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Easily reached in just under 90 minutes from Edinburgh – with the bonus of traversing the spectacular, recently constructed Queensferry Crossing on the way – St. Andrews is one of the jewels in the Fife crown. Most famous as home to the Old Course and prestigious university, this ancient town has far more to offer than golf and gowns. Ruins of the vast 12th century cathedral overlook the rocky North Sea shoreline, nearby West Sands beach enjoyed big-screen fame in the classic Chariots of Fire, while the botanic gardens offer a peaceful oasis of calm just a short stroll from the centre of town.
Just a few miles from St. Andrews, and surrounded by the Fife countryside, this internationally renowned restaurant and residence is so highly thought of that it has given its name to the tiny hamlet which is its home! Wealthy gastronomes from Edinburgh and Glasgow occasionally arrive by helicopter to savour the sumptuous modern cooking, always an imaginative blend of the very best that Fife’s fertile farmlands, river and coastal waters have to offer. Behind the restaurant is the residence, comprising eight individually designed suites.
The inn is perfectly located to visit St. Andrew’s and the pretty seaside villages of the East Neuk of Fife.
Leave Fife behind this morning and take the nearby Tay Bridge to the City of Dundee – perhaps taking the opportunity to visit the spectacular new Victoria and Albert Museum – before heading north in to Aberdeenshire. We’d never miss a chance to drive some of the fine mountain passes along this route, taking in evocatively named towns and villages like Fettercairn, Banchory and Inverurie, or maybe hug the coast and take in the breathtaking clifftop fortress of Dunottar Castle, before arrival at your base for the next two nights.
On a sprawling and spectacular private estate, based around a 13th century baronial mansion house, your accommodation in Aberdeenshire is a family owned property of outstanding quality. Friendly and attentive local staff greet guests immediately upon arrival, real log fire roaring away in the corner of reception. Rooms are modern in style, and feature every possible comfort, including spacious twin-basin en-suites, inviting sofas, and vast windows leading to private balcony overlooking the handsomely manicured golf course. The hotel features a bar carved from an ancient cave, and an acclaimed restaurant serving a fine menu of Scottish classics.
Home to soaring mountains, vast, sweeping farmlands, ancient distilleries and more castles than any other county in the UK, Aberdeenshire offers a wealth of attractions to fill your day. Close to your hotel you’ll find the bustling little Don Valley town of Inverurie, and, even closer, the 18th century Glen Garioch Distillery, one of Scotland’s oldest. Within 30 minutes’ drive, you’ll find many of the UK’s finest castles, while just 10 minutes’ further will take you to the wild Moray coast, home to jewel-like villages Portsoy, Cullen and Pennan, as well as more superb, challenging driving routes.
Head west this morning for another great day on the road, making your way to the Moray coast, through the classic Victorian beach resort of Nairn and around the foot of the Moray Firth at Inverness. From here the route climbs north, skirting the Black Isle and traversing the Dornoch Firth to your next hotel by this prettiest of Highland towns.
In the centre of Dornoch, your accommodation is a longstanding castle hotel just a few short steps from the Cathedral.
Having for many years been in the care of the friendly family owners, you’ll find this place a calming spot in which to gather the thoughts ahead of a day strolling on the beach or picking up a trinket or two in memory of your trip.
Inside you’ll find an excellent restaurant and groaning whisky bar, with hosts only too happy to offer advice on a dram to suit your palate.
Many of the en-suite rooms enjoy views of the lovely garden, always aglow with life when the weather is kind, visitors and locals alike enjoying lunch in this sunny corner.
Further north today – as far north as the UK mainland allows – via the pitching and twisting A9 to Wick, and onwards via John o’ Groats to Gills Bay. Here, board the ferry for the short crossing to St. Margaret’s Hope on South Ronaldsay, gateway to the magical islands of Orkney.
Traverse the Churchill Barriers to Burray and to Mainland Orkney, heading for the ‘capital’ Kirkwall and your base for the next two nights. Family owned and recently treated to an extensive spruce-up, this relaxed and friendly hotel has something to see in every corner. The owner delights in foraging for interesting items to add to the collection, from traditional Orkney furniture to local art and artefacts, while the restaurant serves a menu of local delights, including the uniquely flavoured, seaweed-fed North Ronaldsay lamb.
Despite its location just 90 minutes off the UK mainland by boat, Orkney is a place of quite staggering contrast. Steeped in ancient history, some of Europe’s most important historical sites are found here, including towering standing stones, the UNESCO world heritage village of Skara Brae and far too many chambered cairns, brochs and tombs to list here. Wildlife abounds amongst coastal cliffs, moorland and meadow, so you’ll often enjoy the company of an array of birds including puffin, white-tailed eagle, hen harrier and short-eared owl, while on land the lucky few might catch a glimpse of shy and playful otters, especially at dawn or dusk. Offshore waters bristle with dolphins, porpoises, seals minke whales and even orcas from time to time.
Take the ferry this morning from Scrabster to Stromness in Caithness and continue along the north coast as far as the road will take you. With so much to see here it’s worth taking your time as you journey to Durness – home of striking Smoo Cave – before the road turns southwards. From here it’s a wonderful drive through one of Europe’s most arresting wildernesses, the road rising and falling as it carries you to just south of the village of Scourie.
A former minister’s residence, your hotel in this stunning corner of the country has been treated to extensive improvement by the family owners over the past couple of years. The location is to die for, overlooking Badcall Bay, with views out towards Lewis, while the secluded grounds couldn’t be more peaceful. Inside, rooms are cosy and simple, and the menu is refreshing hybrid of Scottish and Scandinavian, reflecting the landlady’s roots.
