Scotland Castles Trail - 6 Days6 Days & 5 Nights 5 Read 1 reviews
- Renowned Eilean Donan Castle, with views of Skye, on Scotland's dramatic west coast
- Explore Loch Ness, Cawdor Castle and Culloden Battlefield from Inverness
- Imposing Dunnottar Castle perched on the Aberdeenshire seacliffs
- Quaint seaside town of St Andrews with its white sand beaches and cobbled streets
- Balmoral Castle, Scottish home of the royal family, set in the Cairngorm National Park
Discovery | Discovery
Self Drive | Take the wheel and explore an area at your own pace taking in places and highlights that our travel experts recommend.
This trip is suitable for:
Ideal if you have an interest in:
- Accessible by Rail
Your information pack will include a day-by-day itinerary, with recommended driving routes between overnight stops, as well as recommended detours and must-see sights and attractions. You can use Google maps to navigate the route on your phone, or your car's sat-nav. If you are hiring a car we recommend adding on a sat-nav as internet signal in the Highlands isn't always reliable.
You will overnight in hand-picked small hotels, B&B's and guesthouses, all of which have been chosen to ensure you experience warm Scottish hospitality at its best! We regularly use the below properties listed in the itinerary but may accommodate you elsewhere if these are unavailable.
This holiday is available to solo travellers but as all our tours are priced per person based on two sharing there is a single supplement payable to cover the additional costs. If you require single rooms within your party we will, of course, try to accommodate your request subject to availability.
Breakfast is included each morning and normally consists of a continental buffet with tea and coffee, fresh fruits, yoghurt, cereals, eggs and bread with jams. Often also on the menu are cooked options like freshly made porridge, a traditional cooked Scottish breakfast and smoked fish with scrambled eggs.
We don't include lunch and dinner so you are free to choose from the available options. Your information pack includes details and recommendations of convenient lunch stops, cosy cafes and restaurants along the way. A couple of decades ago the food scene in Scotland was somewhat lacking, but now you'll find a range of high quality, varied options with everything from award-winning fish and chips to intimate Michelin-listed dining experiences, and casual restaurant menus showcasing delicious locally-sourced produce.
You can add additional nights wherever you please on the route. Of course we highly recommend additional nights in the city of Edinburgh at the start/end of your trip!
- 5 Nights in 3-4* B&B's, guesthouses and small hotels
- 5 Breakfasts
- Detailed information pack brimming with our local knowledge
- Our daily recommendations for places to see and visit
- Our daily recommendations for top places to eat and drink
- 24/7 Emergency support from our UK office
- Car hire (available as an optional extra)
- Lunches, dinners, snacks and drinks
- Personal equipment
- Travel insurance (required)
- Any entrance fees for attractions/recommended excursions
- Additional nights at the start/end or along the route
- Car hire (available as an optional extra)
When To Go
You can start this tour on any day of the week from March to October, subject to availability. The busiest times of the year are around Easter and May when accommodations fill up quickly, so book as early as possible if you are planning to travel then. If you travel before Easter, and after mid-October it is worth noting that some attractions may either be closed, have limited access (i.e. castle interiors may be closed but the gardens open), or may open later and close a little earlier in the day. We always recommend checking the links in our information pack for up-to-date opening times to avoid disappointment.
During the shoulder season - March to early April and after mid-October - the Scottish weather tends to be more unpredictable and is often colder and rainier. However, attractions and popular viewpoints will generally be quieter.
Weather and Climate
Scotland enjoys a temperate climate, meaning it's relatively mild all year, except in winter when temperatures dip below 0 degrees Celsius and it snows regularly in the Highlands. The Highlands are renowned for variable weather so you should be prepared for everything; from 'dreich' days (a Scottish word for rainy days that are a bit bleak) to days with beautiful blue skies and warmer weather. Whatever the weather it tends to be breezy so spare layers are always recommended.
From the end of April to October average daily temperatures vary from 9-15 degrees Celsius. Monthly rainfall varies from 10-16 mm per month on averarge. Generally, May to July are the driest and mildest months, but exploring later in the year from September to October is pleasant in cooler temperatures and the autumnal scenery is spectacular as the leaves begin to change colour. To see the purple heather blooming on the hillsides the best time to travel is from late July to early September.
