Scotland’s Highland Highlights Day by Day Itinerary

 

The extraordinary emptiness of Scotland’s Highlands (fewer than 20 per square mile, compared to 1000 per square mile in England) allows its natural beauty to be seen with little human interference.  Although it has few people, all of the essential Scottish experience is in the Highlands (north of Edinburgh and Glasgow), little or none of it in the lowlands.

Scotland’s clan culture, its tartans, its music, its language, and most of its whisky all are based historically and through to the present day in the Highlands.

Our 2019 Scotland’s Highland Highlights tour allows you to see the different elements of the Highlands – the lochs, the towns and villages, its single major city, the islands off the coast and the ferries that service them, and the friendly people who live there.  We take you down the narrow one-lane roads that regular tours shun, and to places that regular tours never visit.

For more information on this tour, and of course, to join, please go to our 2019 Scotland’s Highland Highlights main page.

This page tells you more about what you’ll see and where you’ll be on each of the days of this tour.

Daily Itinerary for Scotland's Highland Highlights
We hope you've enjoyed your lovely Scotland's Highland Highlights Tour. Thank you for joining us.

A section of the brightly colored houses and shops facing out to the harbor in the lovely little town of Tobermory, on the Isle of Mull. We'll spend two nights here.

(Thursday 12 September or earlier) : Leave the US

You can fly on any of the many different airlines that go to the UK (or elsewhere in Europe).
Chances are you'll probably choose to fly into one of the London airports, or possibly Edinburgh or Glasgow airports in Scotland.

If you are not wanting to spend time elsewhere in Britain or Europe before the main tour, you should leave the US no later than today, so as to arrive into the UK tomorrow, giving you time to either get to the train or Fort William for the start of the tour.

(And, of course, if you want to do other things prior to joining the tour, you should leave home earlier.)

Let us know if we can help you choose airlines, flights, and airports to use.
Friday 13 September : Arrive in the UK today (or earlier), then overnight train this evening

An iconic image of London's Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and a hint of Westminster Abbey.

If you flew from the US on Thursday, you'll probably arrive into the UK some time this morning or early afternoon.

This allows you to conveniently get to this evening's sleeper train departure from London, or if you're not doing that, probably gives you other opportunities to get to Fort William prior to meeting the tour tomorrow morning at 10am.

If you're making your own way to Fort William, we suggest you have us help plan your travels to Fort William before you buy your airfare. There are only a few trains each day to Fort William.
Friday evening, 13 September : Optional Caledonian Sleeper Train departs London

The Caledonian Sleeper train at Euston Station, awaiting your arrival.



One of the lowest category "classic" sleeper rooms, this one with a connecting door to the next compartment, great for people traveling together.

If you're taking the lovely new overnight sleeper train to Fort William - described by Seat 61 as the best train journey in Britain - then you can board it any time from 8.30pm at London's Euston train station.

The train sets out at 9.15pm. There's food (and refreshments) on board in the Club Lounge car if you've not already eaten. You'll have a chance to meet some of your fellow tour members in this relaxed and convivial environment.

And then, time for a good night's sleep. Don't worry if you stay up a bit late - you've still plenty of time to sleep before we reach Fort William tomorrow.
Saturday 14 September : Joining the Tour in Fort William, the Harry Potter train, Inverness

The Jacobite train crosses the Glenfinnan viaduct. The Memorial and visitors center is by the head of Loch Shiel.



A flight of locks on the Caledonian Canal runs through the middle of Fort Augustus.



The Ness River as it goes through Inverness. Our hotel is on the banks of this river, more or less in the middle of the photo.

You could board the train early this morning in Edinburgh or Glasgow for the final part of the journey, or in any other way, get to Fort William.

Those of us on the sleeper train will arrive arrive at 9.57am - indeed, the train operator is so confident they guarantee our arrival within 30 minutes of the scheduled time.

We'll be met there by our luxury 49 seater coach and its husband and wife team of driver and hostess, and then be taken on what is termed "The Road to the Isles". This is considered one of Scotland's most beautiful drives due to the changes in scenery from mountains to lochs to beaches.

On the way we will stop at the Glenfinnan Visitor Center, situated by the monument to the clansmen who fought and died with Bonnie Prince Charlie during the last of the Jacobite Uprisings in 1745.

This also has a lookout point where we can see the beautiful 21-arched Glenfinnan Viaduct, and we'll watch the Jacobite Steam Train as it steams across this on its way to Mallaig. A beautiful scene - be sure to bring your cameras.

We then catch up and overtake the train, getting to Mallaig in plenty of time to enjoy lunch at this small fishing town. As a special treat, we'll ride the Jacobite steam train (made famous as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter movies) back to Fort William.

We'll be met at the train station by our coach and travel north, via Fort Augustus, to Inverness, known as "The Capital of the Highlands", where we'll stay in a nice central city hotel for the next two nights.

Please have a drink with us in the bar to celebrate our first full day of touring.
Sunday 15 September : Monsters, Ruins, More Ruins, and a Wee Dram

Urquhart Castle, overlooking Loch Ness.



The small Highland town of Beauly, unusual for not being on a loch.

This morning we head along the Caledonian Canal and then beside Loch Ness, via Drumnadrochit, to the noble ruins of Urquhart Castle, on a promontory going out into Loch Ness. Will we see "Nessie", the rumored sea beast that lives in the loch? Anything is possible!

