skye, Guided Sea Kayak Experience Isle of Skye
Day 8 Self-Guided Coire Lagan Hike Isle of Skye
Day 9 Drive to Glen Coe, Private Guided Walk Glen Coe
Day 10 Drive to Loch Lomond, Horse Trekking Glen Coe
Day 11 Electric Mountain Bike Adventure, Drive to Glasgow Glasgow
Day 12 Glasgow Cycling Tour, Free Afternoon Glasgow
Day 13 Drive to Edinburgh, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Edinburgh, Private Walking Tour

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle is built on an extinct volcano

Welcome to Scotland! You've landed in Edinburgh, a captivating historic and modern city known for its festivals, thriving arts scene, and friendly locals. Upon arrival, take a taxi to your hotel. En route, you might catch a glimpse of the majestic Edinburgh Castle sitting atop an ancient volcanic hill and overlooking the Old and New Town centers. Drop your bags, refresh, lace up your walking shoes, and venture out to meet your guide.

Puzzled by wynds and closes? This afternoon, you'll find answers on a private three-hour walking tour of Edinburgh's Old Town. Together you'll trace the Royal Mile that runs between the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official royal residence, and the castle. Admire 17th-century mansions, visit old breweries and sugar houses, and discover many landmarks. Discover a Scottish alleyway and hear stories of royal murders, espionage intrigues, and former artisan guilds. Discover Edinburgh's social history and tales of Mary, Queen of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charlie, and a ghost or two.

Day 2: Ultimate Cycle Tour, Free Time

While cycling across Edinburgh you might run into street artists who mimic life

Discover off-the-beaten-path locations and secret spots with this morning's small-group cycling tour. Jump in the saddle of a bike and make a full lap of the city on two wheels, taking in the sights and beautiful parts of Edinburgh that most visitors don't get to see. Cycle out of the city, around Arthur's Seat, and to the (sometimes) sunny seaside while your guide shares fascinating facts about the city. You'll pass canals, aqueducts, railways, gardens, beaches, mountains, and tunnels, covering 18 miles (29 km) and stopping for refreshments and photo opportunities along the way. 

This afternoon is yours to explore Edinburgh as you wish. Since you've ticked off the sights, use your free time to relax at the Royal Botanic Garden or explore history, art, and culture at the National Museum of Scotland. Pretend you're a local in Stockbridge, a trendy inner-city neighborhood known for its boutiques, galleries, thrift stores, cafés, and bakeries. Or go for a short walk to Dean Village and admire the well-preserved 19th-century architecture and wander alongside the tranquil Water of Leith. If the weather is nice, head to Calton Hill for sunset or find a cozy pub to hide inside.

Day 3: Collect a Rental Car, Wild River Fishing Experience, Drive to Aviemore

Fishing scotland
Fish for salmon or brown trout depending on the season

After breakfast, collect a rental car and begin your grand Scottish road trip. The lochs and rivers surrounding Killiehuntly offer wonderful opportunities for the seasoned fisherman and happy beginner. Make the drive an hour north, lapping the west side of Cairngorms National Park. In Killiehuntly you'll be in the safe (and dry-witted) hands of some ghillies, who have fished these waters for decades. You'll fish for salmon on the world-famous River Spey, with space for four to six rods on the Kinrara beat.

If you prefer, you could fish for trout on four secluded lochs with the help of a highland pony to transport equipment and lunch. After your day with a rod immersed in nature, you'll have a choice—release the fish back into the water or ask the team to cook your catch for your supper. After, continue another half hour up the road to Aviemore, a charming town and hub for outdoor enthusiasts who flock here for hiking, skiing, and mountain biking. Settle into your accommodation, then find a good place in town for dinner.

Day 4: Cairngorms National Park Wildlife Safari Tour, Drive to Inverness

Cairngorms National Park Wildlife tour with a specialist
Ride a 4WD through the heather-clad moorlands, looking for local wildlife

Cairngorms National Park offers some of the best wildlife diversity in the United Kingdom. This pristine landscape is home to a quarter of the threatened species, and on today's full-day wildlife safari, you'll encounter the wilder side of the protected park. Explore expansive heather-clad moorlands, pass through towering Caledonian pine forests, admire imposing peaks, and see pristine lochs from the back of a 4WD Land Rover Discovery. Your knowledgeable guide will seek out wildlife, including red deer, golden eagles, and ospreys, and some light walking may be involved.

This is your opportunity to explore the remote beauty of the Cairngorms and see the conservation efforts and commitment to preserving Scotland's natural heritage. After your safari adventure, return to Aviemore, where you'll continue your road trip to Inverness, a 35-minute drive away. The capital of the Scottish Highlands is a city rich with historical sites, and this afternoon you could visit Inverness Castle, perched on a hill overlooking the River Ness. End the day with a hearty Scottish meal at a cozy local pub, finishing with a dram of whisky.

