Looking for the best Scotland West Coast itinerary? I’ve got you covered! 

Scotland’s West Coast has some of the most beautiful and dramatic scenery in the country. It’s a coastal landscape filled with volcanic peaks and ancient castles, long sea lochs and wild glens. 

The West Coast has something for everyone whether you’re a nature lover wanting to see wildlife and the outdoors, a foodie drawn by the seafood and whisky or a history buff seeking fortresses and architectural marvels. 

And of course, you can’t miss out on the Isle of Skye!

If you’re keen to see all the best highlights, this 10-day West Coast of Scotland itinerary will take you to some of the most beautiful spots in the region. 

I’ve done this exact route myself as a non-driver so you can say it’s tried and tested. 

Quick answer: Scotland West Coast itinerary 

Day 1: Arrive in Fort William 

Days 2 & 3: Isle of Skye 

Day 4: Spean Bridge via the Jacobite Steam Train

Day 5 & 6: Isle of Mull 

Day 7: Staffa, Fingal’s Cave & the Treshnish Isles 

Day 8: Glasgow via the West Highland Line 

Day 9: Bonus day in Edinburgh 

Day 10: Home time or extend your trip

Map of the west coast of Scotland itinerary

Trip map created with Wanderlog, the best trip planner app on iOS and Android

Getting around the west coast of Scotland 

There’s a common misconception that you need a car to do a Scotland west coast road trip. While it can be easier, it’s not a necessity. You can explore the west coast of Scotland without driving.

I did it! 

It just requires a little extra planning to get the public transport and tours to line up but it’s doable – even on the Isle of Skye!

If you plan to drive, this itinerary still applies. You’ll just go by road instead of taking the train or bus. Have a look at Rentalcars.com to compare car hires. 

If you’re not driving, I’ll give you specific tips on how to get to each destination based on my own tried and tested route. 

Feeling overwhelmed by all the moving parts? I recommend checking out Byway Travel. They create bespoke, self-guided no-fly itineraries and handle all the complicated bookings so you can relax.

This isn’t sponsored or affiliated. I just think they’re great and I’ve used them for my own Scotland travel!

Read More: How to Visit Scotland: A Complete Guide

The best time to visit Scotland’s west coast 

Rubha nan Gall Lighthouse on the Isle of Mull. Behind it is the Sound of Mull with mainland Scotland in the distance. This is a stop on this Scotland West Coast itinerary.
Rubha nan Gall Lighthouse on the Isle of Mull, a pretty stop on this Scotland West Coast itinerary

The best time to visit the west coast of Scotland depends on what matters to you most. Is it smaller crowds or cheaper prices? Are you looking for the best weather or do you want to avoid the cursed midge season? 

Scotland’s tourism season falls into three categories: 

High season: June to August 

Shoulder seasons: April to May and September to October 

Low season: November to March

The west coast is popular with tourists. During the summer months, places like the Isle of Skye become a bit like a theme park as the roads are chock-full of cars and campers stuck in traffic jams around the island. 

West Coast Scotland hotels tend to be more expensive too. 

I would avoid visiting during the summer months if you want a quieter and less crowded trip.

The shoulder seasons are ideal as they’re quieter but the weather is milder. Plus attractions and hotels are still open for tourists. 

Winter isn’t an ideal time to travel the West Coast as adverse weather conditions like snow and ice block the roads. There may be reduced public transport and many attractions close for the season. 

So, in a nutshell: 

The best time to visit the west coast of Scotland overall

April, May and September or early October 

The best time to visit for the best weather

Late March to May

The best time to visit to avoid the midges

From late September to early May

The best time for hiking

April to September

The best time for the cheapest prices

November to mid-March

The best time to see the Jacobite steam train

Late April to early October

The best time for smaller crowds

September to May outside of the UK school holidays

Read More: The Best Time To Visit The Isle Of Skye For The Perfect Trip

Insider tip: If you don’t know, midges are little biting flies. They typically hang out in wet or boggy areas and they’re out in force from July to August. They’re not dangerous but they’re annoying and their bites itch. Bring midge repellent with you. 

Scotland West Coast itinerary: Exploring the best of the highlands and islands 

The jetty at Fort William on Loch Linnhe. The loch is grey and the clouds descend down the hills behind.
Not a good day for viewing Ben Nevis!

Day 1: Arrive in Fort William 

How to get there: If you’re travelling up from London, the Caledonian Sleeper train from Euston can take you up to Fort William. If you’re travelling from Glasgow, take the West Highland Line. You’ll have to travel via Glasgow from Edinburgh too. 

