Isle of Skye, self-drive tour of Scotland road trip

7-Day Self-Drive Tour of Scotland: Highland + Island Gems!

Are you planning a Scotland road trip? Use this flexible itinerary and map to make your 7-day self-drive tour of Scotland incredible! Scotland self-drive tour itinerary

My husband and I still talk about our road trip through the Scottish Highlands, Lowlands and Islands. This country is a beauty! And it has something for every traveler. Rugged peaks, hidden beaches and seaside cliffs. Fascinating geological landmarks. Gritty historic sites, modern galleries, and excellent shopping. And lots of sheep!

You’re gonna LOVE it.


Can you drive around Scotland?

Yes! I’d argue that the BEST way to tour Scotland is by car, driving around yourself.

Now, you’ll be driving around Scotland on the LEFT side of the road. My husband and I did this just fine coming from Canada (where we drive on the right-hand side), but it definitely took some getting used to. 

If you’re nervous about this, check out our simple tips to safely driving on the left side.

How many days do you need to drive around Scotland?

You need at least seven days to drive around Scotland and enjoy it. Below is a suggested itinerary, with plenty of flexibility and suggested options to make it exactly as you imagine.

Best Road Trip in Scotland: Your 7-Day Self-Drive Tour of Scotland

Isle of Skye (Photo credit: v2os from Unsplash)

On a 7-day self-drive tour of Scotland, you can weave together your favorite spots to see in the Scottish Lowlands, Highlands and Islands. Start your Scotland road trip in Edinburgh, head up to Inverness, and end in Glasgow. Fill in the rest with your must-do’s on your bucket list!

Below is a suggested itinerary for your Scotland tour by car, with lots of ways to make it your own. Pick a few favorite spots to spend two nights. And for the other days, leave early and spend the afternoon and evening enjoying the new spot.

My biggest tip: Take the backroads whenever possible. Roads are narrow and windy (and sometimes terrifying!), and give you the best taste of this beautiful country. Take along a GPS so you don’t get lost! (We still say our Garmin GPS saved our marriage on this Scotland road trip.)

Disclosure: This post includes affiliate links to excellent travel-related products. If you use the links below to make a purchase, we’ll receive a commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you!

MAP of 7-Day Self-Drive Tour of Scotland

Below is a map to visualize this 7-day self-drive tour of Scotland. To personalize it to your own trip, save a copy and add/delete/modify each layer to fit your plans.

Day 1: Explore Gorgeous Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle, things to see in Scotland
Photo credit: E Mens from Unsplash

Historic Edinburgh is absolutely gorgeous. I love this city. Climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park for an incredible view and to get your bearings. And Calton Hill, with more views and neoclassical monuments. Wander through Leith, the busy waterfront district with seafood bistros, shops and the Royal Yacht Britannia. 

Spend plenty of time in elegant New Town shops, galleries and museums. And adjacent Old Town, with more museums, St. Giles’ Cathedral and Royal Mile pubs, under the watchful gaze of Edinburgh Castle.

And CASTLES! Of course there’s the imposing Edinburgh Castle right in the middle of town. It’s home to the Crown Jewels and the National War Museum of Scotland. But you’re also surrounded! To the north are Lauriston, Barnbougle, Midhope and Blackness castles. And in the south, Craigmillar Castle. Plus, Rosslyn Chapel, and many more castle ruins, too.

Where to STAY in Edinburgh

  • Old Waverley Hotel: Stay in a gorgeous historic building with stunning views of Edinburgh Castle, with onsite bar and restaurant. Includes wifi. Parking is at a nearby car park.
  • House Rental: You’ll find so many lovely private house rentals in Edinburgh on Plum Guide. Discover your very own perfect space near Edinburgh Castle, like The Bay Tree.

Day 2: Drive from Edinburgh to Inverness

Day 2 of your 7-day self-drive tour of Scotland will take you north to the pretty city of Inverness. 

Inverness, self-drive tour Scotland where to stop
Photo credit: Robin Canfield from Unsplash

There are three stops you should make just north of Edinburgh. First, the impressive Stirling Castle in all its historic significance. Then, Drummond Castle Gardens. And finally, Scone Palace in Perth, where Macbeth and Robert the Bruce were crowned. Driving along these three stops will take 2.5 hours, plus tour time. From Perth, there are two routes you might take.

Your first route option from Perth to Inverness is the A9 highway. This is the fastest, most direct route (just over 2 hours). It skirts along Cairngorms National Park, with lots of pretty hikes (check details on AllTrails). And it takes you past Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery and Speyside Distillery.

