Scottish Islands Highlands
Combined tours: Islay & the Whisky Coast + Iona, Mull & the Isle of Skye + Orkney and Scotland’s Northern Coast
2018 depart Fri: 06 Apr- 26 Oct (except 25 May, 01 & 15 June)
Low season: 04 Apr – 30 Apr, 01 Nov-17 Dec & 03 Jan – 31 Mar 2019 (except 01 & 03 Apr)
Mid-season: 01 Apr- 03 Apr, 01 May-31 May, 01 Oct-31 Oct & 17 Dec–03 Jan 2019
High season: 01 June-30 Sep
Single supplement on request
day 01 fri Edinburgh-Loch Lomond-Inveraray-Argyll-Oban
Leaving Edinburgh at 08.30, you will head west through Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, along Loch Lomond then west through the mountains to the beautiful little village of Inveraray on the banks of Loch Fyne. Here you can perhaps sample some of the local seafood for lunch or just explore the historic town itself. After lunch you will then travel through Argyll and into the ancient Kingdom of Dalriada. There are more than 350 prehistoric monuments within a six-mile radius of the village of Kilmartin. You will stop here to see the mysterious stone circles and standing stones and visit the community museum. From here it is a short drive to Kennacraig where you catch the early evening ferry to Islay. The sail is just over 2 hours and you should look out for wildlife such as dolphins, whales and seabirds. On arrival on Islay it is a short drive to Bowmore for your 3-night stay
day 02 sat Oban-Mull-Staffa-Oban
Today, enjoy a full day exploring Islay. The itinerary today is quite flexible with a mixture of beautiful scenery, white sand beaches, short walks and of course the famous Islay whiskies - renowned for their strong peaty flavours and nurtured by the salty sea air. In the morning you will take the short drive to the west of the island via Saligo Bay for a visit to Kilchoman Distillery (the newest and smallest on the island) with the option of a coastal walk to Machair Bay for any non-whisky lovers. After lunch you will explore the tiny harbour village of Portnahaven (look out for seals) before taking the back roads along the west coast with its lovely sandy bays, on the way back to Bowmore. You will have the chance to visit Bowmore Distillery or just relax and explore the village.
day 03 sun Oban-Glencoe-Glenfinnan-Portree
Another day in paradise! Today you will explore the southern side of the island, home to the smokiest and peatiest of all whiskies – Laphroaig, Lagavulin and Ardbeg. We will visit Ardbeg for a tour, tasting and lunch. The restaurant here is a beautiful place to relax and enjoy local produce as well as some unique whisky. We follow this up with a visit to Laphroaig and if time allow a short stop for a tasting at Lagavulin. It should also be possible to visit to the ruins of Kildalton church with its famous 8th Century Celtic Cross. Alternatively we may stop in Bridgend where you could visit the community craft producers at Islay House Square or take a walk through the woods along the nearby River Sorn.
day 04 mon Isle of Skye
This morning you take the ferry back to the mainland then travel through Argyll along the coast to Oban – the main ferry port for the islands, and known locally as the ‘Charing Cross’ of the north. On arrival in Oban your guide will drop you at your accommodation. You will say goodbye to this group here, and will be collected by your new guide and group on the morning of day 5. You will have a free afternoon in Oban to enjoy this bustling and busy highland town. For those who are partial to some retail therapy, there are numerous shopping possibilities, or for those who wish to continue their thirst for Scottish whisky, Oban distillery is nicely situated in the heart of the town. A hike uphill will bring its own rewards with stunning views from the most photographed structure in the west, McCaig’s folly. The folly built on instruction by a local banker in 1897 resembles the coliseum in Rome, and provides magnificent vistas over the distant Firth of Lorne. You will stay in this glorious highland town for 2 nights.
day 05 tue Portree-Loch Ness-Inverness
In the morning, you will take the ferry to Mull and enjoy an island adventure exploring her dramatic coastlines and wild beauty, before taking the small ferry to the peace and tranquility of Iona - birthplace of Celtic Christianity and ancient burial ground of Scottish Kings. Here you can visit the historic abbey with its intricate carved crosses in the churchyard or explore the rocky headlands and sandy coves of this island gem. There is also an opportunity to take a small boat out to the island of Staffa and view the dramatic basalt columns immortalised by Mendelssohn in his Hebridean Overture “Fingal’s Cave”. You then return on the ferry to Oban for your second night.
day 06 wed Inverness-John O’Groats-Kirkwall
Today, the tour is taking you north along the west coast around Appin, passing the impregnable Castle Stalker, and Glencoe, scene of the infamous massacre of the Clan MacDonald in 1692. You then pass through Fort William nestling in the shadow of Ben Nevis which at 1344 meters is the highest mountain in the British Isles. We continue through the Great Glen a natural fault in the earth’s crust that runs through Scotland and on through Ireland. From here you travel north to the picturesque fishing village of Plockton. You are then dropped off at your accommodation in the early evening.
