With a well-crafted route, 10 days in Scotland is just enough time to see most of the major points of interest that beckon millions of travelers each year. The best Scotland road trip itinerary is one that prioritizes time and fuel efficient routes, while still allowing a flexible schedule. This is what I have aimed to create!
This Scotland travel guide has been written to provide insights, photo inspiration, and suggestions based on my 10 days exploring the country’s incredible lochs, isles, castles, cities, and culture. In it, I will attempt to answer the most common questions that people ask me when planning road trips of their own, including when to visit, how to travel, and what to see in Scotland.
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Quick overview of this 10 days in Scotland road trip guide
*Each color pin represents a different “leg” of the journey, as described below*
There is a lot of information contained in this travel guide, but this overview will help you get an idea of what ground you will be covering and how much time to spend on each leg of the journey.
10 days in Scotland is a lot of time, but not if you hope to see EVERYTHING. Only you can decide how much ground you want to cover and at what pace you enjoy traveling.
I have broken the trip down into several legs, including recommended days to allow for each. Depending on how quickly you are moving, you may have to skip some stops, or even entire legs, to allow yourself to enjoy your Scotland road trip.
- First Leg: Edinburgh to Luss (1-2 Days) (blue)
- Second Leg: Luss to Glencoe (2 Days) (green)
- Third Leg: Isle of Skye (2-3 Days) (yellow)
- Fourth Leg: Isle of Skye to Inverness (1 Day) (orange)
- Fifth Leg: Inverness to Cairngorms National Park (2 Days) (pink)
- Final Leg: Cairngorms National Park to Edinburgh (1 day) (purple)
As you can see in the map above, I have not included the popular North Coast (NC500) route. I found it was just too much to fit into this amount of time at the pace most people travel. If your version of the best Scotland road trip itinerary features the NC500, you will simply need to alter the FOURTH LEG (orange pins above) to drive from Eilean Donan Castle to Inverness via the north coast.
When to spend 10 days in Scotland
When planning your Scotland road trip, choosing the right time to visit can make all the difference. Each season provides distinct advantages and disadvantages. You should, therefore, carefully consider the type of Scottish holiday you are hoping for to ensure you have an amazing experience..
Visiting Scotland in Late-April/May
These are perhaps the best months to schedule your 10 day Scotland tour.
- Driest time of the year
- Moderate temperatures
- Potentially even some snow-dusted peaks still lingering
- Perfect 12 hour days
- April can still be very wet and muddy. Mid-to-late May is considered the best time of year to visit.
Visiting Scotland in June/July/August
These summer months are the most popular time to visit Scotland, and with good reason. However, this also means that you’ll be sharing the beauty of Scotland with many others, which can create some challenges.
- The hottest time of the year, with an average of 19°c (66°f)
- Somewhat reliable weather (it is still Scotland, however)
- Lots of festivals and activities to attend
- Longest days of the year (with summer solstice logging just shy of 19 hours of daylight!)
- Large crowds
- Busy parking lots
- Limited accommodation
- Longest days (not so good for photographers who will find little time for sleep between sunrise and sunset, not to mention harsh overhead light throughout their holiday!)
Visiting Scotland in September/October
The autumn season is arguably the best time for trips to Scotland.
- The weather begins to cool slightly, while remaining tolerable
- Roads remain open
- Incredible colors of autumn burst to life! It was the fall colors that I was after when I arranged my 10 day Scotland itinerary.
- Smaller crowds
- Daily rainbows
- Manageable parking lots
- Torrential rain occurs frequently
- Frequent clouds blocked most of the light during sunrise and sunset.
*Note on autumn colours: Of course, it is impossible to predict the exact week of peak foliage. Typically, the leaves start to change beginning the first week of October, with the colors starting to fade after the first frost toward the end of the month. In 2019, the best 10 days in Scotland for leaf chasers occurred from Oct 15-Oct 25.
Visiting Scotland in November-March
Like many places, winter is perhaps the toughest time to schedule your Scotland road trip.
- Stunning snowy scenery
- Less crowds
- Many roads may be closed
- Weather can be brutal
- Many attractions will be closed
How to travel Scotland in 10 days
Perhaps the biggest consideration you will have when planning a trip to Scotland is the type of vehicle you chose. After all, this one decision will impact your accessibility, costs, speed, and most of all, your comfort!
During my 10 days in Scotland, it rained for 8 of them, as well as another three days before and after. Having a comfortable place to cook, work, and dry out made a world of difference in my experience.
10 days in Scotland road trip by Motorhome
I have always praised camper vans as the best way to travel as they provide accommodation, transportation, and liberation all in one. However, I chose to travel Scotland by motorhome instead, and it may have been the best decision I made.
Who should choose a motorhome:
- UK drivers
- Large groups
- Comfort-minded travelers
Who should NOT choose a motorhome:
- Summer visitors
- Anyone who is not confident/experienced driving in the UK
After weighing cost and reputation, I decided to reach out to Spaceships UK to discuss the options. I was eventually swayed by them to consider my first-ever motorhome road trip in lieu of a camper van. The reasons I made the switch was that I was assured that I would not be limited by the small country roads, the fuel efficiency was comparable to all but the smallest camper vans, and the Scottish weather forecast called for a LOT of rain.
