Luxury Scotland Tour: Highlands, Castles, and Lochs

A 9 day trip to Scotland 
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The picturesque beauty of Edinburgh comes second to the natural grandeur of the Highlands and unique fairytale scenery of the Isle of Skye during your luxury Scotland tour. The country has inspired magical stories and freedom fighters, archeological discoveries and elegant architecture spreading from cities to towns, villages to remote woodlands. Relish a chance to enjoy the opulence of Scotland’s iconic accommodations on an intimate group excursion highlighting the proud history and distinctive culture personified in the secluded castles, majestic lakes, and welcoming villages making your tour of Scotland tailored to your tastes.

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General Information

Photos
Sunrise over the Quiraing on the Isle of Skye in Scotland
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Edinburgh, Loch Lomond, Skye, Inverness, Culloden Battlefield, Cairngorms National Park, Pitlochry, Isle of Skye, Armadale, Mallaig

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Loch Lomond – Arrive in Scotland with a Tour en route to Loch Lomond

The city of Edinburgh emanates culture and a powerful 500-year history. The streets host fantastic museums and lavish art galleries, cozy pubs, and historical homes spread across two separate districts, Old Town and New Town. Your semi-private transfer greets you at Edinburgh International Airport and escorts you northeast to Loch Lomond, introducing you to the famous Scottish landscape and history along the way. The Wallace Monument commemorates William Wallace with a tower crowning the summit of Abbey Craig.

The 19th-century edifice promotes Scottish identity reaching 220 feet tall reflecting the Victorian Gothic style. The volcanic hilltop acted as the meeting place at which Wallace watched the gathering army of King Edward I of England before the Battle of Stirling Bridge in the 13th century. You continue to Stirling Castle, which stands in view of the monument.

The fantastic historical grounds were erected atop a volcanic rock, providing a view for miles in every direction. Legend claims Romans erected a fort on the grounds, however, the castle stands on 12th-century foundations laid by King Alexander I. The outer fortifications were erected in the 18th century reflected in the French Spur. The interior of the Great Hall has a Renaissance influence dating back to the 15th century.

What’s Included: airport transfer, accommodation

Day 2: Loch Lomond – Explore the Ayrshire Coast and Charming Town of Alloway

At breakfast, the scent of strong, herbaceous black tea fills the dining room, accompanied by the aroma of warm, buttery porridge. Your guide greets you in the hotel lobby after the meal eager to escort you on a fantastic tour of Loch Lomond and the Ayrshire Coast. The tour takes you away from the shores of mainland Britain’s largest lake to reach Culzean Castle. The structure was erected atop a cliff in the 18th century under the patronage of the 10th Earl of Cassilis. You approach the stately edifice from the valley floor, making the castle float above the landscape.

An orangery fills the air with the delicious citrus aroma of orange trees. Vines spread through the Victorian vinery. The interior retains its lavish décor and embellishments, including an oval staircase and classical ordainments of the ceilings and fireplaces. The first floor presents an opulent view to the crashing waves of the wild sea below. The bathrooms have a palatial sensibility with a dressing room near the master bedroom containing a Victorian shower considered state of the art for its time. The Old Bridge, also referred to as Brig o‘Doon was erected in the 15th century and crosses the River Doon at 72 feet long with an arc of 26 feet. The poet Robert Burns used the structure in the final verse of his poem Tam o’Shanter as Nannie the witch chases Tam.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 3: Skye – Visit Glencoe and Fort Willian en route to the Isle of Skye

A full Scottish breakfast fills the dining room with the aromas of baked beans, sautéed mushrooms, sausages, potatoes, tomatoes, cheese, bacon, eggs, and black pudding in the morning, overtaking the herbaceous scent of the steeping black tea. Your semi-private transfer leads you from the splendors of Loch Lomond after the meal, guiding you away from the rugged Highlands for which Scotland is known, and taking you through the Trossachs National Park. The region contains small woodlands lying between Ben A’an to the north and Ben Venue to the south.

