With only three or four days in Scotland, visitors need some help getting the most out of their trip. The country offers an enticing choice of attractions in its heritage, its geography, its culture and its entertainment. From the wild Border Reiver country in the south, through the commercial and industrial Central Belt, the Cairngorm National Park and the wilderness in Sutherland, its 400 miles to John O Groats in the far north. From the oil capital of Europe, Aberdeen, to the Mull of Kintyre is a full days drive. In the west there’s Skye and in the north the Orkneys and Shetland. Experiencing all of Scotland could take months, if not years. But with just three days in the country we have to limit our choices. We’ll save the Highlands for another trip, and the Islands for yet another. In this visit we’ll combine heritage with scenery, culture and fun with two cities and a day in the hills and lochs. Relaxed tourists could easily fill a week with this itinerary, whilst the more energetic might get through it in two days. The start and end points are only 40 miles apart, so it doesn’t matter which way around we go.
Day One – Edinburgh History
Our first day combines heritage with a lot of fun and some culture in the capital city, Edinburgh. The tourist centre (with the usual unfortunate trappings) is the Royal Mile, within the original city walls and leading to the Castle. This place is always buzzing with action. It’s the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town – an area of narrow winding streets, dark alleys, interesting boutiques and classy bistros. In the Old Town there’s always a hint of Burke and Hare in the atmosphere, and especially those streets under the Bridges – North and South. Close by is Grassmarket. Full of bars and restaurants it’s the area for relaxation, with a bit of fun. The area is just steeped in history.
Edinburgh New Town is entirely different. The retail centre of the city is Princes Street. Apart from the views of the Castle this could be any Main Street in the UK with all the major brands. Behind Princes Street is the real New Town. Elegant Georgian buildings, boutiques and restaurants, professional offices.
The city centre offers a wide choice of accommodation but we can highlight a few. Where Old Town meets New Town is the Balmoral Hotel – luxurious, elegant and expensive. At the other end of Princes Street is the Caledonian Hotel. This is one most often shown in films and TV programmes. Not in the Balmoral league, but comfortable, elegant and expensive. At the other end of the scale is the Premier Inn. Only a short walk from Grassmarket and both Old Town and New Town this hotel offers exceptional value. Don’t be put off by the budget category. The rooms are perfectly comfortable, and the breakfast is as good as anywhere in Scotland. Another options is the Hilton Grosvenor. It’s close to the Premier Inn, the rooms are better and the prices are reasonable for the location.
Quality dining at reasonable prices is available throughout the centre. Hadrian’s Bistro at the Balmoral is good, if a little pricey. It’s the place for up and coming professionals to be seen. A better option might be a stroll around the Old Town and Grassmarket. Find something you like the look of. There’s no shortage of choice.
For visitors who enjoy a little culture with their sightseeing the National Gallery, Fruitmarket Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art offer alternatives to the shops and bars. Fans of Ian Rankin crime novels will be very familiar with the feel of Edinburgh.
Day 2 – Mountains, Lochs and Islands
Day two takes us out into the country amongst the mountains, lochs and islands. It totals more than 6 hours driving but the experience is well worth the time and effort. Our route takes us past Stirling and Crianlarich, through the Trossachs and ultimately through Glencoe, infamous for the Massacre of Glencoe and snow closures in the winter.
This is proper mountain country, leading to Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest Munro and on down to Fort William, a major tourist centre for walkers and other outdoor types. Our route now reverses down the coast road to Oban, famous for fishing and islands and whisky. On the way we’ll drive through some of the best scenery to be found, anywhere. Views of the islands we’ll just want to stand and look at. This feels like we’re living in a painting. Oban’s a busy little town, and a good place for coffee, lunch or tea and wander around the harbour.
Next we’re off to Glasgow. We’ve circled around, back to Crianlarich and it’s time for Loch Lomond. We’ll drive the length of the loch through more outstanding scenery and drop into Scotland’s largest city, and other capital.
Day 3 – Glasgow – Culture
Very different to Edinburgh, Glasgow is modern, vibrant, exciting and fun. Recently distinguished as the Culture Capital of Europe, this town can justify claims to be the heart of the country. Museums, galleries, shops, restaurants, professional offices, conference centres, universities – Glasgow has the best of everything.
Once again there’s no shortage of places to stay and to eat. The Premier Inn in George Square offers exceptional value for money and puts us right in the heart of the city centre – a short walk from almost everything, including outstanding architecture by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Slightly further out, and close to Glasgow University, the Hilton Grosvenor offers a more comfortable but reasonably priced alternative.
Glasgow is renown for its restaurants. Just walk around George Square, Buchanan Street and West Nile Street. Find something you like the look of. Booking ahead is probably a good idea for the more recognised establishments, and especially for the highly recommended Ubiquitous Chip .