In all honesty, I almost asked to switch vehicles after my first day of driving. As a photographer, I am used to being able to pull off quickly to take roadside images, even if it is just live parking in a driveway. Additionally, turning around was a near impossibility on those small Scottish country roads. Adjusting to the large size and all the switches, dials, and gadgets certainly took some getting used to; they don’t call it a Spaceship for nothing!
However, once I got used to the size and started to understand all the different tank levels and such, I found myself embracing the freedom it provided! True, roadside photos took a bit of a hit, but I was able to access all of the stops I had on my map without exception. Parking would likely have been a major nightmare in the more popular months, but it was no problem at all as my 10 day trip to Scotland took place in October.
I absolutely recommend a motorhome if you are planning a road trip during off-peak seasons, and loved my experience with Spaceships UK. They were incredibly helpful in planning my trip, and having 24/7 live online support saved us on many nights as we dealt with the motorhome learning curve.
With all that said, please make sure you are extremely confident driving UK country roads and understand passing culture if you choose this option. There is no way to avoid one-lane roads in some parts of the country and having good spacial awareness is critical, as is understanding how the passing places work.
10 days in Scotland road trip by Campervan
While the motorhome would be my recommendation for the spring and fall seasons, I definitely missed a few things about road tripping in a camper van. Namely, the maneuverability!
Who should choose a camper van:
- Summer visitors
- Budget travelers
- Die-hard photographers
Who should NOT choose a camper van:
- Visitors with a priority on comfort
- Visitors with longer than 10 days in Scotland
Traveling Scotland by campervan or motorhome provides all of the same advantages, but have some distinct disadvantages. If you are traveling during the summer, for example, finding parking and dealing with traffic in an oversized vehicle may be a bit of a nightmare. The passionate photographers may also find themselves frustrated by a complete inability to make impromptu stops or turn around.
A campervan is a great option for road trippers who don’t mind small spaces and want the ability to sleep nearby to shooting locations, but anyone spending more than 7 days in Scotland should consider a motorhome.
You should expect at least SOME rain, if not a LOT of rain, almost any time of year. As most camper vans don’t have room to cook inside, this can be a huge problem. Furthermore, most of the destinations we visited did not have restroom facilities, which is another problem for the majority of camper vans.
Beyond this, spending up to a week in muddy, soggy discomfort is one thing, but eventually the rain and slog will become impossible to keep out of the van and begin to affect your experience.
Spaceships does offer the Voyager Camper Van, which is perhaps the perfect compromise between size and comfort. It offers the space to sit and eat inside, sufficient cover outside for preparing meals, and is still small enough to turn around easily. This may have been my first choice had they been available, but I was honestly happy to have the motorhome after my first 5 days of perpetual rain and mud!
10 days in Scotland road trip by car
Of course, you always have the more traditional option of doing your Scotland road trip by car! You will save some money upfront in rental fees and fuel costs, though you will undoubtedly be spending significantly more on accommodation.
Still, this may be the best option for those of you who are not comfortable driving a larger vehicle, nor have the need to be on-location for sunrises and sunsets.
Who should choose a car:
- Casual tourists
- Foreign drivers
Who should NOT choose a car:
- Anyone who knows the van life is for them!
Not much needs to be said here. If you are not comfortable driving a large vehicle in a foreign country, stick to a compact. If you prefer hotels or B&Bs and don’t mind being confined to a preset schedule based on reservations, then this is the way to go!
When considering renting a car in Europe, ensure that your policy allows you to take the car on ferries for this itinerary!
General tips for 10 days in Scotland
Download Google offline maps!
Though I had service in most of the country, I would have been completely lost with so many country roads during those spells of not having it.
Travel the western region first!
The west coast, Scottish highlands, and Isle of Skye were the highlights for me, and you will want to make sure you have your schedule as open as possible for these regions. If you save them for the end of your 10-day visit, you may find yourself running out of time when you wish you had it most!
Make sure you understand the roads!
If you are not familiar with driving in the UK, read this guide to driving in Scotland! There are many very small roads, and understanding the passing places and road etiquette will make for a much more enjoyable trip. Also, be aware that it is common to encounter deer, sheep and other animals on the road in rural areas.
Use restrooms when you see them!
I was surprised at how many of Scotland’s points of interest did not have facilities.
Pack plenty of snacks!
This is an essential one for us as we both get hangry if we don’t have food! While you will, of course, come across places you can pick up food, no road trip is complete without snacks. For Adam, this basically means chips and candy, for Sophie, this means plenty of healthy snacks!
Planning your 10 days in Scotland road trip itinerary
It is impossible to create perfect Scotland itineraries for everyone who will visit Scotland, as we are all unique in our interests and preferred pace. For this guide, I have attempted to provide only the pertinent information on Scotland’s major points of interest, while providing some suggestions for time-efficient routes.
Instead of restricting your road trip itinerary to a rigid schedule, I will try to include all of the places you could visit and provide information that I would have found helpful for each stop. I’ve also included a suggested number of days for each leg of the journey, though this is entirely up to you.
STARTING POINT: Edinburgh
As this is where the majority of visitors will begin their road trips, including myself, I have decided to begin this road trip guide with Edinburgh as our start and end-point.
