This post will be sharing a realistic four day Scotland itinerary for visitors who want to explore the major cities.
Last week, I spent four days in Scotland after my trip to Barcelona was cancelled. I was too upset to plan a proper itinerary, so I visited the two most popular cities: Edinburgh and Glasglow. It was not a shabby itinerary except that I wished I had planned it better. This is why I have decided to write this post to help someone planning a trip to Scotland in the future.
For some reason, Scotland is super underrated. When people visit the UK, they never go beyond the major London-Oxford–Manchester route, which is quite understandable because, to be honest, this place gets expensive, so you need to plan accordingly. But if you’re planning an extended stay on this island. It’s a good idea to stop by Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast. If you live in England, you have no excuse not to visit Scotland. I spent four days in Scotland, and I cannot wait to return. I’m also looking forward to my trip to Cardiff and Belfast in January.
Unlike England, which is split into nine geographical regions, Scotland is divided into three;
- The Highlands which is the mountaineous region with Ben Nevis being the tallest mountain.
- The Central Lowlands where about 90% of Scotland residents resides. It also houses its largest cities Edinburgh to the East and Glasgow to the West.
- Southern Uplands which is the least populated rurual and agricultural region.
For the sake of this post, the itinerary will be focused on the major cities in the lowlands. If you dig further, you’ll realize that the lowlands are just the tip of the iceberg. Scotland is incredibly gorgeous with so much to offer.
How To Plan A Four Day Scotland Itinerary
For this itinerary, we’ll focus on the three urban cities: Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen. While I wasn’t that impressed with Glasglow, I would swap it with Dundee if I had to follow this itinerary again. The benefit Glasgow has is how central it is. You are guaranteed to get a direct train to England from Glasglow Central Station.
So, let’s right into it!
Day 1 & 2 – Edinburgh
Listen, if you don’t spend a minimum of two days in Edinburgh, you might regret it. The only time you can squeeze in all your attractions will be during the Summer when we have longer days. But even at that, it will be crowded, and as such, you won’t be able to properly enjoy it so bear that in mind. If you want to take the City Sightseeing Bus Tour to kill multiple birds with one stone, you can do so. Personally, I prefer to take a walking tour as far as my feet can take me.
For Day 1, you’ll want to focus on the City Centre and stop by iconic attractions like:
- The Edinburgh Castle & The Royal Mile.
- The Scottish National Galleries including the Scottish National Gallery, the Scottish Portrait Gallery & The Royal Scottish Academy of Art & Architecture.
- Museum On The Mound, Scott Monument & The Princes Street Gardens.
Between the Castle and the Museums, time will fly so quickly.
For Day 2, you’ll want to get a taste of the Scottish Highlands from the Lowlands. Make sure you have your hiking boots ready because you’ll be climbing a lot.
- Climb to the top of the Calton Hill and bask in the city’s skyline. Also, stop by all the major monuments on the hill.
- Find your way to Holyrood Park where you’ll find the Queen’s residence; Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament Building. If you have any energy left, hike up to Authur’s Seat. The view is simply astonishing. You will not regret it!
It’s essential to start your itinerary in Edinburgh and get it out of the way. You don’t want to be too exhausted by the end.
Day 3 – Glasgow
On the third day of your four day Scotland itinerary, you’ll want to head to Glasgow, which is about 1 hour by train from Edinburgh. Or Dundee, which is also about 1 hour 20 minutes by train.
- Come in through Glasglow Queen Street Station and head straight into George Square which also houses the Glasgow City Chambers. On your way out, stop by the iconic Gallery of Modern Art.
- Walk further into the city centre where you’ll find St. Enoch Shopping Centre, Princes Square Shopping Centre & the Buchanan Galleries. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many shopping centres closely located together.
- If you don’t get carried away with shopping you can explore People’s Palace, Centre for Contemporary Arts or Kelvingrove Art and Gallery Museum.
If you’re a history and culture enthusiast like me, you’ll find Glasglow too industrialized and boring. It’s only perfect for a stop-over for a few hours. Then again, if you can find a few hidden gems, go right ahead.
I wish I had gone to Dundee instead-but thankfully; there’s always the next time. Recognized as a UNESCO City of Design, this coastal city and cultural centre of Scotland is known for jute, jam and journalism. Here are some must-visit attractions you see:
- V & A Dundee; Scotland’s first design museum.
- Verdant Works; Jute industrial history museum.
- Broughty Castle Museum: a 15th century riverside castle.
- McManus Art Gallery & Museum: which covers Scottish art, local culture & history.
- Dundee Contemporary Arts & Dundee Science Centre.
- If you have more time, you can also throw in the Dundee Museum of Transport and HMS Unicorn; a historic Royal Navy warship.
Best believe you’re going to have a filled day getting schooled on Scottish art, history and culture.
Day 4 – Aberdeen
To wrap up your four day Scotland Itinerary, you want to head to Aberdeen, which is about 1 hour 15 minutes by train from Dundee and 2hrs 40 minutes from Glasgow. It is the third-largest city in Scotland after Edinburgh and Glasgow and is known for its abundant grey granite and oil and gas industry.
Here are some must-see attractions you need to visit:
- Aberdeen Art Gallery
- Aberdeen Maritime Museum, The Tolbooth Museum and/or The Gordon Highlanders Museum.
- St. Machar’s Cathedral
- Craigievar and/or Balmoral Castle
- Marishal and/or Kings Colleges of the University of Aberdeen.
Aberdeen packs quite a punch, and depending on your interests; I’m sure you’ll have a field day exploring.
I hope you have found this four day Scotland itinerary helpful. This is an excellent introduction to what the country has to offer, and I hope you have a fantastic time on your trip.