Even if we don't see Nessie, the loch is still an amazing site. It has the largest volume of fresh water of any lake/loch in Britain, and more than all the lakes in England and Wales combined. It reaches down to a maximum depth of 755 ft - and with the murky peat-tinged water limiting visibility, there are plenty of chances for a monster to lurk, unnoticed.

We then go west to the beautiful sleepy village of Beauly, a town which makes few concessions to the 21st century, and have a chance to see their lovely ruined abbey in the center of the town.

After all this "thirsty work" we'll take you to the Glen Ord Distillery for a tour and tasting.

If you prefer of course, you can enjoy a leisurely day doing your own thing without coming with us on tour.

This evening we'll enjoy an official welcome celebration, with a few drinks and a nice meal.
Monday 16 September : Oban and over to Mull and Tobermory

The inner harbor at Oban. Red chimney is its distillery.



The other end of the town of Tobermory. The building in the back left is part of the distillery.

Today we head south through "The Great Glen" back to Fort William and then continue on to Oban, the busy port and one of the major hubs for the ferries that make their way to many of the Hebrides islands off the west coast of Scotland.

Depending on how we're going for time and the general preference of everyone, we might make a short detour to the Glencoe Visitor's Center, site of one of the bloodiest massacres in Highland history and a shameful betrayal of the clan honor code. The whole area is steeped in an eery moodiness and an aura of tragedy.

After time for lunch in Oban, we'll take a ferry over to one of our favorite islands, Mull. A short drive takes us to the colorful main village of Tobermory, where we'll stay for the next two nights.
Tuesday 17 September : Another Island and a Beautiful Journey

The well preserved abbey on Iona, considered by many to be Scotland's "holiest place".



The strange appearance of Staff, with Fingal's Cave on the right.

This morning we head down to the southwest corner of Mull, and take the short ten minute ferry ride over to the Holy Isle of Iona. With its abbey ruins are said to be the graves of 48 Scottish kings, 8 Norwegian kings and 4 Irish kings.

In the afternoon there's an optional tour to the isle of Staffa, known for its unusual rock formations and birds, and for its "Fingal's Cave".

After that, we then travel on what we feel is the most beautiful road in all of Scotland, taking the longer but very scenic route back to Tobermory for a second night.

Of course, if you prefer, you could spend the day enjoying the ambience and relaxing pace of life in Tobermory.
Wednesday 18 September : Some Mysterious and Old Things and on to Tarbert

Unlike Stonehenge, visiting the stone circles and other mysterious prehistoric sites in the Kilmartin Glen is free, uncongested, and you can actually go up to and touch the stones.



The tiny fishing village of Tarbert. Note - there are at least three towns called Tarbert in the Highlands.

Today we return back to Oban and then go south and through the mysterious Kilmartin Glen, stopping to ponder at some stone circles and other prehistoric puzzlements, and marvelling at the small size of Dunadd - a hillside fort that was the capital of Dalriada, the precursor to modern Scotland.

From there, it is only five more minutes to reach the town of Lochgilphead where we'll stop for lunch. The town's name is self explanatory - it is at the head of Loch Gilp.

After lunch we continue the short remaining distance to Tarbert, another tiny fishing village looking out to lovely Loch Fyne, where we'll spent two nights.
Thursday 19 September : The Long and Winding Road

Campbeltown is centered around a fine natural harbor. Ask us to tell you about (and sing the song about) Campbeltown loch and the distillery fire!



This impression in the stone is said to be a footprint of St Columba when he came ashore from Ireland, at Southend, in 563AD.

Today we'll do a loop, traveling down the beautiful east side of the Kintyre Peninsula to Campbeltown for lunch.

This is the road that inspired local resident Paul McCartney to write the haunting song, one of the last of the Beatles era, "The Long and Winding Road".

If you wish, you can travel on with us all the way on to Southend, from where you can see Ireland if the weather is clear, or if you prefer, you can spend more time in Campbeltown itself.

We go back to Tarbert traveling up the west side of the peninsula.

Of course, because this is the third of our two night stop locations, if you prefer, you can spend the day in and around Tarbert.

This evening it is time for a semi-sad event. Our farewell dinner. But, from a glass half-full perspective, we do hope you'll look back on the week with fond memories, and there's still a day of touring tomorrow to enjoy, too.
Friday 20 September : Three Ferries Back to Glasgow

One of the fleet of ferries that provide coastal services around the west of Scotland. We'll take three ferry rides today.



This Art Deco era railway poster promoting Rothesay hints at the several notable Art Deco buildings in the stately town.

Today we experience not just one or two but three different ferries. This takes us, via a ferry-assisted shortcut and some backroads, to the Isle of Bute, where we stop for lunch in Rothesay.

Prince Charles, while best known as the Prince of Wales, is known in Scotland as the Duke of Rothesay. There is a large castle in Rothesay, but it is no longer inhabited.

After lunch, we take the third of our ferries back to the mainland, whereupon it is a short drive from there to central Glasgow and the end of this Special Scottish Sampler. We can drop you at the airport on the way in to town if you wish (probably at about 4pm) or at the downtown Glasgow Central Train Station (probably at about 4.30pm).

You could stay in Glasgow overnight, or take a train to Edinburgh or to London. Some of us will be flying on Saturday to Paris to join the pre-tour option in France prior to our Loire Valley tour.

Let us know if we can help you with arrangements for this evening and onwards.

Our main page detailing this tour (and booking form) is here.