Stunning Scotland: Highlands & IslandsItinerary
Day 1: En Route from U.S.
Day 2: Arrive in Glasgow, Scotland
Fàilte gu Alba! Welcome to Scotland!
Today before gathering with fellow travelers, discover Glasgow's landmarks and attractions during a self-guided, hop-on/hop-off bus tour, featuring stops at the Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow Cathedral, St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life & Art, Merchant Square, Barras Market, the People's Palace and Winter Gardens, and the Glasgow Science Centre, to name a few.
Tonight's highlight features a proper Scottish welcome dinner and private after-hours tour at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Take delight in convivial conversation with fellow travelers about the adventures to come.
Overnight: Malmaison Glasgow (D)
Day 3: Glasgow / Isle of Arran / Glasgow
After breakfast, take a scenic drive to the seaside town of Ardrossan where a ferry is ready to whisk you away to the Isle of Arran. On board, draw in the fresh Scottish air while admiring the passing views—the rocky coastline and green rolling hills converging into mountainous terrain.
Later today, visit a local distillery for a guided tour and tasting. Slàinte!
Return to the mainland by ferry, arriving at the hotel this evening for dinner at leisure—either at the hotel or at one of the nearby restaurants.
Overnight: Malmaison Glasgow (B,L)
Day 4: Glasgow / Stirling / Fort William
Following breakfast, continue the journey north to Stirling, where the Lowlands meet the Highlands, for a guided tour of stately Stirling Castle and its lovely gardens. Known as one of Scotland’s grandest castles, it looms over many of the most important battlefields in Scottish history. Reflect atop Stirling Bridge—the site of William Wallace's victory over the English in 1297, and see Bannockburn—the spot of Robert the Bruce's defeat of the same adversary in 1314.
Often regarded as a symbol of Scottish independence and national pride, Stirling Castle has seen the life and death of almost every Scottish monarch up to the Union of the Crowns in 1603.
After lunch on your own, meet a local guide for a stroll through the quaint village of Luss, situated on the shores of Loch Lomond. Bask in this Scottish landscape and explore hidden gems the area has to offer.
Later, travel up the west coast of Scotland to Fort William for dinner followed by an evening at leisure.
Overnight: Cruachan Hotel (B,D)
Day 5: Fort William / Isle of Skye / Fort William
This morning, venture to the most photographed castle in Scotland—the Eilean Donan—and capture an image of your own of its exterior. Easily one of the most recognizable structures, this Scottish icon is steeped in rich history. Originally built as a monastic cell in 634 AD by Bishop Donan, it was made into a castle around the 13th century. The structure sustained numerous modifications over the years until it was destroyed by the British Government in 1719. The castle laid in ruins for more than 200 years until being reconstructed as a family home by Lt. Col. John MacRae-Gilstrap in 1912.
Later, a special two-course lunch awaits, featuring fresh, local ingredients.
Take a short drive to the town of Mallaig to board a ferry bound for the Isle of Skye—an area renown for its natural beauty. Revel in a tour of the southern part of the island, overflowing with majestic mountains, enduring coastlines, and lush fields.
Today concludes with a lovely dinner at the property followed by a restful evening.
Overnight: Cruachan Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 6: Fort William / Loch Ness / Inverness
After breakfast, continue farther north to the famous Loch Ness to visit Urquhart Castle nestled on shore. Urquhart Castle was once regarded as one of the greatest in all of the Highlands, having borne witness to some of Scotland’s most dramatic historical moments. Control over the medieval fortress passed back and forth between the Scots and the English during the Wars of Independence. As those forces departed, the last government troops who occupied the castle destroyed it during the Jacobite Risings, leaving behind the ruins that stand today. Peer into medieval life—learning of the area's history from nearly 1,000 years ago—while observing a full-size trebuchet and a prison cell that is thought to have held the Gaelic bard, Dòmhall Donn.
Embark upon a serene, narrated cruise exploring the deep, mysterious waters of Loch Ness, which holds more fresh water than all of the lakes in England and Wales combined.
Later arrive to the idyllic city of Inverness on Scotland’s northeast coast for brief leisure time in town. Many know Inverness as the capital of the Highlands, though it doesn't officially hold this title. Inverness has only been considered a city since 2000. The name comes from the Gaelic "Inbhir Nis," which means "Mouth of the River Ness." Inverness Castle is the site where Macbeth murdered King Duncan in Shakespeare's play.
After an enriching day of exploration, enjoy a relaxing dinner and a peaceful slumber at Kingsmills Hotel.
Overnight: Kingsmills Hotel (B,D)
Day 7: Inverness / Aberdeen
This morning, experience private early access to Culloden Battlefield—the site of the final Jacobite Rising. One of the most harrowing battles in Scottish history, the Battle of Culloden only lasted an hour but would change Scotland and Highland culture forever. Inside the Culloden Visitor Centre, learn more about the conflict from both sides through interactive displays and artifacts before walking the actual battlefield. Reflect on this rebellious event while viewing the headstones of clansmen who gave their lives for the Jacobite cause. An optional heritage excursion, described below, will be available for those wishing to delve into their Scottish ancestry and possible connections with the battle.