day 07 thu Kirkwall-Skara Brae-Stromness-Kirkwall
Today is a very flexible day on Skye. There are many possibilities depending on the weather and your driver/guide will use his/her local knowledge to decide on the best day out for the group. For example: heading west towards the 13th century home of the Clan MacLeod - Dunvegan Castle, the emerald green valley of Glendale or the dramatic sea-cliffs and lonely lighthouse at Neist Point. In the afternoon the tour may concentrate on the south of the island. Spend time heading down to Elgol for seascapes and views of the Cuillin, or Talisker and its beautiful bay or perhaps Glenbrittle and its famed waterfalls. We return you to your accommodation in Plockton in the late afternoon for you to enjoy a free evening in the village.
day 08 fri Kirkwall-Assynt-Ullapool
You will be collected from your accommodation for the short drive to the famous stronghold of Eilean Donan Castle, used in the film “Highlander”, set at the junction of 3 lochs as protection against Viking raiders. Then you travel east taking in the stunning views over Loch Duich and the 5 Sisters of Kintail. Continue on to Loch Ness for lunch and the possibility of spotting “Nessie”. Half an hour south of Loch Ness you will stop in the village of Spean Bridge and join a new bus for the continuation of your tour to Orkney. Your guides will help you transfer your luggage and introduce you to your new travelling companions. With your new crew you will continue north following the Great Glen travelling the entire 23 miles of the famous Loch passing by Urquhart castle. You can expect to arrive in Inverness, the Highland capital, and the place of our overnight stay at approximately 18.30 where you will be dropped off at your pre booked accommodation.
day 09 sat Ullapool-Culloden Moor-Clava Cairns-Edinburgh
Leave early in the morning to cross over the Black Isle, and past Andrew Carnegie’s Skibo Castle. From here you drive through the northeast Highland coastline, travelling into some of Scotland’s most dramatic scenery, and enjoy amazing views of some of Europe’s oldest landscapes and the chance to see wildlife such as Golden Eagles and Red Deer. Onwards through Scotland’s most northerly mainland village, John o’ Groats, and then to Gills Bay, where you board the ferry, crossing the Pentland Firth into the Orkney Archipelago. From here it is a short drive to the famous Italian Chapel where we stop for a visit before continuing to the Viking stronghold of Kirkwall, Capital of Orkney where you shall stay for 2 nights. Here you can visit Kirkwall’s magnificent Viking Cathedral and its historic winding streets.
Day 10 sun Edinburgh-Skara Brae- Stromness-Maeshowe-Kirkwall
Today is your chance to explore this fantastic, ancient island; a land of contrasts where fertile green pastures are fringed by shores of golden sands washed by waters of the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean. You will visit the 5000 year old village of Skara Brae (older than the Pyramids of Egypt!), the mystical prehistoric stone circle at Brodgar and the Druidic standing stones of Stenness. We stop in Stromness - one of Scotland’s most picturesque seaboard villages and then travel onto Maeshowe, where in the 12th century the Vikings left one of the largest collections of Norse runic inscriptions. Then it is back to Kirkwall for our 2nd night after what is sure to be a memorable day.
Day 11 mon Kirkwall-Ben Loyal-Ben Hope Mountains-Assynt-Ullapool
Enjoy a relaxing start to the day as you leave Orkney and sail the Viking waters back to the mainland. From here you travel the old road right across the very top of Scotland, driving past the stunning Ben Loyal and Ben Hope mountains following the rocky cliffs and stunning golden sand beaches of our northern coastline. We then visit the far northwest highlands and the grandeur, expanse and wilderness of the mountains of Assynt before stopping to view the 15th century ruins of Ardvreck Castle. From here we travel to Ullapool, situated at the mouth of Loch Broom, a beautiful whitewashed fishing village where we spent our last night’s stay on tour.
Day 12 tue Ullopool-Inverness-Pertshire-Edinburgh
Leaving Ullapool behind you, you take in the drama of the River Droma as it plunges 60m down into Corrieshalloch Gorge, before taking in the beautiful Loch Glascarnoch, on the way past the ‘Capital of the Highlands’ Inverness.
You can then visit Culloden Moor, the site of The Battle of Culloden in 1746, one of the bloodiest events in our history and the last battle to have been fought on the British mainland, before taking a short drive to the ancient standing stones at Clava Cairns, made famous by Diana Gabaldon in the “Outlander” books. This prehistoric and stunning Bronze Age burial ground is one of the oldest in Scotland. From here you travel through the ancient Caledonian Pine Forest, hugging the Cairngorm mountain range. Lunch will be spent in these beautiful surroundings before travelling through big tree country of Perthshire, through the Kingdom of Fife and back to Edinburgh at approximately 20.00.
Inclusions: twin share in a quality B&B or a 3* Hotel, 8 breakfasts, coach transport, driver/guide, local taxes & service charges.
Note: No children under the age of 18 are allowed on this tour.