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Bucket list trip:

Last updated: 22 June, 2023
Expert travel writer: Lucy Gillmore

Where to go and what to see in the Scottish Highlands to get the most from your trip – a 10-day itinerary from destination expert and travel writer Lucy Gillmore.

Editor note – Lucy has not included specific recommendations of where to stay each day unless it’s necessary. Instead, see the ‘Where to stay’ section in our Scottish Highlands destination guide.

Begin on the southern fringes of the Highlands in pretty Perthshire. Head up the eastern edge along the pine-fringed A9 from Perth making a pitstop in picture-postcard Dunkeld with its whitewashed cottages, romantic ruined cathedral and cluster of galleries, cafes and delis. Grab brunch or an early lunch a Aran, the bijou bakery founded by Great British Bake Off semi-finalist Flora Shedden.

Then continue north to Aberfeldy for a 4×4 Highland Safari up into the hills before visiting Blair Castle, a glorious chocolate-box turreted confection in the little village of Blair Atholl.

Highland Safaris [hiking]

Aberfeldy , Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
A beautiful red stag deer close up in front of a snow capped mountain

Spot red deer and golden eagles, and learn Highland history, on these excellent safaris.

Adult price: £48

Best for ages 6+

Duration: 2-3 hours

Blair Castle

Pitlochry, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
External view of the lovely white castle set into green hills

A picture-perfect, white-turreted medieval castle with beautiful landscaped gardens, rich in Scottish history and legend – it was the ancestral home of Clan Murray.

Adult price: £15

Best for ages 10+

Grandtully Hotel

Strathtay, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

|Official star rating:

Grandtully Hotel

A gourmet escape in rural Perthshire, this chic boutique hotel’s highlights include cosy, contemporary rooms and hand-crafted cocktails. 

Average £155

Extra beds

Pool

2+ bedrooms

Beach

Kids menu

Fitness center

Kids club

Continue north to the Cairngorms National Park and head to the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre for a trek up onto the moors to feed the wild reindeer. Then swing by the Rothiemurchus Estate farm shop and café, The Barn, for lunch.

From here head to Grantown-on-Spey and follow the Snow Road, a spectacular scenic route through the mountains to Braemar on Royal Deeside, home of the legendary Highland Games and the royal family’s Balmoral Estate.

Cairngorm Reindeer Herd

Aviemore, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

Close up of a reindeer on the mountain, with tour group walking in the distance behind

A charmingly old-fashioned Highland wildlife experience – trek to see wild reindeer roaming the mountains of the Cairngorms.

Adult price: £19

Best for ages 4+

Duration: 2 hours

The Barn

Aviemore, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

The Barn

On the edge of Aviemore in the Cairngorms the rustic-chic Rothiemurchus Estate farm shop, cafe and deli sells beef and venison from their farm along with a range of local artisan produce – such as Inshriach gin.

Best for ages 13+

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More details >

Fife Arms

Braemar , Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

|Official star rating:

Fife Arms

This Victorian hotel in Braemar is the place to stay for those seeking a sumptuous, maximalist, modern art-clad Highland hideaway.

Average £392

Extra beds

Pool

2+ bedrooms

Beach

Kids menu

Fitness center

Kids club

Follow the bucolic Malt Whisky Trail north through Speyside – starting with the 19th-century Royal Lochnagar distillery. Then wind your way through the hills ticking off some of the big names such as Glenfiddich and The Glenlivet as you head up to the Moray Coast. Follow the coast road to Inverness, the capital of the Highlands.

The Malt Whisky Trail can be done as a DIY option en route to Inverness or book a guided tour and stay an extra night at the Fife Arms.

Detours en-route include the state-of-the-art visitor experience at Culloden Battlefield and Fort George.

Pass through Inverness and out along the southern side of Loch Ness to bed down in a small waterfront boutique hotel.

Malt Whisky Trail

Speyside, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Two drams of whisky with ice on a wooden barrel - ready for tatings

The world’s only malt whisky trail – eight world-class distilleries and a cooperage, all open for tours and tastings.

Min age 18

Best for ages 18+

Culloden Battlefield

Inverness, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Close up of the stone engraved sign

An atmospheric, historic battlefield with a state-of-the-art visitor centre that brings the bloody events of 1745 to life.

Adult price: £11

Best for ages 13+

Fort George

Inverness, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

Fort George

This 18th-century coastal fortress, still a working barracks, overlook the Moray Firth built after the Battle of Culloden to house the British army. You can wander around the complex, dipping into the regimental museum, checking out the historical tableaux depicting soldiers’ lives and climbing up onto the canon-peppered battlements.