Perhaps a day to leave the car standing, don the boots and take advantage of the world class walking on the doorstep of your accommodation. Your hosts are happy to help you plan your day on the slopes and trails, or in the forest. Alternatively, take the car out to some of the UK’s best driving routes, easily reached within a few miles.
More of Scotland’s finest scenery awaits today, as you wend your way south through Sutherland, perhaps stopping for lunch by Loch Torridon or Loch Shieldaig, where the Gulf Stream keeps the climate in check and helps the cultivation of swaying palm trees. Continue around Loch Carron as the road drops to Kyle of Lochalsh and the Skye Bridge, and onwards to your hotel on Skye’s wild Sleat Peninsula.
Formed from a whitewashed row of classic fishermen’s cottages, your hotel on Skye has drawn visitors here for a century and more, eager to sample its unique atmosphere in this most enchanting landscape. Appearing to float on the waters of the Sound of Sleat, the mountains of Glenelg soar in the distance, the odd fishing boat bobs along and guests feel this could be the most idyllic spot on Earth. Inside, a cosy Hebridean atmosphere permeates, with crackling fires setting the tone in the guest lounges and restaurant, while evenings in the popular, wood-panelled bar are alive with the sound of traditional live music. Rooms are traditionally presented, with comfort and calm at the forefront, ensuring a peaceful night’s rest.
While it may be true that Skye is more popular than ever, it’s still perhaps the easiest island on which to escape. Set off early or late to the more popular spots and catch them before others arrive or after they leave, then it’s often just a few short steps to gloriously deserted areas. As well as vast, mountainous landscapes, Skye is home to cascading waterfalls, wild moorland, hidden beaches and coves, and pocket-sized villages. The ‘capital’ Portree could not be cuter, with its multicoloured harbour, quirky shopping and an increasingly impressive selection of eateries.
It’s a short drive this morning to Armadale for your ferry-crossing to the classic west-coast fishing village of Mallaig, and from here you’ll enjoy a fabulous route through some of Scotland’s most epic vistas. Skirt the shadow of Ben Nevis, follow the shores of Loch Linnhe and cut through the intimidating valley of Glencoe, before taking the northern roads of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park to your next base by majestic Loch Tay in rural Perthshire.
This traditional Perthshire country hotel is in the most peaceful rural setting, yet within easy reach of the village of Killin. Dating back to the mid-17th century, this classic property has enjoyed a long unbroken run of providing Scottish hospitality in this wild location, and the current owners have worked hard to bring the interior up to date. Rooms couldn’t be more welcoming, with simple, comfortable fittings and modern en-suites, while the restaurant takes advantage of its position surrounded by some of the world’s best producers to deliver a tempting seasonal menu.
Set between the villages of Killin and Kemore on Loch Tay, it’s easy to feel like you’re discovering this place before anyone else. Many of Perthshire’s ‘lost’ castles are within striking distance of your hotel, while Tay Forest Park is an ideal place in which to get lost for the afternoon. Perhaps you’d like a boat trip on Loch Tay, or to visit the bustling towns of Aberfeldy and Pitlochry, just a short drive away.
Further south through Perthshire today and in to the Kingdom of Fife, crossing the Forth Road Bridge and skirting the Pentland Hills on your way to Innerleithen in the Borders, and your extraordinary base for your final two nights in Scotland.
There’s a real ‘save the best til last’ feel to your final couple of nights in Scotland, here at what purports to be the UK’s oldest, continually inhabited house. With a history dating back to 1107 and the current family having resided here since 1491, it’s hard to avoid the cliché ‘steeped in history’, but little else will do. Incorporating the romantic house, vast mature gardens including a wonderful maze, craft workshops, garden café and brewery, this is a quite extraordinary place to stay. And it’s no stiff, unfriendly residence. The family could not be more welcoming and guests are made to feel welcome immediately upon arrival.
Make the most of breakfast this morning, before a final treat. Meet up with the Lady of the House and enjoy a group guided tour of this astonishing place; your host could not be more amiable and is, of course, filled with stories of the house and family’s long history, and of the kings and queens who’ve crossed the threshold as part of some one million people who’ve had the pleasure of staying here since the 1950s.
A final holiday breakfast awaits, before you set off for your homeward journey.
A grand tour of Scotland’s Northern and Western Highlands and islands.
£2245 per person for March & November, £2325 per person for April & October and £2425 per person for May to September.
All are based on two adults sharing double or twin en-suite accommodation for 14 nights on a bed and breakfast basis. Return ferry crossing to Orkney for car and passengers is included, as is a single ferry crossing from Skye to Mallaig. Historic Scotland Explorer passes for two people are also included, as well as a guided group tour with drinks reception and guide book at your accommodation in the Borders.
Car rental is not included, but we would be delighted to help arrange from a wide selection of vehicles on request.
Do note that, as with all our holidays, we would be delighted to amend or adapt this itinerary to suit your personal preferences.
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.
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This holiday can be arranged from March to October.
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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.
Last weekend I spent a wonderful day in St. Andrews, the town referred to the world over as ‘the home of golf’. St. Andrews to me is a mag...
The purpose of our trip was to provide a family memory for all of us on our 50th wedding anniversary. It was perfect!Barb, Alberta, Canada
Great organisation. We really benefited from your recommendations on what to see and do.Anke & Roger, Geneva