Scotland offers a heady mix of rugged scenic beauty and historical
delights. Whether you are up for urbane city pastimes, outdoor activities or
sampling the fresh local food and drink, two weeks is ample time to hit the
highlights – depending on your mode of transport. There are good bus and train
networks across the country, but hiring a car will allow you to stop for those
breathtaking valley views or the warm glow of a welcoming country pub. This two-week
itinerary will lead you on an unforgettable tour of the country.
Start with a couple of days in elegant Edinburgh to revel in the
Georgian architecture of New Town and the history of Edinburgh Castle, which broods silently over the city from its craggy perch. Take a walk
up Arthur’s Seat for great views and as a warm-up for the longer treks coming up.
Once you have soaked up atmospheric Edinburgh, head to Stirling Castle to tour one of Scotland’s most historically significant fortresses; it
has been said that whoever holds Stirling, holds Scotland. The Stirling region
is a source of much national pride, being the setting for two of
Scotland’s most important battles for independence: William Wallace’s
victory over the English took place at Stirling Bridge, followed 17 years
later by Robert Bruce’s triumph at Bannockburn. It is a short drive
from Stirling on to the town of Callander, where you can do some afternoon cycling around the lush forests of the Trossachs. Stay overnight at a bed and breakfast for a taste of warm Scottish
After a hearty breakfast, continue northwest through the Trossachs to
reach one of Scotland’s most scenic valleys – the moody, mysterious Glen
Coe, where one of Scottish history’s saddest chapters played out in the tragic Glen
Coe Massacre. The area has beautiful walks, plus there is a small folk museum in the village with a local historical collection.
Head up the road to stay in Fort William for two nights. Keen hill walkers can spend the next day climbing Ben
Nevis, the United Kingdom’s highest peak at 1,344m, and celebrate their descent
with a pint and some live music at the gloriously sited Ben Nevis Inn. Those after somewhat less vertical pursuits can head to nearby Glen
Nevis for an easy walk to Steall Meadows, home to a 100m-high bridal-veil
On day six, start with a 46-mile scenic drive along the Road to the
Isles, stopping at Loch Shiel to see the historic Glenfinnan Monument, which
marks the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie first rallied the clans to his
cause in 1745, the start of his ill-fated campaign to reclaim the
throne. The setting, at the north end of Loch Shiel, is hauntingly
beautiful; if you time it right you might even catch the steam train chugging
along the majestic Glenfinnan
Viaduct. Continuing on, take a seaside stroll on the silvery sands at
Morar, then stop in at the fishing port of Mallaig for a filling seafood lunch
before catching a ferry to the Isle of Skye.
Spend a few days on Skye, Scotland’s largest island. Walking
opportunities abound in the spectacular Cuillin Hills, and water lovers can go sea kayaking around the craggy coastline. Or
else opt for more relaxing pursuits: visit the Talisker Distillery for a wee drop of whisky or dine on local seafood and shop for handmade
crafts and knitwear in Portree.
Head back to the mainland via the Skye Bridge to spend a day driving
through the magnificent mountain scenery of Scotland’s remote northwest Highlands Head up the A896 for breathtaking views through Glen Torridon, then
continue west on the A832, along the shores of Loch Maree, to stop for lunch at
seaside Gairloch. Keep winding along the dramatic coastline and loop around to
join the A835 to make it in time for dinner in Inverness, Scotland’s highland
capital. Two nights in Inverness gives you time for a wildlife cruise on Moray
Firth, a tour of some of the nearby historic castles or a chance to hit the
links at the seaside golf resort in Nairn.
Then spend your last few days in the Orkney Islands, clustered not far
off the mainland and reachable either via a half-day ferry or quick flight to Kirkwall. For centuries a Scandinavian stronghold, the low, grassy Orkneys
offer a different flavour entirely to the mainland, and are rich with historic
sites that predate the Egyptian pyramids. On the main island are the World
Heritage-listed neolithic sites of Skara Brae village, Maes Howe tomb and the ancient Ring of Brodgar, as well as the world’s northernmost distillery. Sunken World War II warships in Scapa Flow harbour offer fantastic
diving opportunities, or take a ferry to either Westray or Hoy for spectacular cliffside walks and the chance to see puffins and other
seabirds at the bird preserves on each island.
The article 'Exploring Scotland by road' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.