Getting from the End
Your trip ends in Edinburgh, which is easily accessible from across the UK via great public transport and road links, or from Europe and beyond by flying into either Glasgow or Edinburgh international airports. Glasgow and Edinburgh are just over an hour apart by road and it doesn't take much longer to travel between the two by an express bus or train service.
Onward travel from Edinburgh is easy if continuing onward travel in your own car via good motorway links to the rest of the UK.
By Road: It's a 1h 15m drive from Glasgow on the west coast to Edinburgh on the M8 motorway. Newcastle is approximately a 2.5 hour drive from Edinburgh, and Manchester and Birmingham, 4 and 6 hours respectively.
If dropping off a rental car and continuing your onward journey by public transport we recommend breaking the journey by adding an extra night in Edinburgh. For specific information regarding public transport in Scotland, please see the excellent Traveline Scotland website for timetables and fares.
By Air: Located 8 miles east of the city of Edinburgh, the international airport is served by routes from around the UK and the world. There are regular shuttle bus and tram services running from the airport into the city centre, with a journey time of around 30 minutes. There's also a taxi rank outside the airport to take people into the city centre.
On confirmation of your booking, you will receive a personalised itinerary and comprehensive information pack. This carefully curated pack, designed with our own local knowledge and expertise, will include recommended driving routes, the must-see places and attractions to stop at en route, and our suggestions for the best places to eat and drink.
We don't include car rental in the cost of our discovery tours to keep things flexible as we realise many people may wish to use their own car. If you decide to arrange car rental through us, we have a partnership with Europcar and can arrange this easily for you. As standard we book an Economy category car (suitable for up to 4 people) with included comprehensive insurance, prices are on a request basis. Please just let us know if you would like to upgrade your car.
It is a requirement of booking this tour with Macs Adventure that you have suitable travel insurance which covers you for the activity and emergency evacuation and hospital care.
ItineraryDay 1 Glasgow to Inveraray
Easily accessible from the UK, Europe and beyond via plane, public transport or the well-linked road network Glasgow is the perfect place to begin your trip. Let us know if you'd like a pre-trip night in Glasgow and your specialist will happily arrange this for you. If you can, we recommend allowing time in your schedule for sightseeing and making the most of the vibrant foodie scene. Stroll around the city’s West End, where you can marvel at the impressive sandstone architecture of the University of Glasgow, founded in 1796, and nearby Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum.
Once you've had your fill of the city's hustle and bustle take a scenic drive through the National Park of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs as you follow the "bonnie banks" north into the Highlands. Spend the afternoon exploring Inveraray Castle, as featured in Downtown Abbey, and home of the chiefs of Clan Campbell since the 18th century. The castle and nearby town are situated on the shores of Scotland's longest sea loch - Loch Fyne. The loch is renowned for its delicious fresh seafood - for dinner seek out the best award-winning oysters at The Loch Fyne Oyster Bar.
Drive time: 1 hr 30 mins
Stay at the Brambles nestled on the banks of Loch Fyne in the friendly west coast town of Inveraray. This boutique hotel seamlessly combines traditional Scottish charm with modern efficiency. The full Scottish breakfast is said to be among the best as well as the delicious home baking.
Creag Dhubh is a beautiful country house dating from 1851 and retaining most of its original features. The accommodation is within walking distance of the town centre and with panoramic views across Loch Fyne to the Cowal Hills.
Built in 1755, the Inveraray Inn is the oldest hotel in Inveraray and one of the most iconic hotels on the west coast of Scotland. Enjoy views to Loch Fyne while enjoying traditional Highland hospitality and excellent local food.
Today choose between two scenic route options that meet just south of Fort William before continuing onto Eilean Donan Castle. The first brings you to the seaside town of Oban with its distillery and bustling harbour then heads north along the west coast to reach Fort William. Alternatively, drive through the wild interior of Scotland, via the Rannoch Moor and the iconic valley of Glencoe passing Scotland's most photographed mountain - Buachaille Etive Mor.
