Take one of the world’s most scenic train journeys as you travel to the Highlands on the world-famous West Highland Railway, crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct of Harry Potter fame.. Nothing beats getting to know a place on your own two feet, so get your walking shoes on for explorations of Portree Bay, Creag Bheag, and Fort William with views of the UK’s highest peak – Ben Nevis – in all its glory.. Take a ferry over the sea to the Isle of Skye, soak up the fresh sea air and mountain views and taste your way to an understanding of the local whisky.. Learn the legends of Loch Ness firsthand, then hike through the purple heather in Cairngorms National Park – smack bang in the Scottish Highlands.
You only have to look around to see why Scotland is praised for its natural landscapes and historic buildings. Rolling hills, rocky cliffs and undulating valleys speckled in myriad colours, pristine lochs shimmering even on the coldest of days, and castles dotted throughout the countryside as if you’ve been transported back in time. With an 8-day exploration of Scotland’s Highlands, lochs and villages, you’ll experience the finest of nature with the warmest of hospitality. Discover the untouched Isle of Skye, the expansive landscapes of Cairngorms National Park, and hit both Scottish hubs of Glasgow and Edinburgh on your way through. With the right amount of small-group adventure, local knowledge and stunning scenery, let the Scottish Highlands enchant you.
Breakfast Included: 7 Lunches Included: Dinner Included:
Glasgow is a city full of character, history and flair, and has recently been designated a UNESCO Creative City of Music. Widely recognized as a major international musical centre it is the largest music economy in the UK after London. Meet with your group leader and fellow travellers at an important welcome meeting at 6 pm. If you do happen to arrive early, why not check out the Riverside Museum and get your hands on their interactive displays – these exhibitions highlight Glasgow’s transport history as being a major port city in the 18th and 19th centuries. Otherwise, have a stroll along the banks of the river Clyde and hang out at the Glasgow Green. After your important meeting, you could get your group together and become acquainted over dinner – Merchant City is a pretty cool area for a ‘fish supper’ or a pint tonight. Spend the night in Glasgow, before beginning your countryside travels tomorrow morning.
Leave the city behind this morning as you take the train to Fort William. This is no ordinary ride so make sure you’ve got a good view out the window – the West Highland Line has some of the most beautiful scenery in Scotland. The urban landscape is quickly replaced with a windswept panorama of the untouched Highlands as the line skirts the edge of Loch Lomond and ascends from Crianlarich to Upper Tyndrum and wild Rannoch Moor. You’ll arrive in the early afternoon with time to explore the town with your leader. Fort William's namesake old fort has a part in the dark history of the 17th-century Glencoe Massacre. Visit nearby Old Inverlochy Castle, on the banks of the river that feeds the loch. This is on the site of possibly the oldest castle in Scotland. Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the Isles, looms in the distance, and you can take a gondola to the top of one of the smaller peaks in the Nevis Range for incredible elevated views of this wild region. Enjoy a free evening to enjoy Highland hospitality and be sure to try some great local produce for dinner.
Glenfinnan / Isle of Skye
Complete your journey on one of the world’s most spectacular scenic railroad lines, soaking in the scenery as the train winds its way along the coastline and across the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct. The viaduct is one of the best-known in Scotland as it plays a part in the route of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts Express. The train line ends at the port town of Mallaig, and you’ll hop off the train and onto a ferry – as the Scottish song goes – over the sea to Skye. When you reach the isle – the largest island in the Inner Hebrides archipelago – you’ll take a private transfer along the winding roads past the Cuillin mountains to Portree, the capital of Skye that sits on the loch of the same name. Enjoy some free time to explore this colourful port, then join your leader in a local bar for a pre-dinner whisky tasting. You’ll get an inside insight into what makes this region the home of some of the best whisky in the world.
Isle of Skye
This morning, it’s time to get exploring the Isle of Skye, beginning with a hike around Portree Bay with your leader – there are few better ways to wake yourself up after an evening of whisky tasting than fresh sea air and mountain views. Then the rest of the day is yours to use as you like. Skye is perfect for those who are searching for rugged mountainous landscapes and some unique wildlife, so you might head out to the striking Old Man of Storr rock formation, take a local bus out west to Dunvegan Castle, or hire a taxi to visit Neist Point Lighthouse via Milovaig (one of the best places to see otters on the island) and on to the mystical Fairy Pools. But we also wouldn’t blame you if you just wanted to find the perfect pub to hole up in and chat with the locals.
Loch Ness / Highlands / Cairngorms National Park
This morning, travel from Portree to the famous Loch Ness, crossing the Skye Bridge to return to the mainland. On the way you’ll stop by the memorable sight of Eilean Donan Castle. This castle, first inhabited in the 6th century, is perched on an island where the three great sea lochs meet and is an iconic Scottish image. You’ll also stop in Fort Augustus on the shores of Loch Ness to check out the fantastic valley, and head out on an included boat cruise. There are few better ways to take in the legends of the famous long loch, and you’ll see Cherry Island, Fort Augustus Abbey and, maybe if the conditions are right (hint: they never are) the famous resident monster. Continue on to Kingussie, located deep in the heart of the Scottish Highlands in the Cairngorms National Park, and your base for the next two nights.
Highlands / Cairngorms National Park
This morning, venture into the countryside on a scenic hike to the peak of Creag Bheag (approximately 3-4 hours). Follow the trail to the peak, offering sweeping views across the national park. From above, you begin to understand how expansive, fertile and green the land is around as you peer over Loch Gynack and back towards the village. Once back down in Kingussie, you have the afternoon to explore at your own pace. There’s a number of galleries and craft shops to explore, plus a nearby golf course and horse-riding experiences. Otherwise, it’s also possible to head to the town of Aviemore – a popular historic hub deep in the Cairngorms region and only a short train ride away. Aviemore has plenty of outdoor activities on offer. Try your hand at archery or if it's a hot day you could head to nearby Loch Morlich to check out the highest altitude beach in Britain, a favourite hangout for locals.
Today, you’ll board a local train to head from Kingussie to the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. The journey will take around 3 hours and you will cross the iconic Forth Bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage listed cantilever structure completed in 1890, crossing the Firth of Forth. Edinburgh is a compact hilly city full of charm and character, with the imposing Castle guarding from above. Edinburgh is designated a UNESCO Creative City of Literature, being the birthplace and home to world-famous writers, poets and playwrights including Arthur Conan Doyle, Walter Scott, and JK Rowling. This afternoon, set off on a walking tour with an Edinburgh local. Your guide has been trained by Invisible Cities, an inspiring social enterprise who support and train locals who have experienced homelessness to become tour guides. See the top sights from a different angle, including the Scottish Parliament buildings, the Royal Mile and Canongate Cemetery, and give back to the community at the same time. Wind up in a local community café for a cup of tea and a scone. The rest of the afternoon is at your leisure, so perhaps stroll around the Old Town, get acquainted with the fairy-tale Dean Village neighbourhood, or head out to portside Leith for eclectic shopping and some great restaurants. In the evening, why not get your group together for some dinner and spend the night sharing stories and memories of your adventures. Edinburgh knows how to have a good time, and a fun thing to do is begin in the Old Town, then cross North Bridge to party in the New Town.
With no activities planned for today, you are free to leave any time after breakfast. If you wish to spend more time in enigmatic Edinburgh, we don’t blame you – with a history of over 10,000 years, there’s so much to see and do. We’ll be happy to organise additional accommodation for you (subject to availability).