How to Spend 4 Days in Scotland in the Highlands and Beyond?

I have explored Scotland several times by road. On my first trip, I drove up with my family and spent two weeks in the Scottish Highlands and some parts of the lowlands.

On my second visit, a long weekend getaway with my partner, we flew to Scotland and took the train back home. These experiences have given me insight into the various transportation options to Scotland and what destinations can be done within 4 days in Scotland.

This article outlines my 4-day Scotland road trip itinerary, perfect for those planning a long weekend. It is good for first-timers and great for those looking to explore somewhere new – Staffa is not that well known.

With my background as a travel agent, I have crafted numerous itineraries and feel confident recommending hotels and restaurants based on my expertise. This 4-day Scotland itinerary is almost identical to the one I did in May 2024; however, I made some adjustments based on things that went well and could be improved from my experience.

Orange highland cow with long hair and corns eating grass with marshy loch behind and mountains in Isle of Mull

What To See in Scotland in 4 Days?

Edinburgh, Scotland - Statue of lady in dome with pillars and plants on Water of Leith Walkway

If you are looking for an overview of this article, here are the highlights of this Scotland itinerary for 4 days.

  • Edinburgh
  • Glencoe
  • Glen Etive
  • Glenfinnan Viaduct
  • Isle of Mull
  • Staffa (April to July only)
  • Oban

4 Day Scotland Itinerary

Read on to discover my recommendations for how to spend 4 days in Scotland.

You can find my suggestions for other destinations in the UK that make great long weekend trips here.

If you prefer a ready made itinerary, you can book a 4 day tour of Scotland with Rabbies.

Day 1 – Edinburgh & Glencoe

Wee White House in Glencoe next to tall tree and large rocky and grassy mountain range behind in Scotland
Wee White House in Glencoe

Upon arrival in Edinburgh, you should pick up a rental car from the airport. The queue to pick up a rental car was long, so unless you have preferred status with a rental car company, allow for the extra time in your itinerary.

If you arrive at Edinburgh Waverley Station, you could take a tram, bus or taxi to the airport to get your car. The journey duration is around 30 minutes.

Once you have your car rental, start the 2-hour and 15-minute drive to the Kingshouse Hotel in Glencoe. If you have a morning flight or train, the time should be around lunch.

You can reserve a table in the Climbers’ Bar at Kingshouse Hotel with table service and a wonderful view. They serve warm and hearty meals if you think you will be extra hungry. Otherwise, you can eat at the Way Inn, which is also on the property and more of a quick-service meal with unreserved seating on picnic tables.

After fuelling up at lunch, it is time to head to Glen Etive, which was made even more famous by the James Bond Skyfall movie. Glen Etive is a 5-minute drive from Kingshouse Hotel, so it is the perfect next stop. It can get busy on the road to Glen Etive, especially since it is a single-track road, and you need to pull into a layby frequently to allow people in the opposite direction to pass.

Places to stop along the way include:

You can spend as little or as long as you would like in Glen Etive before moving on to another well-known spot in Glencoe – the Wee White House. It is a short drive down the road from Glen Etive in the direction of the town of Fort William, which is your ultimate destination.

The best place to park to see the Wee White House of Glencoe is the Devil’s Staircase Car Park, but you can also park in Buachaille Etive Mòr Car Park; which is closer, but the ground has horrific potholes, and you have a bit risk of scraping the bottom of your vehicle.

It is time to check in to your hotel in Fort William. I suggest booking Lime Tree An Ealdhain for one night. The Lime Tree is a popular hotel, so book in advance. If you want something more upscale in Fort William, book the Inverlochy Castle Hotel.

Day 2 – Glenfinnan Viaduct & Glencoe

Harry Potter train crossing the Glenfinnan bridge while puffing steam

This morning, you need to be at Glenfinnan Viaduct at 9:45 AM. The drive from Fort William is only 30 minutes or 60 minutes from Glencoe.

At approximately 10:45 AM (from late March to late October), the Jacobite Steam train will cross the Glenfinnan Viaduct and you will be able to watch a moment that makes you feel like you are in a Harry Potter movie.

