With 2 weeks to explore Scotland, you have a bit more breathing time, and you can take in some of the more esoteric destinations, such as the Isle of Skye, the most mystical and evocative of the Hebridean Islands. The second week will also allow you to explore some of the history-rich towns of the Borders, which face a once-hostile England across the boundary.
Days 1 & 2: Edinburgh, Gateway to Scotland
Most arrivals in the capital of Scotland are from London, by rail, plane, or bus. Hit town as early as possible in the morning to get in a full round of the city's attractions. After checking into a hotel, head for the Old Town's Royal Mile, stretching from one of the city's major sights, Edinburgh Castle, to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. You can probably visit only one of these attractions before lunch, saving the other for the afternoon. We suggest you go to Edinburgh Castle in the morning and Holyroodhouse in the afternoon. Then, during the latter visit, you can also check out the new Scottish Parliament building.
As the afternoon wanes, head down into the New Town for a walk and some shopping along the fabled Princes Street. In the early evening, drop into an Edinburgh pub for a pint or a wee dram -- and for a sample of some local life. Have dinner in one of the New Town's wide variety of restaurants.
On Day 2, which could turn into a very busy day, check out the artistic masterpieces in the National Gallery of Scotland and see the artifact-loaded National Museum of Scotland. Both of these treasure-troves can be seen in 1 busy morning. In the afternoon, and for a change of pace, visit Calton Hill in the east of Edinburgh -- it looks like Athens -- and the Royal Botanic Garden, one of Britain's greatest botanical gardens. For your final night in Edinburgh, have dinner in one of the ancient restaurants of the Old Town, following in the footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson.
Days 3 & 4: Glasgow, Scotland's Largest City
On Day 3, get an early-morning start and drive to Glasgow, which is only 65km (40 miles) west of Edinburgh. You can arrive in time to check into a hotel and see The Burrell Collection before lunch. In the afternoon, visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, one of the finest in Britain, and the Glasgow Science Centre, on the banks of the River Clyde. After a visit to a Glaswegian pub, if that's your style, head to dinner in one of Glasgow's restaurants.
On the morning of Day 4, visit the Cathedral of St. Kentigern, which dates from the Middle Ages. You'll still have time to check out the masterpieces at the Hunterian Art Gallery before lunch. For the afternoon, you can explore Glasgow's fascinating Museum of Transport and visit some minor attractions, such as The Tall Ship at Glasgow Harbour, or take in some shopping along Sauchiehall Street or Argyle Street. In the evening, should you wish, you can attend a performance of opera or ballet at Theatre Royal.
Day 5: Loch Lomond
From Glasgow, on Day 5, you can head northwest for 32km (20 miles) to Balloch, a good center for exploring the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. The best way to spend a day touring the lake is to take one of Sweeney's Cruisers. If you return in time, you can also explore Balloch Castle Country Park. Overnight in Balloch, which lies at the southern end of the Loch.
Day 6: Fort William, Gateway to the Highlands
From Glasgow (or Balloch, if you spent the night there), you can strike out for Fort William, 167km (104 miles) north of Glasgow. Located on the shores of Loch Linnhe, Fort William is the best stopover for those traveling between Glasgow and Inverness, in the north. You can arrive in time for lunch, taking in views of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Scotland. In the afternoon, visit the ruins of Old Inverlochy Castle and Neptune's Staircase. Overnight in Fort William.
Day 7: Inverness, Capital of the Highlands
Fort William to Inverness is a drive of 109km (68 miles). Before reaching Inverness, drive along the western bank of Loch Ness, keeping your eye out for the elusive monster. At Drumnadrochit, there is the official Loch Ness Monster Exhibition, and you can also explore the ruins of Urquhart Castle.
Have lunch in Inverness, and then set out to see the Culloden Battlefield, with its Graves of the Clans, and also visit the Fort George/Queen's Own Highlanders Regimental Museum. Spend the rest of the afternoon walking around and exploring the center of Inverness, which lies on both sides of the Ness River, with scenic walks in all directions. Overnight in Inverness.
Days 8 & 9: Isle of Skye
On Day 8, from your last stopover in Inverness , drive west along A832 to the Kyle of Lochalsh, the gateway to the Isle of Skye; it's 132km (82 miles) southwest of Inverness. You can now drive from Kyle to Skye, over a bridge, which will allow more time for sightseeing.
Once on Skye, check into a hotel for 2 nights. Although it's the largest of the Hebridean Islands, Skye is relatively small, only 77km (48 miles) long, so you can stay almost anywhere and use the town as your headquarters for exploring the entire island. Some of the best places for lodgings include Kyleakin, Sligachan, and Portree. Portree is the capital of the island.
