Get inspired as you combine the best of Scotland's cultural opportunities and natural wonders on this 13-day tour. Dive into the heart of Scotland's historic and artistic soul with renowned museums and galleries, and unique guided tours. Start with afternoon tea in Edinburgh, then board a scenic train north to Aberdeen and Inverness, where castles await. Then, head for Glasgow to explore the legacy of a famous designer and architect before squeezing in a trip to Loch Lomond to finish the adventure.


  • Take a day trip to the medieval kingdom of Northumbria from Edinburgh
  • Follow royal footsteps and explore Balmoral Castle's lush, manicured grounds 
  • Visit the Culloden Battlefield, the site of the final Jacobite Rising
  • Squeeze in a day trip to experience the Isle of Skye's dramatic scenery
  • Discover Mackintosh's artistic legacy in Glasgow with an art historian

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Edinburgh, Afternoon Tea at Edinburgh Castle Edinburgh
Day 2 Visit Mary King's Close, Free Time Edinburgh
Day 3 Full-Day Holy Island, Alnwick Castle & Northumbria Tour Edinburgh
Day 4 Train to Aberdeen, Free Time Aberdeen
Day 5 Full-Day Balmoral Castle & Royal Deeside Tour Aberdeen
Day 6 Private Full-Day Aberdeenshire Tour Aberdeen
Day 7 Train to Inverness, Afternoon Tea Inverness
Day 8 Private Culloden Battlefield Tour, Free Time Inverness
Day 9 Full-Day Isle of Skye & Eilean Donan Castle Tour Inverness
Day 10 Train to Glasgow, Discover Mackintosh's Legacy in Glasgow Glasgow
Day 11 Visit the Hunterian, Contemporary Art Tour, Scottish Trad Trail & Folk Music Tour Glasgow
Day 12 Full-Day Loch Lomond, Trossachs & Stirling Castle Tour Glasgow
Day 13 Train to Edinburgh, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Edinburgh, Afternoon Tea at Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle
Catch your first glimpse of Edinburgh Castle set atop 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. On arrival, meet your private driver for a transfer to your hotel. En route, you might catch a glimpse of the mighty Edinburgh Castle, a huge fortress sitting atop an ancient volcanic hill and overlooking the Old and New Town centers. Drop your bags, refresh, and set out for a special afternoon.

Promenade through the cobbled streets, wynds, and closes of the world-famous Royal Mile until you reach the imposing castle. Enter through the gates to discover the many battles and sieges fought over it. See the Great Hall of King James IV, lavish royal rooms, and the oldest crown jewels in Britain. After, sit down for an afternoon tea fit for royalty. Within the castle walls, you'll feast on three tiers of homemade cakes, sandwiches, savory bites, and freshly made scones with tea or coffee. A royal treat!

Day 2: Visit Mary King's Close, Free Time

The Royal Mile links Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyrood
Walk along the Royal Mile, which links Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyrood

Beneath the streets of Edinburgh's famous Royal Mile lies a big secret: Mary King's Close. Step under the streets and back in time with one of the Close's former residents on a private hour-long guided tour. You'll journey along now-hidden streets while hearing stories about real people who lived and worked here such as the maid, the merchant, and the poet. Each character offers a unique perspective of day-to-day life in 16th and 17th-century Edinburgh.

The rest of the day is yours to explore Edinburgh. Use your time to wander the cobblestone streets of Edinburgh's Old Town, and the street level of the Royal Mile. Dive into the vibrant local scene at the Grassmarket, where eclectic shops and cozy pubs beckon, or lose yourself in the rich literary history of the Writers' Museum. Later, find a cozy Scottish pub for a pint or wee dram and a traditional heartwarming meal.

