This grand 15-day Scotland adventure takes you from Glasgow into the Highlands and out to the remote Shetland Islands archipelago. Along the way, you'll stomp around Stirling Castle, cruise Loch Ness and Loch Lomond, visit Cairngorms National Park, explore the ethereal Isle of Skye, meet friendly Shetland ponies, and ride the famous Jacobite Steam Train. Explore deeper and farther than most tourists with an itinerary that weaves history, nature, and culture into two memorable weeks.


  • Discover Mackintosh's artistic legacy in Glasgow with an art historian
  • Try to spot the elusive Loch Ness Monster while in Inverness
  • Meet friendly Shetland ponies and hike the Eshaness Cliffs
  • Ride the Jacobite Steam Train across the Glenfinnan Viaduct
  • Get swept up in the music and dance of a traditional Scottish ceilidh

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Glasgow, Discover Mackintosh's Legacy in Glasgow Glasgow
Day 2 Drive to Stirling, Visit Bannockburn Battlefield & The Kelpies Stirling
Day 3 Visit Stirling Castle, Drive to Aviemore via Blair Atholl Castle Aviemore
Day 4 Explore Cairngorms National Park, Drive to Inverness Inverness
Day 5 Culloden Battlefield Private Tour Inverness
Day 6 Loch Ness Cruise & Urquhart Castle Inverness
Day 7 Fly to Lerwick, North Shetland Landscapes Tour Lerwick
Day 8 Shetland History & Scenery Tour, Free Time Lerwick
Day 9 Hike the Eshness Cliffs, Free Time Lerwick
Day 10 Fly to Inverness, Drive to Fort William, See the Jacobite Steam Train Fort William
Day 11 Day Trip to the Isle of Skye Fort William
Day 12 Drive to Oban, Free Time Oban
Day 13 Traditional Scottish Ceilidh Experience Oban
Day 14 Drive to Glasgow, Loch Lomond Cruise Glasgow
Day 15 Depart Glasgow  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Glasgow, Discover Mackintosh's Legacy in Glasgow

Charles Rennie Mackintosh House
Explore buildings designed by architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1901

Welcome to Glasgow, Scotland's largest and most buzzing city! This modern destination has been shaped by its rich industrial heritage, reflected in the grand Victorian architecture that's now juxtaposed with modern structures. On arrival, a private driver will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel. Drop your bags, refresh, and set out to explore the city. Visit the famous Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the University of Glasgow, then explore the boutiques of West End or go for a walk along the picturesque River Clyde.

Later, you'll discover the life, works, and tales of Glasgow's most famous designer, architect, and artist, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. With your expert guide, you'll take a deeper look at his life, marriage, influences, and incredible expertise. Over two hours, you'll visit some of his most famous works that still stand to this day, his first married home, and some lesser-known treasures along the way. You'll finish at Willow Tearoom, designed by Mackintosh in 1903.

Day 2: Drive to Stirling, Visit Bannockburn Battlefield & The Kelpies

The Kelpies
Check out the horse sculptures, each of which contains around 18,000 pieces

After breakfast, collect your rental car and drive 40 minutes north of Glasgow. Stirling is a city with a long history of kings, queens, and battles. In town, you'll find the finest concentration of medieval buildings in Scotland. On the edge of town, make a visit to the Bannockburn Battlefield, where Scottish leader Robert the Bruce defeated the English in a key clash during the Wars of Scottish Independence. The visitor center uses 3D technology to bring this thrilling chapter of Scottish history to life, and there's even an interactive element so you can command a medieval battle.

After, drive 20 minutes south to visit The Kelpies in Falkirk, a colossal art installation by Andy Scott. According to Scottish folklore, kelpies are horse-like water spirits that are said to have the strength and endurance of 100 horses. The Kelpies are said to haunt lochs and appear as victims, enticing people to ride them before taking them down to a watery grave. The 100-foot-high (30 m) statues are an ode to the horse-powered heritage of central Scotland. Return to Stirling and check into your accommodation for the night.

Day 3: Visit Stirling Castle, Drive to Aviemore via Blair Atholl Castle

Stirling Drone pic
Stop at Stirling Castle, where Mary Queen of Scots was crowned in 1542

Today you'll walk through one of the most significant castles in Scottish history. Stirling Castle is where the Great Siege took place in 1304, when Edward I, the Hammer of the Scots, 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.