Seeds of Change: the Diaspora, Family Ancestry and Culloden ($72/person)
Enjoy coffee or tea during a 30-minute, one-on-one session with a local expert to discuss family history. The expert will research one family name per person (the name is needed ahead of time so that the expert can prepare). Each guest will receive a souvenir scroll detailing their name's history. This optional activity is available for any person with a European surname. This optional excursion must be booked in advance through our Guest Services team. Price is subject to change and non-refundable within 90 days of departure.
Following lunch, journey to Dufftown to taste the world’s favorite single malt Scotch whisky at Glenfiddich Distillery (or similar). Built by hand by William Grant and his children in 1886, this Scottish whisky monument has barely changed over the years—the same warehouse and mash rooms exist today. Earthen floors, stone walls, and an age-old ambience conjure an intimate atmosphere in which to sip the fruits of Glenfiddich’s labor. One taste of their iconic single malt whisky reminds you that all good things really do take time.
Retreat to Macdonald Norwood Hall Hotel for dinner and this evening's stay.
Overnight: Macdonald Norwood Hall Hotel (B,L,D)
Day 8: Aberdeen / St. Andrews / Edinburgh
After breakfast, travel south down Scotland's tranquil eastern coast, catching glimpses of the North Sea. En route to Edinburgh, visit Glamis Castle—a living, breathing monument to Scottish heritage. Here at the family home of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne, a special exclusive behind-the-scenes tour awaits. Enjoy refreshments in the 16th century kitchen.
Glamis Castle has become a stunning architectural treasure that is rich with colorful vitality—from remarkable paintings to unique furniture pieces and precise architectural details. This castle was gifted by Robert the Bruce to the Bowes-Lyon family in 1372 and was originally a royal hunting lodge. It's perhaps best known as the childhood home of the Queen Mother, the birthplace of Princess Margaret, and the setting of Shakespeare's Macbeth. Visitors are impressed with the estate, comprising more than 13,500 acres, and are intrigued by the mysterious, strange, and ghostly tales attached to it. Secret chambers have always been associated with Glamis. It's said if one counts the windows on the outside and compares that number with the windows counted on the inside, there are two windows missing, indicating at least one secret room.
In addition, delight in a musical tour of the history and workings of the bagpipe. Learn the basic finger work of piping and take a turn to "blaw and squeeze" the instrument. This fun and informative workshop features anecdotes from the piping world along with loads of giggles.
Later, at charming St. Andrews, drive by the Old Course and explore the local cafés and boutique shops during leisure time. Admire the medieval architecture of the university and marvel at the perfectly manicured golf courses here, at what is considered to be the birthplace of golf. Gazing towards the water, notice an iconic piece of Scottish landscape—the West Sands—famous for the opening sequence of Chariots of Fire.
Arrive in Edinburgh this evening for a wonderful dinner.
Overnight: Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel (B,D)
Day 9: Edinburgh
Today's highlight includes a guided panoramic city tour of Edinburgh—Scotland's beloved capital since the 15th century—through its Old and New Towns. This UNESCO World Heritage Site teems with remarkable architecture, medieval fixtures, and Georgian-inspired buildings, all converging at Princes Street with a unique view of Edinburgh Castle. Visit the National Monument of Scotland on Calton Hill. Its design was inspired by the Pantheon, giving Edinburgh the nickname, “Athens of the North.”
Afterward, visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the previous residence of Mary, Queen of Scots that was founded as a monastery in 1128. This property once hosted other royalty, including the Bonnie Prince Charlie and the current Queen of England, Elizabeth II. Tour the 14 historic state apartments and imagine life of yesteryear while marveling at the intricate drapery, old wood paneling, and ornately designed ceilings. The Queen's Gallery at the Palace of Holyroodhouse hosts a program of changing exhibitions from the Royal Collection. Behold the natural beauty of the palace gardens' rolling lush green pastures, vibrant flowers, and Wentworth Elm trees, which were previously thought to have been extinct.
The late afternoon is at leisure to explore Edinburgh's lively neighborhoods—pop into the colorful local shops or grab a pint with the warm and welcoming locals at a nearby pub to get to know the real people of this nation. Scotland's culture can be traced back nearly 1,000 years, and it's just as alive and vibrant today as it has ever been. While a list of character traits for the average Scot may vary (as is true for people being unique everywhere), in general, you will find a forthright, patriotic, social, practical, and hard-working set to befriend and share a "wee dram" of whisky or other spirits.
This grand adventure concludes with a special, five-course farewell dinner at the Cannonball Restaurant & Bar to reminisce over the past week's travels and bid soraidh ("farewell" in Gaelic) to Scotland. Savor a fine meal of award-winning, seasonal Scottish dishes in the heart of the old town with fabulous views of the city, Edinburgh Castle, and beyond. The restaurant's owners (a husband and wife duo) continue their family's century-old tradition of creating Scottish dishes with an Italian twist, paying homage to their heritage.
Overnight: Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel (B,D)
Day 10: Edinburgh / Depart for U.S.
After breakfast, guests departing during the suggested times take the complimentary transfer to Edinburgh Airport for flights home. (B)
B = Breakfast, L = Lunch, D = Dinner
Activities are generally not very strenuous, but a fair amount of walking can be expected. It is our expectation that guests on this program are able to follow a guide through paved and unpaved streets of even and uneven terrain at an average pace for two hours. Guests should have the ability to walk up and down stairs without assistance. Due to the nature of some structures, handrails may not be present, and facilities for people with disabilities may be limited. Participation in itinerary activities is up to the individual.