The ultimate 3 days Scottish Highlands itinerary

Looking for a 3 days Scottish Highlands itinerary that includes the best highlights? Here’s how to prepare for a Scottish adventure!

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👩🏻 Best guided tours in Scotland

Scotland is the perfect place for a road trip. The scenic Braveheart country has thousands of lochs, misty hills and mountains, a famous lake monster, and enough clan stories to keep you busy for weeks.

However, 3 days will do, too.

I joined a 3-day tour from Edinburgh that took me to Isle of Skye, Loch Ness, Glen Coe, and many other places in the Scottish Highlands.

I’ve put together the Scottish Highlands itinerary we followed, and I recommend you use it as a guide, and then tailor it to make it your own.

Let’s dig in!

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The best places to visit in the Scottish Highlands

While you can always spend more time exploring, 3 days is a good amount of time to discover the Scottish highlands and the best attractions. Before we go more into detail, below is a quick overview.

Here’s the breakdown of your 3-day Scottish highlands itinerary:

  • Day 1 – Dunkeld, Ben Nevis Mountains, and Eileen Donan Castle
  • Day 2 – Isle of Skye
  • Day 3 – Five Sisters of Kintail, Loch Ness, Glen Coe, Loch Lubnaich
Scotland itinerary 7 days

What are the Scottish highlands?

The Scottish Highlands are located in the northwest of Scotland, and include some of the northern islands. The city of Inverness is the capital of the Scottish highlands.

Throughout history, the area has been home to a distinct culture that is still alive and well today, although many cultural differences between the Highlands and Lowlands have started to fade over time.

❄️ Read next: 10 magical things to do in Loch Ness in winter

Scottish highlands and Glencoe

Scottish Highlands map

Here is a map of the Scottish highlands. I’ve marked each of the stops on the itinerary in a numbered order so they’re easy to find. You can zoom in and out by using the + and – sign in the left corner.

Also, click the numbers to see which stop they mark.

How to get to the Scottish Highlands

By car

The best way to experience the Scottish highlands is on a road trip. It’s safe to drive around the country on your own, but they drive on the left side of the road in Scotland. It takes a little getting used to, but you’ll get the hang of it.

The best way to rent a car in Scotland is to book it online before your trip. Remember to get a GPS!

🏁 I use Discover Cars to find and book my rentals. They search all the rental companies for the best prices and you always get free cancellation.

By train

You can also get between the major cities and towns in Scotland by public transport.

The West Highland Line is known as one of Europe’s most picturesque railway routes. If you’ll be exploring the Scottish Highlands by train, check out ScotRail for available routes – you can even find special passes and discounted tickets that could save you money.

For more unique experiences, you can also take special trains, like the Caledonian Sleeper (sleeping services), The Jacobite Steam Train (the “Harry Potter Train”), and the luxurious Royal Scotsman. Do keep in mind, though, that not every town or village in the Highlands has access to a train station – so plan accordingly if your destination is off the beaten path.

By bus

Busses are a great way to experience the highlands as there’s an extensive network of buses spanning cities, towns, and even villages. Check out CityLink and Stagecoach to find routes, passes, and discounted tickets.

Organised tour

Taking organized tours is also an option and an easy one. From Edinburgh, Glasgow, or Inverness, you can take full-day or multi-day trips to the Scottish highlands.

I went by invitation of Heart of Scotland on their 3-day Isle of Skye tour, which is no longer available. The trip started and ended in Edinburg, and on the way to the Isle of Skye, we visited Eileen Donan Castle, Glen Coe and the Scottish Highlands, Fort Augustus, Fort William, Loch Ness, and several other beautiful landmarks in Scotland. I traveled solo, so it was the perfect way to experience Scotland.

As an alternative, this 3-day tour with Viator covers the same itinerary.

Read next: 10 best Scottish Highlands tours from Edinburgh

Scottish highlands and Glencoe, Scotland
One of Scotland’s many, many bagpipers

Dunkeld, Falls of Bruar, Ben Nevis mountains and Eilean Donan Castle

I started my trip in Edinburgh where I had just spent the last 3 days.  For Edinburgh recommendations, you can check out my post about what to do in Edinburgh.


Our first stop was the gorgeous Perthshire town of Dunkeld, which lies along the banks of the River Tay. We spent a little time walking around town, but the highlight here was Dunkeld Cathedral – a mix of both ruins and an active parish church.

