A Complete One-week Guide To The Scenic Highlands Of Scotland

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Enjoy the different moods of Scotland. This view is from Portree. Credit: Flavy Sen Sharma

Photo of Scotland, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Kilts, scotch and the Highlands, these are the first things that come to mind when I think of Scotland. A bit cliched yes, yet my heart skips a beat the moment my mind wanders back to the time when I spent some summer days in Scotland last year. Lush green fields, smiling and very helpful people, literature trails, history and of course Scotch — Scotland invites you with warm hugs and wide open arms.

A trip to Scotland is well worth planning because the country has so much to offer. Your Scotland itinerary should have some highlights and a week is long enough to have a relaxed trip, explore the country, get lost in its history and basically enjoy yourself to the fullest.

Who wouldn't want to visit Scotland with views like this? Credit: Flavy Sen Sharma

Photo of A Complete One-week Guide To The Scenic Highlands Of Scotland by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

How to reach Scotland?

Your Scotland itinerary should start with booking flights from New Delhi to Glasgow or Edinburgh. A return ticket with a halt in London both ways, starts from Rs 44000 approx.

Is a visa required to visit Scotland?

Yes, you will need to get a UK visa before flying into Scotland. The standard tourist visa costs £87 (Rs 7100 approx) and is valid for upto 6 months. You can apply for the visa 3 months prior to your trip to Scotland.

Getting around Scotland

Taking a bus or coach is a cheaper option than taking the train in Scotland. The other option is flying from city to city. What most prefer is hiring a car and then driving around as it gives you plenty of time to explore at you own pace. Once in a Scottish city, get lost in its winding pathways and cobblestone streets on foot.

Explore Scottish cities on foot. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of A Complete One-week Guide To The Scenic Highlands Of Scotland by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Where to stay in Scotland?

For most budget travellers, staying in hostels is the best option. Beds start from approx £12 (Rs 1000). To stay in a mid-range hotel, prices start from approx £60 (Rs 5000). Check out websites like Booking.com and Hostelworld for the best deals. Airbnbs are also a good option and start from a similar price range as a mid-range hotel.

Should you invest in city cards?

Scotland offers to tourists a Scottish Heritage Pass for £49 (Rs 4000 approx) that is valid for a week and which allows free access to various heritage sites covered by the the National Trust for Scotland, and Historic Scotland. However, it can only be used from April 1-October 31 at the heritage sites. It's a pass worth investing in if you're keen on history and want to cover almost all historic sites.

So, with the travel basics covered, sit back and relax as you plan your trip to Scotland with my itinerary for 7 magical days:

Day 1

A view of Edinburgh. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Edinburgh, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Start your trip to Scotland by flying into Edinburgh. Edinburgh has so much to offer that beginning your trip in this quaint, yet, modern hilly city is the perfect way to start your 7-day trip.

Walking up to Arthur's Seat gives grand views. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

How about starting the trip taking in magnificent views of the city from Arthur's Seat in Holyrood Park? There are various points from where you can access Arthur's Seat but the easiest is from the slope veering up from Dunsapie Loch.

Holyrood Palace. Credit: Tony Hisgett, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Come out of Holyrood Park and make your way to Holyrood Palace next door. It's the official residence of the British Monarch in Scotland. Remember photography is not allowed inside the palace. There is a royal shop at the entrance where you can buy souvenirs though.

Walk the Royal Mile from Holyrood Palace to Edinburgh Castle. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Royal Mile, Edinburgh, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Walk down the Royal Mile in the Old Town. It's the busiest street in the Old Town and has an eclectic mix of cafes, restaurants, shops and attractions for tourists. It connects two royal residences — the Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace.

Spend hours at the Edinburgh Castle. Credit: unpetitdunpetit, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Edinburgh Castle, Castlehill, Edinburgh, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Finish your first day of your Scotland itinerary at the Edinburgh Castle. It's one of the country's most-visited attractions. Some of the attractions visitors can see are the crown jewels of Scotland, St Margaret's Chapel which is Edinburgh's oldest building, the National war museum, the great hall and the vaults that held prisoners of war.