Where to STAY in Inverness

  • Heathmount Hotel: A beautiful boutique hotel in a central location. Inverness Castle is only a 10-minute walk. Rooms are classy and comfortable, complete with robes. Onsite restaurant, bar and delicious breakfast. Price includes wifi and parking.
  • House Rentals: On Plum Guide, you’ll find a variety of lovely house rentals of various styles, sizes and locations. Like the cozy Lady Of The Ness, a pretty period home in a quiet neighborhood, but only 10-minute walk to restaurants and pubs.

The second route option from Perth to Inverness is through Aberdeen (4 hours). You might visit the two coastal cities of Dundee and Aberdeen, and many inland and coastal castles. The coastal Dunnottar Castle is my absolute favorite! 

Continue on to Inverness, or if you love Scotch as much as my husband, stop in Dufftown for two nights. It’s the perfect central location to visit 16 distilleries! You could easily spend a full day (or more!) touring your favorite Speyside Distilleries.

Where to STAY in Dufftown

  • Dunvegan B and B: A pretty little inn in downtown Dufftown, only a 15-minute walk to Glenfiddich Distillery. Your room includes a seating area and private washroom. Price includes wifi, parking and breakfast.
  • Conval House Bed and Breakfast: A warm, cozy B&B in central Dufftown, a 20-minute walk to Glenfiddich Distillery. Your king room has an ensuite and seating area. Price includes wifi, parking and breakfast.

Day 3: Drive North to Orkney or South to Skye

Day 3 of your 7-day self-drive tour of Scotland is a great day to head to one of the Scottish Islands! You might continue north to the Orkney Islands or south and west to Isle of Skye. Both islands have stunning coasts, fascinating ruins and excellent distilleries.

Driving Route #1 to Orkney Islands

Ruins on Orkney Islands, self-drive tour Scotland things to see
Orkney Islands (Photo credit: Ryan Denny from Unsplash)

Option 1 is to head to the rugged and beautiful Orkney Islands. You can either fly from Inverness or drive to Thurso (2 hours), where you catch a ferry. If you drive, stop at Dingwall Castle and Glenmorangie Distillery (one of my favorite Scotches!) along the way. Highway A9 hugs the coast much of the way, so it’s a pretty drive.

Check AllTrails for the best hikes on the Orkney Islands.

Where to STAY on Orkney Islands

  • Standing Stones Hotel: Located on a rolling property overlooking Loch of Stenness and the Ring of Brodgar, this quiet and comfortable retreat is only 5 minutes from the ferry. Onsite restaurant, garden and shared lounge. Price includes wifi and parking.
  • Albert Street Apartment: This cozy private apartment is centrally located in Kirkwall, with shops and restaurants nearby. Twenty minutes from the ferry and highly rated by guests.

Driving Route #2 to Isle of Skye

If you’re not visiting Orkney Islands on this trip, option 2 is to head south along Loch Ness, and then west to Isle of Skye. This drive will take 2 hours, plus another hour to the town of Portree on Skye. As you near the island, stop at the remarkable 13th-century ruins of Eilean Donan Castle.

Plan your epic hikes on the Isle of Skye with AllTrails.

Ilse of Skye, self-drive tour Scotland things to see
Photo credit: d grom from Unsplash

Where to STAY on the Isle of Skye

  • Cuillin Hills Hotel: A classy boutique hotel with wonderful views over Portree Bay and the Cuillin Mountains. Rooms have seating areas to enjoy the views, or enjoy them from the award-winning restaurant and bar. Price includes wifi and parking.
  • House Rental: My goodness, you can find such beautiful house rentals on the Isle of Skye through Plum Guide! Most have gorgeous views, like The Rock. Enjoy these views of the sea from pretty gardens, your outdoor terrace or oversized windows.

Day 4: Follow the Lochs to Fort William

Loch Ness, self-drive tour Scotland things to see
Loch Ness (Photo credit: Ramon Vloon from Unsplash)

Wherever you were on day 3 of your 7-day self-drive tour of Scotland, today you’re heading south!

If you’re driving from Thurso in the north, you really should take the coastal route to Durness (2 hours). This stretch of road is known for its beauty, with plenty of rugged ruins and perfect beaches along the way. In Durness, visit the historic Balnakeil Chapel ruins, relax at Balnakeil Beach and breathe in the gorgeous Durness Bay. For the night, make your way back to Inverness (2.5 hours) or follow Loch Ness to Fort William (4 hours).