I must start by saying that I absolutely loved the Edinburgh city center and recommend spending at least one day here, either at the beginning or the end of your trip. Scottish people are literally the nicest I have encountered anywhere I have ever traveled, and Edinburgh was just as friendly despite being a big city.
Beyond that, the architecture is incredible, the public transportation is easy to use, and the Edinburgh Castle towering regally above the city creates some striking opportunities for street photography.
Specifically, I highly recommend spending time around the Royal Mile, snapping off a photo from my favorite city view at the Vennel, and visiting the castle.
FIRST LEG: Edinburgh to Luss
For the nature and small-town lovers, such as myself, this is the route that I took and recommend! Luss is a charming old town tucked against the impressive Loch Lomond. A direct drive from Edinburgh is less than two hours, but there are a lot of suggested stops in between…
The city of Stirling itself had a quirky charm to it, but its the Stirling Castle standing tall on the hill behind the city that makes it special. Just be ready to have “Castle on the Hill” stuck in your head for the rest of the day!
There are many views of Stirling Castle, but the best is from Wallace Monument where you can capture it with a telephoto lens set above the city and against the distant mountains. Unfortunately, we didn’t learn of this view until after our visit, but we still enjoyed driving around the city in search of compositions.
Loup of Fintry
A hidden gem known only to photographers is the surprisingly large waterfall at Loup of Fintry. Finding the farmland trail can be very tricky as there is no signage for it, and you will begin your walk thinking “there is no way there’s a waterfall here,” but soon you will hear the sound of rushing water. What awaits is a very large waterfall in an idyllic country setting.
There are a few things you should know about getting to Loup of Fintry if you plan to visit. First, parking is extremely limited! Perhaps a couple of cars can squeeze in next to the trail, otherwise, you will have to do like we did and park about a half-mile down the road at the Todholes Car Park. Even this is relatively limited, but we were able to park the motorhome here.
Second, if you input Loup of Fintry into Google Maps, it will take you to what appears to be the middle of nowhere. However, there is a trail sign here with a pedestrian access point over the farm fence. This is the trail you want! I suggest routing for the Todholes Car Park and then routing to Loup of Fintry for the walk so you don’t accidentally pass the marker.
Last, this is an incredible sunset destination! If photography is your goal, you may want to note this as a good end-of-day option.
Finnich Glen – The Devil’s Pulpit
Another little gem that has become increasingly popular (and still difficult to find) is the incredible Finnich Glen! Blood-red water rushes through the vibrant-green gorge, creating a very otherworldly scene. The Devil’s Pulpit is the location most photographers prefer, using the unique shape and small waterfall behind it to add some points of interest to the photograph.
The easiest way to access Finnich Glen is to park in the small gravel area where the B834 and A809 roads meet. Assuming you came in on the B834, you will park and begin your walk by making a LEFT onto the A809 (heading south toward Craighat). There will be an obvious walking trail along the road.
You will come to a wooded gorge with an entry and signage for Finnich Glen (this shows as Carnock Burn on Google maps). However, you will need to keep walking to the OTHER side of the water, where you will see another sign and entry point. This is the trail you will want. (You should be walking along the trail with the water to your LEFT, not your right.)
Eventually, you will come to some stone steps that take you down into the gorge. This can be wet and slippery, so be sure to wear appropriate footwear and only attempt the climb down if you do not suffer from joint issues. It is not strenuous, but this portion can be challenging.
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
I was told that the fall colors would be brilliant here, particularly in the Aberfoyle area and Queen Elizabeth Forest Park. Though it required a detour, I decided it was worth exploring as we had, thus far, been disappointed by the lack of color.
To be honest, I was not overly impressed by the scenery of Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park, especially as the foliage had yet to turn. We went for a bit of a drive through the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park debating a further voyage to Ben A’an, but decided the weather, small roads, and lack of photographic interest were reasons enough to save some precious time.
This is not to say that the national park is not worth exploring, but with only 10 days in Scotland, you will have to prioritize carefully and we wanted that extra time in our pocket for the highlands and Isle of Skye!
We had the iconic Ben A’an viewpoint as a sunset destination on our road trip itinerary. However, our options were to skip two castles that we really wanted to visit (Inveraray and Kilchurn) or sacrifice what would end up being a full day to visit Ben A’an. With the weather relentlessly rainy, we opted to save the time and miles and head around Loch Lomond to Luss instead.
READ MORE: 2 Day Isle of Skye Tour from Edinburgh
Alternative Route: Edinburgh to Glasgow
For the city lovers, your next stop will be a 1.5-hour drive to Glasgow; a city paradoxically known as the murder capital of the United Kingdom, as well as Europe’s friendliest city! Honestly, I loved my time in Glasgow and genuinely found the good nature of the Scottish to be on full display here. Never once did I feel unsafe, or even unwelcome.
Personally, I was not as enchanted by the city of Glasgow as Edinburgh and would only recommend journeying through if your primary interest in travel is experiencing the major cities of the world. 10 days in Scotland may seem like plenty, but I can almost guarantee you will wish you had more time at the end!
From Glasgow, you can continue on to Luss and pick up the rest of the suggested road trip itinerary from there.
