10 days in London and Scotland: a full itinerary

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Can you think of a better contrast than the bright lights of London’s city centre and the remote countryside of Scotland? It’s amazing to think that these two different landscapes exist and can be so easily combined.

I’ve explored London and Scotland countless times over the past 20+ years and have used my experience with timings, what to do and transport options to come up with an exciting itinerary for 10 days in London and Scotland.

This travel plan will allow time to get to know London and see the sights before whisking you off to the Highlands of Scotland and you’ll also be able to add in the Isle of Skye and Edinburgh too! All in 10 days. Read on for this UK itinerary including London and Scotland and get the low down of what you can do!

St Pauls cathedral in London and Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh

Overview of the 10 day London and Scotland itinerary

Here’s a quick overview of how the itinerary is laid out. Each day is broken down below with ideas on how you can spend your time and where you might like to book for your overnight stay.

DayDestination
0Arrive London
1London
2London
3London
4London – Inverness
5Loch Ness
6Isle of Skye
7Skye – Inverness
8Inverness – Edinburgh
9Edinburgh
10Edinburgh – London
Overview of the 10 day London and Scotland itinerary

Is 10 days enough to explore London and Scotland?

While it’s always nice to have more time than we ever allocate ourselves it’s absolutely enough to visit London and Scotland in 10 days.

You won’t see everything but if you’re clever with timings and how you get from each location (taking overnight trains for example) it’s a good introduction to London and Scotland!

Is it better to hire a car for this London and Scotland itinerary?

You’ll not need a car when in London or while exploring Edinburgh and if you did have one it could prove to be a bit of a hindrance.

I’m assuming use of a car when in the Highlands area. You’ll need 4 days car hire. It’s possible to do this trip with public transport but it’s trickier. A better option for those without a car is to use tours to explore the highlands and I have linked to some good ones.

Another idea is returning the rental car to Edinburgh which will allow for some exploring and enjoyment of the Highlands on the way south. You should check whether there are any restrictions on returning to a different place.

Having your own car allows you much more free time to explore some quieter spots that are away from the bus routes, be able to explore more around Loch Ness to your own timetable and have way more time to explore Skye.

Meal on train to Scotland from London
The day train to Scotland from London – we traveled first class (not as expensive as you think) and got a meal included.

How do I get between London and Scotland

The two main options I advocate in this itinerary are flight and train.

The itinerary advises to use the overnight Caledonian Sleeper train between London and Scotland because that then saves you having to book a hotel for that night, saving time for exploring. It’s also a really nice, romantic train ride if you’re looking for that!

It’s possible to use day trains though or also take flights. You might like my ‘how to get to Scotland from London guide’ which can help a bit more with the options.

How rushed is this itinerary?

While it would be lovely to linger in Skye and explore much more of the Highlands with just 10 days in London and Scotland you need to make a choice as to what you want to do.

Many people want to tick off some classic Scotland landmarks from their bucket list and Skye is certainly one of them, Loch Ness another which is why they are included.

If you’re using public transport and don’t have your own car then you might feel that this is a lot to include. One way to mitigate this is to use organised tours where you fit a lot in one day but you don’t need to figure it out yourself.

There are many day trips to Skye you could try and plenty of Loch Ness trips as well. Some even cover them both in the same day. You could then use some of the spare time afterwards to explore locally, try local restaurants and generally chill a bit more!

The London and Edinburgh portions can be a rushed or chill as you like. It’s up to you what you include in each bit!

Does this include England?

This 10 day itinerary is for solely London and Scotland and doesn’t include any other towns, cities or sights in England outside of London city.

You might like to add other days on, perhaps to visit Stonehenge or other England attractions.

Notes about your days in London:

London can be as busy, cheap, expensive or chilled as you want it to be. I’m adding in ideas of things you can do, see and explore in certain areas but it’s up to you how much you try and include. Not everyone likes to do the tourist hot spots but similarly not everyone wants to miss them, especially if this is their first time in the country.

Ideas to see more and save money:

Evening options:

Theatre lovers will be spoilt for choice and it’s a good thing to do on an evening in London when it gets dark! Check out some tickets here.

Day 0 – Arrive in London

Destination – London

Day 0 is our day to arrive in London. This means that we get 3 full days in the capital city to explore and see some famous landmarks. If you’re arriving early on day 1 this can also work but be kind to yourself with possibilities of jet lag!

Accommodation Option for London:

London has a wealth of places to stay. For this itinerary I suggest sticking close to the center of the city so you don’t have too much travel to do. You’ll need to book either 2 or 3 nights depending on when you’re arriving.

Hotel ideas to get your started –

London Eye in winter on a grey and cloudy day
London Eye from Westminster Bridge

Day 1 – Central London

Destination – London

Our first full day in London sees us wander around some of Central London and tick off some of the most popular landmarks in the city.

