Scotland's Northern Edge - 5 day tour
Scotland's Northern Edge
5 day/4 night
This fascinating tour of the Far North takes us to Inverness then through Lairg then along the banks of Loch Shin to reach Kinlochbervie for a two-night stay. Next day board a ferry at Tarbet for a cruise to visit Handa Island, a sea bird nature reserve. There's no human activity here, but 1000s of fulmars, razorbills and puffins call it home. Our tour heads east to Thurso, for a further 2-night stay and along the way we visit Smoo Cave and enjoy incredible coastal panoramas. Spend a full day exploring more northern treasures including the dramatic sea cliffs at Duncansby Head and the Castle of Mey, HM The Queen Mother's beloved Highland home.
Price range: £695 - £925
Handa Island - enjoy fantastic nature-spotting opportunities during a visit to this sea bird nature reserve
Strathnavar - visit the local museum to learn the tragic story behind the Highland Clearances
John O'Groats - capture an "I was there" photo at the iconic signpost for your next social media post
Castle of Mey - explore the castle and gardens which were the treasured Caithness home of Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother
Dunnet Head - if the weather is kind, enjoy views of Orkney from the most northerly point on the British mainland
Movie locations - Merlin, The Eagle and Sea of Souls
Hotel accommodation included
Full Tour Itinerary
Day 1 - Glasgow/Edinburgh - Lairg - Kinlochbervie
From Glasgow and Edinburgh, our Far North Adventure starts by crossing the Firth of Forth to reach the Kingdom of Fife and the rolling farmlands of Perthshire beyond.
There is a break for refreshments before we continue through the Grampian Mountains to reach the Spey Valley and the scenic beauty of the Cairngorms National Park.
From Inverness we head for Tain, then along the banks of the Dornoch Firth to reach Bonar Bridge and the famous Falls of Shin, where salmon battle their way upstream to spawn.
From Lairg, we head for Loch Shin then Loch Stack, which is overshadowed by the dramatic cliffs of Ben Stack. Journeys end today is Kinlochbervie, a thriving fishing port on the banks of Loch Inchard.
Overnight: Kinlochbervie Hotel, Kinlochbervie (or similar) (2 nights)
Day 2 - Isle of Handa Excurison Enjoy a relaxing breakfast before joining our coach for the short drive to Tarbet where the ferry will take us
Enjoy a relaxing breakfast before joining our coach for the short drive to Tarbet where the ferry will take us to Handa Island, which is internationally recognised for its extensive seabird colonies and impressive sea cliffs.
This island was a thriving community up until 1848 when the potato famine forced the residents to emigrate to Nova Scotia, Canada. Since then the island has been unoccupied and is now a nature reserve operated by the Scottish Wildlife Trust.
We'll have three-hours ashore to explore Handa, which rises to 400 feet (121 m) above sea level. The island is home to over 150 different species of birds including over 100,000 guillemots. Other residents include razorbills, kittiwakes and, the always-popular puffins.
You can discover the ruined settlement that was home to the island's population and learn the traditions of the island which had its own parliament which met daily to delegate the essential chores.
Day 3 - Kinlochbervie - Tongue - Thurso
A day of dramatic scenery awaits as we travel across the very top of Scotland to reach our next hotel in Thurso.
From our Kinlochbervie, we travel through the desolate landscapes of North West Sutherland. The locals call this area "The Lonely Lands", you'll soon appreciate why.
The Kyle of Durness leads us to the little village of Durness, which was a holiday favourite of John Lennon. He had a cousin who lived here and spent many childhood holidays in the area. The village has a garden dedicated to his memory.
Our first stop will be to visit the impressive Smoo Cave. The entrance is the largest of any sea cave in the British Isles. On our visit see the thundering waters of the Allt Smoo cascade 196 feet (60m) through a sinkhole into the inner cave below.
The tour continues along the banks of Loch Eriboll, a picturesque sea loch, then passed Ben Hope, the tallest mountain in the north of Scotland to reach Tongue, which gets its name from the Norse, meaning "tunga".
A short drive away, we'll stop in Bettyhill to visit the Strathnaver Museum which tells the history of the region from prehistoric times through to the rise of the Clan MacKay, which dominated the area.
The notorious 18th Century "Highland Clearances" is an important story told at the museum. Local people were evicted from their homes by the landowners to make way for commercial sheep farming. Many people made the decision to resettle in Glasgow or were "encouraged" to emigrate to the New World.
We'll make the short drive to Strathnaver, where we will see the now deserted homes and cottages of a once-thriving community. They provide a moving reminder of the 350 families that were forced to flee from this valley between 1814 and 1819.
