Scotland is a beautiful country with vast gorgeous landscapes and a wonderful history. Honestly, there is so much to see and do in Scotland that fitting it all into a week is difficult. That’s why when planning our Scotland Itinerary for 7 days, we chose to focus on the region that gave us the biggest bang for our buck based upon our interests. Our itinerary focused on the opportunity to stay in a Scottish castle, visit historic abbeys and palaces, and get a taste of Scottish history. Join us on our journey with our Scotland Itinerary 7 Days!
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Scotland Itinerary 7 Days
Who Is This Itinerary For
My number one request when planning our trip to Scotland was to stay in a castle. Based upon this request, Marty found me a fabulous castle just south of Edinburgh, Thirlestane Castle. We liked Thirlestane because it was a beautiful Scottish castle that offered the comforts of home while staying within our budget. For you see, the longer you stay, the more of a discount you receive. Making this our hub for the first stretch of our Scotland trip did limit our exploration of Scotland to consist of where we could drive to and back within a day, but we were fine with that. Our focus on this trip was to just relax and take it easy! We decided we would wake up day by day and determine what we did for the day. Another great castle hotel close to Edinburgh is Melville Castle. For more information, read the 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Melville Castle Hotel.
With that being said, after researching The Scotland Explorer Pass, we found so many of the abbeys, castles, and ruins that we wanted to see were within an easy drive of our castle apartment, so this made Thirlestane even more appealing to us. Now, we did venture into other regions on a couple of days, and that was well worth it, but the majority of our trip was spent in the Scottish Borders and Edinburgh Region.
So this itinerary is for you if you love history, want a relaxing vacation, and want to explore the borders regions at your own pace. Even if you think you might want to hotel hop, please still read on as we are highlighting some of our favorite things to see in Scotland during the course of this post.
If this itinerary is too long, or if you’re shorter on time, check out Two Days With a Historic Scotland Explorer Pass.
Scotland Itinerary 7 Days- Day 1: Welcome to Scotland
Blackness Castle and Sterling Castle
After landing in Edinburgh, we found our way to the rental car agency to snag up our car. Trust me, you definitely will want a car if you are planning on touring Scotland. Although there is a good rail system, having the freedom of your own car is definitely worth it.
Although we landed in Edinburgh, we decided to actually tour Edinburgh at the end of our trip. That way we could turn in our rental car and explore Edinburgh on foot. We have a separate itinerary for our 2 days in Edinburgh that you may want to check out.
I will say that this was my first time to drive in Europe, so the thought of driving on the left side of the road was a little intimidating. Every time the GPS would say “at the next roundabout” I cringed! Although after a couple of days, I had the hang of it. I’ll have to write a separate post about my full driving experience in Scotland, especially when I stopped the car in the middle of the road and sobbed. Yes, that happened!
Anyway……since we arrived in Edinburgh early in the morning, we decided to go explore for the day as it was too early to check into the castle, and besides, sleep is overrated. Actually, that is one of the tips that we give people. When you arrive, try to adjust to the local time immediately. We find that it really helps with jetlag.
The first stop for us was Blackness Castle. We decided to purchase the 7 day Scotland Explorer Pass as this would cover us on our entire trip, and boy, were we glad we did! The Scotland Explorer Pass allows you free admission (and to skip the line) to so many of the great castles and abbeys in Scotland, including Blackness Castle. If you’re a history lover, the Explorer Pass is well worth the money.
Blackness Castle was dubbed as ‘the ship that never sailed’ due to its location and shape. Although built for one of Scotland’s most powerful families, it was never a place of quiet refuge. Blackness has a great history as a garrison fortress and a state prison. Oh yeah, and it was also in that little tv show, Outlander. LOL!
We loved exploring Blackness Castle! Be sure and climb the tower and the curtain wall for some awesome views.
After leaving Blackness, we made our way to Stirling Castle. Another castle that is on your Scotland Explorer Pass, so you have free admission and skip the line!