If you’re starting today in Portree on Skye, you have two route options. Either return to the A82 to reach Fort William (2.5 hours). Or, have a little fun with the road-less-traveled by taking the Armadale ferry from Skye over to Mallaig, and then you hug lochs all the way to Fort William (3 hours).

Where to STAY in Fort William

  • Inverlochy Castle Hotel: A 5-star castle hotel on the lake, what could be better?? This award-winning luxury hotel and restaurant features wonderful mountain views, cozy rooms and onsite tennis, fishing and clay pigeon shooting. Price includes wifi and parking.
  • Myrtle Bank Guest House: This warm guest house has a lovely garden and terraces overlooking the loch. Rooms are comfortable, some with lake views and all with a patio. Guests praise their breakfast. Price includes wifi and parking.

Day 5: Ascend Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis hike, things to do in Scotland road trip
Ben Nevis Hike (Photo credit: Migle Siauciulyte from Unsplash)

Let’s take a breath on day 5 of your 7-day self-drive tour of Scotland by taking in the views. Spend today experiencing the natural beauty of Ben Nevis and Glencoe Valley.

Ben Nevis is Britain’s highest peak, and takes up to 8 hours up and down. It’s a challenging, rocky path but rewards you with gorgeous valley and loch views along the way. I’m hoping your day 5 is sunny, ‘cause it’s common for clouds to steal the view at the top. Find the best hikes near Fort William on AllTrails.

If a hike sounds too intense, take the Nevis Range gondola to the top. Hike to one of the lookouts for spectacular views. Then, ride a mountain bike down!

Another great idea is to drive the Glen Nevis road to Steall Waterfall. You pass by the lush valley where the Braveheart village was filmed, and then have a moderate 6.5 kilometer hike to this 120-meter tiered waterfall. It’s the second tallest in Scotland.

End your day in Oban, Glencoe or Glasgow, depending how you plan to spend the next two days of your Scotland road trip. 

  • Oban is a charming coastal resort community with ferry access to the Isle of Mull and Islay.
  • Glencoe Valley gives you more gorgeous mountain scenery and historic sites to visit.
  • Or, return your car rental to the Glasgow Airport and fly out to one of the islands. You can easily rent another car on the islands.

Where to STAY in Oban

  • Oban Bay Hotel: An elegant 4-star hotel and award-winning restaurant, overlooking the Sound of Kerrera, Isle of Mull and Firth of Lorne. Onsite sunlounge, steam room, sauna and luxury thermal spa. Price includes wifi and parking (limited onsite plus nearby).
  • No17 The Promenade: A gorgeous new hotel in Oban with fantastic reviews, featuring an onsite restaurant, bar and free bikes. All rooms have a seating area and cozy slippers, some with water views. Price includes wifi. Private onsite parking is 5 GBP/day.

Day 6: Explore Mull, Islay or The Trossachs

Day 6 of your 7-day self-drive tour of Scotland is exploring the Isle of Mull, Islay, or Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park.

Visit Isle of Mull

Isle of Mull has quirky rock formations and cool caves, best explored by boat. Visit the 13th-century Duart Castle ruins and Iona Abbey and Nunnery. And finish your day at the Tobermory Distillery.

Find the best hikes on the Isle of Mull on AllTrails.

Iona Abbey off Isle of Mull (Photo Credit: Shedon from Pixabay)

Where to STAY on Isle of Mull

  • Western Isles Hotel: Located in the pretty village of Tobermory and overlooking the Bay, this lovely hotel has a restaurant and bar onsite. Book a room with a view! Price includes wifi and parking.
  • Iona Pods: In the far southwest, actually on the small island of Iona just off Mull, are these cute pods. You can walk to the Iona Abbey and Nursery, as well as two restaurants. Leave your car at the ferry and walk everywhere you need to here! (Or, get a taxi from the ferry.)

Visit Islay

Islay is all about the peaty Scotch distilleries. Even if you’re not into Scotch, you’ve likely heard of Bowmore, Laphroig and Lagavulin. And you’ll be charmed by their pretty fishing villages, whitewash buildings and lovely beaches. Plus, their sheep and Highland cows, with the best views in the world!

Now, Islay also has some gorgeous cliffs, bays and rock formations, too. Check AllTrails for the best hikes.

Bunnahabhain Distillery on the waterfront from its pier
Bunnahabhain Distillery on Islay (Photo Credit: Me!)

