Exploring Scotland: Isles, Landscapes, and Lochs

Destination: Edinburgh, the Scottish Highlands and Skye

| Activities: Hiking and Culture

This trip starts and finishes in Edinburgh, and takes in a grand circuit of the famous Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye. Along the way, we visit both of Scotland’s National Parks, view the lochs (an “arm” of the sea), hike in historic Glencoe, experience a lovely valley off the beaten path, and get our fair share of Scottish culture on a castle visit, hikes through history and perhaps a visit to a local pub or two!

Highlights

  • Visiting the rolling hills and lush forests of the most beautiful glen in Scotland
  • Hiking in a variety of iconic Scottish landscapes including the Isle of Skye, Mountains of Torridon, and Loch Lomond National Park
  • Catching a glimpse of the mysterious and beautiful Loch Ness
  • Cultural immersion through castle tours, picturesque village rambles, visits with artisans and musicians, and delicious meals.

Departures and Prices

July 03 to July 12, 2023
$5295.00 - Available
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Inclusions

  • 2 local guides and an AGC guide for more than 8
  • Nine nights double occupancy accommodation with two single supplements available
  • Transportation within Scotland
  • All activities on the itinerary
  • Breakfast each day, 8 lunches (Days 2-9 inclusive), 8 dinners (Day 8 and Day 10 not included)
  • Drinks and snacks while hiking
  • Tipping of hotels, restaurants, and castle tour

Not included: transportation to/from Edinburgh, beverages at dinner, meals excluded above, local guide gratuities, activities and entrance fees not mentioned on the itinerary, items of a personal nature

Trip Documents

Trip Info

This trip has lots of activity, interspersed with time for sightseeing, and our days can be enjoyed by any active and fit woman in good health who has a good level of physical conditioning, loves being outdoors, and wants to see Scotland. This trip is rated 3, which requires aerobic conditioning such as walking vigorously up hills, jogging, cross country skiing or stair stepping for 30 - 45 minutes 3 - 4 days a week. Rating: 1 2 [3]4 5.

This is primarily a hiking trip, designed to introduce you to the varied Scottish landscape. We have chosen moderate hikes on established paths. We will also be learning about Scottish history and culture.

We spend our nights in non-chain locally owned hotels, inns, and B&Bs with en suite bathrooms. We'll spend the first two nights at Loch Lomond Hotel, two nights at MacDonald Hotel, two nights at The Plockton Hotel or similar and two nights at the Glen Mhor Hotel in Inverness. We will spend the last night in Edinburgh at the Bruntsfield

Below is the proposed itinerary for the trip. As is true on any adventure travel trip, plans for any specific day may be modified due to weather considerations, unforeseen circumstances, new opportunities, and group interests.

