Best of Scotland in 1 Week

Scotland is a beautiful country that attracts tourists from around the world. If you are planning your perfect 1-2 week long Scotland trip & begin asking around friends & online groups (e.g. VisitScotland forums) for tips, you are likely to hear these phrases more than others:

  • Just rent a car & drive around
  • Oooh definitely go to Skye, it’s breathtaking
  • You can easily spend a week in Edinburgh
  • Take a day-long Highland tour to see the Highlands

Along with these phrases, there will be hundreds of helpful tips inviting you to go to Place X to see the real Scotland. These are the gems you want to action on but they are scattered across the country making it a planning nightmare.

Here’s the catch: You can’t drive or are not confident driving on the “other side”.

Fret not. We are going to provide a sample week-long itinerary based mostly on public transit. This begins and ends at Edinburgh and covers Glencoe, Lochness, Skye, Mull & Staffa. We’ve have done three variants of this trip ourselves & will share pictures. Note that this write-up does not include many other stunning locations documented on this blog (ex: Arran, Islay, etc). Here are all the Scotland trips we have written about.

Note: Timetables are subject to change, double check on the links below.

The further reading section opens links to our detailed blog posts in a new tab. You’ll find local recommendations, public transport options & more pictures on them.

Time to read: 10 minutes

Scotland public transit resources

Map

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Map View of Itinerary

Day 1: Edinburgh to Inverness (via Glencoe, Loch Ness)

This is a hack that worked out really well for us. Take the 1 Day Highland Tour (called the Glencoe, Loch Ness and Highlands tour) from Edinburgh that will cover Callander, Glencoe & Loch Ness but ask the tour company (24 hours beforehand) and the driver to drop you off at Inverness. We recommend this because

  • Reaching Glencoe’s 3 sisters is difficult to reach by public transit & unless you want to ski or live in that area, the 10-15 minute photo-op is ample time to see the Three Sisters view.
  • The cost of the bus tour (£44) is about the same as the Anytime train ticket (£42.30) from Edinburgh to Inverness
  • Does the Loch Ness boat tour (special group pricing) before reaching Inverness which saves you the hassle of taking a bus round trip from Inverness to Loch Ness.

The “Real Scotland” trip will now commence from Inverness. As you’ll reach about 5 PM, take a stroll along the river Ness or visit the cathedral.

Day 1 Pictures

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Glencoe

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One of the 3 Sisters

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Black waters of the Loch Ness

Inverness castle on a sunny day

Inverness Castle on a sunny day

Day 1 Further Reading

Inverness Highland Games

Day 2: Orkney Day Trip from Inverness (feat. Skara Brae)

Although the day trip is stressful (14 hours out of which 7 are spent just to reach Orkney), we feel it is rewarding as it packs in a taste of the isles. We were especially mesmerized by Skara Brae, a 5000 year old stone age neolithic village & the Ring of Brodgar, a circle of standing stones also from the same era. We highly recommend staying for 2-3 days in Orkney if seeing Scotland at a leisurely pace, it is one of the country’s hidden treasures.

Tip: In front of the Italian Chapel is the Orkney Wine Company shop. They specialize in delicious fortified wine & have samples for you to try. It’s some of our favourite wine to this day, give it a try.

Tip: This day can be skipped to spend an additional day in the Isle of Mull (coming up)

Day 2 Pictures

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Ring of Brodgar & Standing Stones

Day 2 Further Reading

Orkney Islands writeup | Isle of Hoy, Orkney daytrip

Day 3: Inverness to Skye (via Eilean Donan castle)

The Citylink bus 917 from Inverness to Skye leaving at 9:15 AM is your direct connection to Skye. However, that would mean missing out on the Inverness – Kyle of Lochalsh Rail line, one of the most dramatic rail journeys possibly in the world.

Our recommendation: Take the 11 AM train to Kyle of Lochalsh (Timetable : Highlands -> North Highlands) and arrive at 1:30 PM. Pre-book a taxi to take you to Eilean Donan castle (about £15) & enjoy one of the most spectacular castles Scotland has to offer. Catch the 3:53 PM bus 915 towards Uig & reach Portree by 5:15 PM (in time for dinner & a harbour walk).

Day 3 Pictures

The Eilean Donan Castle near Kyle of Lochalsh, Scotland

Almost got off the perfect shot

Partial view of the 3 lochs from Eilean Donan

The view coveted by the Lord of the Isles

Day 3 Further Reading

8 Scottish Castles accessible by public transport

Day 4: Skye Day Trip (feat. Fairy Glen, Kilt Rock, Old Man of Storr)

As mentioned in this heartfelt review, we feel Skye Scenic tours is the best way to see Skye. We have been on their tour thrice, the guide Donald really knows the island in & out and the tour is very well paced. We cannot recommend him enough. If you are driving around, pick from the Skye attractions below (TripAdvisor links) to make your own adventure.

Day 4 Pictures

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Fairy pools landscape

Day 4 Further Reading

Isle of Skye Writeup | Walking & camping around Skye

Day 5: Isle of Skye to Isle of Mull (via Fort William)

Similar to Day 3, this is an entire morning of sitting in a bus that hugs the West Coast of Scotland (sit on the right side of the bus for the view). Leave Portree on bus 915 at 7:45 AM for Fort William & change there to the 918 for Oban. Once in Oban (scheduled 12:27), treat yourself to a seafood spread found next to the train station as there is more than an hour left for the ferry. Catch the 1:50 PM CalMac ferry to Craignure or a fast shuttle to Tobermory with Coastal Connections. Spend the rest of the day relaxing & taking in the fantastic views from Mull.