Arrive at the Glenfinnan Viaduct car park an hour before the train arrives because it is a popular tourist spot, and the parking spaces fill up quickly. Plus, there is a 10-minute walk from the car park to the best Glenfinnan viaduct viewing spot. Learn more information on visiting Glenfinnan Viaduct in my guide.

Once the train has passed, you can also walk to the other Glenfinnan Viaduct viewpoint near the visitor centre and walk to Loch Shiel. Then, it is time to return to Glencoe for lunch and some exploring.

You can eat at Clachaig Inn but be warned that the sandwiches are basic compared to what you might see in North American or Italian delis. Therefore, you may prefer to order one of the hot food offerings, such as a burger or fish and chips. However, the drinks are cold and the view from the picnic benches outside of Clachaig Inn has one of the best views in Glencoe.

Otherwise, you can find a pub in Fort William for some food.

It is time to move on to some more of Glencoe’s best bits. From Clachaig Inn, you can walk 10 minutes to see the location used for Hagrid’s Hut in one of the Harry Potter films.

Then, drive to the car park for the Meeting of Three Waters and walk up the trail. You will see some incredible scenery from only walking 10 minutes up the trail. You can continue further or return to the car.

Glencoe, Scotland - Samantha standing on rocky hiking path at Meeting of Three Waters with mountain range
Meeting of Three Waters

Continue your tour of Glencoe by driving back to the Three Sisters Viewpoint to stop and take some photographs. Or you could put on your hiking boots and walk around the valley.

Find out my recommendations for what to pack and wear in Scotland here.

There are some longer hikes in this area, but given you are on a tight schedule, you can still get the benefit of walking part of the hikes to get an impression of the surroundings, like the Quiraing hike on the Isle of Skye.

End the day by driving to your hotel in Oban. Although it adds an extra hour of driving to your day, it is worth ending the day in Oban to wake up closer to your next destination.

I suggest staying at Perle Oban Hotel & Spa, highly rated by the Michelin Guide. If you have time, you can walk around Oban and enjoy some seafood for dinner.

Day 3 – Isle of Mull & Staffa

Puffins in Staffa in Scotland - 5 puffins on grassy cliff with yellow and purple flowers and ocean in distance
Puffins in Staffa

Today, you will be visiting the Isle of Mull.

If your 4 days in Scotland are between late April and late July, you should book a day tour to Staffa to see the puffins. This adventure will involve taking a ferry from Oban to Isle of Mull, and then a bus tour will take you to the port where you will take a boat to the island of Staffa where the puffins live.

If you are visiting Scotland outside of these dates, you can still visit the Isle of Mull, but instead, you will go self-guided and take the ferry on your own with your rental car.

With this method, you can visit some hot spots on the west side of Mull, such as the Three Lochs Viewpoint, look for highland cows around Loch Beg, and eat seafood at the Creel Seafood bar. In the northern part of Mull, you can see the shipwrecks in Salen and visit the town of Tobermory – the filming location for the children’s TV show Balamory.

It is also possible to book the ferry and drive yourself to the port for the Staffa boat tour; however, it is an easy solution to book a tour as it will save you extra driving. My partner was tired from all the driving when we visited Isle of Mull, so booking a tour is a great alternative.

Read more about getting to Staffa in my detailed article here.

If you are staying at a hotel that is not within walking distance of the port of Oban, you can look at this list of car parks in Oban – there are free and paid parking solutions.

After a long but fun day, you will return to your hotel in Oban.

Day 4 – Edinburgh

View from above of Victoria Street with colourful flags and old buildings in Edinburgh

After a stroll around Oban town, it is time to drive from Oban to Edinburgh. The journey will take between 2 hours 30 minutes and 3 hours. When we drove back to Edinburgh on a Sunday afternoon, there was a lot of traffic because it was a single lane for most of the way.

Drop your car rental off at the airport. If you have time before departing, you can take a tram, bus or train to Edinburgh city centre to explore before your departure – particularly if you are taking the train.

