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

Premier Highlands, Castles & Whisky Guided Tour

Explore the Highlands in royal footsteps. Uncover history and enjoy an exclusive castle stay, savouring fine fare and whisky. Escorted throughout.

This new week-long guided small group tour gives you a rich experience of Scotland with a dash of the regal. Follow in royal footsteps and discover an array of magnificently contrasting castles – including two nights staying in one! Your memorable dip into the elite side of Scotland comes with a priceless complement of stunning mountains and moors, sylvan woods and inspiring shores – with some splendid, first-class train journeys en route.


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This exclusive small group tour, with scheduled departures on 21 July 2019 and 6 October 2019, has been carefully-designed to curate the best of the Highlands while allowing you flexibility and free-time along the way. If you prefer to opt-out of any of the activities described – for example, if you are not a whisky drinker – please mention this at time of reservation and we will offer alternatives wherever possible. Also do not hesitate to let us know if we can assist with your arrangements pre or post this scheduled tour.

Day one – Meet and greet in Glasgow

Make your own way to Glasgow. Consider arriving early to delve the sophisticated side of Scotland’s largest metropolis, from the chic outlets of the Merchant City enclave to the cultural treasures of the ornate Kelvingrove Gallery and the striking Riverside Museum designed by Zaha Hadid. Meet your tour leader for an early evening drink, introductions and dinner.

Your accommodation in Glasgow

A prestige property with a prestige address, your five-star hotel is fashioned from Georgian townhouses overlooking a private garden square. Today, its 19th century blueprint has been updated with 21st century modern chic – and there’s a recently revamped luxury spa too.

Day two – from castle stones to standing stones

A short transfer to Queen Street and almost as short a train journey to Stirling leads into a  guided walk through medieval streets crowned by one of Europe’s great castles. Though dating to the 12th century, much of Stirling Castle today is 15th century, and you’ll have time to soak up its Renaissance architecture and stories of Scottish legends from William Wallace and Robert the Bruce to Mary, Queen of Scots.

After lunch at your leisure, rejoin the group for a relaxing train trip to Pitlochry, the pretty riverside town at the heart of Highland vistas much loved by Queen Victoria. Your afternoon is free time, with flexibility to explore in your own company or take a stroll through Pitlochry with your tour leader, perhaps browsing for tartan or tweed, or learning about the history of hydro-power and how this brought significant social change to the remote Highlands in the mid 20th century.

For green-fingered travellers, the Explorers Garden celebrates Scottish global plant hunters as colourful as its blooms. Like ancient mysteries? Then walk to the 1200-year-old Dunfallandy Stone, an intriguingly carved Pictish stone by the River Tummel near the acclaimed Pitlochry Festival Theatre. Check out what’s on, as we can book some cultured after-dinner entertainment during your two night stay in the area.

Your accommodation in Pitlochry 

This small four-star country house hotel just north of Pitlochry sits amid wooded hills in the tranquil Tummel Valley. The beds are big, the sheets are Egyptian cotton, and the restaurant is overseen by the Local Food Chef of the Year in the Scottish Hotel Awards. Dinner is included on both nights of your stay here.

Day three – exploring the Perthshire Highlands

Today the choice is yours: head to the celebrated Blair Athol distillery for a tour and taste of the whisky at the heart of the world-famous Bell’s brand. Here you’ll also discover a history dating back to 1798 plus a delightful setting on the “burn of the otter” that flows by from the surrounding mountains.

Alternatively, take a short trip to a castle almost as old as Stirling but very different. The 13th century Blair Castle flaunts opulence befitting the noble seat of Clan Murray as well as the Dukes and Earls of Atholl, its panoply of rooms a style guide from medieval to Georgian, with grand stories attached.

There’s free time, too, to explore the wooded gorge and fascinating history within strolling distance of your hotel, discovering the stories of the Soldier’s Leap and the 17th-century Battle of Killicrankie.

Landscape lovers may want to venture a little further afield with a 20-minute taxi drive to the glorious Queen’s View overlooking Loch Tummel. When Queen Victoria saw it, she regally assumed it was named for her – but it was far more likely inspired by Robert the Bruce’s Queen Isabella in 1306. Victoria might not have been amused!

Day four – Whisky and history

After breakfast, transfer to Pitlochry station for the train to the hill town of Aviemore. Relax as you journey further north through epic mountain scenery, with your tour leader on hand to share stories and insights. From here, you’ll begin a sightseeing route towards your very own castle.

Your tour includes a tasting at the Aberlour Distillery, built where the River Lour meets the River Spey by the doyenne of 19th century distillery design Charles Doig.  Double cask matured for at least 12 years in Oloroso sherry butts and American Oak casks, Aberlour’s whiskies serve up rich fruity notes with luscious mouth feel.

If you prefer to opt-out of the distillery tour, you could instead enjoy the fresh Highland air by taking a walk along part of the Speyside Way, the river-hugging long-distance path.

After lunch, visit the wonderful Speyside Cooperage to discover more about the sherry and oak casks so special to whisky hereabouts – and the skill of the coopers who make then char them.

Then you’ll head to Kincardine Castle, your grand – and exclusive – resting place for two nights. There will be time after your late afternoon arrival to settle in nicely before a drinks’ reception and dinner in the company of the castle’s charming and welcoming Laird and Lady.

Your accommodation: Kincardine Castle

This luxuriously-appointed Scots Baronial castle was designed by the architectural practice that also oversaw the facade of Buckingham Palace and London’s V&A Museum. While rooms ooze historic opulence, the ambience is more private home than hotel.

