4-5 days in Scotland: recommended itinerary + my best tips

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The Ultimate 4-5 days Scotland Itinerary + Where to stay

You’re planning to spend 4 or 5 days in Scotland? You’re looking for the best itinerary?

You’re at the right place!

In order to help you plan your stay, I have prepared for you this 4-5 days Scotland itinerary. You will start by visiting Edinburgh, the capital, and then will go on a road trip in the Highlands.

For each stage of your trip, in addition to the best things to do, I will also give you all my best tips and accommodation suggestions depending on your budget. You will see, planning your itinerary will be super easy!

So, how to spend a 4 or 5 days in Scotland? Where to stay?

4-5 days in Scotland: the best itinerary

1) Edinburgh (2 days)

Let’s start your 4-5 day trip to Scotland with a visit to Edinburgh, the capital.

To visit Edinburgh in 2 days, the best is to devote one day to each part of the city.

  • On your first day, you will visit Old Town, the medieval part of the city
  • On your second day, you will discover New Town, the contemporary part of Edinburgh.

Old Town, the historic center of Edinburgh, stretches mainly around the Royal Mile: this famous streets runs from Edinburgh Castle down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

You can start by visiting the city’s iconic landmark, Edinburgh Castle. It stands at the top of an ancient volcano and dominates the town.

As it’s the most touristic monument in Scotland, you should really book your tickets in advance here. It will save you a lot of time!

Let’s face it: during your short 4 or 5 days stay in Scotland, it’s better to spend your time visiting rather than queuing for hours to get an entrance ticket 😅.

During your visit, you will be able to discover both the inside and outside of the castle.

The famous Crown Jewels, the War Museum and the beautiful gardens are a must see. From the castle grounds, you will also be able to enjoy one of the best views of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

After your visit to the castle, you can head to one of the oldest tourist attractions of Edinburgh: the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions.

This original and unusual museum is a great place to visit if you’re traveling with your family. There, you will discover numerous optical illusions as well as a 360° animated panorama of the city.

You can find more information about the Camera Obscura on the official website. To avoid queuing at the entrance, you should also buy your tickets in advance by clicking here.

On the way out, continue down the Royal Mile, wander in the alleys of the old town and admire the medieval architecture.

Here are the main monuments to see on the Royal Mile of Edinburgh:

  • The Saint Gilles Cathedral, the oldest Gothic religious building in the city
  • Canongate Kirk, a quiet small church
  • The Real Mary King’s Close, to visit the underground streets and houses
  • Dunbar’s Close Garden, a small, quiet and charming garden
  • White Horse Close, a picturesque group of houses
  • Scottish Parliament House, the seat of the Scottish Parliament

If you love history and want to learn more about Edinburgh, you should definitely visit the 2 following museums:

  • The Museum of Edinburgh
  • “The people’s Story” Museum: This interesting museum will allow you to learn more about the working-class people of Edinburgh from the 18th century to the present day.

They are both located near the Royal Mile and are free of charge.

After all these visits, you will deserve a sweet break 😄.

You can for example go to Clarinda’s Tearoom, one of the best tea rooms in the city: British atmosphere guaranteed with flower tablecloths and porcelain dishes! Address: 69 Canongate Street, almost at the end of the Royal Mile.

It’s now time to visit the city’s second most popular tourist attraction: The Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Once the residence of Mary Stuart and now one of the queen’s second home, you will for sure love discovering its art galleries, state apartments, gardens, and the abbey ruins.

Here also, the best way to save time is to buy your tickets for the palace in advance by clicking here.

At the end of your visit, you can climb up Arthur’s Seat hill located nearby. The view over Edinburgh from the top of this ancient volcano is breathtaking!

At nightfall, to end this first day in Edinburgh with a typically Scottish visit, you can go Greyfriars cemetery. It’s reputed to be one of the most haunted in the world!

To get there, the best is to join one of the guided tours organized every evening. It needs to be booked here.

Voyage Tips - Advice

If you want to learn everything about Edinburgh’s Old Town, the best is to opt for a guided tour.

During your tour, you will have the chance to learn more about the city’s historical sites such as the Castle, The Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Parliament.

This guided tour of Edinburgh can be booked directly here:

Arthur's seat
View of Edinburgh and Arthur’s seat

For the second day of your 4-5 day itinerary in Scotland, you will discover New Town, the contemporary part of the city.

This district organized around 3 main streets (Princes Street, Queen Street and Georges Street) is characterized by large squares and typical Georgian architecture.