Day 2

Have an old fashioned Scottish breakfast with Haggis and Black Pudding. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of The Blue Bear Cafe, Brandon Terrace, Edinburgh, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Begin the second day with a good old fashioned Scottish breakfast. Indulge in some haggis and black pudding with eggs, tomatoes, potatoes and the works with some coffee. In Edinburgh one has to walk a lot so it's best to fill up the tank for a long day ahead.

If you love literature, you must take a book lovers' tour. You visit the sites and haunts of Edinburgh’s literary legends like Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, JK Rowling among others. It starts from outside the Writers' museum.

At the Royal Botanical Garden. Credit: Carole Waller, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Walk to the Royal Botanical Garden for some peace on quiet on your trip to Scotland. The garden covers about 70 acres, has over 3000 exotic plants, and has free entrance for visitors. However, there are additional charges if you wish to go to the glasshouse.

View from Carlton Hill. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Calton Hill, Edinburgh, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

From the garden, walk to Carlton Hill, one of the first public park's of Scotland. It used to be a favourite of Robert Louis Stevenson and boasts of magnificent views from various vantage points.

Browse through the corridors of the National Museum. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Don't forget to stop by the National Museum which is free. It has over 20000 artifacts dedicated to art, animals, history, world cultures and archaeology. Go see the Dolly the sheep display, the first mammal to be cloned from an adult cell.

Visit the birth place of Harry Potter! Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of The Elephant House, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

For all you Harry Potter fans, end Day 2 of your Scotland itinerary indulging in JK Rowling's inspirations. First drink a coffee at the Elephant House where Rowling started writing. Then go to Greyfriar's Kirkyard which inspired Tom Riddle's graveyard. Potter fans can also check out Victoria Street which inspired Diagon Alley, George Heriot’s School on which Hogwarts was loosely based; and of course Balmoral Hotel where Rowling celebrated after finishing writing the series.

Day 3

A view of the Anstruther harbour. Credit: Stu Smith, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Anstruther, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Start your third day in your Scotland itinerary by heading to Anstruther. It's an old-fashioned fishing village along the stretch of Fife coast known as the East Neuk. Indulge is some fish and chips as you explore the quaint village.

A view of Falkland. Credit: osiristhe, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Falkland, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Then start to head towards Falkland, a picturesque town in Fife famous for its royal palace where time seems to have stood still. The palace used to be a favourite retreat of the Stuart dynasty and the place also has the oldest tennis court in use, built in the 16th century.

A view of St Andrews golf course. Credit: Gregory Stewart, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of St Andrews, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

End day 3 of your trip to Scotland at St Andrews. The cathedral at St Andrews was once one of Scotland’s most magnificent buildings while the Old Town is magnificent with over 1000 years of history beckoning to you as you explore the streets. Lastly, head to the Old course to pay homage to the 'Home of Golf'.

Day 4

Aberdeen. Credit: graham chandler, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Aberdeen, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

It's time for some good ol' Scotch! Leave St Andrews and head towards Aberdeen which is about two hours by bus early morning. Once you check in to your hotel in Aberdeen, make your way to Speyside, the heart of Scotland’s whisky-making country.

Take a tour of the Glenlivet distillery. Credit: Iain Hinchliffe, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Glenlivet Distillery, Castleton of Blairfindy, Glenlivet, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

The Glenlivet distillery offers various tours. The Distillery Tour is free and departs every 20 minutes. you get a complimentary dram at the end of it! There's another paid tour which is longer and there is a proper tasting session. Why not add a bottle to your collection from the actual distillery, right?

Spend sometime at St Machar's Cathedral. Credit: Robert Speirs, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of St. Machar's Cathedral, The Chanonry, Aberdeen, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Once back to Aberdeen, spend the day checking out interesting things in the city. Head to St Machar's Cathedral which is still in use today. Legends say William Wallace's left arm was kept here after his body was cut up in 1305 (Remember Braveheart? That's who Mel Gibson portrays in the film).