In Fort William you'll pass by the base of the UK's highest mountain, Ben Nevis. Here we recommend detouring to the Jacobite Monument and Glenfinnan Viaduct to look out for the Jacobite steam train, otherwise known as the "Hogwart's Express" made famous in the Harry Potter films. From Fort William continue through ever more mountainus scenery until Eilean Donan Castle comes into view. This impressive castle, is perhaps Scotland's most famous! Situated at the confluence of three sea lochs on a small island connected to the land by an arched stone bridge it makes for a truly inspiring sight. On a clear day don't miss a visit to the upper viewpoint to get the perfect photo of the castle with the Isle of Skye in the distance. Overnight in the small village of Dornie overlooking Eilean Donan Castle.
Drive time: 3 - 4 hours
Conchra is situated on the shores of Loch Long and enjoys stunning views towards Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland's most iconic castle. Relax in your comfortable en suite rooms or in front of the roaring log fire in the guest lounge overlooking Loch Long.
Sealladh Mara is a charming accommodation situated in the quiet village of Ardelve, overlooking the historic Eilean Donan Castle and conveniently located within walking distance of the village of Dornie. Your host Phyllis will make you feel right at home during your stay.
From Scotland's wild west coast drive through the magnificent valley of Glen Shiel with towering mountains on either side to reach the shores of Loch Ness, Scotland's most storied loch. Home to the legend of the Loch Ness Monster ("Nessie"), the loch also has positioned dramatically on its shores the 13th century ruins of Urquhart Castle. On a clear day there's nothing like a boat trip for taking in the spectacular scenery!
A visit to Culloden Battlefield, near Inverness, is a must - the battlefield was the sombre site of the final 1745 Jacobite Uprising battle. Explore your clan history at the visitor centre's ancestry hub or detour to nearby Cawdor Castle for a stroll in the peaceful gardens.
The Highland city of Inverness makes for an ideal overnight stop with many restaurants and pub options serving everything from hearty Highland fayre to locally-sourced cuisine. Why not round off the day with a dram in the Castle Tavern overlooking the castle and the River Ness?
Drive time: 1 hr 40 mins - 2 hr 30 mins
Ballifeary Guest House is an impressive Victorian Villa with many original features. It has a large private car park for guests use and a secured shed for those with bikes. It is ideally located only a matter of yards from Eden Court theatre and a short walk from the River Ness where many restaurants, the Cathedral and Castle can be found. The rooms have been recently refurbished to a high standard offering every comfort you would expect.
Glencairn and Ardross Guest House is a family run guesthouse. The building is an elegant detached listed Victorian building situated in a quiet street close to the scenic River Ness. Room are comfortable and tastefully furnished and have all the amenities you require.
Built in 1842, your accommodation is a well-appointed Victorian villa with stunning views over the River Ness and Cavell Gardens. All rooms have TV, hospitality tray, hairdryers and free wireless Internet. They also have available on request bathrobes, slippers, toothbrushes and toothpaste, iron and ironing board and DVD player.
Today you'll stay in The Cairngorm National Park - Scotland's largest. Located within the park is Royal Deeside where you'll find not only Balmoral Castle and its sprawling estate, Scottish home of the royal family, but also the castles of Braemar, Crathes and Craigievar. Craigievar with its turrets and pink paintwork is particularly special and well-worth a visit.
If you've had your fill of turrets and battlements then we recommend a visit to the Royal Lochnagar Distillery or the picturesque Victorian village of Braemar, home of the world-famous Braemar Gathering & Highland Games. Near Braemar enjoy tranquil strolls in the Caledonian pine forest with views of the Cairngorm Mountains from the Linn of Dee viewpoint. The viewpoint over the River Dee gorge was one of Queen Victoria's favourite picnic spots.
Drive time: 2 hr 30 mins - 3 hr 20 mins
The Alexandra Hotel offers a friendly service, comfortable accommodation and excellent meals. All rooms are en-suite with free Wifi, tea and coffee making facilities, satellite television and other essentials that go to make up everything you would expect of a quality family run hotel.
