Best of Scotland Tour: Edinburgh, Blair Atholl, Lowlands & Highlands

A 7 day trip to Scotland 
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Castles and distilleries, formal gardens and boundless meadows, friendly people and unforgettable stories: It can all be found in Scotland. Be you nature buff or shopaholic, history enthusiast or whisky connoisseur, art lover or fierce outdoorsmen, the stunning scenery, captivating cities and charming people of Scotland are sure to make you feel right at home. 

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General Information

Photos
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Edinburgh, Stirling, The Trossachs, Loch Ness, Fort Augustus, Inverness, Clava, Culloden, Blair Castle

Departure Dates 

Flexible Departures

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Welcome to Singular Scotland

This morning, you arrive on the outskirts of Edinburgh, where a private transfer will pick you up and deliver you to your elegant hotel deep in the heart of the city center and throbbing with the hum of Scottish life. Take some time to drop off your luggage and refresh from the transatlantic flight before setting out to climb the gentle rise of Calton Hill, where you’ll encounter some of the country’s most well-known monuments as well as phenomenal views over the city, the nearby Firth of Forth and the surrounding countryside beyond. Gaze up to the slate grey tower that marks a memorial to Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, witness the eerie incompleteness of the National Monument that’s dedicated to the Scottish dead in the Napoleonic Wars, and check the fluted columns of the Dugald Stewart Monument before making your way back down the hill and to the city center. 

More incredible views of the city and its environs can be gained by climbing the 200-foot Gothic spire of the memorial to Sir Walter Scott, while shopping can be had in the New Town section. Opt for a dinner at the small but spectacular Witchery restaurant, immediately adjacent to Edinburgh castle and boasting delicious fare, excellent service, and one of the best wine lists in the city.

Day 2: Scotch History and Scotch Whisky

Today you turn west, to the rugged hills and vales where much of Scottish history was made, the home to outlaws and patriots, poets and statesmen, and many purveyors of Scotland’s finest export. Begin your expedition at Stirling Castle, one of the largest and most important castles in the entire country, perched menacingly atop Castle Hill and commanding the surrounding landscape with its puissant presence. Walk the castle esplanades and pass a sculpture of Robert the Bruce, the victor of the Battle of Bannockburn and the King of the Scots for more than two decades, before taking in the scene of the main courtyard, from the imposing façade of the King’s Old Building to the immaculately restored Great Hall to the statues adorning the exterior of the Royal Palace, the first Renaissance palace in the British Isles. 

From the castle you can take a short jaunt to the nearby Wallace Monument, a solitary tower dramatically rising above the tree line built to commemorate the deeds of one of the most famous Scotsmen in history. At the monument you can visit the Hall of Heroes, a series of busts of the most famous Scots. Check out the purported sword of William Wallace and take in the controversial carving known as “Freedom,” a 13-foot tall sculpture featuring a fearsome looking Wallace bared for battle. 

From here, venture to the distillery at Glenturret, one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland and unquestionably one of its most scenic, surrounded by cresting hills and tree-filled meadows, a paradise for landscape painters and whisky aficionados alike. You’ll learn about the methods of distilling and the production process of Scotch, explore the ins and outs of the distillery and even get a chance to taste a freshly-poured dram of Scotland’s finest water of life. From here, you venture into the wooded glen called The Trossachs, where wooded glens and beautiful braes gave plenty of cover to the outlaw Red Robert MacGregor, better known to the world as Rob Roy. The evening sees you at a gorgeous estate house in the heart of the Highlands, where a delicious dinner awaits.

Day 3: Through the Highlands Via The Great Glen

Another day of exploring the most famous areas of Scotland awaits you, as you make your way along a series of valleys known as the Great Glen, the main geological road of the Highlands and the best jumping off point for further discovery. Start at nearby Fort William, the second-largest settlement in the Highlands, and make your way northeast, taking in some of the most breathtaking scenery of the Highlands on your way. Stop at the shores of the murky, inky and mammoth Loch Ness, the largest body of water by volume in Scotland and home – supposedly – to Nessie, the celebrated monster that swims beneath the opaque and impenetrable surface of the loch.

Marvel at the ruins of Urquhart Castle before visiting the town of Fort Augustus, where you can get a spectacular view of the surrounding country, dotted with inland lochs and crowned by rolling hills and craggy outcroppings. Your expedition ends on the shores of the River Ness and the beautiful city of Inverness, the capital of the Highlands and one of the great cities of Scotland, where the red sandstone edifice of Inverness Castle gazes over the valley below and where the pride of the Highlands is everywhere in evidence. 

