All the major must-see attractions, breathtaking sights and top places to eat, sleep and play.
Scotland – A vast and majestic land where centuries of history, acres of awe-inspiring scenery and a never-ending list of world-renowned landmarks and monuments combine to guarantee the kind of visit you won’t experience anywhere else on earth.
From the majesty of enchanted castles and beautiful gardens to the fascinating facts just waiting to be discovered in the wealth of museums, science centres and exhibitions, there’s practically no end to the treasures that await.
Of course, that’s before we even mention the plethora of top-grade eating establishments, world-class hotels, amusement parks, markets, shopping and award-winning visitor attractions.
There’s just one problem:
With so much to see, do, and explore, cramming it all into one four-day holiday can be an almost impossible challenge.
Worry not, intrepid adventurer, help is at hand.
Here, the Dunalastair Hotel Suites in Pitlochry have put together a comprehensive itinerary for your next visit to Scotland that ensures you experience the very best the country has to offer.
Below, we’ll share with you:
The cities that should be an essential part of any Scottish holiday.
The iconic landmarks and historic sights every traveller must see before they die.
The world-class restaurants and exceptional eateries that give our own fine dining restaurant, Edina’s, a run for its money.
The best places to lay your head, rest, recharge, and get set for the remainder of your adventure.
Ready to go?
Pack your bags, and let’s dive into day one of your four-day Scotland itinerary.
Your Scotland holiday starts here:
- Day 1 – Edinburgh: Journey into the nation’s capital by train before exploring world-renowned landmarks like Edinburgh Castle and The Royal Mile. Dine in some of the country’s best restaurants before getting a peaceful night’s sleep in a luxury hotel.
- Day 2 – Glasgow: Awake early and travel to this vibrant, bustling city where exciting nightlife and unique attractions await. See the sights made famous by hit TV show Outlander and visit the tallest fully rotating freestanding structure in the world.
- Day 3 – Aberdeen: Time to breathe in some beautiful fresh air as we head to the great outdoors in Aberdeenshire. See magnificent whales from Aberdeen Harbour, enjoy a stroll along the beach and visit the Queen’s official Scottish residence.
- Day 4 – Inverness: Saving the best till last, we head up to Inverness to go Nessie spotting in Loch Ness and visit some of Scotland’s oldest historical landmarks, including the poignant Culloden Battlefield.
Day 1: Edinburgh
If there’s a more famous Scottish city than Edinburgh it’s news to us.
Year on year, the nation’s capital city attracts around 4 million visitors, boosting the local economy by £1.46 billion and making it the most popular visitor destination in the country.
What could be a more perfect place then to start our tour of Scotland?
Arriving into Edinburgh
Though the city is easily accessible via road networks, there’s good news for those of you planning to ditch the car on your Scotland holiday:
The majority of major attractions are within walking distance of Edinburgh Waverley station.
Edinburgh Castle, for example, is just under half a mile away, taking about ten minutes to approach by foot.
It’s here where we start our journey.
Essential Places to visit in Edinburgh: #1 – Edinburgh Castle
Every year, some 2 million visitors flock to this ancient fortress which stands bold and proud in the heart of the city, dominating the Edinburgh skyline.
As impressive as it is to admire from the outside, the real excitement begins once you journey up Castle Rock, the volcanic rock said to have been formed 350 million years ago upon which the castle sits.
There, you’ll learn of bloody conflicts and a rich lineage of royalty dating back all the way to the 12th century.
Hungry after your trip? You’ll also find The Tea Rooms, where you can enjoy the kind of delicious afternoon tea that inspired our own version here at Edina’s, or dig into a mouthwatering menu at the 18th-century influenced Redcoat Café.
Tickets to Edinburgh Castle can be purchased online at the following prices.
- £17 for adults
- £13.60 for over sixties
- 20 for children over five (children under five go free).
Tips for visiting Edinburgh Castle:
- Go early in the morning to beat the worst of the crowds
- If you’re visiting in August, be sure to stick around for the world-famous Edinburgh Tattoo.
2: The Royal Mile
On leaving the castle, come out on the legendary Royal Mile, a collection of streets which house some of the cities best visitor attractions, restaurants, and shopping experiences.
