10 Day Grand Scottish Islands Tour
A Grand Scottish Islands tour from Inverness through the Highlands to the Outer Hebrides, the Isle of Skye, Orkney and Shetland over ten days.
Day 1 – An early start from Inverness to the coastal village of Ullapool where we board the ferry for a 2½ hour journey across the Minch to the Isle of Lewis and its main town of Stornoway (my native town). From there we spend the afternoon exploring the magnificent Neolithic Calanais Standing Stones, the 2000 year old Dun Carloway Broch and a traditional Hebridean blackhouse. We finish the day at the beautiful Atlantic coastal beach of Dalbeg before our return to Stornoway for our overnight stay.
Day 2 – With a full day in the Outer Hebrides we head south to the Isle of Harris. The drive along the Atlantic coastline of Harris includes the stunning beaches at Luskentyre, Seilebost and Nisabost. We visit Rodel to explore the historic medieval St Clement’s church, home to one of Scotland's most remarkable 16th century tombs. The late afternoon takes us back to Tarbert before we return north to Stornoway for our overnight stop.
Day 3 – Departing from Stornoway we head north to the Butt of Lewis (the most northerly point in the Hebrides) for the dramatic views of the cliffs and the North Atlantic. We return to Stornoway where we explore Museum nan Eilean in Lews Castle and visit their collection of Lewis Chessmen. The afternoon takes us south to Tarbert where we take a 1¾ hour ferry across to the Isle of Skye before our slightly later arrival in Portree (approx. 7pm) for our overnight stay.
Day 4 – Departing from Portee we tour around the stunning Trotternish peninsula including the Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock and the magnificent views from the Quiraing. After a visit to Sligachan for dramatic views of the Black Cuillin mountain range, the afternoon takes us south to the stunning Sleat peninsula along with the beautiful Isleornsay (for some Hebridean whisky tasting). After crossing the bridge to the Scottish mainland where we savour a distance view of Eilean Donan Castle before our return to Inverness.
Day 5 – Departing Inverness with a morning drive to the far North of Scotland and our ferry port of Scrabster, near Thurso. The drive north covers wonderful coastal scenery and normally takes around 3-4 hours including photo stops and a brief visit to the historic town of Dornoch. Our 1½ hour ferry journey includes a great view of the Old Man of Hoy before our arrival in Orkney where we visit Skara Brae, a 5000 year old Neolithic village settlement. This is one of the highlights of the tour before our arrival in Kirkwall for our overnight stop.
Day 6 – A full day on the Orkney mainland that includes a visit to Maeshowe Neolithic chambered tomb. We also explore the Neolithic standing stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar and the 2000 year old Broch of Gurness. After visiting the Italian Chapel, the Churchill Barriers and Scapa Flow, the late afternoon is spent in Kirkwall at St Magnus Cathedral and Earl’s Palace. After an evening meal in Kirkwall we catch the late ferry (11.45pm) from Kirkwall for an overnight sailing to Lerwick in Shetland.
Day 7 – Arriving in Lerwick harbour in the early morning (7.30am), we enjoy breakfast on the ferry before exploring the south mainland of Shetland. Sumburgh Head is our first stop – a haven for seabirds (including puffins from May to July). Next is Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse settlement which spans over four thousand years. The afternoon takes us on a beautiful coastal drive to the breath-taking St Ninian's Isle where you can hike across the sands to the island. Returning north we end the day at the Clickimin Broch before our overnight stay in Lerwick.
Day 8 – A day to explore the most northernly inhabited island in Scotland – Unst. Departing from Lerwick we drive north to catch the 20-minute ferry crossing to Yell. After a scenic drive through Yell we take the short 10-minute ferry crossing to Unst. We spend the late morning and early afternoon exploring the island, with visits to Muness Castle, Haroldswick, Burra Firth and Saxa Vord, before our return to Lerwick in the late afternoon.
