Skye, Orkney and the Highlands
This comprehensive tours of Scotland's Highlands and Islands is the perfect balance of discovery, travel and hospitality. Travelling in a small group you'll experience a magical blend of island life, historic castles and pre-historic legend.
Edinburgh to Oban
Departing from Edinburgh we travel westwards across Scotland to reach Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city. Soon we enter the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, a natural wonder that is just waiting to be discovered. The "bonnie, bonnie banks" of Loch Lomond is a real highlight. This is Britain's largest lake and one of Scotland's loveliest. It has 30 islands, including one inhabited by a colony of wallabies!
The Argyll Forest Park is famed for it’s ancient trees, tranquil lochs and mountains. Look out for Ben Arthur, affectionately known as "The Cobbler” - it’s one of Scotland’s most popular climbs.
Soon our coach starts our ascent of the "Rest and be Thankful” mountain pass. You’ll soon realise why this road has such an unusual name when you look down on General Wade's original road that winds its way through Glen Croe all the way to the summit!
The 3rd Duke of Argyll built the "new" town of Inveraray at the head of Loch Fyne. The town sits in the shadow of his castle and, as we will discover, this pleasant town retains much of its 18th Century charm.
From Lochgilphead we enter Kilmartin Glen. This mysterious Glen has one of the most concentrated areas of prehistoric sites in Scotland including a linear cemetery – a line of burial cairns that stretch for over 2 miles. Nearby is Dunadd, a hill fort that dates from the Iron Age. Dunadd was the capital of the ancient Kingdom of Dalriada so this part of Argyll has played an important part in the creation of modern Scotland!
Soon we arrive in the bustling, beautiful port of Oban, our stop for tonight. Oban is the gateway to the isles so why not take a pre-dinner stroll and admire the views over the busy harbour.
Oban - Glen Coe - Skye (2 nights)
We bid farewell to Oban and make our way to the Connel Bridge. As we cross Loch Etive look out for the Falls of Lora below.
Glen Coe is arguably Scotland's most famous Glen partly because of it's awe-inspiring beauty and, more sinisterly, because of the infamous massacre that took place here in 1692. The sad tale will be told as we make a short diversion to explore this special place for ourselves.
Fort William's glorious setting on the banks of Loch Linnhe has made it a popular tourist destination since the arrival of the steamships in the mid-1900's. The town sits in the shadow of Ben Nevis, which, at 4,406 feet, is the tallest mountain in the UK. If the weather is kind to us we should hopefully get a good view of "The Ben" as we leave the town.
We’re now entering the Great Glen, a valley that extends from east to west through the Highlands. The famous engineer Thomas Telford ingeniously incorporated the three lochs that make the Great Glen so special when he constructed the Caledonian Canal. The canal allows boats to sail between the North Sea and the Atlantic Ocean and we will see large parts of the canal as we travel through Lochaber.
Glen Shiel is home to the "Five Sisters", a range of five mountains of which 4 are over 3,000 feet high. Soon we will pass the site of the 1719 "Battle of Glen Shiel" which strangely involved Spanish troops and highlanders fighting on the same side!
We stop to visit picturesque Eilean Donan Castle *. This is, without doubt, one of Scotland's most iconic sights. The castle stands on a little island situated at the confluence of Loch's Alsh and Duich. We'll have time to discover the castle for ourselves during our stop here.
Soon we’ll catch our first view of Skye, home to some of Scotland’s finest landscapes. From Kyle of Lochalsh we make the short drive by bridge "over the sea to Skye” brings us to the little village of Kyleakin where we will spend the next two nights.
Overnight: Kyleakin, Isle of Skye
Touring the Magical Isle
After breakfast we board our coach for a wonderful day of exploration. From the little villages and gentle scenery of the southern part of the island the views will change dramatically as the Cuillin Hills come into sight. Considered by many to be amongst the finest hills in Britain the Cuillins present a vista that is simply unforgettable.
A broch is a type of fortification that only exists in Scotland and date from around 2,300 year ago. Today we’ll visit Dun Beag which sits on top of a rocky knoll. With walls that are 4 metres thick this broch offered protection to Iron-Age farmers from what kind of threat we can only just guess at.
