There are so many things to do in Scotland and the scenery is just amazing. As we wanted to explore the highlands, we did the traditional Scotland by car trip. We drove most of the Scotland North coast 500 in February and despite the cold, it was still a fabulous Scotland road trip.
Here are some highlands tips for a Scotland itinerary over 7 days and my recommendations for places to stay.
Best way to reach the highlands for a Scotland itinerary 7 days: fly to Inverness
We recommend renting a top level car: we had a Land Rover booked via Avis Prestige. It really makes the road trip much more enjoyable. The elevated position and the wide windows allow for great panoramic viewing and the space inside meant that we could do a couple of our picnics in warmth without knocking each one over!
Day 1 – Drive from Inverness to Tongue.
If you want to do the full NC500, you can drive along the East coast from Inverness to Thurso and then Tongue.
We chose to go North up to Lairg where we turned left to start seeing some of the West Highlands. On our way we stopped at the Pier Cafe for lunch. It was really good food and Mademoiselle enjoyed the very sugary desert! We passed Bonar Bridge and then Durness. The road is a single track most of the time but in February there was little passing traffic anyway.
Miles and miles of amazing scenery with a house only every 20 miles or so!
Day 2 – North coast 500 exploration
Lundies House was our base and we did day excursions from there. We drove along the coast towards the East and stopped at BettyHill for a walk to the Farr beach, then at Strathy Point lighthouse.
You could go on to Thurso where there is a very good seafood restaurant Captain Galley’s.
Lundies House gives a free packed lunch so we didn’t stop for lunch that first day. A good thing because all the cafes and tearooms were closed, clearly February is not high season !
Day 3 – discovering the secret Highlands beaches
That morning, we did the easy walk from the hotel to Castle Varich. It was only one hour return. What you should really try to do when in Tongue is of course hiking to the top of Ben Loyal. This was not an option for us because of storm Denis.
So in the afternoon, we went in search of secret beaches.
When driving along the coast, you sometimes get a glimpse of a beach down there with no obvious roads going down to it… So on that day, we decided to try to find our way and we did. We got to a beach with cows trotting on the sand and then onto Skinnet beach.
After going down a path in the fields in the hills, you reach this wonderful stretch of pure sand, turquoise waters, wind and mountains in the horizon. You have to be careful and check the tides timings.
After all the wind and cold, it was really nice to be back at Lundies House and enjoy a nice cup of tea by the fire.
Day 4 of a 7 days Scotland itinerary – a road trip in the West Highlands
We left Lundies House and made our way down the west coast of the Highlands.
We stopped at Kylesku for lunch where we enjoyed a very nice seafood platter.
After this, we just drove along and tried to find the hidden roads to the coast. It was just stunning. We got through some quite arduous roads and were glad to have a sturdy Range Rover!
Evening stay was at Shieldaig Loge and is not worth writing about. The location and the building are great and this hotel could really be special but inside it was a bit depressing.
Day 5 – from the West Highlands to the Cairngorms
We made our way towards Braemar, where we stayed at the fabulous Fife Arms; It was really a destination hotel for us as we had been to the Cairngorms before when we had stayed at Lundie’s sister house, KillieHuntly.
It was quite fun- by that, I mean a bit scary actually as it was getting dark and we were the only ones on the road so wondered what would happen if we broke down! The hills were covered in snow and the arrival at our next Scotland luxury hotel, the Fife Arms, didn’t disappoint.
We settled there with a nice cup of tea in the lounge and had some beauty treatments.
Day 6 – hiking up Morrone ascent in the snow
It is a mountain that sits above Braemar and makes a lovely hill circuit on a fine day. It was a bit more treacherous for us as it was snowed under pretty much from the middle to the top. We came back down via a pretty riverside return route and arrived at the Fife Arms as snow started to fall.
Day 7 – A stop at Stonehaven before flying back
To conclude our journey, we were flying back from Aberdeen. We had some time so stopped at Stonehaven to at least visit one scottish castle, Dunnottar castle. Once we got there though, we were unable to complete the visit as the site was closed due to the wind.
We did a nice little walk around the Stonehaven old village, where pretty houses lie the harbour.
And then it was time to go to Aberdeen and fly back to London .
Bonus: a map of where to stay in the highlands.
Obviously, I highly recommend the three hotels previously mentioned.
But here are more that you can check out: while planning for this trip, I started to plot on a Google map all the possible stylish accommodations.
In addition to Lundies House, KillieHuntly or the Fife Arms, discover my selection of B&B, hotels, inns, self-catering and luxury lodges. I hope it’s helpful.