I recommend sticking around the Westminster and South Bank area. It’s all walking distance (take plenty of rests though!) and there’s plenty to do depending on what you like.

Here are some ideas:

Accommodation option for day 1:

As before.

Museums in Greenwich London
Greenwich is a must see part of London

Day 2 – Greenwich

Destination – London

We’re going to head out of central London today to one of the suburbs and one of my absolute favorites too. Greenwich is known the world over for its role in timekeeping (Greenwich mean time – GMT) and has a huge naval history as well.

It’s a welcome change from the busy center of the city, although can still be fairly busy itself!

Ideas of things to do in Greenwich:

Getting to and from Greenwich:

While not in central London it’s easy to get to Greenwich and you have two main options:

Take the DLR – this is the Docklands Light Railway and is like an overground train. Take a tube to Tower Hill and it’s a short walk to the DLR stop Tower Gateway. The DLR will take you through Canary Wharf, London’s financial district and one of the few places with skyscrapers.

Take a boat – some of the Thames River Boats go to Greenwich as well and it can give you a unique perspective of the city!

Accommodation option for day 2:

As before

kensington palace

Day 3 – Royal London

Destination – London

Our 3rd day in London will explore some of the Royal sites around. As you’re leaving your hotel today you might want to check if they will hold your luggage while you spend the day in the city.

Many will know all about Buckingham Palace of course but there’s actually quite a lot to explore if Royal history is your thing.

These sights are spread out a bit more so you might want to pick and choose what to visit. Perhaps start the day around Buckingham Palace and pick another one or two to add in afterwards. Alternatively if you’re flying or taking a day train to Scotland you’ll want to start early and just have a few planned.

Also, you don’t need to go inside all of these sites to have fun – lots are just as enjoyable from outdoors, especially if the weather is on your side! If you’re on a budget that might be a relief!

Ideas for Royal London:

Accommodation options for day 3:

Overnight Sleeper train to Inverness.

The train goes from Euston at around 9.15pm and gets you into Inverness (and a whole new world) at 8.42 the next morning.

Alternative: a late flight from London to Inverness is also an option giving you a comfy bed in the Scottish Highlands (see next night for hotel recommendations). Check Skyscanner for flight options.

River Ness and Inverness skyline
River Ness in Inverness

Day 4 – Inverness

You’ll arrive in the Highlands at around 8.45 in the morning and you might have spent an hour or so enjoying the scenery before arriving (unless you’re travelling in winter when it was likely fairly dark!).

Find your hotel and drop your luggage off and then head into the city to enjoy a late, Scottish breakfast. Maybe it will even include haggis! Certainly some black pudding will be on the menu.

Inverness is a small city and after a busy time in London you’ll probably appreciate wandering around a compact place and having time to savor it.

If you are picking up a rental car today then you might also want to include some different activities just outside of Inverness – depends on how energetic you’re feeling!

Ideas for Inverness:

  • Do the river walk
  • Explore Inverness Castle
  • Lose yourself in Leakey’s Bookshop
  • Inverness Museum and Gallery
  • Go on a boat trip
  • See where the Battle of Culloden happened
  • Explore Clava Cairns, an ancient stone circle
  • See some dolphins at Chanonry Point (car needed)
  • Go to a whisky distillery

Again the Hop On Hop Off bus might be of interest to some.

Accommodation options for day 4:

Hotel recommendations –

view over loch ness
Loch Ness is easy to reach from Inverness

Day 5 – Loch Ness

We’re still based in Inverness today, so no need to check out of the hote. An excellent day trip Loch Ness is easy to get to whether you have your own car, take public transport or choose an organised tour.

For those wishing to use a tour to see Loch Ness this one comes highly recommended.

There’s also a lot to do at Loch Ness so you can spend a good amount of time here today. I recommend getting yourself on a walking trail somewhere around and just enjoying Scotland’s nature. Some give great views of the loch too!

Ideas when visiting Loch Ness:

  • Take a boat trip
  • Explore the local villages
  • Take a walk on one of many trails around
  • Look out for Nessie
  • Check out some local museum/attractions

Accommodation options for day 5

As for day 4

bridge and hills on Isle of Skye

Day 6 – The Isle of Skye

We’re heading out from Inverness nice and early today to get to the Isle of Skye. It’s the only Scottish island that you can get to via a bridge so you won’t need to have to get a ferry! Great for those who don’t enjoy that.

By car it takes around 3 hours to Portree, the main town on the island and where many hotels are. If you leave Inverness by 9am at the latest you should be there for lunch time leaving the afternoon and early evening to explore.