Day 3: Full-Day Holy Island, Alnwick Castle & Northumbria Tour

Holy Island, Alnwick Castle & Northumbria
Check out the views of Lindisfarne Castle on Holy Island

After breakfast, join a day trip from Edinburgh to the medieval kingdom of Northumbria in northeast England. Meet your guide, hop on a bus, and make your way to your first stop—Holy Island. Connected to the mainland by a causeway, journey over and reach the quaint island village of Lindisfarne. This village was once the most important center of religious learning in the British Isles. Soak in stunning views of Lindisfarne Castle, which dates back to 1550, and wander the ruins of its Priory, where the Lindisfarne Gospels were produced.

Sample some of the world-famous Lindisfarne mead brewed by monks on the island, and enjoy the peaceful setting before continuing south. You'll pass Bamburgh, the ancient capital of Northumbria, then on to the market town of Alnwick. Explore the town center or visit the medieval Alnwick Castle, which was home to the Percy Family for over 700 years. The castle grounds were used in the TV series "Downton Abbey" and the "Harry Potter" films. In the mid-afternoon, cross the River Tweed and back into Scotland at the historic border town of Coldstream.

Day 4: Train to Aberdeen, Free Time

Aberdeen City
Spend the day exploring Aberdeen's art gallery and beautiful parks

Today's final destination is Aberdeen, Scotland's third-largest city. This historic port is known as the "Granite City" and is home to two prominent universities, giving it a youthful, vibrant vibe. Board a train in the capital for the 2.5-hour journey north. On arrival, check into your accommodation and use the day as you please to explore the city's beautiful parks and streets, where the granite buildings glisten in the sunlight.

Art fans should drop by the Aberdeen Art Gallery, which houses some of the UK's finest collections, including works by Barbara Hepworth, Francis Bacon, and Claude Monet. If it's a sunny day, pass by the sandy shores of Aberdeen Beach, or visit Duthie Park where you can explore one of the largest indoor gardens in Europe, the David Welch Winter Gardens. Discover the city's historic side in Old Aberdeen, and visit St. Machar's Cathedral and King's College. If you're keen on nightlife, the city's student population keeps the bar scene bustling enough to rival Scotland’s larger cities.

Day 5: Full-Day Balmoral Castle & Royal Deeside Tour

Balmoral Castle and Royal Deeside Tour
Visit the grounds of Balmoral Castle as long as the royal family isn't visiting

Today you'll follow in royal footsteps as you explore the beauty of the Royal Deeside region on a small-group tour. Nestled within Cairngorms National Park, it's easy to see why Balmoral Castle is a cherished royal retreat. Prince Albert bought the property for Queen Victoria and built its granite castle in 1856. So long as the royal family isn't visiting, it's possible to explore the estate and catch a glimpse of their private world. Wander around the lush, manicured grounds, past pristine lochs, and through the countryside. Nature is at its best here.

If the royals are in town, you'll visit beautiful Braemar Castle instead. After, you'll make a short, scenic drive by the fringes of the highland moors and heathlands on the way to Ballater, a picturesque Victorian village. Stroll around the town, exploring gourmet shops, and find a café for lunch. On the return to Aberdeen, you'll visit the iconic Cambus O'May suspension bridge, walk up to the Tomnaverie recumbent stone circle, which dates to about 4,500 years ago, and visit Queen's View just outside Tarland. Queen Victoria fell in love with this view of the lower valley of the Dee

Plan your trip to Scotland
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 6: Private Full-Day Aberdeenshire Tour

Dunnottar Castle
Request to visit the medieval Dunnottar Castle, dramatically perched on a high cliff at sea

Can you believe there are 263 castles in Aberdeenshire? A turbulent history of invasions and war, rebellion and uprising, independence and occupation all played out here, resulting in more castles per hectare or acre than anywhere else in the British Isles. Today you'll have a private guide who can show you Aberdeenshire's rugged coastline and royal heritage on a fully customizable tour. You could choose to explore Old Aberdeen and admire King's College and Old Aberdeen Campus, the Old Town, St Machar's Cathedral, Cruickshank Botanical Gardens, and Powis Gates.

