Explore castles, coastlines, and countryside on this 11-day Scotland trip that prioritizes nature, history, and insightful guided experiences. This self-drive itinerary trots through Scotland, crossing through the Kingdom of Fife to Aberdeenshire, into Cairngorms National Park, up to Inverness, and then back to the capital. You'll walk through ancient ruins, hike along beaches, and taste whisky at local distilleries as you take in some of the country's finest scenery.


  • Explore Stirling Castle and visit the William Wallace Monument
  • Visit the UK's only cooperage and taste whisky at Glenfarclas
  • Wander from St Andrews to Kingsbarn along the Fife Coast Walk
  • Go castle hunting during a private scenic tour across Aberdeenshire
  • Experience stunning Perthshire forest with a walk through The Hermitage

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Edinburgh, Old Town Walking Tour Edinburgh
Day 2 Drive to Stirling, Explore Stirling Castle & William Wallace Monument Stirling
Day 3 Drive to St Andrews, Fife Coastal Walk to Kingsbarns St Andrews
Day 4 Drive to Aberdeen via Lindores Abbey Distillery & Arbroath Abbey Aberdeen
Day 5 Castles of Aberdeenshire Tour Aberdeen
Day 6 Drive to Aberlour via Cairngorms National Park & Balmoral Castle Abelour
Day 7 Whisky Tasting at Glenfarclas, Speyside Cooperage, Drive to Aviemore Aviemore
Day 8 Drive to Inverness via Culloden Battlefield & Clava Cairns Inverness
Day 9 Kilt Making Exhibition, Cawdor Castle Inverness
Day 10 Drive to Edinburgh via The Hermitage Walk Edinburgh
Day 11 Depart Edinburgh  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Edinburgh, Old Town Walking Tour

Take a short walk up Calton Hill for great views over the city

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, a private driver will transfer you to your hotel. En route, you might catch a glimpse of Edinburgh Castle, sitting atop an ancient volcanic hill and overlooking the Old and New Town centers. Drop your bags, refresh, and lace up your walking shoes.

This afternoon you'll soak up the best of the Scottish capital's Old Town with a two-hour history tour that details the most interesting stories. You'll hear about warlocks, witches, battles and uprisings, public executions, and a few peculiar local traditions still practiced to this day. Prepare to visit a haunted medieval graveyard, hidden alleyways, wynds, and courts as you wind across the old cobbled streets. It will come as no surprise that this city has produced or inspired so many great writers, including Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mary Shelley, and J.K. Rowling.

Day 2: Drive to Stirling, Explore Stirling Castle & William Wallace Monument

Stirling Drone pic
Learn how Mary Queen of Scots was crowned at Stirling Castle in 1542

Today you'll walk through one of the most significant castles in Scottish history. But first, go collect your rental car. Just an hour's drive from Edinburgh, Stirling Castle is where the Great Siege took place in 1304 when Edward I besieged the fortress. Instead of starving the occupants to surrender, he commanded his troops to attack the castle, and after four months of brutality, Stirling was theirs. Wander up to the rocky aerie and explore the Royal Palace, Chapel Royal, and Regimental Museum. Take in the views over Stirling's cobbled main street and countryside.

Afterward, seek out refreshments in town and visit the National Wallace Monument, situated on the Abbey Craig just outside Stirling. This famous landmark commemorates the life of the patriot and martyr Sir William Wallace and overlooks the scene of his greatest victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Read the story of how the battle was fought and won and of his legacy. Then, of course, admire the Stirling Bridge itself, where the 1297 fight took place. Finally, check into your accommodation for the evening.

Day 3: Drive to St Andrews, Fife Coastal Walk to Kingsbarns

St Andrews Castle
Check out the ruins of St Andrews Castle, then walk along the coastline

After breakfast, make your way 90 minutes east to the coastal town of St Andrews, which is famous for being the birthplace of golf and home to Scotland's oldest university, founded in 1412. Park the car, lace up your walking shoes, and set off for a half-day hike along a lovely section of the Fife Coast Path. You'll pass unspoiled beaches and rocky shores and venture inland along a river and over farmland on this 8.5-mile (13.5km) walk, which takes around three or four hours. Note that the section near Buddo Rock is tidal, so plan your walk to avoid high tide.

Finally, you'll reach Kingsbarn. From here, you can take a 25-minute bus back to town, but since there's no rush—and you don't have to drive—why not drop into Kingsbarn Distillery for a tour and whisky tasting? This relatively new distillery produces award-winning single malts using locally grown barley. Eventually, return to St Andrews, check into your guesthouse for the evening, and find a cozy pub for dinner.

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

Day 4: Drive to Aberdeen via Lindores Abbey Distillery & Arbroath Abbey

Arbroath Abbey
Wander the impressive ruins of Arbroath Abbey, founded in 1178

Today's final destination is Aberdeen, but you'll be making two special detours on the two-hour journey. First, you'll join a Lindores Abbey Distillery experience and make your own aqua vitae. If you fell ill 500 years ago, you'd seek out the apothecary at the local monastery for a tincture of herbs, spices, or fruit to cure your ailments. Venture back to the ancient art of distillation with this workshop, where you'll produce your own aqua vitae spirit. It's a unique souvenir to take home!

Find somewhere for lunch nearby, then return to the road. Your next destination is Arbroath Abbey, on the coast 17 miles (27 km) northeast of Dundee. Explore the extensive ruins of this beautiful medieval abbey, founded by King William I to honor his childhood friend, the murdered Archbishop Thomas Becket. Continue to 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. Check into your accommodation and use the evening to explore its beautiful parks and streets.

