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North Coast & Orkney Rail Tour & Inverness City Break

Glimpse daily life 5,000 years ago at Skara Brae

Best Time To Go

05-Jun-2022 - Limited availability
03-Jul-2022 - Limited availability
07-Aug-2022 - Limited availability
11-Sept-2022 - Limited availability
28-May-2023 - Open for booking
25-Jun-2023 - Open for booking
16-Jul-2023 - Open for booking
10-Sep-2023 - Open for booking

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pre-book a visit to Orkney's Highland Park Distillery?

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Glimpse daily life 5,000 years ago at Skara Brae

North Coast & Orkney Rail Tour & Inverness City Break

Best Time To Go

05-Jun-2022 - Limited availability
03-Jul-2022 - Limited availability
07-Aug-2022 - Limited availability
11-Sept-2022 - Limited availability
28-May-2023 - Open for booking
25-Jun-2023 - Open for booking
16-Jul-2023 - Open for booking
10-Sep-2023 - Open for booking

Why not...

pre-book a visit to Orkney's Highland Park Distillery?

Prices From


No of Nights


Starts From


Finishes In


Explore Scotland's extremities via the Far North Rail Line. Get under the skin of the Orkney Islands. Round off your trip with an Inverness city break

This exclusive week-long small group rail tour  has been carefully designed to curate the best of Scotland’s North Coast and Orkney. Spectacular yet relaxing rail trips paired with short ferry crossings and guided tours will help you reach far-flung corners and uncover fascinating history, culture and local stories. Learn about the infamous Highland Clearances when once-thriving communities were evicted in favour of sheep. Visit – and stay on the estate of – the Queen Mother’s castle. Imagine pagan ceremonies and Neolithic everyday life while surrounded by mighty stones pre-dating the pyramids. You will be accompanied throughout by McKinlay Kidd’s knowledgeable tour leader, plus spend a day with an expert local guide on Orkney.

With a maximum of 15 passengers per group, you can be sure of highly personal service from your knowledgeable tour leader on a McKinlay Kidd small group rail tour. Early booking is strongly advised as places are strictly limited.

Do not hesitate to let us know if we can assist with tailor-made arrangements for you pre or post this scheduled tour.

Read about the measures we took to keep our 2021 small group guided tours safe here.

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Office Hours (UK time) Mon-Fri: 8.30am-6.30pm
Sat: 10am-3.30pm
Sun: closed

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Holiday Details

Day one – Meet and greet in Inverness

Wend your way to Inverness – let us know if we can assist with arrangements.

This evening meet your tour leader and travelling companions for a welcome dinner and first discussion of what to expect over the coming week.

Your hotel in Inverness

You’ll spend your first night in comfort in this elegant four-star hotel. The core of the building dates back to the eighteenth century – history and traditional touches abound. Perhaps relax on arrival with a visit to the swimming pool and spa while you soak up the more tranquil atmosphere of The Highlands.

Day two – Journey North to the Castle of Mey

All aboard the train along the Far North Line as it meanders its way past villages and townships, by castles and across firths. Sit back and absorb the wilderness and beauty of Sutherland’s Flow Country. Your guide will share stories of the area – from Scotland’s ill-fated goldrush to the heart-racing tale of Scotland’s last wolf. From today’s journey’s end at Thurso it’s a short transfer to the Castle of Mey with its rich history linking the sixteenth century Earls of Caithness to the Queen Mother & Prince Charles.

After a visit to the castle and time to stroll in the gardens, it’s only a short walk to your next base, looking over the Pentland Firth.

Your accommodation on Scotland’s North Coast

In the peaceful grounds of a royal residence on Scotland’s wild and windswept north coast, your accommodation is a guest house of rare quality and fascinating history.

Enjoy views towards your future destination of Orkney, perhaps while enjoying a dram from the bar.

Day three – Discover Britain’s true top spot

Today you’ll tour Scotland’s mainland extremities – from Duncansby’s breaching monoliths to Dunnet Head, a place of towering sea cliffs and lonely splendour. More stories from your guide will bring the places to life while seabirds and wildlife abound.

Next it’s on to a local success story. Dunnet Bay Distillers, crafter of fine gin and vodka, offers an especially engaging tour and tasting event. Finish the day with dinner at a local Thurso restaurant before returning to your guest house.