I would advise booking an afternoon or evening train so that you have more time to explore Edinburgh. Some ideas of places to explore and things to see in Edinburgh include:

  • Dean Village
  • Water of Leith Walkway
  • Victoria Street
  • Edinburgh Castle viewpoint
  • Arthur’s Seat
  • Princes Street Gardens
  • Royal Mile

Some of the restaurants I enjoyed in Edinburgh were tipo and The Scran and Scallie. However, for more recommendations, I would suggest looking at the Michelin’s guide for high-quality restaurants.

Where Else to Visit on a 4-Day Scotland Itinerary?

Samantha at Neist Point Lighthouse viewpoint on cloudy day
Neist Point Lighthouse in Isle of Skye

Scotland is full of incredible places, but it is challenging to visit them all during a 4-day trip to Scotland. You can use some of the below locations to adjust this itinerary to your desired locations.

  • Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park
  • Mallaig – Silver Sans of Morar & Camusdarach Beach
  • Isle of Skye
  • Cairngorms National Park
  • Highland Perthshire
  • North Coast 500
  • Loch Ness
  • Gleneagles

If you are looking for an itinerary including a few more of these locations, check out my 2-week Scotland itinerary that also covers Loch Lomond, Isle of Skye, Mallaig, and Gleneagles.

Or, if you prefer to spend your entire four days in Scotland on the Isle of Skye, check out my itinerary for the Isle of Skye and learn about the best time to visit Skye.

How to Get to Scotland?

Train from Edinburgh to London - LNER train on platform at Edinburgh Waverley Station - bets transport for 4 days in Scotland
Train from Edinburgh to London

When spending 4 days in Scotland, it is best to take one of the quicker transportation methods to arrive in Scotland: either plane or train.

There are direct trains from London Kings Cross to Edinburgh, plus there are plenty of flights to a variety of Scottish airports, such as Glasgow, Edinburgh and Inverness. However, the itinerary in this article is based on an Edinburgh arrival and departure, but you are welcome to adjust as needed.

I would suggest taking the train if coming from London because it is convenient and takes a similar amount of time as flying given the time spent at the airport. You should book a flight or train for an early arrival to Edinburgh. We arrived in Edinburgh at 10:00 AM.

Top tip: book the quiet zone for the train from London to Edinburgh because we had children running around screaming and people talking loudly on the phone. I wanted to sit quietly, watch films and listen to podcasts, but I was struggling to hear the sound through my headphones.

Book your train tickets with Trainline to see the best price and times.

Where to Stay in Scotland?

Isle of Eriska hotel in Scotland - castle hotel framed by a large tree
Isle of Eriska

With only three nights and four days in Scotland, you must cover a lot of ground in not much time. Therefore, I have carefully picked the locations where you will stay. I suggest the following:

It is also possible to do 2 nights in your Glencoe/Fort William accommodation instead of 2 nights in Oban if you are not doing a tour to Staffa because you will not have to be up so early, so can manage the drive to Oban that morning.

When I visited Scotland for my 4-day trip, we spent 2 nights in the Isle of Eriska Hotel & Spa (about a 30-minute drive from Oban) and 1 night in Edinburgh at Eden Locke Hotel.

While these hotels were both lovely (I highly recommend Eden Locke when staying in Edinburgh and the Isle of Eriska was beautiful, but I experienced some minor troubles with the service), it was not the ideal route and meant there was some extra driving on some days.  

Conclusion: Scotland Itinerary 4 Days

Glenfinnan Viaduct in distance with rocky stream and green field with photo framed by tree branches
Glenfinnan Viaduct

Here is an overview of my 4-day Scotland itinerary.

Day 1: Edinburgh, Glencoe, Glen Etive
Day 2: Glenfinnan Viaduct, Glencoe highlights
Day 3: Isle of Mull (and Staffa in April-July for puffins)
Day 4: Return to Edinburgh

Here is a summary of all the advice that I have given in the article.

  • Rent a car for flexibility
  • Book accommodations in Fort William/Glencoe and Oban
  • Arrive early at popular sites like Glenfinnan Viaduct to see the train
  • Consider a guided tour to Staffa (from April to July)
  • Allow extra time for single-track roads and potential traffic
  • Book tickets in the quiet zone if travelling on the train from London
  • Be prepared for weather changes and have backup plans

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