Day 5: Full-Day Loch Ness Boat Cruise & Walk Tour

Loch Ness
Cruise by Urquhart Castle on the shores of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands
Plan your trip to Scotland
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

No one can resist the mythical Loch Ness: its beauty evokes a sense of wonder, while its monstrous depths are legendary. This morning, make your way to Dochgarroch, just outside of Inverness, for a two-hour cruise on the legendary loch and Thomas Telford's famous Caledonian Canal. Aboard a catamaran, you'll set off, soaking in the views of Great Glen, Aldourie Castle, Bona Lighthouse, and the spectacular Urquhart Castle, following in the footsteps of Queen Victoria.

Even if the elusive Loch Ness Monster doesn't show up, your guide will bring the loch to life with intriguing tales and local history. After, you'll return to dry land and set off on foot. Unearth more than 1,000 years of history this morning at the ruins of Urquhart Castle. Snap panoramic pictures with the loch from the Grant Tower, imagine the banquets that once took place in the Grand Hall, and peer into a gloomy prison cell said to have held legendary Gaelic bard Dòmhnall Donn. Finally, return to Inverness for the evening.

Day 6: Drive to Lochinver via the North Coast 500, Explore Beaches

Kylesku Bridge
Close to Lochinver you'll drive over the Kylesku Bridge on the NC500

The North Coast 500 is Scotland's ultimate road trip, a scenic route of just over 500 miles (800 km) that takes in coastal scenes, white sandy beaches, rugged mountains, and quaint fishing villages. Today is all about the drive, taking you from Inverness to Lochinver, exploring the best of Wester Ross along the way, a drive of around four hours. Put Poolewe in your GPS and cross to the west coast of Scotland. Set on the shores of Loch Ewe, this remote community is home to the Inverewe Garden, a botanical paradise thanks to its distinct microclimate.

Continue along the NC500 toward Lochinver, where you'll explore parts of the North West Highland Geopark. Detour to Stac Pollaidh, a short walk that rewards with unique views of small lochs and rocky outcrops. Continue to Elphin, where the Knockan Crag Visitor Centre has a geology trail so you can explore some of the oldest rocks in Europe, around 3,000 million years old. You can also visit the 16th-century Ardvreck Castle on the shores of Loch Assynt.

Check into your accommodation in Lochinver, then set off for a mini beach adventure. Just 20 minutes away, Clachtoll Beach is famous for its dunes, white sand, and blue water. If you can brave the chilly water, bring a snorkel! Nearby, Achmelvich Beach is just as beautiful, and if you have time there's a two-hour hike between the two.

Day 7: Drive to the Isle of Skye, Guided Sea Kayak Experience

Drive to the Isle of Skye
Walk around Portree, one of the Isle of Skye's quaint fishing villages

After breakfast, hit the road south to the Isle of Skye. After three hours, you'll reach the bridge and cross over the often dramatic and ethereal isle known for its rugged, mountainous terrain and the iconic Cuillin Range. The island's coastline is scattered with high cliffs, sea stacks, and picturesque fishing villages. This afternoon you'll explore the sights from the water—away from the crowds— with a half-day guided sea kayak experience.

Grab a paddle and follow your local kayak expert on a scenic journey along the coast of Skye. A magnet for nature lovers and explorers seeking a taste of Scotland's untamed beauty, this adventure gives you an alternative perspective of the special island while learning about its history, nature, and folklore. You'll even pause at a remote beach for a picnic while looking for wildlife on the coast. Afterward, check into your accommodation and settle in for the evening.

Day 8: Self-Guided Coire Lagan Hike

Coire Lagan
Today you'll venture to Coire Lagan, set within the famous Cuillin Range

A string of dramatic-looking peaks, the Cuillins are one of Skye's most famous landmarks, attracting avid mountain climbers and hikers who are skilled with a map and compass. Today you'll embark on a half-day hike to Coire Lagan, a small glacial pool tucked away in an elevated valley, surrounded by the awe-inspiring Cuillin mountains. This trail is a wonderful way to get up close to the imposing peaks without tackling a technical mountain ascent. Pack snacks and plenty of water and set off on your self-guided 5.5-mile (9 km) hike.

Begin at a pretty beach in Glen Brittle, following a well-defined path up into the mountains. The trickiest part of this moderate hike is a rocky scramble up a steep gully below the entrance to Coire Lagan. Once over the rim, the tiny clear blue pool is right at your feet. Being nestled up high in the ring of towering peaks gives the effect of being in a huge amphitheater on the roof of the world. Once back down to earth, take some time to relax.