You’ve made it to the Scottish Highlands! Fort William is a handy base to explore the West Coast as it’s the largest town in the highlands.

There are more accommodation options here and there’s public transport to the highlands and islands. 

Fort William is on the West Highland Line so it’s easy to travel up from Glasgow or from further away on the Caledonian Sleeper from London.

It’s also a destination in its own right. Known as the Outdoor Capital of the UK, it resides at the foot of Ben Nevis, the UK’s tallest mountain. 

If you have some time, below are a few things to do around the area or check out my guide to the best day trips from Fort William. 

Walk along Loch Linnhe 

Fort William sits at the top of Loch Linnhe, a sea loch which stretches 31 miles down Scotland’s west coast. If you have some time to spare, you can stroll along the shore and take in the scenic views. 

Along the shore, you can find the remains of an old fort which was gradually demolished in the 20th century. There are still a few information boards and a couple of picnic benches left.

Admire Ben Nevis 

Standing at 1,345 metres above sea level, Ben Nevis is the UK’s tallest mountain. It’s part of the Grampian Mountain Range and it was once an active volcano. 

Climbing Ben Nevis is doable but it’s not a hike to be taken lightly. It takes about seven hours to complete and you need a good level of fitness. 

If you’re considering it, make sure you have the right equipment, check the weather before you go and hike with a guide if you’re not experienced. 

A much easier way to see Ben Nevis is to admire the view from Fort William. Take the Camusnagaul Foot Ferry from the town across Loch Linnhe to Camusnagaul for better views. 

This only works if Ben Nevis isn’t hidden behind the clouds!

Go up the Nevis Range Mountain Gondola

Ride the Nevis Range Mountain Gondola to get views from above without the hard work. It takes you up Aonach Mòr Mountain (the eighth tallest mountain). 

There are some pretty walks to spectacular panoramic viewpoints across the Great Glen and Ben Nevis. The two main ones are Sgurr Finnisg-aig and Meall Beag. They can both be completed in an hour or less. 

To get there from Fort William, take the 919 bus to Road End and walk 30 minutes to the gondola. It’s £24.95 for an adult day pass. 

The gondola is open all year round except Christmas. Adverse weather may affect opening times. 

Days 2 & 3: Isle of Skye 

Portree is day two of this Scotland West Coast itinerary. Colourful houses line Potree's harbourfront with a church behind.
Pretty Portree on Skye

How to get there: Take the Scottish Citylink 916 bus from Fort William bus station to Portree. The journey takes about three hours and look out for Eilean Donan Castle. Yes, there are toilets on board!

Where I stayed: Viewfield House

On day two, it’s time to leave Fort William and head to the magical Isle of Skye, one of the best places to visit on Scotland’s west coast.

When you arrive, depending on how much time you have left on day two, I recommend visiting Portree first. 

The Storr, Neist Point and the Trotternish Peninsula are easier to see with a car. If you don’t drive, you can do a full-day Isle of Skye tour from Portree. I would leave that for day three of your West Coast of Scotland itinerary. 

Visit Portree 

Portree is the main settlement on the Isle of Skye and it has the most places to stay. The town has a photogenic harbour, a supermarket, some great restaurants and a few cosy pubs. It doesn’t take long to walk around it. 

Hike the Old Man of Storr 

The Storr is a rocky hill on the Trotternish Ridge. It’s famous for its 200ft stone pinnacle which stands upright and needle-sharp like it’s been placed there by giants. 

The Storr is the most famous landmark in Skye. There’s a walking trail which leads you up to the pinnacle which takes about one hour and 15 minutes to complete with no stops. 

Explore the Trotternish Peninsula 

A hilly landscape surrounds flat ground with a stone circle. Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye.
It’s not hard to imagine there are fairies here at Fairy Glen

The Trottenish Peninsula has Skye’s most dramatic landscapes. There’s the otherworldly Fairy Glen, an ancient landslide known as the Quiraing and a cliff face that looks like the pleats of a kilt. 

You’ll even find a ruined castle and a beach with dinosaur footprints!

If you don’t drive, take a taxi to Skye Ebikes and from there, you can pick up e-bikes and road trip the Trotternish Peninsula on two wheels. 

Note, that Sky Ebikes operates from March to December but they may make an exception if you’re there outside of those months and contact them directly. 

Alternatively, the tour from Portree can take you. 

See Neist Point Lighthouse 

If you have time, another spectacular viewpoint on Skye is Neist Point Lighthouse. Located on Skye’s most westerly point, it juts out into the sea on a peninsula. You can follow a well-marked track along the cliffs to reach the lighthouse. 

While you’re there, look out across the sea to the Outer Hebrides and keep an eye out for minke whales and dolphins. 

