Outdoors

Want a real flavour of Scotland? Coastlines and castles, beaches and breweries, cathedrals and cashmere, whisky and walks; all this lies ahead of you (and much, much more besides) as you spend seven days exploring the east of the country.

Taking in cities and towns including Edinburgh, St Andrews, Dundee, Aberdeen and Pitlochry, you'll also explore miles of countryside, weave through rural communities and even journey through one of our National Parks! Are you ready to tour the east of Scotland?

Transport

Car

Days

7

Miles

396

Route

Starting in Edinburgh, the route follows the east coast to Aberdeen before travelling through Aberdeenshire to Elgin in Moray Speyside. The final stages of the journey take in Perthshire, finishing back in the capital city.

Highlights

Edinburgh's attractions, fishing villages of East Neuk, St Andrews, RRS Discovery, Arbroath Abbey, Dunnottar Castle, Strathisla Distillery, The Hermitage

Areas Covered

The City of Edinburgh, Fife, Dundee & Angus, Aberdeen & Aberdeenshire, Moray Speyside, Perthshire

see full route

Day 1

overview

Take in highlights of Scotland's capital

Edinburgh, Scotland's historic capital city is bound to leave an impression on you. You could easily spend days upon days discovering its many fantastic attractions, hidden gems and vibrant cultural scene. Today's stops will give you a real feel for this beautiful city's unique character, fascinating past and unbridled charm.
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    Bus Walk

Edinburgh Castle

Towering over the city, you won't be able to miss Edinburgh Castle. It's best to get there when it opens at 9.30am. As well as offering spectacular views of the skyline, it's home to the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny. On your visit, uncover Scotland's military history in the National War Museum and take in the haunting National War Memorial. Once you've explored the castle, wander down the Royal Mile to take in this famous thoroughfare - it's lined with an eclectic range of shops, pubs, eateries and historic closes, and you can also find St Giles' Cathedral in the middle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the bottom of the street.

National Museum of Scotland

Not only is the National Museum of Scotland free to visit and full of thousands of incredible objects, the building is an architectural masterpiece that should not be missed by fans of design. Take in the vast airy space of the Grand Gallery before moving into the newest galleries on art, design and science, which cover everything from Dolly the Sheep, a marvel of genetics, to the couture fashions of Vivienne Westwood and the late Alexander McQueen. There are also fantastic temporary exhibitions to see. It's a real treasure trove!

Calton Hill and the National Monument

Edinburgh is a city best explored on foot, and for budding photographers or those keen to admire the stunning cityscape, it's time to head to Calton Hill to enjoy great views in the lingering light of the late afternoon. You'll see the National Monument, and art lovers can also pop into the Collective Gallery, one of the city's many art galleries. Afterwards, if you are ready for dinner, you could catch the 22 Lothian Bus to the Leith area of the city. It's one of the trendiest neighbourhoods in the UK and boasts two Michelin-star restaurants. Alternatively, wander along Princes Street or George Street to the city's West End.

Real Mary King's Close

If you're keen to pack in one more attraction in the evening and want to find out more about the history of Edinburgh's Old Town, then take a tour of the Real Mary King's Close. Step into the past as you head below the Royal Mile to discover a warren of old streets and living and working quarters from the 17th century which have been forgotten for hundreds of years. As well as fascinating and detailed accounts of the people who occupied the close, there's also a few chilling tales to unearth - a must for any history lover or fans of the macabre! Alternatively, take a supernatural-themed walking tour to uncover more of Edinburgh's spooky side.

Day 2

overview

Explore Fife & St Andrews

Leave Edinburgh and venture out into the Kingdom of Fife, taking the Forth Road Bridge (look out for the remarkable structure of the Forth Bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the newly constructed Queensferry Crossing). Follow the brown signs for the Fife Coastal Route to take in the sparkling coastline and the picturesque villages of the East Neuk.
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    Car Walk

St Andrews Cathedral

The villages of the East Neuk of Fife

The East Neuk refers to a scattering of quaint fishing villages in the north east corner of Fife. With curious winding streets, ancient stone harbours, and original white-washed fisherman's cottages, they make the perfect place to stop, breath in the sea air, and perhaps grab a refreshing cup of tea or coffee. In Pittenweem, wander to the pier to see colourful bobbing boats, or walk up Cove Wynd to find the tiny St Fillan's Cave, said to have been used as a chapel by the saint in the eighth century. Or, instead head to Anstruther to try famous fish and chips, before visiting the town's Scottish Fisheries Museum. It's here that you can hop on board The Reaper, a Fifie sailing herring drifter featured in the TV series Outlander (access available by prior arrangement).

