Live a hiker's dream with a one-week adventure in Cairngorms National Park—the largest protected area in the UK. Throughout this excursion into the unspoiled Scottish wilds, you'll traverse the very same paths as Highlanders have through the ages. Beyond discovering hidden trails and hiking to viewpoints offering unforgettable panoramic views, you'll enjoy the country's other highlights. These include tours of Edinburgh, boat rides on Loch Ness, a trip to Trossachs National Park, and more.

Highlights

  • Stroll Edinburgh's cobbled streets and discover its medieval Old Town
  • Travel to Inverness and take a boat ride on the legendary Loch Ness
  • See the highlights of Cairngorms National Park on a hiking adventure
  • Visit the stunning forests, lochs, and glens of Trossachs National Park

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Edinburgh Edinburgh
Day 2 Edinburgh to Inverness, Castles & Lochs Inverness
Day 3 Cairngorms National Park Hike & Speyside, Whiskey Tour Inverness
Day 4 Cairngorms National Park Hike & Abernethy Nature Reserve Aberlour
Day 5 Cairngorms National Park Hike, Glen Feshie Pitlochry
Day 6 Pitlochry & Countryside Excursions Pitlochry
Day 7 Trossachs National Park & Transfer to Edinburgh, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle, the city's most famous landmark

Welcome to the capital of Scotland! Edinburgh is one of the most well-preserved ancient cities in western Europe, and you can see this history in its medieval and Georgian architecture. For this reason, Edinburgh has earned UNESCO World Heritage status. After checking in to your hotel, you'll be free to head out and discover this city's rich history and culture on your own.

Stroll the old cobbled streets as you make your way down the Royal Mile (Edinburgh's main thoroughfare) and marvel at the Gothic architecture. Perhaps head to nearby Holyrood Palace, the official residence of British monarchs since the 16th century. You'll want to hike up Castlehill to the city's most famous landmark: the 12th-century Edinburgh Castle. You can head inside for a fee or enjoy the views from around the front of the castle. 

Beyond that, it's always fun to walk around Edinburgh's historic Old Town. There are plenty of historic pubs, charming cafés, traditional restaurants, and shopping options to keep you well busy for the rest of the day. 

Day 2: Edinburgh to Inverness, Castles & Lochs

Castle ruins at Loch Ness

You'll transfer north from Edinburgh about three hours to Inverness in the morning. This historic city is the capital of Scotland's Highlands region and sits on the shores of Loch Ness. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and will have the remainder of the day to explore the city and the surrounding countryside.

One must-visit highlight is Cawdor Castle. Located a few miles northeast of Inverness, the castle has been home to the Cawdor family since the 14th century. It looks every bit the part of a medieval fortress, with its iron gate, drawbridge, turrets, and moat. There's even a room inside with a legendary holly tree that's been there since the late 1300s. You can stroll the castle's well-manicured gardens and surrounding oakwood on a visit.

Of course, no visit to Inverness would be complete without a trip to nearby Loch Ness. Take a ride on the lake and see if you can spot the famous monster. A ride down the Caledonian Canal, which connects to the loch, is also filled with beautiful scenery. Other options include visiting Inverness' 19th-century Victorian Market, the Highlanders Museum, and the nearby Bronze Age cairns (burial mounds).

However, you decide to spend the day, make sure to be back at your hotel early and in bed at a reasonable hour. You'll need the rest—your multi-day hiking adventure begins tomorrow. 

Day 3: Cairngorms National Park Hike & Speyside, Whiskey Tour

Experience the untamed Cairngorms National Park

Take a scenic drive south from Inverness into Cairngorms National Park. This unspoiled region covers 1,748 sq miles (4,528 sq km), making it the largest national park in Britain. The area is filled with incredible landscapes of heather moors, peatlands, and Caledonian Forest abounding with pine and aspen trees. Home to five of the UK's six highest mountains, Cairngorms is also a must-visit for nature lovers. It's home to a quarter of the UK's threatened species, such as the Scottish wildcat and mountain hare.

