North Coast 500 and the Orkney Islands

from Edinburgh and Glasgow

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Explore the Orkney Islands to discover its ancient history, varied wildlife and picturesque scenery then join the North Coast 500, Scotland ‘s own Route 66, to discover its famous castles, lochs and mountains.

Day One: Edinburgh - Loch Ness - Inverness

We wave farewell to Edinburgh and journey west to collect any passengers joining us in Glasgow. We’ll have a stop in the pretty village of Luss to spend time admiring the ‘bonnie, bonnie banks’ of Loch Lomond, and then head further north to Tyndrum where we’ll stop for lunch. The landscape changes dramatically as we leave behind the Lowlands and feast our eyes upon the wilder Highland crags and peaks. The desolation of Rannoch Moor is somehow bewitching as it emerges ahead of us and gives way to the rugged beauty of Glen Coe. This was the site of the most infamous massacre in Scottish history, in 1692, and we’ll stop here so you can absorb the atmosphere of this haunting place. The vastness and majesty of the jagged peaks of the Great Glen have to be seen to be believed, as does the size and scale of Loch Ness. We discover the many myths and legends surrounding the loch’s world-famous inhabitant, Nessie, as we head towards Fort Augustus, where you’ll have the option of taking a cruise on the loch. We’ll linger for some photos of the loch-side ruins of Urquhart Castle before our day ends in the bustling city of Inverness.

Overnight: Inverness

Day Two: Inverness - Golspie - Orkney Islands

Fuelled by a hearty breakfast, day two of our adventure begins. Heading north from Inverness, we join the breathtaking NC500 route, with every twist and turn taking us along the coast to the very tip of Scotland. We’ll have a short break in the lovely village of Golspie and then visit the nearby Iron Age Carn Liath broch.As we pass Helmsdale, we’ll make a photo stop at the poignant Emigrant’s Statue that overlooks the village. Next we’ll reach Gill’s Bay and hop aboard our waiting ferry to set sail over the Pentland Firth for the enchanting Orkney Islands. Our first stop is the beautiful and moving Italian Chapel, a peaceful and ornate place of worship painstakingly built by Italian P.O.W.s during the Second World War. After time to appreciate this remarkable work of art we’ll retire to the ancient Viking settlement of Kirkwall, our base for the next two nights, as we contemplate the wonders we have seen – and those still to come.

Overnight: Kirkwall

Day Three: Discovering Ancient Orkney

The sun rises on our second day in Orkney as another morning packed with adventure begins. Stepping back in time to the Neolithic age, we first visit the massive stones of Stenness, part of what is thought to be the oldest ceremonial stone henge in the British Isles. The haunting Ring of Brodgar Standing Stones are next, and these are another part of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site. These thought-provoking Stone Age henges will inspire wonder and amazement before we move on to our next port of call – the nearby Maeshowe chambered cairn. Stand inside this incredible 5,000 year old tomb, and look for the graffiti carved by the Norsemen who uncovered it in the middle of the 12th century.Next is Skara Brae, another magnificent Stone Age settlement. Hidden from view under sand dunes for centuries, it was only a storm in 1850 that revealed its secrets to the world. We duly pause and reflect on the power of nature and the determination of the Stone Age community that once stood on these shores.

We return to our welcoming base in Kirkwall, with time for a stroll around the harbour to work up an appetite before dinner.

Overnight: Kirkwall

Day Four: Orkney Islands - Thurso - Ullapool

We bid a fond farewell to Orkney, safe in the knowledge that our memories from these unique islands will last a lifetime. As we embark on our 60-minute ferry journey, we’re accompanied by dozens of hungry seabirds. Imagine our joy at spotting cheeky seals and playful dolphins, and if we’re very lucky, elusive Orcas may say hello! Elsewhere, our gaze lingers on the abandoned isle of Stroma as a guide enlightens us with its history.

Once returned to the mainland, we rejoin the beautiful North Coast 500 route, this time travelling west and south. Home to some of Scotland’s most stunning scenery, panoramic views stretch out before us as we meander contentedly. There’s time for lunch and refreshments in Thurso, the most northerly town on mainland Scotland before we set out once again.

