Planning a trip to Ireland and Scotland?
Spectacular coastlines and ancient castles. Loch Ness Monsters and Leprechauns. Guinness beer and world-class whiskey.
What’s not to love about the Emerald Isle and the wild north of Great Britain? Add to that friendly locals and delicious food, and you’ll want to get the first flight out!
You’ll need a plan when preparing for a trip to these two incredible countries! There are many different things to remember—where to go, how long to stay, where to stay, how to get around, and much more.
The last thing you want is to miss out on anything.
Don’t worry! I’m here to help. I’ve tailored this comprehensive guide to be helpful to any wanderlust-seeking traveler looking to plan a trip to Ireland and Scotland. Get ready for the journey of a lifetime!
How to Plan a Trip to Ireland and Scotland: Step-by-Step
By the way, if you're only planning on only visiting Ireland, we've got you covered with a more comprehensive guide on planning a trip to Ireland. Check it out!
Step 1: Pick Your Destinations
The first thing you need to do is decide where you want to go! Ireland and Scotland may look small on a map, but these tiny countries pack a punch regarding things to see and do.
Hit the Internet and do some research. Check out different travel websites to find out more about the countries. Read traveler’s blogs, like this one on things to see in Dublin, to get some ideas.
Here’s what I do that I find extremely helpful when making an itinerary of destinations I want to visit:
- Use a travel planning app to list your destinations and the places you want to see.
- Create a Google Map and pin those places you want to include on your trip.
- Mark your ‘must-sees’ in one color and the ‘not-as-important’ in another color. This makes it easier to trim your itinerary down.
- Make sure you have a good variety of destinations on your list (ex. You probably want to explore bustling larger cities and spend some time in nature-focused destinations!)
If you’re anything like me, you’ll want to see EVERYTHING. But unless you have endless amounts of time, you’ll need to prioritize.
Step 2: Decide on the Best Time to Travel
There’s nothing worse than bad weather ruining your holiday. It’s best to plan your trip around the weather if you have the option to be flexible.
The best time to visit Ireland and Scotland is between April-May and September-October during the off-peak shoulder season. The weather is pleasant, and you’ll avoid the crazy crowds that arrive in summer.
Step 3: Ask Yourself, “How Long?”
You’ve made a list of the places you want to see. Now it’s time to be realistic and decide how much time you have to see them all. Your answer will help you to create a perfect itinerary, so you don’t miss anything!
How many days does it take to see Ireland and Scotland? Ideally, 14 days is enough time to experience the best of both worlds.
With at least 14 days on your itinerary, you can explore cities like Dublin and Edinburgh, take a hike in the Highlands from Glasgow, and tour some very cool castles. However, if you only have 10 days, you can focus on one main city in each country.
Step 4: Research Visa Restrictions
It’s essential to figure out if you need a visa to enter the UK and Ireland. Remember that England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are part of the United Kingdom, but Southern Ireland is not. So, you may need a visa for one country and not the other.
Suppose you’re from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, or the USA. In that case, you don’t need a special visa to enter Ireland and the UK. You can stay in Ireland as a tourist for up to three months without a visa. In the United Kingdom, you can enjoy six months of visa-free travel as a tourist.
If you are from another country, you can visit Ireland’s Department of Justice and Equality website and the Standard Visitor Visa page of the UK Government to find out what visa restrictions might apply to you.
When you arrive at the airport, you’ll still need to prove your reason for visiting the country to the immigration officer at the border control. They’ll also want to know how long you are planning on staying.
To avoid any upsets, carry all your travel documents, such as return flights, hotel confirmations, proof of income, etc., with you in a travel pouch.
Step 5: Organize Your Itinerary
An essential step in planning a trip to Ireland and Scotland is to plan your itinerary. Once you have decided on how long you can travel and where you want to go, it’s time to thrash out the details.
Essential details include getting around and finding accommodation in each place. You also want to make sure you have enough time for traveling in between.
Let’s talk about some top tips for planning an itinerary for an Ireland and Scotland trip!
Plan a Route
Google Maps is an excellent tool for estimating travel times between places. Use it to decide the best way to get from one destination to another.
Rome2Rio is another excellent website that offers multi-modal routes between destinations.
Figure Out Mode of Transportation
Consider renting a car if your budget allows. It’s a great way of exploring a country or a city in your own time.
Think About Delays
Always schedule extra traveling time between cities for unexpected delays. The last thing you want is silly inconveniences ruining your dream vacation!
Also, think twice about flying between destinations. While it may seem quicker, if you add all the traveling time in between, it can actually be longer. And far more expensive!
2-Week Itinerary for a Trip to Ireland and Scotland
As I suggested earlier, two weeks is an ideal amount of time to spend exploring Ireland and Scotland. Find ideas for a fabulous two-week itinerary for a trip to Ireland and Scotland below!
Day 1 and 2: Explore Dublin
Don’t miss these must-see attractions:
- Dublin Castle
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral
- Trinity College Library
- Little Museum of London
- Christ Church Cathedral
- St. Stephens Green
- Lunch at Avoca Wool Shop & Café
- Howth Cliffs
Day 3 and 4: Take an Overnight Trip to the West of Ireland
Check out these top spots along the way:
- Killarney National Park
- Killarney Town
- Muckross Abbey
- Muckross House & Traditional Farm
- The Burren
- Cliffs of Moher
Day 5: County Wicklow
Be sure not to miss these:
- Wicklow Town
- Wicklow Gaol
- Powerscourt Estate
- Silver Strand Beach and the Donegal Coast
Day 6 and 7: Northern Ireland and back to Dublin
Don’t forget to check these out:
- Giant’s Causeway
- Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge
- Dark Hedges
Day 8 and 9: Explore Edinburgh
Be sure to make time to see these hot spots:
- Edinburgh Castle
- St. Giles’ Cathedral
- Scott Monument
- Calton Hill
- Grass Market
- Victoria Street
- Princes Street Gardens
- Holyrood Palace
- The Royal Mile
Day 10: Scottish Highlands
- Loch Ness
- Urquhart Castle
Days 11 – 13: The Isle of Skye
Don’t miss these sites:
- Dunvegan Castle
- Neist Point
- Eilean Donan Castle
- Fairy Pools
- Kilt Rock
- Fairy Glen
- The Quiraing
- Old Man of Storr
- Museum of Island Life & Flora MacDonald’s Grave
Unfortunately, day 14 is when you’ll need to depart from beautiful Edinburgh! But, you’re taking a whole lot of memories, and hopefully stunning photos, home with you.
Get Ready for Ireland & Scotland With Pilot!
After going through all that, I hope you’re starting to dream about your perfect trip to Ireland and Scotland. Now you really know how much there is to do and see!
Remember, with these tips, tricks, and itinerary ideas, you’ll make your next European journey a reality in no time. To ensure you’re keeping yourself organized, why not use a trip planning app to keep all of your ideas and plans in one place?