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If I were ever to move back home to the UK I think I’d have to live in Scotland. It’s got the mountains I crave and some beautiful towns and cities like Edinburgh too. We recently returned to the UK to celebrate our friends’ wedding and put together a Scottish highlands itinerary for a couple of days.
Funnily enough, it was actually Thom’s first trip to Scotland and, whenever we travel, or here in Canada, people always say “Oh, I love Scotland” when we say we’re from the UK. Now he can finally agree!
I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Scotland a handful of times but it was nice to take things at my own pace and explore with Thom. We got all kinds of weather thrown at us during our weekend in Glencoe, Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park in Scotland. But it all added to the beauty of the Scottish Highlands.
If you’re planning a trip to Scotland, be sure to check out this 2 to 3 day Scottish Highlands itinerary that is just perfect for a weekend of adventure!
Useful links for your Scottish Highlands trip
How to get to the Scottish Highlands
Getting to the Scottish Highlands on public transport is easy enough, the difficulties come when you’re planning how to get around the highlands. If you’re hoping to fit your Scotland Highlands itinerary into 1 weekend then one of the best ways to get there from London is to take the Caledonian Sleeper Train. However, you could drive, fly, or get a non-sleeper train too.
The Caledonian Sleeper to the Scottish Highlands
The Caledonian Sleeper train leaves London Euston just before midnight and arrives in Scotland from 7 am onwards, depending on which station you get off at. You can go to Edinburgh or Glasgow, or even straight to the highlands themselves by going all the way to Fort William!
We chose to go to Edinburgh as we were meeting our friends before heading off to the highlands ourselves.
We booked the cheapest room which, whilst pretty small, had a comfy bed and plenty of charging sockets so we were raring to go the next day.
Flying to the highlands
If you’re short on time then the quickest way to get to the Scottish Highlands is to fly. You’ll most likely be flying into Glasgow or Edinburgh airports. From there, hire a car and hit the road.
I always use Skyscanner to book my flights as they make it super easy to find the best deals!
Scottish Highlands by train and bus
Alternatively, you can get a non-sleeper train or a bus to the highlands from various cities in the UK.
Omio makes it super easy to find trains and buses and compare the prices. You can even get your tickets straight to your mobile!
We got the train back from Edinburgh to London Gatwick before heading home to Vancouver (via Iceland!). At weekends on LNER, first class is usually only a little bit more expensive and I’d say it’s definitely worth it. You get food and drinks for free, wifi and comfy seats! See prices here.
National Express also run buses to Edinburgh from London for as little as £15 so it’s perfect if you’re travelling on a budget. Buy bus tickets to Scotland here.
Getting around the Scottish Highlands
While it’s easy to get up to Scotland, getting around the highlands is a bit more tricky. There are buses, but they’re few and far between and (trust me) you don’t want to be stuck waiting for a bus in the rain and wind of the highlands!
For those reasons, hiring a car is the best way to see the Scottish Highlands. It means you can stop off when and where you want too.
I always check RentalCars.com to book a car for my holidays simply because it’s super easy to compare prices and find the best deal.
A weekend Scottish Highlands Itinerary
This Scottish Highlands itinerary is based on spending a weekend in Scotland. Of course, it could be a few days midweek too.
Day 1 of your Scottish Highlands itinerary
On the first day in the highlands of Scotland, you’ll go from Edinburgh to the Scottish Highlands town of Fort William with a quick hike and some beautiful driving in between on this mini Scottish Highlands roadtrip.
Arrival in Edinburgh
It’s Saturday and it’s time to get exploring! If you’ve arrived on the Caledonian Sleeper train grab some breakfast in Edinburgh before exploring the city for a couple of hours and picking up your rental car.
Best 3 things to see in central Edinburgh
- Edinburgh Castle: Dominating the Edinburgh skyline, the castle is an Edinburgh must-see
- The Royal Mile: A stroll down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is essential during your visit. It’s the historic heart of the city and full of shops, bars restaurants and more.