Working your way down, you’ll come across the enthralling Camera Obscura & World of Illusions, take in the incredible gothic architecture of the 12th century Saint Giles Cathedral, and enjoy a fascinating glimpse into the past at the Museum of Childhood and Edinburgh Museum.
Finally, you’ll encounter the Scottish Houses of Parliament and Holyrood Palace, Queen Elizabeth II’s official Scottish residence.
Tip for visiting the Royal Mile:
- Make the trip in August to experience the renowned Edinburgh Festival.
3: Portobello Beach
Taking in the Royal Mile itself can be an exhausting (albeit entirely exhilarating) experience.
So, who could blame you for taking some time out to relax and recharge?
Certainly not us.
At the Dunalastair Hotel Suites, we believe no trip to Edinburgh is complete without venturing over to Portobello Beach.
Drive or take a taxi for the 20-minute journey for a timeout at the seaside, enjoy the fun fair or enjoy some sweet treats at one of the numerous cafes or ice cream parlours.
4: HMY Britannia
From the seaside to the open seas next, as we take in HMY Britannia.
Built in 1953, the royal vessel clocked up over a million nautical miles traversing the globe during her 43-year service.
Today, she enjoys her retirement at the Ocean Terminal in Leith, roughly 25 minutes from central Edinburgh.
One of the country’s best-loved attractions, some 300,000 visitors are said to pay Britannia a visit every single year.
A favourite of ours from our many journeys to Edinburgh from Pitlochry, we highly recommend taking the fascinating audio tour before stopping for high tea on the deck of the yacht.
Tickets can be bought online up to the day before your visit, or in-person at the yacht. As of August 2018, prices are as follows:
- Adult – £16.00
- Senior Citizen (aged 60+) – £14.00
- Child (aged 5-17) – £8.50
- Child (under 5) – Free
5: Rosslyn Chapel
Though a little out of the way, making the seven-mile journey from Edinburgh City Centre to Rosslyn Chapel is worth it for a couple of reasons:
1: The historic chapel dates back all the way to the 1400s and has its own incredible stories to tell.
2: The chapel played a prominent role in the Tom Hanks blockbuster The Da Vinci Code.
The Hollywood connection has helped the Rosslyn Chapel attract record crowds since the 2003 movie, bringing in 181,700 visitors alone in 2017.
Even if you’re not a fan of the Dan Brown story, the magnificent architecture and grounds are a thing of beauty in their right.
6: Carlton Hill
After a long day packed with memories and once-in-a-lifetime adventures, make your way to Carlton Hill.
Because it’s easily the best place to see the sunset over the entire city.
Listed in the Dunalastair Hotel Suites’ Guide to Scotland for Instagrammers as one of the most photogenic spots in the country, be sure to take your camera up to this well-loved spot for some of the best snaps of your entire Scotland holiday.
Where to Eat
If you time things just right, your hunger will peak just as you hit the Royal Mile.
There, you’ll find a host of Edinburgh’s best restaurants and cafes.
The Witchery by the Castle is based right on Castlehill, perfect for stopping off for lunch or dinner after seeing Edinburgh Castle.
Further afield, The Timberyard is a ten-minute walk from Edinburgh Castle and boasts a glowing reputation among tourists and locals alike.
Day 2: Glasgow
Having delved deep into the abundance of history and culture in Edinburgh, it’s time for something a little different on day 2 of your Scottish getaway.
At the Dunalastair Hotel Suites in Pitlochry, we often speak to guests who visit us as part of a larger tour of the country.
If there’s one place they recommend as the perfect follow up to a day in Edinburgh, it’s Glasgow.
Easily accessible via train (the journey takes roughly an hour), this vibrant, bustling city has grown in popularity in recent years thanks to its thriving nightlife and a wealth of Scotland’s best hidden gems.
Let’s head to this growing, forward-thinking city for day two of our Scottish adventure.
Essential Places to visit in Glasgow: #1 – Glasgow Cathedral and Necropolis
The pièce de résistance of a city already teeming with magnificent architecture and fascinating stories, Glasgow Cathedral is an absolute must for your trip.
Always a popular attraction, this incredible 12th-century landmark has seen an increase in visitors over the last few years.
It’s starring role in hit TV show Outlander, which also featured Kinloch Rannoch, the Highland village we’re proud to call home here at Dunalastair Hotel Suites.