Then, visit the National Wallace Monument. This famous landmark commemorates the life of the patriot and martyr Sir William Wallace and overlooks the scene of his greatest victory at the 1297 Battle of Stirling Bridge. After, it's time to hit the road north to Aviemore, a 2.5-hour drive. En route, stop at Blair Atholl Castle, home to the Atholl family for over seven centuries. Admire the fine 18th-century interiors and Scots baronial architecture, then explore the 9-acre (3.6 ha) gardens, where you'll find an extensive wooded grove, a ruined Kirk, a red deer park, and a Gothic folly. 

Day 4: Explore Cairngorms National Park, Drive to Inverness

pitlochry lake view
Drive around Pitlochry and Cairngorms National Park and see landscapes like this

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. Nestled on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park sits the charming town of Pitlochry. With the scent of the Highlands in the air, take time to stand back and admire the view.

Then discover Killiecrankie Gorge, once the site of one of the goriest battles in Jacobite history and now a rich conservation area. Soak up the views, marvel at the 18-foot-wide (5.5 m) Soldier's Leap, and learn about the history, geology, and wildlife at the visitor center. Admire 'the best view in Scotland' and follow in the footsteps of Queen Victoria at the Queen's View, overlooking the picturesque Loch Tummel. Finally, continue onto Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, and your base for the next three nights.

Day 5: Culloden Battlefield Private Tour

Sunrise over Culloden Battlefield.
Learn about the historic Culloden Battlefield from a private guide

Today you'll visit the Culloden Battlefield, 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. On top of a ridge, 3 miles (6.4 km) from Inverness, is where Bonnie Prince Charlie's Jacobite army was defeated. In less than an hour, around 1,300 men were slain—more than 1,250 of them Jacobites.

A private guide will share tales of history as you wander the battlefield. You'll see the Well of the Dead, the Main Cairn, and the Clan Graves, where the soldiers are buried. Enter 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, and the site attracts many descendants whose families were forced, or chose, to leave Scotland. After you could visit the nearby Clava Cairns, one of Scotland's most important prehistoric sites, before returning to Inverness.

Day 6: Loch Ness Cruise & Urquhart Castle

Loch Ness Cruise & Urquhart Castle
Boat past Urquhart Castle while exploring Loch Ness by boat
Plan your trip to Scotland
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

No one can resist the mythical Loch Ness: its beauty evokes a sense of wonder, while its monstrous depths are legendary. This morning, make your way to Dochgarroch, just outside of Inverness, for a two-hour cruise on the legendary waters of Loch Ness and Thomas Telford's famous Caledonian Canal. Aboard a catamaran, you'll set off, soaking in the views of Great Glen, Aldourie Castle, Bona Lighthouse, and the spectacular Urquhart Castle, following in the footsteps of Queen Victoria. Hear stories about the elusive Loch Ness Monster, and try to spot "Nessie."

Then, unearth more than 1,000 years of history at the ruins of Urquhart Castle. Snap panoramic pictures with the loch from the Grant Tower, imagine the banquets that once took place in the Grand Hall, and peer into a gloomy prison cell said to have held legendary Gaelic bard Dòmhnall Donn. In the late afternoon, return to Inverness and find a cozy local pub for a traditional Scottish meal and a pint of beer.

Day 7: Fly to Lerwick, North Shetland Landscapes Tour

Shetland pony
Meet friendly Shetland ponies on the island of Shetland

This morning, you'll drop off the rental car and board a flight for the Shetland Islands. This Scottish archipelago is characterized by its rugged landscapes, dramatic coastlines, and rich cultural heritage. Here, you'll find a mix of Norse and Scottish influences, evident in their dialect, traditions, and architecture. Naturally, the island is a magnet for outdoor enthusiasts, with plenty of seabirds and seals. When you land in Lerwick, collect another rental car for your time on the island and check into your hotel.