Our next stop is at grand Dunvegan Castle *, the ancestral home of the Clan Macleod. There has been a castle on this site since the 13th Century and its treasures include the Fairy Flag, said to bring good luck to the clan in times of trouble.
Set round its natural harbour the picturesque town of Portree is the largest community on the Isle of Skye. The name of the town means the "King's Port" following a visit by King James V in 1540. Today the pretty painted houses which surround the harbour give Portree an old fashioned appeal. During our stop there will be time to explore the town and browse the interesting shops that surround Sumerled Square.
The fishing village of Elgol lies at the end of a spectacular route through the heart of the Red Cuillin Hills. On our visit to Elgol you’ll have the chance to take a wildlife spotting cruise * and enjoy stunning views of the high peaks of the Black Cuillins.
Kyleakin - Trotternish – Loch Ness
This morning we tour the famed Trotternish Peninsula. From Portree we travel northwards to the little ferry port of Uig from where ferries sail to the Outer Herbrides. At little Kilmuir there is a monument to Flora MacDonald who, famously, assisted Bonnie Prince Charlie to escape the Government Troops who were hunting for him.
We'll stop to explore The Quiraing, a dramatic terrain formed by a landslide. We'll stop so you can walk through a landscape that dates from Jurassic times! See if you can identify the rock formations that are known as the "Needle", "Table" and "Prison". A short drive brings us to Kilt Rock, so named because the basalt columns of this rock fall to resemble the pleats of a kilt - we will stop so you can snap an "I was there" photograph!
After a break for lunch in Portree we bid farewell to the Isle of Skye and return to the mainland. Wildlife thrives in this part of Scotland so as we drive through this striking scenery keep a watch out for local residents such as red deer, golden eagles and pine martins. A relaxing drive brings a late afternoon arrival in Fort Augustus, which sits on the banks of Loch Ness.
Overnight: Fort Augustus
Loch Ness to the Orkney Isles
Today sees an early start, crossing through the Black Isle, and past Andrew Carnegie's Skibo Castle. From here we drive along the northeast Highland coastline, travelling through some of Scotland's most dramatic scenery. These are of some of Europe's oldest landscapes and here we have the chance to see wildlife such as Golden Eagles and red deer.
We board the ferry, crossing the Pentland Firth into the Orkney Archipelago. On our arrival it is a short drive to the famous Italian Chapel where few will fail to be moved by the dedicated workmanship of the Italian prisoners of war who crafted this place of worship from a humble Nissan hut. Their story and many others will be told as we view Scapa Flow, the scene of momentous events during both World Wars.
The Viking stronghold of Kirkwall, is our home for the next 2 nights.
Orkney is home to many outstanding historic treasures and today will be a unique day of discovery. On our itinerary today are visits to Maeshowe *, a magnificent tomb built almost 5,000 years ago and the Ring of Brodgar, a stone circle that once comprised of 60 megaliths. Today with 27 stones still standing, some over 5 metres tall, it takes little imagination to visualise the extent of this historic monument.
Uncovered by a storm in 1850 Skara Brae * is one of the best preserved groups of Stone Age houses in Western Europe and our visit will reveal the stone furniture, hearths and drains that present such a remarkable picture of Neolithic life.
The day will finish with a visit to beautiful St Magnus Cathedral, one of Europe’s great architectural achievements and over 800 years old.
Orkney to Edinburgh via Inverness
It’s an early start as we board the ferry and bid a farewell to the Orkney’s. There’s time to explore Inverness, the Capital of the Highlands before travelling the short distance to visit tragic Culloden Moor *. It was here that the Jacobite army of Bonnie Prince Charlie was routed by Government troops in a bloody battle in 1746.
The Cairngorm National Park is Britain’s largest and contains five of Scotland’s six highest peaks. The park provides stunning backdrop to our travels through the Spey Valley then we descend through the Drumochter Pass to reach the pleasant Victorian tourist town of Pitlochry where we will stop for refreshments.
The dramatic scenery of Highland Perthshire gives way to rolling farmland as we reach the "Fair City” of Perth then we join the motorway for our journey through the ancient Kingdom of Fife. The final part of our drive offers wonderful views of the Forth Rail Bridge as we make our way into Edinburgh.