Suggested stop: Cambusnethan Priory
If you do decide to visit Glasgow, and are planning on staying overnight there anyway, you may want to take M8 instead of the slightly-faster Northern route and allow a visit to Cambusnethan Priory on your way. This 19th-century priory has all the feelings of a haunted house… and legend has it that it just might be!
SECOND LEG: Luss to Glencoe
If you are a landscape lover, make sure you schedule some time for this portion of the road trip! The Scottish highlands and scenery en route to Glencoe is hands down the most beautiful part of the country, though its microclimate also makes it one of the most challenging in terms of weather.
Even in the relentless rain and cloud, the unique beauty of the highland mountains and lochs is unlike any landscape I’ve explored anywhere else in the world.
On the way to Glencoe, I would highly recommend taking a short detour to Inveraray Castle and Kilchurn Castle. This will add about 45 minutes to your total journey time, but is absolutely worth it. On my top 20 list, these came in near the top for the the best castles in Scotland.
Inveraray Castle and Gardens
This was a special stop for two reasons. First, Inveraray Castle is one of those postcard-perfect, Disney-like castles you dream about seeing. Second, this was the only time in my first week in Scotland that the rain let up and I saw some sunshine!
The town of Inveraray is quite nice in its own right, and a great place to refuel and recharge. The castle is, of course, the highlight. Tickets for the castle and gardens cost £12.50 if you pay on arrival or £11.50 if you pay in advance online. If you (like me) just want to walk around the outside, then parking is a reasonable £3. Without buying a castle ticket, you can still access the front view of the castle, as well as the gift shop, tea room, and restrooms. You will not, however, have access to the immaculate gardens.
Behind the parking lot, you will find a field with highland cows happily eating away! This was our first encounter with highland cows, which were not as frequent as we expected, so you may want to take a moment to visit them while you are here.
Though Kilchurn Castle is little more than ruins and scaffolding these days, it is a must-see for most visitors and photographers because of the stunning scenery that surrounds it.
Google will take you to the car park and walk-in entrance to the castle grounds. This is a short and easy walk that allows you to get right up next to the castle.
Many photographers prefer the view on the far side of Loch Awe, shooting back across the water and Kilchurn Castle. There are many laybys to park at on A819, but setting your destination for “Kilchurn Castle Panorama Viewpoint” is the easiest way to find *that* view.
Klilchurn Castle is an awesome spot for both sunrise and sunset, as the warm, angular light spills onto the landscape to create a spectacular scene.
READ MORE: Top 20 Best Castles in Scotland
Drive to Glencoe (A82)
The road to Glencoe is simply too beautiful and loaded with viewpoints, lochs, and mountains to possibly name them all. I would recommend a full day for this drive, maybe even two for the impassioned landscape photographers!
While I’m sure there are many amazing trails and hidden gems throughout the region, you will see a lot just from the road. Keep your eyes open and camera ready!
Etive Mor Waterfall and Glen Etive Road
The one destination I have to mention by name as a can’t-miss stop is the Etive Mor Waterfall. While this is usually a fairly moderate cascade, it was absolutely thundering during my visit!
What makes this spot so special is Buachaille Etive Mor; the mountain that towers above the falls. Its unique shape and size, coupled with the majestic Etive Mor Waterfall, make for a stunning photo.
To access this waterfall, you will turn on to Glen Etive road and park in the small area where Google Maps directs you to. Parking is EXTREMELY limited. The walk itself is short but very, very muddy. The trail should be fairly obvious, just know that if you have crossed the bridge on your way, then you have gone past the trailhead.
After seeing the waterfall, be sure to drive some miles along the Glen Etive road as well. During my visit, there were literally dozens of waterfalls streaming down the sides of the mountains in every direction. The persistent rain was great for that, but bad for the wildlife and red deer sightings.
Glen Etive road is known for being the most reliable place to see these beautiful animals, but unfortunately, I was not so lucky.
Meeting of the Three Waters
A roadside pull-off that you cannot possibly miss, the Meeting of the Three Waters is an impressive scene in the heart of the Glencoe drive where three channels of water collide. Parking can be limited.
Three Sisters of Glencoe
They say good things come in threes! Just after the Meeting of Three Waters, you will arrive at the last roadside pullout on your way to Glencoe; the Three Sisters of Glencoe viewpoint. You will have no trouble finding this one, and it is absolutely worth a stop.
Glencoe to Isle of Skye
Now we are arriving at the most famous region in all of Scotland, and a reputation that is well deserved! The rest of the drive to the Isle of Skye is not overly impressive, especially after experiencing the road to Glencoe, but there were some beautiful autumn colors coming in as we neared the Skye bridge.
With that said, the most time-efficient route will be to take the ferry from Mallaig to Skye. Your other option is to drive, crossing at Kyle of Lochalsh. Being that the ferry is reasonably priced and an experience unto itself, most people select this option.
Either way you choose to travel, you will pass through Fort William. If you are partial to whisky then it’s worth stopping in here for a Scottish whisky tour at Ben Nevis distillery.
Suggested Stop: Glenfinnan Viaduct
You’ve undoubtedly seen pictures of the magical, world-renown Jacobite Steam Train aka the Harry Potter train by now. These photos are captured at the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which will be on your way to the Mallaig ferry, or a slight detour for those driving to the Isle of Skye. In order to truly be the best Scotland road trip itinerary, this stop needs to be on your route!
