Islands, Islands, Islands of Scotland
With the Islands of Mull, Iona, Staffa, Lunga, Skye, Barra, Vatersay, Eriskay, South Uist, Benbecula, North Uist, Berneray, Harris, Lewis, the Orkney Islands with Hoy, Lamb Holm, Glimps Holm, Burray and South Ronaldsay and the Shetland Islands with Yell and Unst.
May 7th - May 27th, 2024
This will be our farewell to the Islands and the last Islands, Islands, Islands tour that we offer. Nothing instills the imagination and will inspire you more than an adventure in the Scottish Islands. If you have never experienced the Isles of Scotland, I cannot do them justice in just a few words! In 2019 we increased the number of days in our 17 Day Highlands and Islands tour to 21 days and focused entirely on the islands. It was our first ever 21 day tour and we were somewhat hesitant about offering it, but from the very beginning these tours were beyond amazing! This is the most challenging tour we offer as it includes so many ferry crossings, but it is also the most rewarding as we do not know of any other company large or small who offers as many islands in just one tour! It has definitely become our signature tour.
This tour is limited to just 10 people for a more personal experience and to allow you to get the most of your Scottish holiday. Keeping the tour size small gives us the opportunity to veer from the beaten path and take advantage of accommodations, restaurants and sightseeing venues that would not be available to larger groups. You may find yourself staying in a delightful city guest house, a small country house hotel, a comfortable farmhouse and an old coaching Inn all in the same visit. We hope to show you the real Scots people and some of the wonderful sights to be seen all over this beautiful country. You will not feel rushed and we spend as little time on the bus as possible.
Tour price includes all accommodation in Scottish Tourist Board Approved accommodations. Full Scottish breakfast each morning and all meals listed in itinerary. Porterage of one suitcase per person. Minibus travel including tour guide. All ferry crossings including 2 overnight ferries in your own stateroom. Knowledgeable guide for all tourist venues. All sightseeing as indicated in itinerary including any entrance fees. All taxes and service charges.
$10,995 per person.
$1495 single supplement. All singles filled.
$500 per person deposit to reserve your spot.
Pre-Tour - May 6th - Arrive into Glasgow International Airport and make your way to the Glasgow Airport Holiday Inn. You will have the day to rest up and get adjusted to the time change before the tour starts. Overnight near Glasgow.
Day 1 - May 7th - This morning we make our long drive towards the Western Islands. Our drive will take us through the Trossachs National Park with a few photo op stops along the way. We will also stop at St. Conan's Kirk, spectacularly sited over Loch Awe. You will fall in love with this wee Romanesque Church! Designed and built by Walter Douglas Campbell, the kirk is unique in having an example of almost every style of church architecture. Highlights include the Norman Doorway, the Gothic Flying Buttresses, a Celtic Cross, the Arts and Crafts Carvings, the Saxon Tower and even a Stone Circle. After some exploring we make our way to Oban known as the Gateway to the Isles. It has a lovely seafront with great shops and lovely walks. Upon arrival we will Stop for lunch and then take some time to explore before we take a short ferry ride across to Craignure on the Isle of Mull. We then drive to the other end of the island to Tobermory where we get settled into our accommodation before gathering for a Welcoming Dinner. Dinner and Overnight Tobermory, Mull. (B,L,D)
Day 2 - May 8th - Today we make our first stop at Duart Castle, home of the Macleans. Standing proudly on a cliff top guarding the Sound of Mull, Duart enjoys one of the most spectacular and unique positions on the west coast of Scotland. For over 400 years this has been the base of the Clan Maclean's sea-born power. You will have some time to wander the grounds and you may want to also visit the Castle Shop before we make our way to Fionnphort on the other end of the island where we catch the wee passenger ferry across to the small and very beautiful Isle of Iona where we will Stop for Lunch. After lunch we will explore the 800 year old Iona Abbey where St. Columba began his crusade in the year 563. It is said that 48 Scottish Kings are buried in the abbey graveyard. While here you will also want to visit the Nunnery and St. Oran's Chapel. We then make our way back to Fionnphort and take the scenic route back to Tobermory where you can find some dinner on your own. Overnight Tobermory, Mull. (B,L)
