2017 Scottish Isles & Glens with London 15 Days / 14 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. Set out from your hotel and take a short drive through part of the Trossachs, often called “The Highlands in Miniature”. Embark on the steamboat “Sir Walter Scott” for a short cruise on Loch Katrine to admire lovely scenery. Return to your hotel and relax for a time before joining 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.” A short ferry ride will bring you to the Isle of Bute where a drive around the coast will reveal stunning sea and island scenery. Take a guided tour of the highly-decorated chambers of Mount Stuart House, built in the late 1870s for the 3rd Marquess of Bute. See the many Victorian comforts that were highly innovative for the era. Spend some time in Rothesay, the main town on the island. Return to your hotel for free time to relax before dining in your hotel once more.
Travel alongside the famous Loch Lomond, renowned for its unsurpassed beauty. Journey through Glen Coe, often considered one of Scotland’s most spectacular and beautiful places. Drive through Fort William and stop at a woolen mill for some refreshment and shop for Scottish goods. Continue your journey north to visit the romantic Eilean Donan Castle. The first fortified castle was built in the 13th century, rebuilt several times and partially ruined in 1719. Check in to your charming family-owned hotel near Kyle of Lochalsh.
Today explore the Isle of Skye and its Bonnie Prince Charlie associations. He fled to the island after his defeat at Culloden Moor. Travel to Dunvegan Castle, stronghold of the Chiefs of MacLeod for nearly 800 years, making it the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland. View priceless family heirlooms and stroll through formal gardens. Stop in Portree for a look at brightly-painted houses that cluster around the bay. Return to your hotel for free time before dinner.
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 a living for the people in this region. Take a brief drive around the town and check in to your hotel.
Today explore the northernmost section of the Highlands which is sparsely populated with remote hamlets. See huge tracts of bogland, rugged mountains, coastline and vast areas of open land. Learn about the Highland Clearances, a tragic period of history when many peasants were forced off the land and emigrated to the United States, Australia and other countries. Continue to John O’Groats, the most northern place on the British mainland and take a nearby ferry to the Isles of Orkney, enjoying dinner on board. Check in to your hotel in central Kirkwall.
Today explore the Isles of Orkney. Drive across the Churchill Barriers, created during World War II to deter German submarines. Discover the charm of the tiny Italian Chapel, built from two Nissen huts with elaborate paintings. View the Ring of Brodgar, a circle of tall, prehistoric standing stones. Visit Skara Brae, a 5,000-year-old village with remains of dwellings and then return to Kirkwall to see 12th century St Magnus Cathedral. Enjoy leisure time in the afternoon and evening to browse around the town and dine independently.
Return by ferry to the mainland and drive down the east coast to 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. Take a walk through the well-tended castle gardens. 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 which was destroyed in Jacobite wars. Stop at the Culloden Battlefield Visitor Centre to learn about the conflict where Bonnie Prince Charlie was defeated in 1746, which ended the clan system in Scotland. Walk around the moor and see monuments to the various regiments who lost men. 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 in front of your hotel.
Drive past the majestic scenery of the Cairngorm Mountains to visit Leault Farm where skilled dogs obey commands to round up sheep. Continue south to Pitlochry to visit Blair Athol Distillery, Scotland’s smallest, which is set in a picturesque location outside the town. See how whisky is distilled and enjoy a tasting at the end of the tour. Drive to your hotel in Edinburgh and then head to a Scottish Evening where you’ll dine on excellent Scottish cuisine followed by a lively show.
This morning discover Edinburgh on a sightseeing tour. See the wide streets and elegant mansions of the 200-year-old Georgian “New Town” and walk along a section of the Royal Mile, the oldest part of the city where some houses reach 11 stories tall. Tour the imposing Edinburgh Castle to see historic buildings, the Stone of Scone and the Scottish Crown Jewels. Also appreciate great panoramic views over the city from the ramparts. The afternoon and evening are free. On July 29 to August 14 departures enjoy the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at Edinburgh Castle.
Transfer to the train station in central Edinburgh and enjoy a comfortable ride to London, a journey of about 5 hours. As you travel south, admire panoramic views of the Scottish and English scenery and towns. On arrival in London, transfer to your hotel. The evening is free for dining on your own and there is no shortage of great restaurants.
Today explore London at your own pace on an open-top bus tour to see the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square and more. You may also take a walking tour and a cruise on the River Thames. Visit the Tower of London to view the magnificent Crown Jewels, guarded by Beefeaters in distinctive Tudor uniforms and visit some of the historic towers where important historic events have taken place. You may prefer to visit Kensington Palace, home of Princess Diana.
Spend a full day for exploring this great city further as your hop-on, hop-off voucher is valid for 48 hours. You may use your voucher for the Tower of London or Kensington Palace today. Be adventurous and take an excursion outside the city to some of the many famous places within easy reach.
Your tour ends after breakfast so transfer to Heathrow Airport for your flight home. (B)