The most important thing to know about photographing or riding the famous Jacobite Steam Train at Glenfinnan is that it does not run often, and varies seasonally. The best thing to do is check the website for times.
*Pro tip: While you can catch the train on its return journey in the afternoon, the morning photos will be much better. When it returns, the front of the train will be backwards, facing the rest of the train. This takes away a lot of the photographic appeal.
THIRD LEG: The Isle of Skye
It’s hard for a place with such a big reputation as the Isle of Skye to live up to expectations, but somehow, mine were still exceeded! The Isle of Skye is the BEST place to visit in Scotland when it comes to photography (with apologies to Glencoe). It is an absolute must during your 10 days in Scotland!
Be prepared to spend at least 3 full days on the Isle of Skye if you plan on doing it all, especially if you want to do a couple of sunrise/sunset hikes.
Map: Isle of Skye driving route
The map below shows the most time and fuel-efficient route for checking off all the major highlights. However, I chose to take some extra time here to make sure I not only saw everything, but was there at the right time.
The Isle of Skye comes to a crossroads in the small village of Sligachan. Before deciding which corner of the island to cover first, take some time to explore the scene near the Sligachan bridge. The Black Cuillin mountains provide a stunning backdrop for the traditional stone bridge.
From here, you can either head northeast toward Portree and the iconic Old Man of Storr, or northwest toward Neist Point. If you are hoping to cover the NC500 route as part of your 10 days in Scotland, you should consider skipping Neist Point and the northwestern peninsula altogether. While I enjoyed some of the stops in the region, this was definitely not the most impressive area of Skye.
Without a doubt, the Northeastern Peninsula is the treasure trove of Skye. Some of the most impressive landscapes, waterfalls, and overall scenery in all of Scotland are found in this remote region.
The Storr (and The Old Man of Storr)
I don’t think The Old Man of Storr needs any words of introduction. This geographic wonder is one of the most photographed locations in all of Scotland, and for good reason. Rather than speak to its beauty, I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. Suffice to say, it is well worth the gruelling hike, especially at sunrise!
The first thing to know before tackling the hike is that, at a normal pace, it is a 45-60 minute, steep climb to the most popular viewing area. Not only is the hike steep, but it is also very, VERY muddy.
Parking is plentiful, but even still can become hectic, especially during peak season. There is a parking area that is free, but it will be full by sunrise. Metered roadside parking is available and affordable.
The only thing to note before beginning the hike is that you need to stay right at every loop and trail fork to walk the most direct route to the iconic view, looking back across the Old Man.
The first half of the trail is gravel and manageable, but once you cross the fence it quickly turns into a steep ascent. The trail also begins to branch off into various loops, all of which are worth a wander, but the route to the right is the direct path up.
After leaving Storr travelling north, your next stop will be Lealt Falls viewpoint. It is not the most impressive waterfall, but there is no hike and parking is easy, so its worth the stop. If you have a drone, you’ll be able to get a much better view than from the platform.
A 45-minute walk through farmland takes you to a beautiful section of coast called Brother’s Point. This is a nice place for sunrise, but if you have only 10 days in Scotland, I would recommend visiting Brother’s Point whenever it happens to be convenient. It is very pretty, but not as grand as some of the other sunrise destination in Skye.
Like most in Scotland, expect a very muddy trail.
Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls
What I love about Mealt Falls is it feels like a waterfall at the end of the world! A massive cascade spills over a sheer rock edge, plummeting directly into the ocean below.
Parking is plentiful and free, and this stop will be on your natural route around the Isle of Skye anyway! The best light comes during the golden hours, if you are lucky enough to get some natural light here.
If you have a drone, make sure you have at least one battery charged! This was one of my favorite places to fly as the view was very limited from the ground.
It is possible to get to the bottom of the falls during low tide, but we never figured out how.
The Needle – Quiraing
This almost slipped under my radar, but I am so grateful I learned of it because it ended up being my favorite sunrise destination in all of our 10 days in Scotland! As you can see from the photo, it is a spectacular, dramatic scene that really comes to life at sunrise.
If you wish to make the hike, be prepared for a strenuous, steep walk that takes about an hour. To find the correct parking lot, make sure you have entered “The Quiraing Car Park” into your Google Maps. If you only type “Quiraing”, you will end up somewhere in town and not at the trail.
This can be a difficult viewpoint to find in the dark for those brave enough to shoot sunrise, but the trail is fairly obvious for most of the walk. Even if you do not make the final climb up, the views throughout the hike are gorgeous, especially during the golden hours of sunrise and sunset.
Fairy Glen & Castle Ewan
The Fairy Glen is perhaps the most aptly-named photography destination you will encounter on the Isle of Skye. Rolling green hills sprout out of nowhere, dressed in the autumn-red fern of the isle. Despite more foul weather than I would have liked, I absolutely loved the Fairy Glen and its strange, otherworldly feels.
The main “feature” of Fairy Glen is a geographical curiosity called Castle Ewan. From a distance, you may confuse this rock shape for old castle ruins. You are able to climb to the top of this fairly easily by taking the path from the car park. As always, expect a LOT of mud.
