2017 Scottish & Irish Glens 17 Days / 16 Nights
Your Scottish trip starts at 3:00 pm when you meet your tour director at your hotel, located in the village of Drymen, 20 miles north of Glasgow. Take a short drive through the Trossachs, often called “The Highlands in Miniature” and embark on the steamboat “Sir Walter Scott” for a short cruise on Loch Katrine. Join your tour director and travel companions for a welcome drink before dinner.
Journey across a scenic Highland route and over the mountain pass of “Rest & Be Thankful.” Take a short ferry ride to the scenic Isle of Bute to tour the highly-decorated chambers of 19th century Mount Stuart House. Spend time in the town of Rothesay before returning to the mainland.
Travel alongside the famous Loch Lomond and journey through the deep valley of Glen Coe, often considered one of Scotland’s most spectacular and beautiful places. Continue through Fort William and take a break at a woolen mill. Visit the romantic Eilean Donan Castle, first built in the 13th century, rebuilt several times and partially ruined in 1719. Check in to your family-owned hotel near Kyle of Lochalsh.
Explore the Isle of Skye, associated with Bonnie Prince Charlie. Tour Dunvegan Castle, stronghold of the Chiefs of MacLeod for nearly 800 years to view priceless heirlooms. Stop in Portree for a look around and view the amazing natural formations of Kilt Rock.
Enjoy Highland scenery as you drive north along the west coast to visit Inverewe Gardens, where a haven of trees and shrubs was created from 50 acres of bleak headland in 1862. The varied plantings thrive due to the warmth of the Gulf Stream. Continue to Ullapool, an active fishing and ferry port that was built in 1788 to provide employment. Take a brief drive around the town and check in to your hotel.
Head to the northernmost section of the Highlands which is sparsely populated. Learn about the Highland Clearances, a tragic period of history when crofters were forced off their lands. Continue to John O’Groats, the most northern place on the British mainland. Take a ferry to the Isles of Orkney and enjoy dinner on board. Check in to your hotel in central Kirkwall.
Explore the Orkney Isles starting with a drive across the Churchill Barriers to see the Italian Chapel. View the prehistoric standing stones of the Ring of Brodgar and explore the remains of Skara Brae, a 5,000-year-old village. Return to Kirkwall to see 12th century St. Magnus Cathedral and dine independently.
Return by ferry to the mainland and visit Dunrobin Castle, dating to 1275 but renovated in the mid-1800s. With 189 rooms this is the largest mansion in northern Scotland. Visit chambers containing priceless artifacts, including the dining room, music room and library with over 10,000 volumes. Continue south to your hotel in the center of Inverness, the principal town in the Highlands.
Cruise into Loch Ness to visit the picturesque ruins of Urquhart Castle, once Scotland’s largest castle. Stop at the Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre to learn about the conflict where Bonnie Prince Charlie was defeated in 1746 and monuments to the many brave regiments. Stop for photos at Clava Cairns, a prehistoric burial place with a circle of standing stones that inspired the “Outlander” books. Return to Inverness in time to relax, shop or walk alongside the River Ness.
Visit Leault Farm where skilled dogs obey commands to round up sheep. See how whisky is distilled at Blair Athol Distillery and enjoy a tasting at the end of the tour. In Edinburgh head to a Scottish Evening to dine on excellent Scottish cuisine followed by a lively show.
This morning discover Edinburgh on a sightseeing tour. See the 200-year-old Georgian “New Town” and walk along part of the Royal Mile, the medieval heart of the city. Tour the imposing Edinburgh Castle to see historic buildings, the Stone of Scone and the Scottish Crown Jewels. Enjoy great views over the city and an afternoon and evening at leisure. On July 29 to August 14 departures attend the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle.
Depart Edinburgh early this morning and drive south through Ayrshire and along the coast. At Cairnryan take a ferry ride to Belfast and enjoy lunch on board. Close to the Belfast ferry terminal in the heart of the docks, visit Titanic Belfast to learn about this famous liner through state-of-the-art displays. Drive south to Dublin and check in to your centrally-located hotel. You are free to dine independently.
Enjoy the morning at leisure or use your included open-top bus tour voucher. At 2:00 pm meet a local guide and tour central Dublin to see Trinity College, public buildings, tranquil parks and rows of Georgian houses. Take a guided tour through historic Dublin Castle, seat of government for centuries. Dine at the Merry Ploughboy Pub and enjoy a great show.
Depart Dublin and stop for photos at the stately Rock of Cashel. Visit Blarney Castle to kiss the famous “Stone of Eloquence” and shop at the Blarney Woollen Mills. Drive to Killarney, picturesquely set beside lakes and mountains. Check in to your hotel and relax before dinner. Afterwards you may like to head to a “singing pub.”
Today embark on the Ring of Kerry drive – a winding route with awesome mountain and coastline views. Watch a local farmer and his dogs herding flocks of sheep. Cross to Valentia Island by bridge to visit the Skellig Experience which describes nearby islands. Enjoy an informal lunch and pause at Moll’s Gap for stunning views before returning to Killarney.
Take a ferry ride across the River Shannon Estuary and view the Cliffs of Moher, a spectacular wall of sandstone that reaches 700 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. Enjoy free time before heading to Bunratty or Knappogue Castle for a memorable medieval-style feast with a program of song and harp music.
Your tour ends after breakfast.
B: Breakfast; L: Lunch; D: Dinner