11 Day Grand Scottish Islands (Outer Hebrides, Isle of Skye, Orkney and Shetland) Tour from Inverness

11 Day Grand Scottish Islands Tour

Outer Hebrides, Isle of Skye, Orkney and Shetland
11 Day Grand Scottish Islands (Outer Hebrides, Isle of Skye, Orkney and Shetland) Tour from Inverness

A Grand Scottish Islands tour from Inverness through the Highlands to the Outer Hebrides, the Isle of Skye, Orkney and Shetland over eleven 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 Callanish Standing Stones, the 2000 year old Dun Carloway Broch and a traditional Hebridean blackhouse. We end the day at the Butt of Lewis, the most northerly point in the Outer Hebrides before our return to Stornoway for our overnight stay.

Day 2 – After time in Stornoway visiting the Lewis Chessmen, Museum nan Eilean and Lews Castle, we journey south to the Isle of Harris. The tour along the Atlantic coastline of Harris includes the stunning beaches at Luskentyre, Seilebost and Nisabost. We visit Rodel to explore the beautiful medieval St Clement’s church, home to one of Scotland's most remarkable 16th century tombs. The late afternoon takes us back to Tarbert (home of Harris Tweed and Isle of Harris distillery) before we return north to Stornoway for our overnight stay.

Day 3 – Departing from Stornoway we travel south to Tarbert where we take a 1¾ hour late morning ferry across the Little Minch to Uig on the Isle of Skye. The afternoon takes us around the stunning Trotternish peninsula including the Museum of Island Life, the Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock and the magnificent views from the Quiraing before our arrival in Portree for our overnight stay.

Day 4 – A full day on Isle of Skye includes Dunvegan Castle, home of the Clan MacLeod, one of the Hebrides most powerful clans. The afternoon takes us to the Sleat Peninsula, a less explored areas of Skye, and home to a stunning coastline, heather-clad hills and plenty of opportunities to get off the beaten path and away from the crowds. Along with Isleornsay – where you can enjoy some Hebridean whisky tasting – we explore the remote western side before our return Portree for our overnight stay.

Day 5 – Leaving Portree we tour south through the Isle of Skye and cross the bridge to the West Highlands where we explore the stunning Eilean Donan Castle by the shores of Loch Duich. The afternoon takes us east through Glen Shiel and the Five Sisters of Kintail mountain range. Before our return to Inverness we end our tour with a visit to medieval ruins of Urquhart Castle by the banks of Loch Ness.

Day 6 – 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 7 – 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 8 – 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 9 – 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 10 – 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 11 – 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:    £8225

(Off-season tours in March, April and October)

Tour Information

Depart Inverness 7.30am
Return Inverness
(11 Days)

This tour is only available on Monday or Wednesday start days from Inverness.

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.

Accommodation Options
We recommend that you book accommodation in Stornoway (Day 1 and 2), Portree (Day 3 and 4), Inverness (Day 5), Kirkwall (Day 6) and Lerwick (Day 8 and 9) 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.

Tour Itinerary
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!

Tour Notes
Day 7 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.

Ferry Sailings
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.

Weather
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.

Advance Booking and Availability Notes
As this tour requires eleven consecutive tour days and can only begin on a Monday or Wednesday we recommend you book this tour as far in advance as possible to ensure the widest choice of tour availability.

2023 remaining start dates –– 1st May, 2nd August and 11th September.