Scotland is a small country with a big sense of identity and tradition.
This tour itinerary has a cultural theme that lets you experience the places and history that inspired Scotland’s poets and artists.
We recommend it for visitors who have already seen the famous places in Scotland and now want to explore the country in more depth.
The driving route could be done in a week, but we recommend you allow at least 9 days in Scotland for this tour.
Allow a minimum of 7 days to drive this tour route.
The guide contains extra day trip suggestions for extending the tour to 12+ days
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Guide Updated - 5 January 2023
Approximately 590 miles / 950 Km
7 to 12 Days
Explore Edinburgh -
Edinburgh has a long history as a centre for arts and culture. Not just within a Scottish context, but globally too. The Scottish Enlightenment of the late 18th to early 19th century saw Edinburgh at the heart of an intellectual revolution that influenced the world.
The legacy of this is a city blessed with historical buildings, art galleries, museums and a vibrant festival scene. With so many cultural attractions to take in, we suggest that you allow at least 2 – 3 full days in the capital.
To help you discover Edinburgh’s charms, we provide directions for 3 walking routes that show you different sides of the Capital city; a walk down the historical Royal Mile, a leafy riverside path to the Botanic Gardens where you can escape the hustle & bustle of city life and a more energetic hike to Arthur’s Seat with the option to continue to an old Inn with lots of history.
Edinburgh boasts a great range of atmospheric old pubs where you can enjoy a dram and a good book. We steer you to a selection of our favourites.
Edinburgh Day Trips – there is enough in Edinburgh to keep you busy for several days, but we also supply route directions for a choice of day trips by car that cover:
Stopover in Edinburgh
Edinburgh to the Borders -
Head south from Edinburgh to the rolling hills of the Scottish Borders and the country beloved by Sir Walter Scott. The route takes you to the famous Rosslyn chapel and the charming market town of Peebles. For a sense of time stood still, you can visit the oldest continually inhabited house in Scotland and learn the legend behind the gates that have been locked for over 250 years.
Continuing the literary connections, you can visit Abbotsford House, the country home built by Sir Walter Scott. The writer died here in 1832 and his family preserved the main rooms of the house in almost exactly the same state that he had left them in. Our route guides you to his favourite viewpoint over the Eildon Hills and you can also visit his grave in nearby Dryburgh Abbey.
Of course, The Borders is famous for its Abbeys and we give you a tour that lets you visit the religious ruins in Melrose, Dryburgh, Kelso and Jedburgh. By way of contrast, you could also visit Floors Castle, the palatial home of the Duke of Buccleuch and his family. The wealth on display is quite astounding and it is incredible that all of this can still belong to one family,
~47 miles to Melrose / ~64 miles to Jedburgh
Stopover in Melrose / Jedburgh Area.
Optional Day Trip: "Along the Border" -
Should you wish to extend your stay around the Border Towns of Melrose, Kelso, and Jedburgh, we include the option of a drive east from Kelso that follows the course of the River Tweed and the Scottish - English Border. This is countryside that has witnessed centuries of conflict. If you wish to touch some of this history, you can hop across the Border to see the ruins of Norham Castle, where Edward II assembled his mighty army before marching north to a good kicking by the Scots led by Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn.
The route meets the east coast at Berwick on Tweed and then travels up to the pretty little fishing village of St Abb's, before returning to Kelso via the attractive market town of Duns where the famous racing driver Jim Clark grew up. The roads around Duns are great fun for drivers and Jim must have honed his skills on these country lanes through the rolling Border farmlands.
West to the Solway Coast & Kirkcudbright -
Heading west, through the Tweedsmuir Hills, to the Solway Coast and a corner of Scotland that is often forgotten even though it is full of charm and history.
The first section of this route, from Selkirk to Moffat, is an enjoyable drive along the shores of St Mary's Loch which many motoring Journalists have rated as their favourite road in Scotland. Whilst in this region, you might like to stretch your legs with a hike to the 200ft high waterfall known as the “Grey Mare’s Tail”.
You can break the journey in Dumfries, a town with strong links to Scotland's National Bard, Robert Burns. The town has a museum dedicated to Robert Burns and you can see his Mausoleum and the modest house where he lived out his last years in relative poverty. For a more personal sense of the man's character, you might prefer to visit the old pub where he spent many hours enjoying life in a boisterous manner.
After Dumfries, we guide you along the Solway Coast to the colourful "Artist's" town of Kirkcudbright with its small art galleries and charming streets of pastel coloured houses.
But this area was not always so peaceful as it was on the front line of wars between Scotland and England. There are lots of castles to be explored and Caerlaverock, with its drawbridge and moat, is worth the small detour for a visit.
Stopover in Kirkcudbright Area.
