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Day One – North to Skye
Welcome to the Best of Scotland’s Highlands & Islands! Wherever you’re arriving from, we’ll create a bespoke route for the opening day of your road-trip up Scotland’s incredible West Coast, and across the bridge to the legendary Isle of Skye. Yes, Skye has seen some increase in popularity in the past few years, but in our experience it’s just as easy to find solitude here as virtually anywhere in the Highlands. With 400 miles of superb coastline, littered with bays, coves, rocky cliffs, tidal islands and skerries, circling the most varied landscape found anywhere, this is an island we’re simply never done exploring.
Your Accommodation on Skye
Cosy and welcoming, your accommodation on Skye is a longstanding independent property, the kind of place to which visitors return again and again. Its location makes for easy exploration of the island, with cossetting en-suite bedrooms ready to deliver a soothing night after a long day of discovery.
Day Two – Seek the Best of Skye
Having spent many years visiting Skye again and again, we’ve built up a wealth of knowledge that we’re only too eager to share with our guests. On your first full day here, our recommendations will help cram in as many hidden highlights as you wish, while leaving space for you to strike out on your own.
Day Three – Off to ‘the Big Island’
Head for the north-west corner of the island this morning, to the sheltered harbour at Uig for your first ferry crossing, across the North Minch to Tarbert on the Isle of Harris. From the port, it’s only a few minutes’ drive to your next base.
Your Accommodation on Harris
The moment you arrive at this family owned guest house, a sense of calm island-ease descends. Nothing is too much trouble for the friendly hosts, while the bedrooms could not be more comfortable, and the overwhelmingly beautiful location certainly adds a sense of drama and solitude.
Day Four – the Isle of Harris
Each of the Hebridean islands has its own distinct character, and Harris is no different in that regard. Strange, lunar-like landscapes sit alongside some of – no exaggeration – the world’s finest beaches, especially at Luskentyre and Scarista on the West Coast. Remote hamlets seem to emerge from the landscape, many hiding longstanding arts and crafts ventures and producers of the world-class tweed, while the recently established distillery has quickly garnered overwhelming acclaim for its gin while the whisky bides its time.
Day Five – North to Lewis
Despite their identities as entirely separate location, Harris and Lewis inhabit a single landmass, indeed known to locals as ‘the Big Island’, and in fact the UK’s largest offshore island. So, with no ferry today, you’ll enjoy a couple of hours on the road, as it bends, soars and drops through breath-taking scenery from Harris to Lewis. Wander Stornoway, perhaps taking time here for lunch, then continue to just four miles from the northernmost point, to your stop for the next three nights.
Your Accommodation on Lewis
Just a few minutes’ drive from the Butt of Lews Lighthouse – a fabulously desolate place – your accommodation here is a centuries-old inn, a crucial hub in this close-knit community and a warm, big-hearted haven for visitors. Much improved since the young family owners arrived just a couple of years ago, the ancient barn bar with its exposed masonry chimney-breast, is the kind of place where airs are left at the doorstep and guests mingle with chatty locals. Accommodation has enjoyed its recent upgrade and the simple, unpretentious style provides the perfect island lodging.
Day Six & Seven – Under the Skin of Lewis
On this north-west coast of the island, were you to set off to sea heading west, you might catch sight of the southern tip of Greenland, not making landfall until you reach the coast of Newfoundland. That feeling of being on the outer edge pervades the length of the coast, the extraordinary blackhouse village of Gearannan, the Neolithic standing stones at Callanish and the abandoned MOD remains from World War II at the Uig peninsula just a few of the highlights. Again, we’ll make sure you have all the information you need to get the most out of the island.
Day Eight – Return to the Mainland
Back to the east of Lewis today, board the ferry at Stornoway and cross the Minch to the coastal town of Ullapool on Loch Broom. This gleaming fishing port of some 1500 souls, attracts visitors from all over the world arriving by boat from the west, of course, and by road from north, south and east, its grid of Telford-laid streets home to cute cafes, independent galleries and a fine pub or two. Surrounded by soaring peaks, there’s a wealth of walking to discover on the doorstep, and less strenuous time to enjoy on the loch.
Your Accommodation in Ullapool
A favourite for many years, your accommodation in Ullapool is something of a local institution, run by the same family since its inception in 1969. Café, bar, restaurant, hotel and bookshop all rolled in to one hugely appealing package, set just a street’s width back from the loch. The bustling hub of the ground floor doesn’t really prepare you for the calm and space of the first-floor guest-only lounge, all earthy colours, mid-century modern furniture and a well-stocked honesty bar. Rooms are of similar feel, peaceful and cosy, with a selection of books from the bookshop, leaning towards Scottish literature, travel and social topics.
Day Nine – Cruise Loch Broom Towards the Summer Isles
Set off from Ullapool harbour this morning, camera at the ready, for a gentle guided cruise as part of a small group, out of the mouth of Loch Broom towards the haunting Summer Isles. What a superb way to experience the striking views back towards Ullapool, the Coigach coast and Badentarbet Bay. You may even be be lucky enough to see some of the local wildlife, too, with dolphin, porpoises, whales and seals common in these waters.