Assuming you base yourself in the center of the island, at the lochside village of Sligachan, you can order lunch and then spend the afternoon driving A856 to the north of Skye, taking in the scenic beauty along the way. You ultimately reach the village of Uig, where you should visit the Skye Museum of Island Life. After leaving Uig, traverse the entire northeastern part of Skye by following A855 in a half-moon crescent, finally heading back to Sligachan for the night.
On the morning of Day 9, set out from Sligachan (or whichever village you've lodged in) to explore the Sleat Peninsula, in the south, following A850 (which becomes A851). Once at Sleat, visit Knock Castle, the former stronghold of the MacDonalds, now some of the most evocative ruins in the Hebrides. You can also explore Armadale Castle Gardens & Museum of the Isles. Allow an hour or so for a visit here.
Sleat is known as the garden of Skye, and you can wander at leisure, taking in its woodland glens, cliffs, and waterfalls, especially enjoying the dramatic beauty of the jagged Cuillin Hills. For your afternoon adventure, take a 3-hour cruise at Elgol, and you'll see some of the island's grandest natural beauty. Finally, return to your hotel for a well-deserved dinner.
Day 10: Oban
On Day 10, take the bridge from Skye back to the mainland and head south to the coastal resort of Oban. On the way to Oban, you'll pass through the previously visited Fort William . Oban lies another 81km (50 miles) southwest of Fort William. Check into a hotel here, and, after lunch, visit such attractions as McCaig's Tower, enjoying the panoramic view across the Firth of Lorn to the Sound of Mull. You should also have time to visit Dunstaffnage Castle and to walk along the harborfront before dinner.
Day 11: Ayr, Ode to Robert Burns
Leave Oban on the morning of Day 11, continuing along the coastline to the town of Ayr. You'll bypass Glasgow to your east as you arrive in the town of Ayr, which has many associations with Robert Burns, Scotland's national poet.
Ayr itself lies at a point 56km (35 miles) southeast of Glasgow. Check into a hotel at Ayr and use it as a base for exploring nearby Alloway, the birthplace of Burns, which is 3km (1 3/4 miles) south. Once here, visit the Burns Cottage and Museum and the Burns Monument and Gardens. Allow at least 2 hours.
You can also make it to Culzean Castle, 19km (12 miles) southwest of Ayr, that afternoon. Designed by Scottish architect Robert Adam, this is one of the grandest castles in the west of Scotland. General Eisenhower was a former guest. For the night, return to Ayr.
Day 12: Kirkcudbright, an Artists' Colony
On Day 12, leave Ayr in the morning and drive into the Borders country, scheduling a stop at the old sheep-market town of Castle Douglas, 79km (49 miles) southeast of Ayr. Visit the 14th-century ruins of Threave Castle, and have lunch later in town.
Instead of overnighting here, we recommend that you continue for 16km (10 miles) to the southwest until you reach the old town of Kirkcudbright, which is the center of a flourishing artists' colony. In the afternoon, you can stroll around for an hour or two, taking in such attractions as Broughton House and the Tolbooth Art Centre. Stay at the famous Selkirk Arms, where Burns composed his fabled "Selkirk Grace."
Day 13: Dumfries & Moffat
On Day 13, after a night in Kirkcudbright, head north until you reach A75, continuing northeast into the town of Dumfries. At this point, you'll be 129km (80 miles) southwest of Edinburgh and about the same distance from Glasgow.
Like Ayr, Dumfries also has associations with Robert Burns, and you can visit Burns House before taking in Drumlanrig Castle and the Dumfries Museum. You might also want to view the ruins of Sweetheart Abbey before heading for the town of Moffat, a drive of only 35km (22 miles) to the northeast. Check into a hotel and spend the rest of the afternoon exploring Devil's Beef Tub, the Grey Mare's Tail, and Annan Water Valley Road before returning to Moffat for the night.
Day 14: Melrose, Highlight of the Borders
For your final look at the Borders, leave Moffat on Day 14, which promises to be busy. The best place to stop today is Melrose, northeast of Moffat and only 60km (37 miles) southeast of Edinburgh. Check into a hotel at Melrose and use it as a base for exploring nearby attractions. In the town itself, visit Abbotsford House, former home of Sir Walter Scott; Melrose Abbey, which embraces some of the most beautiful ruins in Europe; and Traquair House, Scotland's oldest and most romantic house.
In the afternoon, drive 19km (12 miles) east of Melrose, to the town of Kelso. Here it is but an 11km (6 3/4-mile) jaunt to Mellerstain, one of the most famous mansions designed by Robert Adam. Allow 2 hours for a visit. Return to Melrose for the night and plan an early-morning departure for Edinburgh and your return home.