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Our Highland Experience: A 5-Day Tour of Highland Scotland
SUMMARY: You could spend a lifetime exploring the Scottish Highlands but in just five days you can experience iconic castles, majestic mountains, and mysterious lochs; you’ll even have time taste uisge-beatha, whisky, the water of life.
As we travel through the Highlands we’ll have time to discuss history and culture, sample food and drink, while appreciating the stunning and ever changing landscape.
HIGHLIGHTS & KEY LOCATIONS: Highland Scenery, Stirling Castle, Scone Palace, Distillery Visit, Inverness, Culloden Battlefield, Loch Ness, Ben Nevis, Fort William, Glencoe.
DURATION: 5 Days.
ITINERARY: The tour given below both starts and ends in Edinburgh but can be readily altered to begin or end in any of Scotland’s major cities.
Day 1: After collection from your hotel we will make a brief photo-stop at the iconic Forth Bridges before heading north on our Highland Experience. We will explore Stirling Castle and hear how, because of its strategic importance, linking the Highlands and Lowlands, it became known as the ‘Brooch that pinned Scotland together’. Situated on a rocky crag, Stirling Castle is a truly magnificent example of a royal Scottish Castle. The beautifully decorated Royal Palace, home to James V; the magnificent Great Hall built by James IV; and the elegant chapel built by James VI, allow us to experience what life was like in a 16th century Royal Court.
After lunch in a traditional Scottish pub we will drive to Scone Palace, ancestral home to the Earls of Mansfield and enthronement site for the ancient Kings of Scotland. After visiting this beautiful palace we will head north across the Highland Boundary Fault to the picturesque village of Dunkeld, located on the banks of the River Tay. Overnight in the neighbouring town of Pitlochry.
Day 2: After breakfast we will make the short trip to Blair Castle, seat of the Dukes of Atholl and home to the only private army in Scotland. Here we will hear the family’s history and the role they played in the Jacobite uprisings (recently dramatised in the Outlander TV series).
Next, we will continue to make our way northwards through the Grampian mountains to Dalwhinnie, the highest and coldest working distillery in Scotland. Using water from a loch at 2000 feet, located on an old drove road, Dalwhinnie continues to thrive in extreme conditions. We will have time to tour the distillery, learn about the whisky making process and sample the excellent product. For those with a sweet tooth, the handmade chocolates are also excellent.
Today’s journey ends with a drive through The Cairngorms, Scotland’s largest National Park, to Inverness; arriving in time for a late afternoon stroll along the River Ness. Overnight in Inverness.
Day 3: This morning we will journey east along the Moray coast to the historic town of Elgin. We will visit the weaving mill at ‘Johnstons of Elgin’ an iconic Scottish brandname noted for their lambswool and cashmere, before wandering through the ruins of Elgin Cathedral. Even as a ruin it is easy to appreciate how this grand and ornate building earned its name the ‘Lantern of the North’; take the time to explore and you should find Scotland’s tallest gravestone!
Returning west we will have time for a photo-stop at some Pictish carvings and lunch in one of the local fishing ports or market towns, before arriving at the evocative pre-historic site of Clava Cairns. The Standing stones here are said to have been the inspiration to Diana Gabaldon when writing her Outlander novels. Our last stop of the day will be at the haunting Culloden battlefield and war graves; site of Bonnie Prince Charlie’s final defeat and the last battle on British soil. We’ll tour the award winning visitor centre and take the time to walk the length and breadth of the battlefield, visualising opposing lines of soldiers in the landscape to understand exactly how the battle became a slaughter lasting little more than an hour. Overnight Inverness.
Day 4: Today we will follow the route of the Caledonian Canal from Inverness to Fort William through the Great Glen; the massive geological fault line that cuts through the Scottish Highlands. We will see five lochs along the route; Loch Dochfour, Loch Ness, Loch Oich, Loch Lochy, and Loch Linnie, but Loch Ness with tales of its famous monster is where we will spend most of our time. We will cruise on the loch and visit the picturesque Urquhart Castle, standing sentinel over the northern end of this ancient communications route, before heading south to Fort Augustus; once home to a garrison of government troops, now the best place to appreciate the engineering behind Thomas Telford’s Caledonian Canal.
The remainder of the day will include photo-stops to view Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain before arriving in Fort William. Overnight near Fort William.
Day 5: The last day of our Highland Experience will take us through some of the best scenery in Scotland; Glencoe, The Trossachs, and Northern Perthshire. Our first stop will be Glencoe ‘The Weeping Glen’, today a beautiful and majestic valley in any weather but notorious in Scottish history as the site of an infamous massacre of 1692. We will then head south and west across the bleak and desolate landscape of Rannoch Moor in the northern section of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs national Park; Scotland’s first. There’s be the opportunity for a number of photo-stops before we arriving in Balquidder, final resting place of Rob Roy MacGregor, Scottish outlaw, Clan Chief, and hero; made famous by the novel of Sir Walter Scott and, more recent, the film starring Liam Neeson.
We will lunch in one of the traditional towns or villages of northern Perthshire before heading to the beautifully formal Drummond Castle Gardens. The final leg of our journey will take us through Gleneagles, with its famous golf courses, and the Ochil Hills before returning to Edinburgh.
OVERNIGHT STOPS & ACCOMMODATION: 4* accommodation is available at all overnight locations on this tour, but we are happy to advise on a range of alternatives from family run B&Bs to restaurants with rooms.
PHOTO OPPORTUNITIES: As you would expect on this tour there will be photo opportunities galore!
(NB. although photography is generally not allowed within distillery production areas, there are opportunities to take photos in certain places during distillery visits).