Even without the cathedral’s brush with fame, it remains a truly impressive place to visit and a fine example of Scottish Gothic architecture at its most grand.
Speaking of all things gothic, the nearby Necropolis is a sight worth checking out all on its own.
This 37-acre Victorian garden cemetery features an awe-inspiring collection of beautifully created gravestones, sculptures, monuments and buildings, many designed by renowned artists like Charles Rennie Macintosh.
Visiting both Glasgow Cathedral and the Necropolis is free of charge, though donations are welcome.
Both places offer guided tours which you can arrange by contacting them online.
Tips for visiting Glasgow Cathedral
- Be sure to take your camera: You’ll find some stunning views across the city that you’ll definitely want to capture!
- Make your trip educational by heading next door to the St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art. Here you’ll find insightful exhibitions looking at a number of world religions and how their influence shapes modern culture and society.
2: Kibble Palace and Glasgow Botanic Gardens
Exploring a city as lively as Glasgow, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle, bustle and excitement.
For a little peace and quiet then, head across the city to the famous Glasgow Botanic Gardens.
Spread out over several acres of immaculately preserved greenery, the Gardens are home to a wonderful collection of rare orchids from across the continent, as well as the National and remarkable Victorian sculptures.
At the heart of the gardens is Kibble Palace, an extraordinary glasshouse dating back all the way to the 1800s.
The palace underwent a £7 million pound renovation in the early 2000s and today stands as one of Glasgow’s most beguiling attractions.
Tip for visiting Glasgow Botanical Gardens
- Ready for some refreshments? Stop off at the tea rooms which serves a breakfast and lunch menu as well as delightful afternoon teas.
3: Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
If Glasgow Cathedral is the city’s most popular attraction, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum isn’t far behind.
Take the short 20-minute walk from Glasgow Botanic Garden through the main shopping district of Sauchiehall Street and spend a leisurely hour or two taking in a truly enthralling collection of art.
Highlights include the Christ of Saint John of the Cross by the notable surrealist, Salvador Dali, the portrait of Alexander Reid by Vincent Van Gogh, and a collection of fine paintings from across continental Europe.
Over in the museum, there’s even more in store.
Ancient swords, Bronze Age tools and a 1944 Spitfire LA198 are all part of the collection here and help make for a fascinating afternoon.
Tip Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
- If you’re looking for souvenirs and gifts from your holiday in Scotland, now is the perfect time to pick them up. Nearby Sauchiehall Street features an assortment of shops selling everything from household goods to high-end fashions and more.
4: Glasgow Science Centre
From art and culture to space and science next.
Located on the south bank of the River Clyde, Glasgow Science Centre‘s uber-contemporary design alone is worth checking out.
Step inside, however, and you’ll find yourself utterly captivated by the variety of interactive exhibits and experiences on offer.
Whenever we make the journey down from Kinloch Rannoch to Glasgow, we can’t help but head straight to the phenomenal planetarium before taking on the famous Glasgow Tower.
Standing 127 metres (417 feet) high, this marvel of engineering is officially the tallest fully rotating freestanding structure in the world and the only structure anywhere on the planet that is capable of turning 360° into the prevailing wind.
Head to the top, and you’ll be treated to breathtaking panoramas stretching out right across the city.
Standard entry to the Glasgow Science Centre is charged at the following prices:
- Adults and over-16s: £11.50
- Children: £9.50
- Concessions: £9.50
If you want to just visit the Glasgow Tower, Planetarium, or other special attractions, you can buy tickets for these separately.
See the Glasgow Science Centre website for full ticketing information.
5: Riverside Museum & Tall Ship
Head back across the river from the Science Centre and you’ll soon come across another of Glasgow’s most cherished attractions.
Inside this unique building (designed by pioneering architect Dame Zaha Mohammad Hadid) sits an assortment of vehicles rehoused from the former Glasgow Transport Museum.
Along with the collection of vintage cars from the 1930s, the steam locomotives and impressive model ships are definitely worth a look at it.
So too is the Tall Ship, a Victorian-era three-masted sailing vessel located right outside.
6: Pollok House and Pollok Country Park
Finally, we end our time in Glasgow at the remarkable Pollok Country Park.
