Scotland For Food And Drink Lovers
Before traveling to Scotland I sort of assumed the entire country was covered in water, mountains, and plaid. After all, Scotland seems like the wild north of the United Kingdom. There is more to it than that. If you have 10 days in Scotland to explore, there are a few options on how to make the most of the journey. In this post, we share our recommendations for the best 10 day Scotland itinerary, with a focus on food and drink travelers.
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Planning A Trip To Scotland When You Love Food And Drink
Many Scotland trip planners focus on hiking and nature. They end up putting together these lengthy trips seeing the most typical Scottish landscape. Outside of the big cities, though, it’s impossible to NOT see stunning landscape. The question is, then, how do you put together a Scotland travel itinerary when you might not be interested in hiking for days on end.
I will be honest, and this is not news to regular readers, we are not hikers, or campers, or backpackers. Instead, we like comfort, affordable luxury, and culinary travel. That’s why we came up with a recommended 10 day itinerary that we think is the best Scotland itinerary for people who don’t want to hike Scotland. Instead, we focus on where to eat and drink, and see amazing landscape, all in complete comfort.
In this post we offer a few different recommendations for a Scotland trip itinerary. We offer recommendations on how to plan a road trip through Scotland. I also offer Scotland vacation ideas for travelers who don’t want to travel independently. These trips are from some of the most reputable tour companies in the world. We also provide some general Scotland travel tips, on how to explore some of the most popular destinations in the country.
How To Use This Scotland Travel Guide
My first trip to Scotland was in 1993. Yes, that was a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away. Together, Eric and I have traveled to Scotland a few times over the last few years. Each visit we spend longer and longer and are always planning our next trip.
For this guide, we offer a few options for travelers who want to plan the perfect Scotland 10 day itinerary. We offer options for travelers who want to visit the main cities and then arrange a road trip through the Scottish countryside. I also include options for organized Scotland vacations in case you want someone else to plan the trip for you – totally understood!
When it comes to the places to visit in Scotland, we provide detailed tips. In each city, region, or destination, I provide recommendations for the top attractions and bonus attractions if you have more time, all with a focus on culinary travelers. I am also including recommendations for the best Scotland accommodations in each of the best places to visit in Scotland. Last, I will include recommendations on what to eat in Scotland and where to eat where possible.What To Eat In Scotland - Scotland Food Guide
Where To Visit In Scotland In Ten Days
I am not a fan of itineraries that offer options to see the best of Scotland in a short amount of time. The Scotland trips we recommend below sort of push the envelope of how many stops you can make within 10 days. I prefer for a 10 day itinerary to find 3 or 4 places to visit, max, and make the most of those stops. Within 10 days, I recommend visiting both Glasgow and Edinburgh as well as one or two areas outside of the big cities.
As much as Scotland is a small country and you can drive across it in a day, that doesn’t mean you should do that! It’s better to pick a handful of destinations you want to visit and to make the most of the time you have to explore.
If you follow our Scotland driving itinerary, you can see the best of Scotland in only 10 days. It will include cathedrals, castles, distilleries, nature, coastline, mountains, and animals. And, of course, it will include fabulous places to eat and drink in Scotland. This means classic, hearty Scottish cuisine, whiskey, beer, and even gin.Check out our Scotland Drinks Guide - What To Drink In Scotland
A 10 Day Scotland Road Trip Itinerary
Over the years, we’ve visited Glasgow and Scotland for city breaks and we’ve explored the countryside with a rental car. This itinerary starts in Glasgow and ends in Edinburgh. In between you explore one of the top destinations for whisky tourism, Moray Speyside.
In order to self drive in Scotland, you obviously need to rent a car. We recommend AutoEurope for rentals in Europe. They can provide the best deals from a variety of car rental companies depending on your itinerary. You can pick up the car in Glasgow or Edinburgh and return in the same city or drive from one to the other depending on your flights. We offer a lot of recommendations on how to drive in Scotland in another post.
Here, we focus on how to drive Scotland during a 10 day itinerary. It’s actually pretty hard to see the best of Scotland without renting a car. Cities breaks are possible, but to explore the countryside, a car is needed.Get the best rates on a rental car for Scotland self drive tours here
10 Day Scotland Itinerary – Glasgow To Edinburgh Via Speyside
This itinerary includes the best places to visit in Scotland if you love to eat and drink. I recommend starting in Glasgow, which is a slightly more cosmopolitan city than Edinburgh, but it can also be reversed. Here I recommend the best things to do in each destination, where to stay, and where to eat and drink.
