SCOTLAND TRAVEL GUIDE
I had so much fun on this ten day trip to Scotland with my adventure buddy, Melissa. We met in Italy in 2009 and were instant friends! Over a decade later, we’re still going strong. We traveled to Scotland in March during off-season. The weather was crisp and rainy, just as expected. We even saw snow at higher elevations in the Highlands and on the Isle of Skye.
When planning our trip, we just booked our first few nights in Edinburgh so we could leave the majority of our time open ended. When it comes to travel, I always think more time is better, but 2-3 nights is adequate to get a good taste of this quaint city.
St Honoré – A little hidden gem on a side street in New Town. Michelin starred. Feel like you’re in Paris with french fare and a bistro-esque interior.
The Printing Press – Good food and desserts in a regal dining room. Amazing cocktails – see ‘DRINK’ below
The Witchery – This unique spot by the castle serves up really good food and excellent, attentive service. The eclectic decor and atmosphere has a medieval feel.
Urban Angel – Casual, quaint, multi-room spot with lots of healthy options. Loved it so much we went twice
Bramble – Hidden cocktail bar. It’s basement level with no signage. Difficult to find, but worth the effort. The cocktail list is varied and extensive, and everything we tried was unique and delicious.
The Printing Press – We randomly walked by this spot and were immediately drawn in by the little seating nooks in the windows facing the street. When we saw they had a cocktail tasting menu, we knew we had to get our drink on. We waited a bit, but eventually snagged seats. The cocktails were fantastic. Loved it so much, we went back a second time. We each tried 4 or 5 cocktails, and loved them all. The classic Aviation was especially fantastic.
SEE + DO: Wander! Check out Old Town, New Town, Dean Village. Walk along the Water of Leith. Check out Circus Lane in the Stockbridge district. See the views from St Alb’s Head. Don’t miss the Edinburgh Castle.
After a few days exploring the city on foot, we rented a car, and headed northwest to The Highlands, and the Isle of Skye. We were most excited for the enchanted Isle of Skye, and since we weren’t sure how long we wanted to stay, we wanted to make sure that was our first stop outside the city.
The advantage of traveling during off-season: we had our pick of cute little BnBs and rooms for rent. The disadvantage: lots of accommodations and restaurants were closed. We drove around Portree (the main village and hub of Skye) and chose a vacant BnB based on location. We found an affordable option, with a personable and helpful host, and we were served an incredible homemade breakfast every morning. At breakfast, we met other travelers who shared plenty of advice. In the end, we spent about 4 nights here. Of course, we would’ve loved to stay longer, and there were a few things we missed, but I think this gave us a really great feel for this magical little island.
ISLE OF SKYE FAVORITES:
Dulse & Brose– there are SO MANY wonderful dining option in Skye and this is no exception. Nice atmosphere, amazing menu with a focus on seafood
Kinloch Lodge – Michelin starred and quite a splurge, but worth every penny! We dined for lunch, then spent the afternoon wandering the grounds and chilling by the water
Cuchillin– great food and cocktails!
Rosedale Hotel– lovely views and a fancy dinner spot
Cafe Arriba– casual spot with lots of veggie options, and a focus on local, fair trade food
Dunvegan Bakery– Skye’s oldest bakery, yummy pastries and pies
Other places we wanted to check out, but we didn’t have time and/or they were closed for the season: Scorrybreac, Sea Breezes, Lochbay, Edinbane Inn, Red Roof, Three Chimneys (this is the NUMBER ONE spot I want to try! Fine dining at it’s best!)
The Portree Hotel – We traveled during off season and nightlife was almost non-existent. I don’t know that high season would be much more lively. But, at a local’s recommendation, we visited the Portree Hotel bar for live music, and it made for a fun night!
SEE + DO: Neist Point Lighthouse (best views are from above the car park), drive the Trotternish Ring, Coral Beach, explore the village of Uig, Fairy Glen, the beach near Staffin, Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls, hike Old Man of Storr, drive and hike the Quiraing, Fairy Pools, visit the little shops in Portree, Brother’s Point, Glenbrittle Beach, Dunvegan Castle, Eilean Donan Castle
From the Isle of Skye, at the recommendation of a fellow traveler at our BnB, we headed north to the fishing village of Ullapool and to drive a small portion of the famous North Coast 500. The North Coast 500 is a 500 mile scenic loop along the coast and northernmost highlands. Due to time constraints we knew we could only drive a small portion of the road, but the portion we did drive had incredible views. We arrived in Ullapool late at night and grabbed a room at the Ferry Boat Inn. We also had a proper pub dinner there, including our fav dessert, which we ordered every time it was offered on a menu: sticky toffee pudding. In the morning when we woke up, we had stunning views of the water and enjoyed a slow day exploring this quaint town and some of their antique shops. One night was adequate here.
EAT + DRINK: No specific recommendations, but there are lots of quaint restaurants and traditional pubs along the waterfront!
SEE + DO: Wander around this cute little town! Shop at the antique stores. We enjoyed The White Rabbit. There is a cute bookstore inside the Ceilidh Place Hotel.
Next, we drove south and spent a couple nights near Loch Ness, and the city of Inverness. Loch Ness is famous for it’s alleged sightings of Nessie the lake monster. (We didn’t see her!) Again, we found our BnB simply by driving around, and again we scored with awesome hosts and an even better breakfast with lots of homemade jams and treats from the owner’s garden.
LOCH NESS FAVORITES:
The Loch Ness Inn
SEE + DO: Drive around and scope the scenery. Visit the Urquhart Castle.
Lastly, we headed back south to Oban, driving through Glencoe along the way back to Edinburgh. We wanted to visit Oban specifically to tour the whiskey distillery, but unfortunately we arrived just as they were about to close and we missed the last tour by just minutes. Even though we missed the tour, we did sample the whiskey! We enjoyed one night here at a cozy little AirBnB we had booked online.
Oban Distillery– you can’t come to Scotland without checking out their distilleries! I’m not a whisky connoisseur, but I enjoyed sampling the different varieties.
SEE + DO: For us, the main draw to Oban was the distillery, but on the way to and from Oban: Glenfinnan Viaduct, Silver Sands of Morar, drive and hike in Glen Coe, Stirling Castle
There is so much to see and do in Scotland. With only ten days, we really had to pick and choose the areas we wanted to see. I can’t wait to return someday to visit all the other spots on my bucket list!