The adventure begins when you arrive at the trailhead in the Cairngorms. You'll spend the day hiking the ancient trails in the region of Speyside, which is home to over 60 whiskey distilleries—the highest in Scotland by far. The paths you'll hike are the same ones that whiskey smugglers once used. The route will lead you to the Macallan Distillery, part of a lovely estate on the River Spey that was founded in 1824 and produces one of the world's leading single-malt whiskies. After a tour and sampling, you'll return to Inverness. 

Day 4: Cairngorms National Park Hike - Abernethy Nature Reserve

See if you can spot the majestic red deer

Today's excursion is a real treat for animal lovers. You'll head back into the Cairngorms in the morning and explore the Abernethy National Nature Reserve. This protected area covers 30,000 acres stretching from the River Nethy to the top of Ben Macdui (the second-highest mountain in Scotland), high on the Cairngorm plateau. The reserve is a haven for wildlife, including various mammals and over 70 species of birds.

Upon arrival, you'll follow one of the easy trails running through the reserve and get up close and personal with the inhabitants of this ancient woodland. Look out for red squirrels, badgers, pine martens, tawny owls, yellow siskins, plus the majestic roe and red deer. Also, the treetops around Loch Garten are filled with nesting ospreys in the summer.

After enjoying a day of birding and wildlife spotting in the Highland pinewoods, you'll head north from the reserve to the town of Aberlour, where you'll overnight. 

Day 5: Cairngorms National Park Hike, Glen Feshie

Cairngorms National Park
Hike the fertile valleys in the Cairngorms

Get ready for a full day hiking through one of the most beautiful valleys in the Cairngorms. Glen Feshie is part of a 66-sq-mile (172-sq-km) private estate home to the rich Caledonian Forest of ancient pines. Just a few decades ago, Glen Feshie was all but destroyed by deforestation; however, in recent years, it has been restored to its former glory by proper land management.

Now the native flora and fauna thrive here, and you'll witness it firsthand on today's excursion. The hike also offers educational benefits, as you'll learn about Scotland's successful re-wilding programs that have rejuvenated some of the most beautiful landscapes in the country. You can now walk through ancient pine forests teeming with exotic wildlife and look over high plateaus to spectacular views across the hills, moorlands, and valley. 

Afterward, you'll travel south into the heart of Scotland and the town of Pitlochry, where you'll overnight.

Day 6: Pitlochry & Countryside Excursions

The incredible Queen's View, near Pitlochry 

Located at the doorstep of the Cairngorms, Pitlochry is an 18th-century town in a lovely section of the Highland countryside on the River Tummel. It's also the site of one of the most beautiful vistas in Scotland: Queen's View, which looks out over Loch Tummel. Legend states that it earned its name after Queen Victoria visited in 1866 and marveled at the area's beauty. On a clear day, you can see the peaks of the Glen Coe mountains on Scotland's west coast.

You'll visit Queen's View to snap photos, plus there are many other activities nearby. You can tour the Blair Athol Distillery and sample some single malts and/or visit the 13th-century Blair Castle and Gardens, the ancestral home of Clan Murray. The area is also a good base for hiking. Discover Killiecrankie Gorge, the site of one of the goriest battles in Scotland's history that is today a rich conservation area. Admire the views at Soldier's Leap, where the River Garry flows through a narrow pass. Then learn about the area's history, geology, and wildlife at the visitor center. 

Day 7: Trossachs National Park & Transfer to Edinburgh, Depart

Enjoy more Highland scenery at Trossachs National Park

Today you'll continue south into Trossachs National Park. This 63-sq-mile (163-sq-km) protected region is home to beautiful lakes, wooded glens, and rushing rivers. It's a great place to hike, enjoy unspoiled nature, and spot unique birdlife such as the black grouse, golden eagle, and osprey. Maybe take a cruise on Loch Katrine and cycle around the lakeshore; see the rushing Falls of Dochart in the town of Killin; and, if time allows, head to the village of Arrochar, nestled in the high mountains on Loch Goil.

You'll transfer back to Edinburgh at the end of the day, where you'll catch your flight home. Safe travels!

More Great Scotland Itineraries

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Map

Map of Hiking the Scottish Highlands - 7 Days
Map of Hiking the Scottish Highlands - 7 Days