Travel from Glasgow to Speyside by heading north along the A9 in the direction of Cairngorms National Park. Drive along the edge of the park in the direction of Aberlour. The total journey takes about three and a half hours. On the return south, you can also hop on the A9 and pretty much reverse course, just breaking to the east for Edinburgh instead of returning to Glasgow. This journey also takes about three and a half hours. In fact, Glasgow and Edinburgh are almost on the same parallel.
Glasgow Travel Tips – 3 Days
I always assumed that Glasgow was a little rough around the edges, a little too much for us to visit. Maybe it feels this way in the heart of the winter when it is grey and cold, but I loved our time there. So much so that we are considering spending a few months in Glasgow in the summer within the next few years. We simply loved it. There is plenty to do during two or three days and offers an opportunity to adjust to travel if you are arriving from overseas and are subject jetlag.
Things To Do In Glasgow
Any list of the top things to do in Glasgow will include the Glasgow Cathedral, the Glasgow Botanical Gardens, and Kelvingrove Art Gallery. The city is known for its gothic architecture and there is plenty of shopping or window shopping in the city center. If you are a Harry Potter fan, check out Glasgow University, which is known for being an inspiration for Hogwarts.
For food and drink travelers, though, we recommend learning about scotch whisky as part of your Scotland sightseeing goals. This can start right in Glasgow by doing a little self-guided whisky tour of Glasgow. Or, book a full or half day tour either in the city or out of the city. Here are a few options for food and drink experiences in Glasgow.
- Book a distillery tour and tasting within the city. This Scottish whisky tour includes two local whisky bars as well as the only distillery within the city limits. Book here.
- Or save the distillery tour for Speyside later in the trip and explore four local whisky bars with a knowledgeable guide who can explain the world of whisky. Book here.
- Escape the city for the afternoon to visit a classic Highland distillery. On the way, stop and marvel at Loch Lomond. Book here.
Places To Eat And Drink in Glasgow
There is no shortage of great restaurants in Glasgow, one of the reasons why we can’t wait to return and spend even more time there. Some of the top restaurants in the city include the Ox And Finch, The Finnieston, and Ubiquitous Chip. They tend to offer more contemporary Scottish and international cuisine. I find the offerings for more traditional Scottish food to be better in Edinburgh and in Speyside.
Another option for craft beer lovers is to visit BrewDog, which originated in Aberdeen. Many Scots look at BrewDog as a success story. They have locations in Aberdeen, Glasgow, and Edinburgh. The Glasgow location offers a large menu of well-prepared pub grub.
There are two unique food tours on offer in Glasgow as well for an interesting way to eat your way around the city. Both involve dining on board a refurbished, classic double decker bus from the 1960s. One involves gourmet burgers on board but for something a little more Scottish, how about afternoon tea on board a double decker bus. Book afternoon tea here.
Where To Stay in Glasgow
If renting a car for your entire Scotland tour, then be sure to find a hotel that has easily accessible parking. Otherwise, pick up your car on the last day in Glasgow before heading out into the country.
We stayed at the Moxy Glasgow, a newer hotel from the Marriott family. It was a great value option, but in the East End, east of the city center. I felt it was a bit far from the neighborhoods that are the best for food and drink. Rather than being east of the city center, I would recommend something more walkable to Finnieston, Kelvingrove, or the West End. This includes the city center, just not east of it.
Keeping this in mind, here are our recommended hotels in Glasgow.
Luxury Hotels: Try the Kimpton Blythswood Square in the city center, with rooms from €200 a night or the Hilton Glasgow Grosvenor Hotel, which is close to the Botanical Garden and all of the action in the west end, with rooms from €200 a night.
Boutique Hotels: The Dakota Glasgow is in more of a commercial neighborhood, but walking distance to everything in the city, with rooms from €160 a night and a reputation for fabulous dining. Or, the Malmaison Glasgow is in the same neighborhood in an old converted church and just oozes with character, with rooms from €125 a night.
Value Hotels: There are a handful of reputable hotel chains with locations in the city center or just west of there, including Ibis Styles, Jurys Inn, and the Park Inn by Radisson. All offer rooms starting under €100.Get the Best Rates For Glasgow Hotels at Booking
Speyside 4 Days – Scotland Scotch Tours
For people who love food and drink there is no better destination in Scotland than Moray Speyside, which is just north of both Glasgow and Edinburgh. Moray is also sandwiched between Aberdeenshire in the east and the Highlands and Inverness in the west. It offers scenery, nature, mountains, and coastline, all within one compact region. Moray Speyside offers the best of Scotland, relatively close to the big cities.
Why Moray Speyside
At its most northern point, Moray (pronounced like “Murray” in the Scottish accent) includes rugged coastline dotted with fishing villages. The coastline of the Moray Firth gives way to the plains of Moray, where agriculture rules. It’s a landscape dotted with Highland Cows (called coos) and loads of sheep. At the southern end is the Cairngorms National Park, where the plains start to inch upwards into characteristic Scottish Highland hills.
