Scotland’s Highland Highlights Day by Day Itinerary

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.

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.  First we explain the two pre-tour options (with the blue borders) and then we have the main tour in the green bordered section.

 

Scotland's Highland Highlights - Pre-tour option with the overnight sleeper train
We hope you've enjoyed this lovely pre-tour extension. Please now move down to the green colored section for details of the main tour.
(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, if you're planning on taking the sleeper train from London to Fort William.
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.

We expect some people will choose to arrive earlier, so as to give them a day to unwind, some time to sightsee, and/or just to have an "emergency day" in case of any travel issues on the way.
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
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 the main tour starts at this point.
Scotland's Highland Highlights - Pre-tour option with a day tour/transfer by coach from Glasgow to Fort William
We hope you've enjoyed this lovely pre-tour extension. Please now continue reading the green colored section for details of the main tour.
Magnificent Stirling Castle dominates the landscape around Stirling.
(Wednesday 11 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 get to Glasgow in time for this day tour/transfer extension, which starts on Friday morning 13 September.

(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.
Thursday 12 September : Arrive in the UK today (or earlier), overnight in Glasgow (or elsewhere)
Glasgow's cathedral and other buildings in the city center.
If you flew from the US on Wednesday, you'll likely arrive into the UK some time this morning or early afternoon.

This allows you to conveniently get to Edinburgh or Glasgow today, so as to be able to join the pre-tour day tomorrow morning at Glasgow's Central train station.

Not many people realize that while Edinburgh is Scotland's capital, Glasgow is actually the largest city (almost twice the size of Edinburgh). In the last couple of decades Glasgow has been massively revitalized and its city center is now clean and appealing and a great place to visit.
Friday 13 September : Day Tour/Transfer from Glasgow to Fort William - morning
The amazing Falkirk Wheel and Visitor Center connects two canals.


The distinctive and enormous Kelpies sculpture depicts mythical Scottish water beasts.
Our day of touring starts when we leave Glasgow at 9.00am.

If you were in Edinburgh last night, it is an easy train journey from there to Glasgow Central Railway Station, taking about an hour. Of course, if you spent the night in Glasgow, it is probably an easy walk or very short taxi ride to the station.

This morning we first travel to the Falkirk Wheel, an amazing modern invention that lifts or lowers canal boats 115 ft between two canals. We'll have time to take an optional short boat ride, actually going up and down the wheel, before continuing on to Stirling.

On the way to Stirling we go past the distinctive sculpture of the Kelpies - mythical water beasts, and drive past the site of the Battle of Bannockburn on the outskirts of Stirling, the site of a key victory by the Scots, lead by Robert the Bruce, against the English forces in 1314.
Stirling
Stirling city with the castle in the foreground.
We'll arrive into Stirling just before mid-day and will drive up to the top of the town, at the entrance to the castle. This allows you to walk consistently downhill during your time in Stirling prior to rendezvousing back at the train station later in the day.

Stirling has an amazing castle perched on a rocky hill, a bit reminiscent of Edinburgh Castle, and giving it a commanding view out over the region. This, and its location on the River Forth, made Stirling a key strategic location and so was the site of many battles over the years, the most notable being at Stirling Bridge in 1297 and Bannockburn in 1314.

The city dates back to the Bronze Age, and was for a while the capital of Scotland. Nowadays it is referred to as "The Gateway to the Highlands", with notionally the highlands being to its north and the lowlands to its south. Its sprawling grand castle dates back to the fourteenth century.

You'll have time to explore the lovely central historic part of the town and castle as you wish, and also of course to enjoy lunch before we return to the coach and continue the day's touring.
Afternoon and Overnight in Fort William
The National Wallace Monument, while commemorating events around 1300, wasn't built until 1869 during the Victorian era when Scotland became "fashionable".



Doune Castle is set in a beautiful woodland location.
It is a little over 2 1/2 hours from Stirling to Fort William. Depending on what people wish, we can include either or both of a couple of stops on the way.

The first stop could be at the National Wallace Monument. This rather ugly looking tower is just a little north of Stirling, and visible from all around the adjoining countryside. It commemorates William Wallace, very much a Scottish hero and commemorated in the movie Braveheart.

The second stop could be at Doune Castle, a semi-ruined Scottish castle that was featured in the movie "Monty Python and the Holy Grail". More recently it also featured in the movie "Outlander".

Because we've plenty of time, we'll go wherever we choose and plan to arrive into Fort William late afternoon.
Saturday 14 September : Main Tour Starts
This morning our coach will take us to (or meet us at, depending on where you stayed last night) the train station in Fort William. This is just a very short few minute drive, and we'll meet the rest of our group at the station at 10am.
Main 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.
Getting from Your Home to Fort William
Situated directly behind Fort William, Ben Nevis is the UK's highest mountain, although only a very modest 4413 ft high.
Please see the two preceding sections with blue borders for details of two ways you might choose to make your way from your home to the UK and on to Fort William.

Of course, you can make any other arrangements you might wish, and please feel free to ask us for suggestions and assistance as may be needed. And, most of all, please make sure you'll be ready to join the tour on Saturday morning in Fort William.
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.
Our tour starts this morning at Fort William train station at 10am.

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.

Those of us who did the tour from Glasgow to Fort William yesterday will already be in the town and at the station.

We'll be met there by our luxury 49 seater coach 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 Staffa, 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.

 

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