Day 1: Edinburgh
Welcome to Edinburgh! Having cleared customs, you will be greeted by your driver, holding a sign displaying your name, at the information desk in the Arrivals Halls. You will be escorted to your chauffeur-driven car, and your luggage taken care of and loaded into the vehicle. Then you will be driven safely and in comfort to centrally based accommodation. On arrival your driver will unload your luggage. Today, you will enjoy a city tour on board the Edinburgh City Hop on Hop off Sight- seeing Bus. The bus will help you compare Edinburgh’s Old Town to the elegant Georgian New Town, with its 3 main streets and square at either end. Learn about the hangings that took place in the Grassmarket as you marvel at the impenetrable Castle Rock above you, and hear about historic attempts to capture Edinburgh Castle. Drive along the Royal Mile, which joins Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Today you will visit Edinburgh Castle. See the Crown Jewels and learn about the battles and sieges fought at the castle. Also you will learn about the royals who lived and died within its walls. From the Castle you will see the panoramic views over Edinburgh City. Explore Edinburgh City at your leisure this evening or retire to your centrally based accommodation to rest.
Overnight: Edinburgh – 2 Nights
Day 2: Edinburgh
After a good night’s rest, continue your exploration of Edinburgh on board the Hop on Hop off Bus. The bus will be your mode of transport around the city and will transfer you between attractions. Discover the Georgian architecture as you pass through Edinburgh’s New Town. Perhaps visit the Royal Botanic Garden before you leave the city centre and head towards the coast at Newhaven to visit the Royal Yacht Britannia. The Royal Yacht Britannia was home to Her Majesty The Queen and the Royal Family for over 40 years, sailing over 1,000,000 miles around the world. Now berthed in Edinburgh, you can follow in the footsteps of Royalty to discover the heart and soul of this most special of Royal residences. As you return to the city centre, you will visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse, known today as Queen Elizabeth II’s official Scottish residence.
Day 3: East Neuk & St Andrews
Take delivery of your Avis Car Rental at 24 East London Street, Edinburgh EH7 4BQ and travel north into Fife. Set off on a coastal trail and pass through some picturesque fishing villages of the East Neuk coastline. Elie and Earlsferry, St Monans, Pittenweem, Anstruther and Crail are among them. Continue to St Andrews, a former royal burgh named after Saint Andrew the Apostle. The town is home to the University of St Andrews, the third oldest university in the English-speaking world and the oldest in Scotland. Perhaps find a place for lunch before leaving. Afterwards, you will travel to the fair city of Perth which was once the capital of medieval Scotland. Follow in the footsteps of countless kings and explore the unique collection of porcelain, ivories and French furniture with a visit to Scone Palace. Scone Palace was the crowning place of Scottish kings where Macbeth, Robert the Bruce and Charles II were once crowned. Continue onto the bustling town of Pitlochry where you will visit Blair Athol Distillery, home to Bell’s Whiskey, for a fine whiskey tasting. Time permitting you may consider a visit to Blair Castle, the ancient seat of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl and home to Europe’s last remaining private army, the Atholl Highlanders. The remainder of the evening will be at your leisure.
Overnight: Pitlochry – 1 Night
Day 4: Royal Deeside & Aberdeen
Make your way through the Cairngorm’s this morning and descend into Braemer in the heart of Royal Deeside. From here you will begin your castle trail. Royal Deeside is home to many fine castles and has more castles per square mile that just about any part of Scotland. Today you will visit Braemer Castle, a 17th century castle with a colourful past and an exciting future. Built by the Earl of Mar in 1628, it has been hunting lodge, fortress, garrison and family home. See the castellated turrets, a star shaped curtain wall and a bottle necked dungeon. You will also see Balmoral Castle where Her Majesty the Queen traditionally spends her annual holiday time. Perhaps stop for lunch in the old railway town and now a picturesque “Victorian” village of Ballater which is surrounded by glorious county side including the River Dee. Continue your Royal Deeside tour as you make your way towards Aberdeen. On route there will be an opportunity to visit Banchory where just south of the town is the 18th centuary Brig O’ Feugh where you might see the salmon leap. The castle trail also continues as you pass by Crathes Castle and Drum Castle before arriving in the city of Aberdeen for your overnight stay.