The cathedral was built between the 13th and 16th century. It’s worth stopping for whereas the town itself is a bit more ordinary.

Scottish highlands and Glencoe

Falls of Bruar

We stopped by a waterfall to briefly stretch our legs and take a few photos. The falls of Bruar consist of a series of cascading waterfalls and plunge pools across a two-mile stretch of the river Bruar.

There are two marked pathways. The shorter route takes around 30 minutes and leads to the lower falls, while the longer circular path takes an additional 30 minutes or so and ends at the upper falls and upper bridge.

Scottish highlands and Glencoe

Ben Nevis Mountains 

In the Scottish Highlands, you’ll inevitably come across a few mountain ranges. The most remarkable of them is Ben Nevis (1344m), which is the highest not only in Scotland but in all of the United Kingdom.

After the waterfall, we stopped at the Commando Memorial; a monument dedicated to the men of the original British Commando Forces. It was raised during World War II.

Scottish highlands and Glencoe, Scotland
Scottish highlands and Glencoe, Scotland

Eilean Donan Castle

One of my favorite stops on this road trip was the Eilean Donan Castle.

I must have taken a few hundred photos from all possible angles (except from above). In my defense, it is a nice-looking castle, and it often stars in movies about Scotland. It’s like a Scottish trademark.

Eilean Donan is the name of the island. It’s a tidal island where three lochs meet: Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh.

It costs a fee to get into the castle, but that’s not why I didn’t go inside. I preferred the view from the outside, and I liked walking around the area and photographing from all sides. Clearly.

Eilean Donan castle is located close to the Isle of Skye and the Skye Bridge. So if you’re headed there, be sure to stop by the castle first.

Scottish highlands and Glencoe, Scotland
Scottish highlands and Glencoe

Isle of Skye

Although the Isle of Skye is not formally a part of the Scottish Highlands, it is nonetheless overseen by the Highland Council area.

We spent the next two nights at a guest house in Portree, the largest town on the Isle of Skye. We arrived in the afternoon on day 1 and had one whole day on the Isle of Skye, which is not nearly enough to explore the island fully.

Isle of Skye

We had a pretty tight schedule and got to see some of the main highlights like the Fairy Pools, Fairy Glen, Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock, and Duntulm Castle.

You can read all about things to do on the Isle of Skye here.

Isle of Skye is any photographer’s and nature lover’s dream destination. It’s beautiful and unique, it’s rugged and mysterious. Lots of clan history, lots of Scottish tales, and back pipes. People aren’t exaggerating when they say it’s the prettiest place in Scotland.

It really is that special.

The Cuillin

The Cuillin range is made up of two distinct areas – the Black Cuillin and the Red Cuillin. The Black Cuillin are true mountains, composed mainly of gabbro, with twelve peaks that make up the Munros (rugged mountains over 3,000 ft. in height named after Sir Hugh Munro).

Of these peaks, Sgùrr Dearg holds a particular attraction as its summit can only be reached by rock climbing – making it a challenge for seasoned ‘Monro baggers’ or hikers attempting to conquer all of Scotland’s almost 300 Munros.

Scotland itinerary 7 days

The Fairy Pools

One of my favorite places on the Isle of Skye was the Fairy Pools Walk.

These pools are made up of captivating blue rocks filled with crystal-clear mountain water from streams and waterfalls that cascade down onto them. It’s so beautiful.

It takes about 30 minutes to walk to the end so make sure to wear comfortable shoes.

Scotland itinerary 7 days

Fairy Glen

The next stop on our trip to the Isle of Skye was Fairy Glen – a magical place in more than one sense.

Our guide told us that the fairies live here, so we had to follow certain rules to not offend them. Scottish folklore has long painted fairies as something to be feared. It is said that these mysterious creatures will place spells on their enemies and behave maliciously.

That’s one of the things I love about being on a tour – all the stories and folklore you hear on the way.

Isle of Skye, Scotland

Kilt rock and Mealt falls

Kilt Rock is a weird rock formation that looks like pleats along the cliffs, while Mealt Falls cascades into the ocean over Kilt Rock.

Make sure to stop here to enjoy the view and scenery, it’s really beautiful!

Isle of Skye, Scotland
Kilt Rock

The Old Man of Storr

Since we only had 3 days in the Scottish highlands, I didn’t have time to hike the Old Man of Storr. But, as I found out, it’s beautiful from below, too.

The Old Man of Storr hike is 4.8 km long and usually takes around 1.5 hours to complete.

