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Grand Island Hopping Tour

Grand Island Hopping Tour

Introduction

Time: All Year

Accommodation: Best Traditional Hotels

Start Date: 11 Nights / 12 Days

Group Size: Singles, Couples, Families and Small Groups

The Scottish Islands stretch from the Shetlands in the far north, just 6 degrees south of the Arctic Circle, to the remote Western Isles, made from some of the oldest rocks on Earth. The dramatic landscapes are divided by countless rivers and lochs and the western coasts are edged by miles of sandy beaches. Man has been here for over 6,000 years, living off the sea and thin soil. Orkney was part of the kingdom of Norway until 1469 and many of the Isles still retain elements of their Norse heritage. During the Viking festival of Up Helly AA in Lerwick, for example, the people of Orkney set fire to a replica Viking longship. The Scottish Isles have a remarkable wealth of prehistoric monuments which place them among Europe’s most treasured archaeological sites.

Profile

The aim of this tour is to give you a taste of the heritage and cultures of the Scottish Isles and a chance to visit some of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. As you travel from island to island, you will have the opportunity to explore the attractions and delights of the local villages and towns. Please note that ferries between these remote islands are subject to weather conditions and itineraries may need to change at short notice to take account of this.

Ferry times: This tour is dependent on many external ferries. This itinerary will need to be adjusted to take account of the times of each ferry.

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Why not create your own tour? As with all our tours the attractions you see will take account of your interests and can be adapted to what you want to see. So, if you want to see places not on the list below, just let us know. Complete our enquiry form to find out more »


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Itinerary

Day 1: Airport to Aberdeen to Shetland

Day 1: Airport to Aberdeen to Shetland

After meeting your guide we will travel north, passing a number of landmarks including the FORTH BRIDGE. This bridge was the world’s first steel bridge and is a symbol of Scotland. There are a number of outstanding castles close to our route and one of the best is GLAMIS CASTLE. This was the childhood home of the late Queen Mother and set in the lovely rolling hills of Angus. With an ancient history, most of the building you will see today dates from the C17th. Finally, we will arrive in ABERDEEN, Scotland’s third largest city, known as the granite city for it’s striking granite architecture. We take the overnight ferry.

Day 2: Shetland to Orkney

Day 2: Shetland to Orkney

We will arrive in LERWICK (on the Shetland Isles) early in the morning. Our first stop is the SHETLAND MUSEUM. Shetland has a strong Norse heritage and the museum tells the story of the islands heritage through thousands of artefacts and displays. The Island of MOUSA has an ancient Iron Age tower, Mousa Broch. A broch is an Iron Age tower and Mousa is the only one in the world to survive almost complete. Close to the ferry port are the 3,000 year old ruins of JARLSHOF. This consists of a number of ancient settlements dating to the Bronze Age. We will catch the evening and overnight in Kirkwall

Day 3: Orkney

Day 3: Orkney

This morning, we explore ORKNEY. First, we will tour the capital of the Island, KIRKWALL. The Norman cathedral of ST MAGNUS - Orkney’s patron saint was founded in 1137 and is famed for it’s stain glass. Close-by is the C17th EARL'S PALACE the finest French Renaissance building in Scotland. This part of Scotland has some of the most outstanding Neolithic treasures on the planet. SKARA BRAE village dates from 3,000BC. It is remarkably preserved with an intricate maze of dwellings. Close by is the RING OF BRODGAR and the chambered tomb of MAES HOWE are the standing stones of STENNES.

Day 4: Orkney to Mainland

Day 4: Orkney to Mainland

On the ferry, we will pass the Old Man of Hoy – a 450 feet high sea stack which is one of the world’s great climbs. Once on the mainland, we will take a leisurely drive though the unparalleled mountain scenery of the northern and western coast of the HIGHLANDS - this is a new UNESCO GEOPARK. We will pass SMOO Cave, on the outskirts of the quaint village of Durness and the remains of Ardveck Castle, overlooking the shores of Loch Assynt and dating back to 1490, before arriving in the port. Our overnight stop will be close to the port of Ullapool.

