1. Iona, Mull, and Isle of Skye: 5-Day Tour from Edinburgh
Spend 5 spectacular days exploring the unruly beauty and fascinating history of the Scottish west coast, and visiting 4 of its beautiful islands. On your second day, take a ferry to explore the dramatic coastlines of the island of Mull, and then continue to the island of Iona to visit its ancient abbey and craggy cliff-side. Take advantage of the opportunity to take a small boat to Staffa to explore its beautiful basalt columns, and spend the majority of your third day exploring the famous Isle of Skye. Day 1: Edinburgh – Loch Lomond – Oban Your first day of the journey takes you north past Stirling Castle, and then west to Scotland’s first National Park near Loch Lomond. Travel through the mountains of the West Highlands, passing the magnificent white-washed town of Inveraray, and spend the afternoon in the heart of Argyll before arriving to bustling town of Oban, the gateway to the islands, for your 2-night stay. Day 2: Oban – Mull – Iona Begin early with a ferry ride across the Mull and spend the morning exploring the island’s dramatic coastlines and wild beauty, before taking the small ferry to Iona – the birthplace of Celtic Christianity and ancient burial ground of Scottish Kings. Visit the historic abbey and its intricate carved crosses or explore the rocky headlands and sandy coves of this island gem. There is also an opportunity to take a small boat out to the island of Staffa (except Saturday departures in September) and view the dramatic basalt columns immortalized by Mendelssohn in his Hebridean Overture “Fingal’s Cave”. You then return on the ferry to Oban for your second night. Day 3: Oban – Glencoe – Plockton Today takes you north along the west coast around Appin, passing the impregnable Castle Stalker and Glencoe, scene of the infamous massacre of the MacDonald clan in 1692. You then pass through Fort William nestling in the shadow of Ben Nevis which at 1,344 meters is the highest mountain in the British Isles. The tour continues through the Great Glen, a natural fault in the earth’s crust that runs through Scotland and on through Ireland. From here you travel north to the picturesque fishing village of Plockton. You are then dropped off at your accommodation in the early evening. Day 4: Flexible Day Your fourth day of the journey is very flexible, with many possibilities (depending on the weather). Your driver/guide will use his/her local knowledge to decide on the best day out for the group, which could include traveling north to the stunning Quiraing mountain pass for a walk through some of Skye’s extraordinary geological scenery or a visit to the Kilt Rock, composed of basalt columns and cascading waterfalls. After lunch, you may travel to Neist Point for a walk out to the lighthouse at the most westerly point on Skye, or you may pay a visit to Dunvegan Castle, ancient ancestral seat of the Clan McLeod, returning to your accommodation in Plockton in the late afternoon to enjoy a free evening in the village. Day 5: Loch Duich – Loch Ness – Edinburgh You will be collected from your accommodation and travel south through the Cuillin Hills, stopping to visit the famous stronghold Eilean Donan Castle, before traveling east to take in the stunning views over Loch Duich and the 5 Sisters of Kintail. Onto Loch Ness for lunch and the possibility of spotting “Nessie,” and then head south through the Grampian mountains and long Loch Laggan, passing Dalwhinnie, home to Scotland’s highest whisky Distillery. Stop in at Perthshire for some refreshments before heading back to Edinburgh over the Forth Road Bridge, arriving at approximately 19:00.