Adult price: £10

Best for ages 13+

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More details >

Loch Ness [hiking & cycling]

Drumnadrochit, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Blue sign of Loch Ness, with the Loch behind

The deepest and most famous loch in Scotland, said to hide a famous monster in its murky depths. Also home to the South Loch Ness Trail and the 360-degree Loch Ness walking and cycling trails.

Best for ages 4+

Duration: -

Foyers Lodge

Inverness, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

|Official star rating:

Foyers Lodge

A quirky and characterful Victorian lodge on the quieter south side of Loch Ness, with tree-fringed views over the water.

Average £165

Extra beds

Pool

2+ bedrooms

Beach

Kids menu

Fitness center

Kids club

Skirt around to the north side of Loch Ness, which stretches for 23 miles, from the edge of Inverness to Fort Augustus. Stop off in the village of Drumnadrochit where you can learn about sightings of the famous monster and local geology at the Loch Ness Centre and Exhibition.

On the other side of the village check out the romantic ruins of Urquhart Castle before continuing west to Fort Augustus and on to the Isle of Skye.

Stay at the Three Chimneys, and feast on their 8-course gastronomic menu (book ahead).

Loch Ness [hiking & cycling]

Drumnadrochit, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Blue sign of Loch Ness, with the Loch behind

The deepest and most famous loch in Scotland, said to hide a famous monster in its murky depths. Also home to the South Loch Ness Trail and the 360-degree Loch Ness walking and cycling trails.

Best for ages 4+

Duration: -

Isle of Skye [hiking & cycling]

Isle of Skye, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Stunning view of the rust brown landscape with a group of sharp rocks sticking up in the air

A wildly romantic history, gourmet restaurants and jaw-dropping landscapes with superb hiking and biking, Skye has it all – and a handy bridge to the mainland.

Best for ages 13+

Urquhart Castle

Inverness, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

Ruined castle in the foreground, the loch stretches away behind

This former medieval fortress, on the shore of the loch, once was the home of Scotland’s Grant Clan. Built in the 13th century, it was subsequently destroyed by the English in 1692 following the crushing of the Jacobite Rebellion at Culloden. You can watch a film of its history in the visitor centre.

Adult price: £10

Best for ages 13+

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More details >

Three Chimneys

Isle of Skye, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

|Official star rating:

Three Chimneys

Legendary restaurant with rooms in an old crofter’s cottage, set on the remote shore of Loch Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye.

Average £365

Extra beds

Pool

2+ bedrooms

Beach

Kids menu

Fitness center

Kids club

Spend the day exploring the Isle of Skye. Marvel at the Old Man of Storr and surrounding landscapes, stop into Dunvegan Castle for some clan history, then take a hike to the Fairy Pools (for a wild swim if you dare the cold water).

Spend another night at the Three Chimneys and dine at the lovely low-key gourmet Loch Bay restaurant on the waterfront in Stein.

Isle of Skye [hiking & cycling]

Isle of Skye, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Stunning view of the rust brown landscape with a group of sharp rocks sticking up in the air

A wildly romantic history, gourmet restaurants and jaw-dropping landscapes with superb hiking and biking, Skye has it all – and a handy bridge to the mainland.

Best for ages 13+

Old Man of Storr

Isle of Skye, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

Tourists climbing Old Man of Storr rock formation at Isle of Skye, Scotland

A short drive north of Portree on the Trotternish Peninsula is the 720m-high ‘Storr’, a large rocky outcrop that dominates the landscape. On the Storr’s steeper eastern slope you’ll find the famous ‘Old Man’ of Storr – a 50m high rock ‘tooth’. Great for a drive-by, or stopping for a walk.

Best for ages 6+

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More details >

Dunvegan Castle

Isle of Skye, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

Dunvegan Castle exterior - A beautiful castle of golden stone set into the hills

This 13th-century castle – restored in the 19th century – was the traditional seat of Clan Macleod, one of the Highland’s most celebrated clans. It’s filled with Highlands clan history – portraits, weapons, and assorted clan memorabilia and heirlooms.

Adult price: £15

Best for ages 4+

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More details >

The Fairy Pools [Walking]

Isle of Skye, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

Lovely small waterfall with mountains behind on a sunny day

This famous pool, fed by the River Brittle that cascades in via a series of enchanting waterfalls, is a popular destination for walkers and wild swimmers (prepared to brave the cold). It’s a 2.5km, 40-minute return walk from the nearest car park through Glenbrittle Glen. You can also walk to it from Dunvegan Castle.