Tip: As described in our Isle of Mull writeup, Shieling Holidays are a great base for Mull but are also self catering. Stock up on groceries in Oban before getting on the ferry if you plan to hire out a Shieling for a couple of days.

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Shieling holidays, Isle of Mull

Tip: Mountain enthusiasts can get off at Fort William & take on Ben Nevis to round their trip off. If they have a spare day, they can also consider Ben More in Crianlarich as it’s on the way back to Glasgow via the Glenfinnan viaduct.

Day 5 Pictures

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Oban on a sunny day

Day 6: Isle of Staffa & Iona (feat. Fingal’s Cave, Iona Abbey)

By this time, the reader’s eyes are glazing over & the traveller’s body is getting tired. But if the weather is right, we think that Day 6 will re-energize you simply with its views. Staying at Craignure makes the trip to Staffa & Iona less challenging. We’ve also done this leg based in Oban.

Take the 8:25 AM 96/496 bus from Craignure to Fionnphort & the switch over to a Staffa Trips / Staffa Tours boat to Staffa. On the way back, choose to get off at Iona & walk over to the abbey. Catch the 3:19 PM bus back to Craignure.

Tip: Stock up on Seafood sandwiches from the shack in Fionnphort & bring them back for dinner, they’re really good.

Day 6 Pictures

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Iona Beach

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Another seal of approval shot

Day 6 Further Reading

Isle of Mull + Staffa daytrip writeup

Day 7: Back to Glasgow/Edinburgh (via Loch Lomond)

We’re going to squeeze out some more sightseeing on the last day by visiting Duart Castle close to Craignure for a bit more than an hour. Have your lunch near the ferry terminal & catch the 1:40 PM ferry to Oban. Then catch the 2:41 PM train to Glasgow Queen Street followed by a final train to Edinburgh (if needed).

Day 7 Pictures

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Duart Castle, Isle of Mull

P.S. Phew, thanks for reading until the very end, we know this was a long read & it’s amazing that you have pored through the details & the pictures. We are passionate about travel & want to spread the word of the true beauty of Scotland (update: one half recently became an official VisitScotland Ambassador!) & other parts of the world that can be accessed even if one cannot drive.

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14 thoughts on “Best of Scotland in 1 Week

  1. Erika N says:

    I have planned a 2 week trip to Scotland starting August 31st with my husband and we are totally relying on public transportation (Yikes!). Our itinerary starts by flying into Glasgow then going straight to Edinburgh for 3 days, then to Fort Wiliam for an overnight. From there we head to Broadford on Skye for 3 nights, Inverness overnight to Pitlochry (for the Highland Games!) for 2 nights then finishing in Glasgow. Is there an easy way to plan out my route via train, bus & ferry? I saw your post about the bus passes (spirit of Scotland). Any side trips/bus tours you would recommend? I’m interested in going to Stirling and maybe St. Andrews possibly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yodandalek says:

      Lookup Traveline Scotland to see a great resource for planning your trip by public transport.

      We have a ton of side trip recommendations for your route 🙂 What kind of attractions interest you most (nature / history / castles / whisky)? As you have a limited amount of time, it would be good to give you targeted recommendations. Also, if your stay isn’t booked, I would recommend putting Edinburgh between Pitlochry & Glasgow as the bus / train for Ft. William leaves from Glasgow and not Edinburgh (making the current route a bit inefficient).

      Like

  2. Nadia says:

    Thank you so much for sharing tips through your travels . Your blog is really helping me to plan my next trips to Scotland .
    And I enjoy the storytelling as much as the pics you publish . Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yodandalek says:

      Thank you for your kind words Nadia. Feel free to ask us any specific questions you think we can help with either here or via a FB message on our page, we will be happy to help.

      Like

  3. Christina Chaviano says:

    Loved your post! Extremely detailed and well thought out. Such a vast area to cover in such a short time and you guys hit it on the mark perfectly! My biggest concern is that I will be starting my trip in Edinburgh on 12/18/17. I know it will be cold (wet and freezing!), but it’s the only time I can go and do not want to miss the opportunity. Do you not recommend this 1 week itinerary during this time?

    Liked by 1 person

    • yodandalek says:

      Hey Christina, first of all, we really appreciate your comment, it gave us a warm, fuzzy feeling. 🙂

      Winters in Scotland are cold, wet and windy in Edinburgh itself. We personally have not dared to go to the Highlands (nor would we suggest this). But we do have a different recommendation for you, contact Historic Scotland to book a place for the winter solstice event in Maeshowe on Orkney and spend your week on the island. Just listening to what happens during this event gave us goosebumps, something incredibly unique to be found nowhere else in the world. You can go to Orkney using a ferry from Aberdeen.

      Separately, Edinburgh has a great Christmas market so spend atleast a couple of days enjoying it.

      Like

  4. Christina Chaviano says:

    Thank you!! I haven’t heard of this, and will look into it right now! I’ll be traveling alone, so I was thinking of spending Christmas in Glasgow. A friend suggested to book a hotel that is serving a Christmas dinner, so I have somewhere to eat. That is definitely an option, but I am open to others. Thanks 🙂

    Like

    • yodandalek says:

      Apologies for the late response, pre-booking a Christmas meal is unfortunately the best way to guarantee a nice meal on a special day. As I am an Edinburgher, I cannot give any Glasgow recommendations worth its salt. Hope you have a great Christmas in Scotland.

      Like

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