Beautiful Scotland: Castles, Lochs, Golf, and Whisky
Days 1 and 2. The capital of Scotland is loaded with iconic sights in its Old Town and New Town. Visit Edinburgh Castle and the National Gallery of Scotland, and take tours of the National Museum of Scotland and the modern Scottish Parliament building. Walk along Old Town's Royal Mile and New Town's Princes Street for some fresh air and retail therapy. When the sun goes down, feast on the food of your choice and seek out a traditional pub with live music that will keep your toes tapping.
Logistics: Fly into Edinburgh Airport if you're flying via London and take a taxi or bus to the city center. If you're flying directly into Glasgow from overseas, make your way from Glasgow Airport to Queen Street Station (if traveling by train) or Buchanan Bus Station (if traveling by bus) via taxi or bus. It takes an hour to travel from Glasgow to Edinburgh by car or bus, about 45 minutes by train. Once in the city, explore by foot, public transportation, or taxi. There's no need to rent a car.
Stirling to St. Andrews
Day 3. Rent a car in Edinburgh and drive to the historic city of Stirling. Spend the day visiting Stirling Castle and the National Wallace Monument. If you're eager to tour a distillery, make time for a stop at the Famous Grouse Experience in Crieff. Then drive to the legendary seaside town of St. Andrews, famous for golf. Have dinner at one of the city's exceptional seafood restaurants.
Logistics: Leave Edinburgh after 9 am to miss the worst of the rush-hour traffic. It's 35 mi or a one-hour drive to Stirling from Edinburgh, and 50 mi and 90 minutes from Stirling to St. Andrews. You can easily take a train or bus to these destinations.
St. Andrews to Inverness
Day 4. Spend the morning exploring St. Andrews, known for its castle and the country's oldest university as well as its famous golf courses. The British Golf Museum is here, too. If you've booked well in advance (the time varies by season), play a round of golf. After lunch, drive to Inverness. Along the way, stretch your legs at one of Scotland's notable sights, Blair Castle (just off the A9 and 10 mi north of Pitlochry), a turreted white treasure with a war-torn past. Head to Inverness in the Highlands for the night.
Logistics: It's 150 mi from St. Andrews to Inverness via the A9, a drive that will take 3½ hours. This is a scenic journey, so do stop along the way. You can also take a train or bus.
Around Inverness and Castle Country
Day 5. Use Inverness as a base for exploring the Northeast, a region known for tempting castles and whisky distilleries. Don't visit too many sights or your day may become a forced march; two to three castles or distilleries is a good number. Some of the region's most interesting castles are Kildrummy, a 13th-century architectural masterpiece, and Balmoral, popular because of its royal connection to Queen Elizabeth. Castle Fraser has beautiful gardens. End your day with a visit to Culloden Moor, where Bonnie Prince Charlie's forces were destroyed by the Duke of Cumberland's army. Keep Inverness as your base because of the number of restaurants and entertainment venues.
Alternatives: Prefer whisky to castles? Explore the Malt Whisky Trail in Speyside, near Inverness. Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, and Glen Grant are good choices. Another option for the day is to visit Loch Ness, though it's not one of Scotland's prettiest lakes; still, perhaps you'll spot Nessie. It's a 20-minute drive from Inverness.
Logistics: A car is best for this part of your journey. Rent one in Inverness or sign up for an organized tour; public transportation is not a viable option. Castles are open seasonally, so many close in winter; check in advance. It's about 2 hours from Inverness to Kildrummy. Some sample distances are 30 mi (1 hour) from Balmoral Castle to Kildrummy Castle; 20 mi (30 minutes) from Kildrummy Castle to Castle Fraser; and Castle Fraser to Balmoral, 40 mi (90 minutes). The distilleries are about 90 minutes from Inverness. Some distances between distilleries are 18 mi (50 minutes) from Glenfiddich to Glenlivet; 17 mi (30 minutes) from Glenlivet to Glen Grant; and 13 mi (30 minutes) from Glen Grant to Glenfiddich.
The Isle of Skye
Day 6. Leave Inverness early and head south to Skye. The drive to the island is peaceful, full of raw landscapes and big, open horizons. Stop at Eilean Donan Castle on the way; go in, walk around, and take a few photos. This castle set on an island among three lochs is the stuff postcards are made of. Explore Skye; Glen Brittle is the perfect place to enjoy mountain scenery, and Armadale is a good place to go craft shopping. End up in Portree for dinner and the night.
Logistics: It's 80 mi (a 2-hour drive) from Inverness to Skye. You can take public transportation, but it's best to have the freedom of a car.
Oban via Ben Nevis
Day 7. Leave Skye no later than 9 am and head for Fort William. The town isn't worth stopping for, but the view of Britain's highest mountain, the 4,406-foot Ben Nevis, is. If time permits, take a hike in Glen Nevis. Continue on to Oban, a traditional Scottish resort town on the water. Outside Oban, stop by the Scottish Sealife Sanctuary. At night, feast on fish-and-chips in a local pub.
Logistics: It's nearly 100 mi from Skye to Oban; the drive is 3½ hours without stopping. Public transportation is an option but a challenging one.
Loch Lomond to Glasgow
Days 8 and 9. Enjoy a leisurely morning in Oban and take a waterfront stroll. Mid-morning, set off for Glasgow via Loch Lomond. Stop in Balloch on the loch for fresh oysters and a walk along the bonnie banks. Arrive in Glasgow in time for dinner; take in a play or concert. Spend the next day and night visiting the sights: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Charles Rennie Mackintosh's Glasgow School of Art, and the city's imposing cathedral are a few highlights.
Logistics: It's 127 mi (a three-hour drive) from Oban to Glasgow via Balloch. Traveling by train is a possibility, but you won't be able to go via Balloch. Return your rental car in Glasgow; it's easy to travel around the city by foot, subway, or train.
Day 10. On your final day, leave your suitcases at your hotel and hit Buchanan and Sauchiehall Streets for some of Britain's best shopping. Clothes, whisky, and tartan items are good things to look for.
Logistics: It's less than 10 mi (15 minutes) by taxi to Glasgow's international airport in Paisley but over 30 mi (40 minutes) to the international airport in Prestwick. Be sure you have the correct airport information.
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