A wonderful car tour of the stunning Shetland and Orkney Isles off the far north coast of Scotland, plus some of Scotland's finest castles and gardens on the way. Includes 9 nights accommodation (2 of which will be on the ferry to and from Shetland) and ferry costs. Available from April to October.
||St Andrews - Perth
||Aberdeen - Stonehaven
||Aberdeen – Lerwick Crossing
||Shetland - Orkney
||Orkney – Kirkwall
||Kirkwall – Aberdeen Crossing
||Aberdeen - Edinburgh
Day 1 Arrival – Edinburgh Area
Arrive at Edinburgh/Glasgow Airport and pick up your car. Today you can visit Edinburgh Castle or do a short city tour. Overnight in the Edinburgh area.
Day 2 St Andrews – Perth
Today you will visit St Andrews, (1) the home of the oldest university in Scotland and capital of golf with its famous and prestigious Old Course. The remains of the 12th century cathedral, the largest in Scotland and the medieval layout of the town are still visible.
You will also see the 13th century castle overlooking the North Sea, where, during the Reformation, many evil deeds took place in the “Bottle Dungeon”. You will enjoy the traditional small shops and the beautiful sea views.
In the afternoon you can visit Scone Palace, (2) the home of the Earl of Mansfield. Scone is a castellated palace, enlarged and embellished in 1803, incorporating the 16th century and earlier palaces. The Moot Hill at Scone, known in the 8th century and earlier, was the site of the famous Coronation Stone of Scone (The Stone of Destiny), brought there in the 9th century by Kenneth MacAlpine, Kings of Scots. In 1296, the Stone was seized by the English and taken to Westminster Abbey. In 1997 the Stone was returned to Scotland and is now in Edinburgh Castle.
Overnight in Perth Area.
Day 3 Speyside/Deeside – Aberdeen
As you continue your drive North, you will drive towards Aberdeen, through Speyside and Royal Deeside. You can visit Glamis Castle (3) home of the Earl of Strathmore, famous for being the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, and birthplace of Princess Margaret. The present castle was built in the 17th century. One of the oldest parts is Duncan’s Hall, legendary setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
It is worthwhile to make a detour to see Balmoral Castle, (4) the Highland family home of the Royal Family since 1852. Queen Victoria visited the earlier castle in 1848 and Prince Albert bought the estate in 1852. The new castle was designed by Prince Albert and William Smith and was completed in 1855. You will see a display of carriages, an exhibition of paintings, works of art and royal tartans in the Ballroom, and the grounds and gardens.
You can also visit Crathie Church by Ballater, where the Royal Family attends services when they are staying at Balmoral Castle. And don't forget about Crathes Castle, a sixteenth century castle built on lands granted to the Burnett family in 1323 by King Robert the Bruce. You will see the remarkable original painted ceilings and a collection of Scottish furniture, some contemporary with the building of the castle. You will admire its famous walled garden containing eight separate gardens designed for colour combinations.
Overnight in Aberdeen or area. (A)
Day 4 Aberdeen and area – Lerwick
You will take a city tour of Aberdeen, known as the granite city. Aberdeen is a maritime city with a story going back to its foundations as a royal burgh in 1124. In olden times, the city had strong trading links with Scandinavia and the Low Countries across the North Sea. Today, Aberdeen’s harbour is a base for offshore oil and gas developments. Aberdeen has one of the most distinctive townscapes in Scotland, thanks to the use of silver granite, used from the 18th century onward. You will see Duthie Park and its Winter Gardens, the largest covered display of roses (1 hectare) in Europe and Aberdeen University, one of the oldest in Scotland.
Afternoon you can visit Stonehaven, a former fishing village with a picturesque harbour, and Dunnottar Castle, (5) a spectacular ruin 50 metres above the sea and an impregnable fortress to the Earls Marischals of Scotland. The castle was the site for the successful protection of the Scottish Crown Jewels against the might of Oliver Cromwell’s army. The castle was also the scene of Zeffirelli’s Hamlet.
After a full day touring Royal Deeside or Speyside check into your private cabin on the ferry to Lerwick. Relax in one of the well-stocked bars and enjoy a delicious dinner in the restaurant.
Overnight on the ferry Aberdeen - Lerwick (17.00 or 19.00hrs).
Day 5 Shetland
On waking up in Lerwick, start your exploration of Shetland by travelling south where you will find the main tourist attractions. Visit Mousa Broch, (6) the finest surviving Iron Age broch tower on its own little island. Step into the life of a Shetland crofter at the Shetland Croft House Museum and, one of the highlights of Shetland, explore the Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement. (7) Back in Lerwick learn some of the history of the islanders at the Shetland Museum, or drink some of the local ale in one of the pubs.
Overnight on Shetland.