As promised, there is coastline, nature, animals, mountains, and yes, even some castles. Speyside is most known, though, for being home to the largest concentration of whisky distilleries in Scotland. This is why it makes one of the best places to visit in Scotland. The region hosts the Malt Whisky Trail, the only malt whisky trail in the world.Learn More About Speyside's Malt Whisky Trail
Things To Do In Moray Speyside
One of the most interesting things to see in Scotland for whisky lovers is the Speyside Cooperage. This is one of the most interesting stops on the Malt Whisky Trail. A cooperage is a place where barrels are made and you can’t make scotch whisky without the barrels. The Speyside Cooperage is located in Dufftown, on the road that leads from the distilleries around Aberlour and those in Dufftown and Keith. Learn more about how to visit the distilleries in our Malt Whisky Country Guide.
In Elgin, visit the Elgin Cathedral, which dates from 1224. Elgin is also home to one of the most well-known Scottish cashmere producers, Johnstons of Elgin. Nearby in Fochabers, visit Gordon Castle and its stunning walled garden. It’s filled with lavender during the summer. There are a series of historic, Scottish castles that dot the landscape as well. This includes Ballindalloch Castle, Balvenie Castle, and Duffus Castle.
The Moray Coast Trail includes about 50 miles of coastline, which can be traversed on foot over several days. Or, take a drive from Findhorn in the west to Cullen in the east. There are cliffs and sandy beaches in little pockets along the way. Towards the east is Bow Fiddle Rock in the small town of Portknockie. Sometimes you can even spot dolphins playing just off the coast. The rivers Spey, Findhorn, Avon, and Livet are home to various types of Scottish salmon and trout – perfect for fishing excursions.
What And Where To Eat And Drink In Speyside
Here are just a few recommendations on where to eat in Speyside. Starting with cafes and casual restaurants, check out one of our favorite places to eat in Moray, the Bothy Bistro in the seaside town of Burghead. The owners of the Bothy Bistro also opened Dory, a double decker bus restaurant in the West Beach Caravan Park in Hopeman, just down the road.
For more traditional Scottish pubs, we really enjoyed the Copper Dog Pub in Craigellachie. Located in the Craigellachie Hotel, the Copper Dog Pub focuses on farm to fork traditional and contemporary Scottish food from with in Speyside. They also offer local craft beers, gins, and whisky cocktails including their own Copper Dog Whisky.
For slightly more elevated dining, check out the two restaurants located in the Dowans Hotel in Aberlour. Spé offers a nightly four course tasting menu featuring locally sourced produce and proteins. Or, for everyday dining, their restaurant 57 prepares a seasonal and locally sourced menu showcases the diverse range of food products from the Moray Speyside region.
Craft Beer And Gin In Speyside
There are a handful of craft beer producers in Moray. Look for these beers on tap and some of the local restaurants and pubs. Some of the local brewers include Speyside Brewery, Spey Valley Brewery, Brewmeister Keith Brewery, and Windswept Brewing Company.
There are also a dozen artisan gin producers in the region as well. Check out Eight Lands Distillery on Glenrinnes Estate. They are an organic gin and vodka distillery run by women. They offer tours as well.
Where To Stay In Speyside
We’ve stayed at four different hotels and inns in Moray Speyside. The region is relatively small, so no matter where you say you are able to drive to all of the main attractions. There are no international hotel chains in Speyside, which means all hotels and inns can be considered boutique hotels.
Luxury Hotels: Built in 1893, the Craigellachie Hotel and its 26 rooms feels more like a luxury, countryside family-home than a hotel. Rooms at the The Craigellachie Hotel start from €170 including breakfast. Originally a Victorian mansion, the Dowans Hotel was reborn in 2012 by the Murray family. Now featuring 16 contemporary en-suite rooms, the Dowans Hotel maintains its historic past while providing modern comfort and hospitality. Rooms at The Dowans Hotel start around €190 a night including breakfast. Both hotels offer restaurants and whisky bars and are some of the best located hotels to visit the distilleries in the area.Get the Best Rates For Speyside Hotels at Booking
Edinburgh Travel Tips – 3 Days
Edinburgh is a must-visit destination in Scotland and was the first city I visited years ago. It’s almost a no-brainer when it comes to where to go in Scotland. I would recommend, if possible, avoiding the weekends when Edinburgh can get crazy busy.