The Deeside Inn is known for its traditional Scottish hospitality and lively music scene as much as it is for its homely lounge, open fires and welcoming bar with quality homemade food. The lovely rooms have complimentary tea and coffee making facilities.
No.45 is a stunning Victorian granite house originally built in 1890, set in an acre of walled gardens at the end of a private drive. No.45 has many original features including a pitch pine staircase and open fires. The house is furnished in Scottish style with tartan carpets, leather sofas and a stag's head. The eight bedrooms are each decorated in individual styles with modern en-suite bathrooms, televisions, tea trays and hair-dryers. Wi-fi is available free of charge. During the summer months breakfast is served in the conservatory looking out over the walled garden where you can often see red squirrels in the copper beech trees.
Discover Scotland's dramatic east coast as you explore Aberdeenshire and Fife. Visit iconic Dunnottar Castle perched atop seacliffs on the Aberdeenshire coast. This stunning spot is thought to have been occupied since the middle ages but most of the remaining castle ruins date from the 15-16th century. The nearby town of Stonehaven, with its sheltered beach and harbour, makes for the perfect lunch stop.
Also not to be missed is Glamis Castle - the inspiration behind Shakespeare's Macbeth and childhood home of the Queen Mother. This spectacular castle is set in beautiful gardens with numerous trails for visitors to explore.
Overnight in St Andrews, Scotland's first university town and home to the country's oldest golf course (the aptly named "Old Course"). Spend an afternoon wandering its cobbled streets and exploring the 10th century cathedral and castle ruins. Stroll the 2 mile long West Sands Beach and sample the myriad of delightful cafes, restaurants and cosy pubs that pepper the town's streets.
Drive time: 2 hrs 45 mins
Doune House is a carefully maintained Victorian townhouse with many original features and modern comforts. The accommodation has been completely modernised to offer the highest quality of comfort and the rooms have all the amenities you require for a great overnight stay.
The Saint, St Andrews, is located in the heart of the picturesque town famed for golf. There are 4 comfortable ensuite bedrooms that are spacious and have been decorated in modern style. The restaurant serves high-quality food with a menu that combines contemporary and traditional dishes.
Jim, Glynice and their staff assure you of a warm welcome when you come to stay with at Craigmore Guest House. You will stay in one of their seven lovely rooms, all with our newly refurbished en-suite bathrooms with heated towel rails. Every room is equipped with tea and coffee making facilities, hairdryer, flat screen TV with DVD player and complimentary toiletries.
On your return to Edinburgh take an optional detour through Fife's charming fishing villages of Crail, Pittenweem, St Monans and Elie. Stop off in Crail to admire the colourful seaside cottages and the little boats bobbing in the deep harbour. Alternatively, visit Elie's lighthouse for dramatic views over the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh and the Pentland Hills.
If you would like to break up your onward journey we recommend adding an overnight in Edinburgh at the end of your trip. Simply let us know when you book and we will happily arrange this for you.
Drive time: 1hr 30 – 2 hrs
The Macs Way
- Tried & Tested Adventures
- Book with Confidence
- Positive Impact
- Knowledgeable and helpful specialist trip planners
- Wide variety of tours to suit all interests and experience levels
- Start on any date that suits you
- Choose your ideal trip length and difficulty
- Range of accommodation comfort levels
- Choice of trip styles
- Choose your own travel companions
- Walk, cycle and explore at your own pace
- Make your own decisions
- Choose your own path
- Indulge your passions
- 15,000+ unbiased trip & service reviews
- Feefo Platinum Award 2022
- 25,000+ travelers trust us each year
- As featured in the Guardian, Times, Nat Geo Traveler
- Founder owned & operated since 2003
- 100+ passionate team members across the US, UK & Europe
- Carefully planned adventures
- Quality, hand-picked accommodations
- Seamless and reliable arrangements
- Comprehensive trip information & insider tips
- Detailed maps, route notes and mobile GPS app
- Helpful 24/7 support should you need it
- Travel responsibly
- Explore off the beaten track
- Support locally owned businesses
- Engage with local communities
- Minimize your impact
- Maximize the benefit of your travel
- Challenge yourself & grow