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Stunning Scotland: Highlands & Islands

Day 1: En Route from U.S.
Day 2: Arrive in Glasgow, Scotland
Day 3: Glasgow / Isle of Arran / Glasgow
Day 4: Glasgow / Stirling / Fort William
Day 5: Fort William / Isle of Skye / Fort William
Day 6: Fort William / Loch Ness / Inverness
Day 7: Inverness / Aberdeen
Day 8: Aberdeen / St. Andrews / Edinburgh
Day 9: Edinburgh
Day 10: Edinburgh / Depart for U.S.

Day 1: En Route from U.S.
Saturday, August 22, 2020

Day 2: Arrive in Glasgow, Scotland
Sunday, August 23, 2020
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
Monday, August 24, 2020
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
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
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 where the remainder of the evening is at leisure.
Overnight: The Moorings Hotel (B,D)

Day 5: Fort William / Isle of Skye / Fort William
Wednesday, August 26, 2020
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 by 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: The Moorings Hotel (B,L,D)

Day 6: Fort William / Loch Ness / Inverness
Thursday, August 27, 2020
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
Friday, August 28, 2020
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 will be available for those wishing to delve into their Scottish ancestry and possible connections with the battle. 

Following lunch, journey to Dufftown to taste the world’s favorite single malt Scotch whisky at Glenfiddich Distillery, the last independently owned distillery in all of Scotland. 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
Saturday, August 29, 2020
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 welcome and exclusive behind-the-scenes tour awaits. 

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.  

Later, at charming St. Andrews, 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 and unforgettable performance of one of the most iconic events on this city's calendar—the Edinburgh Military Tattoo—as the sun sets against the backdrop of Edinburgh's grand castle. This event celebrates the skills of military bands and display teams from the British Armed Forces, the Commonwealth, and military teams throughout the world. Prepare for goosebumps as the strains of bagpipes fill the night air along the beating of drums. Lit torches, flying flags, an impressive light display, dancing, colorful dress, and intricate marching formations complete the emotionally stirring pageantry. Among the many favorites of spectators is the Top Secret Drum Corps of Switzerland. Their talent and precision is a marvel to behold and must be seen to be appreciated. In a previous performance, the Corps' drumsticks also served as flutes! Cheer and clap along with the crowd at this first-class synchronized and entertaining show. Be sure to dress in layers for the outdoors as the seating in the esplanade is uncovered.
Overnight: Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel (B,D)

Day 9: Edinburgh
Sunday, August 30, 2020
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.”

Continue on to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the previous residence of Mary, Queen of Scots. 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. 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 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.
Monday, August 31, 2020
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

(Itinerary subject to change.)

Activity Level:


The majority of the program’s activities will take place outdoors and a fair amount of walking on varying terrain is to be expected. It is our expectation that guests on this program are able to walk a mile at a moderate pace, get in and out of transportation, and walk up a flight of stairs without assistance.