Day five a right royal day

After breakfast, you’ll have time to explore the Castle and its 3000-acre estate. Architecture fans will enjoy a play of styles from a medieval inspired gatehouse to Arts & Crafts motifs, while 18th century greenery includes wilderness woods and pristine lawns and terraces. The walled garden has undergone transformation in recent years from a kitchen garden to a tranquil haven, combining wildflowers with careful planting.

Late morning, you’ll embark on a tour of an area dubbed Royal Deeside: the Scottish playground for Britain’s blue-bloods since Queen Victoria was smitten. The royal hideaway of Balmoral Castle nestles here in a landscape defined by the River Dee and Cairngorm peaks like Lochnagar.

For lunch at your leisure, you’ll head to Ballater, whose eateries range from pleasing cafes to 2017’s North East of Scotland Restaurant of the Year. Once famous as an 18th century spa resort, Ballater is now a Highland mecca of stylish shopping, and you’ll have time to browse galleries, bookshops and upmarket gift outlets offering mementoes from tweed couture to fine whisky.

Did someone say whisky? Time then to visit the riverside Lochnagar Distillery near Balmoral for a special tour and tasting including the Royal Lochnagar, granted its elevated prefix after Queen Victoria came in 1848 and fell in love with its fruit notes over rich malt undertones. A great way to end the afternoon before returning to your castle for another sumptuous dinner.

Day six – a glorious castle and coast

While your own stay at a Scottish castle ends today, comfort yourself with the thought that the morning will bring you to one of the most stunningly located castles in the world.

An hour’s transfer from Kincardine, Dunottar Castle has sat on a headland atop sea cliffs since the 14th century, flanked by a tiny North Sea beach. Today, its remaining 15th and 16th century ruins will offer you wondrous stories, from the Crown Jewels of Scotland to Jacobite rebellion.

Lunch is at your leisure in nearby Stonehaven – perfect for a post-prandial amble through an Old Town with Iron Age roots, complemented by fishing harbour colour.

Rejoining the group mid-afternoon to head for Edinburgh, your two hour train journey south takes in not just the famous Forth Rail Bridge crossing but the even better three-mile crossing over the Tay Estuary to Dundee, with views of its stunning new V&A Gallery. Keep an eye out too for the medieval coastal town of Montrose and historic Arbroath, whose 12th century Abbey hosted Scotland’s defiant declaration of independence from England in 1320.

Your accommodation in Edinburgh

Carved from a trio of chandeliered Georgian houses in Edinburgh’s 17th century ‘New Town’, this elegant four-star hotel fuses ample period style with equally ample modern comforts.

Complete your holiday in style with a farewell dinner of Scotland’s finest produce in the capital city.

Day seven – Farewells

After breakfast, spend some free time exploring Edinburgh if you wish then head for home with a rich store of memories of Scotland’s finer side.


The tour begins in Glasgow then onward via Stirling to Highland Pitlochry for two nights, then Aberdeenshire for a two night exclusive castle stay, finishing with one night in Edinburgh.


The price, as shown in the table below, includes:

  • Six nights in hand-picked four and five star-standard accommodation, including two nights at Kincardine Castle, exclusively for the group
  • Breakfast and evening meals throughout, including one dinner hosted by the Laird and Lady at Kincardine Castle.
  • First class rail travel from Glasgow to Pitlochry via Stirling, from Pitlochry to Aviemore and from Stonehaven to Edinburgh.
  • Luggage transfer from Stirling to Pitlochry.
  • Entry to Stirling Castle.
  • Tour and tasting at Blair Athol Distillery or visit to Blair Castle.
  • Tour/ transfer from Aviemore to Kincardine Castle via Speyside.
  • Tour and Tasting at Aberlour Distillery. Visit to the Speyside Cooperage.
  • Tour of Royal Deeside.
  • Tour and tasting at Lochnagar Distillery, including the Royal Lochnagar.
  • Transfer to Stonehaven and entry to Dunnottar Castle.
  • The services of McKinlay Kidd’s tour leader, accompanying the group and providing expert guiding and assistance throughout.
  • Transfers as described.

From time to time we may need to make minor changes to the itinerary, such as the specific distilleries visited, but will always replace with alternatives of equivalent or higher standard. If you wish to opt-out of any of the activities described, such as distillery visits, please advise when reserving your place and we will accommodate if at all possible.

Not included:

  • Lunches
  • Drinks
  • Gratuities and tips

All accommodation is carefully-selected and researched by us – contact us for more detailed information. We will do our best to accommodate room preferences subject to availability at individual properties.

This tour will operate with a minimum of six and maximum of 15 passengers on each departure date. If minimum numbers are not reached, we will contact you at least eight weeks in advance and offer a tailor-made/ self-guided alternative or a full refund of your deposit.

Simply complete the form below to reserve your place(s). We guarantee to hold your place(s) for 48 hours to provide time for you to pay the deposit of 10% per person.

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.

Reserve your place(s) for Premier Highlands, Castles & Whisky Guided Tour

Departure Dates & Current Availability
Departure DateStarts FromNights£ per person (2 sharing)£ per person (single)
Sunday 6 Oct 2019Glasgow6£ 2845£ 3295

To reserve your place(s) on this tour, please call us or complete the form below, making sure to select your departure date from the dropdown menu and advise of any special requirements. We will hold your place(s) for 48 hours and contact you with details of how to confirm your booking by payment of the per person deposit.

Please note: All form fields are required unless otherwise stated optional.

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