It takes about an hour’s drive to get from Portree to Neist Point via Dunvegan Castle. Again, if you’re not driving, the best way to get there is with the full-day tour of Skye. 

Read More: 15 Best Places To Stay On The Isle Of Skye (For Every Budget!)

Day 4: Spean Bridge via the Jacobite Steam Train

The front of a red steam train. The photo is taken from the back of the train and a plume of steam billows from the engine. The Jacobite steam train.
Riding the Jacobite steam train is a real highlight of this trip!

How to get there: Get a bus (or taxi) from Portree to Armadale on Skye. Take the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry from Armadale to Mallaig and ride the Jacobite on its return journey to Fort William. Take a taxi to Tirindish House. 

Where I stayed: Tirindish House

Leave the Isle of Skye and head back to Fort William via the most scenic railway in the UK. 

To make the journey extra special, you could ride the Jacobite steam train (aka the Hogwarts Express) on its return journey from Mallaig. 

Alternatively, you could get the ScotRail and make a quick stop at Glenfinnan to see the viaduct and if you get your timings right, see the Jacobite cross over the top (applicable for the afternoon service only). 

Whichever option you choose, it’s a beautiful journey. 

Explore Mallaig 

If you’re riding the Jacobite return service from Mallaig, you may have a bit of a gap after the Armadale ferry drops you off. 

Mallaig is a pretty fishing town on the west coast of the mainland. There’s a harbour, a heritage centre and a few cafes and restaurants. The Cornerstone and the Tea Room are two great options. 

Mallaig has a few beaches nearby including Morar Sands and Camusdarach Beach. A popular hike in the area is the walk up to Morar Cross. It’s short but steep. The views across Loch Morar make it worth it!

Ride the Jacobite steam train 

The Jacobite is ranked among the greatest train journeys in the world and it’s one of the top things to do on the west coast of Scotland.

Travelling between Fort William and Mallaig only, the steam train takes about an hour and 30-40 minutes. 

On the journey from the highlands to the coast, you’re treated to a dramatic landscape with views of Ben Nevis, Loch Morar, Loch Nevis and Loch Eil to name a few. 

Its most famous view is the Glenfinnan Viaduct, a concrete railway viaduct at the top of Loch Shiel. 

The train goes slowly over the viaduct so everyone has enough time to take a photo. 

Insider tip: I stayed in Spean Bridge but you might find it makes more sense to stay in Fort William since you’re back there again the next day to continue your road trip itinerary. 

Day 5 & 6: Isle of Mull 

Colourful houses line a harbourfront with houses on the hills behind. Boats bob in the harbour in front in Tobermory, a stop on this Scotland West Coast itinerary.
Tobermory, Isle of Mull

How to get there: Take a train from Spean Bridge to Fort William and then catch the 506 bus from Fort William Bus Station to Kilchoan. This takes about two hours and 45 minutes. From there, take a ferry to Tobermory on Mull which takes about an hour. 

Where I stayed: Harbour View B&B

You’re halfway through your Scotland West Coast itinerary!

On day five, you’re leaving the Scottish mainland behind for the second time and heading to the Isle of Mull. It’s the second biggest island in the Inner Hebrides and it’s known for its amazing wildlife. 

I love Mull as it was a lot less touristy than Skye but there was still a lot to do. You will need a car or a bike to see most of the island and there are places to hire both in Tobermory. 

Visit Tobermory 

Kilchoan is the only place on the mainland where you can get a direct ferry to Tobermory on Mull. If you don’t drive, Tobermory is the best place to be as it’s the capital settlement on the island. It also has the most things to do. 

Tobermory is on the east coast of Mishnish on the northern part of Mull. It’s famous for its colourful harbourfront (which was the inspiration for Balamory if you ever saw that UK children’s TV programme!). 

It has a wonderful collection of independent shops and cafes, including Tackle & Books, Tobermory Honey, Tobermory Chocolate Shop, Isle of Mull Soap Shop and Seafare.

For coffee, visit Tobermory Bakery & Tearoom, for bike hires go to Cycle Mull and for the supermarket, you’ll find a Co-Op. For a drink, you can’t go wrong with the historic Mishnish Pub. 

If you’re there from March to October, make sure you stop by Fisherman’s Pier Fish & Chips on the pier. The family-run business has a prestigious Les Routiers award and I can attest that the food is delicious!