Where to STAY on Islay

  • Lochside Hotel: This warm, cozy hotel features a fantastic restaurant and bar, overlooking Bowmore Harbour. It’s a 5-minute walk to Bowmore Distillery and central to visit the others. Price includes wifi. Parking is along the street (and plentiful, from what I remember).
  • Machrie Hotel & Golf Links: A 4-star golf and spa resort, with preferred green fees at the 18-hole championship links course. Onsite restaurant, bar and afternoon tea in the lounge. It’s in Port Ellen on the southeast coast, near the Port Ellen, Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg Distilleries. Price includes wifi and parking.

Plan your itinerary with this post on Islay Distilleries.

Or, use Day 6 of your Scotland road trip exploring Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. Check out AllTrails for the best hikes that match your interest, time and effort.

Day 7: Enjoy Glasgow

Glasgow street, self-drive tour Scotland road trip stops
Photo credit: Artur Kraft from Unsplash

Wrap up your 7-day self-drive tour of Scotland by enjoying Glasgow’s galleries and shops.

Top-rated galleries in Glasgow include the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel, and Glasgow Botanic Gardens. Stroll the historic University of Glasgow and Necropolis, and finish it off at a cozy neighborhood pub.

Where to STAY in Glasgow

  • Native Glasgow: This elegant 4-star historic hotel was once the headquarters for the Anchor Line Shipping Company and its decor is inspired by a 1920s ocean liner. Located in central Glasgow with onsite restaurant and bar. Book a penthouse apartment for a terrace! Price includes wifi. Discount on nearby parking. A 15-minute drive to Glasgow Airport.
  • Dakota Glasgow: A luxurious 4-star hotel with rich decor, located in central Glasgow near shopping, museums and galleries. Onsite restaurant, bar and library. Rooms feature a monsoon shower. Price includes wifi. Discount on nearby parking. A 15-minute drive to Glasgow Airport.

Best Places to Stop on a 7-Day Self-Drive Tour of Scotland

Stop at these beautiful CITIES:

Aberdeen (Photo Credit: Julie Adams from Unsplash)
  • Edinburgh is where we recommend starting your 7-day self-drive tour of Scotland. It’s an absolutely gorgeous historic city, well-worth sticking around for at least a full day.
  • Stirling is home to the famous Stirling Castle that sits atop a plateau high above. Stirling Castle is a fascinating palace and city-within-a-city.
  • Perth is another beautiful historic city, home to the famous Scone Palace, tree-lined river walkways, gardens and galleries.
  • Dundee is most known for its naval and war history museums, with plenty to entertain history buffs at Discovery Point.
  • Aberdeen sits on the eastern coast, and near the gorgeous ruins of Dunnottar Castle. The granite buildings weren’t that interesting to me, but the cobbled roads and historic university buildings of Old Aberdeen are picturesque.
  • Inverness is picturesque, and the perfect spot to call home while exploring the Scottish Highlands. Explore historic Fort George military base. 
  • Oban is a resort town right on the water, with ferry access to many of the Scottish islands. It’s surrounded by lush green scenery, and home to the excellent Oban distillery and historic McCaig’s Tower and Battery Hill.
  • Glasgow is known for its excellent galleries, nightlife and shopping. Top-rated galleries include the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel, and Glasgow Botanic Gardens. Stroll the historic University of Glasgow and Necropolis, and finish it off at a cozy neighborhood pub.


A 7-day self-drive tour of Scotland MUST include at least one Scottish Island. Each one is rugged and beautiful, with its own special features, historic sights and distilleries to thrill you!

Below are the top 4 islands to visit on your Scotland road trip.

1. Isle of Skye

Ilse of Skye, self-drive tour Scotland things to see
Isle of Skye (Photo credit: d grom from Unsplash)

This Scottish island is a natural wonderland and makes for epic travel pics. Isle of Skye is certainly the most popular of the Scottish islands, and it’s easy to see why. It’s dramatic and enchanting, with waterfalls thundering over oceanfront cliffs and mysterious rock formations and massive boulders scattered along rolling green hills.

Popular sights include the Old Man of Storr, Quiraing, Fairy Glen, Kilt Rock and Trotternish Ridge. Plus the many castle ruins, like Dunvegan and Eilean Donan just off Skye. And Talisker Distillery, of course. Find the best hikes on AllTrails.

Accessible by bridge.

2. Isle of Mull

Isle of Mull (Photo credit: Jeremy Boley from Unsplash)

Dramatic scenery isn’t limited to the Isle of Skye. Isle of Mull has some incredible rock features of its own, and dramatic coastal cliffs and waterfalls, too.