Visits to Glasgow are mostly about shopping and culture – particularly art and architecture. Buchanan Street is the retail centre of Scotland, Sauchiehall Street perhaps the most famous. The Buchanan Galleries is certainly the biggest and most popular Mall in the country. Be sure to take tea in the Willow Tea Rooms in Sauchiehall Street for the Rennie Mackintosh experience.
Here are the directions courtesy of Google Maps
Driving directions to Fort William, Highland, UK 1. 3 hours 2 mins A82 132 mi Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh UK 1.
Head north on North Bridge/A7 toward E Market St 449 ft 2.
Take the 1st left onto Market StGo through 1 roundabout 0.3 mi 3. Turn right onto The Mound/A8 0.2 mi 4.
Slight left onto Princes St 0.1 mi 5. At Hanover St, take the 1st exit ontoGeorge StGo through 2 roundabouts 0.4 mi 6.
Turn left onto Charlotte Square 0.1 mi 7. Turn right onto Shandwick Pl/A8Continue to follow A8 0.4 mi 8.
Turn left onto Torphichen St/A8 43 ft 9.
Take the 1st right onto Torphichen Pl/A8 305 ft 10.
Take the 1st right onto Morrison St/A8Continue to follow A8 Go through 1 roundabout 7.4 mi 11.
At Newbridge Roundabout, take the 4thexit onto the M9 ramp 0.4 mi 12. Merge onto M9 28.2 mi 13.
At junction 10, take the A84 exit to Stirling/Callander/Crianlarich/A85 0.3 mi 14.
At Craigforth Roundabout, take the 2ndexit onto A84 heading to Crianlarich/A85/Doune/Callander/Aberfoyle/A873 27.3 mi 15.
Continue straight onto A85 16.0 mi 16.
Continue onto A82 5.0 mi 17.
Slight right to stay on A82 (signs for Fort William)Go through 1 roundabout 45.5 mi 18.
At W End Roundabout, take the 3rd exit onto High St 0.2 mi 19.
Turn right onto Gordon Square 138 ft 20.
Turn right to stay on Gordon Square 33 ft 21. Continue onto Fassifern Rd 0.3 mi 22.
Slight left onto Parade Rd 69 ft 23.
Turn left to stay on Parade Rd 364 ft 24.
Fort William, Highland UK
Driving directions to Oban, Argyll and Bute, UK 1. 1 hour 8 mins A82 and A828 44.4 mi Fort William, Highland UK 1.
Head southeast on Bank St towardParade Rd 243 ft 2.
Take the 1st left onto Parade Rd 433 ft 3. Continue onto Fassifern Rd 420 ft 4.
Turn right toward Belford Rd/A82 79 ft 5.
Turn left onto Belford Rd/A82Continue to follow A82 Go through 2 roundabouts 13.2 mi 6.
At the roundabout, take the 1st exit ontoA828 heading to Oban/A85 108 ft 7.
Turn left to stay on A828 16.5 mi 8.
At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit and stay on A828Go through 1 roundabout 9.5 mi 9.
Turn left onto A85 4.3 mi 10.
At the roundabout, take the 1st exit ontoDunollie Rd/A85Continue to follow A85 0.5 mi 11.
At the roundabout, take the 1st exit ontoArgyll Square/A816Continue to follow A816 0.2 mi Oban, Argyll and Bute UK
Driving directions to Glasgow, Glasgow City, UK 1. 2 hours 16 mins A85 and A82 97.0 mi Oban, Argyll and Bute UK 1.
Head north on Soroba Rd/A816 towardCombie StContinue to follow A816 0.2 mi 2.
At the roundabout, take the 3rd exit ontoAird’s Pl/A85Continue to follow A85 0.3 mi 3.
Turn right onto Corran Esplanade/A85 0.3 mi 4.
At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit ontoA85Go through 1 roundabout 35.2 mi 5.
Turn right onto A82 5.0 mi 6. Turn right to stay on A82 (signs forGlasgow) 16.4 mi 7.
Turn left to stay on A82 (signs forGlasgow)Go through 5 roundabouts 24.7 mi 8.
Take the exit onto A898 2.0 mi 9. Continue onto M898 Motorway 0.5 mi 10.
Keep left at the fork, follow signs for M8/Paisley and merge onto M8 11.4 mi 11.
Take the exit toward A198/Clydebank/Anderston 0.1 mi 12.
Keep right at the fork to continue towardPitt St 0.3 mi 13.
Turn left onto Pitt St 0.1 mi 14.
Turn right onto W George St 302 ft 15.
Take the 2nd left onto Blythswood Square 269 ft 16.
Continue onto Douglas St 0.1 mi 17.
Turn right onto Sauchiehall St 305 ft 18.
Turn left onto Rose St 269 ft 19.
Take the 1st right onto Renfrew St 0.2 mi Glasgow, Glasgow City UK