Read More: Mull Accommodation: 11 Best Places To Stay

Eat at the Glass Barn 

A girl in a red coat stands at a window surrounded by chairs and tables. Above her are the leaves of a living vine at the Glass Barn in Mull.
The Glass Barn at Isle of Mull Cheese

This is a bit of a (not-so) hidden gem. About a 14-minute walk from Tobermory, the Isle of Mull Cheese Glass Barn is a cafe on a farm that’s housed in a barn with a living vine growing inside it. 

The original framework was part of a village hall in nearby Salen and it now has a new life as a place to eat toasties, cakes and other bites. There’s also a farm shop with local oatcakes, gins, preserves and cheese to stock up on. 

If the cafe is closed when you visit, you can still have a peak inside and grab a few bits from the farm shop. 

The cafe is open Sunday and Monday, 10am – 4pm and the farm shop is open Thursday to Monday, 10am – 4pm. 

Do the Tobermory Lighthouse Circuit 

The Tobermory Lighthouse Circuit is a pretty walk along the coast to Rubha nan Gall lighthouse. The track is well-maintained and it can be completed in two hours out and back. 

Along the easy route, you’re treated to stunning views across the Sound of Mull. Once you reach Rubha nan Gall, it’s a nice spot for a photo and you can sit and watch the ferries pass by. 

The trailhead starts near the RNLI Lifeboat Station on Toberory’s Main Street. 

Explore Aros Park 

On the other side of Tobermory Park is Aros Park, another beautiful walking spot. Start at Ledaig Car Park and follow the path along the coast. 

It’s an easy walk and takes about 2.5 hours to complete. You’ll have woodland on one side and views across the bay to Calve Island. You may even spot the resident seal colony. 

Follow the Aros Burn through the park until you come to some waterfalls. 

Sample whisky at Tobermory Distillery 

Tobermory has one of the oldest commercial distilleries in Scotland. Tobermory Distillery has been operating since the 1790s and it’s famous for malt whiskies and gin. 

Sample their Ledaig and Tobermory whiskies with a tasting or try their three Hebridean gins. If you’re keen to get more into the spirit of things (sorry), you can book the full distillery tour. 

You can just have a look inside the visitor centre and buy a bottle to take home with you. 

Insider tip: If you are driving or cycling, all ferries mentioned in this itinerary take cars so these routes work either way for you on your Scotland West Coast road trip. 

Day 7: Staffa, Fingal’s Cave & the Treshnish Isles 

The gaping hole of a sea cave surrounded by basalt rock. Fingal's Cave on Staffa.
The incredible Fingal’s Cave on Staffa

How to get there: You can book a boat trip with Staffa Tours which departs from Tobermory. I did the Staffa and the Treshnish Isles Wildlife Tour which cost £85pp. 

Visit Staffa with Staffa Tours 

Technically, today is still based on Mull but your trip to Staffa and the Treshnish Isles takes a full day. 

Staffa Tours runs boat tours to the nearby Treshnish Isles and Iona, departing from Mull, Oban and Fionnphort. 

You can also do special wildlife excursions with them but whichever tour you do, you’re bound to see some wildlife. I saw so much!

From Tobermory, you’ll sail to the Treshnish Isles with a first stop at Lunga, the largest of the island group. If you’re lucky, you might come across a puffin colony (April to August). 

Afterwards, you’ll cross over to Staffa, an island with an incredible geological wonder known as Fingal’s Cave. The boat will stop and you’ll get to walk inside it. 

As you explore the islands, look out for minke whales, cormorants, dolphins and seals. Each tour is accompanied by a knowledgeable guide who will make sure you don’t miss out!

Insider tip: If you’re there outside of puffin season, you’ll have more time to explore Staffa. The boat will also take you to see more of the Treshnish Isles. I didn’t see any puffins but I did see seals, dolphins and a feeding minke whale!

Day 8: Glasgow via the West Highland Line 

A river winds through flat and hilly grassland with mountains behind. The beginning of the Trossachs National Park.
A view from the train to Glasgow

How to get there: Take the ferry back to Kilchoan and then the 506 bus back to Fort William. Take the West Highland Line from Fort William to Glasgow. Heads up, you’ll want a window seat for the view.  

Now it’s time to hit day nine of your Scotland West Coast itinerary. 

Today, you’re making the journey back to wherever you’re finishing the trip. It’s slow and scenic so you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the views!

Enjoy the journey to Glasgow 

Once you’ve made it back to Fort William, you’ll take the ScotRail train along the West Highland Line to Glasgow. 

The journey is about 3.5 hours so it will take up a good chunk of your day. Don’t worry, the views will keep you occupied as you travel down through the highlands. 

A highlight to look out for is Corrour, the UK’s highest and most remote train station. There are no roads to it and it was featured in the film Trainspotting. 