Overnight: Aberdeen – 1 Night
Day 5: Moray Speyside & Inverness
Spend some time this morning exploring Aberdeen. You might consider visiting St Andrew’s Cathedral or King’s College before departing. From Aberdeen, make your way towards the thriving village of Dufftown. Dufftown is the malt whisky capital of the world and is the central point on The Malt Whisky Trail in Scotland’s Speyside. The Whiskey Trail is made up of eight distilleries and a cooperage. Included are Benromach Distillery, Speyside’s smallest working distillery and Strathisla Distillery, the oldest in the Highlands. Other distilleries include Cardhu, Dallas Dhu, Glen Grant, Glen Moray, Glenfiddich, The Glenlivet and Speyside Cooperage. Continue along the Moray coast where you will discover some picturesque fishing villages, secluded coves and magnificent beaches. Perhaps make a brief stop in Elgin with its cobbled marketplace and crooked lanes. See the historic ruins of the 13th century cathedral which was damaged in a fire in 1270 and again in 1390 following an attack by the Earl of Buchan in revenge for his excommunication by the Bishop of Moray. In 1402 the cathedral suffered another attack by the followers of the Lord of the Isles. It lost its roof a few years after the Reformation, and the central tower collapsed in 1711. The cathedral is crucial to the history of Elgin and is steeped with evidence of that history. Travel through the seaside town of Nairn and arrive at Inverness which sits on the banks of the River Ness. You will see Inverness Castle, now used as a court house, which sits picturesquely over the city. Explore some of the historic buildings in the Old Town, browse some of the city shops or enjoy a great selection of cafes and restaurants this evening.
Overnight: Inverness – 2 Nights
Day 6: Inverness
Continue your exploration of Inverness today with a visit to Culloden Battlefield. You will learn aboutthe battle which took place on 16th April 1746. The battle marked the end of 1745 Jacobite Rebellionand is still a moving place to visit. Uncover the background to this ferocious and brutal battle as youwalk around the moorland and see the various monuments commemorating troops. Enjoy lunch at your leisure before leaving. Time permitting you might like to see the Clava Cairns which are a well-preserved Bronze Age cemetery complex of passage graves; ring cairns, kerb cairn and standing stones in a beautiful setting which date back to 4000 years. A short drive will take you to Cawdor where you will pay a visit to the romantic 14th century Cawdor Castle. Cawdor Castle is steeped in intrigue and history and is best known for its literary connection to William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth. Continue along the Moray Firth and enjoy a visit to Fort George. Built after the Jacobite risings in 1769, Fort George has remained a mighty example of European military architecture. See the garrison buildings, artillery defences and collection of arms which give a captivating insight into 18th century military life. The balance of the day will be at your leisure. Perhaps take a wander along the Moray Firth and keep an eye out for its resident population of dolphins. There is also an abundance of sandy beaches or riverside walks, the Harbour, shops and restaurants to enjoy before returning to Inverness for a relaxing evening.
Day 7: Loch Ness & Isle of Skye
Depart Inverness and travel along the shores of Loch Ness. There will be an opportunity to explore the impressive ruins of Urquhart Castle before turning into the wilderness of Wester Ross and the mountains of Kintail. Today you will pay a visit to one of Scotland’s most iconic castles, Eilean Donan. The castle is situated on its own island and looks out over the Isle of Skye. Witness some truly outstanding scenery at the point where three great sea-lochs meet. Cross over Skye Bridge and head for Broadford where you might like to break for some lunch. Enjoy the wonder the wonderful views over the bay before continuing forth to the Island capital, Portree. With colourful houses and a traditional harbour, Portree overlooks a sheltered bay and has an old fashioned yet charming appeal. Enjoy an abundance of cafes and restaurants this evening.
Overnight: Isle of Skye – 2 Nights
Day 8: Isle of Skye
Today you spend some time touring the Isle of Skye. Perhaps enjoy a scenic drive along the dramatic Trotternish Ridge to view the spectacular cliffs and rock formations. Make sure to include a stop at Lealt Waterfall and Kilt Rock where Mealtfalls plummets off the cliff side for 60m into the Sound of Raasay below. Perhaps take a stroll at the Quiraing mountain pass before you continue on to explore the magic of the fairy glen. Discover the delightful miniature Highland landscape and legendary home of the ‘wee people’! Proceed in a westerly direction where you will visit Dunvegan Castle & Gardens, the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod. Built on a rocky outcrop on the shores of Loch Dunvegan once entirely encircled by the sea, Dunvegan is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland. If time permits, carry on to the most westerly point of Skye and walk to Neist Point lighthouse for spectacular views to the Western Isles. Spend some time marvelling at the dramatic sea cliffs and perhaps even the sea birds and marine wildlife. Continue along the dramatic west coast as you return to Portree. Perhaps make your last stop of the day at the intriguing Dun Beag near Straun. Perched on top of a rocky knoll, the remains of the tower-like structure strand around 2m high and 11m wide. Even in its ruined state, Dun Beag shows the ingenuity of Scotland’s Iron-Age farmers. Inside, three openings are still visible in the broch wall. One leads to a chamber or perhaps a guard room. Another leads you to a long narrow galley and the last takes you to a stone stair that rose to the wall head. Twenty steps still survive. If anything, a visit to Dun Beag is worth the marvellous views across Loch Bracadale towards the Western Isles.
