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Scottish Highlands and Castles

Beginning in Edinburgh, you explore the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, recounting its fascinating history through its castle and historic battlefield sites.

Here are more details of a sample tour as a starting point, but at Kipling Tours, we can customize any program just for you.

Call or email us to start planning your trip

  • Day 1

    Depart from home

    Depart on your overnight flight to Edinburgh.

  • Day 2

    Edinburgh

    You arrive in Edinburgh today and are met at the airport by your guide who will accompany you to your hotel and will be staying with you throughout the tour. Your transfer today is by private coach. Assuming an early arrival today, you will be able to have lunch before walking along the Lawnmarket to visit Edinburgh Castle. Dominating the skyline of Edinburgh from its lofty position on Castle Rock, the castle dates from the 13th century and has been involved in many conflicts including the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. The visit includes entry to the attached National War Museum.

  • Day 3

    Edinburgh

    This morning you visit Holyrood Palace, the Monarch’s official residence in Scotland. Situated at the end of the Royal Mile, the Palace dates from the 15th century and has seen many famous events. William the Bruce held a Parliament in 1326, and several English kings were crowned king of Scotland here. Most notably it was the residence of Mary Queen of Scots when she returned from France and the place where she married both her husbands, Darnley and Bothwell. It was also here that she witnessed the murder of her Italian courtier David Rizzio. After lunch, you will be able to walk along the Royal Mile and visit the Writers Museum on Lawnmarket which celebrates the lives and works of Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. You can see historic manuscripts and first editions, as well as personal effects including Stevenson’s fishing rod and pipe. Lawnmarket (the name of the street) is the perfect place to discover Edinburgh traditions and there are often Bagpipers playing tunes here. Within 10 minutes walk of Lawnmarket you can find both the National Gallery and the National Museum of Scotland. Both are free admission (donations are appreciated) so you can explore these at your leisure.

  • Day 4

    Edinburgh to Loch Lomond

    This morning you depart from Edinburgh by private coach and travel to the town of Stirling where you find one of the largest and historically most important castles in Scotland. The Royal Palace at Stirling Castle was the childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots and it was here in the Chapel Royal that she was crowned in 1543. Her son, the future James 1 of England, also spent his early years here. From Stirling, you continue to Doune and its medieval castle dating from the 1300’s which served as a fortress for Robert Stewart, the Duke known as ‘Albany’ who was King of Scotland in all but name during the 14th century. It is said that Doune is so well preserved that if Albany was to return to the Castle today, he would recognise most of its original features. Doune Castle has been used as the setting for several films including Game of Thrones and Outlander. Leaving Doune you follow the winding road along the shoreline of Loch Lomond heading northwards to the small village of Inverarnan. The Drovers Inn, one of the most famous coaching houses in Scotland, is to be found here. Opened in 1705 the Inn has reputedly hosted Rob Roy MacGregor, and exudes character. After a short stop at The Drovers, you continue to the village of Arrochar and your hotel.

  • Day 5

    Loch Lomond to Fort William

    Leaving Arrochar in the morning you travel to the village of Balquhidder at the head of Loch Voil. The Old Churchyard in Balquhidder, St. Kilda’s Kirk, is the last resting place of Rob Roy MacGregor, the famous outlaw who fought against the English in the Jacobite rising of 1715. The story of Rob Roy is clouded in folklore and the mists of history and there are many tales of his exploits which give rise to the moniker the ‘Scottish Robin Hood’. Rob Roy died in 1734 and alongside him are buried his wife and two sons.

    Your journey continues northwards into the West Highlands and the mountains rise up dramatically as you enter Glencoe. This was the scene of the infamous massacre of 1692 when, in the aftermath of the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and Jacobite rising of 1690 members of the MacGregor clan were killed by the Campbell clan on the orders of the English. The treachery was compounded because the MacGregors had given hospitality to the Campbells as guests in their homes. Even to this day, it is unwise in this area to admit to having the name Campbell.

    North of Glencoe the road follows Loch Linnhe, an area which is home to Scotland’s highest mountains including Ben Nevis. You soon arrive at the town of Fort William, named after King William III of England, the Jacobite’s early nemesis. In Fort William, you have a guided tour of the West Highland Museum which tells the tale of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite cause. Time permitting, you continue to Glenfinnan. A monument marks the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie landed in 1745 and was greeted by the Highland Chiefs before embarking on the rebellion which doomed the Jacobite cause for evermore.

    You then return to Fort William and your hotel. The town is a center for climbers and hikers and there are a wide selection of Inns to cater for them.