This afternoon, you'll meet a local guide to explore North Shetland landscapes and hidden gems together. For many, visiting the dramatic cliffs at Eshaness is a highlight of their trip to Shetland. On your way north, you'll travel through the Tingwall Valley, stopping to meet native Shetland ponies. Then comes the magnificent Eshaness cliffs and lighthouse. Pause for refreshments at the Braewick Café in Eshaness, then drive past Scalloway, the ancient capital of Shetland. Return to Lerwick and try local seafood or Shetland lamb dishes such as a salted mutton soup called reestit for dinner.

Day 8: Shetland History & Scenery Tour, Free Time

Shetland Isles broch
See an Iron Age broch like this one while exploring Shetland today

Delve into the past today with a half-day tour of Scatness. Along with a local guide, you'll step back in time when you visit the Old Scatness Broch and Iron Age Village. Dating back to between 400BC and 200BC, the broch and surrounding village were later used and modified by Pictish people and later by Vikings. As you wander the villages, you'll gain a taste of how people lived in Neolithic times, and your knowledgeable guide will share both Shetland history and explain how locals live on this remote archipelago today.

You'll also see some of the most spectacular scenery in the South Mainland of Shetland, including the beautiful St Ninian's Isle. Plus, you'll meet more friendly Shetland ponies, go seal spotting, and seek out numerous locations seen in the "Shetland" TV series. Your trip will end with lunch or refreshments before heading back to Lerwick. Use your free time to explore the capital of the Shetland Islands. You could visit the Shetland Museum to learn even more about the history, culture, and heritage of the island or explore Fort Charlotte, an imposing 17th-century fortification with views.

Day 9: Hike the Eshness Cliffs, Free Time

Experience the dramatic cliffs of Eshaness, which are a reason why many visit Shetland

Today you'll return to the dramatic coastal cliffs of Eshaness for an easy coastal hike. Lace up your walking shoes and set out to marvel at the striking geological formations, sea stacks, and natural arches up close. While you're enjoying the scenic views, keep an eye out for the seabirds, seals, and otters that call this area of Shetland home. Breathe in the vast expanse of the North Atlantic Ocean to one side and appreciate the raw beauty of your surroundings.

The rest of the day is yours to enjoy Shetland. You could join a wildlife-watching excursion to spot seals, otters, seabirds, and perhaps orcas and whales in the surrounding waters. Or return to Lerwick, where you can stroll along the picturesque waterfront, lined with colorful buildings, shops, and cafés. Sit down and soak up local life on the island. Lerwick is famous for its events, such as the Up Helly Aa fire festival, which reveals Shetland's vibrant community and traditions.

Day 10: Fly to Inverness, Drive to Fort William, See the Jacobite Steam Train

Loch Ness Cruises
The world-famous Jacobite Steam Train is better known as the Hogwarts Express!

Board the Jacobite Steam Train today, a service made famous by the "Harry Potter" movies. This steam locomotive-hauled tourist train service makes two trips per day along part of the West Highland Line. After landing back in Inverness this morning, collect another rental can and make the two-hour drive to Fort William, where you'll board the service that runs for 41 miles (66 km) to coastal Mallaig. This two-hour train ride has been described as one of the greatest railway journeys in the world.

Along the route, enjoy the beauty of Loch Eil, Loch Morar, River Morar, and Arisaig. You'll cross the Glenfinnan Viaduct, the longest concrete railway bridge in Scotland at a whopping 1,250 feet (380 m) long. While the "Harry Potter" films made it famous, this bridge with 100-foot-high (30 m) arches was actually completed in 1898. At the end of the line lies Mallaig, a small fishing port where you can enjoy fish and chips for lunch before boarding the train for the return journey to Fort William, the adventure capital of the UK and your base for the next two nights. 

Day 11: Day Trip to the Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye
Explore the best of the Isle of Skye with a full-day tour

The often dramatic and ethereal Isle of Skye is known for its rugged, mountainous terrain and the iconic Cuillin Range. Today you'll discover the almost mythical isle, with its high cliffs, sea stacks, and picturesque fishing villages, in an action-packed day with a local guide. Make the one-hour drive north to Invermoriston, where you'll set off together to explore the island on a carefully crafted itinerary, packing in as many sights as possible without feeling rushed.

Sit back and let your guide and driver safely maneuver the single-track roads and tourist traffic while you enjoy the world-class scenery. Admire the Fairy Pools, a series of enchanting natural pools and waterfalls, and cross the Trotternish Peninsula, where you might see the iconic rock formations of the Old Man of Storr and the Quiraing. After a huge day on the road, you'll return to your car in Invermoriston and make the drive back to Fort William.

