10 Day Tour of the Orkneys & Outer Hebrides. Departs from Edinburgh on Wednesdays and Fridays April to September. Tour includes accommodation. Small Coach Tour.
Day 1 - edinburgh to inverness
Depart Edinburgh Bus Station in St Georges Square at 09.00 heading west towards Stirling, passing Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument. You also pass Doune Castle (set of Monty Python’s “Holy Grail”) before stopping in the small town of Callander for a refreshment stop.
You now cross over the fault line into the magnificent Highlands taking in the splendour of Loch Luibnaig, Loch Earn, Glen Ogle and Glen Dochart, as you travel north over the wild and remote Rannoch Moor into Glencoe. The stunning views and spectacular landscapes of our own super (extinct) volcano and scene of the infamous massacre of the Clan MacDonald in 1692, where many of the Clan MacDonald were slaughtered. You stop in this imposing mountain Glen so you can enjoy the spectacular views. You continue north up the Great Glen to the mysterious beauty of Loch Ness, travelling the whole 23 miles of the famous Loch - plenty of time to try and spot “Nessie!” You arrive at your destination of Inverness at approx 18.30 where you will be dropped off at your booked accommodation. The evening is free for you to explore the ‘Capital of the Highlands’.
Day 2: inverness to orkneys
Is an early start, leaving Inverness behind, crossing over the Black Isle, and past Andrew Carnegie’s Skibo Castle. From here you drive through the northeast Highland coastline, travelling into some of Scotland’s most dramatic scenery, and enjoy amazing views of some of Europe’s oldest landscapes and the chance to see wildlife such as Golden Eagles and Red Deer. Onwards through Scotland’s most northerly mainland village, John o’ Groats, and then to Gills Bay, where you board the ferry, crossing the Pentland Firth into the Orkney Archipelago. From here it is a short drive to the famous Italian Chapel where we stop for a visit before continuing to the Viking stronghold of Kirkwall, Capital of Orkney where you shall stay for 2 nights. Here you can visit Kirkwall’s magnificent Viking Cathedral and its historic winding streets.
Day 3 - on orkney
Is your chance to explore this fantastic, ancient island; a land of contrasts where fertile green pastures are fringed by shores of golden sands washed by waters of the North Sea and Atlantic ocean. You will visit the 5000 year old village of Skara Brae (older than the Pyramids of Egypt!), the mystical prehistoric stone circle at Brodgar and the Druidic Standing Stones of Stenness. We stop in Stromness - one of Scotland’s most picturesque seaboard villages and then travel onto Maeshowe, where in the 12th century the Vikings left one of the largest collections of Norse runic inscriptions. Then its back to Kirkwall for our 2nd night after what is sure to be a memorable day.
Day 4 - the north coast
Is a relaxed start to the day, as you leave Orkney and sail the Viking waters back to the mainland. From here you travel the old road right across the very top of Scotland, driving past the stunning Ben Loyal and Ben Hope mountains following the rocky cliffs and stunning golden sand beaches of our northern coastline. We then visit the far northwest highlands and the grandeur, expanse and wilderness of the mountains of Assynt before stopping to view the 15th century ruins of Ardvreck Castle. From here we travel to Ullapool, situated at the mouth of Loch Broom, a beautiful whitewashed fishing village where you will spend you next two nights. You will say goodbye to this group here, and will be collected by your new guide and group on the morning of day 6.
Day 5 - Ullapool
You have a free day in Ullapool to do as you please before joining up with your new crew the next day. There are many possibilities available in this lovely town, Options for your day include enjoying a day just to relax and absorb the highland tranquil pace of life whilst browsing the small craft boutiques nestling through the streets of the town. Or why not take the local boat, the ‘Summer Queen’ from the pier for an idyllic ‘summer Isles’ cruise. Alternatively you could head up Claypool Hill for an easy two hour walk offering wonderful views over Loch Broom reaching a maximum height of 900ft. Or for the even more adventurous add to this walk by completing a three hour circuit returning to the town via Rhiddoroch estate. (Full details of all local walks can be found at the local tourist information centre). There is also a local swimming pool, and a small museum giving an informative narrative about the natural and social history of the area.
Day 6 - Lewis
Catch the morning ferry from Ullapool for the 2 hour sail along Loch Broom, past the Summer Isles then out across the Minch to Stornoway – the main town on Lewis and capital of the Outer Hebrides. Look out for dolphins, whales and seabirds during the crossing. In the afternoon explore the North West coast from Arnol with its historic old “blackhouse”, through traditional crofting townships to Port of Ness and the very north tip of the island – the Butt of Lewis. From the lighthouse here there is nothing between you and the Americas! Overnight in Stornoway.
Day 7 - callanish & dun carloway
Today will be spent exploring some of the prehistoric remains on the island as well as its finest beaches. The fascinating circular stone fort, or Broch, at Carloway will be our first stop followed by more traditional crofting communities such as Gearrannan and Shawbost. Then its on to Callanish with its mysterious ancient stone circle. In the afternoon you will head for the remote district of Uig with its fine, sandy beaches at Bhaltos, dramatic sea cliffs and rugged hills. This is the wilderness of the Western Isles at its finest. Overnight again in Stornoway.
Day 8 - Harris
Travelling south today from the wild moorlands of Lewis to the more mountainous Harris – almost but not quite an island on its own. Famous for the locally produced cloth, Harris Tweed, it is also home to the highest mountains in the Outer Hebrides and the stunning white sands of Luskentyre. After a morning of exploring South Harris you will stop for lunch in the small port of Tarbet. Here you will catch the late afternoon ferry to Skye and continue on to the harbour town of Portree, your base for the next two nights.
Day 9 Skye
Is a very flexible day on Skye. There are many possibilities depending on the weather, your driver/guide’s knowledge will help develop the best day out for you. For example you might travel north to the stunning Quiraing mountain pass and enjoy a spectacular walk through some of Skye’s extraordinary geological scenery or visit the Kilt Rock, composed of basalt columns (reminiscent of the pleats in a kilt) with its waterfall cascading over the cliffs and down into the sea below. Or, after lunch you could travel to Neist Point for a walk out to the lighthouse at the most westerly point on Skye. Alternatively a visit to Dunvegan Castle, ancient ancestral seat of the Clan MacLeod, may be possible.
Day 10 - Return to Base
Departing from Portree the return journey to Edinburgh has many highlights – a visit to Eilean Donan Castle, Fort William and the dramatic scenery and dark history of Glencoe. Travelling back south through the Central Highland the last stop of the day will be in Killin beside the Falls of Dochart before returning to Edinburgh.