You may see stones placed within the circular feature at the base of Castle Ewan. These have been put here primarily by tour groups after they created stories about leaving a stone for good luck. This is not a local tradition but is actually something that local people are working hard to prevent. Moving rocks is damaging to the landscape and can be dangerous to livestock. Please just enjoy the beauty of the area without altering it.
Also, be warned that driving a motorhome or oversized vehicle here is very difficult, and parking it is near impossible without a lot of luck! If you want to visit and are in a motorhome, you may be best off coming near sunrise when you will have the road and parking lot to yourself.
On the topic of driving here, the most fuel-efficient route from Quiraing is via a very small road that cuts across the peninsula to Uig. However, I would NOT recommend this route in an oversized vehicle; I attempted the drive from Uig to Quiraing and had to turn back very quickly. Instead, take the route the buses go, circling the north of the peninsula.
After leaving the Fairy Glen and Castle Ewan, you can shortcut over to the northwestern Peninsula at the small village of Borve. There are not a ton of stops in this region, which is why I suggest assessing the available days you have left at this point and deciding if you feel ahead of, or behind, schedule.
Note: This will largely depend on whether or not you plan on including the NC500 (North Coast 500) route to your 10-day Scotland travel itinerary.
Have a look at the photos below and make the choice for yourself; personally, I likely would have skipped this section, as well as the Fairy Pools, and made an attempt at the North Coast instead if I could do it again!
A beautiful castle and on your way to Neist Point, Dunvegan Castle was originally constructed in the 13th century but was remodeled in a medieval style in the 1800s.
Parking is free and plentiful, but admission to the castle is £14 for adults. If the tide is in, there is a great shot to be had looking back across Loch Dunvegan toward the castle. Sadly, conditions were not favorable for this shot on my visit.
A short detour from Dunvegan Castle delivers you to a little slice of white sand paradise in the least expected place! Coral Beach is a favorite destination for locals, and still relatively off the radar for tourists.
If you have bothered to come to this section of Skye and the weather is nice, it’s worth poking in for a walk to the beach. However, the road in and out is rather small and the walk to the beach from the parking area is about 25 minutes each way, and just over two miles return.
Neist Point Lighthouse
If you have made the journey to this remote region of the Isle of Skye, you have likely come seeking sunset photos at the Neist Point Lighthouse.
You can walk down to the lighthouse itself, but the photos you will usually see are from the cliffs to the right of the trail. You’ll notice some various boards and tires creating a rough sort of mud crossing just past the small shop; this is the trail.
The best time to visit Neist Point Lighthouse is at sunset, and photographers will likely want to stick around for the blue hour as well.
It is also worth noting that there are no restroom facilities here, and the road in is very small for large vehicles.
The Fairy Pools are the second most popular destination on the Isle of Skye, following The Storr. There is a massive parking section and a parking attendant who collects fees. We paid £8 to park our motorhome, which was a bit more than the fee for a regular car.
From the parking lot, you can take the trail to the Fairy Pools, which is essentially a series of small cascades and rock pools set against the Black Cuillin mountains. The trail can actually be taken all the way to Sligachan, but most of us will just walk a mile, maybe two, then turn around.
While the Fairy Pools present some neat compositions for photos, they were a bit disappointing when compared to the grandeur of Glencoe, which was a similar but more impressive landscape. They are absolutely worth a visit if you have the time to spare, but this is one of those place where I like the photos better than the experience.
I walked all the way to the base of the mountains and found that the falls get smaller and smaller and the views less impressive the further on you journey.
I have seen some neat photos at sunrise or sunset, but unless you really get some sky fire you won’t be able to capture much color in your frame. This is one of the few stops where daytime lighting may be best.
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FOURTH LEG: Isle of Skye to Inverness
While there are certainly many other places worth exploring on the Isle of Skye, 10 days in Scotland only allowed time for the highlights. Following the Fairy Pools, which I visited on my way out, it was off to Inverness.
As I had elected to spend the majority of my time in Glencoe and the Isle of Skye, I was relegated to skip the NC500 and take a more direct line to Inverness. There are many good blogs on the NC500 route, but this travel itinerary does not include that route.
Eilean Donan Castle
If you decided to drive to Skye instead of taking the ferry, you will have already passed Eilean Donan Castle on your way in. However, you may want to save it for your way out, as it will be on your way to Inverness.
Eilean Donan Castle is definitely the most photographed castle in all of Scotland and is maybe the best. It technically took second on my list of the best castles in Scotland, but I captured a lot more photos here. When the tide is in, the castle is isolated on a small island surrounded by water. It is accessible via a long stone bridge, which compliments the aesthetic nicely.
There is no wrong time to visit this castle! In fact, I strongly recommend doing what I did and arriving for sunset, staying until the lights come on after dark, and sleeping nearby to visit again at sunrise. If you happen to be lucky with the conditions, the photos you take home from Eilean Donan castle will certainly be some of the best of your 10 days in Scotland!
There is a restroom, cafe, and facilities on site that are available during opening times.
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This gorgeous waterfall is just a slight detour on your way to Inverness, but looks like one of the nicer ones in Scotland. As I had fallen behind schedule and have seen a LOT of waterfalls throughout my travels, I chose to give it a miss and save the time, but you should at least have it on your Scotland road trip map.
Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness
The most famous name in all of Scotland belongs to Loch Ness, due primarily to the folklore that surrounds it. “Loch” simply means lake in the native Scottish Gaelic and were it not for the mythological monster known as Nessie, you likely wouldn’t think twice about visiting Loch Ness. However, the allure of the folklore brings tourists in droves, which the local community has capitalized on.
As for the scenery, the lake drive is sort of pretty, especially in the fall, but the only item that really makes the itinerary is Urquhart Castle that sits at its base.
As Urquhart Castle is on your most natural route to Inverness, you may as well stop in. You will have to pay £12 to enter, and unlike many castles, you will not be able to explore after hours.
At this point, the castle is little more than some old stone ruins in a fairly pretty setting. I personally wouldn’t spend much time here, but you may as well peek over the fence and give it a gander, or pay the admission and visit if you have good weather and are loving what you see.
The unofficial capital of the highlands, Inverness felt like a big city (and it is by highland standards), but it is only the 13th most populated city in Scotland. Still, you should expect a big city feeling complete with any chain and retail stores, including a Primark, one might expect to find.
I found metered parking near Bellfield Park and paid for 2 hours, which was plenty of time to do the river walk to Inverness Castle and explore a bit of the city center.
All in all, I liked the city and the general vibe I got while exploring, but I was more interested in allowing time for some of the remaining stops on my itinerary. Two hours felt like plenty for me!
FIFTH LEG: Inverness to Cairngorms National Park
We are now entering what I call “the castle stretch.” Having just left Inverness, most of the stops remaining on my 10-day road trip itinerary are remote castles. If traditional Scottish castles do not hold great appeal to you, you may want to spend your extra time on the North or East coast instead of following this route.
Cawdor Castle and Gardens
Just a short drive away from Inverness resides the beautiful Cawdor Castle home and gardens. It is very much a modern residence so access is limited and seasonal, but it is a truly beautiful home and well worth the stop!
For prices and open hours, you are best off visiting their website. It is worth noting that, unless you arrive during open hours, you will not be able to see the castle except through the gate.
After seeing photos of Brodie Castle, I almost skipped it as it looked rather plain and blocky. However, there was something kind of unique and magical about this fortress-like structure when I saw it in person.
I arrived after closing, which meant I couldn’t enter the castle itself, but I was free to roam the grounds. It was very quiet and allowed some opportunities to get creative with compositions, which is perhaps why I liked it so much.
Most times of the year, Brodie Castle is just a quick stop. However, spring visitors will definitely want to budget some extra time here as it receives new life this time of year when over 100 varieties of daffodils carpet the scene!
The city of Elgin was a pleasant surprise, and a place I definitely recommend you include while touring Scotland. It’s hard to explain what it was that I liked so much, except that it felt like the “perfect sized” city. It was bigger than I expected, but still very walkable, with lots of bars, restaurants, and cafes.
I included Elgin on our places to go in Scotland itinerary because I had a specific Halloween photo in mind, using the Elgin Cathedral and graveyard as a spooky sort of night scene. Unfortunately, the cathedral is gated shut from 5pm, meaning I suddenly had a free night!
The city itself is highly photogenic, especially at night, and also has some awesome fall foliage in Cooper Park. If you are in the mood for an affordable night out, I went to The Muckle Cross for both dinner and breakfast! The building itself is a historical site, the ambiance is nice, and, being a Wetherspoons, the beer, coffee and meal prices are a great value.
Detour Option: Bow Fiddle Rock
It would have meant another slight detour which I simply did not have time for, but Bow Fiddle Rock is an interesting sea stack on the northeast coast of Scotland that is popular for photographers. I do not have much information to provide other than to check out some photos and see if it’s worth including in your Scotland road trip itinerary!
Cairngorms National Park
Most tours of Scotland will take you to Aberdeen via the east coast route. In my opinion, however, the best Scotland road trip itinerary cuts through Cairngorms National Park. During the summer months, the coast may have some appeal, but Cairngorms National Park is a must-see destination during the autumn season. The fall colors are incredible, the castles are magical, and there is a plethora of wildlife that resides here.
I cannot say for certain if it was just that my time in the Cairngorms coincided with peak foliage, or if this region simply has the best fall color. But, I can say for certain is that it was pure autumn magic!
Below are a list of castles in the park, but I would advise you to go for walks anywhere you see an opportunity that looks pretty. I pulled out at some random laybys chasing the autumn leaves and happened upon a lot of stunning natural beauty in locations that certainly wouldn’t be on any sort of tourist trail.
The Cairngorms National Park is a great place to get lost and was a highlight of my 10 days in Scotland road trip.
While we had blue skies for much of the morning, the weather turned just as we arrived at Castle Fraser. Even in the moody Scotland rain, the castle and grounds were picture perfect. While my photos from here do not rank at the top of the list, it was one of the castles I enjoyed the most in person.
Parking is plentiful but comes at a small fee. Be sure to explore the surrounding gardens and forest walks, keeping a keen eye out for red squirrels and red deer.
There is something I absolutely love about Craigievar Castle! It’s pastel pink walls, slender shape, and general aesthetic makes it look so out of place compared to the more traditional castles you will have traveled to so far. It is even rumored to be the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella castle!
