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AITO Tour Operator of The Year 2016 - Gold AwardThe Telegraph Travel Awards Winner 2017

Grand Scottish Journey

A self-drive tour of the lowlands, highlands and islands, taking in famous sights and hidden gems.

Our specially designed self-drive grand tour starts in the Borders and takes a broadly circular route including St Andrews, Aberdeenshire, Inverness, the Isle of Skye, the West and Southern Highlands, and finishes in the stunning Trossachs. You will stay in a selection of our hand-picked independent hotels and guesthouses, of 3 to 5 star standard, chosen for their warm, personal welcome and suitability for exploring the very best of Scotland. We’ll provide plenty of tips and recommendations along the way to ensure that you not only see the famous landmarks but also see Scotland differently.

At A Glance

Best Time To Go

Mar - Nov

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add a day tour whilst on Orkney?

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Sat: 9.30-16.30

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Day One – Scottish Borders

Your holiday starts in the Scottish Borders. Peebles has a picturesque riverside setting. Park by the River Tweed and enjoy an evening stroll, or perhaps a game of putting. Further afield try St Mary’s Loch for some great walks – and particularly at the Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall. If abbeys appeal, Melrose, Dryburgh and Jedburgh abbey are fine, romantically ruined buildings. Abbotsford House offers an ideal introduction to the life of Sir Walter Scott, and also has fine gardens leading down to the River Tweed. Traquair House is the oldest inhabited house in Scotland, and also has its own rather excellent brewery – worth a sample!

Your hotel in the Scottish Borders

Your accommodation in the Scottish Borders is a restaurant-with-rooms, beautifully presented within a grand Edwardian house and featuring lovely views over the Tweed and Tweed Valley. With just six very comfortable rooms, each appointed with the highest-quality furniture and fittings, this is the perfect place to relax and unwind, as well as an ideal base from which to explore the many attractions in this largely undiscovered corner of Scotland.

Day Three – Fife & St Andrews

Your journey today takes you north to the capital Edinburgh and onwards via the iconic Forth Bridges into the Kingdom of Fife. You will find your next destination near to the ancient city of St Andrews where you will have plenty of time to explore with our recommendations to help.

Your hotel in St Andrews

In an unlikely setting deep in the heart of the Fife countryside, this internationally renowned restaurant and residence, has been so highly thought of that it has given its name to the tiny hamlet which is its home! Visitors from Edinburgh and Glasgow – and the occasional golfing celebrity – make tracks 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.

Day Four – Royal Deeside

Your route north today passes quickly into Angus and along the Aberdeenshire coast, before turning inland to your third base in Royal Deeside.

Your hotel in Aboyne

Your accommodation in Aboyne is in a recently refurbished, grand Victorian villa, in a spectacular setting overlooking the river Dee. The owners have painstakingly restored breath-taking original features and fitted every conceivable modern amenity in the spacious rooms and bathrooms. The house is just a 15-minute walk from Aboyne centre where you’ll find charming shops, cafes and attractions, as well as one or two evening dining options. Aboyne represents the perfect base from which to tour Royal Deeside.

What to see & do in Royal Deeside

Renowned for its regal connections, Royal Deeside and the Cairngorms is the home of Balmoral Castle, Royal Lochnagar Distillery and Crathie Kirk, all of which have attracted all British monarchs since Queen Victoria. The dramatic panoramic landscapes of this area are a feast for the senses and just waiting to be explored. Rich history, a wealth of culture and stunning scenery combine to make sure you’ll want to return. From superb golf courses to artisan craft shops, dramatic mountains to tranquil fishing rivers, there really is something for everyone.

Days Six to Eight – Orkney

You have a further day to explore Aberdeenshire before taking a late afternoon ferry from Aberdeen to Kirkwall, the capital of Orkney. Take time to enjoy the journey, which offers scenic views of the Scottish coastline, and enjoy dinner on board before your late arrival into Kirkwall.

Your hotel in Kirkwall, Orkney

A family run, historic hotel which sits in a prime position right by the harbour front in Kirkwall, the principal town on Orkney. The hotel is ideally positioned to explore the town, the many attractions on ‘Mainland Orkney’ or perhaps catch a ferry to one of the many smaller islands. Despite being right in the centre of things, it offers a calm and peaceful place to stay. The hotel has its own restaurant serving good hearty food, using local produce, and is within walking distance of several good eateries in the town.