DAY 1
We’ll begin our trip with a meeting in the lobby of the Bruntsfield Hotel in central Edinburgh at 2PM. After gathering our group, we will head west on a 90-minute van ride to Loch Lomond National Park. Scotland’s first National Park is divided by the fault line that defines the Highlands from the Lowlands and contains a concentration of the landscapes Scotland is known for, from craggy peaks to sparkling lochs to forested glens. We’ll enjoy an easy stroll through Balloch Castle Country Park on the SouthEast shore of Loch Lomond. Delight in the stunning views over the Loch as our first day in Scotland comes to a close and we head to the charming village of Balloch for the night. Hike: Up to 3 miles, 100 feet elevation gain, 1 hour. Overnight Loch Lomond Hotel, Balloch (D)
DAY 2
After a hearty Scottish breakfast, we'll be all set for another day of adventure, and the Scottish Highlands are calling! We’ll travel to nearby Balhama, a bucolic village on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond, for the start of our loop hike on the legendary West Highland Way. The entire West Highland Way stretches 96 miles across Scotland. Today we stretch our legs on one of the most scenic sections including the ascent of Conic Hill, which offers outstanding views across Loch Lomond. This mini-mountain provides one of the best viewpoints in the Highlands so makes for a perfect first hike for us. Hike: 7 miles, 1,200 feet elevation gain, approximately 4 hours. Overnight Loch Lomond Hotel, Balloch (B, L, D)
DAY 3
After another delicious breakfast we’ll head north for 90 mins to the village of Glencoe, which is nestled within a steep valley. Make sure your cameras are at the ready for a scenic hike in the Glencoe Valley. Our aim for today is to summit a rarely-climbed peak which offers some of the best panoramas of the village. With our trusty local experts, we'll follow a faint trail up the hillside; incredible views emerging as we gain elevation. Reaching the summit, we can gaze directly across the valley at the north face of Buachaille Etive Mor, one of the most recognisable mountains in Scotland. After our accomplishment, we’ll drive north for another 30 minutes to our next hotel, located in the peaceful village of Kinlochleven. Hike: 7 miles, 2,150 feet elevation gain, approximately 5 hours. Overnight MacDonald Hotel, Kinlochleven (B,L,D)
DAY 4
Today we’ll hike directly from our hotel, starting with an ascent out of the village on a well-worn trail through the forest. You’ll soon be able to hear the thunder of falling water as the cascading "Grey Mare’s Tail” comes into view. One of the most wonderful waterfalls in the west highlands, the Grey Mare’s Tail drops almost 50 feet through its steep and craggy canyon setting. We’ll continue on our hike as the path comes out of the woods and eventually reaches a remote loch surrounded by mountains and wild moorlands. On our return trip, we’ll enjoy stunning views down the length of Loch Leven to the Pap of Glencoe. Hike: 8 miles, 1,200 feet elevation gain, approx 5 hours. Overnight MacDonald Hotel, Kinlochleven (B, L, D)
DAY 5
We’ll rest our legs on an easier day today as we travel north through spectacular Kintail to reach Eilean Donan, a dramatic castle perched on a small island at the confluence of three sea lochs. Eilean Donan was originally constructed to guard the passageway to the lochs against the vikings and now holds court as the most photographed castle in Scotland. The castle has a battle-scarred history and is currently in its fourth iteration. After learning the rich history on our castle tour, we stop by a local cafe for lunch before reaching the unspoiled village of Plockton, our base for the next 2 nights. There will be time for an easy hike exploring the hills and coastline around the village before we check in and gather for dinner. Hike: 2 miles, 150 feet elevation gain, approx 2 hours. Overnight The Ardvasar Hotel, Skye (B,L,D)
DAY 6
A short drive takes us over the graceful arc of the Skye Bridge to the famous Isle of Skye where we are afforded incredible scenery as well as an opportunity to learn more of Scotland's history. Our plan today is to hike to its most southerly tip, the lighthouse at the point of Sleat. Our route includes fabulous views across incredible views across the sea to various islands and mountain ranges - a real feast for the eyes! Reaching the lighthouse, we’ll enjoy the peace and serenity and scan the ocean for any passing dolphins. On our return, we may detour to the pretty beach at Camas Daraich, where there is time for wading in the sea! Back in the quaint fishing village of Plockton, we’ll settle in for the night. This evening there is time to wander along the waterfront and perhaps visit the local artists studio for a special souvenir. Hike: 5 miles, 1,200 feet elevation gain, approx 4 hours Overnight The Plockton Inn, Plockton (B,L,D)
DAY 7
The mountains are calling and so we head north to Torridon. They are amongst the oldest rocks in Great Britain, and sit on yet older rocks, Lewisian gneiss. Here, we enjoy a relaxing stroll around beautiful Loch Clair, which is surrounded by the towering peaks of Torridon. In mild weather with clear skies, the mountain of Liathach reflects beautifully on the loch. Afterwards, we’ll continue west, arriving to Inverness in the late afternoon. As the northernmost city in the United Kingdom, Inverness is regarded as the capital of the highlands and lies within the Great Glen (Gleann Mòr) at its northeastern extremity where the River Ness enters the Beauly Firth. Here we will enjoy the sights of the architecture in this bustling city. Hike: 4 miles, 400 feet elevation gain, approx 3-4 hours Overnight Glen Mhor Hotel, Inverness (B, L, D)
DAY 8
Today we’ll visit Glen Affric, said to be the prettiest glen in Scotland! Its rolling hills, lush trees, and valley will inspire many photos! It's impossible to tire of the lovely hikes in Scotland. Today's jaunt travels through an ancient pine forest and includes a small summit with magnificent views. Keep your eyes peeled on the way back to Inverness for the infamous Loch Ness monster! It has been described as a large, long necked creature with humps; a Scottish souvenir that we DON'T recommend bringing home! Back in Inverness, we'll enjoy a free evening to explore local restaurants at our leisure. Hike: Flexible: up to 7 miles, up to 1,500 feet elevation gain, 4-5 hours Overnight Glen Mhor Hotel, Inverness (B,L)
DAY 9
We’ll transfer south to Edinburgh, a journey of around 3.5 hours. We’ll break up the journey with a short but stunning walk in the Cairngorms National Park. The park is the largest in the UK, and its Caledonian forest is home to many uncommon species like the Scottish crossbill, a rust-colored bird that is the only terrestrial vertebrate species endemic to the United Kingdom. Our route explores the verdant Uath Lochans and hikes up the small peak of Farleitter Crag for stunning views towards the high plateau of the Cairngorms. We’ll travel through lush forests, atop wooden walkways over water, and eventually overlook the Crag to behold its awe from above. After our last hike, we’ll continue to Edinburgh, arriving late in the afternoon. Once settled in at our final hotel, within the city center in the lovely Bruntsfield district. We’ll gather for a farewell dinner and toast to our adventure. Hike: 3.5 miles, 600 feet elevation gain, approx 2 hours Overnight Bruntsfield Hotel, Edinburgh (B,L,D)
DAY 10
Today we say our farewell to the sounds of Scottish music bustling in Edinburgh. You are free to leave anytime after breakfast. (B)

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  1. What dietary preferences or restrictions can you accommodate on this trip?

    If we know well in advance, we can accommodate vegetarian, lactose-free, and gluten-sensitive diets. We cannot guarantee a completely gluten-free diet and we cannot provide a kitchen guaranteed to be free of cross-contamination. If you are vegan, we ask that you bring some additional protein bars; and if you are gluten-sensitive, please bring some gluten-free snacks. If you have severe allergies, Celiac disease and/or other significant dietary restrictions, please call the office before you register.
  2. I will be coming by myself. Do I need to pay a single supplement?

    You only need to pay a single supplement if you want to guarantee you have your own room. Otherwise we’ll pair you up with someone and then switch roommates every time we switch lodging.
  3. Will I get to listen to Scottish music?

    Your ears will delight in the merry Scottish music we'll hear in the bustling city of Edinburgh, where musicians gather for concert festivals throughout the year!
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