St Andrews West Sands and town centre

Next, head to beautiful St Andrews, a historic university town. If you're keen to work up an appetite before lunch, take a bracing stroll along the town's iconic West Sands, a long, flat beach which was famously featured in the historical drama film Chariots of Fire (1981). West Sands lines the town's world-famous golf courses and lying not far from the south end of the beach is the famous Swilcan Bridge on the Old Course. Wander through the streets of the town and you'll find a range of boutique shops, cosy pubs, cafés and restaurants, as well as the ancient university campus, St Andrews Cathedral and St Andrews Castle.

Eden Mill Distillery & Brewery

If you fancy trying a local tipple, then book a late afternoon tour at Eden Mill Distillery & Brewery, just a 10 minute drive from St Andrews' town centre. Producing craft beer, small-batch gin and Scotch whisky, there's bound to be the perfect tour to match your palate. Perhaps you'll fall head over heels for the Love Gin, or enjoy a fusion of flavours as you sample the whisky barrel beer (but remember: it's against the law to drink and drive). From Eden Mill, head north and take the Tay Bridge across the waters of the silvery River Tay to Dundee.

Day 3

overview

Make discoveries in Dundee

On the third day of your trip, it's time to discover the unique offerings of Dundee, Scotland's fourth largest city. A UNESCO City of Design, Dundee is a thriving, compact place full of exciting developments and has a vibrant cultural scene. It also has a fascinating and varied history that includes textiles manufacturing, polar exploration, journalism… and marmalade!
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The McManus, Dundee

RRS Discovery

For your first stop of the day, head to Discovery Point on the banks of the River Tay. Climb aboard the RRS Discovery to learn of the pioneering, perilous adventures of Captain Scott, the renowned polar explorer who, along with a hardy crew, voyaged to Antarctica in the early 1900s. The Discovery was their home for two harsh winters, and today you can explore the ship whilst learning about the hardships that they endured and hearing their stories. There's also a superb mix of exhibitions and items that belonged to Scott and his men to see.

McManus: Dundee's Art Gallery & Museum

From the RRS Discovery, it's just a 10 minute walk through the city centre to the McManus, Dundee's Art Gallery & Museum. With eight galleries across two floors, there's a surprising range of artefacts to discover, which includes thousands of objects from all over the world which demonstrate Dundee's role as an important centre of trade; traditional ceremonial masks, Inuit relics and Egyptian archaeology are just some of the things that you'll encounter. You'll also find plenty of exhibits which tell the story of Dundee, its history, people and culture.

Broughty Ferry

Lying just outwith Dundee is the pleasant suburb of Broughty Ferry, distinguished by handsome 19th century villas, fisherman cottages, charming traditional pubs and its seafront location. Known locally as 'The Ferry', it boasts a sandy beach, perfect for a stroll, and the landmark Broughty Ferry Castle, which also houses a museum covering mostly local history. Treat yourself to an ice cream as you stroll the streets, or grab a refreshment in the likes of the Fisherman's Tavern or the Anchor Bar.

Dundee Contemporary Arts

Open day and night, Dundee Contemporary Arts lies on Perth Road and is a hub of culture and style. Visit in the afternoon and enjoy exhibitions on modern art and explore quirky, design-orientated wares in the shop. There's also a cinema where you can see the latest releases, classic films and independent productions, and Jute, a trendy café-bar and a great place for sophisticated dining. In the evening, you could enjoy dinner before catching a play at the Dundee Rep Theatre, or visit for an aperitif before trying another of Dundee's dining options.

