Rick Steves Says To Prioritize These Stunning Destinations On Your Scotland Trip

Scotland — a land of fairytale castles, mesmerizing Gothic castles, and untamed backcountry. According to The Guardian, the wild and rural Scottish landscapes led to this United Kingdom country being named "the world's most beautiful country." Inspiration is everywhere in this country, from the nation's bustling urban capital to the magnificent summits in the northern Isle of Skye. Even a two-week excursion to Scotland couldn't possibly allow travelers enough time to see, do, and taste everything this enchanting land has to offer.

Fortunately, travel expert and European native Rick Steves, has curated the perfect Scottish itinerary that highlights the best and brightest of Scotland. From the Scottish moors to verdant mountains and frozen lakes, there are few places on earth that can compete with this country's breathtaking topography.

Mapping out some of the country's best sights and cities, travelers can draw inspiration and rearrange the agenda to suit their own travel preferences. From a three-day excursion to an all-out three-week backpacking trip across the nation's scenic landscape, this tour caters to both wilderness enthusiasts eager to explore the Scottish highlands and the urban wayfarer.

Steves recommends two weeks as the most optimal timeframe to get a first-hand perspective of Scottish culture. Beginning in Edinburgh, the tour guides travelers to Oban on the coast of Scotland's western highlands, before circling the northeast regions and ending in Stirling, part of central Scotland. Along the way, travelers will experience a first-hand perspective of just what makes this European nation the coveted gem it is.

Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Oban

This tour begins with a grand introduction to Scotland in the nation's capital, Edinburgh. Medieval buildings, cobblestone streets, and a festive arts scene equally play into why this might be the most popular destination in Scotland. According to U.S. News, Edinburgh is the second most-visited city in the United Kingdom. It's home to iconic literary figures, including J.K. Rowling. Steves recommends a total of three days in Edinburgh, allowing enough time to squeeze in all that this stunning UK city has to offer. The famous Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and the Scotch Whiskey Experience are just a few iconic attractions you'll want to have on your bucket list.

Venturing out of Edinburgh and heading east towards Glasgow, this port city is located along the River Clyde in the western Lowlands. As Scotland's largest city, it's known for its blend of modern and historic architecture, thriving music scene, and collection of whiskey breweries — the beverage of choice in Scotland. It's said that "the people make Glasgow," contributing to it being one of the friendliest cities in the world.

Rounding out the first week of this trip, travelers are advised to spend the next few days in Oban, situated along Scotland's western coast. This port town is full of character, with several acclaimed distilleries and plenty of seafood houses, as Oban is home to some of the country's freshest maritime cuisine. It's also the connecting port town to the coastal isles of Mull, Iona, and Staffa.

Inverness, Skye, and St. Andrews

Traveling north out of Oban, toward the Scottish Highlands, the regional capital, Inverness is the gateway to some of this region's most captivating sights and landmarks. Steves recommends a quick side detour to Loch Ness, a freshwater lake southwest of Inverness. Try and catch a glimpse of the Loch Ness monster while you're here, as it is the homeland of this fabled creature. The Inverness Castle and Culloden Battlefields are a few other sights not to be missed in this picturesque region.

The Isle of Skye might be the most stunning piece of paradise yet on this tour. With its rugged terrain, scattered fishing villages, and medieval castles, the landscape is reminiscent of a storybook town. The Isles were ruled for centuries by competing clans, resulting in a turbulent past. From the sacred Fairy Pools to the chiseled rocky facades of The Storr, the Isle of Skye's wealth is found in the natural landscape.

On the road to Stirling, the final destination on this tour, stop for a round of golf in St. Andrews, the founding place of this beloved club sport. Just over an hour from St. Andrews, Stirling holds more than one heroic icon defining the country's past. According to Steves, Stirling Castle should be one of the top things on your bucket list, along with Dunblane Cathedral and the National Wallace Monument. If you find yourself craving a break from urban life, visit Plean Country Park, covered in acres of hiking trails and flourishing woodlands.