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Scotland: History and Culture

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Scotland, comprising the third part of the British Isles, is a constituent nation of the United Kingdom, but it was an autonomous kingdom until the 17th century. Scotland boasts breathtaking landscapes, a vibrant yet tumultuous history, and notable cultural and scientific accomplishments. When discussing Scotland, three iconic elements typically come to mind: castles, whisky, and bagpipes. This itinerary will guide you through each of these quintessentially Scottish experiences.

Popular itinerary to Scotland History and Culture:

This 11-day itinerary starts and ends at Edinburgh International Airport.

Day 1: Edinburgh

Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, is a surprising city. From one side, the old city is perched on a basaltic rock, crowned by the imposing Edinburgh Castle, while on the other side, the new town unfolds with its modern Georgian houses built for the upper class in the 18th century. The Princess Gardens, situated in the heart of the city, occupy a once-dried lake and serve as Edinburgh’s green center.

A visit to Edinburgh typically starts at Edinburgh Castle, a historic fortress emerging from Castle Rock, a basalt crag atop the old town. Having evolved over the years, serving as both a military stronghold and royal residence, the castle boasts several points of interest. The Royal Palace houses the Honors of Scotland – the crown, scepter, and sword of Scottish kings. Within the palace lies Queen Mary’s apartment, where she gave birth to her only son, King James VI, later known as King James I of England. St. Margaret’s Chapel, the castle’s oldest structure, dates back to the 12th century, built by King David I in memory of his mother.

From the castle’s battlements, you can enjoy a sweeping panorama of Edinburgh’s new town and the Firth of Forth. Given its role as the military headquarters of Scottish battalions after the unification with England, the castle houses military museums. Guided tours and audio headsets are available at an additional cost.

Exiting the castle, stroll down the Royal Mile, the main thoroughfare of the old town that links the castle with the Royal Palace of Holyroodhouse.

For a taste of whisky, visit the Scotch Whisky Experience. The tour will take you through Scotland’s various whisky producing regions, offering insights into the art of distillation. You’ll learn about the difference between single malt and blended, enjoy a tasting experience, and gain access to the world’s largest whisky collection. Various tour options are available at different price points.

The Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh

For a lunch break, venture into one of the many pubs lining the Royal Mile for a traditional pub meal featuring delights such as meat pies, seafood, and, of course, haggis. Haggis is made of the sheep’s internal parts like heart, liver, and lungs, minced and mixed with oats and spices and stuffed in the sheep’s belly or artificial casing.

Along the Royal Mile, don’t miss the magnificent St. Giles Cathedral, where John Know preached and initiated the Scottish reformation. Marvel at the modern architecture of the Scottish Parliament, inaugurated in 1997, and visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse still frequented by the royal family during their annual visits to Edinburgh.

In the evening, treat yourself to dinner at one of the top-rated restaurants or enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of a pub featuring a live music show.

Spend the night in Edinburgh.

Day 2: Edinburgh, continued

Your first destination will be the National Museum of Scotland, which offers free admission. The museum boasts numerous galleries that showcase various aspects of Scotland. Explore the Science and Technology galleries for a journey through the history of technological advancements and scientific inventions in Scotland. Don’t miss the Scottish History and Archaeology galleries, Kingdom of the Scots, and the magnificent rooftop garden.

Next, in Princess Gardens, visit the National Galleries of Scotland to immerse yourself in Scottish arts and indulge in shopping along Princess Street.

Spend the afternoon in Leith where you can visit the Royal Yacht Britannia, which served the royal family for several decades. In the Leith area you’ll find numerous top-rated restaurants and bars.

Spend the night in Edinburgh.

Day 3: Days Trips from Edinburgh

Today, we recommend several exciting day trips from Edinburgh. The first stop is the Village of Roslin. Visit Roslin Chapel, built in the 15th century as a family chapel by Sir William St Clair. The chapel is decorated with beautiful stone carvings, some shrouded in mystery. The chapel has gained fame in popular culture for its association with the Knights Templars treasure, playing a major role in Dan Brown’s book and movie, “The Da Vinci Code.”

Just beyond the chapel, discover a tranquil walking path in the woods leading to the ruins of Roslin Castle.

ruins of Roslin Castle, Edinburgh

Head to Falkirk to explore the Helix Park, which houses the Kelpies – two equine sculptures that depict Scotland’s past and future while paying tribute to Celtic roots and Scotland’s significant role in the industrial revolution. Take a guided tour to discover the fascinating story behind the Kelpies.

