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Best Things To Do In Scotland: A Road Trip from Edinburgh

Guest Blog Series – This guest blog post highlighting Secret Scotland is written by VisitScotland National Tourism Organization. Read on to find out the best things to do in Scotland. Below they’ve outlined 7 places to visit when road tripping around eastern Scotland. 

The east of Scotland is filled with some of the country’s best attractions and finest landscapes. Starting your trip in Edinburgh, you can rent a car at Edinburgh Airport and spend a day in the Scotland’s capital before hitting the road, crossing over to Fife via the newly constructed Queensferry Crossing (due to open May 2017).

Over the next few days, you’ll travel through the Kingdom of Fife, Dundee & Angus, Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire, Moray Speyside in the Highlands, and Perthshire, before returning to Edinburgh. In this Drive to Discover itinerary, you will see sparkling coastlines, fascinating attractions, local delicacies and majestic mountains & glens that await you on an epic Scottish road trip. You’ll also travel via a number of the National Tourist Routes, the perfect way to explore the best things to do in Scotland via quieter, more scenic roads.

Driving Itinerary Distance Driving Time
Edinburgh to St. Andrews Cathedral 52 miles 1 hour 28 minutes
St. Andrews Cathedral to Dundee 15 miles 29 minutes
Dundee to Stonehaven 51miles 58 minutes
Stonehaven to Keith 66 miles 1 hour 29 minutes
Keith to Pitlochry 105 miles  2 hours 14 minutes
Pitlochry to Perth 27 miles 40 minutes
Perth to Edinburgh 44 miles 1 hours 3 minutes
Total Distance Covered: 357 miles


 Stop 1: Historic Edinburgh

The Balmoral Hotel clock tower and Princes Street

Fall in love with Edinburgh as you wander the ancient streets of this characterful city and visit world-class attractions. Edinburgh Castle is a must-do for many visitors, with bags of fascinating history and stunning views of the city skyline, while at the National Museum of Scotland, you won’t fail to be captivated by the thousands of incredible exhibits. In the evening, you could take a tour, or enjoy some fine dining at The Shore in Leith, a historic port which is now one of the city’s trendiest areas.

Another must-do for visitors is afternoon tea. Professional travel bloggers Jessica Norah and Laurence Norah of Independent Trave Cats & The Finding the Universe blogs suggests taking tea at the Colonnades at the Signet Library. “Afternoon tea is a quintessential British experience, and sitting down to an indulgent afternoon tea experience in Edinburgh is a great starting point or ending point to a road trip around Scotland,” says Jessica.  “There are several great afternoon tea spots in Edinburgh, but it is hard to beat the beautiful setting of the tea offered at the Colonnades at the Signet Library.”

Next stop: 1 hour & 50 minutes


Stop 2: St Andrews and the East Neuk of Fife

St Andrews Cathedral

Set off from Edinburgh and head north following signs for the Forth Road Bridge – in May, the new Queensferry Crossing will be open to traffic. As you cross, you can see the iconic Forth Bridge, a red cantilever railway bridge. Explore the East Neuk of Fife by taking the Fife Coastal Route, stopping for breaks at delightfully charming fishing villages, until you reach St Andrews, a handsome town famed as being the Home of Golf and for its historic university. Walk along the beautiful, long beaches and visit the ruined cathedral.

Next stop: 30 minutes


Stop 3: Discoveries in Dundee

McManus Galleries

A UNESCO City of Design, Dundee is compact and dynamic, boasting a fantastic range of attractions. On the banks of the River Tay lies Discovery Quay, home to the RRS Discovery, the ship used by Captain Scott’s team in the famous polar expedition of the early 20th century. A short walk will take you to the city center, where you can wander around the galleries of the McManus, Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum, set in a beautiful gothic revival style building, or visit the modern Dundee Contemporary Arts on Perth Road.

Travelers may opt to rent a car in Dundee and explore the area further.

Next stop: 1 hour & 50 minutes


Stop 4: Arbroath, Stonehaven and Aberdeen

Dunnottar Castle

Spend today following the coastal roads, first visiting Arbroath to see its beautiful historic abbey, where in 1320 the Declaration of Arbroath was signed, asserting Scotland’s independence from England. Be sure to taste an Arbroath Smokie, a local delicacy of haddock which has been smoked using a time-honoured method. Back in the car, head to the mighty Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven, a breathtaking clifftop ruin. Finish today in the city of Aberdeen, exploring the city and harbor on foot before tucking into an evening meal at one of the many restaurants.

Next stop: 2 hours


Stop 5: Aberdeenshire and Moray Speyside

Strathisla Distillery

You could take in more of Aberdeen in the morning before setting out across Aberdeenshire. For travelers with more time, we recommend renting a car in Aberdeen and traveling along the northeast coastline. Step into a fairy tale and visit one of the region’s many castles, such as Castle Fraser which dates from the 15th century. Explore rooms filled with fine heirlooms, or wander through the extensive, lush castle grounds. No trip to Scotland would be complete without sampling whisky, the national drink, so stop at Strathisla Distillery in Keith for a distillery tour, before heading to the Highland town of Elgin for the evening.

Next stop: 2 hours & 50 minutes


Stop 6: Royal Deeside, Cairngorms National Park and Pitlochry

The village of Braemar

From Elgin, drive south and enjoy the majestic scenery of Speyside and the Cairngorms National Park. Take a break at Braemar, a charming town in Royal Deeside, surrounded by beautiful scenery which was adored by Queen Victoria. With surrounding forest tracks and hillsides, it’s the perfect place to enjoy a countryside walk. Continue through the National Park to Pitlochry. Close to this pretty town is Blair Castle, the ancient seat of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl.

Next stop: 1 hour & 50 minutes


Stop 7: The City of Perth and Perthshire

Hermitage-and-River-Braan

After Pitlochry, head to Dunkeld to visit the beauty spot The Hermitage, a wooded gorge surrounded by lush conifer and deciduous trees and rushing rivers. Don’t pass by the Fair City of Perth – amongst its many attractions is the Black Watch Castle & Museum where you can learn all about the famous Highland regiment, while just outside the city you’ll find Scone Palace. Afterward, return to Edinburgh, where you can explore more of its sights if you have time, or head to the airport to return the hire car.

Next stop back to Edinburgh airport: 1 hour & 3 minutes

Want to know more? Get more details about places to stop and attractions to visit as you follow the 7 days in the east of Scotland itinerary.


Visit-Scotland

Thinking about coming to uncover secret Scotland? Then let VisitScotland inspire you! We’ve got plenty of travel tips and ideas on attractions, things to see and do, accommodation and much more! You can also chat to us in person at VisitScotland iCentres to help you plan a day out, short break or longer holiday. Join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or explore Scotland’s iKnow Community to chat with visitors and locals about how to have the very best experience in Scotland.


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