Taste your way through the Highlands and islands of Scotland on this 10-day self-drive itinerary that combines stunning scenery with unforgettable culinary excursions. Start in the capital of Edinburgh, where you'll visit local markets and artisan shops on a foodie's walking tour. Learn about the history and culture of the Highlands in Inverness, then head to the Hebrides to hop between the islands of Skye and Islay—where you'll savor local seafood and sample smoky single malts at the islands' famed distilleries.

Highlights

  • Take a culinary tour of Edinburgh's best artisanal shops & markets
  • Explore the culture & history of the Highlands in Inverness
  • Sample local seafood & world-class cuisine on the Isle of Skye
  • Spot sea birds, seals & castles as you cruise off the coast of Mull
  • Tour the famous island whisky distilleries of Islay

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Edinburgh, Historian Guided Walking Tour Edinburgh
Day 2 Edinburgh Food Tour, Drive to Inverness & Culloden Battlefield Tour Inverness
Day 3 Drive to the Isle of Skye Skye
Day 4 Skye & Raasay Whisky Trail Skye
Day 5 Skyeskyns Tannery Visit & Three Chimneys Culinary Experience Skye
Day 6 Drive to Oban, Boat Tour to the Coast of Mull Oban
Day 7 Fly to the Isle of Islay Islay
Day 8 Islay Whisky Tasting Tour Islay
Day 9 Fly to Oban, Drive to Edinburgh Edinburgh
Day 10 Depart Edinburgh  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Edinburgh, Historian Guided Walking Tour

Edinburgh's scenic skyline
Welcome to Scotland! Upon arrival at the airport in Edinburgh, you'll be met by your private driver and transferred to your hotel. Scotland's capital since the 15th century, Edinburgh is a lively and picturesque town set amongst rocky hills and crags, filled with quirky charm and atmospheric corners to explore. Highlights include Holyrood Palace, the royal residence since the 16th century, the Old Town’s picturesque jumble of medieval tenements piled high along the Royal Mile, and hilltop Edinburgh Castle, a royal fortress that dominates the city's scenic skyline.
 
In the afternoon, join a three-hour historian-led private tour to explore the city's rich history. You'll begin in the shadow of Salisbury Crags and Arthur’s Seat, dramatic parts of the former royal hunting grounds of Holyrood Park. Move on to admire 17th-century mansions clustered nearby, visit sites of old breweries and sugar houses, and catch a glimpse of the city's industrial past. You'll learn about the Scottish alleyway, called a close, and wander through many of them in the atmospheric Old Town. Continue to the Canongate Tolbooth and learn how this part of Edinburgh is closely connected with Mary, Queen of Scots, and Bonnie Prince Charlie, both of whom stayed in the palace at different times. At the end of the Canongate, you'll reach the Flodden Wall, 16th-century fortifications built to keep invaders out.
 
After this immersive tour, you'll see how the Royal Mile functions as the central spine of a town where medieval "skyscrapers" are crisscrossed by narrow lanes, and come away with an understanding of the pivotal moments that shaped Edinburgh's

Day 2: Edinburgh Food Tour, Drive to Inverness & Culloden Battlefield Tour

Drive to Inverness, the "capital of the Highlands"

Work up an appetite on this morning's three-hour culinary tour. Led by a chef or food writer, this tour gives you insider access to some of Edinburgh’s top food shops, where you'll meet shop owners, taste artisanal products, and discover some of the best-kept secrets of Scottish culinary traditions. Your walk starts in the up-and-coming area of Stockbridge, where you can visit Scotland’s oldest specialist deli and wine merchant or stop at the city's first independent coffee shop to learn about the local renaissance of good coffee. Browse the season's wild game in the window of a real butcher shop, then slip inside to taste some game pies. In the market, sample some of the hot and cold smoked salmon, haddock, trout, and seafood from an award-winning smokehouse.
 
Afterward, it's time to bid Edinburgh farewell for now as you pick up your rental car and head north towards the Highlands and Inverness, a compact and charming city on the banks of the River Ness.

After checking into your accommodations, you can visit the nearby Culloden Battlefield for a moving and fascinating tour. The site of the last battle on British soils, Culloden sits on top of a ridge, four miles east of Inverness. Here the final conflict of the Jacobean Uprising in 1746 changed the shape of the Highlands forever, and the Jacobite army of Bonnie Prince Charlie met a chilling end. After a stop at the multi-media center onsite, your private guide will take you for a walk on the battlefield. Because so many Highland families ended up leaving Scotland, Culloden has become a focal point for their returning descendants and a site of global importance in terms of cultural visits.

Alternately, opt for a two-hour cruise along the Caledonian Canal to the legendary waters of Loch Ness. Boarding at Dochgarroch, the breathtaking journey takes you past the lakeside ruins of Urquart Castle and a panorama of mountains, water, and sky.

Day 3: Drive to the Isle of Skye

Welcome to the Hebrides!