Then, escape the city for the dramatic atmosphere of Dunnottar Castle, a ruined medieval fortress perched on the edge of the North Sea. After, visit the 16th-century Crathe Castle, with its turrets, gargoyles, painted ceilings, and ancient yew hedges. At some point, you'll pause for a traditional Scottish lunch, then finish with a "wee dram" when you tour either the Royal Lochnagar Distillery or Glen Garioch Distillery before returning to the city. 

Day 7: Train to Inverness, Afternoon Tea

The Inverness city center, along the banks of the River Ness.
Walk around Inverness and the River Ness after indulging in afternoon tea

After breakfast, return to the train station for the 2.5-hour service to Inverness, the capital of the Scottish Highlands. En route, admire the stunning Highland scenery, with breathtaking landscapes, secretive hill lochs, and mist-shrouded mountain peaks. On arrival, make your way to your hotel, drop off your bags, and put on your Sunday best for a very British afternoon ritual.

Afternoon tea is a fashionable and sociable affair, the perfect midafternoon indulgence—and an excuse for champagne (if you wish)! Arrive at the Torrish, a 5-star hotel, for this elegant British affair. Sip on a tea while you delight in the hotel's seasonal afternoon tea and its theatrics. You'll receive a three-tiered stand filled with delicate treats including finger sandwiches, savory bites, homemade cakes, and freshly baked fruit scones. Here the chefs put a modern twist on tradition and reflect the produce of the season.

Day 8: Private Culloden Battlefield Tour, Free Time

Sunrise over Culloden Battlefield.
Look for the graves of hundreds of clansmen and a 20-foot (6 m) memorial cairn

The Culloden Battlefield is the site of the final Jacobite Rising, the last and most dramatic battle fought on British soil. On 16 April 1746, Jacobite supporters seeking to restore the Stuart monarchy to the British thrones gathered to fight the Duke of Cumberland's government troops. In less than an hour, around 1,300 men were slain—more than 1,250 of them Jacobites. A private guide will collect you from Inverness and together you'll visit the Well of the Dead, the Main Cairn, and the Clan Graves, where the soldiers are buried while learning about this dark chapter of history.

The rest of the afternoon is yours to enjoy in Inverness. Explore the city's rich historical sites, such as the Inverness Castle, perched on a hill overlooking the River Ness. Seek out a show at the Eden Court Theatre or visit a local art gallery. End the day with a hearty Scottish meal at a cozy local pub, topped off with a dram of whisky.

Day 9: Full-Day Isle of Skye & Eilean Donan Castle Tour

Skye waterfall and mountains
Keep your camera close as you drive across the Isle of Skye

Today's huge full-day tour will soak up some of the most dramatic and stunning landscapes Scotland has to offer. You'll visit Loch Ness, explore Eilean Donan Castle, and adventure across the stunning Isle of Skye. Meet your guide and driver in Inverness, and set off for nearby Loch Ness, where if you're lucky you might see the mythical Loch Ness Monster, affectionately known as ‘Nessie’. After, continue to Eilean Donan Castle, one of Scotland’s most photographed castles, which sits on an island at the head of Loch Duich. Take time here to explore the castle and its atmospheric surroundings.

Then, cross over the Skye Bridge and descend on Portree, the small and colorful island capital for lunch. Surrounded by rocky cliffs and rolling hills, it's a beautiful place to watch the boats over a meal. On Skye, you'll visit Kilt Rock for amazing coastal views, take a short walk at Lealt Falls, and admire the Old Man of Storr. After spending the afternoon crisscrossing Skye, you'll return to Inverness. En route, pause at Strome Viewpoint for photos of Loch Carron.

Day 10: Train to Glasgow, Discover Mackintosh's Legacy in Glasgow

Willow Tearoom
Stop at the Willow Tearoom, which was designed by Mackintosh

After breakfast, return to the train station and board a 3.5-hour train to Glasgow, Scotland's largest and most buzzing city. This modern, creative destination has been shaped by its rich industrial heritage, reflected in the grand Victorian architecture that's now juxtaposed with modern structures. On arrival, take a taxi to your hotel. Drop your bags, refresh, and set out to explore the city. Visit the famous Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the University of Glasgow, then explore the boutiques of West End or go for a walk along the picturesque River Clyde.