Day four – Over the sea to Orkney

Orkney now beckons, consisting of 70 islands in an archipelago whose central core is linked by the unique Churchill Barriers. Your guide will inform you about their construction plus more about Orkney’s wealth of military history, it’s location meaning it played a major role in both World Wars.

The Italian Chapel is a poignant leftover from WW2 when thousands of Italian POWs were held on Orkney. Seeking their own place of worship, they threw together this simple structure from nissen huts and cast-off timbers, decorating its interior with lasting panache.

You’ll have time to explore the attractive harbour town of Kirkwall in your own time this afternoon. St Magnus Cathedral provides a breath-taking landmark – a soaring red sandstone edifice founded by Vikings as Britain’s most northerly cathedral.

Or you could pop round to see the neighbours at Highland Park Distillery, next door to your hotel. Its 18-year-old is a former winner of the ‘Best Spirit in the World’ accolade. Advance booking is strongly advised, so do let us know that you wish to visit Highland Park at the time of reserving your place on the tour.

For dinner this evening you could choose to to stay in the hotel or try one of Kirkwall’s local restaurants. Your tour leader will assist with options and recommendations.

Your accommodation on Orkney

Located on the edge of Kirkwall, the hotel is traditionally furnished inside a modern exterior. All rooms are individually styled to great effect. With an excellent reputation as a destination for locals, the restaurant features menus packed with local produce. The hotel has ample lounge areas and a whisky snug, where you may be tempted to try a dram or two from a very large range.

Day five – The Heart of Neolithic Orkney

Today you will uncover the UNESCO heritage sites at the heart of Orkney.

For an unforgettable glimpse of ancient domesticity, you’ll visit Europe’s most complete Neolithic village at Skara Brae – a cluster of houses older than the Pyramids, only exposed by a wild storm in the nineteenth century. It provides a fascinating insight into domestic life 5,000 years ago.

Prehistoric encounters continue with the chance to walk amid Orkney’s incredible stone circles – the staggering red-tinged monoliths of the Ring of Brodgar and the quartet of coastal stones at Stenness which claim to be the oldest henge in the British Isles.

The Maeshowe visitor centre helps with understanding the enormous undertaking of building Europe’s largest chambered cairn, discovered and sacked by Vikings who left their mark in runes.

Return at the end of the day to Kirkwall for dinner at leisure.

Day six – South on the North Line

Depart Orkney from Stromness. Your ferry will cruise past the sentinel sea stack of the Old Man of Hoy. Board the train at Thurso and travel South on the Far North Line, meandering through the vast expanse of Sutherland’s Flow Country to your main stop of the day. Dunrobin Castle and Gardens is surprisingly a building styled like an ornate French chateau transported to a forest-ringed North Highlands bay.  There’s much to explore here and many a story – some poignantly about the Highland Clearances when people were moved away in favour of sheep.

Your destination is the town of Dornoch. Here, your tour leader will bring to life centuries of history on a guided walk. Be prepared for yarns of witches and religion through to more modern tales of celebrity – Madonna and Guy Ritchie married at nearby Skibo Castle.

Your hotel in Dornoch

Extended from a fifteenth century Castle, your hotel is well-established as a comfortable base in this attractive historic town. It firmly stands its ground opposite the imposing twelfth century Cathedral. Rooms are mainly in the tasteful modern extension, enjoying views to the garden.

A farewell group dinner is included this evening.

Day seven – Return rail to Inverness 

After a leisurely breakfast, you’ll transfer to Tain for the late morning train back to Inverness. The journey of just over an hour gives you a relaxing chance to contemplate the passing Highland scenery and reflect on the highlights of your unforgettable northern odyssey with the group. On arrival in the Highland capital, say good-bye to new-found friends.

Your accommodation for the next two nights is an extremely comfortable and welcoming guest house, located in a peaceful residential area. It’s around a 20 minute walk or short taxi ride into the centre, while the Caledonian Canal is very close for stretching your legs along the towpath. There’s plenty to see in the Highland capital, where the River Ness meets the Moray Firth – check out Britain’s first post-Reformation Cathedral, the stately 1830s castle or the fine modern art gallery and museum. Or just stroll along the river or Caledonian Canal, taking in Highland views.

Inverness offers a range of restaurants to suit all tastes – we’ll provide recommendations and will happily assist with advance bookings.

