The following tour is one of the most history-rich in the country. It could be called "Scotland in a nutshell" in that it leaves from Edinburgh and includes everything from beautiful scenery, such as the Trossachs, to historic palaces, such as Scone, and even the royal castles of Glamis and Balmoral. The tour also includes the home of golf at St. Andrews and the country's most charming fishing villages at East Neuk.
Day 1: Stirling & Its Castle
Set out on Day 1 to visit the ancient town of Stirling, lying 56km (35 miles) to the northwest; it's located in the midst of Mel Gibson's Braveheart country. Explore Stirling Castle in the morning, have lunch, and then head for the Bannockburn Heritage Centre in the afternoon. This is on the site of the battleground where Robert the Bruce's army defeated the forces of Edward II in 1314. Back in Stirling, if time remains, visit the 15th-century Church of the Holy Rude. That night you might check to see if a cultural presentation is being staged at the Macrobert Arts Centre, on the campus of Stirling University.
Day 2: Callander & Aberfoyle
On the morning of Day 2, drive 26km (16 miles) northwest of Stirling, to the town of Callander, which is set in a thickly wooded valley of lochs. Stop in at the Rob Roy & Trossachs Visitor Centre and pick up a map that directs you to the scenic highlights of the area. These include Leny Park and Leny Falls.
After lunch in Callander, drive over to the little town of Aberfoyle, 23km (14 miles) to the southwest. Check into a hotel, and then stop into the Trossachs Discovery Centre for a map of the area's scenic attractions. At Aberfoyle you're on the doorstep of the Trossachs, arguably the most beautiful natural attraction in Scotland. From here you can spend the afternoon exploring a section of Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, as well as Loch Katrine, fabled because of the Sir Walter Scott poem The Lady of the Lake. After stopping off at Dukes Pass for a panoramic view, return to Aberfoyle for the night.
Day 3: Perth & Scone Palace
Leave Aberfoyle on Day 3 in the morning, driving east to the ancient city on the Tay, the town of Perth, the former capital of Scotland. The distance is 92km (57 miles). Check into a hotel here and set out to explore the city that is the gateway to the Highlands. For orientation, visit Kinnoull Hill, which is the geographic dividing point between the Highlands and the Lowlands. Follow a nature trail here before having a "prelunch lunch" at the 16th-century Balhousie Castle, after which you can walk through the North Inch, a 41-hectare (100-acre) park along the west bank of the Tay River.
Following lunch in Perth, drive 3km (1 3/4 miles) to Old Scone, site of Scone Palace, with its precious antiques, artwork, and grand architecture. After a visit, you can wander the gardens and woodlands around the palace before returning to Perth for the night. That evening, check out the offerings of the Perth Repertory Theatre.
Day 4: East Neuk Fishing Villages
Leaving Perth in the morning of Day 4, drive 87km (54 miles) east. Here you can begin to explore East Neuk, a generic name used to describe a series of the most beautiful and unspoiled fishing villages in Scotland. Begin your voyage of discovery at Elie, which is our favorite village along the coast, with its picture-postcard harbor and step-gabled houses. If the weather is warm, you can swim from one of the golden sand beaches. After a walk around the village for an hour or so, continue north to Pittenweem, where you can attend a fish auction down by the water, Monday to Saturday morning. After a look-see, drive immediately north along A917 to Anstruther, a fishing port and summer resort. Explore the Scottish Fisheries Museum, down by the harbor, and later take a charming walk over to the tiny hamlet of Cellardyke. Lunch at Anstruther.
For the day's final destination, head north to Crail. Check into a hotel here and spend the rest of the afternoon strolling through this port with its little fishermen's cottages. Pay a visit to its Crail Museum & Heritage Centre, marked by an array of fishing memorabilia. Find a local pub and anchor in with a pint and dinner of fish and chips before returning to your hotel.
Day 5: St. Andrews, Birthplace of Golf
On the morning of Day 5, leave Crail and drive the short distance 15km (9 1/3 miles) north to St. Andrews. Golfers will spend the rest of the day playing on this hallowed turf; others can explore the attractions in the area -- for example, the grounds of the University of St. Andrews, which Prince William attended. Also, explore the ruins of the Castle of St. Andrews. After lunch, visit St. Andrews Cathedral and Priory before descending on the Secret Bunker, the place where Britain would have been commanded in the event of a nuclear attack. If you like lager, check out some of the local pubs, or attend a performance -- perhaps a Shakespearean play -- at the Byre Theatre.
Day 6: Royal Castles Glamis & Balmoral
Leave St. Andrews on the morning of Day 6, heading north toward Dundee, where you link up with the A90 into Glamis, a distance of 133km (83 miles).
For 600 years, Glamis Castle was linked to the British Royal Family, and the late Queen Mother was brought up here. This is the castle where Macbeth is said to have murdered King Duncan. Allow at least 1 1/2 hours for a look around.
If you have extra time, drive north of Glamis for 6.5km (4 miles), to the little town of Kirriemuir. Here you can visit Barrie's birthplace. He, of course, was the author of Peter Pan, the eternal children's favorite, and his body was buried in the local cemetery.
After a quick lunch, drive from Kirriemuir to Ballater, site of the Queen's Balmoral Castle. The distance is 98km (61 miles). Built in the Scottish baronial style, this was the summer home of Queen Victoria, and it's still used in late summer by Queen Elizabeth and her family. Since it closes at 5pm, you have to time your afternoon carefully. If you're running late, you should skip Kirriemuir.
If indeed Kirriemuir doesn't fit your itinerary, spend your time wandering around the towns of Ballater or Braemar. Overnight in either one and fortify yourself for one of your busiest days -- your final day in Scotland.
Day 7: Dunkeld, Crief & Dunblane
Leave Ballater early on the morning of Day 7, heading southwest to Dunkeld, a distance of 108km (67 miles). On the doorway to the Perthshire Highlands, explore Dunkeld Cathedral, one of the most historic in Britain, dating from A.D. 815. After a visit, wander around to see the old houses and shops around the cathedral and the marketplace, walking along both High and Cathedral streets.
After your visit, continue southwest to Crief, a distance of 46km (29 miles). Here you can spend 1 1/2 hours seeing Drummond Castle Gardens, which date from the early 17th century. Before lunch, also visit The Glenturret Distillery (Scotland's oldest).
Lunch in Crief before setting out in the afternoon to Dunblane, a distance of 69km (43 miles) to the south. At Dunblane, see Dunblane Cathedral, one of the best examples of 13th-century Gothic architecture in Britain. Allow an hour for a visit. When finished, drive southeast to Edinburgh -- a distance of 68km (42 miles) -- for your final night in Scotland.