Take a food walking tour in Glasgow which will benefit local food banks.. Jump aboard the Jacobite Steam Train across the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which is one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world.. Enjoy a whisky tasting at Glen Ord Distillery.. A local kilt fitter will give you a talk on the history of this iconic Scottish garment.
With jagged mountains, tranquil lochs and rolling greenery throughout its national parks, the Scottish Highlands are a place of enduring charm. Yet this endurance doesn’t simply end there – it’s a part of the Scottish spirit. Traditions such as the Highland Games have lasted before recorded history even began and have gone on to influence on a global scale – even playing a part in the revival of the Olympics. The kilt, a distinctive part of Scottish culture, returned as a bastion of clan and highland culture after 35 years of oppression by British law. Highland dancing, bagpipe performances and tests of strength all feature heavily on this adventure, showing the undying fortitude of the Scottish spirit as you experience the Highland Games and the culture surrounding it.
Welcome to Scotland – home to bagpipes, kilts and the mythical Loch Ness Monster. Begin this adventure by attending a group meeting at 6 pm. You can arrive at any time during the day, as there are no activities planned prior to the meeting – however it’s best that you check in with hotel reception or the notice boards as to when and where this meeting takes place. Your insurance details and emergency contact information will be collected, so please ensure you have all of this information readily available to give to your leader. Tonight’s activities begin with a welcome dinner, granting the opportunity to get acquainted with your companions for the next 14 days.
Communities have existed around Glasgow for millennia, mainly due to the city’s location on the River Clyde which has historically granted bounties of fish. The city has since grown from a small rural settlement to the largest seaport in Great Britain, serving as one of the island’s main hubs of transatlantic trade from the 18th-century onwards. These days, Glasgow is known for its well-established urban culture – attractive bars, world-class restaurants and a respectable music scene. That’s not to mention the galleries, museums and fashion stores, all great options to investigate if you’ve got time before the group meeting.
Start the morning with light scottish breakfast, as your walking food tour of Glasgow commences from 11 am onwards. A late morning to early afternoon of tastings will be experienced in six different restaurants, specialty shops and independent, family run businesses, all considered to be local artisans due to the quality and selection of the dishes and products they make. Wrap your mouth around over 20 different food items, some of which have yet to be tasted by locals. In addition to tasting great food, exploring Glasgow and enjoying some famous Scottish banter, this event benefits the local community with £5 from each ticket sold being donated to a local food bank. The tour providers strongly believe that nobody in the community should go hungry, nor should they go unnoticed in their time of need.
You may have a little free time in the afternoon to explore a couple of the many sights around Glasgow such as the Gallery of Modern Art, offering a variety of city owned displays that highlights the interests, influences and working methods of artists from around the world. Alternatively, perhaps get a taste for the city’s Victorian architecture, wandering by the Glasgow City Chambers, George Square or even to the Lighthouse Museum of Architecture itself for a more in-depth look into this facet of the city.
Loch Lomond, Glencoe & Fort William
Share a breakfast with the group in the morning before taking a scenic drive towards Fort William. The true treat of this leg of the journey lies in the majestic Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, where a sightseeing walk awaits. Travel onwards through the fourth largest national park in the British Isles, starting at the national park visitor centre near the southern end of Loch Lomond before taking in the views of the area – the stillness of the water and tranquillity of the hillsides may take your breath away.
After leaving Loch Lomond and arriving at Glencoe, pause for a moment and take in the local scenery. The village is surrounded by spectacular mountains which have featured in numerous films, including Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as the home of Hagrid, along with the James Bond film Skyfall. It may be of interest to note to note that in Ian Fleming’s original Bond novels, Glencoe was written as the birthplace of James Bond’s father Andrew Bond.
After a brief visit to Glencoe, push onward to Fort William. Known as the second largest city in the Scottish Highlands, Fort William was named after Prince William, the Duke of Cumberland. It now serves as a bustling tourist hub, offering excellent hiking opportunities in the surrounding hills.