A view of Dunnottar Castle. Credit: Neil Williamson, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Why not end your fourth day of your Scotland itinerary watching a spectacular sunset at Dunnottar Castle? It's a short bus ride away from Aberdeen and the medieval fortress was once an integral defense stronghold in the Jacobite risings.

Day 5

A view of Inverness. Credit: Dave Conner, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Inverness, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

From Aberdeen, make your way to Inverness. It will take about 4 hours by road but the journey will be well worth the time. It's very scenic route and will give you plenty of time to plan your day ahead.

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness. Credit: Stuart Pinfold, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Loch Ness, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Once you reach Inverness, head to Loch Ness to hunt the famous monster! Loch Ness is about 8 miles away from Inverness. Take a boat tour over to Urquhart Castle to see Scotland's iconic castle. It's from here that the famous monster is supposedly have been sighted! Once you have a fill of history and monsters, make your way back to Inverness and spend the night there.

Day 6

A view of Quiraing. Credit: Flavy Sen Sharma

Photo of Isle of Skye, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

With a base in Inverness, spend a whole day discovering magical isle of Skye on your trip to Scotland. Start in the morning and head towards the Skye Bridge. The journey will give you fabulous views. Stop first at Kyleakin, a pretty fishing village. Then head towards the east coast to take in grand views of the Red and Black Cuillin mountains. Go further north to see and take pictures of the Old Man of Storr a unique rock formation. Then go to Kilt Rock which resembles it's namesake - a Highland kilt! The Quiraing was created by a series of landslides, which combine to make the surrounding surreal. Stop at Uig to shop for authentic souvenirs like their famous pottery. Then visit the magical Faerie Glen, a natural landscape of grassy cone-shaped hills. Then stop at Portree, the largest town in Skye. It's a busy fishing port and cultural centre. Finally, on your way back upon leaving the island, stop and take pictures of the Eilean Donan Castle.

Old Man of Storr. Credit: Flavy Sen Sharma

Photo of A Complete One-week Guide To The Scenic Highlands Of Scotland by Sharmistha Chaudhuri
Day 7

After a fill of history, scotch and scrumptious food, keep the last day on the Scotland itinerary to relax and enjoy a slow pace. Take a train from Inverness to Glasgow (it will take about 3 and a half hours). Once there, spend the day taking in the sights and sounds of the city.

inside Glasgow Cathedral. Credit: Holly Hayes, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Glasgow Cathedral, Castle Street, Glasgow, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

First head to the 12th century Glasgow Cathedral or St Mungo. Apart from the cathedral, don't forget to visit the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art. It examines world religions and their rites.

A view of George Square. Credit: dun_deagh, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of George Square, Glasgow, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Then head to George Square, the heart of Glasgow. The historic Victorian city centre has 12 statues of famous people associated with the place that includes Walter Scott and Queen Victoria.

On your Scotland itinerary, don't forget to slot an afternoon at Merchant City enjoying the pubs and restaurant it offers. The place is always abuzz with a great choice in places to see and eat.

How about spending some time at the Hunterian Museum and art gallery at the Glasgow University? It has collections from departments of ethnography, zoology, geology and archaeology. Artworks by Rubens and Rembrandt are also on display.

Visit the Riverside Museum. Credit: Ianan, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Riverside Museum, Pointhouse Road, Glasgow, United Kingdom by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Finally, end your Glasgow trip with a visit to the Riverside museum. It has a fantastic collection of cars, railway locos, trams, bikes and model Clyde-built ships. Walk into transport history and it's free of charge!

Walk, skip, run in Scotland. The path awaits! Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of A Complete One-week Guide To The Scenic Highlands Of Scotland by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

With the Scotland itinerary done, what's stopping you from planning your holiday? May your trip to Scotland be the best one yet! 

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