Day 9: Oban
Return to mainland Scotland this morning. On route to Oban you might like to like make a brief stop at Fort William which lies in the shadow of Ben Nevis. Just a few minutes from the town is Glen Nevis, one of Scotland’s most picturesque Highland glens. Afterwards you will travel through Scotland’s most famous and most scenic Highland glen, Glencoe. Experience the dramatic beauty and breathtaking serenity of this vast sweeping pass. Arrive in Oban, the Seaford Capital of Scotland. The town is situated in a crescent occupying the hills surrounding Oban Bay. See McCaigs Tower, the Colosseum lookalike which stands dramatically over the town and perhaps if you like you could even climb from the town as the 10 minute walk is well worth the effort as you can witness the peaceful gardens inside the tower and the spectacular views over the town and nearby islands. Enjoy a wide selection of cafes and award winning restaurants this evening.
Overnight: Oban – 2 Nights
Day 10: Oban
Today you will visit the historic Oban Distillery which is both one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland and one of the smallest with just two pot stills. Pre-dating the town of Oban, it was originally established in 1794 by brothers John and Hugh Stevenson. It underwent a refurbishment in the 1890s and there has been little change to the present buildings since then. The distillery’s tours offer visitors the chance to witness the traditional craftsmanship of whisky production first-hand before enjoying complimentary drams of the Oban 14 year old West Highland Malt. The balance of the day will be at your leisure. Oban is known as the “Gateway to the Isles” as regular ferries leave for Mull, Coll, Tiree Barra, South Uist, Islay, Colonsay and Lismore. Perhaps enjoy a day trip to the Isle of Mull and visit the islands distinctive castles and villages. Mull is only 45 minutes by ferry from Oban. Alternatively, travel along the coast to visit Dunollie Museum, Castle and Grounds which was once a formidable stronghold of Clan MacDougall.Explore the Castle and historic grounds with woodland walks, gardens and stunning views over Kerrera, North Lorn and the islands beyond. Perhaps take a stroll along the enchanted Dunollie Woodland trail and learn about the woodland life and folklore before reaching the mysteriously hidden Willow Garden.
Day 11: Glasgow
Depart Oban this morning and make your way towards Glasgow. Visit the romantic Inveraray Castle & Gardens on the shores of Loch Fyne and discover one of Scotland’s finest stately homes. See the famous Armoury Hall containing some 1300 pieces including Brown Bess muskets, Lochaber axes and 18th century Scottish broadswords. Other rooms open to the public include the fine State Dining Room and Tapestry Drawing Room. The castle’s beautifully maintained 16 acre garden and 60,000 estate offers some fantastic beautiful walks. Continue to Glasgow via Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. Loch Lomond is the largest freshwater expanse in mainland Britain. Mountains loom to the north, while a scattering of islands can be found at the south end of the loch. Pretty villages such as Luss line the loch’s western shores. A short detour will take you to Stirling to visit the iconic Sterling Castle, one of Scotland’s most historically important sites. It was once a favoured residence of the Stewart kings and queens who held grand celebrations at the castle. Arrive in Glasgow where you will return your Avis Car Rental at 70 Lancefield Street, Glasgow G3 8JD. Enjoy a city tour on board the Glasgow City Hop on Hop off Sight-seeing Bus. The ticket is valid for 48 hours and you can use it to see all the famous Glasgow landmarks in ease and comfort and then use it to transfer you between the attractions that interest you most. Perhaps today you may consider a visit to one of Scotland’s most magnificent medieval buildings. Glasgow Cathedral is the only one on the Scottish mainland to survive the Reformation of 1560 intact. Explore Glasgow City at your leisure this evening or retire to your centrally based accommodation to rest.
Overnight: Glasgow – 2 Nights
Day 12: Glasgow
Continue your exploration of Glasgow on board the Hop on Hop off Bus today. Explore the rich cultural heritage of the city through its museums and wonder at the amazing paintings in the art galleries, such as the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum. Stroll through the picturesque parks and marvel at the flora in the Botanic Gardens. See the famous People’s Palace and get acquainted with the main landmarks of the city. Stroll though the market squares and shop for some local crafts and souvenirs to take home with you.
Day 12: Depart
This morning you are transferred to Glasgow Airport in plenty of time to check in for your departure flight.
Slan Go Foill (Goodbye For Now!)