Day eight – Inverness Revealed

We’ll arrange a tour for you with a local guide today, who will collect you from your accommodation. This will include a one-hour boat cruise on Loch Ness as part of a small group – your chance for a bit of Nessie-spotting plus the best views of the crumbling ruins of Urquhart Castle. The rest of the tour can be tailored to your specific wishes, and with a vehicle at your disposal you could choose to visit sites such as Culloden or the Clava Cairns, made famous in Outlander. Lying just outside the city, evocative Culloden Battlefield will help you understand tales of warring clans which may be more complex than you realise!

Day nine – Homeward Bound

Your journey of discovery of Scotland’s North Highlands and Orkney is at an end. Perhaps take a stroll along the river before departing. Do not hesitate to let us know if we can help with your onward arrangements.


The tour begins in Inverness then onward to Scotland’s North Coast by train on the Far North Line, before hopping over to Orkney for two nights, returning to the mainland for one night in Dornoch. A final train journey returns you to Inverness for your tailor-made two-night city break in the Highland capital.


The price per person includes:

  • Eight nights in hand-picked three and four star-standard accommodation.
  • Breakfast throughout.
  • Dinner on four evenings.
  • Rail travel from Inverness to Thurso, from Thurso to Dunrobin, & Tain to Inverness.
  • Entry to Castle of Mey.
  • Day tour around the North East including tour and tasting at Dunnet Bay Distillery.
  • Ferry from Gills Bay to St Margaret’s Hope.
  • Sightseeing tour from St Margaret’s Hope to Kirkwall including admission to the Italian Chapel.
  • Full-day tour of Orkney with an expert local guide, including admission to all sites visited.
  • Ferry from Stromness to Scrabster.
  • Entry to Dunrobin Castle.
  • Walking tour of Dornoch.
  • The services of McKinlay Kidd’s tour leader, accompanying the group and providing guiding and assistance throughout the first seven days.
  • Transfers as described.
  • A six-hour tailor-made tour from Inverness with a local guide, including a one-hour boat trip on Loch Ness in a small group

From time to time we may need to make minor changes to the itinerary, such as the specific places visited, but will always replace with alternatives of equivalent or higher standard.

Not included:

  • Lunch each day and dinner on four evenings
  • Visit to the Highland Park Distillery (optional visit – please advise at time of enquiry to secure your booking as availability is limited)
  • Drinks
  • Gratuities and tips
  • Taxis in Inverness

All accommodation is carefully-selected and researched by us, predominantly featuring small, family-owned hotels – contact us for more detailed information. We will do our best to accommodate room preferences subject to availability at individual properties.

This tour will operate with a maximum of 15 passengers on each departure date. 

Simply complete the form below to reserve your place(s). We guarantee to hold your place(s) for 48 hours to provide time for you to pay the deposit of 25% per person.

The McKinlay Kidd Guarantee

All our holiday prices include a service charge of £9 per person per night towards the costs we incur in researching, planning and designing your holiday.

We guarantee to refund this service charge if you believe that arranging your holiday through McKinlay Kidd has not met your expectations for value. All we ask is that you write to us within 7 days of your return and explain your reason for claiming the refund. This will ensure that we can improve the experience for all our future guests.

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Reserve your place(s) for North Coast & Orkney Rail Tour & Inverness City Break

Departure Dates & Current Availability
Departure DateStarts FromNights£ per person (2 sharing)£ per person (single)
Sunday 5 Jun 2022Inverness8£ 2275 - Limited places available£ On request - Limited places available
Sunday 3 Jul 2022Inverness8£ 2275 - Limited places available£ On request - Fully booked
Sunday 7 Aug 2022Inverness8£ 2275 - Fully booked£ On request - Limited places available
Sunday 11 Sep 2022Inverness8£ 2275 - Fully booked£ On request - Limited places available
Sunday 28 May 2023Inverness8£ 2275£ On request
Sunday 25 Jun 2023Inverness8£ 2275£ On request
Sunday 16 Jul 2023Inverness8£ 2275£ On request
Sunday 10 Sep 2023Inverness8£ 2275£ On request

To reserve your place(s) on this tour, please call us or complete the form below, making sure to select your departure date from the dropdown menu and advise of any special requirements. We will hold your place(s) for 48 hours and contact you with details of how to confirm your booking by payment of the per person deposit.

Please note: All form fields are required unless otherwise stated optional.

Tour Details

Availability of double or twin rooms can vary at individual hotels on the tour, so it helps us to understand your preferences.

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