Based just a quick, ten-minute train journey from Glasgow City Centre, this 355 acre site boasts an abundance of lavish, perfectly-kept greenery that serves as the ideal spot for tucking into a picnic as the sun goes down.
Prefer something a little more active?
Take a stroll through the vast, enchanted woodlands, or head inside Pollok House itself.
Built in 1752, this Edwardian Mansion is truly a marvel to behold, and features a collection of Spanish paintings from luminaries such as El Greco and Velázquez, as well as a number of important works by William Blake.
For us, a highlight is “Escape the Past,” an exciting game which challenges you to solve puzzles in order to work your way from the past to the present day.
Entry prices for Pollok House are as follows:
- Adults – £7.50
- Family tickets: £18.50
- Concessions: £5.50
Where to Eat
Much like Edinburgh, Glasgow doesn’t disappoint when it comes to excellent dining experiences.
Many of the city’s best restaurants can be found around the Sauchiehall Street area, so you might want to plan a visit to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum around the same time that you’re tummy’s likely to start rumbling.
Elsewhere in the city, Cafe Gandolfi is the place to go for Scottish delicacies and locally sourced produce served in a warm, friendly environment.
Besides Cafe Gandolfi, another firm favourite of ours in this area is Paesano Pizza, where you’ll find unique, artisan pizzas in a modern setting with an industrial vibe.
You don’t get to run a hotel in the Scottish Highlands for very long without an unwavering love for the great outdoors.
So, you’ll no doubt understand why we at Dunalastair Hotel Suites love Aberdeen.
With its overabundance of historic castles and stately homes, not to mention as many areas of outstanding beauty as we’d find up here in Pitlochry, it really is one of the most picturesque parts of Scotland.
According to tourism experts, visitors to the city are expected to bring in £1 billion by the year 2023, with some of its more popular attractions reaching visitor numbers in excess of 320,000.
What’s bringing more people than ever before to this truly distinguished part of the country?
Let’s head down there and find out.
Essential things to do in Aberdeen: #1 – Dolphin Spotting at Aberdeen Harbour
What better way to start the day than by getting up close and personal with some of nature’s most spectacular creatures?
Take the five-minute walk from Aberdeen Station to Aberdeen Harbour, where you can book one of their famous dolphin tours.
Heading out into the open waters, there’s a good chance you’ll spot bottlenose, white-beaked and Risso dolphins.
What’s more, minke whale sightings aren’t that uncommon either.
Tours run at various times throughout the day and are charged at the following prices:
- Adults: £20
- Children up to sixteen: £10
Due to high demand, booking is advisable and can be done by calling the booking office.
2: Maritime Museum
After returning safely to shore with a lifetime of memories firmly in the bank, take the short walk across to the Aberdeen Maritime Museum.
The 16th-century architecture of the building alone is certainly a sight to behold, but it’s once you step inside that the museum reveals its greatest treasures.
Perfectly preserved models, displays, photos and paintings tell the story of one of Scotland’s most prominent ports and harbour towns.
The museum is open daily with free entry, though donations are always welcomed.
Tip for visiting Aberdeen Maritime Museum
- Here’s your perfect photo opportunity for Aberdeen. The museum serves as a fantastic vantage point that offers stunning views across the harbour.
3: Aberdeen Beach
Let’s stick with the theme of all-things-sea-sand-and-sailing, shall we?
From the museum, head out on a gentle, 20-minute walk along Beach Boulevard.
Feeling peckish or simply need a bit of a recharge?
This is the ideal place to stop for a spot of coffee or a light bite at one of the many cafes and eateries in the area.
Alternatively, wait until you reach the beach itself and grab a delicious ice cream before continuing on to the beach itself.
Once you get here, the choice is yours:
Relax and take it easy with a leisurely stroll along this award-winning beach;
Or, check out the art-deco style ballroom and one of a number of entertaining activities nearby.
Tip for visiting Aberdeen beach
You’ve been sight-seeing for the better part of three days now, so if you simply want to relax and recharge, this is the place to do it.
Nearby, you’ll find an ice centre, a cinema, and our personal favourite: the amusement park.
Here, there’s a rollercoaster and big wheel for the thrill-seekers among you, with golf, tenpin bowling and more also available.