I loved driving up and seeing this beautiful medieval castle dominating the skyline on top of gorgeous Castle Hill, part of Stirling Sill geological formation. Being one of the most used castles in Scottish history as a royal residence, Sterling Castle is a feast for the eyes. Part of the history includes the fact that Mary, Queen of Scots, was crowned here at Sterling Castle in 1542.
Today, the beautiful Renaissance Palace has undergone a massive restoration renewing the beauty and grandeur to much of the building. It’s easy to see why this is one of the best castles in Scotland. Note that the property is vast, so you need to account for several hours if you truly want to take your time and tour the castle and grounds. Explore Queen Anne Gardens, the Great Kitchens, The Royal Palace, and The Great Hall just to name a few places.
Checking Into Our Castle Accommodations
After leaving Sterling, it was time to check into our castle accommodations. As I told you above, we chose Thirlestane Castle in the town of Lauder, just south of Edinburgh. Driving into the town of Lauder, I was excited to see that there were several restaurants, coffee shops, and a little grocery store. This was going to be perfect for our castle stay!
Thirlestane Castle has been home to the Maitland family for over 400 years. Upon arriving at the entrance, we drove down a little lane lined with trees before seeing beautiful farmland appear in front of us that housed sheep, cows, and horses! We checked in at the gatehouse and then proceeded to drive up to the castle entrance. My jaw dropped when I saw the castle in person. It was so cool to think that we get to stay here for 5 nights!! Our apartment consisted of a living room, full kitchen with washer and dryer, a nice bedroom with a window seat, and a huge bathroom with a gorgeous claw foot tub right in the middle of the room. It was truly everything we could have wanted, and then some!
Scotland Itinerary 7 Days-Day 2
Breakfast at The Flat Cat Gallery in Lauder
After a restful night sleep in our beautiful castle apartment, we walked into Lauder and enjoyed a great coffee and breakfast at The Flat Cat Gallery. I have to tell you that this became our “go to” morning stop in Lauder. They have amazing lattes and a wonderful meat and cheese breakfast platter. We also splurged on the salted caramel brownie one morning and it was delicious! The owners were so nice and welcoming, and they take credit/debit cards! YAY!
Linlithgow and Linlithgow Palace
After a relaxing breakfast, we headed out for the town of Linlithgow and Linlithgow Palace. We originally planned to visit Linlithgow just to see the palace, but after doing some research, we found that the town was also worth exploring. We chose to start with Linlithgow Palace to ensure we were not rushed during our visit.
Our GPS originally told us to turn at a road at the far end of the palace property. At first, I was a little frustrated by this, but then Marty had me pull over and brought this great view to my attention. Needless to say, we were delighted that the GPS took us the wrong way. LOL!
Linlithgow is located about 15 miles west of Edinburgh. The town is known as a Royal Burgh since Linlithgow Palace was once the principal residence of the monarchs of Scotland, especially the Stewart kings and queens. What was once a lavish palace during the 15th and 16th centuries is now an incredible set of ruins.
Consider stopping in town and taking a picnic lunch to enjoy on the greens of Linlithgow as you will need several hours to explore this gorgeous palace. Driving up the road to the palace, you will pass under the beautiful gates leading to the palace entrance. There is ample parking just outside of the palace entrance, and although there is an entrance fee, you won’t have to worry about it because you bought your Scotland Explorer Pass.
Take time to really explore and enjoy these well-preserved ruins. Marty and I loved climbing the towers that overlook the beautiful loch and park. We also enjoyed admiring all of the elegant architecture as we searched the palace for Mary, Queen of Scots, birthplace.
St. Michael’s Parish Church
While visiting, don’t overlook the historic church that sits just outside of the palace, St. Michael’s Parish. Although the original structure was destroyed by a fire in 1424, the church still dates back to the mid-15th-century. The church boasts beautiful architecture and gorgeous stain glass as well as a lot of Scottish history.