Today you'll get back on the road and drive west to the Isle of Skye. The largest island in the Inner Hebrides, Skye boasts a breathtaking coastline of peninsulas and coves radiating out from a mountainous center. Known for its rugged beauty and charming fishing villages, the island is also famous for its excellent whiskey.

Your destination for the night is the pretty portside town of Portree, where you'll get checked into your hotel and rest up for a full day of island exploration tomorrow.

Day 4: Skye & Raasay Whisky Trail

Skye & Raasay Whisky Trail
Enjoy spectacular scenery along the Skye & Raasay Whisky Trail 
Embark on an exciting full-day journey through Skye's whiskey heritage today, visiting three distilleries over two Hebridean islands. With private transportation and a whiskey guide to lead the way, you'll tour Skye's two historic distilleries, Talisker and Torabhaig, before catching a ferry to the nearby Isle of Raasay to sample their eponymous spirit alongside accompanying chocolates to compliment the complex flavors. All three distilleries are located in magnificent settings, and you'll enjoy scenic views as you learn about how water, climate, and land shape the character of the islands' remarkable whiskies.

Day 5: Skyeskyns Tannery Visit & Three Chimneys Culinary Experience

Learn about the history of sheepskin on Skye

Explore some of Skye's traditions today with a visit to Skyeskyns Tannery, where you'll learn about the time-honored methods of sheepskin production and leather making. After a 15-minute tour of the tannery and its processes, you'll visit the showroom to discover the many different breeds and types of sheepskin. 

Get settled into your hotel, then head to the Skye Serenity Spa and soothe tired muscles with a full body massage using locally sourced seaweed oil. Designed to detox and balance the body while removing areas of tension and stress, it's the perfect way to pamper yourself after some long days of sightseeing.

In the evening, embark on an unforgettable culinary experience with a six-course tasting menu at the renowned Three Chimneys. Considered one of the best restaurants in the UK and the world, the dishes at Three Chimneys are all "mile zero"—with oysters fished from the bay, crab from nearby Loch Bracadale, lobster from Loch Dunvegan, and local Talisker whisky flavoring sauces and deserts. The cuisine is both traditional and inventive but always refined. You'll sit at the communal kitchen table, watching the tableau of a busy kitchen as they prepare an evening of world-class dishes and drink pairings

Day 6: Drive to Oban, Boat Tour to the Coast of Mull

Iona, off island of Mull
Take a boat trip to the pristine shores of Mull

Make your way back to the mainland today, where you'll drive south to reach the coastal town of Oban. Join a boat tour to explore more of the coast, heading out of Oban Bay into the scenic Firth of Lorn. Here you'll be met with breathtaking views of the Inner Hebridean islands of Mull, Kerrera, and Lismore, and spot native wildlife such as sea eagles, seals, and occasionally dolphins. Make sure to bring your camera—along the two-hour journey you'll also pass three historic coastal castles and get a bird's eye view of the iconic Lismore Lighthouse

The rest of the day is free for you to explore Oban at your leisure. As night falls, savor a local catch from "the seafood capital of Scotland" and end the evening in a cozy pub along the seafront.

Day 7: Fly to the Isle of Islay

Sunset over a distillery on Islay

Today you'll catch a short flight to the exquisite Isle of Islay, the southernmost island of the Inner Hebrides. Famed for its whiskey, the island is home to nine working distilleries, which you'll tour tomorrow on an immersive tasting journey. 

Settle in and enjoy the rest of the day at your leisure—discovering the island's beautiful beaches and bays, traditional villages, and remarkable birdlife.

Day 8: Islay Whisky Tasting Tour 

Enjoy a "wee dram" on a tasting tour of Islay's distilleries
Delve into the world of Scotch whisky today, with a full-day tour of the best distilleries on Islay and neighboring Jura. With a private driver and guide, you'll learn about the unique processes and natural conditions that create the islands' famous peaty, smoky single malts, and sample some of their finest offerings. Among the stops, you'll visit Lagavulin, one of Islay's most famous distilleries that trace its roots back to an illegal still in 1720. Today its 16-year-old single malt with its distinctive label has become one of the best-known whiskies in the world. 

Day 9: Fly to Oban, Drive to Edinburgh

Return to the mainland town of Oban

This morning you'll say your final goodbyes to the Hebrides as you catch a flight back to Oban and the mainland. Then it's time to hit the road and make your way to Edinburgh as you enjoy the scenic drive back through the Highlands. Upon arrival in the capital, drop off your car and get settled into your hotel before heading out for a night on the town. Explore the city's vibrant culinary scene for dinner before toasting your final evening at a cozy traditional pub.  

Day 10: Depart Edinburgh

Sunset over Edinburgh from Calton Hill

Your Scottish adventure draws to a close today as a private transfer takes you to the airport to catch your departing flight. Safe travels!

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Map

Map of Scenic Scotland: Edinburgh, Highlands & Islands - 10 Days
Map of Scenic Scotland: Edinburgh, Highlands & Islands - 10 Days