4: Balmoral Castle & Gardens
Here’s one that’s going to take you a little out of the way, but is absolutely worth the trip.
About an hour and fifteen minutes drive from Aberdeen city centre, Balmoral Castle is the Scottish home of the Royal Family.
Queen Elizabeth II herself spends her summers here, which means it’s often closed to visitors from late July onwards.
Get here earlier in the spring, however, and you’ll definitely be glad you did.
The estate itself dates back well into the 15th century but is best known for the grand castle, which was first commissioned by Queen Victoria in the 1800s.
When you visit, you’ll have the opportunity to explore some of the very same room that Victoria’s husband, Albert designed, as well as taking a rare glimpse into the life of the royals.
From there, you’ll explore the beautiful grounds, stroll through the gracefully-designed formal gardens, and shop for souvenirs in the gift shop.
A unique chance to dive deep into Scotland’s history whilst at the same time seeing a real, working royal residence, this is one not to be missed.
In 2019, the castle will be open to the public from April to July, with tickets charged at the following prices:
- Adults – £11.50
- Concessions – £10.50
- Children from 5 to 16 – £6.00
- Family Ticket – £32.00
Tip for visiting Balmoral castle
If you’re visiting in September, you may find you won’t be allowed inside the castle itself, but don’t despair:
Head down to the nearby town of Braemar for the world-famous Braemar Gathering, better known as the Highland Games.
This is your chance to experience authentic Scottish culture and traditions in gorgeous surroundings.
5: St. Machar’s Cathedral
From the moment you enter Scotland to the moment you get closer to Pitlochry here in the Scottish Highlands, you find yourself surrounded by stunning landmarks where centuries of history and glorious architecture combine.
If ever there’s a perfect example of this in Aberdeen, it’s St. Machar’s Cathedral.
It’s widely believed that a chapel has existed on the site since as far back as the first century, though most of the building as it exists today dates back to the 14th century.
That doesn’t make it any less impressive.
Big, bold and strikingly beautiful, the place is also full of intrigue, with at least one rumour existing that says William Wallace’s arm is buried somewhere within its walls!
6: Craigievar Castle
Didn’t we tell you Aberdeen had castles by the truckload?
Just under an hour’s drive from the city centre in the heart of Aberdeenshire, this colossal, seven-story castle is often described as something right out of a fairytale.
There’s a good reason for that too.
Its charming pink exterior is said to be the inspiration for Disney’s Cinderella Castle, whilst the surrounding gardens and forestry create an altogether enchanting atmosphere.
Inside, you’ll find a wonderful collection of traditional armour and weaponry, as well as ancient artefacts and a collection of Renaissance style art.
Entry to the castle is charged at the following prices:
- Adults – £13
- Concessions: £9.50
- Family tickets: £30
Tip for visiting Craigievar Castle:
If the weather is good, be sure to take on the woodland trail, an easy 30-45 minute walk through the magical woodlands surrounding the caste.
Where to eat
You don’t come to a place with such a rich maritime history without sampling some authentic seafood.
For our money, there’s only place to do just that:
A stone’s throw from the harbour and maritime museum, this cosy bistro serves up locally-sourced seafood in a variety of creative, contemporary dishes, each one more delectable than the last.
It’s around this same area that you’ll find many of the city’s best eateries.
Cross over Union Street and you’ll find Cafe 52, a charming, rustic cafe that offers tapas sharing plates and tantalising light bites that make it the perfect stop for lunch.
Meanwhile, those looking for the ultimate fine dining experience should look no further than Granite Park, where succulent Scottish beef, seasonal dishes and sensational cocktails await.
Day 4: Inverness
Finally, we bring our time together to a close in fitting Scotland style, by heading up into the Scottish Highlands for a tour of Inverness.
Just over an hour and a half’s drive from the Dunalastair Hotel Suites here in Kinloch Rannoch, this utterly captivating city on the Northeast Coast of Scotland is often referred to as the capital of the Scottish Highlands, and has all the dramatic scenery and fascinating sights to make it more than worthy of such a title.
Here’s what’s in store as we wrap up our adventure together and explore the great city of Inverness.
Essential things to do in Inverness: #1 – Loch Ness
For the first time on our Scottish holiday, we start today’s adventure outside the city itself.
