This week long holiday is designed to give first time visitors a good introduction to the contrasts of Scotland. It starts in Edinburgh, takes you to the heart of the Highlands, then on to a beautiful sea loch on the stunning west coast and finishes
Day One - Edinburgh
Your holiday starts in Edinburgh, Scotland's capital and one of the top city holiday destinations in the world. Visitors from all over the world are drawn here by the wealth of historic sites, galleries and museums, shops, restaurants and bars - not to mention the spectacular sight of Princes Street and the castle rock. Yet it's still perfectly possible to avoid most of the crowds and find quiet cobbled streets, peaceful cafes and bars and, above all, to enjoy this most scenic of British cities.
For visitors to the capital seeking both contemporary style and value for money, this unique aparthotel combines the comfort and service of a top-quality hotel with the additional space and facilities you would expect from good self-catering accommodation. Each apartment offers two bedrooms, two bathrooms, lounge, dining area and fully-equipped modern kitchen, complete with microwave, washer/dryer and dishwasher. Secure underground parking is also available for a small extra charge.
The location is another bonus: just off Edinburgh's Royal Mile, you can head up the hill to the castle, or down to Holyrood Palace and the new Scottish Parliament, less than five minutes' walk. Just beyond this is the extraordinary wilderness of Holyrood Park - where you can escape the city completely - and Arthur's Seat, whose easily attained summit affords superb panoramic views of the cityscape.
Day Three - Speyside
Today you head north over the spectacular Forth Road Bridge, through Perthshire and across the Highlands to Speyside, famous for its whisky, castles, rivers and glens. This memorable drive incorporates many potential stopping off points, including Blair Castle and the Highland Wildlife Park at Kingussie, before reaching your next destination.
Your elegant Georgian hotel is the perfect place to unwind in traditional highland surroundings, offering a warm welcome and a touch of style in the centre of an attractive Speyside village. Close to several distilleries on the famous Whisky Trail, it offers a fine selection of single malts that you can sample as you relax in front of the sitting room's crackling log fire, perhaps with a good book. The friendly bistro offers a daily changing menu featuring local meat and game plus a variety of seafood. The chef combines these and other fine ingredients with fresh herbs and fruit from his adjacent walled garden, which you are welcome to take a stroll around as you plan the following day's activities.
Besides being close to the sunny Moray Coast, your hotel is within 45 minutes' drive of both Culloden and the challenging Nevis Range. There's no shortage of other options too - with excellent salmon fishing on the Spey, 15 nearby golf courses, walking on the Speyside Way and numerous places of historic interest, from Pluscarden Abbey to romantic Cawdor Castle.
Day Five - West Highlands
Today's classic route will take you along the shores of Loch Ness (possibly stopping off at famous Urquhart Castle or even the Loch Ness Monster Centre at Drumnadrochit - do bring your sense of humour) and down the Great Glen, before arriving at the beautiful Argyll coast and your next destination.
Originally the home of Loch Linnhe's Pier Master, this historic restaurant, with its adjacent modern residence, really is a special place to contemplate the dramatic beauty of the west coast. The views are stunning and the once prolific steam traffic has given way to the blissful sound of silence. Mouth-watering langoustines and lobster are kept fresh off the end of the pier, before being served to you by candlelight in the cosy conviviality of one of Argyll's finest restaurants. As you contemplate the sunset over the distant Morvern hills, you may be lucky enough to glimpse otters and seals.
The local ferryman might tempt you to board the morning boat to Lismore - an island well worth a day's exploration either on foot or bike (available for hire locally). Also nearby, Castle Stalker, ancient seat of the Stuarts, stands at the mouth of Loch Laich, whilst Oban is just half an hour away by car for ferries to Mull, Kerrera and other islands.
Day Seven - Southern Highlands
Today your scenic route passes Loch Etive and Loch Awe, before reaching your next base in the Trossachs, the Scottish Lakeland.
Nestling in the heart of Rob Roy country amidst the beautiful lochs, forest and mountains of the Trossachs, this is primarily an award-winning restaurant, with the added benefit of overnight accommodation so that you can really make the most of your dining experience. The Baronial Dining Room, with its vaulted ceiling and magnificent fireplace, is the focal point of a restored seventeenth century farmhouse and a worthy setting for the superb Franco-Scottish cuisine, which has deservedly been awarded two AA rosettes and a Michelin ‘Bib Gourmand’. An impressive wine list provides the perfect complement to your meal, after which you will not have far to stagger to your pretty bedroom – one of five featuring attractive furnishings and antiques (and one with a romantic four poster).
The hotel is well located for great drives throughout the Trossachs as well as along Loch Tay and around Ben Lawers, Scotland's tenth highest mountain. Besides boasting many scenic roads, this is great walking country, with several starting from the hotel itself, and is famous for its connections with Rob Roy MacGregor, the outlaw - his grave is in Balquhidder churchyard. A little further afield, you can explore Stirling and its dramatic Castle and old centre, or take a boat trip on the beautiful Lake of Menteith (the only "lake" in Scotland!) and visit the island of Inchmahome Priory, once a hiding place for the young Mary Queen of Scots.