Day 9: Drive to Glen Coe, Private Guided Walk

Coire Gabhail
Explore the luscious green Lost Valley in Glen Coe on a guided walk

Jump back behind the wheel this morning and continue south to Glen Coe. Considered one of the most hauntingly beautiful of the Scottish glens, this hidden gem is often shrouded in mist and runs for 10 miles (16 km) beneath rugged peaks formed from lava flow and shaped by millions of years of erosion. On the 2.5-hour journey, you'll pass through Fort William, where the nearby 21-arched Glenfinnan Viaduct was made famous by the "Harry Potter" movies. If you time it right, you might see the Jacobite Steam Train pass across it. 

Once you reach the volcanic valley of Glen Coe, you'll set off on a private guided hike through the lusciously green Lost Valley. Pack a picnic lunch and follow an idyllic 4.5-mile (7.2 km) walk. You'll hike alongside a deep gorge before emerging into the large, flat river basin surrounded by high peaks. Stop here to enjoy your snacks surrounded by the beauty of Scotland's wilderness. If you're a keen hiker, you could continue up the valley or tackle one of the summits. Alternatively, return to your rental car and make the drive to your nearby accommodation to check in. 

Day 10: Drive to Loch Lomond, Horse Trekking

Loch Lomond
Enjoy the views of Loch Lomond, which can often look like a watercolor painting

The largest freshwater loch in Scotland, Loch Lomond, is an area of natural splendor, an hour's drive from Glen Coe. Here you can go boating, kayaking, and paddleboarding on the clear waters, while the surrounding Trossachs National Park offers superb hiking and cycling trails. The picturesque villages of Balmaha and Luss dot its shores, and for panoramic views, Conic Hill beckons with a moderate hike.

Picture yourself riding through the Scottish countryside on horseback and then make it a reality this afternoon. You'll jump in the saddle for an equine adventure in Loch Lomond. Witness some of the country's most beautiful landscapes with a light and easy trek through the hills and glens of Trossachs National Park. A local equine guide will lead the way, showing you the beauty of the area with this one-of-a-kind experience. Together you'll explore the beautiful and wild region, finishing with a climatic viewpoint.

Day 11: Electric Mountain Bike Adventure, Drive to Glasgow

Hit the trails on an e-bike and explore the nearby forests

Loch Lomond's tranquil beauty and activity options make it a sought-after destination for nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers alike. Continue the outdoor fun when you hire an electric mountain bike this morning and hit the off-road trails. With two wheels, you have the freedom to explore the unspoiled forests and kick up dirt along the way.

Later, if you're still eager to explore, consider taking a cruise on Loch Katrine or go kayaking on Loch Lomond. You could visit the Sea Life and Birds of Prey Centres or tour Scotland's most picturesque distillery at Glengoyne. Or, stumble across the beautiful Falls of Dochart running through the small town of Killin, and find out more about the local folklore and clan history. Another option is to visit Arrochar in the high mountains and Aberfoyle on the banks of the River Forth in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. In the afternoon, make the hour-long drive to Glasgow and check into your hotel.

Day 12: Glasgow Cycling Tour, Free Afternoon

Glasgow St Mungo Mural
Look out for the St Mungo mural as you cycle around Glasgow

Walking tours are great, but you can see more on two wheels! Today you'll join an entertaining bike tour of Glasgow, combining history, culture, and quirky tales. Scotland's largest city is shaped by its rich industrial heritage, reflected in the grand Victorian architecture that's now juxtaposed with modern structures. No matter whether it's gloriously sunny or ingloriously dreich (a Scottish word for drizzly, cold, and cloudy), you'll wheel across the city over three hours, past the Glasgow Cathedral, the Necropolis, the People's Palace, Glasgow University, and more.

With a free afternoon in Glasgow, you could explore the city's vibrant cultural scene. Start at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to admire an eclectic collection of art and historical artifacts, then stroll through Kelvingrove Park. On your final night in Scotland, seek out a traditional Glaswegian pub for a hearty meal and to taste local dishes like haggis, then visit one of the city's music venues or theaters.

Day 13: Drive to Edinburgh, Depart

Glasgow University
Until next time, Glasgow!

Your road trip across Scotland comes to an end today. Hop in the car one last time and make the hourlong drive from Glasgow back to Edinburgh. Make sure you allow enough time to drop off your rental car ahead of your flight home or onward. Safe travels!

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Map of Active Scotland Road Trip: Cairngorms, the NC500 & Isle of Skye - 13 Days
Map of Active Scotland Road Trip: Cairngorms, the NC500 & Isle of Skye - 13 Days