This is the first in a series of suggested itineraries for Scotland visitors here on Scotland Explained. I want these itineraries to be a helpful guide, not a set-in-stone prescription. If you want to stick to this itinerary to the last detail, that’s great – I’m confident that you’ll see some incredible sights and have a great trip. If you prefer to use this as a template to design your own itinerary, that’s great too. Whatever works for you.
This four-day itinerary takes you from Glasgow northwest to the coastal town of Oban, then farther north into the Highlands, through one of the densest concentrations of Scottish castles to Fort William. From there, you’ll return southward to Stirling and then back to Glasgow. The pace is slow, taking time to stop at the many castles, lochs and mountains that you’ll pass along the way.
Duration: 4 days
Method: Driving (light distance, but some every day)
Total driving distance: 480 km (300 miles)
Longest day of driving: 200 km (125 miles)
The first day of this tour is the longest, in terms of driving time, so I’d recommend getting started relatively early. You’ll be taking the southern route of one of the most scenic drives in Scotland, Glasgow to Oban, a total trip of about 200km that will take you about four to five hours. You can do it faster than that, but this isn’t meant to be a race, and there will be abundant opportunities to stop along the way and take pictures or just enjoy the incredible scenery.
Some of the highlights of Day 1:
If you’re going to take your time and meander on any of the four days, this is the one. Just make sure to get to Oban in time for dinner, because the little seaside town is known worldwide for two things – great seafood and excellent whisky. Make sure to have a little of both before moving on.
Inveraray Castle was just an appetizer. Day 2 is the main course in terms of castles. In the morning, try to get a look at the Oban distillery, and perhaps a bottle to take with you before you hit the road. You could do all the driving for this leg in just over an hour, if it weren’t for the three wonderful Scottish castles scattered along your route. You’ll want to stop at each of them, which you’ll come across in this order:
Another possible stop along the route is the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary on the shores of Loch Creran, a great place to see seals and otters and support the conservation of Scotland’s marine life. If you haven’t had your fill of castles at the end of the drive, there’s another in Fort William: the ruins of Old Inverlochy Castle. The Ben Nevis Inn is a solid bet for a reasonably priced dinner with a great view in Fort William.
Day three has a little over two hours of driving, as our trip turns back south and east. Along the way to Stirling, you’ll pass through the famous valley of Glencoe and by some of Scotland’s tallest mountains, as well as the northern half of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, which you saw from the south on the way to Oban. Just before you hit Stirling, Doune Castle is certainly worth a stop. One of Scotland’s most filmed castles, Doune has recently appeared in both the Outlander and Game of Thrones TV series.
Though there is plenty of scenery, you probably won’t make as many stops on this leg of the trip as the previous two, and you should get to Stirling in easily three or four hours. This leaves time to take in one or both of Stirling’s main attractions before settling in for the night:
Wallace National Monument:
This is the shortest driving day, at less than an hour, and so it’s the best day to sleep in late. Take the morning to wander around Stirling, and certainly visit the castle and Wallace monument if you didn’t have time the night before. Just south of Stirling on the way back to Glasgow, you’ll want to stop at Bannockburn Battlefield. It was here in 1314 where the Scots scored a major victory over England in the first War of Scottish Independence. And if you have room for one more set of ruins, the remains of Inchmahome Priory are eerily beautiful.
Take your time getting back to Glasgow, or spend the evening in the big city catching up on some more modern aspects of Scotland. Either way, this is the end of the four-day circuit. Castles, lochs, great food and drink – some of the great charms of Scotland can be found on this short trip.
If you have any questions about this itinerary or ideas on changes you’d like to make for your own trip, feel free to leave a comment or get in touch via our contact page. I’d love to help you plan your trip through this incredible region.