Craigievar Castle is owned by the National Trust of Scotland, meaning there is a small, metered fee to park, restroom facilities, and another fee to enter. I arrived for sunrise before the castle was open, so entering was not an option. The good news was that I had the place all to myself to snap off some pictures of me doing my best princess impression.
If you don’t plan on entering the castle, you won’t need more than an hour here.
This beautiful home was not included in any of the blogs and guides I read when researching what to do in Scotland, so I am grateful we stumbled across it by chance.
Kincardine Castle is the home of Andrew Bradford and his wife, Nicola. Because it is a private residence, castle tours are not an option, meaning you can really only see it from the roadside, or by attending an event there.
Even without being able to access the castle, I loved the way it looked against the fall colors from the road and felt like that was the best vantage point for photos anyway.
I had the good fortune of meeting Andrew whilst taking photos and promised him I would make sure to include a few things about visiting the castle: most notably, you are not allowed on the grass! You can access the private road on foot and view the castle from there, but by no means are you allowed to have a picnic.
I can only imagine how much of his days are spent with strangers poking around, having picnics, and even peeking through windows. Please don’t be one of those people.
Balmoral Castle is potentially the most picturesque, idyllic castle in all of the UK; certainly in Scotland. It is one of the many homes of Queen Elizabeth, which makes accessing the castle impossible without booking a tour. Unfortunately for me, the Queen was actually staying there during my 10 days in Scotland, so I was unable to see the castle at all.
If you would like to visit Balmoral, be sure to book your tickets ahead of time and plan accordingly; the castle tour is among the most popular of the Scotland tours available, and books out well in advance.
For more information, including tour times and prices, visit their website.
Were Braemar Castle not on your way back to Edinburgh anyway, I might suggest skipping it. You can see from the photos how unusual it is, but that was where the appeal seemed to end.
In my opinion, the best castles are either in the prettiest setting, such as Eilean Donan and Kilchurn mentioned above, and/or are just fairytale-like, well-preserved structures, such as Craigievar Castle. Braemar was neither of those things.
Don’t get me wrong, you may as well stop and have a look on your way out of Cairngorms National Park as it will not add any time to your journey, but I wouldn’t budget much time for Braemar Castle.
FINAL LEG: Cairngorms National Park to Edinburgh
We are now onto the home stretch! At this point in my 10-day road trip around Scotland, I will admit that a big piece of me just wanted to get back to Spaceships. I had already seen so many beautiful castles, landscapes, and met so many wonderful Scottish people, that I was ready to get out of the rain and mud and just relax. (Plus we had an amazing stay in a Scottish castle booked!)
With that said, here are few more castles you could visit on your way back to Edinburgh, if you have the desire. The only one I would really recommend to the photographers is Dunalastair Castle; this was my absolute favorite castle in all of Scotland!
I did not visit Blair Castle, but wanted to mention it as it will be on your natural route back to Edinburgh and it looks quite impressive.
Despite being only the remains of a castle, Dunalasatir Castle was my favorite in Scotland. There is something so spooky and haunted about this dilapidated old building that I found enchanting. Part of it, surely, was that nature has started to encroach on the building and reclaim it, meaning it is tucked away into the trees. Surrounded by the autumn foliage, this made for quite a scene!
Visiting Dunalastair Castle can be pretty tricky, so you may want to take careful notes on how to visit. The castle is part of a larger estate, and is located up a private driveway. The driveway is open to pedestrians, but not to vehicles. There is also no parking available, which is why this can be a bit difficult to get to.
Google Maps will take you to the driveway, but you will find the only nearby parking about half a mile BEFORE the driveway. It will be a layby that is separated from the road and has room for about 5 cars by my estimate. Park here, walk back to the driveway, and once on the driveway, stay right until you arrive at the castle.
Fonab Castle Hotel
As I mentioned, I was pretty exhausted as I drove the final stretch back to Spaceships to return the motorhome, and had already seen too many castles to bother with one more. However, I first saw Fonab Castle as I drove past it on the dual carriageway and it was so impressive that I had to stop and shoot it from the side of the road. This required me to circle back to the only layby on this stretch of road, but it provided a nice view of the castle tucked into the mountains.
Final thoughts on spending 10 days in Scotland
While it is possible to cover a lot of ground in 10 days in Scotland, there’s always more to see! I’ve tried to include what I consider some of the best places in Scotland to visit so that you can customoize the best Scotland road trip itinerary for you.
How much of this you get through will depend on the pace at which you prefer to travel. However, I am sure that no matter where you go, Scotland will capture your heart as it did mine. It is a country steeped in history that just feels magical. From the warm people to the rugged landscapes and fairytale castles, everything about Scotland is enchanting.
I hope you have found this 10-day road trip itinerary helpful, but I am always looking to improve it! Please feel free to leave constructive feedback in the comments, and please share with friends who are planning their own trips to Scotland!
Finally, don’t forget to check out our other blog posts on Scotland to help you plan the perfect Scottish vacation:
- 2 Day Isle of Skye Trip from Edinburgh
- Top 10 Isle of Skye Photography Destinations
- Top 20 Best Castles in Scotland
- An Unforgettable Overnight Stay in a Scottish Castle
- Best Things to Do in York