Scotland can lay claim to a wide range of wild and weird sports, yet as far as history goes, it doesn’t get more fascinating than shinty. Shinty began in the 6th-century as training for warriors – the skills of a keen eye and a deft throw were crucial in ancient battles. The game has taken some refinement over the ages, but the determination required to emerge victorious remains steeped in those war-like origins. The game is fast paced, physical and requires the use of a stick, drawing comparisons between lacrosse and field hockey. The similarities are evident – yet there are two important differences between both sports. In shinty, the ball can be played in the air and both sides of the stick can be used. Tackling and blocking with the stick are also permitted, along with shoulder-to-shoulder body tackles. Witness a fast paced shinty match in action today with your group, watching sweat, blood and tears as both sides battle each other for glorious victory. A local character will join you to guide you through the rules and regulations of this fascinating game.
Isle of Skye
Awake in Fort William and enjoy breakfast with your group before travelling from the hotel to the Jacobite Steam Train at 9.30 am.
It’s safe to say that the Steam Train will prove one of the more memorable parts of this trip – this Peregrine Moment takes the group on “the greatest railway journey in the world”, aptly named as the 84 mile round trip passes a list of impressively picturesque Scottish locations. Starting near the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis, it visits Britain’s most westerly mainland railway station, Arisaig. The train then passes close by the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, Loch Morar right on towards the shortest river in Britain, River Morar. Finally, the train skirts the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis. The train comes to a stop en route to Mallaig at the village of Glenfinnan, peering over the arches of the iconic viaduct for a view of this place made famous by the Harry Potter movies.
Upon arriving at Malliag, stretch your legs and wander onto the nearby ferry before transferring to Armadale on the Isle of Skye. Keep watch for the jagged peaks of the Cuillin mountain range, towering in the background of the city as the ferry pulls into port. The Isle of Skye is well known for rugged landscapes such as these – there’ll be plenty of opportunities to witness these tomorrow.
Isle of Skye
After waking up and sharing breakfast with the group, depart on a scenic drive around the Isle of Skye. This half-day trip starts at Trotternish Peninsula, made famous for the towering Old Man of Storr rock face and the Quiraing’s unusually dramatic rock formations. Travel to the Skye Museum of Island Life to take a step back in time and experience a 100-year old township of thatched cottages, preserved as an authentic part of highland living. Behind the museum lies the Flora MacDonald Memorial, the Jacobite heroine who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape from Scotland after being defeated at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Afterwards, travel back to Uig where you’ll spend the night.
Once breakfast has finished, take a free morning to explore Portree, capital of the Isle of Skye. Spend some time to wander past the pretty painted houses sitting in the port, along with the pier designed by famous civil engineer Thomas Telford, the Aros centre which celebrates the town’s Gaelic heritage or consider heading to the Royal Hotel, former site of the MacNab’s Inn where Flora MacDonald and Bonnie Prince Charlie last met in 1746.
Transfer over to your accommodation in the Scottish highlands. Along the way, stop off at Eilean Donan, a small tidal island where three sea lochs meet. A picturesque castle sitting in the middle of the island dominates the landscape and can be reached by the restored bridge that connects with the nearby mainland. Take some time to explore the area, perhaps taking a few photos of this surreal region and one of the most picturesque sites in Scotland.
Loch Ness & Aviemore
After breakfast, begin travelling towards Aviemore in the Cairngorms National Park, the largest national park in the British Isles.
En-route, you'll visit one of Scotland's most famous attractions, Loch Ness, home to the mythical Loch Ness Monster. You'll have a little time to stretch your legs and take in your surroundings, including the ruins of Urquhart Castle where you can almost imagine the battles that have taken place on this dramatic site over the course of a thousand years of history.
After lunch, it's then just a short drive to Glen Ord distillery which was founded in 1838, making it one of the oldest in Scotland. Here you'll watch the distillers at work, take a tour of the exhibition and try a wee dram of malt whisky before continuing to your hotel in Aviemore.
After enjoying breakfast, the group heads to a wee kilt shop to meet Margaret and her colleagues.
