While Scotland isn’t an enormous country, it does have an incredible amount to offer, from its historic cities to its vast countryside. If you’re looking for the perfect Scotland vacation, we recommend spending one week in east Scotland, driving from Edinburgh, across the Forth Bridge, up to Perthshire, over to Angus and Dundee, and into Fife. It was such a wonderful experience, from start to finish.
On this trip, you will drive through incredibly lush countryside, see dozens of sheep and cows grazing peacefully along side the road, stay in castles, and eat like kings. It was everything you might want from a driving experience through Scotland.
Before going on the trip, I searched extensively for information on East Scotland, to decide what we should do and where we should go. I didn’t find a whole lot about this area. So we thought we’d share our itinerary, so you can experience the same fun and amazing things we did.
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How to Get to East Scotland
There are two relatively easy gateways into Scotland for those of us who have to fly to Scotland. For this itinerary, you’ll want to fly into Edinburgh, and rent a car at the airport so you can easily get around. If you’re coming to Scotland via London, you can also take the train.
The itinerary will take you from Edinburgh to Perthshire, through Angus, to Dundee, Fife and finally into St. Andrews, the home of golf! It’s easy driving on nice, well-marked roads.
If you’d like to extend your Scotland road trip, check out this 11-day itinerary (it also includes how to take the train from London to Edinburgh and vice versa).
Edinburgh is the perfect city to showcase all the best of Scotland’s history, architecture, culture, and food. We immediately fell in love with Edinburgh’s old town, which has retained much of its original medieval architecture.
You could easily spend a week seeing the sights in Edinburgh, but we’ve only included two days in this charming, cobblestone city, so be sure you take advantage of it.
You need tickets for each of the activities listed below, except for the Royal Mile, and it’s best to do them early in the day to avoid crowds.
Check out this massive list of 25 things to do in Edinburgh when you run out of things to do.
things to do in Edinburgh
Visit Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle is one of the most visited sights in Edinburgh. It’s a fortress perched upon Castle Rock, where the Scottish crown jewels are kept. Learn all about Scotland’s military history on a visit to the castle. Make sure you arrive early.
Walk the Royal Mile
The Royal Mile extends from Edinburgh Castle downhill to Holyrood Palace. Along the way are many shops, pubs, and restaurants to enjoy. Plan to make stops at St. Giles Cathedral and Camera Obscura on the way.
Scotch Whisky Experience
One of our favorite activities in Scotland is whisky tasting and there’s no better way to get primed and ready than to visit the Scotch Whisky Experience, where you’ll learn about the different whisky-producing areas in Scotland. ⇒ Book a tour.
Tour Holyroodhouse Palace
The Palace is the official residence of the Queen in Scotland. It is open daily for visitors to tour, from 9:30am to 6pm (except in winter). The tour includes audio guide that gives all the information you need to know about the Palace.
Where to eat in edinburgh
You may be thinking that all you’re going to find to eat in Edinburgh is haggis and fish & chips, but that is a very outdated notion. Edinburgh is full of great dining options, to excite everyone’s palate. Here are our top recommendations:
- Traditional Scottish Pub: The White Hart
- Innovating, locally sourced cuisine: Timberyard
- Street Food Goodness: Oink
- Best cocktails in town: Bramble
where to stay in edinburgh
We recommend the Radisson Blu Hotel on the Royal Mile. The hotel is in a fantastic location, close to everything, and within walking distance to all the top attractions. The rooms are designed well, with modern art work and quality linens. There’s also a restaurant on site. All that, and the price is very reasonable; you really can’t beat it.
After a couple days in Edinburgh, it’s time to start driving north. You’ll find Perthshire in the highlands, almost right in the middle of the country. Perthshire is home to extensive woodlands, lush green countryside, and more livestock than you’ve ever seen on a drive.