What to do in Linlithgow
After visiting the palace, be sure and check out the town of Linlithgow as well. View the cross and cross well in the center of the Royal Burgh. Take time to browse the numerous shops lining the street before taking a short walk up from High Street to the Canal Basin. Here you can take a canal tour before visiting Scotland’s only canal museum and tea room. For dinner, we suggest you head to Golden Chip for some great fish and chips.
Scotland Itinerary 7 Days-Day 3
Dunfermline Abbey and Blair Castle
Pittencrieff Park and Dunfermline Abbey
Day 3 consisted of visiting Dunfermline Abbey before heading north to Blair Castle. Because this day consists of more driving, we filled the car up with gas and grabbed a quick breakfast so we could get on the road!
Once arriving in Dunfermline, Fife, we chose to park in the public parking lot by Pittencrieff Park. As we walked through Pittencrieff Park, I could easily see why it is one of Scotland’s most popular urban parks. Surrounded by lush beauty, this 76-acre park reminded me a lot of Central Park in New York City. I loved how the squirrels seemed to pose for Marty to take their picture. LOL!
After our wonderful stroll through the park, we arrived at Dunfermline Abbey and Palace. Originally founded as a priory, Dunfermline became an abbey and then a mausoleum where some of Scotlands greatest monarchs have been laid to rest. Walk around the outside of the building admiring the gorgeous architecture (and maybe giggle at the “King Bruce” so prominently displayed) before walking inside. The interior of the church is just as magnificent as the exterior.
Notice the adjacent palace that was built by Queen Anna of Denmark following the Protestant Reformation of 1560. This gorgeous palace also had a monastic guesthouse attached to it. While touring the palace ruins, take note of the fabulous views of the surrounding area. I can just imagine the peace and serenity that must have surrounded Dunfermline Palace during its prime.
The drive north to Blair Castle was gorgeous. Although I must admit, it was also a bit comical for Marty and I as we searched the fields for the infamous “hairy coo” (aka the Highland cow). Nonetheless, it made for a fun drive. I kinda felt like we were playing a real-life version of Where’s Waldo. LOL!
When we first approached Blair Castle, I fell in love. I absolutely adored the exterior of the castle, and apparently so did everyone else as it was officially selfie central in front of this castle! So you know, why not get in on the action?
Blair Castle actually has an interesting history that you will learn all about on your tour. There are over 30 rooms on display that showcase the beautiful antique furniture, a massive collection of weaponry, priceless tapestries, and an incredible Victorian ballroom that is decorated with 175 pairs of antlers. There was a Victoria display while we were visiting that showcased the costumes from the filming of the show Victoria.
After the castle tour, we took the time to roam around the gorgeous property, exploring the gardens and meeting all of the animals that Blair Castle is home to. Sadly though, we didn’t see a hair coo. We were told that they do have some, but they had not brought them into pasture close to the castle yet, so our hunt will continue on the drive back!
The Search for the Hairy Coo (Highland Cow)
Driving back to our castle apartment, Marty and I were again on the lookout for the famous hairy coo. Since I was driving, Marty had the challenge of being the spotter. Granted, we took full advantage of the funny name by making up silly songs and jokes using the saying ‘hairy coo’. LOL! Suddenly, out of nowhere, Marty yelled out to turn around. He had spotted a hairy coo. Granted, it was part of a roadside attraction for a small store/restaurant but we didn’t care. We finally found the furry cow that we had been searching for. I mean, look at this, it’s a furry cow with huge horns and BANGS! How do you not love a cow with bangs? Side note as well, these ladies, yes the ladies have horns also, were so friendly. She ate right out of our hands and allowed us to pet her! Just watch out for those horns!