If you don’t have a car then you can get a bus from Inverness to Portree – it takes around 4 hours. Alternatively you could do one of many day tours to Skye from Inverness where someone else drives, you see LOTS of sights and return to Inverness the same day.

Skye attractions to explore on day 6 (and 7)

  • Portree
  • The Quiraing
  • The Fairy Pools
  • Talisker Distillery
  • Neist Point and Lighthouse

Accommodation options for day 6

Hotel recommendations –

Eilean Donan castle in the Scottish Highlands
You could stop off at Eilean Donan on the way back from Skye

Day 7 – Isle of Skye

We’re doing the return journey to Inverness today so you’ll want to factor in a 3 hour drive back or a bus journey (check last times to get back!)

If there’s anything left on your list to explore you might want to add that in today before you leave. There’s no huge rush though so take your time and see what Skye has to offer.

On your way back I recommend stopping off at Eilean Donan, one of Scotland’s most beautiful castles and one you’ll likely recognise from many images. Or perhaps from the Highlander film!

Our evening is spent in Inverness again – arrange a drop off for your car hire tonight if you have used one as we’ll be taking the train early the next day.

Accommodation options for day 7

As for day 4

edinburgh landmarks dean village
Dean Village in Edinburgh’s New Town

Day 8 – Edinburgh

We’re travelling to Edinburgh today from Inverness and I recommend taking the train just because it’s so enjoyable and you get to see the wonderful Scottish scenery going by.

The train takes around 4 hours and there are a few options. I recommend the 8.42am train which will get you into Waverley Station at 12.49pm. Perfect timing for lunch and to check in to your hotel.

Alternative option – you could fly or you could drive to Edinburgh. Driving is just over 3 hours and means you could stop off along the way to explore some more sights.

For your afternoon in Edinburgh I recommend exploring the New Town which has a lot to offer, plenty of shops (especially compared to how many are in the Highlands!) and amazing architecture. The Princes Street Gardens are a joy when it’s a dry day and there are also a few museums here as well including The Scottish National Gallery.

For something a little different head to Dean Village (which is still in Edinburgh city despite the name). If you’ve seen any instagram videos of Edinburgh you’ll recognise it – its popularity has recently exploded!

Ideas for Edinburgh’s New Town:

  • Princes Street – shops!
  • Calton Hill
  • Dean Village
  • Scottish National Gallery
  • The Royal Scottish Academy
  • Whisky tasting at Johnnie Walker Princes Street
  • Princes Street Gardens
  • Royal Botanic Gardens

Accommodation options for day 8

Hotel recommendations –

Scotch whisky experience on Royal Mile
The Scotch Whisky Experience on one side of the Royal Mile and Camera Obscura on the other

Day 9 – Edinburgh

Our only full day in the city and I recommend using it to explore the Old Town. For many this is the Edinburgh they came to see and it includes the castle, old buildings, street performers and much more!

I suggest that if you want to include actually visiting inside Edinburgh that you do it first thing. It’s the most popular attraction in Edinburgh and it can get incredibly busy.

Here are some ideas for what to do in the Old Town of Edinburgh:

Accommodation options for day 9

As for day 8

If you need to be back in London early on day 10 for onward travel it may be worth getting the sleeper train overnight from Edinburgh.

Day 10 – Back to London

Today is the last day of the trip and I’m assuming that most people will be heading back to the big city of London for any flights home. Of course if that’s not for you then you can enjoy Edinburgh a little more!

If you have time you could definitely explore some of Edinburgh’s sights that are close to the train station or your hotel this morning (you might need to consider luggage storage though).

Trains from Edinburgh to London take around 4.5 hours and are a good way to get yourself back into the city centre. Trains run all day and so you have a number of options to choose depending on when you need to be back for. I always use Trainline to check times and to book – it’s an easy website to use.

If you’re flying home today you might want to consider the time it will then take for you to get to the airport for check in. Leave yourself plenty of time in case of train delays too.

Alternative – it might be worth thinking about a flight from Edinburgh to London especially if it might get you into the same airport that you’re then flying on from. Many hours can be lost getting to airports around London!

Another alternative could be the overnight sleeper train which will allow another day in Edinburgh and arriving in London early the next day ready for any onward travel. If your day 10 includes an early flight onwards perhaps make the sleeper train your Day 9 accommodation.

Pin for later!

10 day London scotland itinerary pin

Book your Scotland Vacation:

Check flights: Skyscanner
Book Car Rental: DiscoverCars
Book hotels: Booking.com
Book Vacation Rentals: VRBO.com

And don’t forget to pick up a guide book!

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Kirsty Bartholomew

Kirsty has been getting lost around the world for over 30 years and writing about it for 10 of those. She loves to help people explore her favourite places in Scotland, England and beyond. She cannot stay away from historical sites.

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