As you drive, you’ll likely find all kinds of fun things to stop at and admire. The destination is the small town of Pitlochy. It’s so peaceful and beautiful that you’ll find it easy to sit back and relax, especially if you stay at Fonab Castle, a luxury spa hotel that you’ll never want to leave.
things to do in Perthshire
Visit the Dewars World of Whisky
If you’re a whisky fan, you must make a visit to Dewar’s World of Whisky where you’ll learn all about their world-famous whiskies on a tour of the distillery. You can also look through the interactive museum and try a sample of whisky.
where to stay in Perthshire
Fonab Castle Hotel – Pitlochry
One of my favorite things when traveling is finding remarkable hotels. Fonab Castle, outside the small town of Pitlochry in Perthshire, is just one of those places. The castle was fully restored and opened as a hotel in 2013. The castle has an interesting history, but its number one feature is the stunning views it has overlooking the river Tay.
The grounds are lovely and you can take a stroll around the yard and down to the nearby fish ladder, or into Pitlochry in just a few minutes. They have a very nice lounge for pre- or post-dinner drinks, and two restaurants to choose from. They also have a few different rooms you can choose: a lodge room, a room with a view of the loch, or a castle room. All are beautifully designed and very comfortable.
Where to eat in Perthshire
Sandeman’s is a 3 AA Rosette award-winning restaurant. You’ll want to indulge in the 6-course tasting menu to try a range of fantastic, classic dishes. Make sure to include the wine pairings. This meal alone is good enough reason to visit Fonab Castle.
Watch our YouTube video of the Sandeman`s dining experience.
Dundee is Scotland’s 4th largest city, but it still manages to feel like a charming hometown. It’s located along the Tay estuary, with commanding water views. The city has become quite cosmopolitan recently, with many new, modern restaurants and bars and a thriving arts & culture scene. But that doesn’t take away from its fascinating history. Angus, the sprawling countryside and coastline above Dundee, is known as the birthplace of Scotland.
We suggest spending 2 days in Dundee, as there are a lot of great things to do. Just one day wouldn’t do it justice.
What to do in Angus & Dundee
Tour 71 Brewing
Craft beer is just starting to emerge in Scotland, and 71 Brewing is at the forefront with their various lagers. The brewery is small, and they don’t have organized tours just yet, but you can arrange a visit by getting in touch with them on their Facebook page.
Visit Arbroath Abbey
Make a stop at Arbroath Abbey on your way into Dundee, to see the ruins of the Tironensian monastery, founded by King William the Lion in 1178. Learn the history of the Declaration of Arbroath of 1320, which began Scotland’s independence.
Dundee Law is an extinct volcano in the middle of Dundee that is now where you’ll find one of the best views of the city. You can drive up to the top and take a look around, or even have a picnic in the grass. The views are well worth the drive.
Where to eat in Dundee
Led by award-winning chef Graham Campbell, Castlehill serves contemporary Scottish dishes in a relaxed atmosphere. You can order a la carte, but we highly recommend the chef’s tasting menu. The meal is elegant and delicious, start to finish.
Watch our YouTube video of the Castlehill dining experience.
What to eat in Dundee
Scottish Meat Pie
Scottish pies are so convenient, and the ones that Scott Brothers Butchers in Dundee handmakes each day are simply the best. We took some to Dundee Law for a picnic. You must try the Steak & Gravy pie, but they also have one with Steak & Haggis!
Yes, Dundee has its very own cake. It’s a traditional Scottish fruit cake – dense, packed with dried fruit, and topped with whole almonds.
It’s the perfect afternoon snack with a cup of tea, but we took it along on a lunchtime picnic.
A PGI protected food product, Arbroath Smokies are haddock cooked over a woodfire. They can only be called this if the fish comes from within 5 miles of Arbroath and is cooked with this specific method. You can find them to try at many local restaurants.