The history of the kilt stretches back to at least the end of the 16th century – The word ‘kilt’ itself comes from the Scottish word meaning to tuck up the clothes around the body. The small kilt, a closer adaptation of the modern kilt seen today, did not develop until the late 17th or early 18th century and is essentially the bottom half of the larger, more traditional great kilt. Following a ban of highland culture in 1746 by King George that lasted for 35 years, the kilt would later come to represent Scottish national identity, even going as far as to represent different regions and then clans through specific tartan patterns. More information surrounding the cultural and historic importance of the kilt will be explained during the your time here.
The then group splits two ways: those who would like to have a kilt fitting and those who would like to explore the village. It's very traditional for gents to be fitted for a kilt before their first ceilidh and the Peregrine hosted ceilidh takes place the following evening.
In the afternoon join your Tour Leader for a relaxed walk around Loch An Eilean (approx. 2hrs). Loch An Eilean’s small ruined castle and picturesque surroundings create a magnificent setting for taking photographs. You’ll also visit Loch Morlich which sits at the foot of the Cairngorm mountain range in the heart of the Cairngorm National Park. Your Tour Leader will arrange the order and duration of these excursions to suit the preferences and mobility of the group.
After breakfast, take a drive to Pitlochry. The town is steeped in Victorian charm, full of old stone buildings and a peculiar cast iron canopy that hangs over one side of the main street. Traditionally, Pitlochry annually hosts their version of the Highland Games on the first Saturday of September since 1852, bringing out song, dance and ultimately the strongest that the Gaelic world has to offer. It’s been said that the Highland games influenced Baron Pierre de Coubertin when he was planning the revival of the Olympics after witnessing a display at the Paris Exhibition of 1889.
Put your own strength to the test with a series of Peregrine Moments during this iconic event, starting off with a meeting with the convener of the heavies. Learn how to practice hammer throwing and caber tossing with some practice equipment in a local park.
Your second Peregrine Moment comes in the evening, where an expert teaches you and some locals how to perform a traditional Scottish dance. This includes a tuition session in this ceilidh (social gathering), where a lot of friendly interaction with the cheerful townsfolk takes place. The men dress up in kilts while the women bring an evening dress and wear available accessories. To sweeten the deal, the highland custom of ‘bring your own bottle’ applies here so there’s a chance to have a drink with everyone during the evening.
After awaking in the morning and enjoying an included breakfast, head to Braemar for the annual Braemar Gathering, held every year on the first Saturday of September.
Gatherings in Braemar have been a tradition since the days of old, stretching back to 900 years ago when King Malcolm Canmore was in power. The gathering, known colloquially as “The Games”, serves as the township’s version of the traditional Scottish Highland Games. The event has taken a variety of changes since times of old – its present form has been running annually since 1832 and has earned the distinction of traditional attendance from the British Royal Family. Large crowds congregate upon the grounds to acclaim their clan’s monarch as the chieftain of the gathering as people face off against each other in tests of might and skill. The foot races held at the Braemar Gathering are said to be the world’s oldest, having been organised on a regular basis since the event began.
Spend the day watching this clash of the clans as people partake in events such as the traditional throwing of hammers, putting the stone and tossing the caber with additional competitions of throwing weight and over the bar submitted for contemporary interest. Events such as pipe bands, solo bagpipe performances, dancing and a good old-fashioned tug-o-war round out the prior events, creating a day of rounded cultural interest and significance – it’s obvious how much of an effect these Scottish games have had on the Olympics as a whole.
Depart from Braemar after breakfast and travel onwards to Edinburgh, a cultural jewel in Scotland’s crown. There’s plenty of options to witness some of Scotland’s architectural prowess along the way with stops at Stirling Castle, The Kelpies and a view of the Forth Rail Bridge.
Stirling Castle stands as one of the most important castles in Scotland, both historically and architecturally. Boasting an incredible level of defences, including the natural advantage of sitting upon steep cliffs, the castle also served as the location where several Scottish kings and queens were crowned. You'll step inside for a public tour of the castle.
The Kelpies of Falkirk are a pair of 30-metre-high (98 feet) sculptures of horse heads, completed in October 2013 and designed by sculptor Andy Scott. The name reflects the mythological transforming beasts that possess the strength of 10 horses – the statues representing the power and endurance of Scotland’s waterways.