Later, you'll discover the life, works, and tales of Glasgow's most famous designer, architect, and artist: Charles Rennie Mackintosh. With your expert guide, you'll take a deeper look at his life, marriage, influences, and incredible expertise. Over two hours, you'll visit some of his most famous works that still stand to this day, his first married home, and some lesser-known treasures along the way. You'll finish at Willow Tearoom, designed by Mackintosh in 1903.

Day 11: Visit the Hunterian, Contemporary Art Tour, Scottish Trad Trail & Folk Music Tour

Hunterian Museum
Spend quality time perusing the collection at the Hunterian, which opened its doors in 1807

Start today at the Hunterian, Scotland's oldest public museum and home to over a million magnificent items, ranging from meteorites to mummies to Mackintosh. Use your morning to explore the diverse collection, where you'll find astounding artifacts, amazing art, and an astonishing array of animal life. Pause for a hearty café lunch, then meet an art historian for a private tour and discover why a disproportionate number of influential and successful artists continuously pour out of the city—a contemporary art phenomenon dubbed the Glasgow miracle!

You'll meet a Glasgow School of Art graduate and practicing artist at the Centre for Contemporary Art, the institution at the heart of Glasgow counterculture during the 1970s and 1980s. Then, visit the Glasgow School of Art to visit Mackintosh's masterfully-designed building. Continue to key galleries and artist-run spaces, such as The Modern Institute and Transmission Gallery, to sample the spectrum of Glasgow's buzzing art scene and see why it's an international hotspot for contemporary art and artists.

This evening, you'll experience the best of Scottish culture and food for a great introduction to this charming country. Start with an hour-long folk music-themed walking tour of the gritty city's oldest and most interesting streets. After, pile into a classic Scottish restaurant for a hearty, home-cooked meal. Then, you'll listen to the best contemporary and traditional folk music from a rotating lineup of Glasgow's up-and-coming talent. Sláinte Mhath!

Day 12: Full-Day Loch Lomond, Trossachs & Stirling Castle Tour

Make a final stop today at Stirling Castle, where Mary Queen of Scots was crowned in 1542

Explore the land and legends of Scottish heroes and experience the natural beauty of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park on this full-day excursion from Glasgow. Meet your local guide and driver, and set off for the "bonnie banks" of Loch Lomond, one of the prettiest and largest lochs in the whole of Scotland. Here you'll take a cruise, enjoying spectacular views of the loch's many islands and the surrounding mountains. Alternatively, you might stroll through picturesque loch-side Luss, a village with quaint houses and water views.

Pause for lunch in the village of Aberfoyle, nestled in the heart of Trossachs National Park. Scotland's first national park is known as the "Highlands in miniature" due to its abundance of lochs, mountains, and forests. It's also the former homeland of legendary outlaw, Rob Roy MacGregor. Before returning to Glasgow, your final stop is Stirling Castle, one of the most significant castles in Scottish history. Enjoy the views from its high vantage point, and explore the castle while learning about the exploits of key historical figures, including William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, and Mary Queen of Scots. 

Day 13: Train to Edinburgh, Depart

Kelvingrove Park
If the weather is nice, wander through Kelvingrove Park before your train
Your 13-day Scotland adventure comes to a close today. Use your morning to explore Glasgow at your pace, then board the one-hour direct coach from Glasgow to Edinburgh's airport for your departing flight home or onward. Safe travels!

More Great Scotland Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Scotland? Check out these other Scotland itineraries, explore different ways to spend 13 days in Scotland, or discover the best time to visit Scotland


Map of Culture & Creativity Tour in Scotland - 13 Days
Map of Culture & Creativity Tour in Scotland - 13 Days