Day 5: Castles of Aberdeenshire Tour

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

Can you believe there are 263 castles in Aberdeenshire? You can find them nestled in ancient forests, perched along a fast-flowing river, on high mountain passes, among rolling farmland, and set on cliffs some 50 feet (15 m) above the sea. There are more per acre or hectare than anywhere else in the British Isles due to the turbulent history of invasions and war, rebellion and uprising, independence and occupation that all played out here. Today a private guide will whisk you to see the best and most interesting castles scattered across the countryside.

Explore the evidence of Iron Age hillforts, visit medieval fortresses, see inside Scottish baronial castles, admire Jacobean mansions, and gaze at fortifications added in the 18th century. These evocative fortresses have inspired famous storytellers such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Bram Stoker, Walt Disney, and Franco Zeffirelli—and perhaps you'll be inspired to write a story, too, after today. Return to Aberdeen and find a cozy pub for dinner.

Day 6: Drive to Aberlour via Cairngorms National Park & Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle
Visit the grounds of Balmoral Castle as long as the royal family isn't visiting

Balmoral Castle, which is nestled within Cairngorms National Park, has been a cherished royal retreat since Queen Victoria's time. Prince Albert bought the property for Queen Victoria, and its granite castle was completed in 1856. So long as the royal family isn't visiting, you can drive into 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, so bring a picnic to enjoy or enjoy a simple stroll around the iconic residence.

The drive from Aberdeen takes around 75 minutes, and after touring the grounds, you should stop in the quaint village of Ballater for lunch. Use your afternoon to explore more of the wild national park. You could take a short hike, visit the pretty peach Craigievar Castle, or continue on to Aberlour, your home for the evening.

Day 7: Whisky Tasting at Glenfarclas, Speyside Cooperage, Drive to Aviemore

Speyside Cooperage
Watch artisans at work at the Speyside Cooperage

It's time to taste one of Scotland's greatest exports: whisky. Drive 5 miles (8 km) down the road to Glenfarclas Distillery, a local favorite that's been in the hands of the Grant family for five generations. Here you'll join a 90-minute tasting experience where you'll unravel the mysteries of single malt whisky craftsmanship during a tour of the six-still distillery (designated drivers can grab a tasting pack to go). Hear about the family legacy as you relax with a couple of drams in the gorgeous Ship's Room, then choose which bottle is going home with you.

After, if you have time, visit the Speyside Cooperage to experience the ancient art of barrel making. Here you'll see the highly skilled coopers working at lightning speed, using medieval-looking tools to fix and create the finest casks. Since 1947 this family-owned cooperage has worked with American oak using traditional methods and tools. Later, make your way to Aviemore, a 50-minute drive south. Nestled in Cairngorms National Park, this charming town is a hub for outdoor enthusiasts who flock here for hiking, skiing, and mountain biking.

Day 8: Drive to Inverness via Culloden Battlefield & Clava Cairns

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

This morning, visit the site of the final Jacobite Rising, the last and one of the most harrowing battles 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. Make the 40-minute drive from Aviemore to the Culloden Battlefield visitor center, where you can explore interactive exhibits and view artifacts from the battle. An eerie silence often falls on Drummossie Moor here.

After, visit the nearby Clava Cairns, one of Scotland's most important prehistoric sites, where the remains of an ancient cemetery sit above the River Nairn. Thought to be around 4,000 years old, this sacred place provides many clues to the beliefs of Bronze Age society. Explore prehistoric burial monuments and the remains of a medieval chapel, then continue to nearby Inverness. Here you can visit Inverness Castle, seek out a show at the Eden Court Theatre, or go hiking in Glen Affric.

Day 9: Kiltmaking Exhibition, Visit Cawdor Castle

Cawdor Castle
Learn how Cawdor Castle is famous for its links to Shakespeare's "Macbeth"

Today you'll gain a fascinating insight into the history, tradition, and culture of the kilt—from its origins through to the present day. Set within a kiltmaking workshop, the Scottish Kiltmaker Visitor Centre in Inverness brings the story of the kilt to life with costume and tartan displays.

From here, set off to explore Cawdor Castle, a 25-minute drive from town. This traditional Scottish castle was built and has been inhabited by the Cawdor family for more than 600 years. The fantastic medieval tower was constructed around a legendary holly tree. You can visit the 14th-century fairy-tale castle and explore the three distinct gardens. End the day back in Inverness with a hearty Scottish meal at a cozy local pub, perhaps topped off with a dram of whisky.

Day 10: Drive to Edinburgh via The Hermitage Walk

The Hermitage and Braan Walk.
Wander through the beautiful and lush forest of The Hermitage

Today you'll return to the capital, Edinburgh, but not without one last walk in a mystical stretch of Perthshire forest. Jump in the car and drive two hours south, lapping the western edge of Cairngorms National Park, until you reach The Hermitage, an 18th-century park designed for the Dukes of Atholl. Here a beautiful two-hour, 4-mile (6.5 km) walk through the gorgeous wooded glen, past picturesque follies, giant Douglas fir trees, and attractive waterfalls awaits. Park the car and follow the River Braan, passing Ossian's Hall, which overlooks the roaring Black Linn waterfall.

After, continue south to Edinburgh. Check into your accommodation, then venture out to make the most of your final evening in Scotland. You may like to spend some time wandering the medieval Old Town to discover hidden corners at your own pace, or if the sun is shining, it's always nice to walk up Calton Hill for views of the city. There are several intriguing historic monuments here, including the National Monument, the telescope-shaped commemoration of Admiral Lord Nelson, and the Greek temple-style City Observatory.

Day 11: Depart Edinburgh

Say goodbye to Edinburgh and return to the airport

Finally, jump back in the car one last time for the drive to Edinburgh's airport. Arrive with enough time to drop off your rental car ahead of your flight home or next destination. Safe travels!

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