Day 6 Shetland - Orkney
A trip to Shetland would not be complete without looking at the wildlife. Its dramatic cliffs, sculpted by the sea are a perfect breeding ground for migrating birds, the most popular with the tourists being the Puffin. Seals are also plentiful and easily seen lazing on the rocks or the white sandy beaches, and a must is the famous Shetland pony, which always provide a good photo opportunity. Shetland is also known for its jewellery, which has a strong Viking influence, and you can visit the workshops and see the items being hand made.
Late in the afternoon it will be time to board the ferry again for the 5½-hour journey to Orkney (17.30 or 19.00).
Overnight on Orkney.
Day 7 Orkney
Today you will have the opportunity to tour much of Main Island and visit the key prehistoric sites of the Ring of Brodgar (8), Stones of Stenness (9), Maeshowe (C), and Skara Brae (D). Standing within the circle of the Stones of Stenness preferably on an early spring day it is easy to imagine prehistoric people gathering here. A few yards away at Barnhouse Neolithic Village, the entrance to the largest building was aligned to the setting of the midsummer day sun. One mile distant the burial chamber of Maeshowe is directly illuminated only at midwinter solstice and the Ring of Brodgar also part of this great ceremonial centre may have been used to track the movements of the moon, such is the magic of this place. Travelling to Skara Brae on the west of Main Island you step back 5,000 years. Here, preserved for millennia under sand dunes, the prehistoric village of Skara Brae remained undisturbed until 1850 where a great storm revealed the village for the first time. What is so surprising are the parallels with modern man, there are box beds, stone seats, dressers and cupboards and damp proofing.
Departing Skara Brae you return to the 21st Century continue onto your accommodation for overnight on Orkney.
Day 8 Orkney
Today you will have the opportunity to visit St Magnus Cathedral, the best example of Norman Architecture that has survived in Scotland. The cathedral dominates the town but only yards away are buildings of comparable significance in the ruins of the Bishop’s Palace and the Earl’s Palace. The Earl’s Palace has been described as “the most mature and accomplished piece of Renaissance architecture left in Scotland”. After visiting the historical sites in the centre of Kirkwall you can then enjoy a walk along the winding flagstoned main street, which is lined with houses dating from the 16th century. In this bustling thoroughfare you can shop for jewellery, pottery, amber, traditional knitwear, and a vast variety of Orkney food. Before departing Kirkwall no visit to the Orkneys would be complete without a visit to the island’s only whisky distillery, Highland Park, which was established over two hundred years ago and still uses the same traditional methods. Enjoy a tour of the distillery with a tasting of one of Scotland’s finest malt whiskies. Among the many attractions on Orkney is Scapa Flow, the scene of momentous events during both world wars. Visit the series of causeways known as the Churchill Barriers. Winston Churchill was responsible for the construction of the causeways between the islands and here the wrecks of a number of block ships can be seen as well as what is known as the “The miracle of Camp 60”, The Italian Chapel. (E) Among those who worked on the Churchill Barriers were Italian prisoners of war. Far from home, unhappy with the climate, they found religious consolation through the unlikely form of two Nissan huts. These were lined with plasterboard then painted with a beautiful fresco. With further embellishments the chapel became a moving monument to those lost in war. Late afternoon you reboard your ferry for the final leg of this extension back to Aberdeen.
Overnight on ferry (23.45).
Day 9 Aberdeen – Edinburgh
You will wake up back in Aberdeen, refreshed and ready to carry on with your itinerary. Drive back to Edinburgh, where you can start off with a city tour of Edinburgh where you will appreciate the contrast between the 18th century Georgian "New Town" with its wide, tree lined streets and elegant squares and the medieval "Old Town". The Royal Mile is the backbone of the old quarter, running from the Palace of Holyroodhouse to Edinburgh Castle. You will visit Edinburgh Castle which dominates the city from its 400 foot rock where you will see the Scottish crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny, now back in Scotland where it belongs. You can also visit the private apartments of Mary Stuart and St Margaret's Chapel, the oldest building in the city which dates back to the 11th century. You will visit The Palace of Holyroodhouse the official residence of the Queen in Scotland. The oldest part is built against the monastic nave of Holyrood abbey, little of which remains. The rest of the Palace was reconstructed for Charles II. Here Mary, Queen of Scots lived for 6 years, here she met John Knox, and here Rizzio was murdered and here Prince Charles Edward Stewart held court in 1745. You will visit the State Apartments which house tapestries and paintings.
You will enjoy a visit to the Scottish Parliament. Scotland's new Parliament sits at the foot of Edinburgh's famous Royal Mile in front of the spectacular Holyrood Park and Salisbury Crags. Constructed from a mixture of steel, oak, and granite, the complex building has been hailed as one of the most innovative designs in Britain today. The tours take you from the Main Hall to the floor of the Chamber to see where the MSPs meet to debate and decide on the issues that matter to the people of Scotland. You will also visit a Committee Room and explore further into the building, to allow views of the MSPs office block and historic Queensberry House.
Day 10 Departure
Sadly this is the last day in Scotland. Drop off your hired car at the airport and check in for your flight home.