At the beginning of May 2014, we left for 12 days in Scotland. I had for a long time dreamed of this country, with its big castles, its green and wild countryside and its lochs. Wanting to avoid the big tourist rush (although in Scotland you are far from the masses of tourists that you have in high season on the Cote d’Azur ^^), I opted for the month of May where the weather is rather pleasant and the countryside is blooming.
Here is my itinerary for this road trip through the main sites of interests in the country. We skipped the north but in 12 days it was a matter of choice and this could definitely be an opportunity to return for a new trip in a few years.
- Day 1
Arrival in Edinburgh : a charming town that has several interesting sights, notably its castle which dominates the city. Count on some time for this visit (we took 2h30) in order to admire the various points of interest, the National War Museum and the different rooms in the castle. Walk in the main road of the old city : the Royal Mile which, even if you are not a fan of shopping, offers typical shops and beautiful architecture. Further along, you will stumble upon the Palace of Holyrood, a place where the queen resides during her stays in Edinburgh. The visit is quite quick and very nice. Sleep in one of the luxury hotels in the city and if you have the time, do something Scottish and have some afternoon tea (Balmoral is an excellent choice for example)
- Day 2
The Real Mary King’s Close is a place not to miss during your adventure. The mandatory guided visit takes you to this ancient 17th century road which is now underground : conditions of life, illnesses, ghosts … the visit is rich in emotions. Although it is very touristy, it is nevertheless an activity that is well worth the detour. Go to the “Scotch Whisky Experience” where we learn over the base of the whisky before browsing in the shop which offers more than a hundred references.
- Day 3
Fetch rental car. Let’s go for the road trip and we begin with little villages. Stop on the way to Anstruther, a little seaside town to taste some fish and chips at Anstruther Fish Restaurant which has for several years, held the title of the best Scottish fish and chips. New stop at Crail for a digestive walk which offers a beautiful panorama. Arrive at St Andrews in the beginning of the afternoon which is a city famous for golf. If you want to try this sport, this is the right place to be ! Taking a walk in the city but also through the ancient cathedral and castle ruins will occupy our afternoon.
- Day 4
Leave in the direction of Scone Palace, a very beautiful castle whose interior as well as grounds are very nice, perfect with a good weather. Back on the road where the big ones make way for the smaller ones where we can admire the beautiful Scottish countryside. Stop at Balmoral Castle which is the holiday residence of the queen. For the night, it’s original : sleep in an ancient church ! A superb experience !
- Day 5
Let’s go for the whisky road where there are about fifty distilleries. We have decided on Macallan distellery : the one hour guided visit begins with explanations on the different processing steps and then ends with a tasting. Stop for lunch at Elgin and then continue on the road up to Cawdor Castel before reaching Inverness for the night.
- Day 6
On the road for Loch Ness, a mythical destination of which many children have dreamed of ! It is one of the most touristy places in Scotland : we looked at the infrastructures which have been built to welcome the groups of travelers but luckily in the beginning of May, the crowds aren’t normally that large ! We haven’t especially wanted to visit the castle ruins (as they are too touristy for our taste), we enjoyed the various view points from the road. Night to be spent close by.
- Day 7
On the road again in the direction of Dornie where we drived between the lochs and the mountains. Arrival at the Eilean Donan castle which proudly stands before us ! A true marvel ! The interior is the same height as the outside and it is a very beautiful visit. Stop for lunch at Plockton and walk to admire the small traditional houses and their gardens on the sea front. Drive to Portree on the Isle of Skye where we reach our hotel. Visit the north of the island : 2h of small roads to admire the lovely countryside that this island offers us. You can make many stops to take photos and go on small walks that lead you to various view points, waterfalls, …
- Day 8
Discover the south part of the Isle of Skye and notably Neist Point which is the spot not to miss on the isle. The roads are narrow, the countryside magnificent and and the aspect of the road trip is at its highest ! Arrive at this abandoned lighthouse which is situated on a cliff. A little walk and we are easily there to enjoy this spectacular panorama. Next, drive in the direction of Dunvegan to visit the MacLeod clan castle.
- Day 9
Leave the Isle of Skye with the ferry that you take to Armadale. After a 30 minute crossing, arrival at Malaig and head off again. The next step is at 1h30 in the car and it is time to enjoy the beautiful Scottish countryside. On the way, make a stop at the Glenfinnan viaduct, well-known in the film “Harry Potter”. Arrival at Glencoe and find your hotel, the Glencoe House, halfway between a hotel and family house, a relaxing and magnificent luxury residence.
- Day 10
Morning walk in the grounds of Glencoe, a blue sky enables us to enjoy it to the maximum ! 2 hours on the road takes us to Inveraray where you can visit the castle : the halls are sumptuous and the the garden is fully blooming. Drive to Oban, a small fishing village where you can spend the night. Before dinner in one of the fish and seafood restaurants, walk along the seafront.
- Day 11
Today, drive towards the largest city in Scotland called Glasgow. In the morning you can discover the city and in the afternoon, go in the direction of the Riverside Museum, where you can explore a large 1896 moored yacht as well as show of cars, motorbikes, bicycles, buses and, in summary, all vehicles throughout the ages. Very nice ! Night in Glasgow.
- Day 12
Return to Edinburgh but first stop at Stirling to visit the largest Scottish castle. Count on 2 hours to explore the different halls as well as the show about the life in the castle. Hand back our rental car before taking your flight which will take you back to home.
• As the Scottish say, there can be 4 seasons in one day. It is therefore essential to be well-prepared, especially with rain clothes that you should carry with you in your bag during walks. Even if there were times when the sky was a magnificent blue, it is not uncommon for it to be the opposite a few hours later !
• Advice for your rental car : driving in Scotland is the other way around, we drive on the left hand side which can be quite unsettling for a novice. It is advisable to rent a vehicle with an automatic transmission which will greatly facilitate driving.