Because if there’s one place you absolutely have to visit whilst in Inverness, it’s the world-famous Loch Ness.
Based about a 15-minute drive from the city centre, Loch Ness is, of course, famous for the legendary tale of a mythical creature which lurks beneath its surface.
Whilst we can’t guarantee you that you’ll see the Loch Ness Monster on your travels, what we can promise you is that you will find the kind of truly inspiring views that are guaranteed to serve as a highlight of your entire holiday.
Tip for visiting Loch Ness
Don’t leave Loch Ness without first taking a walk over to Urquhart Castle.
Now predominantly in ruins, rumours prosper that it’s one of the best places to spot the legendary Nessie.
Again, we can’t promise she’ll show up, but we can promise that you’ll enjoy taking a look at the trebuchet siege engine, admiring the views, and popping into the outstanding visitor centre.
2: Inverness Castle
Sticking to attractions outside the city next, we take a 20-minute drive along the River Ness to Inverness Castle.
Yes, you’ve already seen quite a few castles on your journey around Scotland, but look:
This is one you really don’t want to miss out on.
This centuries-old castle, unfortunately, isn’t open to the public but is still more than worth a visit as it offers one of the most majestic vantage points anywhere in the Scottish Highlands.
Meanwhile, a walk along the pathways by the River Ness provides a fantastic opportunity to dive back into the heart of the city and see Inverness in all its glory.
Tip for visiting Inverness Castle
Your final perfect photo opportunity of the trip is right here. Inverness Castle is an incredible building, and no matter where you stand, the pictures you take of it will serve as some of the best of your entire holiday.
3: Culloden Battlefield
On April 16th, 1746, The Battle of Culloden brought an end to the tumultuous Jacobite Rising, forever changing the course of history as we know it.
Today, the field where this bloody and brutal battle took place still stands, desolate and windswept as a poignant reminder of the darker side of Scotland’s past.
Tip for visiting Culloden Battlefield
Whilst you’re there, be sure to visit the brilliant visitor centre, where you can learn more about the battle itself and even opt to take an audio tour.
4: Munlochy Clootie Well
There are traditions which date back well beyond recorded history.
These traditions take us back to the days when the ancient Celts lived a more magical, spiritual way of life than the one we’re used to today.
That said, if you know just where to look, you can still see some of these traditions being practised.
One of them is right here in Munlochy, a quick 20-minute ride over the water from Inverness itself.
Here, you’ll witness the unique spectacle of hanging rags from trees, with the idea being that they soak up healing energy from the nearby waters.
Usually, this ritual was performed on certain holidays, such as May Day, or when a member of the local community took ill.
Today, it’s largely a forgotten practice, but it can still be seen at Munlochy Clootie Well.
5: Beauly Priory
Once a settlement for French monks back in the 13th century, the area derives its name from the French term ‘Beau Lieu,’ or beautiful place.
The monastery itself was disestablished all the way back in the 1600s, but the ruins have been incredibly well preserved.
Visiting, you almost feel yourself stepping way back into the past.
It’s chilling. It’s enthralling, and it’s definitely worth a visit.
Where to Eat
From light snacks to heartwarming, home cooked dishes, Inverness has a lot to offer the hungry traveller.
Situated on the west bank of the River Ness, Rocpool remains one of our favourite places to eat in the city.
The European influence is as apparent in the stylish, contemporary decor as it is in the rotating menu of seasonal dishes, all lovingly prepared using the best of locally sourced Highland produce.
Those of you who picked up a taste for seafood back in Aberdeen will love The River House Restaurant.
Surf and turf, Scottish style, is the order of the day here, with some truly mouthwatering dishes that are as fresh, as succulent, as utterly delicious as you’ll find anywhere in the Scottish Highlands.
Crossing over to the east bank of the River Ness, The Mustard Seed serves classic British fair in modern surroundings.
If you’re heading to the nearby theatre, an early-evening menu is available, as are equally-as-delicious options for lunch and dinner.
Not ready to leave Scotland just yet? Be sure to visit us here in Highland Perthshire for a five-star experience at the award-winning Dunalastair Hotel Suites. Explore our latest special offers online today, or for help planning your next Highland adventure, call us now on +44 (0)1882 580444.