Things To Do In Edinburgh
One of the first places to visit in Edinburgh has to be the Royal Mile and Edinburgh’s Old Town. It’s just fun to wander the alleyways that lead off the Royal Mile in search of Scottish pubs and whisky bars. The Mile ends at Edinburgh Castle, one of the most famous in the UK. Visiting Edinburgh Castle includes seeing the Scottish Crown Jewels. (Here’s a pro tip: Book your tickets to the Castle ahead of time and skip the line!)
Check out the Grassmarket area as well. It was the city’s original market. Over the centuries live stock was sold there, it suffered bombing during WWI, and has hosted executions – that’s some history. Now it’s home to restaurants, pubs, cafes, and boutiques.
One of the best things to do in Edinburgh is the Scotch Whisky Experience. Even after visiting a few distilleries in Speyside, the visitor center is worth a stop. Or, take things up a notch and do a Scotch master class. Or, book an Edinburgh food tour with food tastings and information about traditional Scottish dishes, including haggis!Learn More About Scotland's Whisky Regions
Places To Eat And Drink In Edinburgh
I love Glasgow for international and contemporary cuisine, but I love Edinburgh for traditional Scottish foods. There are plenty of options for pubs and gastro pubs that specialize in classic dishes, like haggis with neeps and tatties and sticky toffee pudding.
Also check out options for a full Scottish breakfast, particularly on the weekend. Some of our favorite go-to Scottish pubs for food (and pints) include The World’s End and The Royal McGregor both on the Royal Mile as well as The White Hart Inn on Grassmarket.
Check out our full Edinburgh Food Guide.
Where To Stay In Edinburgh
Edinburgh is one of the most popular destinations in Scotland and in the United Kingdom. As I mentioned above, I would avoid the weekends when the city explodes. I also would recommend booking hotels as early as possible. Hotels in Old Town are often more expensive. New Town is a great option, and only a 10 minute walk away. In the end, everything in the center of Edinburgh is accessible and walking distance.
Luxury Hotels: There is no shortage of luxury hotels in Edinburgh, all in historic buildings with high-end appointments and top-notch service. Check out The Balmoral, with rooms from €300 a night or a name synonymous with luxury hotels, the Waldorf-Astoria Calendonian, with rooms from €200 a night.
Value Hotels: We stayed at two different IHG properties in New Town, which is about a 10-minute walk to Old Town. Both properties run less than €100 a night and both good options for value hotels in Edinburgh. Check out the Hotel Indigo on York Place, which is a little more contemporary, and the Holiday Inn Express City Centre.Get the Best Rates For Edinburgh Hotels at Booking
Guided Tours Of Scotland
The 10 day Scotland itinerary above can be accomplished on your own. I think I’ve give all the tools you need to put the itinerary together. I understand, though, that for some people the best tours of Scotland are the ones that you don’t have to plan yourself. Here, I make recommendations for guided tours of Scotland. They take you a bit further and offer more destinations. This also means moving a lot more, every night or two. But, these Scotland getaways include everything you need to visit Scotland.
Intrepid 10 Day Scotland Tour Itinerary
Intrepid is a company that started out as a backpacker tour company, but since its beginnings in the late 1980s has become one of the top tour companies in the world. And they don’t just cater to backpackers anymore.
This Scotland Highlands Itinerary also starts in Glasgow and ends in Edinburgh. Instead of spending time in Speyside, though, this tour heads to Loch Lomond, the Isle of Skye, and Loch Ness. It’s a small group tour with no more than 15 people, so you are not getting transported around on a giant tour bus. There are some walks and light hiking as well as a Scotland distillery tour. The tour includes breakfast each morning, but no other meals. The tour includes guided tours in both Glasgow and Edinburgh as well.Book This Tour With Intrepid Here
G Adventures Scotland In A Week
G Adventures is a tour company that specializes in authentic and sustainable trips around the globe. Most of the G Adventures tours in Scotland last for more than two weeks and head pretty far north. Their Highlights of Scotland tour, though, lasts just a week and is the perfect introduction to the country. The tour starts in Edinburgh and finishes in Glasgow. It heads to Inverness with a train ride through the Cairngorms National Park. Then it heads west to the Island of Skye before heading back south to Glasgow.
This tour spends less time in both Edinburgh and Glasgow than the Intrepid tour, so it is the perfect opportunity to add a night or two in either city to expand this tour to a 10 day itinerary in Scotland.Book This Tour With G Adventures Here
FAQs – Scotland Itinerary For Food And Drink Lovers
18. You can legally drink alcohol at 18 years of age in Scotland. Children under 18 can have a glass of beer or wine at dinner in a restaurant so long as it’s with their parent’s permission.
For the most part, dinner is served between 5:30 pm and 9:00 pm. There’s always the exception but most Scots eat dinner early.
You can expect to pay around 10-12 GBP (13-15 USD) for the main course in a “normal” restaurant. Pub food might be less expensive but not by much.