What to see & do on Orkney

Their 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. Remaining remarkably intact, the 5,000 year old houses at Skara Brae offer a real insight into prehistoric 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 over 70 years ago, is a moving place to visit.

Day Nine – Ullapool

Today return to the mainland and drive west on the North Coast 500 route, taking in some of the country’s most incredible scenery as you turn south into the mountainous and remote region of Wester Ross before arriving in the attractive port of Ullapool.

Your hotel in Ullapool

Overlooking the colourful harbour in Ullapool, this unique hotel offers visitors a genuinely warm welcome, and is a particularly interesting place to rest awhile. Behind a traditional row of whitewashed fishermen’s’ cottages lies an assorted collection of coffee bar, book shop, arts venue, restaurant and hotel. The owners have developed their eclectic establishment over the years to become the genial and sociable hub of the local arts community. The excellent food is sourced locally with the emphasis on fresh seafood and vegetarian dishes.

Day Eleven – To the Isle of Skye

Your drive today takes you south along the stunning west coast towards Skye. There are many places to break your journey such as the picturesque village of Plockton – you may be surprised to see palm trees lining the main street! The construction of the Skye Bridge in the 1990s means that the journey to this most famous of Scottish islands is not as romantic as it once was but the jaw-dropping scenery on the main road between the bridge and Portree more than makes up for this.

Your hotel on Skye

Uniquely situated only 10 minutes’ walk from the island capital Portree, yet set in 20 acres of woodland garden, this hotel is an ideal base for touring Skye. Built over 200 years ago, and still run by members of the same local family, the house retains all its original charm and the splendid Victorian interior is wonderfully intact. Suppers are available on a daily basis by prior arrangement with the hotel, and afternoon tea is available in the drawing room.

What to see & do on Skye

You will be spoilt for choice with touring options, from historic Dunvegan Castle and Gardens in the north-west, to the Trotternish Peninsula in the north east, to the fertile Sleat peninsula in the south, often referred to as the “Garden of Skye” where you’ll find Armadale Castle and the Museum of the Isles. Not to forget the Talisker Distillery, for whisky fans. The town of Portree itself, with its attractive painted harbour, is well worth an evening stroll, and is now home to a number of very good seafood restaurants.

Day Thirteen – The Trossachs

Your route today takes you back over the bridge to the mainland and passes Eilean Donan Castle, one of Scotland’s most iconic sights. The route winds slowly inland, through the majestic and infamous valley of Glencoe, towards the hills and glens of the Trossachs, otherwise known as the Scottish Lakeland.

Your hotel in the Trossachs

Nestling in the heart of Rob Roy country amidst the beautiful lochs, forest and mountains of the Trossachs, this is primarily an award-winning restaurant, with the added benefit of overnight accommodation so that you can really make the most of your dining experience.

Day Fourteen – Exploring the Trossachs

The Trossachs offer some of Scotland’s most breath-taking scenery and you can walk in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park from the hotel grounds, or in the surrounding hills which so inspired Sir Walter Scott. Besides boasting many scenic roads, this is great walking country and is famous for its connections with Rob Roy MacGregor, the outlaw and subject of a 1995 Hollywood film starring Liam Neeson – his grave is in Balquhidder churchyard. A little further afield, you can explore Stirling and its dramatic Castle.

Day Fifteen – Return home

You are only around 90 minutes from either Glasgow or Edinburgh and the motorway network.


A grand tour of Scotland’s Northern and Western Highlands and islands.


£1775 per person for March & November, £1850 per person for April & October, £1975 per person for May,  £1985 per person for September, £1995 per person for June & July, and £2075 per person for August.

All are based on two people sharing a double or twin room, for 14 nights on a bed & breakfast basis.

The price also includes a Historic Scotland Explorer pass, covering entry to key attractions such as Edinburgh, Stirling and Urquhart Castles, as well as historical sites on Orkney for seven separate days in a 14 day period, return ferries to Orkney, as well as a ferry from Skye for car and passengers.

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.

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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Check availability for Grand Scottish Journey

This holiday can start in the order as described on any Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. It can also be arranged in reverse order any Thursday, Friday or Saturday.

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