This five-day road trip through scenic Scotland gives you a great taste of the highlights. Begin in Edinburgh to do some sightseeing between Old Town and New Town before heading into Stirling and the Highlands to visit plenty of small towns, castles, abbeys, and historic sites. Then, head to Inverness, home of Loch Ness, and board the Jacobite Train—popularly known as the "Hogwarts Express." The grand finale is a visit to the majestic Glen Coe mountains.


  • Stroll Old Town, New Town, and visit the iconic Edinburgh Castle
  • Visit Culloden Battlefield and cruise around Loch Ness in Inverness
  • Board the Jacobite Express for an unforgettable locomotive adventure 
  • Hike and snap plenty of photos among the picturesque Glen Coe mountains

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Edinburgh, Self-Guided Tour Edinburgh
Day 2 Drive to Stirling & the Highlands Inverness
Day 3 Tour Inverness, Loch Ness & Fort William Fort William
Day 4 Day Trip: Jacobite Train  Fort William
Day 5 Tour Glen Coe, Loch Lomond & Depart from Edinburgh  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Edinburgh, Self-Guided Tour

Edinburgh Castle
Work your way to medieval Edinburgh Castle

Welcome to Scotland! Once your plane touches down at Edinburgh Airport, pick up your rental car and drive into the city. It's time to immerse yourself in the must-see highlights in the capital. Edinburgh is a beautiful city with two UNESCO World Heritage designations: one for the wonderfully bustling medieval Old Town and another for New Town, built during the Georgian era. Start by visiting the city's medieval Edinburgh Castle to see Scotland's Crown jewels and go underground to explore some of the city's storied past.

Additionally, climb an extinct volcano (Castle Rock, not to be confused with the other, named Arthur's Seat) and visit some of the museums housing world-renowned works. Other sights to bookmark include the Royal Mile, the medieval city's main thoroughfare, St Giles Cathedral, Holyrood Palace—home of the British monarchy in Scotland—and Princes Street Gardens

Following the day of exploration, head to a pub for a local pour of whisky and a bite to eat.  

Day 2: Drive to Stirling & the Highlands

The River Tummel at sunset from Pitlochry
The River Tummel at sunset from Pitlochry
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Today, start up your rental and head north to reach Stirling, which lies at the intersection between the highlands and lowlands of Scotland. Once the capital of Scotland, Stirling is dominated by the majestic Stirling Castle. Another important historical site in the area is the ruins of Cambuskenneth Abbey, the resting place of King James III of Scotland. Close by is the National Wallace Monument commemorating Sir William Wallace, a 13th-century Scottish hero, brought to the wider world's attention in the film "Braveheart."

Continue north, stopping in Perth on the banks of the River Tay. Perth is known as "The Fair City" due to the story "Fair Maid of Perth" by Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott, authored in 1828. Perth is also known for its Scone Abbey, home to the Stone of Scone (also known as the Stone of Destiny) where the King of Scots was crowned. After, pass through the pretty village of Pitlochry and stop for refreshment before reaching Blair Castle. Home to the Duke of Atholl for more than 700 years, this pristine white castle has a large armory that includes the weaponry used during the Battle of Culloden.

Just before reaching Inverness, embark on a moving tour of the Culloden Battlefield, where the final conflict of the Jacobean Uprising in 1746 changed the shape of the Highlands forever. Nearby, Clava Cairns takes you further back in time, with Bronze Age standing stones and cairns arranged in an ancient woodland. Just 15 minutes north lies Cawdor Castle, which holds a hallowed place in both history and literature as the home of Macbeth.

Once you're done touring, have a nice dinner and relax in Inverness for the evening. 

Day 3: Tour Inverness, Loch Ness & Fort William

The gatehouse of Urquhart Castle beside Loch Ness
The gatehouse of Urquhart Castle beside Loch Ness

Today you'll explore Inverness further with a visit to the Inverness Cathedral before heading to one of Scotland's most famous sights, Loch Ness. Known for the Loch Ness Monster, it's a beautiful location to enjoy walks along the lake. Urquhart Castle sits proudly on the lochside and is a very photogenic spot. Once the largest castle in the Highlands, the now-ruined building has an eerie presence that has seen over 500 years of conflict between the 13th and 17th centuries. To get the best views, board a boat and take a one-hour trip around the lake. 

In the afternoon, make your way west through the rugged mountain wilderness to Fort William, located below Ben Nevis. Take a short walk in the stunningly beautiful Glen Nevis to reach Steall Falls or take a gondola ride. Spend time exploring Fort William, an attractive small town often described as the "Outdoor Capital of the UK." It is a popular base for activity-based vacations, from cycling to skiing. After discovering the gems of Fort William, the evening is at your leisure. 

Day 4: Day Trip: Jacobite Train 

Spend the day aboard the Jacobite Train
Spend the day aboard the Jacobite Train

Get ready for an adventure aboard the Jacobite Train for a 7.5-hour excursion. This steam locomotive-hauled tourist train operates over part of the West Highland Line. It has been running under various names and with different operators every summer since 1984. It has also played an important role in sustaining a scenic route. The Jacobite runs 41 miles (65 km) between Fort William and Mallaig, passing through an area of great scenic beauty. The route is also the same one featured in the "Harry Potter" films as the "Hogwarts Express."

Described as the greatest railway journey in the world, this 82-mile (132 km) round trip takes you past a list of impressive extremes. Start near the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis, then visit Britain's most westerly mainland railway station, Arisaig. Next, pass the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, Loch Morar, and the shortest river in Britain, River Morar. Finally, arrive next to the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis.

At the end of the line is Mallaig, a busy fishing port and ferry terminal with services to Skye and the Small Isles. Once in Mallaig, enjoy time to walk and explore the shops, bars, restaurants, and plenty of fish and chips for lunch. After the active train trip, enjoy your final night in Fort William on your own.

Day 5: Tour Glen Coe, Loch Lomond & Depart from Edinburgh

The stunning scenery of Glen Coe in the Highlands
The stunning scenery of Glen Coe in the Highlands

Today, head into the Highlands from Fort William. The first stop is Glen Coe, one of the most photographed mountain scenes. It is complemented by the impressive Buachaille Etive Mor, which stands like a guard to this stunning glen. The views are breathtaking, with waterfalls tumbling down the rugged mountain slopes. Enjoy a hike to take in this scenery. Glen Coe is one of the most dramatic glens in Scotland, famous for The Glencoe Massacre in 1692, where the Campbells slaughtered the MacDonalds.

It's also nicknamed "The Scottish Hollywood" thanks to the massive amount of blockbuster movies filmed here over the years—since 1935! Movies include "The 39 Steps," "Braveheart," "Harry Potter," "Rob Roy," "Skyfall," and the wildly popular TV series "Outlander."

From Glen Coe, return west and reach the coast before heading south to stop for lunch in the coastal village and the busy port of Oban. Turn east and pass through the stunning Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, skirting the misty banks of the largest freshwater loch in the UK. There are also quaint villages with small houses and colorful flowerbeds to spot around Loch Lomond. Following your final leg, return your rental car to Edinburgh or Glasgow. It's time to say farewell to your memorable Scottish adventure. Until next time!

More Great Scotland Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Scotland? Check out these other Scotland itineraries, with outdoor adventures, castle visits, and best-of tours to hit the highlights or explore different ways to spend 5 days in Scotland.


Map of Scenic Scotland Road Trip: Edinburgh, Inverness & Fort William - 5 Days
Map of Scenic Scotland Road Trip: Edinburgh, Inverness & Fort William - 5 Days