- Edinburgh – The charming, culturally rich, historically rich capital – one of Europe’s handsomest and a UNESCO World Heritage Site — with iconic sights such as its striking medieval castle, the Royal Mile, Old Town, and Georgian architecture.
- Rosslyn Chapel – An exquisite and ornate 15th-century cathedral-like masterpiece that is a testament to the skills of its medieval sculptors.
- Whisky Distillery – An informative, fun tour (and tasting) in a lovely setting to refine an appreciation of Scotland’s national drink.
- Gorgeous Landscapes – Crystal-clear lochs and rivers, wooded hills, craggy mountains, wide-open moors.
- Jacobite Steam Train – Described as one of the great railway journeys of the world, a 42-mile trip offering spectacular views of mountains and lochs as well as a ride over the 21 arches of the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
- Isle of Skye – An island of sheer beauty with the misty Cuillin Mountains, rocky shores, hidden beaches, and shady glens, plus a historical link to Bonnie Prince Charlie as well as a modern arts and crafts scene.
- The Great Glen – Slicing through Scotland’s most dramatic mountains with Loch Ness (and its famous mythical monster), the romantically ruined Urquhart Castle, and the city of Inverness among its highlights.
- Eilean Donan Castle – A postcard-perfect ruin standing on an island set among three lochs and arguably the most photogenic of Scotland’s myriad castles.
- Delicious meals and lovely accommodations, of course!
- Download Detailed Itinerary
Beginning in Edinburgh — Scotland’s captivating capital — we see what makes this city so enticing: from its impressive, history-steeped medieval castle looking out over the city to Old Town and the Royal Mile; from lovely New Town (new meaning 1700s) to the ultramodern Scottish Parliament building; attractive Georgian- and Victorian-period architecture; the Princes Street Gardens; and the view from the volcanic crag that is Calton Hill.
The riotously ornate Rosslyn Chapel, not far out of Edinburgh, is revered for its sublime 15th-century stone carvings – some of the finest in the world – and its past is steeped in intrigue and great mystery, probably accounting for its connection to myths and legends and its appearance in The Da Vinci Code. Covering almost every square inch of stonework are human figures, animals, and plants.
Moving into the scenic Highlands we come first to picturesque Perthshire – the epitome of well-groomed rural Scotland and the long-established domain of Scotland’s well-to-do country set. For lunch we call in at a splendid baronial castle – one of the country’s grandest of grand houses — surrounded by extensive parklands and that once hosted Queen Victoria. Also in this area is a single-malt whisky distillery – reputedly Scotland’s smallest traditional distillery (hand-crafted as in Victorian times) and dating back to 1825 – where we learn about the making of Scotland’s signature drink and enjoy a “nosing” (tasting). It’s in an idyllic position tucked into the Perthshire hills.
Continuing northward we arrive in the Great Glen, defined by striking topography bringing together mountains and myths, history and wild nature, with views from almost every twist and turn in the roads. Using the small city of Inverness on the banks of the River Ness as our base our days here will be spent exploring around the famous, super-deep Loch Ness (home to the mythical monster), including a short boat ride on it and a stop at the impressive ruins of 13th-century Urquhart Castle, scenically sited on a rocky promontory overlooking the loch. Inverness itself makes for some pleasant independent strolling and shopping, and we also visit the Scottish Kiltmaker Visitor Centre, an educational center of the tradition of tartan and also a shop with a variety of products for sale.
The nearby moorland at Culloden was the scene of the infamous and last-ever battle on British soil that ended the Jacobite forces’ uprising (under Bonnie Prince Charlie) against the British in 1746 and was a turning point in the history of the Scottish nation. Its name to this day can invoke raw feelings among Scots though it’s also a place of natural beauty.
One of the most iconic images of Scotland, Eilean Donan Castle perches on an islet set against a backdrop of mountains and guards the confluence of three lochs. The unique beauty of the place has led it to appear in movies and television and is perhaps the most photographed sight in Scotland after Edinburgh’s castle.
The rugged beauty of the Isle of Skye has been proclaimed since the early 1800s when Sir Walter Scott visited. Mountains, sea, cliffs, lochs, glens, farming villages, castles, fine dining, arts and crafts – they’re all here on this remarkable island, which is also an important center of Gaelic culture and language. Our base is Portree, one of the most attractive ports in northwest Scotland with a cliff-edged harbor, fishing boats, and multicolored houses.
Skye has some extraordinary geological scenery to be seen on the Trotternish Peninsula, and then we head westward to the Glendale region where we may spot otters, seals, and dolphins off its rocky coast and eagles above. In a commanding position Dunvegan Castle has been the seat of the chiefs of Clan MacLeod for over 700 years. Of note here is the scrappy remnant of the Fairy Flag, said to have been a gift from a fairy to the clan and thought to have miraculous powers when unfurled in battle, and the castle’s gardens are attractive.
A ferry returns us to the mainland where we then embark on one of the world’s prettiest train journeys – on the famously scenic 42-mile Jacobite Steam Train route –passing birch and bracken-covered mountains, glassy lochs, the Caledonian Canal, and the 21-arch viaduct at Glenfinnan (where passengers get to live out Harry Potter fantasies). A final night in Perthshire concludes our Scotland adventure and places us close to the Edinburgh Airport where we are dropped off the following day.