Day 3 - May 9th - This morning we depart the dock at Tobermory to take a Treshnish Isles Cruise. The journey around Mull's West Coast affords an abundance of wildlife and stunning views on a comfortable journey to enjoy the dramatic surroundings. At Lunga, we spend time ashore with the Huge Colonies of Puffins and other sea birds. This is an experience you will never forget and will delight in every moment! Then we are at sea again as we go in search of Dolphins, Eagles, Whales and Basking Sharks, the perfect mix of wildlife and scenery. From Lunga we cruise to the Isle of Staffa, the most dramatic of all the Scottish islands with the geological splendour of its Hexagonal Pillars and Fingal's Cave. While onour way to Staffa we will have our Packed Picnic Lunch and keep an eye out for Dolphins, Porpoises and Minke Whales which are often seen during the warmer months. Once back in Tobermory you will have some time on your own before dinner. Dinner and Overnight Tobermory, Mull. (B,L,D)
Day 4 - May 10th - This morning we start our journey to the Isle of Skye with a short ferry ride from Tobermory across to Kilchoan on the mainland. After we reach Lochaline our journey will take us through spectacular scenery from Ardtornish, Strontian and Glenluig and several lochs including Sunart, Shiel and Morar and along the spectacular coast to fishing village and ferry port of Mallaig. The journey is full of spectacular scenery and we will make a few stops along the way including the Prince's Cairn. The Cairn commemorates the departure point of Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1746, following the unsuccessful 1745 uprising. Once in Mallaig we will stop for Afternoon Tea in a lovely spot overlooking the water. The bustling and thriving port of Mallaig is situated on the north west coast along the famous Road to the Isles. The town is a fascinating place where visitors can soak up the atmosphere of a working fishing port. We will take some time to walk around and explore before we take another ferry ride across to Armadale on Skye. We then make the drive north to the Waternish Peninsula and our home for the next 2 nights. Dinner and Overnight Skye. (B,L,D)
Day 5 - May 11th - This morning we journey to Dunvegan to visit Dunvegan Castle which has been the stronghold of the Chiefs of MacLeod for nearly 800 years and it remains their home. Built on a Rock once surrounded entirely by salt water, it is unique in Scotland as the only house of such antiquity to have retained its family and its roof throughout the centuries. You will be able to find some lunch in Dunvegan before we journey round the Trotternish Peninsula with its spectacular coastline. We will stop at the grave site of Flora MacDonald at Kilmuir. Flora is best known for her brave act in helping Bonnie Prince Charlie escape after the battle of Culloden, We will also visit The Quiraing being one of the most exciting natural rock formations anywhere in Scotland We will also stop to see some of the other natural rock formations on the island. Next we visit Portree, meaning port of the king. You will be able to explore this delightful harbour village before we make our way back to our accommodation once again before a dinner outing. Dinner and Overnight Skye. (B,D)
Day 6 - May 12th - This morning we make our way to Uig where we take the ferry across to Lochmaddy on North Uist. Once on North Uist our afternoon will be all about exploring landscapes and seascapes. North Uist is a stunning blend of beaches, machair lands and freshwater lochs interrupted by rolling dark moorland hills. The island is home to thousands of migrating birds on the marshy grassland. We will stop for a Picnic Lunch before exploring this end of the island and taking in the Balranald Nature Reserve. In spring, there is nowhere else like Balranald. Sitting outside the visitor centre offers a wonderful viewpoint of many rare species. As you sit, a Corncrake may start to call while Corn Buntings may arrive on the fence, singing to heart's content. A flock of black-tailed Godwits may rise from the wetland, and Lapwings may fly up and call their 'peewit' alarm in response to the arrival of a Peregrine. Wander down to the beach and see hoards of migrating waders. Some, such as the Ringed Plover, will stay and breed among the stones at the edge of the beach, but soon the Sanderlings and Turnstones will be off to their arctic breeding grounds. By that time the Terns will have arrived and the trail around Balranald will be noisy with their squabbling calls. Watch as a great Skua determinedly circles, and see how the Terns unite against the predator. Turn towards the sea and enjoy a pod of Porpoises which leap out of the water. Then, just to cap off your day, be stunned as a White-Tailed Eagle effortlessly soars over your head, before disappearing off in search of a meal. Dinner and Overnight North Uist. (B,L,D)