Isle of Skye, Scotland

Five Sisters of Kintail, Loch Ness, and Glen Coe

On day 3 of my Scottish highlands tour, I said goodbye to my host and we set off to the Five Sisters of Kintail, back on the mainland.

The Five Sisters of Kintail

While driving, our guide Colin shared some clan stories. Most of them involved war and old clan grudges, but the legend of the Five Sisters of Kintail was about something else.

The legend tells the story of seven sisters, two of whom were taken as brides by two Irish brothers.

The girls’ father had made a deal with the local sorcerer that if all his daughters were married within 7 years, they would forever remain young and beautiful – which sounded like a pretty sweet deal at the time. When departing, the two Irish lads promised to return with their five older brothers who would marry the remaining sisters.

The father waited and waited, and then on the last day before the 7 years were up, he saw a ship approaching.

Everyone was relieved and began celebrating, but then, right before the ship reached land, it was caught in a vicious storm and everyone drowned.

The sorcerer held up his end of the bargain by turning the remaining five sisters into the graceful mountains we know as the Five Sisters of Kintail.

Moral of the story? Don’t trust luck when your butt’s on the line.

Scottish highlands and Glencoe

Loch Ness

So, in case you didn’t know, Scotland has A LOT of lochs. Like, 31,460 in total.

Loch Ness is the most famous of the bunch, because of the Loch Ness monster that might or might not live there.

We went there after the Five Sisters of Kintail, and for me, it was a highlight. At the lake, you can take a boat trip, enjoy lunch, or take a swim – if you dare. You can also visit the nearby Urquhart castle.

Loch Ness, Scotland

Loch Lubnaig

While Loch Ness is interesting because of Nessie, others are simply popular for their beauty. Like Loch Lubnaig. It’s not as crowded as Loch Ness and it’s much more tranquil and nice here.

People come to Loch Lubnaig to camp, but it also looks like a lovely place for a picnic. You can even swim here (without the fear of becoming a lake monster snack).

If you’re looking for a larger lake, stop by Loch Lomond, it’s nearby.

Scottish highlands and Glencoe, Scotland

Glen Coe

There were lots of places I wanted to see in Scotland, and Isle of Skye was my number one. Besides that, I desperately wanted to visit Glen Coe.

Glen Coe is part of the Scottish Highlands and it’s famous for two things.

  • One; it’s extremely beautiful (the most stunning place on mainland Scotland)
  • And two; it was the place of the infamous Glen Coe massacre where 38 men, women, and children from the MacDonald clan were murdered in their sleep by their guests.

Oddly enough, it was nothing special by Highland standards. The problem with the massacre at Glen Coe is that it was a breach of clan etiquette. While it was considered acceptable to butcher hundreds of defenseless men, women, and children, you weren’t allowed to be sneaky about it.

Scottish highlands and Glencoe-26

The story is tragic and it has been told since 1692 when the massacre happened. But it’s just one of many bloody clan fights that have taken place in the Scottish Highlands.

I would have liked to spend more time in Glen Coe; ideally several days so I could do some hiking. But with our busy schedule, I was glad that we at least made a stop here. It really is a beautiful part of Scotland. Aside from the Isle of Skye, it’s the prettiest place I visited.

Scottish highlands and Glencoe

Hamish, the wee coo

On this trip, I quickly found out that clan stories are a huge part of Scottish history. Another Scottish yet quite dramatic symbol is the cows. They are a-dorable!

These highland cows are called hairy coos and they have long horns and wavy hair. So, so cute. We drove past a field and saw these two coos: Hamish and his mother Honey. I just had to stop for a photo.

Scottish highlands and Glencoe

Final thoughts

There’s so much to see on a Scotland road trip and the things listed here are just some of the highlights.

If you have more than 3 days in Scotland, I recommend visiting Glenfinnan Viaduct (Harry Potter train), Finnich Glen, Cairngorms National Park or Trossachs National Park, Staffa Isle (Fingal’s Cave) and Isle of Mull to see puffins.

You can check out my 7-day Scotland itinerary here to find more things to do in Scotland.

🤝🏽 Many thanks to VisitBritain and VisitScotland for generously hosting me in Scotland, and thanks to Colin from Heart of Scotland for being a wonderful guide. As always, all opinions and thoughts are my own, regardless of who is footing the bill.

What to pack for your Scottish highlands trip

These are the things to pack for a trip to Scotland in the summer (always prepare for bad weather no matter the season):

Useful things to know before visiting Scotland

💸 Scotland travel insurance

I highly recommend having travel insurance because let’s be real — the last thing you want on your trip is for accidents to get in the way.