Day 4

overview

Head north to Aberdeen

Follow the brown tourist route signs marked for the Angus Coastal Route and spend part of today taking in the ever-changing coastline of the east of Scotland, with its cliffs, sheltered bays and harbour towns. On route to Aberdeen, make two stops to discover of Scotland's most spectacular historic attractions: Arbroath Abbey and Dunnottar Castle.
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Arbroath Abbey

A 30 minute drive from Dundee will take you to the historic town of Arbroath, home to Arbroath Abbey. Founded in the 12th century, the abbey went down in the history books as being the place where the Declaration of Abroath was signed in 1320, which affirmed that Scotland was an independent nation. Explore the church ruin, the gatehouse range and the abbot's house. Afterwards, you could walk to the ancient harbour and pick up an Arbroath Smokie from the town centre, a traditionally smoked haddock which is a famous local delicacy.

Dunnottar Castle

Continue north along the coast until you reach Stonehaven where you'll find the unforgettable Dunnottar Castle. Set on rocky headland, this dramatic ruin looks like something straight out of a fairy tale. In its centuries of tumultuous history, it has been visited by William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots, two of Scotland's most famous historical figures. Afterwards, you could explore the streets of Stonehaven, tuck into some local seafood or stroll along the beach.

Aberdeen

Enjoy a relaxing evening in Aberdeen and take in this handsome city's unique atmosphere. You could take a walk to the city's bustling port and try to spot the bay's resident dolphins from the vantage point of the Torry Battery, or explore the curious Footdee (also known locally as 'Fittie'), an adorable grouping of houses in an old fishing village. Nearby is Silver Darling, a chic seafood restaurant, perfect for a lavish treat. Alternatively, explore Old Aberdeen, which encompasses the city's university, where you can admire 18th century architecture. When it's time to wine and dine, head to Belmont Street - there's plenty of bars and restaurants on the street itself and in the surrounding area.

Day 5

overview

Venture from Aberdeen to Elgin

Today, you can spend the morning in Aberdeen experiencing one or two cultural highlights before journeying through the beautiful Aberdeenshire countryside, taking in one of the region's many castles before you reach the market town of Elgin in the Moray area of the Highlands.
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Aberdeen Maritime Museum

Looking at Aberdeen Harbour, it's no surprise to learn that Aberdeen is one of Scotland's most important ports. The best place to discover more about this city's industry and its long relationship with the North Sea is at the Aberdeen Maritime Museum. Through objects, paintings, exhibitions and interactive displays, you can find out about the likes of ship building and fishing in Aberdeen and the fascinating story of the North Sea oil industry.

Castle Fraser

Leave the city and head inland towards Castle Fraser. Like Dunnottar Castle, this is one of the many castles which make up Aberdeenshire's Castle Trail. Dating back to the 15th century, it's a fine example of a Scottish baronial castle. Explore its grand rooms, full of portraits and period furniture before heading up the tower to admire great views across the estate. Outside, you can explore the gardens, or follow one of the lovely trails which lead through the expansive grounds.

Strathisla Distillery

On the way from Castle Fraser to Elgin, you could find out how Speyside's most famous product, whisky, is made. Book a distillery tour and discover whisky-making secrets at the beautiful Strathisla Distillery in Keith where they produce the malt whisky used in Chivas Regal. It's one of the oldest distilleries in the Highlands. A guide will show you the stills and the equipment used as they talk you through the process, as well as taking you into the traditional bonded warehouse.  And then, of course, the chance to sample the finished product!

Elgin

Continue to Elgin, your stop for this evening. You can stroll around the town, passing by North College Street to see the ruin of Elgin Cathedral, before enjoying a refreshment in a pub such as Drouthy Cobbler or sitting down to an evening meal in a local restaurant. If it's a pleasant evening, you might fancy a short drive to one of the nearby sandy beaches at Hopeman or Lossiemouth to catch the sunset and wander along the sandy shoreline before dining at a country inn, such as the Duffus Inn.

If you want to extend your trip, why not go west to Inverness, or even continue on to do the North Coast 500 before heading south, back to Edinburgh?