Day 7 - May 13th - We are up early this morning to drive to the bottom of South Uist and across the landbridge to Eriskay to take the ferry to the Isle of Barra. On Barra we will visit the archaeological monuments at Allt Chrysal, Bentangaval, which were discovered in 1990 during the archaeological survey which preceded the building of the Vatersay Causeway and it’s approach road. Excavations have revealed at least six phases of human occupation of this ‘preferred site’ overlooking the sound of Vatersay, beginning about 4500 years ago. If time permits we will also explore Kisimul Castle which for many generations Kisimul was the home and stronghold of the Macneils of Barr. On the way back we stop on the Isle of Eriskay where on 23 July 1745 the French Ship Du Teillay put ashore a small boat at a beach on the west side of the island. This is now called Coilleag a'Phrionnsa, which translates as "the Prince's Cockleshell Strand". Out of the boat stepped Bonnie Prince Charlie, the first time he had ever set foot on Scottish soil. Today the beautiful beach on which he landed is home to the white striped pink sea bindweed, a flower not native to the Hebrides. The seeds are said to have fallen from Charles' pocket as he removed a handkerchief. We then take the land bridge back across to South Uist and make our way back home to North Uist with a stop for dinner along the way. Dinner and Overnight North Uist. (B,L,D)
Day 8 - May 14th - This morning we make our way to to the Kildonan Museum Centre on South Uist. The centre is a heritage and cultural amenity which includes a museum, a craft shop, a Fèis room for ceilidhs, music and dance, a café and an archaeology room where finds can be cleaned and examined by visiting archaeology groups. We will explore this end of the island before stopping for lunch and then at North Uist Distillery on the Island of Benbecula. This family run distillery in the Outer Hebrides produces some of Scotland’s very finest artisan spirits including the multi award winning Downpour Gin range and their soon to launch Nunton Whisky. We will have a tasting tour and then make our way to the Island of Grimsay to visit Uist Wool. From the mesmerising opening shots of waves breaking on the shoreline we follow the journey of wool making from the croft to the mill for their classic light grey yarn, Siaban. Enjoy a glimpse of what it takes to create yarn on a Hebridean island, with a touch of intangible culture and wildness blended into each strand. We will see their natural undyed yarns and beautiful wool products produced here at the modern mill and inspired by the stunning surroundings of the Outer Hebrides. We then make our way back to North Uist and to our accommodation. Dinner and Overnight North Uist. (B,L,D)
Day 9 - May 15th - This morning we are up early as we traverse across the land bridge from North Uist to Berneray and to the ferry dock where the ferry will take us across to Leverburgh on the Isle of Harris. Once on Harris we make our way to Rodel where we visit St. Clements Church. The church was built in the late 15th century for the Chiefs of the MacLeods of Harris and in 1528, Alasdair Crotach MacLeod, 8th Chief, prepared for himself a magnificent wall tomb on the south side of the choir - possibly the finest medieval wall tomb in Scotland, being crowned by an arch and with ornate carvings of biblical design. We will spend the rest of the morning taking in all of the delights the Isle of Harris. We will stop at Northton Temple, an eroding prehistoric settlement mound from the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Beaker, and Bronze Age periods. A little further along the shore, on the headland of Rubh' an Teampuill, are the ruins of a small late medieval chapel, and next to the chapel are the footings of an Iron Age broch, which probably supplied the source of building stone for the chapel. We will also stop at the Macleod Standing Stone, a huge 5,000 year old standing stone erected to represent links with the land and the ancestors. We will stop for lunch along the way and then explore more of this amazing island before we make our way to Tarbert where we get checked into our accommodation before we meet up for dinner. Dinner and Overnight Harris. (B,L,D)
