Last weekend I traveled to Scotland for the first time and quickly fell in love with the beautiful country and it’s lovely people. We got incredibly lucky that our trip was able to happen ahead of national lockdowns, and while things weren’t 100% normal and open in Scotland, we were still able to have a really nice time. Today I’m sharing a full itinerary for a weekend in Scotland!
HOW TO SPEND A WEEKEND IN SCOTLAND
9am: Flight from London to Edinburgh.
10:30am: Arrive in Edinburgh and drive straight to the Highlands. We used Private Concierge Scotland for the drive and they were incredible – the car was fully kitted out with everything you could need for the two hour drive, from Scottish woolen blankets to iPads with Netflix – it was such a comfortable journey!
12:30pm: Check in at The Old Manse of Blair and have lunch by the fire. We couldn’t have enjoyed our stay at The Old Manse of Blair more – it oozes Scottish country charm from every corner and the staff were incredibly friendly. It’s also a great location for those really looking to explore the Highlands. Sadly we didn’t have enough time to see as much as we wanted, but The Old Manse of Blair is centrally located, making it the perfect home base for a trip to the Highlands. I already want to go back to explore places like Glencoe, Loch Ness, and Isle of Skye.
1:30pm: Shopping! Head to the House of Bruar for everything from home goods, to cashmere, to classic British brands such as Barbour. We didn’t have time to stop in the little town of Pitlochry, but we drove through it on the way to the scotch distillery and it looked like it had loads of cute independent boutiques. I would definitely recommend walking around the town if you have time.
4pm: Scotch tasting at Blair Athol Distillery. Unfortunately, due to the Covid measures in place in Scotland, we weren’t able to actually taste the scotch on site during our visit (alcohol wasn’t allowed to be served indoors). However, we were still able to take a tour of the distillery and learn about the Blair Athol scotch whiskey, and we took the tasting samples home to try on our own.
5pm: Happy hour back at the hotel. The same alcohol rules applied at the hotel as well, which meant we could only do happy hour on the outdoor patio or in our rooms (hotels had an exception to the no alcohol indoors rule as long as you drank in your room – kinda funny, I know lol).
7:30pm: Dinner at The Orangery in The Old Manse of Blair. Another funny Covid rule that happened to be in place while we were in Scotland was that restaurants / cafes were not allowed to serve dinner – they had to close by 6pm. The exception was hotel restaurants, which were able to serve dinner to their guests. Luckily the Old Manse of Blair has an absolutely fabulous restaurant on site called The Orangery. It serves contemporary Scottish food made with fresh seasonal ingredients and local produce. The menu is constantly changing based on what’s fresh! I had the Scottish salmon and was one of the best salmon dinners I’ve ever had.
8am: Breakfast at The Orangery.
9am: Head out for a walk to explore a bit of the Scottish countryside. The hotel staff recommends Queen’s View or the Falls of Bruar – be sure to bring your wellies because it gets muddy!
12pm: Check out of The Old Manse of Blair and drive to Edinburgh! I again recommend using Private Concierge Scotland for a seamless journey.
12:30pm: Make a quick stop at Blair Castle on your way out of the Highlands. It was closed the day we tried to go, but it looks absolutely beautiful (like something out of Game of Thrones) and I definitely hope to go next time I’m there.
2pm: Check into the Kimpton Charlotte Square in Edinburgh. The Kimpton is an absolutely incredible hotel – everything from the decor style, the friendly staff, and the central location were second to none. I truly can’t imagine staying anywhere else in Edinburgh!
3pm: Get out and do some Edinburgh exploring. This was my first time in the city, so I just wanted to walk around and take it all in. A few things you could do are take a Harry Potter or ghost walking tour, visit Edinburgh Castle, do the whiskey experience (a bit touristy but I’ve heard it’s fun), or hike up to Calton Hill or Arthur’s Seat for some lovely views.
5-6pm: Happy hour back at the Kimpton. The drinking rules applied all over Scotland, so we had a charcuterie board and wine in our room while we relaxed for a bit before dinner.
7:30pm: Dinner at the hotel restaurant, Baba. It’s features a Mediterranean-style menu and had super chic yet cozy interiors. The lamb was one of the best dishes I’ve had in ages – highly recommend!
9am: Breakfast at the hotel (get the vegetarian breakfast -it’s amazing!).
