Hebridean Explorer Small Group Tour
5 day / 4 night tour
Visit the magical Hebridean Islands of Harris and Lewis where the lilt of Gaelic is still widely heard. Travel through the Highlands to reach delightful Ullapool and the cruise-ferry bound for the islands! From our base in Stornoway explore the neighbouring islands of Lewis and Harris in depth. On return to the mainland visit Inverness and Culloden Moor before returning to Edinburgh.
Price range: £ 585 - £785
Small Group Tour - travel in an intimate group of just 16 passengers
Dunrobin Castle - visit the chateau-like home of the Dukes of Sutherland
Isle of Lewis - discover dramatic lighthouses, vast moors and the traditional way to make Harris Tweed
Callanish Standing Stones - explore the mystical standing stones that date from Neolithic times
Isle of Harris - tour the lunar landscape of the Harris Hills and walk the famous white sandy beaches
Movie locations - 2001, A Space Odyssey, Brave and Barry Lyndon
Guest house accommodation included - hotel upgrade option available
Full Tour Itinerary
Day 1 -
We leave Edinburgh behind and travel to Stirling where we make a photo-stop at mighty Stirling Castle. Enjoy the panorama which includes the Wallace Monument and the impressive Ochil Hills as a backdrop. From Stirling we make our way towards Doune, famed for its own castle (of Monty Python’s Holy Grail and Outlander fame), then onwards to Callander. Shortly the Lowlands of Scotland give way to the spectacular scenery of the Highlands.
Our scenic drive takes us along the beautiful banks of Loch Lubnaig then on through "bonnie” Strathyre towards Glen Ogle and Glen Dochart. After climbing the "Black Mount” we reach the vast wilderness of Rannoch Moor which stretches out ahead of us.
The sad story of Glen Coe is retold as we stop to view the imposing, yet sinister beauty of Scotland’s most famous glen. After leaving Fort William look out for mighty Ben Nevis, Britain’s tallest mountain, before we experience the majestic grandeur of the Great Glen. As we drive through this spectacular scenery there are stories to be told of clan battles, folklore and myths that have been handed down through the generations.
Our home for tonight is in Fort Augustus, situated on the banks of mysterious Loch Ness. Why not enjoy a short cruise on the loch before dinner?
Day 2 - Loch Ness - Dunrobin Castle - Stornoway (Isle of Lewis)
After breakfast we drive along the banks of enigmatic Loch Ness. As we do keep a close watch just in case "you know who” makes an appearance! After a brief panoramic tour of Inverness, the Capital of the Highlands, we enjoy grandstand views of the Moray Firth as we travel over the Kessock Bridge.
After travelling through the Black Isle we will cross the Cromarty and Dornoch Firths to reach Golspie where, high above the town, sits an astonishing statue, 27m (90') high. This is of the First Duke of Sutherland, whose agents were involved in the most notorious of the Clearances in the Highlands during the 19th Century. We’ll hear more about this sad episode in the history of Scotland and contrast the fate of the tenants, who were forced from their homes, with the grand opulence of Dunrobin Castle, the ancestral home of the Duke of Sutherland. Our optional visit to Dunrobin will give you time to explore the castle and its extensive gardens.
Next explore the Knockan Crag National Nature Reserve which is one of the most important geological sites in Europe. We’ll discover more about the mysteries that are locked up in the rocks during our visit.
The fishing port of Ullapool sits on Loch Broom and is where we board our ferry for the crossing of The Minch to reach Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis. The sailing will take 2 hours 45 minutes and our cruise-ferry boasts extensive lounge and dining facilities.
On arrival in Stornoway it is a short drive to our accommodation for the next two nights.
Overnight: Stornoway (2 nights)
Day 3 - Isle of Lewis Excursion
Together Harris and Lewis make Scotland’s largest island. These islands have been inhabited for over 6,000 years and there is a real sense of history as we will discover as we spend today discovering Lewis.
After breakfast we will make our way to the Butt of Lewis where a lighthouse stands warning passing ships of the nearby rocks. This is the most northerly point of the Outer Hebrides. Due west from here is nothing but the North Atlantic until you reach Newfoundland, Canada!
The astonishing Callanish Standing Stones is our next visit. Archaeologists believe that these 15 foot (5 m) stones were placed here by Neolithic people sometime between 3,000 and 1,000 BC and the site is rated second in importance only to Stonehenge. A short distance away is the impressive Dun Carloway Broch, an Iron Age stone fort known to have been built more than 2,000 years ago. This is one of the best preserved fortified towers in Scotland and it’s beautifully located with wonderful views over Loch Carloway and the sea beyond.
The weaving of Harris Tweed cloth has, traditionally, been an important home-based industry for islanders so when we visit a local weaver, on our last visit of the day, there will be an opportunity to see the fabric being hand woven in the time-honoured fashion – a truly fascinating process.
Day 4 - Isle of Harris Excursion
Today we concentrate on the neighbouring island of Harris. We’ll travel through the imposing hills of North Harris to reach the little village of Tarbert, the main port serving the island.
The little island of Taransay has found fame as the setting for the popular TV programme, Castaway as well as the movie "The Rocket Post”. We’ll stop so you can admire the views and take a stroll along Luskentyre Beach, which appears never-ending. This is a great place to enjoy some beach combing. Look out for the machairs which sit behind the beach - these green grassy plains are covered in a mass of wild flowers in the summer.