Day 10 - May 16th - As we are half way through the tour you will have today entirely on your own to rest up and get set for the second half of the tour. Nestled in a valley where North and South Harris meet, and set against a backdrop of rugged mountain peaks, the island’s main settlement of Tarbert serves as focal point and transport hub for the area. In Tarbert you will find the Harris Tweed Shop and Warehouse of Family Weavers before taking the ferry to the Isle of Skye. The shop an Aladdin's cave of Harris Tweed and Hebridean Wool items, from tea cosies to beautifully tailored Harris Tweed Jackets, iPad covers to hand knitted Hebridean Wool socks. Across from the shop is the warehouse where you will find the largest choice of Harris Tweed available. A rainbow of colours and designs stretch from floor to ceiling. There are Checks and Tartans, Plain, Herringbone and Overchecks, Houndstooth and the Kaona Collection all on show for you to browse through. You can also visit the Harris Distillery to take a tour and sample some gin. Overnight Harris (B)
Day 11 - May 17th - This morning we then cross the land bridge onto the Isle of Lewis where we make our way to the Callanish Standing Stones. Dating back over 4000 years, ranks second in terms of importance only to Stonehenge and is older. The main monument is an extraordinary cross-shaped setting of stones, centred on a circle of tall stones. At its heart stands a solitary monolith 15 feet high. Lines of smaller stones radiate from the circle to east, west and south. From the north runs an avenue 175 feet long, formed by two lines of stones that narrow as they approach the circle. Within the circle is a chambered tomb. We will also visit Dun Carloway Broch, the best preserved broch in the Outer Hebrides! We then make our way into Stornoway which is the capitol of the island. Here you can find some lunch, do some shopping and take a wee wander before we take the afternoon ferry from Stornoway across to Ullapool on the mainland. We will spend a short time in Ullapool before making our way further north to our accommodation and dinner. Dinner and Overnight Kylesku. (B,D)
Day 12 - May 18th - This morning we start our drive north toward Scrabster where we take the across to the Orkneys. I love the drive through the Assynt Mountains and Loch Assynt with its spectacular viewpoint. We continue through the mountains before we travel the Scenic Coastal Route to Thurso with some of the most spectacular scenery to be found anywhere in Scotland. Have your cameras ready as there will be several wonderful photo ops. On this coastline you will see some of the most amazing Beaches and Cliffs you have ever seen! We will make several stops along the way to explore a few beaches and take in the sights before we find a cozy place to stop for lunch. Much of the coastline is composed of sea lochs and kyles and including Loch Laxford, Kyle of Durness, Loch Eriboil, Loch Hope and the Kyle of Tongue. Our journey will eventually end up at the ferry terminal in Scrabster and you will be able to get some dinner onboard after we get under way on the short crossing to Stromness on Orkney. We then make our way to our accommodation before dinner. Dinner and Overnight Orkney. (B,L)
Day 13 - May 19th - This morning we make our way into Kirkwall where you will have some free time in Kirkwall, the largest city on the islands. While here you will want to visit St. Magnus Cathedral. Begun in 1137 this cathedral built from alternating bands of local red and yellow sandstone is one of the finest and best preserved medieval cathedrals in Scotland. It is dedicated to St Magnus, Earl of Orkney in the 12th century, at a time when Orkney was part of the Kingdom of Norway. He was killed on the orders of his cousin and rival Hakon, and many miracles were reported after this death. In 1137 Magnus’s nephew Rognvald began construction of the ‘fine minster’ in honour of his saintly uncle and Magnus’s relics remain interred in the pillars of the choir. We will then make our way out of Kirkwall to have lunch and then we spend some time exploring a bit more before stopping at Highland Park Distillery for a Distillery Tour. This whisky is made with the same enduring belief and integrity, to the same exacting standards, as it has been since 1798. We will have a tour of the distillery followed by a wee dram before returning to our accommodation before dinner. Dinner and Overnight Orkney. (B,D)
