Encompassing Scotland’s dramatic Highlands, great glens and idyllic islands, the 11-day Spirit of Scotland itinerary is packed with incredible experiences and led entirely by a Blue Badge National Escort.
From riding the iconic Jacobite steam train to cruising two of the country’s greatest lochs and touring the Royal Yacht Britannia, discover the very best of Scottish heritage, culture, engineering and landscapes. Take in the full scale of Scotland’s majesty, from energetic Edinburgh to magical Mull and scenic Skye, and immerse yourself in the dramatic history of this proud and spirited country, with visits to the castles and battlefields that shaped its tumultuous past.
Touring with Guides and entrance fees
Breakfasts: 10, Lunches: 9, Dinners: 10
10 nights in 4 star accommodation
Max Group Size: 24
Physical Rating 1
Walking, some steps and time on your feet
Arrive in Edinburgh
Begin your tour of Scotland in iconic Edinburgh. Scotland’s energetic capital city is overflowing with historic architecture and cobbled streets, all watched over by the hilltop Edinburgh Castle. It won’t take you long to spot your first kilt or to hear the sound of bagpipes on the breeze! Check in at the hotel and enjoy time at leisure before the guide’s group briefing and the welcome dinner.
Edinburgh’s Royal Mile & Holyrood Distillery
Our first day of touring begins with an orientation walk along Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile, from Holyrood Palace to Edinburgh Castle. En route, see St Giles’ Cathedral and hear the stories of the famous buildings and statues of Scottish figures dotted along the route. Arrive triumphantly at the wonderful Edinburgh Castle which its great views over the city, and enjoy an interior visit of the stronghold to see the magnificent Scottish Crown Jewels and exhibitions major historical artifacts. After lunch, enjoy some free time at the National Museum before a visit to Holyrood Distillery, where we enjoy a tour and tasting of both whisky and gin!
Royal Yacht Britannia and the Falkirk Wheel
Discover two major feats of Scottish engineering today. Begin with a 20-minute drive out of Leith to see the Royal Yacht Britannia, the incredible former floating residence of Queen Elizabeth II, who travelled all over the world on this ship carrying out diplomatic visits and missions. Britannia is a tale of two ships – discover the elegant, 5* royal quarters at the back of the ship, followed by the functional naval half of the ship in the front. Enjoy a local lunch before heading an hour west by coach to reach the Falkirk Wheel boat lift. This is another major engineering success, which employs clever physics to lift ships almost effortlessly from one canal to another 35 metres above. Our hotel tonight is in Stirling.
Stirling Castle & Drive to Inverness
Discover Stirling Castle, one of Scotland’s most iconic and strategically important castles. Until the Union of the Crowns in 1603, almost every Scottish monarch lived, was crowned, or died in this castle. Explore the castle’s vast interior, from the Middle Age-era Great Hall to the central turreted gatehouse and the Royal Chapel. Standing on the ramparts of this hilltop castle, looking out at the incredible views of the Scottish countryside, you can’t help but feel immersed in history. Continue out of Stirling and take the road to Inverness, with a stop to explore the town of Aviemore en route.
Loch Ness & Culloden Battlefield
Enjoy a full day tour of the countryside around Inverness. We’ll begin the day with a scenic, two hour cruise around Loch Ness, home to Scotland’s shyest monster! Whether Nessie appears or not, you’ll enjoy incredible views of the dramatic castle ruins on the banks of the loch, and hear stories about the history of these shores. After lunch, continue to Culloden Battlefield, Britain’s best-preserved battlefield. Dating back to 1746, Culloden was the site of the last pitched land battle ever fought on British soil. Hear the tragic story of the last stand of the Jacobites, and how a forty-minute battle changed the fortunes of Scotland forevermore. The emotional visitor centre will provide all the context you need before you head out onto the battlefield itself to see the gravestones of the clans who gave their lives here.
The Isle of Skye
Drive southwest from Inverness through the Great Glen, passing the scenic Eilean Donan Castle and the Five Sisters of Kintail en route to Skye today. On Skye itself, take in stunning views of the Cuillin Mountains before heading to lovely Portree, known for its painted houses and beautiful bay views. Next, head to the town of Talisker where you will meet Mitch, a local legend on Skye and a professional ghillie (wilderness guide). Mitch will share stories of his life on Skye, as well as local history and wildlife, and talk about the foraging and wilderness survival techniques which he applies in his regular job on Skye. Finally, end the day with a visit to the beautiful Fairy Pools of Glenbrittle, a natural waterfall which feeds a series of beautiful blue pools that are a favourite with Scottish photographers.
Ride the Jacobite Steam Train
Frequently described as the most scenic train journey in the world, there is nothing quite like a trip on the Jacobite Steam Train. Today, drive to Fort William to embark on an 84-mile round train trip. Starting in the shadow of Ben Nevis, pass by rushing rivers, jagged mountains and some of Scotland’s deepest lochs en route to the seaside town of Mallaig, where we spend an hour and a half exploring. The train will pause to take in the scenery from the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct, a 21-arch bridge, 380 metres long, which carries the train 100ft above the river below.
Isle of Mull by ferry
Look out for seals and harbour porpoises on your 45-minute ferry journey from Oban to the beautiful Isle of Mull. Spend a day on this idyllic Hebridean isle, with softer and gentler hills than Skye, and look out for its abundant wildlife including Scotland’s largest population of golden eagles. Drive up to the main town of Tobermory to admire the colourful houses that line its picture-perfect waterfront, and visit Tobermory Distillery for a tour and tasting of their celebrated and limited-edition whiskies and gin. Return to Oban this evening.
Oban Town Tour & Loch Lomond Cruise
Start the day with a walking tour of Oban to hear a bit of the local history. Start with a brief visit to the little Oban War and Peace Museum, a small but intriguing museum focusing on the strategic use of Oban by the RAF and the Royal Navy during WWII. The museum displays lots of uniforms, medals and models of important ships of the time. Back out on the walk, pass by 19th century St John’s Cathedral, and enjoy a walk along the seafront to St Columba’s Cathedral, the seat of the local Bishop. Continue 90 minutes to Loch Lomond, where you’ll enjoy a scenic, hour-long boat trip around the southern part of the loch. No monsters in this one, but some lovely stately homes overlook Loch Lomond, along with the magnificent mount of Ben Lomond. The loch is dotted with lots of tiny islands, blanketed by the ever-changing deciduous trees that mark the passing seasons. Disembark the cruise and drive an hour south for the city of Glasgow, where we spend the night.
Architecture of Charles Rennie Mackintosh in Glasgow
Discover the incredible architecture and atmosphere of Glasgow, and get to grips with this industrial Scottish city once known as the ‘second city of the British Empire’. Our today focus on the impressive architectural designs of Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928), a Glaswegian architect whose designs can be seen all across the city. Learn all about Mackintosh on a visit to the Lighthouse, also known as the Centre for Design and Architecture, before enjoying a special last lunch at the elegant and airy The Willow Tearooms, lovingly designed in the style of Mackintosh himself. Afterwards, we’ll head out of the city to visit Hill House, an elegant family home in Helensburgh which is considered one of his greatest works. Every detail, inside and out, was created by Mackintosh and his wife Margaret MacDonald specifically for the commissioners, the Blackie family. The house cost the equivalent of £750,000 in today’s money!