A Grand Scottish Islands tour from Inverness through the Highlands to the Outer Hebrides, the Isle of Skye, Orkney and Shetland over nine days.
Day 1 - An early start from Inverness to the coastal village of Ullapool where we board the ferry for a 2½ hour journey across the Minch to the Isle of Lewis and its main town of Stornoway (my native town). From there we spend the afternoon exploring the magnificent Neolithic Callanish Standing Stones, the 2000 year old Dun Carloway Broch and a traditional Hebridean blackhouse. We end the day at the Butt of Lewis, the most northerly point in the Outer Hebrides before our return to Stornoway for our overnight stay.
Day 2 - After time in Stornoway visiting the Lewis Chessmen, Museum nan Eilean and Lews Castle, we journey south to the Isle of Harris. The tour along the Atlantic coastline of Harris includes the stunning beaches at Luskentyre, Seilebost and Nisabost. We visit Rodel to explore the beautiful medieval St Clement’s church and Tarbert (home of Harris Tweed and Isle of Harris distillery) before returning north to Stornoway for our overnight stay.
Day 3 - Departing from Stornoway we travel south to Tarbert where we take a 1¾ hour late morning ferry across the Little Minch to Uig on the Isle of Skye. The afternoon take us around the Trotternish peninsula including the Museum of Island Life, the Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock and the magnificent views from the Quiraing before our arrival in Portree for our overnight stay.
Day 4 - Leaving Portree we visit Dunvegan Castle, home of the Clan MacLeod, one of the Hebrides most powerful clans. Turning south we head towards the base of the dramatic Black Cuillin mountain ridge before taking a detour to the Sleat Peninsula where we stop at the beautiful Isleornsay to enjoy some Hebridean whisky tasting. After a visit to Armadale we cross the bridge to the Scottish mainland where we savour a distance view of Eilean Donan Castle (option to visit the castle instead of Sleat Peninsula) before our return to Inverness for our overnight stop.
Day 5 - Departing Inverness with a morning drive to the far North of Scotland and our ferry port of Scrabster, near Thurso. The drive north covers wonderful coastal scenery and normally takes around 3-4 hours including photo stops and a brief visit to the historic town of Dornoch. Our 1½ hour ferry journey includes a great view of the Old Man of Hoy before our arrival in Orkney. The late afternoon includes a visit Skara Brae, a 5000 year old Neolithic village settlement before we end the day in Kirkwall for our overnight stop.
Day 6 - A full day on the Orkney mainland that includes a visit to Maeshowe, the standing stones of Stenness, the stone circle at the Ring of Brodgar and the 2000 year old Broch of Gurness. After visiting the Italian Chapel, the Churchill Barriers and Scapa Flow, the late afternoon is spent in Kirkwall enjoying the stunning 12th century St Magnus Cathedral along with the ruins of the Earl’s palace. After an evening meal in Kirkwall we catch the late ferry (11pm) from Kirkwall for an overnight sailing to Lerwick in the Shetland Islands.
Day 7 - After a leisurely breakfast on the ferry we depart Lerwick to spend the day exploring the south mainland of Shetland. Sumburgh Head is our first stop - a stunning viewpoint and a haven for seabirds. Next is Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse settlement which spans over four thousand years. The afternoon takes us on a beautiful coastal drive to the breath-taking St Ninian's Isle where you can hike across the sands to the island. Returning north we end the day at the two thousand year old Clickimin Broch before our overnight stay in Lerwick.
Day 8 - Departing from Lerwick we head towards the north Shetland mainland. Arriving at Eshaness we take time to savour the dramatic cliffs and sea stacks that the fantastic coastal landscape of Shetland presents to us from this headland. The afternoon takes us to the ruins of Scalloway Castle before we return to Lerwick. Here we explore the Shetland Museum and Fort Charlotte before ending our time in Shetland with a meander through Lerwick town and harbour. In the late afternoon we board the ferry from Lerwick for an overnight sailingto Aberdeen on the Scottish mainland.
Day 9 - Arriving into Aberdeen harbour in the early morning, we enjoy a leisurely breakfast on the ferry before heading south to explore the historic ruins of Dunnottar Castle. Next we drive east towards to Elgin to expore the stunning seven hundred year old ruins of Elgin Cathedral and the Pictish standing stones of the area. The late afternoon takes us back to Inverness, but not before we enjoy a tour and tasting at Benromach malt whisky distillery. Alternatively (instead of Benromach), we can end the day with a visit to the four thousand year old burial cairns and standing stones at Clava, along with a guided walk of Culloden Battlefield.
The Hebridean Explorer (John Alasdair Macdonald) is an independent tour guide specialising in private guided tours for small groups (up to 3) from Inverness and Edinburgh covering the Scottish Highlands and Islands including the Isle of Skye, the Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland along with Scotch whisky, Highland clans and history tours.
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