This evening, you’ll be treated to a special experience, as you’ll learn about the history of tartans and that most unique of Scottish garb, the kilt, while enjoying the steps of Highland dancers and the unmistakable drone of bagpipes.

Day 4: Failed Rebellions and the Home of Macbeth

A day of history is in store, as you’ll reconnoiter some of the most famous sites in Scotland, where kings were made or broken, where Highlanders fought valiantly and died nobly, and where stories that have been told for generations were born. Take in the famous fields of Culloden, the site of the eponymous battle in the mid-18th century where Bonnie Prince Charlie’s pretensions for the British Crown were finally put to rest, forcing the famous prince into exile for the remainder of his life. 

Then visit the haunting grave at the Balnuaran of Clava, a Bronze Age collection of stone monuments that have since come to be known as the Clava Cairns, a stirring and fascinating reminder to the prehistoric civilizations that have long called Scotland home. Finally, venture out to Cawdor Castle, the seat of Clan Campbell since the 16th century and one of the stateliest castles in Scotland. Stroll through the castle’s gardens – the Walled Garden dates from the 17th century, and a nearby wood features more than 100 species of lichen – and take in the history of this impressive place, the first seat awarded to victorious Macbeth by King Duncan and the title that set all the events of his famous tragedy into motion. 

This evening sees you back in Inverness.

Day 5: From Blair Castle to Edinburgh Castle

You return to the Lowlands on your way back to Edinburgh, passing through one-of-a-kind landscapes and past beautiful and historic buildings, gloriously singing the lauds of the great Scots and their great deeds. You can get an even better sense of this history at beautiful Blair Castle, originally built in the 13th century and gracefully changing from a medieval fortress to a paradigmatic Georgian mansion to one of the finest examples of Victorian baronial castles in the country. You’ll learn all about the incredible stories of this structure, from Mary, Queen of Scots, to a visit from Queen Victoria, and from the intrigues and infightings of the Scottish Wars of Independence to the castle’s roll as home base for Charles Edward Stuart before his disastrous adventure at Culloden. There are more than 30 rooms for you to explore in this truly unique museum, from the sumptuous accouterments in the Dining Room to the weapon displays of the Entrance Hall, from the gorgeous Mortlake Tapestries, which once belonged to King Charles I, to the expansive luxury of the Ballroom, which is still used as a reception space for a myriad of events including wedding receptions and Highland balls. There are also a number of eye-catching and breathtaking gardens, groves and grounds, including a nine-acre walled garden with more than 100 fruit trees and a serene wooded area known as Diana’s Grove, which houses some of the tallest trees in all of Scotland. The afternoon sees you returning to Edinburgh, delivered right to the door of your hotel on Princes Street, the bustling center of the New Town.

Day 6: The Royal Mile and Other Attractions

Your last full day in Scotland is spent wandering the country’s charming capital, making your way along the city’s most famous drag and visiting some of Edinburgh’s best museums. Start at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Scottish residence of the monarch of the United Kingdom, where you’ll find selected items from the Royal Collection on display in the Queen’s Gallery, beautiful and expansive grounds and an architectural style unlike any you’ve seen before. 

Make your way into the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, passing the famous crown spire of St. Giles’ Cathedral, the High Kirk of the Church of Scotland, and the renowned Heart of Midlothian, a street mosaic which marks the former location of the Old Tolbooth, the administrative center of the town in the Middle Ages and the site of a number of public executions. Continue on past the shops that sell all manners of Scottish tourist items, from wool tartan blankets and scarves to fudge and shortcake to single malts. Finally you’ll climb Castle Rock to enter the gate at Edinburgh Castle, a fortress that has dominated the city’s skyling for more than eight centuries. You can visit the National War Museum of Scotland that is housed there, marvel at the Honours of Scotland, the oldest Crown Jewels in the United Kingdom, or simply walk along the balustrade and take in the impressive city scene below you. 

The rest of the day can be spent at one of the excellent museums in Edinburgh – the National Museum of Scotland is particularly recommended – before grabbing a drink at one of Edinburgh’s many pubs to get a sense of nightlife in the Scottish capital.

Day 7: Saying Goodbye to Scotland the Brave

This morning, after a delicious and hearty breakfast, you’ll be transferred from your hotel to the airport at Edinburgh, where you’ll board a flight that will take you back home. You’ll be filled with the lilting brogue of Scotch-English, the daring stories of renegades and heroes that fill the countryside, and the unforgettable images of Scotland’s untrammeled national beauty. 

Price

Starting Price 

$2,095
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.