Most famous natural landmarks on the Isle of Mull are the deep-sea cavern of MacKinnon’s Cave, rock formations at Dervaig and climbing Ben More. Then, there’s the 13th-century Duart Castle ruins and Iona Abbey and Nunnery. Iona is a small separate island accessible by foot ferry only. (Leave your car at the Isle of Mull port and get a taxi or just walk on Iona.)

Find the best hikes on the Isle of Mull on AllTrails. And don’t forget to visit the Tobermory Distillery!

Accessible by plane from Glasgow and ferry from Oban.

3. Islay

Isle of Islay, self-drive tour Scotland where to stop
Photo credit: AJ Wallace from Unsplash

If you love peaty Scotch whiskies, you gotta come to Islay. This pretty island is home to nine distilleries, and if you time it right, you can visit all of them in only two days. You can also take a short ferry ride to Jura to visit their distillery, too.

I read some bad reviews on Islay’s scenery but was pleasantly surprised with its lovely coasts and rolling hills. And you can meet plenty of sheep and Highland cows! Find pretty coastal hikes on AllTrails.

Accessible by plane from Glasgow and ferry from Oban or Kennacraig Ferry Terminal. Map out your Scotch tours with this Islay Distilleries post.

4. Orkney Islands

Orkney Islands (Photo credit: Mark Foster from Unsplash)

Mainland Orkney is off the northern tip of Scotland, a hauntingly beautiful island to warm the hearts of those who venture this far. Think: rushing waterfalls and rugged cliffs that drop into the ocean. And rugged rolling green hills and quiet beaches. Find the best hikes on AllTrails.

It’s home to Orkney Brewing and Highland Park Distillery, which is one of our favorites. Check out the odd Ring of Brodgar from the Neolithic period and ruins at Corrigall Farm Museum.

Accessible by plane from Inverness and ferry from Thurso.

Things To See on Your 7-Day Self-Drive Tour of Scotland


  • Stirling Castle is certainly grand and impressive. It sits high above the city of Stirling, with fantastic views. Inside are well-preserved and reconstructed buildings from this city-within-a-city, including the Great Hall, Chapel Royal, Tapestry Studio and Regimental Museum. Home to Mary Queen of Scots. Simply walking the grounds and the walls reconnects you with history!
  • Scone Castle is where Macbeth, Robert the Bruce and Charles II were crowned. It’s home to the Earls of Mansfield and hosts high-profile events. Stroll the beautiful gardens and lush estate.
  • Dunnottar Castle is a romantic and haunting ruined cliff top fortress, with the wild ocean at its feet. Cross the narrow land bridge, scramble through the underground vaults and climb the ruined towers for epic views. Dip your toes at the beach below. This historic castle played a part in the 18th-century Jacobite risings and is super fun to explore.


Glencoe, self-drive tour Scotland where to stop
Glencoe (Photo credit: v2f from Unsplash)
  • Loch Ness is a lovely inland lake that runs down the middle of Scotland, but it’s the legend of Nessie and the chance of spotting this lake monster for yourself that keeps your eyes peeled! Stop for a peek of the famous Urquhart Castle (but it’s crazy busy, so I suggest other, better ruins to see). Take a quick tour of Nessieland (a bit silly but fun, with great souvenirs). And dip your toes at the quiet Fort Augustus view point, and see if you can lure out ol’ Nessie.
  • Nevis Range near Fort William, including the highest peak in the UK, Ben Nevis. Ski here in winter, or hike, bike or take the gondola up the Nevis Range. Lower Falls and Steall Waterfall are beautiful.
  • Glencoe Valley is a beautiful area to explore, with wildflowers, waterfalls and peaks you can climb to gorgeous views. Hike up Buachaille Etive Mor or Bidean nam Bian. Visit the Glencoe Folk Museum thatch cottages from the 1700s and tribute to the 1692 Glencoe massacre.
  • Loch Lamond and The Trossachs National Park is a lovely way to end your 7-day self-drive tour of Scotland, just north of Glasgow. Your drive is nice, but the best way to see the park is to get out for even a short hike to a viewpoint. Check out AllTrails for inspiration and directions!

Best Time To Go on Your 7-Day Self-Drive Tour of Scotland

The best time for a 7-day self-drive tour of Scotland Highlands and Islands is summer, between May and September. These are the warmest months of the year, and winters in Scotland are COLD and snowy. Not super fun for road trips.

So, tell us about your plans! Please share your 7-day self-drive tour of Scotland plans, highlights and tips in the comments below.

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Featured photo credit (Isle of Skye): Joshua Earle from Unsplash

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