Beaches that could rival the Caribbean lie on this route, and if the sun is shining, an invigorating paddle will blow the cobwebs away. We’ll have a photo stop at Smoo Cave, with its 50 ft high entrance, before we end our day at the pretty little fishing port of Ullapool on Loch Broom, where we’ll check into our accommodation and spend a relaxing evening watching the sun go down.

Overnight: Ullapool

Day Five: Ullapool - Cawdor Castle - Edinburgh.

As we leave Ullapool this morning and head east, we discover more secrets from the Highlands on the evocative battlefield of Culloden. Listen to astonishing historic tales and learn how Highland clans fought in vain alongside Bonnie Prince Charlie against the Duke of Cumberland’s forces in 1746. Did you know that this terrible battle is still inspiring writers to this very day, and even led to the creation of the Outlander story? At the ancient Clava Cairns burial ground, we’ll see the standing stones that inspired Diana Gabaldon to create her fictional Craigh-Na-Dun. We continue to 15th century Cawdor Castle, forever associated with Shakespeare’s Macbeth. There’s time to explore the castle and its beautiful gardens before we say goodbye to the Highlands and head south through the spectacular Cairngorms National Park. Wildlife is plentiful and we may see hungry birds of prey or majestic stags surveying their kingdom. Our next stop is the charming Perthshire town of Pitlochry for refreshments. Our tour ends with a journey through the ancient Kingdom of Fife, back towards the capital. Rising into view over the horizon we see the bridges spanning the Firth of Forth, as the Queensferry Crossing, The Forth Bridge and the Forth Road Bridge herald our return to Edinburgh’s famous cobbled streets.

If Glasgow is your destination you’ll be dropped at Edinburgh’s Waverley Station from where there is a frequent train service to Glasgow’s Queen Street Station. The cost of the train ticket is included in the tour price.

Tour Highlights: Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park, Glen Coe, Loch Ness, Inverness, North Coast 500 Scenic Drive, Ferry to the Orkney Islands, Italian Chapel, Scapa Flow, Kirkwall, Maeshowe, Skara Brae, Ring of Brodgar, Thurso, Smoo Cave, Ullapool, Culloden Moor, Clava Cairns, Cawdor Castle, Cairngorms National Park and Pitlochry

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Prices (Per Person)

Guest House
Single from £ 615.00
Twin from £ 545.00

Single from £ 0.00
Twin from £ 0.00

Accommodation Details

Edinburgh Product Code:
TB 02923

Glasgow Product Code:
TB 02923

A child discount of £6 applies to children aged 5 to 16 years inclusive. We’re really sorry but children aged under 5 years cannot travel on this tour. Photo-ID may be requested to confirm discount entitlement.

Seasonal price range
£545 - £675
Luggage Allowance: One medium sized suitcase/bag per person (maximum weight: 15 kilos)

Product code: TB 02923

Dates of Operation

From Edinburgh:
Saturdays and Mondays
2 May 2020 to 28 September 2020

From Glasgow:
Saturdays and Mondays
2 May 2020 to 28 September 2020

Departure Information

From Edinburgh:
Check In: 08.45 hrs
Departure 09.00 hrs
from The Ensign Ewart, 521-523 Lawnmarket,
The Royal Mile,
Edinburgh EH1 2PE
Returns at 19.30 hrs (day 5)

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From Glasgow:
Check-in: 10:00 hrs
Departure: 10:15 hrs
From Outside Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
opposite Buchanan Street Bus Station
19 Killermont Street, G2 3NX
Returns at 20:30 (day 5)
Passengers returning to Glasgow will be issued with a complimentary train ticket and dropped off at Edinburgh Waverley Station.

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What's included

• 4 nights accommodation in rooms with private bath/shower
• Full Scottish breakfast (days 2 to 5)
• Excursions as detailed in itinerary
• Transportation by air-conditioned mini/midi coach
• Ferry tickets and reservations
• Live commentary in English
• Services of a tour host
• Service charges and taxes

What's NOT included

• Admission charges unless otherwise stated in the itinerary
• Meals, snacks or items of a personal nature
• Gratuity to your tour host

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