Next, you’ll come to Rannoch in the middle of Rannoch Moor, hailed as one of Europe’s last great wildernesses. The vast expanse is spellbinding. 

Then, you’ll weave down the Trossachs National Park and skirt along Loch Lomond before following the River Clyde into Glasgow. 

Explore Glasgow 

This is optional depending on how much time you have left in the day and what you plan to do next. 

If you’re going to Edinburgh, you might prefer to travel straight there so you have more time to explore before going home. 

If you’re not going to Edinburgh, then you can spend more time in Glasgow. For the record, I went straight to Edinburgh as I was catching the Caledonian Sleeper from there the following evening. 

If you do want to see more of Glasgow, I recommend checking out: 

  • Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum
  • Glasgow Cathedral
  • Glasgow Botanic Gardens 
  • Glasgow Necropolis 
  • Glasgow’s West End neighbourhood 

Day 9: Bonus day in Edinburgh

A girl in a red coat walks down some steps with Edinburgh Castle on a cliff above. The Vennel Steps in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh Castle from the Vennel

How to get there: Hop on the ScotRail train from Glasgow Queen Street to Edinburgh Waverly. It takes just under an hour. 

Where I stayed: The Royal Scots Club 

Edinburgh is definitely not on the west coast of Scotland but I’ve added it as a last stop as it’s a convenient place to end your itinerary.

If you’re travelling from overseas, you’ll have most likely flown in and out of Edinburgh Airport so it makes sense to be close by.

If you’re travelling from the UK, you have much easier train links between Edinburgh and London. Of course, if you’re catching the train or driving down from Glasgow then you can end your itinerary there.

Although Edinburgh is such a wonderful city and it’s not that far away!

Explore Edinburgh 

If you’ve taken the short train journey across Scotland to Edinburgh, it’s time to enjoy the final full day of your itinerary. I took the sleeper train back to London from Edinburgh later that evening, so I had quite a bit of time to explore the city. 

Do a self-guided walking tour of some of the key sights. Start with Calton Hill (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), home to some of the city’s most important monuments. 

Then go to Victoria Street (Diagon Alley in Harry Potter) and the Vennel Steps for the best view of Edinburgh Castle. Head to Ross Fountain in Princes Street Gardens and stop by Dean Village. The quaint cobblestone Circus Lane is nearby. 

Exploring Edinburgh’s Old Town is a must with its Royal Mile and castle. If you have time, the short hike up Arthur’s Seat gives you spectacular views of the city. 

For more things to do in Edinburgh, check out my solo travel guide to the city. 

Insider tip: A stellar place for lunch is Chez Jules. They have a lunchtime set menu of three courses for £12.90 or two courses for £10.90. Get there for 12pm to make the most of it! For dinner, Pizza Posto makes delicious pizza for an affordable price. 

Day 10: Home time or extend your trip

Heather, grass and young trees dot a stark hilly landscape in the Cairngorms National Park, Scotland.
Cairngorms National Park

Home time or why not extend your trip in Scotland before heading back?

If you have more time, you could go northeast to Inverness, Loch Ness and the Cairngorms National Park, west to the Outer Hebrides or south to the Scottish Borders.

Or you could hop off the train and see more of Loch Lomond before travelling onwards to Glasgow and then Edinburgh. There are some easy day trips from Edinburgh by public transport you can do too.

As for more road trip ideas, you could do the North Coast 500 which takes you around the entire north coast of Scotland, beginning and ending in Inverness. You’ll need a car for that though!

Don’t forget travel insurance for Scotland 

When it comes to planning a trip to Scotland (or anywhere), there’s one travel essential I never leave without – travel insurance. 

Fingers crossed you never have to use it but in the unlikely event that you do, you’ll be glad you have it. It will cover you for trip delays or cancellations, emergency healthcare, accidents and lost or stolen items. 

I recommend Holiday Extras or World Nomads depending on your travel style. 

West Coast of Scotland itinerary: final thoughts 

Rugged basalt rock and grass-topped coastline on the Isle of Staffa in the Treshnish Isles.
Staffa’s rugged coastline

As you can hopefully see from this Scotland west coast itinerary, there is no shortage of incredible places to visit.

The best bit is many of them are still accessible to non-drivers so you can do this Scotland road trip with or without your car. 

This West Scotland itinerary gives you an idea about how to see the best of the country’s West Highlands and islands from Fort William to the Isle of Skye. It’s easily doable in nine to 10 days.

If you’re travelling to Scotland soon, you’re in for a treat. It’s a beautiful country and the West Coast in particular never ceases to take my breath away every time I visit!

Looking for more Scotland travel tips? Check out these posts

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