Day 12: Drive to Oban, Free Time

Oban, West coast of Scotland
Take a leisurely stroll through Oban's charming streets to finish the day

Jump in the car and journey one hour south today. You're headed to Oban, the main gateway to many of the Hebridean islands. This waterfront town is set on a delightful bay with sweeping views of Kerrera and Mull. It's peaceful in winter, but in summer, the town center is crowded with holidaymakers and travelers headed for the archipelago. Naturally, Oban is a great destination to enjoy Scotland's brilliant seafood, and there's no better spot than by the water, especially as the sunsets.

The rest of the day is yours to explore as you wish. You could visit McCaig's Tower, a striking hilltop monument with panoramic views of the town and its spectacular surroundings. Then descend to the waterfront for a walk around the harbor, taking in sea breezes and eyeing up tonight's dinner arriving at the port. If you're a whiskey fanatic, squeeze in a visit to the Oban Distillery to sample the local dew. Round out the afternoon with a leisurely stroll through Oban's charming streets and shop for souvenirs at local artisan boutiques.

Day 13: Traditional Scottish Ceilidh Experience

Traditional Scottish Ceilidh Experience in Oban
Learn about the traditional Scottish ceilidh, a high-energy celebration of culture

Do you know what a ceilidh is? Pronounced "kay-lee," a ceilidh is a traditional Scottish social gathering with live music, folk dancing, and an energetic and inclusive atmosphere. Tonight you'll get swept up in the music and dance with a special experience involving bagpipes, accordion, singing, and dancing. Over two hours, you'll learn to "Strip the Willow" and other common ceilidh dances, like the "Dashing White Sergeant." Ceilidhs are a significant part of Scottish culture and are often held at weddings, festivals, and other social events as a way to celebrate and have fun.

Until then, you'll have the whole day free to explore as you please around Oban. You could relax in town and enjoy a slow day, tour the Oban Distillery to discover how whisky is made, or join a wildlife cruise and explore the small islands off the coast while spotting marine life. 

Day 14: Drive to Glasgow, Loch Lomond Cruise

Loch Lomond Cruise
Loch Lomond often looks like a watercolor painting

The largest freshwater loch in Scotland, Loch Lomond, is an area of natural splendor, a 90-minute drive south of Oban. Here, you can go boating, kayaking, and paddleboarding on the clear waters or hiking and cycling in the surrounding Trossachs National Park. Whatever you decide to do, first explore the wild beauty of this national park—full of mountains, lochs, forests, and glens—with a one-hour cruise. Sail north past the waterfalls at Inversnaid and take in the sprawling glens and rocky Arrochar Alps. Relax and hear tales of the history and geology of Loch Lomond as you cruise.

Stop in the picturesque lakeside villages of Balmaha or Luss for a late lunch, then choose to stay immersed in nature and climb Conic Hill. Otherwise, make the 50-minute drive to Glasgow and check into your accommodation. It's your final evening in Scotland, so find a cozy pub with a great vibe for a traditional and hearty meal of haggis, neeps, and tatties, along with a pint or a dram of whisky. 

Day 15: Depart Glasgow

Pollok Country Park
Visit Pollok Country Park, which was named the best park in Europe in 2008

If you have time before your flight today, venture out of the city limits to Pollok Country Park. The largest park in Glasgow, this green oasis offers over 360 acres (146 ha) of woodland and garden. Admire the Georgian beauty of Pollok House, see Highland cattle, and even visit a Fairy Garden. While you can simply get lost within the big park, you might like to follow one of the official routes: the Highland Cattle Walk (red markers), the Pond Walk (blue markers), or the Burrell Walk (yellow markers).

And finally, your 15-day road trip across Scotland comes to an end. Hop in the car one last time and drive to the airport. Make sure you allow enough time to drop off your rental car ahead of your flight home or onward. Safe travels!

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Map of Ultimate Scotland Tour of Glasgow, the Highlands & Shetland Islands - 15 Days
Map of Ultimate Scotland Tour of Glasgow, the Highlands & Shetland Islands - 15 Days