Day 10 – Scotland’s Route 66
Enjoy a hearty breakfast this morning, before taking to the tarmac for one of the best driving routes anywhere. Part of the 500-mile journey that’s been called Scotland’s Route 66, you’re heading north through the vast open spaces of wild Sutherland, daunting peaks and sparkling lochs at every turn. At the very north-west corner of the UK mainland, the road turns east and carries you along the north coast, alongside the fabulous beaches around Loch Eriboll, across the bridge at Tongue, through Strathnaver on the way to your next stop at the village of Melvich.
Your Accommodation in Melvich
Directly on the surfers’ paradise beach at Melvich, your accommodation in this amazing corner of Sutherland is the most appealing of family owned small hotels. Full of rustic charm, with clean, simple detail throughout, its position on the coast is nothing short of breath-taking. En-suite rooms are of generous proportion, with squashy sofas and spacious bathrooms, while dinner of superb, wood-fired pizza is a welcome surprise.
Day 11 – Sutherland, Caithness and the Flow Country
Whenever we drive Scotland’s 500-mile North Coast touring route, we never fail to find something new. Emanating off the main roads, you’ll find a web of smaller routes, those to the north often winding through undiscovered hamlets and terminating at hidden harbours. Head a little south, and you’re in the vast, mysterious ‘Flow Country,’ the most jaw-dropping environment we’d urge you to explore – often having this immense landscape all to yourself.
Day 12 – Orkney-bound
Continue along the north coast this morning, through Thurso, the mainland’s northernmost town, on your way to Gills Bay, location of the ferry port for your crossing to Orkney. Taking just 90 minutes to cross the Pentland Firth, between the Isles of Stroma and Swona to the east, Hoy and Flotta to the west. Landing at St Margaret’s Hope on South Ronaldsay the unique feel of Orkney is immediately apparent. From port, it’s a short drive north, across causeways connecting South Ronaldsay to Burray, on to Grimps Holm and Lamb Holm and finally Mainland for the islands’ capital, Kirkwall.
Your Accommodation in Orkney
Your base for three nights in Orkney is warm and welcoming family owned accommodation, conveniently positioned to help you get the most out of your time here. Kirkwall bustles with visitors in Summer and features every amenity you could want, from quirky shopping to everyday needs.
Days 13, 14 and 15 – Discovering the Islands of Orkney
Positively teeming with must-sees, from Neolithic settlements to coastal features of the utmost drama, it’s a good idea to make a plan for the time you spend in Orkney, and we’re here to help you do just that. Having spent countless days exploring, we’ll pass on our knowledge of its hidden charms and most popular places, the best times to visit and when to avoid, as well as the details of all our personal favourites. One of the many great things about Orkney is the availability of access to its most arresting attractions; no rope-fences here, the giant Standing Stones of Stenness, for example, invite up-close inspection, while the settlement of Skara Brae brings visitors as close to Neolithic living as anywhere in the world.
While here, you might like to take a short ferry-crossing to the Isle of Rousay, ‘the Egypt of the North’, or to staggeringly rugged Hoy – we’ll be happy to help with the straightforward logistics.
At the end of day 15, board the ferry at Kirkwall for the overnight crossing to Shetland, with a cabin reserved for you.
Day 16, 17 and 18 – Exploring Shetland
Arriving at the port of Shetland early morning, take your time to enjoy breakfast on-board, then set off for your first day on these furthest-north UK islands. Residents of both Orkney and Shetland will tell you how different each set of islands is from the other, and that’s so true. Closer to Norway than the UK mainland, Shetland simply feels bigger, wilder, perhaps than any other UK location. A widescreen island nation of unique wildlife and culture, punishing shorelines and endless fascination, its somewhere we’ve returned to over and over again, each time discovering something new, but always savouring our favourites. The wonderful tombolo beach at St Ninian’s Isle, the RSPB reserve by the lighthouse at Sumburgh Head – home to puffins, guillemots, razorbills, kittiwakes and fulmars during the summer breeding season – and the wild cliffs of Eshaness to name a few.
Should you wish to visit the offshore islands of Yell and Unst, for example, we’ll be happy to help you make the crossings.
On the evening of day 18, board the ferry at Lerwick for the overnight crossing to Aberdeen, a perfectly relaxing way to round off your holiday, with breakfast served on-board in the morning to set you up for the homeward journey south.
This 18-night trip of a lifetime includes stays in Skye, Harris, Lewis, Ullapool, Melvich, Orkney and Shetland.
£2095 per person in April & October, £2195 per person from May to September.
Prices based on two adults sharing double or twin en-suite accommodation for 18 nights on a bed and breakfast basis, two of those nights aboard overnight ferry from Orkney to Shetland and from Shetland to Aberdeen. Ferry crossing for car and passengers is included from Skye to Harris, from Lewis to Ullapool and from Gills Bay to St Margaret’s Hope in Orkney. A guided cruise from Ullapool as part of a small group is also included.
Though not included, car rental is available from around £25 per day, and we are also happy to assist with any inbound or onward travel you may require – please just ask for details.
Before your departure, you will receive personalised holiday information including full directions, recommended routes, and suggestions on places to visit depending on your interests and our local knowledge to help you get the most from your holiday.
All itineraries and room types are presented subject to availability at specific hotels.
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.
This holiday can be arranged from April to October.
To check the latest availability for this holiday complete the form below or call us. We will respond to your availability check within one working day if at all possible. Please bear with us on this - we work with a hand-picked selection of smaller hotels, guest houses, and other independent businesses, ensuring that you have the chance to explore off the beaten track and really get under the skin of the destination.
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