Optional Day Trips from Kirkcudbright -
The Solway Coast is one of Scotland's best-kept secrets. This is a region with lots to offer, so it's worth thinking about a longer stay. We supply you with directions for a choice of day trips:
Kirkcudbright to Ayr -
The south west corner of Scotland is overlooked by most tourists. What they miss is a region rich in the history of Robert the Bruce and Scotland’s battle against English invaders. This is also the home country of our national bard Robert Burns, whose poetry encapsulates the spirit and values of the Scottish people.
Our directions guide you to the ruins of coastal castles, a cluster of secluded standing stones, the site of a 14th century battle and the grand Culzean castle. The drive ends in the village of Alloway, birthplace of Robert Burns and home to a modern museum that tells the story of his colourful, but tragically short life. You can think of him as a sort of 18th century Bob Dylan, but maybe a little more anti-establishment.
Stopover in Ayr
CR MacKintosh’s Glasgow -
You can either take a fast drive north to Glasgow, or have a break from the driving and visit the city as a day trip by train from Ayr. Our guide helps you to explore Scotland’s largest city with directions to discover some of CR Mackintosh’s classical building designs and the excellent art galleries and museums that the Glaswegians are so proud of.
Second night in Ayr, or stopover in Glasgow.
Ayr to Oban -
We provide a choice of routes:
If travelling from Ayr to Oban via Glasgow, you follow the popular tourist trail along the shores of Loch Lomond where you might wish to stop for a loch cruise. Further along the road, you can stop for a drink in an 18th century inn with a ghost that sometimes appears in the bar. We also recommend that you stop to take a walk to Kilchurn castle on the shores of Loch Awe. The start of the path is easy to miss, but our route directions will ensure you find it.
~135 mile from Ayr to Oban via Glasgow
Alternatively, you can avoid the mainstream tourist route by driving up the coast from Ayr to take a short ferry ride over the Firth of Clyde to enter the Highlands. Highlights on this route are the Benmore Botanic Gardens, Argyll Forest Park and Inveraray. If you make an early start, you will have time to extend the day with a drive through Kilmartin Glen with its cluster of mysterious stone circles and Neolithic monuments.
~123 miles (plus a 20 minute ferry ride) – Ayr to Oban via Clyde ferry
The day ends in the lively harbour town of Oban where we suggest some pubs for traditional music and restaurants to sample the best of our seafood cuisine.
Stopover in Oban Area.
Oban to Pitlochry -
Today’s drive takes you through the landscapes that inspired the works of Robert Louis Stevenson and Robert Burns. Stevenson based his famous novel “Kidnapped” on the historical events of the “Appin Murder” and our directions take you to some of the places depicted in this story. Like the novel’s hero, you travel west through Glen Coe and across Rannoch Moor, but without any Redcoats chasing you.
Continuing west, the landscape becomes gentler and you join the path taken by Robert Burns during his “Highland Tour” of 1787. We guide you to the places that he wrote about and you can even see some of his original handwriting just as he left it scribbled on an old pub wall.
The drive ends in the Aberfeldy / Pitlochry area where you could close out the day with a whisky tasting at a local distillery, maybe catch a show at Pitlochry Festival Theatre, or a simply enjoy the romance of a woodland walk in Scotland’s “Big Tree” country.
Stopover in Pitlochry area
Pitlochry to Edinburgh -
Two route options are provided for this drive:
The shorter route guides you to Perth via back roads with visits to Dunkeld, a charming 18th century village with an even older cathedral and connections to the writer Beatrix Potter. After passing through the city of Perth, you speed south to Edinburgh, but can extend the drive with a visit to the exceptionally pretty village of Falkland where Mary Queen of Scots had a favourite palace. The village has also featured in some of the early episodes of the "Outlander" TV show.
The longer route takes you via the fast main roads to Stirling where the key battles of the “Wars of Independence” were fought. The directions include suggestion for small detours to visit other interesting places, such as Doune Castle which you might recognise from its appearances in the “Outlander” TV show.
Stopover in Edinburgh.
To help you book the best places to stay, we offer a guide to Recommended Accommodation along the route of this tour.
We personally visit all the accommodation featured in the guides and only select places where we would wish to stay ourselves. Read More...
When you "Checkout", you will have the option to buy the Accommodation Guide.
When you buy a Secret Scotland Tour Itinerary you will receive a Discount Code that gets you a 10% reduction on the cost of Car Hire from Arnold Clark Rental.
Simply use the Secret Scotland code when you book via the Arnold Clark website and your car hire discount will automatically apply.
I convinced my other half to get the Scenic Tour 4-5 Days guide (even though he very much wanted to do it all himself), and it was the best experience ever. In fact, ever since this trip, we're trying to re-create the experience. Of course, Scotland can hardly let anyone down, but this guide truly made it an adventure. We found so many hidden and not so hidden gems, and everything was perfectly laid out for us so that all we had to do was decide how much time we had and what we wanted to see next. I can't recommend it enough and wish more guides like this existed!
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