10am: Do a bit more exploring – head to Dean Village to find a quaint little town in the middle of a big city, do some shopping on the Royal Mile, or visit one of Edinburgh’s museums (I would personally choose the Scottish National Gallery, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, or the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art).
12pm: Lunch at a cafe. As I mentioned, restaurants have to close by 6pm, but they can serve lunch. A few that come highly recommended are Nomad, Cairngorm Coffee, Bross Bagels, and The Milkman.
1pm: Shopping around the hotel. Jane Davidson was a lovely little boutique featuring brands such as J. Brand Jeans, Isabel Marant, and Nanushka. We had so much fun browsing and trying some things on – we even had a glass of bubbly while we browsed. Another great shop to consider is Strathberry. An Edinburgh-based handbag brand perhaps best known for being a favorite of Meghan Markle, they make beautiful and well-priced handbags for the modern woman. The hardest part will be deciding which color to choose!
3pm: Head to Stockbridge for more shopping. We LOVED shopping the independent boutiques in this area of town. A few shops to note include Lifestory (a well-curate Scandi home goods shop), Treen (an ethical men’s and women’s fashion store), Golden Hare Books, and The Method (luxe bath and body products).
5-6pm: Another hotel happy hour (this is when we learned the fate of the current national Lockdown in England lol).
7:30pm: Due to the Covid rules in place in Scotland, we had to have dinner at Baba again, as the hotel restaurants are the only ones allowed to provide dinner service (luckily Baba is incredible so we didn’t mind eating there twice!). However, if it weren’t for Covid, we would have dined at Ondine, which is a lovely Scottish seafood restaurant.
9am: Breakfast at the hotel.
10am: Massages at the spa within the Kimpton (facials are not allowed at the moment due to Covid). I went with the ‘Invigorating Massage’, which used products from the brand Ishga. Ishga is an organic Scottish skincare brand that uses the powers of Scottish seaweed to create their award-winning products. The spa was so beautiful and relaxing, and after a jam-packed weekend of exploring, a massage was the perfect way to kick of our last day. Both myself and my therapist wore masks the entire time (I promise you forget about it immediately – I had no problem relaxing even with it on) and I felt safe the entire time.
12pm: Shower, pack, and check out of the Kimpton Charlotte Square. The reception happily held our luggage for the afternoon!
1pm: Walk over to the colorful Victoria Street and grab some last minute souvenirs and gifts. Rumor has it that Victoria Street served as inspiration for J.K. Rowling when creating Diagon Alley. I can definitely see how the colors might have inspired her, but I think that the Shambles in York (another rumored inspo spot) look more architecturally similar to Diagon Alley. Be sure to stop in Museum Context (a must for Harry Potter lovers), John Kay (a well-curated shop filled with vintage prints, books, and antique knick knacks), and Red Door Gallery (lots of fun and well-priced prints and home decor pieces).
3pm: Harry Potter fans should also be sure to check out the Elephant House, just around the corner from Victoria Street. This is where J.K. Rowling sat and wrote many of her early manuscripts while she had a cuppa!
4pm: Taxi to Edinburgh airport. It’s only about 30 minutes from the Kimpton Charlotte Square.
6pm: Flight back to London!
And that’s a wrap on our quick little weekend in Scotland! As I mentioned, this was my first time in Scotland, and I barely feel like I scratched the surface of all of the things I would love to see and do in the country. I do feel like I’m off to a good start though! Sadly Covid definitely had a bit of an impact on my experience, with restaurants and pubs being closed. This itinerary would have included a lot more pub stops otherwise! I look forward to returning when things are *fingers crossed* back to normal sometime soon.
Editor’s Note: As this is my first travel related post since the pandemic, I just want to make it clear that I can’t recommend or give any specific advice on travel right now. Things are so uncertain, and any type of travel is going to be a calculated risk (whether domestic or otherwise). This is simply an itinerary of my trip and the things I chose to do and felt comfortable with during my stay. This list might look different for you, or perhaps you wouldn’t even travel at all right now. Let’s all lead with grace during these times and recognize that everyone is going to have different levels of comfort, and that’s okay. Do what feels best for you, and let others do what’s best for them. Travel is something I hold really dear, so for me, supporting hotels and tourism during these difficult times is incredibly important. Even if travel isn’t for you right now, you can still save this guide for reference when you’re ready! x