I recommend Safety Wing — they offer affordable prices, great coverage, and a reliable 24/7 on-call service.

🙋‍♀️ FAQ

Is 3 days enough for Scotland?

3 days is not to see the best of Scotland. You’d need at least 5 days to experience the highlights: Edinburgh, the Scottish Highlands, and the Isle of Skye.

How many days should you spend in the Scottish Highlands?

3 days is a good amount of time to explore the Scottish highlands. It will give you time to see the highlights like nature and various filming locations from Outlander, Highlander, and Harry Potter.

How do I plan 3 days in Scotland?

Planning a 3 days Scottish Highlands itinerary is easy. Here are some steps to help you plan your trip:

Decide on your itinerary: Determine which places and landmarks you want to visit during your 3 days in the Scottish Highlands. The most popular destinations include Inverness, Glen Coe, the Isle of Skye, and Loch Ness.

Book accommodations: Once you’ve decided on your itinerary, book accommodations that are convenient for visiting those destinations.

Rent a car: A car rental is the best way to explore Scotland’s highlands and remote areas. Make sure you have an international driver’s license and are comfortable driving on the left side of the road.

Plan outdoor activitiesWant to do some hiking or other fun tours like whisky tasting? Make sure to research and book ahead of time.

Pack appropriately: Scotland’s weather is unpredictable so make sure to pack layers including waterproof jackets and trousers as well as comfortable shoes for walking and hiking.

What is the most beautiful part of the Scottish Highlands?

Glen Coe is the most beautiful place in the Scottish highlands. While the Isle of Skye is not technically part of the highlands, this is also a beautiful place!

Scottish highlands and Glencoe
Hamish and Honey

More posts from Scotland you might like

Scotland is the perfect place for a road trip. The scenic Braveheart land has thousands of lochs, misty hills and mountains, a famous sea monster and enough clan stories to keep you entertained for weeks. In this 3-day itinerary from Edinburgh, you'll see Isle of Skye, Loch Ness, Glencoe and many other places in the Scottish Highlands. Here's an itinerary for the perfect road trip in Scotland.

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  1. Hi Miriam, I’m Monica (from Brazil) and also a blogger and travel lover! I loved this post and the way you tell stories. You’ve got the spirit!!!! Congrats!

  2. It really worth spending time in Glencoe. I may not really familiar about this place but I find this very interesting. I was surprised about the massacre. It is totally infamous. Behind of this sad story is a beautiful highland. Love to read it. Thanks for the glimpse.

  3. Nessie is not a sea monster. She lives in fresh water. Loch Ness is all fresh water not a sea loch although we do have plenty of sea Loch’s in Scotland. If you decide to do a coach tour of the highlands you will be herded around like cattle to all the tourist spots. The best way to travel is in your own car and getting away from all the coach tours. To see the best of Loch Ness I would recommend taking the beautiful scenic South Loch Ness road which is nice and quiet with hardly any coaches and the best route for Nessie spotting.

    1. Thank you for the Nessie-spotting tip! 😀

      I actually quite loved the tour I was on. On the 3-day tour we got a really great introduction to Scotland, heard Scottish tales and legends, saw secret places we wouldn’t otherwise have, and everything was taken care of. This tour was superb.

  4. I LOVE your blog 🙂 I’m recently started my travel blog and I draw a lot of inspiration from you and your travels 🙂 I have been living in Scotland for the past 5 years and am madly in love with it, I’m glad you had such a great time 🙂 And the places you went to are no doubt some of Scotland’s best! 🙂 Also, may I comment on how INCREDIBLY LUCKY you were to stumble on such amazing weather? :O Anyhow, happy travels 🙂 P.S: Fab photos!!!

    1. Aw, thank you so much for your comment. You just made my day 😀

      I know I was super lucky with the weather, lol. As a Scandinavian (who’s used to rain, overcast and wind) I had only packed rainwear and kept waiting for the weather to change. But incredibly enough, it didn’t – hoorrayy 🙂

  5. I done some of these spots on my only road trip to Scotland back in 2024 but plan to head up there again in the next year or two (haven’t decide where to go yet). I am based in a town north of London so Edinburgh is a eight hour drive for me before hitting the highlands! But there are quite a few places on this list I haven’t heard of, so putting them onto my list. 😀 Great blog post.

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