The waters of Loch Katrine shimmer beneath the rustling leaves of the surrounding trees. The region gained popularity as a weekend destination in the 19th century after Walter Scott published his poem, “Lady of the Lake,” harnessing the popularity of the Romantic language of the time. You continue to the train station to board the Jacobite steam train. The train began operation at the turn of the 20th century and continued service until the 1960s.

The train departs from Fort Williams in the morning to reach Mallaig and returns from Mallaig in the afternoon to arrive at Fort William. The scenic route is most famous for its cameo as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films. The train carries across stone bridges arching over rushing rivers and through the gorgeous landscape highlighting the rolling hills leading to the purple mountains of central Scotland. You reach the quiet fishing port of Mallaig and climb aboard the ferry bound for the Isle of Skye.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 4: Skye – Explore the Enchanting Landscape and Castles of Isle of Skye

The Isle of Skye immerses you in a sense of Scottish mythology and fabled mystery emanating from the dramatic landscape. The name “Skye” derives from the Norse word sky-a, which means “cloud island,” connoting the heavy mist often sweeping over Cuillin Hills. The scenic isle is the second-largest island in Scotland, encompassing 639 square miles of rippling moors, jagged mountains, glistening lochs, and soaring cliffs looking out over the sea. The mist burns away after the early morning to reveal the scenery as the main attraction on the island, along with sporadic castles hosting legends of their own.

Your guide leads you along the trails and roadways connecting the enchanting landscape for a tour of the fantastical beginning at Quiraing. A dramatic basalt ridge dominates Staffin Bay with serrated pinnacles forming landslips. The different escarpments have particular names, like the Needle, which was named for its jagged 120-foot tall pinnacle and the Table, which has a flat grassy area gliding down from the summit to the plateau. You reach Fairy Glen, which is accessible from the Trotternish loop. Many visitors pass the region without a second glance due to the small hike needed to reach the spot from the road. The hillocks represent smaller landslips locals state housed the magical fairies of the island. The primitive rocks and tufts of grass protrude from the surrounding landscape to form standing stones.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 5: Inverness – Travel to Inverness to Find the Fascinating Scottish Highlands

You return to mainland Scotland in the morning, venturing deep into the fabled highlands known for its northern position, craggy mountain ranges, and sparse population. On the road to Inverness, your guide stops at Eilean Donan Castle, one of two iconic Scottish castles known for their historical significance and beauty. The majestic scenery surrounding the 13th-century edifice adds to its mystique and luster. The castle stands on an islet rising 10 feet above the surrounding loch. A stone-arched bridge connects the mainland to the castle gate.

Jacobite forces bombarded the castle into ruin in the 18th century, but the historic foundations remained, allowing the structure to be rebuilt between 1912 and 1932. The dramatic stone walls and interior structure host the original dimensions of the castle keep, along with the banquet hall’s oak ceiling, coat of arms, and 15th-century fireplace. Urquhart Castle offers a commanding view of Loch Ness, home to the fabled Loch Ness Monster. The castle reflects the elegance of medieval design dating back to the 13th century before it’s ruin in the 17th century.

Its position on the triangular headland provides a fantastic panorama over the bordering hills and rippling waters. The walled portion contains a shape like figure-eight reaching dimensions of nearly 500 feet by 150 feet forming two enclosures. The scent of freshwater from the loch joins the aroma of wet stone from the antique ruins. You spend time exploring the castle grounds and traversing the lakeshores of Loch Ness in search of the elusive monster swimming somewhere in the lake’s 745-foot deep waters.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 6: Inverness – Discover the Highlands’ Hidden Cultural and Literary Histories                                                           

The quiet city of Inverness straddles the River Ness at the northern end of the Great Glen and fills with the aromas of freshwater in the morning light. Historic structures from the 19th century reflect the violent history of the region since it was founded in the 1300s, as little of the original city has survived. Fishermen venture to the river to enjoy day fishing for salmon, and the cafes open their doors to aromas of fresh scones and black tea garnished with milk.

