Highlands and Islands Small Group Tour
8 day / 7 night tour
On this wide-ranging tour of Scotland’s glorious West Coast visit Skye to discover the towering peaks of the craggy Cuillin Mountains and the dramatic scenery of the Quiraing. Spend time in Glen Coe then Loch Ness before travelling to the very edge of Europe to explore the magical islands of Harris and Lewis. Discover ancient sites, walks along unspoilt beaches and experience the lilt of Gaelic.
Price range: £930 - £1,275
Small Group Tour - travel in an intimate group of just 16 passengers
Jacobite Steam Train - selected tours enjoy a one-way ride on the famous West Highland Line aboard the real Hogwarts Express
Skye - discover the unrivalled beauty of the Cuillin Hills and the lunar landscape of the famous Trotternish Peninsula
Lewis - explore the mysterious pre-historic Callanish standing stones
Harris - take a stroll along the golden sands of Luskentyre Beach
Movie locations - Harry Potter, The Land that time Forgot and The Rocket Post
Guest house accommodation included - hotel upgrade option available
Full Tour Itinerary
Day 1 - Edinburgh - Inveraray - 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. 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! We’ll make a stop in the pretty village of Luss so you can take a stroll by the "bonnie, bonnie banks".
The Argyll Forest Park is famed for its 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.
Day 2 - Oban - Glen Coe - Isle of Skye
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.
Here we leave our tour coach and board the Jacobite Steam Train (see note below) for a journey of a life time on the famous West Highland Line – regarded by many as the most scenic in Britain! From Fort William the train travels along the banks of Loch Eil then crosses the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct, featured in the Harry Potter movies as part of the route to Hogwarts. Look out for the Glenfinnan Monument built to commemorate the ill-fated Jacobite up-rising of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745.
The scenic journey continues with wonderful views of Lochs Eilt, Ailort and nan Uamh before reaching the silver sands of Morar (made famous in the popular film Local Hero) and Mallaig. After some free time to enjoy the views over the Sound of Sleat to the Magical Isle we board a ferry for our crossing "Over the sea to Skye”. A short drive brings us to our home for the next two nights.
Note: Departures of 14 May to 27 August, 2018 will travel on the Jacobite Steam Train. All other departures will feature a cruise on Loch Ness and admission to Urquhart Castle.
Overnight: Isle of Skye (2 nights)
Day 3 - 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.
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.
Later 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!
Day 4 - Isle of Skye - Eilean Donan Castle - Loch Ness
After breakfast we bid farewell to the Isle of Skye and return to the mainland.
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.
There are wonderful views as we travel through Glen Shiel, look out for the impressive mountain range known as the Five Sisters of Kintail. Wildlife thrives in this part of Scotland so as we drive through this striking scenery you might see local residents such as red deer, golden eagles and pine martins.
Enjoy a scenic drive along the banks of mysterious Loch Ness and free time to explore the attractive village of Drumnadrochit. This afternoon take the opportunity to visit impressive Urquhart Castle and take a monster-spotting cruise on the dark and deep waters of Loch Ness. A relaxing drive brings a late afternoon arrival in Fort Augustus.
Overnight: Loch Ness area
Day 5 - 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.
We’ll 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, Isle of Lewis (2 nights)
Day 6 - Exploring Isle of Lewis
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 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 7 - Exploring Isle of Harris
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 "Rocket Mail”. 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 8 - 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 a local 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 Rail 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.
What are the optional extras on this tour and how much do they cost?
To give you maximum flexibility the cost of admission fees and other optional extras are not included in the tour price. This gives you complete freedom to choose as the mood takes you. On this tour the optional extras are: ( ) Please note these prices are given for guidance only and may be subject to change without notice. The age limit for child discounts can vary. Credit/debit cards are not always accepted so you should plan to have sufficient cash with you should you wish to purchase any of these optional extras.
What is the journey on the Jacobite Steam Train like?
Described as one of the great railway journeys of the world this 84 mile round trip takes you past a list of impressive extremes. Starting near the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis, it visits Britain’s most westerly mainland railway station, Arisaig; passes close by the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, Loch Morar and the shortest river in Britain, River Morar, finally arriving next to the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis! The train will cross the 21-arched Glenfinnan viaduct (a location made famous in the Harry Potter films) which overlooks Loch Shiel and the Jacobite monument. The train may pause on the viaduct, time permitting, to allow you to take in the magnificent view. On some tours the route may be reversed.
Tell me what the visit to a whisky distillery will be like?
A visit to a traditional whisky distillery is a feast for all the senses. After a warm welcome you’ll normally have a short audio/visual presentation on the the history of the distillery and the traditional methods used in the distilling process. Next is a tour of the distillery where you you will experience all stages of the whisky making process from mashing and fermenting to distilling and maturation. Your tour will end with a tutored tasting of a malt whisky and the opportunity to buy a souvenir of your visit in the distillery shop.
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!
- 7 nights guest house or hotel accommodation
- Location: Oban (1); Isle of Skye (2): Fort Augustus (1); Stornoway, Isle of Lewis (2) and Inverness (1)
- Scottish/Continental breakfast (7)
Visits, Admissions and Experiences
- One way Jacobite Steam Train trip on the West Highland Railway Line (13 May to 26 August departures only)
- Admission to Urquhart Castle and Loch Ness Cruise (all other departure dates)
- Transportation by luxury air-conditioned minicoach with wifi and usb charging points
- Live commentary in English
- 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.
Please note that due to a lack of suitable hotel accommodation your stay on the Isle of Skye will be in a superior guest house.
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.