Another must stop in Falkirk is the Falkirk Wheel the world’s only boat lift designed to bridge a 115-foot height gap between the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals. You can book a short boat trip that will lift you and bring you back down to the Falkirk Wheel Visitor Center.

As you make your way back to Edinburgh, stop in Linlithgow, the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. She was born in Linlithgow Palace which is now in ruins but is surrounded by a beautiful park. Take a short walk to Linlithgow high street and enjoy a traditional dinner in one of the local pubs.

Spend the night in Edinburgh.

Day 4: Stirling

Today, you will leave the big city and head north in the direction of Stirling. Situated on the edge of the highlands, Stirling is a quaint city steeped in history, serving as the backdrop for numerous historical events that have played a pivotal role in shaping the Scottish nation.

Perched on the hill, Stirling Castle was home to the Scottish Royals. Two main battles during the 14th century War of Independence took place in Stirling – the battle of Stirling Bridge led by Scotland’s national hero William Wallace and the battle of Bannockburn led by King Robert Bruce. Both battles are commemorated in the city.

The National Wallace Monument, telling the story of William Wallace and the city of Stirling, can be seen from every corner. It. The 246-step spiral staircase will take you through four levels of galleries to the top where you’ll find stunning views of the surrounding scenery. Walk along Stirling High Street and stop for lunch in one of the many cafes and restaurants.

Heading north from Stirling, continue your drive towards Pitlochry. En route, make a stop at Doune Castle to explore a castle that has truly earned its status as a “movie star.” Doune Castle was featured in the film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” and the TV series “Outlander.” Having served as a royal retreat and a prison throughout its history, the castle is now partially restored, allowing you to wander through its grand rooms, castle kitchens, and the lord’s chambers.

Continue to Pitlochry and spend the night there.

Day 5: Pitlochry

Pitlochry, situated in the heart of Scotland, is a small town on the River Tummel surrounded by captivating landscapes. Near Pitlochry there are two working distilleries. Edradour, a small and independent distillery, still works in the traditional ways, while Blair Athol is a larger distillery. The tour of Blair Athol lasts about an hour, and you’ll get to taste the whisky at the end of the tour and pick up some souvenirs at the local shop.

Just a brief drive along a tree-lined winding road outside Pitlochry takes you to Queen’s View – a panoramic viewpoint associated with the visits of Mary Queen of Scots and Queen Victoria to the region. The viewing platform offers a stunning view of Loch Tummel and the surrounding mountains. A delightful visitor center and café are located on-site.

A short walk from Pitlochry train station, you’ll find the Pitlochry Dam on River Tummel with a unique Salmon Ladder along the dam to allow salmon to return to their breeding grounds. A small visitor center provides insights into the dam’s history.

Pitlochry Dam on River Tummel, Scotland

Pitlochry High Street is full of small boutiques and cafes. In the summer months, you’ll enjoy traditional evenings with Scottish music and dance. Check out the town’s website for exact dates and times.

Spend the night in Pitlochry.

Day 6: The Scottish Highlands

Your journey through the Scottish Highlands will bring you to Blair Castle, a privately owned fortress that has been in the Murray family for seven centuries. While the castle has undergone expansions and modifications over the years, it remains the property of the Duke of Atholl, who heads the Murray family. With over 30 rooms adorned with original furniture and decorations, the castle is open to the public, offering a glimpse into the history of both the family and the nation. Outside the white-washed castle, enjoy the beautiful Victorian gardens and the local deer herd.


Drive towards Inverness and stop in Newtonmore at the Highland Folk Museum. This open museum, free of charge, showcases historical buildings from various regions of the Scottish Highlands, providing insights into the way of life of the people in the area.

Spend the night in Inverness.

Day 7: Inverness

Inverness, the largest town and capital of the Highlands, is situated in an area renowned for its natural beauty and breathtaking views. The River Ness, which originates from the famous Loch Ness and meanders its way to the North Sea, flows through the city.

Just outside the city, you can visit the Culloden Battlefield and visitor center, the site of the last battle fought on the British Isle between the British army and rebellious Scottish forces. Not far from Culloden, head to Clava Cairns, a prehistoric burial cairn with a stone circle, believed to have inspired the writing of the “Outlander” book series.

Head over to Cawdor Castle, loosely associated with Shakespeare’s Macbeth and home to 23 generations of the Cawdor family. Constructed in the 14th century and expanded over time, the castle showcases its rooms, kitchens, and the ancient tree around which the castle was built, as well as charming gardens. In the summer, the castle hosts open-air theater performances featuring Shakespearean plays.