  • Day 6

    Fort William to the Isle of Skye

    This morning you take the Jacobite Express historic steam train from Fort William to Mallaig. This train is the one which is used in the Harry Potter films. The journey is scenic and passes through Glenfinnan, which you visited previously. One of the subsequent stops is the small village of Arisaig which was used to film the beach scenes in the 1983 film Local Hero. At the final station of Mallaig you disembark and then take the 30 minute ferry crossing to the Isle of Skye, landing at Armadale. Close by is the Clan Donald visitor center which, as well as offering a fascinating history of the Highland’s most powerful clan, is also a great place to stop for lunch.

    In the afternoon, you continue to travel across the Isle of Skye and return to the mainland by way of the bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh. There will be time for a short visit to Eilean Donan Castle, one of the most recognizable in Scotland. Dating from the 13th century, it stands on a small headland in Loch Duich and has been used in countless films including Highlander. Your accommodation this evening is at a hotel at the head of the Loch in an area known as Kintail.

  • Day 7

    Inverness & Aviemore

    Your day begins with a scenic drive through the Highlands to the small town of Invermoriston, situated on Loch Ness. The road then follows the shore of the Loch until you reach Castle Urquhart, situated on the edge of the Loch. Although only ruins remain, these are testament to the fierce battles which took place here and the fact that it was deliberately blown up by in 1692 to prevent it falling into Jacobite hands. Not far beyond Castle Urquhart you come to Inverness, the largest city of the Highlands. Just outside of the city lies the site of the last battle ever to be fought on British soil and a name which has a unique resonance through the ages – Culloden. The name marks the final point when, in April 1746, the Jacobite cause was irrevocably lost and the Young Pretender, Bonnie Prince Charlie, fled back into exile, living out his remaining years in Rome and taking the title Count of Albany.

    Little remains at Culloden to indicate that this was once the scene of a ferocious pitched battle with the Highland Clans and the British Redcoats fighting in hand to hand combat. There is a memorial and small visitor center with an exhibition which tells the whole story of the battle and the events leading up to it. You can also see the Graves of the Clans where the majority of those Highlanders killed were buried in mass graves. From Culloden you head south to the beautiful Cairngorm Mountains where you can visit the Standing Stones, a megalithic stone circle from the Bronze Age and dated to about 2000-2500 BC. The purpose of these stone circles is still not fully understood. Your hotel accommodation this evening is in the town of Aviemore. In summer this is a center for climbers and hikers, and in winter there is a small but popular ski resort.

  • Day 8

    Cairngorm Mountains & Edinburgh

    This morning you depart from Aviemore and travel east towards the Aberdeenshire coast and Castle Fraser. The journey takes two hours but it passes through the scenic rolling hills to the north of the Cairngorms. Castle Fraser is a baronial-style castle dating from the 1500’s but has been expanded and modernised over the centuries with much new work dating from the Regency period. As well as the ornate private and state rooms, there is also a beautiful walled garden to explore. Castle Fraser remained a private home in the hands of the Fraser family until the 1920’s when the lack of an heir and family debts resulted in its sale.

    An hour south of Castle Fraser lies Dunnottar, an entirely different castle situated in a stunning position on a cliff-top promontory. Dunnottar dates from the Medieval period and was a fortress rather than a home. It played its part during the Jacobite period when in 1685 many local people were held prisoner here after rebelling and refusing to pledge allegiance to the new Catholic King James II of England and VII of Scotland. (As an aside, many of those rebels were subsequently transported to the new Colonies in America). In the Rising of 1715 the castle was used by the Earl on the Jacobite side against the Hanoverians, but this ended badly for him as he was forced to flee to France and his castle was forfeited to the Crown.

    The final part of your journey today takes you back to Edinburgh via the ancient city of Perth and the Forth Road Bridge.

  • Day 9

    Edinburgh

    The morning will be spent in Edinburgh and there will be a timed morning visit to the Surgeon’s Hall Museum which is part of the Royal College of Surgeons. The Museum has a macabre connection to the nineteenth century grave robbers Burke and Hare who stole recently deceased corpses to order for dissection in anatomy classes. When the supply ran short, they turned to murder, but Burke ended up at the end of the hangman’s noose and his skeleton is now on display in the Museum. In the afternoon there will be free time in Edinburgh for your own sightseeing.

  • Day 10

    Depart from Edinburgh

    Depending on your flight time, there may be an opportunity for further sightseeing in Edinburgh today. Otherwise there will be a transfer to the airport for your homeward flight arriving back in the US later this afternoon.

Prices start from

$3395 for a 10 day tour

Including a tour manager, all admissions and good quality hotels. Prices are based on East Coast departures. Contact us for a customized program and quote which includes flights from other departure cities.

includes flights

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