Your guide leads you along the grounds of Culloden Battlefield before you reach Cawdor Castle. The structure was erected around the late 14th or early 15th century and had ties to Shakespeare’s Macbeth, in which the title character is named “Thane of Cawdor,” after capturing the previous owner of the entitlement. The larger structure was erected on 12th-century foundations of a small fortification used to command the River Nairn. The rectangular tower-house contains four stories, along with a garret hosing a single entrance on the upper first floor.

The entire structure was erected around a living holly tree located at the lowest level of the tower. The tree died in the late14th century. Subsequent owners have expanded and refurbished the grounds over the last 600 years, including the wild garden that was added in the 1960s. Historic King Macbeth ruled Scotland from 1040 to 1057 but was traditionally never Thane of Cawdor, causing the 5th Earl of Cawdor, John Campbell, to exclaim, “I wish the Bard had never written his damned play.”

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 7: Edinburgh – Traverse Cairngorms National Park before reaching Edinburgh

You travel southbound within the rugged landscapes of the Highlands. You stop at Cairngorms National Park, the largest protected landscape in the United Kingdom at nearly 1,500 square miles spanning the regions of Aberdeenshire, Moray, Highland, Angus, and Perth and Kinross. The park is located at the heart of the highlands featured mountains, forest paths, loch, and friendly villages, along with local distilleries. Loch an Eilein shimmers as the jewel of the protected landscape hosting a central island known for its 13th-century castle.

The waterway has an average depth of 25 feet with a surface area of nearly 140 acres. The castle was erected on the small, natural island in the 15th century and once belonged to Alexander Stewart, the Wolf of Badenoch. A causeway originally connected the castle to the shore. The connection crumbed into the lake in the 18th century when the water levels rose. Spotted flycatchers twitter in the surrounding trees. You take your time visiting Balmoral Castle, a structure erected for Queen Victoria in the mid-19th century as a private residence for the royal family.

The architectural style revived the Scottish Baronial aesthetic decorating many 19th-century country houses. The grounds cover approximately 50,000 acres of woodland, grouse, and moors but only the ballroom is open to visitors. Its display of Landseer paintings and royal silver capture the elegance of the imperial family. You venture to the Glenlivet Distillery Visitor Center to learn about the classic way in which the purveyor has produced scotch since 1824. The scent of maple and burnt sugar emanates from the oak casks.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 8: Edinburgh – Experience the Splendor of the City’s Rich History and Culture

The artifacts in the National Museum of Scotland draw visitors from around the world. Your guide meets you at the hotel ready to introduce you to the distinctive districts of Edinburgh. Old Town features antique homes with hidden niches lining the cobbled lanes near the castle.

New Town glows with Georgian architecture and neoclassical respectability as a testament to 18th-century city planning. The exploration begins along the Royal Mile, which refers to the road connecting Edinburgh Castle to Holyroodhouse Palace, which is over one mile long. Townhouses and historical landmarks line the cobbled lane hosting charming shops, such as kilt makers and jewelers. Numerous inns and museums add to the illustrious ambiance of daily life amidst the narrow alleys leading to hidden courtyards.

The castle is an iconic image of the city standing tall as the crown atop Castel Rock at 400 feet above the sea level. The castle has acted as the royal residence since the 11th century and last saw military action in the mid 18th century. The statues of Robert the Bruce and William Wallace flank the Entrance Gateway. The doorway opens to cobbled lanes winding through the 16th century Portcullis Gate. The galleries inside the massive castle grounds host the Stone of Destiny, a powerful symbol of Scotland’s ancient monarchy. 

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 9: Edinburgh – Depart for Home

After having spent time on the train representing the Hogwarts Express, it is only natural for the legendary Elephant House to interest you as well. The myth surrounding the coffee house that opened in 1995 states JK Rowling wrote the early drafts of the Harry Potter novels while sipping coffee at one of the wooden tables. The scent of rich coffee overtakes the subtle aroma of herbaceous tea. The crowds return to the walkways and thoroughfares of Princess Street, which boasts nearly a mile of colorful gardens, elegant shops, and the world’s oldest independent department store. When you are ready, your private transfer escorts you from the hotel to Edinburgh International Airport for your flight home.

What’s Included: airport transfer, breakfast

Price

Starting Price 

$3,145
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.