Overnight: Station Hotel, Thurso (or similar) 2 nights
Day 4 - John O'Groats and Castle of Mey Excursion
After breakfast, we head out to discover more highlights of the Northern Highlands. Our first visit is to the spectacular cliffs at Duncansby Head. We'll see the lonely lighthouse that was built in 1924 then follow the coastal path to see the Long Geo of Sclaites, a massive collapsed cave which has created a deep cleft in the cliffs. A further walk along the clifftop provides an ideal viewpoint to see the impressive sea stacks.
Our next stop is to John O'Groats, the most northerly village on mainland Britain. Famous for its pairing with Lands End, 874 miles to the south, this is the start or end point for all types of human endeavour, often used to raise money for good causes. During our visit, a selfie at the signpost is almost obligatory, but the main attraction here are the views over the wild waters of the Pentland Firth towards the Orkney Islands.
Next is a visit to the Castle of Mey. It was built in the 1600s by the Earl of Caithness and stands overlooking the Pentland Firth. It had fallen into disrepair when HM Queen Elizabeth, the late Queen Mother bought it in 1952. In her ownership, the castle was completely renovated, and the grounds developed to create the beautiful gardens we can see today. The Castle of Mey became a favoured residence, and The Queen Mother holidayed there for nearly 50 years with her last visit being in 2001.
Our last stop today is at Dunnet Head, the most northerly point on the British mainland. It offers remarkable views over the Pentland Firth and the little island of Stroma.
We return to Thurso in time to relax before dinner.
Day 5 - Thurso - Tain - Edinburgh/Glasgow
We say farewell to Thurso after breakfast and start our journey southwards. Our tour has followed the famous North Coast 500 route and today we will experience some of the fine coastal scenery that the journey is famed for. We will see several small fishing villages that hug the coastline, reminders of the importance of herring fishing to this part of the country in the 19th Century. As we cross the Dornoch Firth, we come to Tain, once more which completes our circular tour of the far north of Scotland.
From here, our homeward journey follows the outward route. We'll make a stop for refreshments before reaching Edinburgh then Glasgow by early evening.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can I expect on this Escorted Tour?
If you enjoy the art of first-class travel whilst enjoying amazing value then an Escorted Tour is just for you. All these tours are carefully researched and combine quality hotels, luxury travel, informative visits and leisure time. You’ll find our Escorted Tours to be memorable - for all the right reasons! You will travel aboard a state of the art motorcoach with air-conditioning, reclining seats, oversized windows and emergency washroom. Many coaches are equipped with WiFi too. An experienced tour manager will lead the tour and your coach will be expertly driven by a professional driver. In certain locations you’ll be joined by a local guide who will provide local insight and show you the highlights. These tours are inclusive of superior tourist class accommodation, transportation, selected admission fees and many meals. You’ll have the chance to personalise your touring experience by participating in some carefully planned optional excursions. These are at additional expense and details will be provided with your tour documentation.
What type of room should I choose?
Selecting the right sleeping arrangements can be a little bit confusing so here is a description of what you can expect from the hotel accommodation offered as part of your tour: Single room - this is a room for one person sleeping in a single bed. Twin room - this is a room for two people sleeping in two separate beds. Double room - this is a room for two people sharing one large bed. Family room - this is a room for three people sleeping in one large bed (2 people) and one single bed (1 person). Please note that a family room is normally a standard double or twin room with either a sofa bed or a rollaway bed. All room types other than twin rooms are subject to availability.
How much luggage can I bring?
There are no restrictions on the amount of luggage that you can bring on this tour . Please bear in mind that luggage storage on the train is limited and you may be required to lift your case onto a shelf unaided.
What should I wear?
Wear layers as the temperature on the loch can vary. We recommend bringing a rain jacket, just in case!
How many people will be on the tour?
The number of people travelling on an Escorted Tour will not normally be more than 50 passengers. On a Premium Escorted Tour you will travel with around 38 fellow passengers.
- 4 nights hotel accommodation
- Location: Kinlochbervie (2) and Thurso (2)
- Cooked/Continental breakfast (4)
- Table d' hote dinners (4)
Visits, Admissions and Experiences
- Admission to Strathnaver Museum and Castle of Mey
- Cruise to Handa Island
- Touring by luxury air-conditioned coach with reclining seats
- All baggage handling and hotel tips are included
- Services throughout the tour of a professional Tour Director
- Service charges and taxes
North Hanover Street Bus Stance, Glasgow, G1 2BP
Check-in: 07:00 hrs
Tour Departs: 07:15 hrs
Tour Returns: 18:45 hrs
Outside Marriott Hotel, on Glasgow Road, Edinburgh, EH12 8NF
Check-in: 08:15 hrs
Tour Departs: 08:30 hrs
Tour Returns: 17:30 hrs
Please contact us for information on child prices.
The price of this tour includes hotel accommodation with en-suite bathroom.
Please see the FAQ section for more information on this tour.