Enjoy a traditional Scottish lunch in the village of Cawdor at a quaint country pub serving authentic Scottish meals and beverages.

Upon returning to Inverness, take the time to explore this small and quiet city. Take a leisurely stroll along the banks of the River Ness, with Inverness Castle perched the hill on one side. Visit the remarkable Leakey’s Bookshop, housed in an old church and filled with an eclectic collection of used books. In the evening, unwind at one of the numerous pubs that offer excellent drinks and live music.

Spend the night in Inverness.

Day 8: Loch Ness

Today, your journey will take you south along the renowned Loch Ness. Stop at the Loch Ness Center to learn more about the mysteries of the Loch Ness Monster and the ongoing research efforts dedicated to its discovery. Urquhart Castle, the most photographed spot in the Highlands, now lies in ruins. Despite its dilapidated state, Urquhart Castle is a testament to Scotland’s tumultuous history and its persistent struggles against the English.

The ruins of Urquhart Castle, Scotland

Stop for a coffee break in Fort Augustus and view the boats passing through a series of five locks on the Caledonian Canal sailing between Fort William and Loch Ness.

Continue driving towards Fort William. Just before entering the town, head over to Glenfinnan and visit the Glenfinnan Monument erected on the shore of Loch Shiel, commemorating the Highlanders that fought with Bonnie Prince Charlie (Prince Charles Edward Stuart) during the Jacobite rising in 1745. On the other side of the road, view the magnificent Glenfinnan Viaduct that was made famous in the Harry Potter films.

Have a lunch break in Fort William along the Loch Linnhe or in one of the many pubs on the High Street. Drive along Loch Linnhe to Oban. In the evening, dine in one of the many restaurants and pubs along the harbor promenade which serve fresh fish and seafood.

Spend the night in Oban.

Day 9: The Inner Hebrides Group of Islands

We recommend taking a day tour to explore three islands of the Inner Hebrides group. There are several companies that offer day trips from Oban to the Isle of Mull and the Isle of Iona, home to the ancient Iona Abbey founded by St. Columba in the 7th century that introduced Christianity to the pagan Scots. Additionally, the tour includes a visit to the Isle of Staffa with Fingal Cave, a volcanic island well-known for its Puffin population.

Spend the night in Oban.

Fingal’s Cave and the Isle of Staffa, Scotland

Day 10: Glasgow

Drive to Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city. The city, with its rich industrial legacy, has undergone a remarkable transformation and is now a haven for art and culture lovers.

On the way, you’ll drive through Loch Lomond, Scotland’s biggest loch (lake). Stop at the picturesque village of Luss and enjoy a short walk through the small village to the shore of Loch Lomond. There are four walking trails that start at the parking lot, ranging in length from 15 minutes to 1 hour. Enjoy coffee and a snack in one of the village cafes.

Begin your exploration of Glasgow with the City Center Mural Trail, which showcases impressive works by various artists scattered across the city.

Next, visit the Gothic cathedral and ascend the hill to wander through Glasgow’s Necropolis. While in the city center, make a stop at Miss Cranston’s original Willow Tea Rooms, designed by the renowned architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1903, for a delightful afternoon tea experience.
In the evening, enjoy dinner in one of the many top-rated restaurants across the city.

Spend the night in Glasgow.

Day 11: Glasgow, continued

Glasgow boasts several exceptional museums and galleries that offer free admission. Begin your day on the west side of the city at the Riverside Museum and The Tall Ship, located in an iconic building designed by the world-acclaimed architect Zaha Hadid on the River Clyde waterfront. This museum tells the story of Glasgow’s transport heritage.

The next destination is the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, housed in a red stone building opened in 1901 for an international exhibition. With 22 galleries showcasing art, history, and culture, be sure not to miss the galleries dedicated to Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Scottish artists, and the French impressionists. The museum also offers a daily organ recital at 1:00 PM.

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgoe, Scotland

A brief stroll from Kelvingrove, passing through the stunning Glasgow University main building and cloisters, leads you to Ashton Lane – Glasgow’s best-kept secret. This narrow, cobbled alley is teeming with bars, pubs, and restaurants, offering a charming and vibrant atmosphere.

Depending on the time you have available, Glasgow offers a plethora of other attractions to explore, including The Burrell Collection, The People’s Palace, Gallery of Modern Art, The Mackintosh House, and numerous others.

Spend the night in Glasgow and then head back to Edinburgh International Airport.

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