Day 5: Mainland to Lewis

Day 5: Mainland to Lewis

On the morning ferry from Ullapool we will travel to the Outer Hebrides and the largest town on the ISLE OF LEWIS, Stornoway. The Hebrides are a 150 mile long chain of Island and a haven for outdoor activities with wonderful beaches and a great place to unwind. Arriving about lunchtime, Stornoway’s centre and harbour are worthy of a short walking tour. One of the islands most famous products is tweed. There are a number of makers of the authentic HARRIS TWEED and we can spend some time discovering this unique craft.

Day 6: Lewis, Harris to Skye

Day 6: Lewis, Harris to Skye

Just out of Stornaway is the tiny village of Arnol and BLACKHOUSE MUSEUM. This is a traditional thatched long house shared by crofters and their animals. It gives us a wonderful insight into how the islanders lived. A little further along the coast is CARLOWAY BROCK a Pictish tower over 2,000 years old. The Standing Stones of CALLANISH are a little further on. These are standing stones built between 2900 and 2600 BC and laid out in the shape of a Celtic cross. Our aim is to catch the late afternoon ferry to the Isle of Skye and time permitting we will venture onto the Isle of Harris.

Day 7: Isle of Skye

Day 7: Isle of Skye

The ISLE OF SKYE is arguably Scotland’s most beautiful island and it has a wealth of interesing places. Options include the CUILLINS - Britain’s finest mountain range, DUNVEGAN CASTLE - seat of the chiefs of the Clan Macleod; the Old Man of Storr - a monolith rising 150 feet. There are many galleries to explore and award winning seafood restaurants in Portree, the Island’s capital. Boat trips can be taken to feed the Sea Eagles or, we can end the day with a visit to Skye’s only distillery, the volcanically powerful TALISKER malt. With its distinctively peppery character it is said to “explode on the palate”.

Day 8: Skye to Mainland to Mull

Day 8: Skye to Mainland to Mull

We begin with the ferry from Skye to mainland. Then driving through spectacular scenery, from vast mountains to white sandy beaches we arrive at our next ferry from the tiny port of Kilchoan to Mull, arriving at TOBERMORY, the main town on Mull. There would then be a choice, either TOROSAY Castle, with it’s fabulous collection of furniture and paintings; visit the distillery, TOBERMORY whisky or; we can go to DUART CASTLE home of the Clan Maclean, with an outstanding banqueting hall and state rooms all within the C13th keep. Its dungeons held prisoners from a Spanish galleon sunk in 1588.

Day 9: Mull, Iona and Staffa

Day 9: Mull, Iona and Staffa

Having visited the ST COLUMBUS Exhibition at Fionnphort to discover how St Columba began his mission in Scotland in 563, we travel by boat to the Island of IONA. Iona’s Abbey has a wealth of architectural detail and monuments from many periods inlcduing the finest Celtic cross in Britain. The ancient burial ground contains the graves of many Scottish Kings, including Malcolm I, Donald I and Macbeth. An alternative tour today would be to take the the tiny boat to the incredible Fingal’s Cave on nearby STAFFA. From this vantage point, it is possible to see some of the wildlife including whales, dolphins and seals.

Day 10: Mull to Jura and Islay

Day 10: Mull to Jura and Islay

From Mull we travel to Oban and travel south to Tarbert then the 3 hour journey to Islay, with a fantastic view of Jura’s three peaks, known as the Paps of Jura. Also on the way is Kilmartin which is Scotland’s richest prehistoric landscape with over 350 ancient monuments. Finally, after the ferry trip, we arrive on ISLAY and travel to Port Askaig, The island is well known for its peaty malt whiskies and there are seven distilleries to visit here including Bowmore, Lagavulin or Laphroaig.

Day 11: Islay

Day 11: Islay

Islay’s main administrative centre is the Georgian village of BOWMORE. The C18th church is interesting and its circular shape is designed to minimize the Devil’s possible lurking places. The MUSEUM OF ISLAY LIFE in Port Charlotte contains information on the wildlife and social history of the island. FINLAGGAN was the seat chosen by the Clan MacDonald who became the “Lord of the Isles“ to control an area from Kintyre to Lewis. It was the home to the privy council and was out of royal control. Islay is a haven for those who enjoy FISHING and you may wish to spend the afternoon on Loch Gorm.

Day 12: Islay to Mainland

Day 12: Islay to Mainland

From Islay, we return our guests to Glasgow or Edinburgh, to return home. The journey back to either airports or the city centres will take about three to four hours. On the way will see places such as Inverarary Castle and town – the home of the Campbells and Loch Lomond.


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