Day 14 - May 20th - This morning we will take the short journey to the Isle of Hoy. Synonymous with the world famous sea stack the Old Man of Hoy, Orkney's second largest island rises dramatically from the sea. With mountainous moorland and glacial valleys, you will encounter a dramatic highland landscape. Hoy is unlike anywhere else in Orkney. Once on Hoy we visit Dwarfie Stane, a huge block of sandstone in which a Neolithic Burial Chamber has been cut. It is believed to date from around 3000 BC and the tomb was formerly sealed by the blocking stone which now lies in front of the entrance. Hoy is also famous for its birdlife, including the much loved Puffin! We will have a Packed Lunch Picnic before we visit Hackness Martello Tower and Battery, part of the extensive military remains on the island. The tower and battery were built in the early 19th century to provide defence for British convoys at the height of the Napoleonic War. Barrack room furniture and other military memorabilia give an idea of life at the barracks and you can stand on the tower and take in the view towards Scapa Flow. Then back to the mainland for dinner. Dinner and Overnight Orkney. (B,L,D)
Day 15 - May 21st - Our first stop this morning is Maeshowe, the finest chambered tomb in Western Europe. Built before 2700 BC, it was raided by the Vikings in the mid-12th century and plundered of its 'treasures'. Maeshowe is interesting because of the various runic inscriptions carved into the walls. This is one of the best known collections and includes the Maeshowe Dragon - a very well known Orkney icon. Next we visit Skara Brae a neolithic village dating from 2,500 BC which has been hidden under sand dunes, perfectly preserved, for thousands of years and was only rediscovered 150 years ago. We will also visit the Broch of Gurness, one of the most outstanding surviving examples of a later prehistoric settlement that is unique to northern Scotland. The Vikings who settled in Orkney from around 800 often used the mounds of earlier settlement sites as burial places, and this was the case at Gurness. Next is the Ring of Brodgar, a stone ring built in a true circle originally containing 60 megaliths. Finally we visit the Standing Stones of Stenness dating from 3,100BC making the stones complex one of the earliest stone circles in Britain. You will be able to find some dinner in Kirkwall before we take in an Evening of Peatfire Tales before we board a ferry our late night ferry that will take us on an Overnight Voyage to Shetland. Overnight At Sea. (B,L)
Day 16 - May 22nd - This morning we arrive into Lerwick, Shetland, a natural world where wildlife is truly wild and where you can watch otters and seals at play and where the air is filled with the sound of seabirds crowding extraordinary cliffs in huge, noisy colonies. We will make our way out of Lerwick to Eshaness and the Eshaness Lighthouse in the area of Northmavine. Eshaness boasts one of the highest energy coastlines in the world. Blasted by the full force of the North Atlantic it displays a stunning array of stacks, blowholes and geos (narrow inlets). The area of Northmavine boasts a wonderful range of wildlife and habitats. Seals, Otters, Porpoises and occasionally Dolphins and Whales can be seen from the shore. Inland expanses of peat and heather are home to Mountain Hares, Rabbits, Polecats and a multitude of birds, including the elegant Red-throated Diver which can be seen on many lochs. The lighthouse, which is visible for miles, is perched on the rim of fabulous volcanic cliffs where the full Atlantic fury has shaped some of Shetland's most dramatic cliff scenery. You can walk along to the head of Calder's Geo, where the sea has gouged out a deep inlet along a line of weakness in the rock. Fulmars float on air currents above the surging waves and nest among the crannies of the vertical rock faces, which are transformed into hanging gardens. We then get settled into our home for the week before we meet up for dinner. Dinner and Overnight Shetland. (B,L,D)