Best for ages 6+

Website >
More details >

Loch Bay Restaurant

Isle of Skye , Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

Loch Bay Restaurant

Skye punches above its weight in terms of foodie enclaves and chef Michael Smith’s Scottish seafood restaurant in the village of Stein on the Waternish peninsula – is one of the Michelin-starred highlights.

Best for ages 13+

Website >
More details >

Three Chimneys

Isle of Skye, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

|Official star rating:

Three Chimneys

Legendary restaurant with rooms in an old crofter’s cottage, set on the remote shore of Loch Dunvegan on the Isle of Skye.

Average £365

Extra beds

Pool

2+ bedrooms

Beach

Kids menu

Fitness center

Kids club

Head back to the mainland and stop for a wander around the atmospheric Eilean Donan Castle. From there, meander down the west coast to Fort William past Ben Nevis, and on to Glencoe. This wild, windswept glen is spectacular driving territory and offers up scenic grandeur and haunting history.

Spend the night in opulent grandeur at the historic Inverlochy Castle Hotel, a short distance back north.

Eilean Donan Castle

Dornie , Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
View of the castle and bridge over the surrounding water

The most photographed castle in Scotland – and arguably its most beautiful – perched on an island where three lochs meet.

Adult price: £10

Best for ages 13+

Glencoe

Ballachulish , Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Glencoe mountains rising up from the battlefield

A magnificent brooding glen that was the scene of Scotland’s bloodiest historic massacres – the slaying of the unarmed MacDonald Clan.

Adult price: £6

Best for ages 13+

Inverlochy Castle Hotel

Fort William, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

|Official star rating:

Inverlochy Castle Hotel

Luxurious 19th-century castle hotel in stunning scenery offering an extensive range of traditional country pursuits.

Average £486

Extra beds

Pool

2+ bedrooms

Beach

Kids menu

Fitness center

Kids club

Rise early to climb Ben Nevis (around 7-8 hours), returning again to the Inverlochy Castle Hotel to relax and recuperate.

Climb Ben Nevis

Fort William, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Snow-capped Ben Nevis mountain seen from Fort William. A lake and shipwreck in foreground

The highest mountain in Britain, ‘The Ben’ is a challenging but rewarding Munro ‘to bag’.

Best for ages 13+

Duration: Full day

Inverlochy Castle Hotel

Fort William, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

|Official star rating:

Inverlochy Castle Hotel

Luxurious 19th-century castle hotel in stunning scenery offering an extensive range of traditional country pursuits.

Average £486

Extra beds

Pool

2+ bedrooms

Beach

Kids menu

Fitness center

Kids club

Take a second, more relaxing optional day to ride the Jacobite Steam Train – one of the world’s greatest scenic train rides. It’s a return trip from Fort William to Malaig, and promises exceptional Highlands scenery and a tour over the Glenfinnan viaduct, made famous by the Harry Potter films.

Jacobite Steam Train

Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Jacobite Steam Train

One of the world’s most spectacular rail journeys – an 84-mile round trip from Fort William to the little fishing village of Mallaig along the west coast of Scotland.

Adult price: £90

Best for ages 4+

Duration: 6 hours

Inverlochy Castle Hotel

Fort William, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

|Official star rating:

Inverlochy Castle Hotel

Luxurious 19th-century castle hotel in stunning scenery offering an extensive range of traditional country pursuits.

Average £486

Extra beds

Pool

2+ bedrooms

Beach

Kids menu

Fitness center

Kids club

Head south from here down the west coast to bonnie Loch Lomond, dipping into postcard-pretty village Luss and enjoy a boat trip out to one of the islands.

Then wind your way eastwards, veering off to explore Stirling Castle on the way, to Scotland’s legendary resort, Gleneagles, for the final night.

Loch Lomond

Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Loch Lomond

Scotland’s largest loch stretches for 24 watery miles of jaw-dropping scenic splendour. It’s also home to Ben Lomond, the country’s most popular Munro.

Best for ages 6+

Stirling Castle

Stirling, Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

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Bucket List Experience
Stirling Castle

One of Scotland’s most dramatic and history-laden fortresses, hunkered into a volcanic crag. A real castle wow factor.

Adult price: £17

Best for ages 8+

The Gleneagles Hotel

Auchterarder , Scotland, United Kingdom (UK)

|Official star rating:

The Gleneagles Hotel

Scottish baronial style meets French chateau flair at this 5-star resort hotel, recreating the glamorous, extravagant luxury of the Roaring Twenties. Three immaculate golf courses, and plenty of activities to keep non-golfers happy.

Average £620

Extra beds

Pool

2+ bedrooms

Beach

Kids menu

Fitness center

Kids club