Scotland Itinerary 7 Days- Day 4
Jedburgh Abbey, Jedburgh Castle, and Melrose Abbey
Jedburgh Abbey and Castle
We started the day with after another great breakfast at Flat Cat Gallery in Lauder (this time I splurged and had an amazing salted caramel brownie-yum), we hit the road on our journey for the day. Today we headed to the towns of Jedburgh and Melrose to visit some of the famous abbeys in Scotland.
The beautiful Jedburgh Abbey is located in the town of Jedburgh and is part of your Scotland Explorer Pass. Originally established as a priory in the 1100’s, Jedburgh Abbey has a fabulous and interesting history which we go into more detail on in our post 3 Beautiful Abbeys in Scotland. Marty was in photography heaven as every angle of this abbey is absolutely stunning. The mix of Romanesque and Gothic styles is breathtaking.
Jedburgh Castle Jail and Museum has an impressive location at the top of a hill overlooking the town of Jedburgh. Here you can learn about the history of Jedburgh and experience what life was like in a 1820s prison. We had fun touring the prison blocks and cells but as we walked through the hallowed halls, I couldn’t help but think what an awful existence to be locked up in this or any other prison!
After grabbing a bite to eat in Jedburgh, we headed for the town of Melrose to see Melrose Abbey. Melrose Abbey is another fabulous Scottish ruin in the Borders region. I loved climbing to the top of Melrose and taking in the beautiful views that surround this historic site. Another architectural masterpiece, Melrose is extraordinary. Read more about our trip to Melrose in our post 3 Beautiful Abbeys in Scotland.
Scotland Itinerary 7 Days- Day 5
Rosslyn Chapel, Dirleton Castle, and Tantallon Castle
Today we headed to the beautiful and historic Rosslyn Chapel. I first knew of Rosslyn Chapel due to it’s claim to fame as being a filming site for the movie The Da Vinci Code. Seen by many as the connection between the Knights Templar and the Freemasons, Rosslyn is not only a mystery, but a true work of art.
The exterior of the chapel boasts amazing stonework and gorgeous medieval architecture, but honestly, it is the incredible interior with its wall to wall stone carvings that bring people flocking to this mysterious site. Words cannot describe all of the fascinating carvings found inside Rosslyn Chapel. You have to visit Rosslyn Chapel in order to truly understand as photos inside the church were not allowed.
After leaving Rosslyn, we headed north toward North Berwick, a town which came recommended by our hosts at Thirlestane Castle. The drive was beautiful and we loved stopping at Dirleton Castle along the way.
Dirleton was home to noble families for over 400 years before it was badly damaged by Cromwell’s men in 1650. Today these fabulous ruins are like a medieval playground and another great find on your Scotland Explorer Pass. Make your way up the drawbridge before visiting the pit prison, storage vaults, and Haliburton range. After touring the castle ruins, take time to stroll through the beautiful gardens as well.
Located just outside of North Berwick, Tantallon Castle was probably one of my favorite castle ruins in Scotland. The last medieval curtain wall castle built in Scotland, Tantallon is surrounded on three sides by gorgeous breathtaking natural sea cliffs. The curtain wall is over 15 meters high and connects three towers. Standing on top of the wall allows for incredible views of the surrounding sea. Marty and I spent hours walking the grounds while exploring the castle and taking in the gorgeous views. I would totally have lived here!
Scotland Itinerary 7 Days- Day 6 and 7
Day 6 and 7 of our 7 days in Scotland were spent in Edinburgh. Edinburgh is a fabulous historic city that is easily walkable making it incredibly easy to see the sights in 2 days. We spent time touring Edinburgh Castle, tasting Scotch Whisky, and exploring The Royal Mile while in Edinburgh. For a complete itinerary of our time in Edinburgh, please read our 2 Days in Edinburgh.
While we know that our itinerary didn’t even touch many parts of Scotland, specifically the Highlands and the islands, we hope that we inspired you to visit this gorgeous country and see some of the fabulous castles and abbeys that call Scotland home. I know that we will go back to Scotland and expand our tour to include more of this beautiful country.
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