Day 17 - May 23rd - Today we make our way to Lerwick where we join a Seabirds-and-Seals Boat Trip around Bressay and Noss National Nature Reserve, where you will get to enjoy Shetland's abundant Seabirds and Seals. The views are awesome, giving us photographic opportunities with the awesome Noss Cliffs in the background. You won't believe how close they'll take us to the 25,000 Gannets, thousands of Guillemots and Hundreds of Puffins, Razorbills, Black Guillemots, Gulls, Shags and Skuas! We sometimes even meet Porpoises and occasionally Whales, Otters and Dolphins! We’ll sail through the magnificent rock of the Giant’s Leg and then into the beautiful Orkneyman’s Cave. Once back in Lerwick we will visit the Shetland Pony Experience. No visit to Shetland is complete without getting up close and personal with some more friendly Shetland ponies. The experience is very hands on and includes plenty of picture perfect photo opportunities while you lead the ponies through the idyllic, picturesque, rugged coastal fields to a secluded beach. Dinner on your own this evening. Overnight Shetland. (B,L)
Day 18 - May 24th - This morning after breakfast we grab our to go lunch bags from the hotel and then make our way to the very most Northerly Point in the Shetlands on the Island of Unst. Our journey will take us north on Mainland Shetland to Toft where we board a wee ferry to cross the Island of Yell. We will stop at the Shetland Gallery on Yell before traveling further northward to the top of yell to Gutcher where we board a wee ferry for the crossing to Unst. We will explore the wilds of the Shetlands and drive to the most northerly point of Unst where we can look out to Out Stack, and uninhabited island that is the last land mass before the North Pole! While here we will have our Picnic Lunch while we gaze upon the most Northerly House in the whole of the UK and then you can stand at the point where the Oceanic Crust meets with the Continental Crust. While here, We will visit the most Northerly Village as well as the most Northerly Church. After a lovely days outing of exploring and amazing photo ops we make our way to our accommodation back on Mainland Shetland where we get settled in before we meet for dinner. Dinner and Overnight Shetland. (B,L,D)
Day 19 - May 25th - This morning we take in the multi-period Jarlshof Prehistoric Norse Settlement. Jarlshof lies at the most southern tip of Mainland Shetlands and provides an insight into the way of life of the inhabitants at particularly interesting periods – the late Bronze Age, Iron Age, Pictish era, Norse era and the Middle Ages. It includes oval-shaped Bronze Age houses, Iron Age Broch and wheelhouses, Viking long houses, medieval farmstead and 16th century laird’s house. We will have a tour of the site before we make our way to Lerwick, the largest town in the Shetlands. After lunch we will visit the Clickimin Broch on Clickimin Loch, an outstanding example of a sophisticated type of stone-built round house found only in Scotland. Clickimin Broch has evidence of settlement spanning over a thousand years. You will then have some free time to wander around Lerwick where the harbour is an excellent location to seal watch and where we will board the overnight ferry back to the mainland at Aberdeen. After boarding the ferry you will be able to find some dinner. Overnight at Sea. (B,L)
Day 20 - May 26th - We dock this morning in Aberdeen and then make our way south to Arbroath and Arbroath Abbey, founded by William the Lion in 1178, in memory of martyr Thomas Becket. Here we explore the origins of the most famous document in Scottish history – the Declaration of Arbroath. Scotland’s nobles swore their independence from England in this letter to the Pope, sent from Arbroath Abbey in 1320. The abbey remained one of the nation’s grandest monasteries for almost 400 years and much later, the Stone of Destiny had a starring role in Arbroath Abbey’s story. You can find some lunch in Arbroath before we make our way to Helix Park near Falkirk to see the Scottish Kelpies, the world's largest equine sculptures. We will have a Guided Walking Tour that takes us through the vision of artist Andy Scott and how history and industry impacted on his designing of these breath-taking sculptures. The pinnacle of the tour is that you get to experience a Kelpie from the inside, and see for yourself the breathtaking engineering and design of the Kelpies. Farewell Dinner and Overnight near Glasgow. (B,D)
Day 21 - May 27th - We return to the Glasgow International Airport for the journey home.