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This holiday starts from Inverness, accessible by air from the south of England or by rail from Edinburgh, Glasgow and other points south. You will join the afternoon departure on the Far North Line – the most northerly railway line in the UK. The route crosses the Moray Firth then makes a wide sweep inland at Dornoch, passing through Lairg and Rogart before returning to the coast. Watch for the distinctive towers of Dunrobin Castle, before the railway turns inland once more, and crosses the “flow country” of Sutherland. After passing Altnabreac, one of the remotest stations in Britain, you will reach the coast one again at Thurso.
This is a welcoming guesthouse, owned by a local lady who is passionate about the area. The decor is a blend of old and contemporary style and modern facilities. The house is convenient for the town centre and local hostelries, whilst one of the best seafood restaurants in the country is a coastal walk or short taxi ride away.
A day to relax and explore Thurso, and the local area. Bus services connect the town to John O’Groats – for those keen to cover one of Britain’s “extremities” and the Castle of Mey, as well as Wick, home of the Old Pulteney Distillery. We can also arrange a local guide to assist.
This morning cross by ferry to Orkney, and then travel by taxi to Kirkwall, your base for the next two days.
Its incredibly lengthy history makes the Orkney Islands very special. The main island (Mainland) hosts a UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE which includes the breathtaking Standing Stones of Stenness, some up to six metres high. The nearby Neolithic Ring of Brodgar is particularly magical in the evening light – and gained contemporary notoriety when Billy Connolly danced naked through the stones on his “World Tour of Scotland”! Remaining remarkably intact, the 5,000 year old houses at Skara Brae offer a real insight into pre-historic village life. For more local insights, take a look at the Viking runes at atmospheric Maeshowe which prove that graffiti isn’t a 20th century invention!
In more recent times, evocative Scapa Flow contains the melancholy relics of two World Wars, and on its banks the beautifully ornate Italian Chapel, constructed by Italian Prisoners of War, is a moving place to visit.
Wildlife flourishes here. Birdwatching is popular and there are plenty of fabulous seal-watching spots – and if you are lucky minke whales, dolphins, porpoise and occasionally the odd Orca whale are seen playing in the island waters. On dry ground you will be tempted by the deliciously fresh food, (do try the squid), and the local crafts including fabulous silversmiths and highly covetable knitwear.
Your base will be a comfortable family-run hotel in the centre of Kirkwall, well-placed to explore this attractive town, with its fine cathedral and winding shopping streets. You can also take a short ferry to the island of Shapinsay from the port.
This morning you will join a small group tour. During the tour you will journey through Orkney’s rich archaeological landscape, home of the some of the Neolithic period’s greatest architectural wonders.
Today you will retrace your steps south back to Inverness where you will stay in a centrally located 4 or 5 star guesthouse for your final night.
The restaurants of Inverness are just a stroll away for dinner, across the dainty pedestrian bridge, along with all the other attractions of the capital of the Highlands. Loch Ness stretches to the south, where you can breathe in the legends and gasp at the views from many stops along the road – the ruins of Urqhart Castle being a favourite spot. If you are fascinated by Nessie, then the Loch Ness Monster Visitor Centre at Drumnadrochit is a must! To the east lies the battlefield of Culloden, boasting a new visitor centre and exhibition which retells the dramatic story in an innovative and interactive way. Cawdor Castle, with lovely woodland walks, offers an insight into days gone by too, and there is a cosy inn in the nearby village for a traditional pub lunch. To the north you can drive up to the lovely historic village of Cromarty to take a dolphin-watching trip and explore the Black Isle.
Do just let us know if we can advise regarding onward connections by air or rail.
Thurso, in Caithness, Kirkwall on Orkney and Inverness.
£655 per person for April & October, £675 per person for May & September, £725 per person for June, July & August.
Prices based on two adults sharing a room, for five nights on a bed & breakfast basis. The holiday includes return train travel on the Far North Highland rail line from Inverness to Thurso, return ferry travel to Orkney, taxi transfers in Thurso and from the port to hotel on Orkney, a full day small group guided tour of key historical sites on Orkney, and an Orkney Explorer Pass.
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.
The holiday was extremely enjoyable - the accommodation chosen was excellent and the information provided was very helpful.Margaret, Tasmania, Australia
Everything worked a treat and we were blessed with lovely weather!Nancy, North Yorkshire, England
This holiday is available from April to October. Due to timetables, the holiday will include a one night stay in Thurso at the end, instead of Inverness for departures up to 24th May and from 29th August.
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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