We return to Stornoway for some free time so can explore this bustling port before our island interlude comes to an end and we catch the ferry back to the mainland.
Day 5 - Inverness - Cairngorm National Park - Edinburgh
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.
We’ll stop at Dalwhinnie Malt Whisky Distillery so that you can discover how our National drink is lovingly produced. After our tour you’ll have the chance to sample a "wee nip” and shop for souvenirs. 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 Bridge as we make our way into Edinburgh.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I expect on this Small Group Tour?
With an average of just 16 passengers (and never more than 20) a Small Group Tour will provide a more intimate and flexible travelling experience. These tours are carefully planned to travel off the highways so you’ll discover quaint villages and picturesque vistas that other tours just can’t access. All the small group tours that we feature are operated by purpose built luxury minicoaches that feature air-conditioning, panoramic windows, wifi, usb charging points and comfortable seating. Each group is led by an experienced driver/guide who will entertain and inform you with stories of our history, nature and folklore. Comfortable guest house accommodation with en-suite bathrooms, tv and other amenities is included in the price of all tours. You can choose to upgrade to hotel accommodation, at extra cost, if you wish. A delicious Scottish breakfast is included each morning of your stay. If you’ve got more time to spare a series of extraordinary itineraries has been created by combining one or more shorter tours. Seamless in operation these unique holidays allow you to discover even more of Scotland’s Highlands and Islands. A feature of these tours is that you will travel with a different driver/guide and fellow travellers for each portion of the itinerary.
Can you tell me more about the optional extras on this tour?
To give you complete choice admission fees are not included in the cost of this tour. The tour itinerary has been carefully designed to provide sufficient time for you to visit these attractions:
If you click on the links above they will provide you with more information on each attraction including current admission prices. In some cases a special discount is offered to tour passengers, your driver/guide will provide details if this applies.
Please note that credit/debit cards are not always accepted so it is recommended that you carry sufficient cash with you should you want to make a visit.
Will I hear Gaelic being spoken?
The Outer Hebrides is the heartland of Gaelic culture and the majority of islanders will speak the Gaelic language, as well as English. Of course there is no need to learn Gaelic to enjoy your time in the Outer Hebrides but if you would like to learn a few words why not try:Hello. Halò. Goodbye. Mar sin leibh. My name is... Is mise...How are you? Ciamar a tha sibh? I’m fine thank you. Tha gu math tapadh leibh. Excuse me... Gabh mo leisgeul... Cheers! Slàinte!
How many people will be on the tour?
The average number of travellers on a Small Group Tour is 16.
Can I reserve specific seats on the coach?
Seats cannot be pre-booked however your driver/guide will normally implement a seat rotation system which will allow all passengers the opportunity of experiencing spectacular views from different seats on the minicoach.
- 4 nights guest house or hotel accommodation
- Location: Fort Augustus (1); Stornoway, Isle of Lewis (2) and Inverness (1)
- Scottish/Continental breakfast (4)
- Transportation by luxury air-conditioned minicoach with wifi and usb charging points
- Live commentary in English
- Ferry to Isle of Lewis
- Services of an experienced driver/guide
- Service charges and taxes
- Admission charges
- Meals, snacks or items of a personal nature
- Gratuity to your driver/guide
From 1 Parliament Square
Royal Mile/High Street
Edinburgh EH1 1RE
Check-in: 08:15 hrs
Tour Departs: 08:30 hrs
Tour Returns: 19:00 hrs
Concession discount applies to adults aged 60 years and above; students and children aged 3 to 15 years inclusive.
We’re really sorry but children aged under 3 years cannot travel on this tour.
Photo-ID may be requested to confirm discount entitlement.
The price of this tour includes guest house accommodation with en-suite bathroom. You can up-grade to hotel accommodation at extra cost during the booking process.
One medium sized suitcase/bag per person (maximum weight: 15 kilos)
In order to give you maximum flexibility admission fees are not included in the cost of this tour.
Please see the FAQ section for more information on this tour.
Rating:03 Mar 2015
We completed this tour in the middle of a 7-week world trip and it was definitely a highlight. David, our driver, was a delight, and my husband is now a dedicated Scotophile (I already was). The Outer Hebrides is one of my favourite places, so finding this tour online was truly a gift.Laurice from Wellington, New Zealand
Rating:12 Sep 2014
We have never done a bus tour before, and didn't really know what to expect. It turned out to be a fabulous experience, with our lovely Tour Guide David extremely responsive to individual needs and interests. It was far more tiring than we thought it would be, what with getting off the bus at frequent intervals whether we wanted to or not, but this was more for the driver's benefit than ours, which was fair enough - he was doing all the work. Our accomodation overall was good enough, though a bit patchy in terms of quality. The "hearty Scottish breakfasts" we were promised sometimes looked a lot like an English fry-up, and weren't always suitable for a vegetarian. The only places recommended for evening meals tended to be pubs or fancy restaurants, and we took this as a challenge to find good local cafes and other cheaper options. Having paid for the tour, we needed to budget on food, which isn't easy in the UK. We loved everywhere we visited, and could easily go back to anywhere in Scotland and enjoy it as much again. The tour was a fantastic introduction to the beauty of the country and the friendliness of its inhabitants, and thoroughly enjoyed learning a great deal about it's history.Laurice from Wellington, New Zealand