- Edinburgh Old Town: The old town of the city is gorgeous. After 3 years in Vancouver, I miss architecture like this!
Top tip: If you need to store some baggage, there’s luggage storage at Edinburgh Waverley Station. You could also pick up your car earlier but that means you’ll have to pay for parking while you wander around Edinburgh.
Edinburgh to Callander
Once you’ve picked up your car it’s time to head out to Callander which lies on the border of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park in Scotland. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for The Kelpies, Stirling Castle (just one of many Scottish Highlands castles) and the Wallace Monument which you can see along the way.
Callander is in a beautiful part of Scotland and it only gets better from here! I’d recommend getting a picnic lunch or something from Fat Jack’s Diner before heading on a short hike of Ben A’an just north of Callander. It’s a great introduction to Scottish Highlands hiking with fantastic views after just 2km.
Callander to Fort William via Glencoe
After your hike (hope it was sunny!) it’s time to carry on north through Glencoe. There are loads of beautiful places to stop along the way but don’t worry about doing them all today as you’ll be going back the same way tomorrow. Glencoe is one of the top things to do in the Scottish highlands so you simply can’t miss it.
My top three Glencoe views are:
- The Three Sisters Viewpoint
- Coe River Waterfall
- Anywhere along the road to Loch Etive
Once you’ve arrived in For William check in to your hotel or B&B for the night and head out for dinner. I’ve listed a few Fort William hotel suggestions below any of which would be a great choice when it comes to hotels in the Scottish Highlands.
- River Cottage apartment – Get your own home away from home!
- Gowan Brae B&B – A cute Scottish Highlands bed and breakfast with awesome reviews
- Cruachan Hotel – This hotel in the Scottish Highlands town of Fort William is super central and gets great reviews.
Day 2 of your Scottish Highlands road trip itinerary
Day 2 takes you back through Glencoe to check off those places you couldn’t quite fit in yesterday and down the western side of Loch Lomond.
I recommend getting breakfast at The Wildcat cafe in Fort William and grabbing some snacks for the road. After all, what’s a road trip without snacks?!
At the end of the day, you can either get the Caledonian Sleeper back to London overnight or book another night’s stay in Edinburgh (I love this hotel for its location, style and price!).
Fort William to Luss
Work your way through my favourite photo spots in Glencoe on your way back south. If you’re keen to get out the car, I highly recommend walking some of the trails by the Three Sisters Viewpoint. The views here are amazing but truly you can’t go wrong with any of the walks in the Scottish Highlands.
When you reach Crianlarich make a right to stay on the A82. You’ll soon find yourself travelling alongside the banks of Loch Lomond.
When you reach Luss, park up and enjoy a walk alongside the loch, around the cute little village and don’t forget to check out the Loch Lomond Faerie Trail. It’s an easy walk with lots of little faeries to spot and it’s a great activity with kids!
We actually did this route the other way round and stayed in this B & B in the Scottish Highlands in Luss which was super cute!
Luss to Edinburgh or Glasgow
After your walk, get back in the car and drive east to Balloch for some dinner at The Balloch House. We stopped here one evening and had delicious pub food for very reasonable prices. If you’re visiting in summer you can also sit outside and enjoy some riverside views while you dine. Maybe even go through some of your photos from the last few days!
What to pack for the Scottish Highlands?
Scottish Highlands weather is notoriously wet and windy so you’ll want to be prepared. When we visited the Scottish Highlands in winter (early March) there was lots of snow on the mountains and mud on the trails – something to bear in mind if you plan on hiking.
- Hiking shoes & socks: I recently got these and LOVE them. Plus they kept my feet dry on muddy trails.
- Waterproof & windproof coat: Arc’teryx comes with a high price tag but nothing has ever kept me drier than this!
- Wolly gloves and hat if not summer.
- Hiking trousers or leggings.
- Lightweight layers: t-shirts, insulated jacket.
- Fleece or jumper: I love my Patagonia fleece
Tours of the Scottish Highlands
Want to take a guided tour for your Scottish Highlands holiday? These tours of the Scottish Highlands get great reviews.