Here are the best places to see in New Town, Edinburgh:

  • Princes Street Garden: stroll through the alleys and enjoy the beautiful views over the medieval city.
  • Charlotte Square, where the official residence of the Prime Minister is located.
  • Calton Hill: from the hill, you can enjoy a panoramic view over the historic center (Old Town) up to the sea.
  • The Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery, 2 free museums, perfect if you’re an art lover!
  • Dean Village, a former milling village. You can reach it in 15 minutes on foot from the center of Edinburgh.
  • The Royal Botanical Gardens, among the most beautiful in the world.

At the end of the day, if you’re up for more ghost stories and haunted places after visiting Greyfriars Cemetery, you should go on a Ghost Tour. Hop on a black double-decker bus and tour the the creepiest places of the city, where torture and executions took place. It needs to be booked here!

To learn more about the best things to do in Edinburgh, you should read my detailed article: Edinburgh: the definitve guide.

Voyage Tips - Advice
To visit Edinburgh, you can also buy the Royal Edinbhurg Ticket right here. It gives access to the castle, the palace but also to the Royal Yacht Britannia and to a guided bus tour.

Where to stay in Edinburgh

  • Edinburgh Central Youth Hostel: Youth hostel located only 800 meters from the train station and Princes Street. Bed in a dormitory from 30€ per night, breakfast at 6€. Strong points: cleanliness, great location, friendly staff.
  • Leonardo Royal Hotel Edinburgh Haymarket: Located in the city centre, 10 minutes walk from the castle. Contemporary and elegant double room from 90€, breakfast included. Strong points: the very helpful staff, the spacious rooms, the very comfortable bed. It is my favorite for its amazing value for money!
  • Radisson Blu Hotel, Edinburgh: Located on the historic Royal Mile Street, 10 minutes from the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Chic and refined double room from 200€ per night, breakfast at 14€. Strong points: central location, spa, heated indoor swimming pool, gym, and the excellent breakfast!
  • Radisson Collection Hotel, Royal Mile Edinburgh: 5 star hotel located on the Royal Mile, 600 meters away from the castle. This luxury hotel offers comfortable and elegant double rooms starting at 300€ per night, breakfast at 18€. Strong points: located in the heart of Edinburgh’s historic centre, the interior design, very helpful staff, absolute comfort. This is the best hotel for a luxury stay in Edinburgh!
Hotel 5 étoiles à Edimbourg - Le Radisson Collection Hotel
5 star hotel in Edinburgh – The Radisson Collection Hotel

2) The Highlands ( 2 days )

For the second part of your 4 or 5 days trip to Scotland, you will spend 2 days to visit the Highlands.

For this road trip, you will need to rent a car (unless you came to Scotland with your own of course!). Personally, I always use Rentalcars.com website, for several reasons:

  • You can easily compare all the car rental agencies prices at a given location
  • You can get their “full protection” insurance. It’s the best way to be fully refunded in case of an accident or theft. Tested and approved, they have already refunded me more than 1300 euros!
  • You can modify or cancel your booking free of charge.

If you know your travel dates, your should really compare the rates and rent your car as soon as possible. It’s the best way to get the best price (car rental prices only go up with time).

Voyage Tips - Advice
If you don’t want to rent a car, the other solution is to opt for day trips from Edinburgh.

The big advantage is that you won’t have to take care of anything! Your guide and driver will take care of everything 😊.

To make it even easier for you, I have selected the best day trips from Edinburgh. Simply click on the orange links below to book them and for more information:

Enjoy!

If you have chosen the road trip option:

Once you have picked up your car, head for Glencoe, about 3 hours drive from Edinburgh.

The village is the starting point for many hikes in the Highlands. There are hikes available for everyone, so you can just choose the one that suits you the best depending on its length and difficulty.

The easiest are the Lochan Trails: these short forest walks take about 1 hour to complete.

If you’re up for a longer hike, the Pap of Glencoe, is clearly the best choice! This 4 hours round trip hike will take you to the top of the mountain of the same name. The view from the summit is just superb!

And if you’re looking for something in between, the Lost valley hike is quite nice too. It takes around 3 hours round trip.

When you will arrive, you should ask at Glencoe Visitor Centre for more information about the various hiking trails available.

Spend the night towards Fort Williams, 25 minutes from Glencoe.

Glencoe Scotland
Glencoe Valley, Scotland

On the next day, you will go to one of Scotland’s most famous places: the Loch Ness!

The Loch (the second largest in the country) is located between Inverness and Fort Augustus, an hour and a half drive from Fort William.

In the morning, you will thus head to Fort Augustus, the starting point of Loch Ness cruises.

During your cruise, you can try to catch a glimpse of Nessie, the famous monster!

After the boat trip and a good lunch break, head to the village of Drumnadrochit (40 minutes by car). Here, you can visit Urquhart Castle, a medieval castle built on the banks of the Loch.