Day 6

overview

Weave through Royal Deeside to Highland Perthshire

Today, spend the morning in Elgin before driving south through Speyside, home to Scotland's Malt Whisky Trail, and Royal Deeside, an area much-loved by the British monarchy. This scenic route also takes in the majestic Cairngorms National Park, where the landscape of impressive mountains, rushing rivers and deep forest won't fail to capture your imagination.
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Johnstons of Elgin Cashmere Visitor Centre

Johnstons of Elgin are one of the most distinguished producers of woollen and cashmere goods, having been established in 1797. Take a free tour of the Elgin mill - it's the only mill in Scotland to transform raw cashmere from fibre to a finished product. The visitor centre can be found in the beautiful courtyard building and has a fascinating exhibition where you can discover the company's history. For those keen to take home some cashmere or woollen goods, browse through Johnstons of Elgin's quality designs in the mill shop

Braemar

Leave Elgin via the A941 and drive through Moray Speyside before entering the Cairngorms National Park. At Braemar you could simply stop for a break and wander the high street, or take the opportunity to stretch your legs and enjoy the open spaces of the National Park. For a gentle circular walk, follow Queen's Drive and River Clunie circuit which follows the river before joining Queen's Drive, one of Queen Victoria's favoured routes. Alternatively, if you're keen to fit in more historic attractions, visit Braemar Castle. Braemar is also home to the Braemar Gathering, a Highland games which always takes place on the first Saturday of September and is usually attended by members of the Royal family.

Pitlochry

From Braemar, pass through the Spittal of Glenshee to Pitlochry, your stop for this evening. Pitlochry itself is considered to be a gateway to the Highlands, and the pleasant village has a range of shops and cafés, as well as fascinating museums and heritage centres. You might have time to see the Pitlochry Power Station and Dam, as well as the nearby Fish Ladder, which was built to allow the migration of wild Atlantic salmon as they make their way from the sea to Scotland's rivers. The Power Station has a brand new visitor centre, where you can find out how this engineering wonder was built and learn about hydroelectricity. Near Pitlochry lies an impressive wooded gorge, a popular beauty spot known as the Pass of Killiecrankie, and the enchanting Blair Castle & Gardens.

Day 7

overview

Journey from Pitlochry to Edinburgh

Today, you'll head south from Highland Perthshire, taking in one of the country's favourite beauty spots and stopping in Perth, a city which straddles the River Tay. Explore the city streets and make time for the Black Watch Museum, where you can uncover the dramatic history of Scotland's foremost Highland regiment.
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The Hermitage

Only 20 minutes' drive from Pitlochry lies Dunkeld, where you'll find The Hermitage. This magnificent woodland site dates from the 18th century and is now managed by the National Trust for Scotland. With tall trees and tumbling waterfalls, there's no surprise that it is popular with both walkers and photographers alike. Follow trails along the banks of the River Braan. Look out for man-made features as you explore, including a totem pole with Pictish and Squamish designs, as well as Ossian's Hall, a pretty folly which overlooks the Black Linn Falls.

Black Watch Castle & Museum

Step inside Balhousie Castle and explore the museum to discover the intriguing history of the Blackwatch Regiment, which dates back to 1725. Through a range of objects and memorabilia including uniforms, photographs, diaries, artworks, medals, weapons and military kits, as well as films and personal accounts, uncover the story of the regiment and relive their most dramatic moments. Afterwards you could wander to Perth Museum and Art Gallery or take in the streets of the city centre. Alternatively, take in the splendour of nearby Scone Palace, the world famous crowning place of Scottish kings.

Edinburgh

From Perth, head south to Edinburgh, returning over the Forth Road Bridge. Should you fancy extending your trip, there are also some other fantastic locations that are easily reachable from Edinburgh, including the beautiful seaside town of North Berwick in East Lothian, or the scenic region of the Scottish Borders, which is now accessible by rail via the Borders Railway. You could easily spend a few more days discovering more of Edinburgh, taking in great museums, galleries, tours and heritage sites - or maybe just an afternoon relaxing in a cheery, traditional pub? It has been a busy seven days, after all!

If you're eager to see the other side of the country, you could follow our seven days in the west of Scotland itinerary and enjoy an incredible two weeks of Scottish road trip adventure!

Summary

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