Day 9 – Departing from Lerwick we head towards the north Shetland mainland. Arriving at Eshaness we savour the dramatic cliffs and sea stacks of Shetland’s stunning coastal landscape. We then enjoy a scenic drive around Scalloway and Burra before returning to Lerwick. The afternoon includes a visit the Shetland Museum and some free time to meander through Lerwick town and harbour. In the late afternoon we board the ferry from Lerwick for an overnight sailing to Aberdeen on the Scottish mainland.
Day 10 – Arriving into Aberdeen harbour in the early morning (7am) we enjoy a leisurely breakfast on the ferry before heading east towards to Elgin to explore the stunning seven hundred year old ruins of Elgin Cathedral and the Pictish standing stones of the area. The afternoon takes us back to Inverness where we end the tour with a visit to the four thousand-year-old burial cairns and standing stones at Clava followed by a guided walk of Culloden Battlefield.
Private Tour Price (per tour)
May to September: £7250
Depart Inverness 7.30am
This standard tour is available on Monday start days from Inverness. For tours starting on Tuesday due to ferry times we have a half day less in the Outer Hebrides. All the sites listed in the above itinerary are visited with the exception of the Butt of Lewis and Lews Castle, though with additional time in Skye we visit Dunvegan Castle.
Tours are exclusively for your private group only (up to 3 persons) and prices are per tour. We only offer private tours and do not combine individuals or separate groups – if your group size is less than 3 the advertised tour price still applies. Prices include all ferry tickets, all taxes and a driver/guide (John Alasdair Macdonald) but exclude your accommodation costs, entrance fees and meals.
We recommend that you book accommodation in Stornoway (Day 1 and 2), Portree (Day 3), Inverness (Day 4), Kirkwall (Day 5) and Lerwick (Day 7 and 8) to make the most of your trip. Whilst we do not book accommodation for you we are happy to help with advice on where to stay and eat. The tour quote will include a list of accommodation recommendations and suggestions for overnight locations.
During this tour we will take two overnight ferry sailings where you can book overnight en-suite cabins. Prices depend on your cabin choice (for example, a twin outer cabin is between £120 and £155 per cabin depending on class). The tour quote will include full details of the cabin options and their current prices. More information about the cabin choices can be found on the Northlink Ferries Website.
The tour itinerary is based on experience, previous clients feedback and timings. However, we have some flexibility and the tour itinerary can be adapted (in advance) to suit specific requests if possible. Please let us know any requests through the 'Extra Information' section when completing a Tour Enquiry Form.
For those that have enjoyed the Shetland TV series, many of the sites we visit have been shown across the episodes, and along with plenty of time in Lerwick to explore familiar views, no trip to Shetland would be complete without a walk along the waterfront past DI Jimmy Perez's house!
Day 6 is a longer tour day due to the late evening boarding for the overnight ferry (we are usually in our cabins by 11.45pm). We will start at 10am and tour around Orkney until 6pm. After a leisurely evening meal in Kirkwall, we take a final scenic drive (approx. 1 hour) before joining the ferry queue by 10pm. The ferry arrives in Shetland at 7.30am the following morning and we will leave the boat by 8.30am. To ensure a comfortable first day in Shetland, we tend to finish our touring by the mid-afternoon so that you can relax in Lerwick.
Shetland is in the North Atlantic and the seas can be choppy during ferry sailings even in the summer months. Ferry sailings are generally reliable in the summer months, but delays can occasionally occur. While we cannot be responsible for any extra accommodation, food or other costs that clients may incur due to ferry delays and cancellations, we will make every effort to adapt the tour to minimise disruption. Please note that no refunds will be given for tour and itinerary changes due to ferry changes and cancellations.
The Scottish Highlands and Islands are renowned for changeable weather and even in the summer months we are likely to experience some wet and windy weather conditions on tours. Shetland, in particular though, is a land of 'four seasons in one day'! As such we always recommend a light waterproof jacket for all tours and decent footwear that you do not mind getting a little bit muddy or wet.