Liquor & Beer
Dundee has seen a few new distilleries open lately, producing whisky, gin and vodka. Some to look for are Verdant Gin, Ogilvy Vodka, Dundee Gin and Gin Bothy. Also keep an eye out for craft beer by 71 Brewing and Lwa Brewing Company.
where to stay in DUNDEE
If you like staying in AirBnB-style accommodations with some extra space to spread out, rather than a cramped hotel room, Urban Quarters is just the place. It’s really convenient, being just a few blocks walk from all of the places we mentioned to eat in Dundee. They have various sizes of apartments in one building, so you can book the one that fits your needs. We stayed in a 2-bedroom with our friends. It was great to have a living room area and kitchen, where we could all be together.
Fife is a county on the east coast of Scotland that encompasses many miles of beautiful coastline and countryside. It’s home to the Fife Coastal Path – Scotland’s longest continuous coastal walk at 117 miles – and is known as the birthplace of golf. The history of the area is evident everywhere you look, from Dunfermline, the ancient capital of Scotland, to Scotland’s Secret Bunker from the Cold War. Over the past few years, Fife has become a fantastic destination for foodies, as more and more locals go into business making exceptional food products with the abundance of local resources.
What to do in Fife
Eden Mills is both a distillery and a brewery. They produce beer and gin, as well as small-batch, single-malt whisky. You can take a tour to learn more about either the beer or the gin process, taste some of their products, and learn about how they became the first whisky distillery near St Andrews in over 145 years.
Kingsbarns Distillery was founded in 2014 by former golf caddie, Douglas Clement, who had a vision to bring whisky to Fife. He partnered with the Wemyss family and turned the East Newhall Farm into a distillery and visitors center. You can tour the facilities and have a tasting of Wemyss whisky – that is until the first Kingsbarns whisky is ready to bottle.
The St. Andrews Cathedral is a ruined Roman Catholic cathedral, located right in the center of town. You can’t miss its haunting outline against the ocean backdrop as you drive by. There is a £5 fee to enter. Be sure to climb St Rule’s Tower for a spectacular view of St Andrews and Fife.
Where to eat in Fife
The Newport Restaurant
Led by chef Jamie Scott, who’s originally from the area, The Newport Restaurant is a popular spot with the locals. They serve incredible food that reflects the area, and the view is hard to beat. We suggest the impressive 5- or 8-course tasting menu.
Watch our YouTube video of the Newport Restaurant dining experience.
- Fine Dining on the Harbour: Craig Millar @ 16 West End – Holding 2 AA Rosettes, Craig Millar is set in the picturesque village of St Monans in East Neuk, with a view over the harbour. The 7-course tasting menu showcases the best regional products and seafoods.
- BBQ Meats & Street Food: Balgove Larder – On specific Tuesdays in the summer, Balgove Larder – one of the best farm shops in the area – holds a night market complete with street-food-style eats.
- Sweet treats: Jannetta’s Gelateria is the place to go for the best artisan gelato in St Andrews.
where to stay in Fife
Macdonald Rusacks Hotel – St. Andrews
One of the major highlights in Fife is St. Andrews, located right on the beautiful beach. It’s the perfect place to stay while you’re visiting Fife. Macdonald Rusacks Hotel has an enviable location just across the Old Course green from the beach. The view stretches on forever. All the more reason to book a room with a view.
The hotel is traditional and elegant, with a golf theme. The rooms are designed around the greats of golf. We stayed in the incredibly luxurious Tom Morris Senior Suite and had everything we could possibly need for a relaxing stay, including an amazing view of the 18th hole. They have three spots for a meal or a drink: Rocca is a modern restaurant with a grill-style menu, R bar is a Champagne and Whisky bar perfect for a light lunch or pre-dinner drink, and The One Under is a gastro pub just a few steps away from the green.
As you can see in this itinerary, East of Scotland is an area rich in natural beauty and full of great things to do, see and taste! We hope you enjoy this itinerary for spending one week in East Scotland. If you have any questions, or need help designing your own itinerary, don’t hesitate to contact us.
If you’ve fallen hopelessly in love with Scotland and want to take another incredible road trip like this one, check out the North Coast 500.
Our trip was made possible through the assistance of the area tourism boards, as well as the great business listed here. As always, the opinions stated here are our own, honest recommendations.