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Day One – Arrive in St Andrews
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.
Your Hotel in St Andrews
With views of the Old Course and West Sands, your accommodation couldn’t be more convenient located. Recently upgraded to a high standard, the interior of this traditional stone-and-slate building offers seriously comfortable bedrooms alongside indulgent en-suite bathrooms, a fine bistro serving bucolic French-style fayre (with courtyard seating when weather is on your side) an alluring bar and extensive guest lounging throughout.
Day Two – Across the Silvery Tay and Onwards to Aberdeenshire
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 breath-taking clifftop fortress of Dunottar Castle, before arrival at your base for the next two nights.
Your Hotel in Aberdeenshire
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.
Day Three – Exploring Aberdeenshire
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.
Day Four – North to Sutherland
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.
Your Hotel by Dornoch
Just a mile from the centre of town, your hotel by Dornoch is a recently created, family owned gem. Formed from centuries-old E-shaped barns on the Duke of Sutherland’s estate, this is a richly appealing place to stay. Inviting sofas set around a wood-burning stove present the perfect spot to enjoy a dram before or after dinner in the in-house bistro, where the award-winning chef serves an innovative menu of dishes created from the very best of the local, natural larder. With just 11 elegantly appointed rooms, there’s no danger of overcrowding, and your friendly hosts are always on-hand to offer advice on, for example, the best local walks and sightseeing opportunities.
Day Five – Across the Pentland Firth to Orkney
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.
Your Accommodation in Orkney
Traverse the Churchill Barriers to Burray and to Mainland Shetland, skirt the Orkney ‘capital’ of Kirkwall and head north to the village of Evie, to your base for the next two nights. Welcomed upon arrival by your eager host – often with tea and homemade scones – guests are made to feel instantly relaxed. The hillside house is one of the few accommodations in Orkney to enjoy wonderful open views, of the islands of Rousay, Wyre and Eynhallow, and North into the vast openness of the North Atlantic. Next stop: the Faroe Islands. En-suite bedrooms are simply furnished and very comfortable, while visitors are encouraged to make use of the large guest lounge. This rural location is one of our favourites in Orkney; just 20 minutes’ drive from Kirkwall, yet seemingly a million miles from anywhere.
Day Six – Discovering Orkney
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.
Day Seven – Return to the Mainland and Head West
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 the Lochside village of Lochinver
Your Accommodation in Lochinver
Hidden away down a single-track road a mile or so from the Lochside, your accommodation by Lochinver is a grand Victorian former hunting lodge, set amidst 44,000 acres of Assynt estate wilderness. Run on behalf of the estate by a friendly and enthusiastic local couple, guests are greeted at the door and shown to the drawing room, log fire blazing. Perhaps fresh tea or something a little stronger will ease you in to your stay, before heading to your first-floor room, many of which have vast bay windows affording staggering views of Suilven – know by some as ‘the world’s coolest mountain’ – and Loch Druim Suardalain. Your host is a talented chef and dinner here is a treat not to be missed, his menu created produce from the house’s garden and the very best from the local, seasonal larder.
Day Eight – Around Assynt
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.
Day Nine – Over the Bridge to Skye
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.
Your Hotel on the Isle of Skye
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.
Day 10 – Exploring the Isle of Skye
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 multi-coloured harbour, quirky shopping and an increasingly impressive selection of eateries.
Day 11 – Ferry Crossing to Mallaig and in to Wild Perthshire
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.
Your Hotel by Loch Tay
This traditional Perthshire country house hotel presents a most relaxing retreat in an historic and hidden corner of Scotland. The village has roots in the Victorian Arts and Crafts movement, planned as it was by the local laird with the help of a prominent architect, with the hotel at the centre of life here. This history is reflected throughout in its decoration, fixtures, art and artefacts, in the impressive guest lounge with its open fire, the stylish dining room and cosy bar, and the 11 simply presented en-suite bedrooms.
Day 12 – Discovering Southern Perthshire
Set at the mouth of mysterious Glen Lyon, with Loch Tay a stone’s throw away, 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 tourist town of Pitlochry, just a short drive away.
Day 13 – Break for the Borders
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.
Your Accommodation in the Borders
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.
Day 14 – Tour Traquair with the Lady of the House
Make the most of breakfast this morning, before a final treat. Meet up with the Lady of the House and enjoy a private 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.
Day 15 – Onward Journey Home
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.
£1780 per person for March, £1865 per person for April & October, £1925 per person for May, June, July & September, and £1975 per person for August.
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 private guided tour with drinks reception and guide book at your accommodation in the Borders.
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.
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.
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
This holiday can be arranged from March to October.
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