To combine the 2 best things to do at Loch Ness (the cruise and the visit to Urquhart Castle), you should opt for a combined tour: it’s only €25 per person! It includes a 1 hour boat trip on Loch Ness and the visit to the castle. You need to book it in advance here.

If you’re not too tired and have some time left, you can then go to Inverness, the capital of the Highlands. Its castle is worth a visit.

On your way back, you can make a stop in Dores, a cute village offering a beautiful view of Loch Ness.

Return to Fort William for a second night in the Highlands.

For more information about the Highlands, you should read my detailed article: The 20 best things to do in the Highlands

Voyage Tips - Advice

Here is another option for your second day in the Highlands:

Instead of going to Loch Ness, you can go to Glenfinnan, 30 minutes from Fort William. The place is especially famous for it 21 arch viaduct that has been featured in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” movie!

Every morning around 10:30 and in the afternoon around 15:00, you can see the Jacobite Express steam train (Hogwarts Express’s real name) passing by. A great moment for all Harry Potter fans 😄.

In addition to watching this famous train, there are also several beautiful hikes to do in the surrounding area.

Where to stay in the Highlands (Fort William)

  • Fort William Backpackers: Located in the center of Fort William. Bed in a dormitory from 22€. Strong points: the atmosphere, the welcome, the location. The best choice for backpackers!
  • Ben Nevis Hotel & Leisure Club: Located 1.5 km from Fort William. Scottish style double room starting at 100€/night with breakfast included. Strong points: indoor heated swimming pool, the free parking, the breakfast.
  • Nevis Bank Inn: Located on the banks of Nevis river, 10 minutes away from Fort William’s town center. Large double room from 190€, breakfast included. Strong points: pleasant staff, very clean and a good restaurant.
  • Inverlochy Castle Hotel: 5-star hotel located 6 km away from Fort William. The place is actually a small castle that offers double rooms with a view on the gardens and the peak of Glen Nevis. Prices start at 550€ breakfast included. Strong points: the extraordinary setting, the amazing breakfast and the wonderful staff. The best choice for a luxury trip to the Highlands!
Inverlochy Castle Hotel
Inverlochy Castle Hotel

3) Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park (1 day)

That’s already the fifth day of your 4 or 5 day Scotland tour!

Today you will have to think about getting closer to Edinburgh. The best is thus to go to Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. Both the national park and the Loch are the largest in the country.

The place is really beautiful, and you will probably see a few sheeps during this day!

On your way through Trossachs Park, you’ll first reach Tarbet (1 hour 40 minutes from Fort William), where you can take a cruise on loch Lomond.

Then continue to Luss (southwards), a village known for its view of the Loch, and pass through Balloch. It is a 15 minute drive between the two.

In the afternoon, you should really hike to the top of Conic Hill (about 3 hours round trip). It offers panoramic views over Loch Lomond and the entire east coast, it’s really superb!

Before heading back to Edinburgh, pass by Doune Castle, and don’t forget to make a stop to visit Stirling Castle, one of the largest in Scotland. You should buy your skip the line tickets here.

From Stirling you will still have to drive for around 1h to reach Edinburgh.

Voyage Tips - Advice

If you’re planning only 4 days in Scotland, you can spend 1 day in the Highlands instead of 2.

Or, if you don’t want to drive so much, you can also spend 2 full days at Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, and don’t go to the Highlands.

In addition to the cruise and the Conic Hill hike I talked about, there are many others hikes to do there, so you will for sure find something to do! The advantage is that Loch Lomond is only 1h45 from Edinburgh, whereas the Highlands are 3 hours away from the capital.

As I suggested a bit earlier in this guide, you can also stay in Edinburgh for the 4 days and do day trips. The list of the best ones is just here (click here)

loch lomond trossachs parc ecosse
Loch Lomond

Traveling to Scotland: flight prices

Flights prices to Scotland vary widely, so it is a good idea to compare them as soon as possible. To do this, you can use our flight comparator, in partnership with Skyscanner. It’s the best way to pay the best price!

If you need help to plan your 4-5 day itinerary in Scotland, don’t hesitate to ask me in the comments section located below.

Scotland Tours: 4-5 days

On Voyagetips.com, I give you all my best tips and itineraries to plan your trip to Scotland by yourself. (All my Scotland travel guides are here)

However, if you prefer to book a 4-5 day Scotland tour with a travel agency, I recommend you to check the 10 best Scotland tours by clicking the button below:

Scotland travel Guides

You’re traveling to Scotland? These articles will help you!

Discover all my articles about Scotland: All my articles to help you plan your trip to Scotland are listed there.

You’re using Pinterest? Here is the picture to pin!

Scotland itinerary 4-5 days
Scotland itinerary 4-5 days
Vincent

Creator of the Voyage Tips blog, travel and photography lover. I give you all my best tips to plan your next trip.

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