Walk in the footsteps of royalty with this five-day highlights tour of Scotland's spectacular scenery. Discover "paradise in the Highlands" at Balmoral Castle as you pass through the sweeping plateaus of the Cairngorms. Cruise the mysterious Loch Ness and explore Scotland's most photographed castle at Eilean Donan before hiking rugged peaks on the Isle of Skye. A delve into the history and atmospheric backstreets of enchanting Edinburgh rounds off this small but perfectly formed itinerary.


  • Visit the royal residence of Balmoral Castle
  • Cruise by castles and look for Nessie on the legendary Loch Ness
  • Discover the stunning scenery on the Isle of Skye
  • Explore Edinburgh's hidden treasures and historical past with a guided tour

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Edinburgh, Drive to Inverness via Balmoral & the Cairngorms Inverness
Day 2 Drive to the Isle of Skye via Loch Ness & Eilean Donan Castle Isle of Skye
Day 3 Explore the Isle of Skye Isle of Skye
Day 4 Drive to the Trossachs National Park The Trossachs NP
Day 5 Drive to Edinburgh, Guided Walking Tour & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Edinburgh, Drive to Inverness via Balmoral Castle & the Cairngorms

Drive through the stunning Cairngorms National Park

Welcome to Scotland! Upon arrival in Edinburgh, pick up your rental car and set off for Inverness, located on the northeast coast and regarded as the capital of the Scottish Highlands. Make the most of the area's stunning scenery with a drive toward the small picturesque town of Pitlochry, nestled a few miles from the southwestern boundary of the breathtaking Cairngorms National Park. Follow in the footsteps of Queen Victoria and stop at the sweeping view overlooking Loch Tummel before discovering Killiecrankie Gorge, the site of one of the goriest battles in Jacobite history.

Make your way through the dramatic landscape of the Cairngorms as you travel through one of the best scenic drives in the UK. Admire scenery adorned with high mountainous peaks, waterfalls, sparkling streams, hidden lochs, and heather-bound forests. It's easy to see why the area is the much-loved holiday stomping ground of the Royal Family and where the late Queen Elizabeth II felt most at rest. Head to the Balmoral Castle and estate, described by Queen Victoria as "my dear paradise in the Highlands," and, depending on the time of year, visit the castle residence.

The nearby town of Ballater provides an excellent stop for lunch before continuing 45 miles (72 km) north to the village of Aberlour, on the banks of the River Spey. Tour the village's famous distillery and taste what is considered to be the definitive Speyside single malt whisky. From here, it's just under a 90-minute drive to Inverness, where you'll spend the evening.

Day 2: Drive to the Isle of Skye via Loch Ness & Eilean Donan Castle

Castle Urquart overlooking Loch Ness.
Search for Nessie and visit the iconic Castle Urquart ruins above the infamous loch

This morning, travel west to the Isle of Skye—but before you do, there are some spectacular local sights to see first. The legendary waters of Loch Ness are not to be missed. Spend an hour soaking up the stunning mountain views with a cruise along the famous loch in search of "Nessie." Gaze up at the ruins of Urquhart Castle, nestled on the shores of the loch and swathed in 1,000 years of history. 

It's then back on the road to continue your journey west to Skye. Around 15 minutes before you reach the Skye Bridge is the Eilean Donan Castle. Famous for featuring in films and series such as "Highlander," the castle's fortress is the most photographed in Scotland. Stretch your legs with a wander around and enjoy the nearby coffee shop and visitor center. Cross the bridge, and you've officially made it to the largest island in the Inner Hebrides. Known for its rugged beauty and charming fishing villages, the island is also famous for its excellent whisky. 

Your base for the next two nights is the picturesque Portree, Skye's bustling harborside town and island capital. Created as a fishing village at the beginning of the 19th century by Lord MacDonald, Portree is surrounded by hills—Ben Tianavaig to the south and Fingal's Seat to the west. Explore the beautiful pastel-hued houses that adorn the harbor before settling into one of the island's cozy pubs for a bite to eat.

Day 3: Explore the Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye
Explore the magical Isle of Skye

Today is yours to get to know this magical island at your own pace. Renowned for its dramatic landscape, the breathtaking coastline with coves and narrow lochs radiates out from the rugged Cullin Mountains at the heart of the island.

Begin with a visit to the impressive Old Man of Storr before continuing to the 200-foot (60 m) Kilt Rock Waterfall. As you drive farther along the Trotternish Peninsula, discover the spectacular Quirang—a volcanic wonder considered one of the most beautiful places on the island. Take time to explore the stunning scenery before heading to Neist Point—a landmark destination for landscape photographers and famous for its lighthouse and superb views.

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Continue west to visit Dunvegan Castle. Home to Clan MacLeod for the last 800 years, the impressively restored castle dates back to the 13th century. Visit the gorgeous gardens before deciding on any number of dining options for the evening. From seafood shacks to Michelin-starred country hotels, Skye is a place for foodies.

Day 4: Drive to the Trossachs National Park

Trossachs National Park
Explore the immense Trossachs National Park

It's a 186-mile (299 km) drive south this morning to the Trossachs National Park. This 63-square-mile (165 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.

Immerse yourself in the park's numerous lochs, forests, and mountains, surrounded by breathtaking views. Stroll the historic village of Luss on Loch Lomond and discover the rushing Falls of Dochart in the charming village of Killin. Visit Arrochar, nestled high in the mountains on Loch Goil, before driving to Aberfoyle on the banks of the River Forth in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park.

Day 5: Drive to Edinburgh, Guided Walking Tour & Depart

Edinburgh Private Walking Tour: History & Culture
Discover Edinburgh's history and atmospheric backstreets with a guided walking tour 

After breakfast, it's back in the car to travel 63 miles (101 km) southeast to Edinburgh, Scotland's capital since the 15th century. A lively and picturesque town set among rocky hills and crags, Edinburgh is filled to the rafters with quirky charm and atmospheric corners to explore. 

Delve deeper into the city's history with a private walking tour, and spend the morning discovering the city's jewels with your guide. Take in the classic sites from the Old Town's picturesque Royal Mile to the imposing Edinburgh Castle, which dominates the city's scenic skyline. Wander the grand halls of Holyrood Palace, explore the hidden 17th-century underground street of Real Mary Kings Close, and climb Calton Hill for spectacular views across the city and Arthur's Seat. Then it's time to drop off your car and head to the airport or continue your onward journey. Safe travels!

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Map of Self-Drive Scotland: Inverness, Isle of Skye, the Trossachs & Edinburgh - 5 Days
Map of Self-Drive Scotland: Inverness, Isle of Skye, the Trossachs & Edinburgh - 5 Days