Day 1: Inverness and Torridon
Our adventure starts at 3:00 p.m. with a group pick-up in Inverness, considered the capital of the Highlands, at the Inverness Train Station. (Transportation during the tour will be provided by private minibus or van.) We’ll transfer one and a half hours to Wester Ross and the Torridon Hills in the northwestern part of the Highlands. The Torridon Hills boast of some of the most dramatic scenery in the British Isles, rising steeply to 3,500 feet from the deep sea lochs. The destination will be the Torridon Hotel, our port of call for the next three nights. Once a grand shooting lodge, and restored to its original splendor, The Torridon enjoys one of the most impressive coastal positions in the Scottish Highlands; it is set in 58 acres of parkland at the end of a magnificent sea loch. The kitchen prides itself on its excellent cuisine, having earned three rosettes from the UK Automobile Association, and The Torridon was named Scottish Hotel of the Year in 2011.Today you’ll have time to relax in the hotel or explore the grounds, before the cocktail hour, trip orientation, and first delicious dinner together in the hotel. Meals: D. Overnight: The Torridon, Achnasheen/Wester Ross.
Day 2: Beinn Alligin and Torridon Forest or Aird Mhor and the Falls of Balgy
After a full, Scottish breakfast we’ll split for two hikes of varying difficulty. The first, more challenging hike is up Beinn Alligin, which means Mountain of Beauty in Gaelic, and it is well named. While the easiest of the three famous Torridon ridge traverses, it a challenging loop hike. It starts just west of the village of Torridon heading up past attractive waterfalls and next to a stream, and up to a moor. A long climb will bring us to a fairly flat plateau and a fabulous viewpoint with the sea and the Isle of Skye to the west (a sneak preview of our adventure there in a few days) and Liathach, one of the most famous of the Torridon Hills to the east. Here we have the option of continuing the loop or hiking back to the start after climbing Tom na Gruagaich, one of two munros on this hike. (Vocabulary sidebar: a munro is a mountain in Scotland with a height over 3,000 feet. Munros are named after Sir Hugh Munro, who produced the first list of such hills.) The moderate hikers will enjoy the Aird Mhor and the Falls of Balgy, a varied circuit which offers stunning views of mountains and sea throughout. It rounds a picturesque pinewood-clad peninsula in Upper Loch Torridon before ascending slightly through the countryside. We’ll pass the Falls of the River Balgy with great views of the Torridon Hills. The River Balgy, though short, is well known as a salmon river and the fish can sometimes be seen leaping the falls in the summer. This evening we’ll share tales of our munro hikes over dinner in the pub at the Torridon Inn, owned by the Torridon Hotel. Hike: Beinn Alligin: 6.25 miles, 3609 feet; Aird Mhor and the Falls of Balgy: 4.75 miles; +/-574 feet. Meals: B, L, D. Overnight: The Torridon, Achnasheen/Wester Ross.
Day 3: Sheildaig Peninsula or Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve; Afternoon Free
This morning we’ll hike on the Sheildaig Peninsula, a beautiful walk onto the An Aird peninsula, which projects into Loch Torridon from Shieldaig, one of the most picturesque villages in the Highlands. There are many lovely spots to admire the shoreline and look for otters and herons. A more challenging alternative is the Mountain Trail at Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve. This route passes through a wide range of habitats from magnificent ancient pinewoods up onto a bare, ice-scraped plateau of quartzite rocks and the views are fantastic. Although the route is waymarked with special cairns, it is very steep and rocky, and exposed to the elements in its upper sections.
This afternoon we’ll enjoy unscheduled time so that we can pursue whatever activities our hearts desire. We will facilitate plans for a wide range of activities, many of which are offered at The Torridon, including sea kayaking, mountain biking, canoeing, archery, clay pigeon shooting or a walk around the hotel grounds. The hotel can also help organize sea tours, whale cruises, fly fishing, pony trekking and golf. (There are two nearby 9 hole golf courses). The interior of the hotel also invites to relax this afternoon, with tea, a whiskey bar with over 350 malt whiskeys, and a drawing room. For those who can’t get enough walking, we will offer a guided hike in the afternoon. Lunch today is on your own in the inn, the pub, or at tea time. Our farewell dinner in this destination will be back in The Torridon again. Hike: Shieldaig Peninsula: 2.75 miles, 541 feet; Mountain Trail Beinn Eighe NNR: 4 miles; 1923 feet. Overnight: The Torridon, Achnasheen/Wester Ross.
Day 4: Isle of Skye, Quiraing Rock or Old Man of Storr
Today we’ll transfer to the poetic sounding Isle of Skye, the largest and most northerly major island in Scotland’s Inner Hebrides. Known in the local Scottish Gaelic as “An t-Eilean Sgitheanach,” the Isle of Skye is one of the few places you can still hear Scottish Gaelic spoken. Skye has an indented coastline of peninsulas and narrow lochs, radiating from a mountainous center dominated by the Cuillins Mountains and their rocky slopes. It is connected to Scotland's northwest coast by a bridge, and is known for its rugged landscapes, picturesque fishing villages and medieval castles. Time permitting, we will stop en route to Skye at the Attadale Gardens, a Scottish Highland garden started in the 19th century. Attadale is an artist’s garden designed to frame the magnificent views of Skye and the surrounding hills, a fitting introduction to our next destination. We’ll savor the view on the bridge to Skye, and pass through Portree, the bustling port town and Skye capital, en route to our hotel, stopping first to hike at the Old Man or Storr.
The “Old Man” is a large pinnacle of rock that stands high and can be seen for miles around. The Storr was created by a massive ancient landslide, leaving one of the most photographed landscapes in the world. Alternatively, we may hike the Quiraing, which was also formed by a landslide that created high cliffs, hidden plateaus and pinnacles of rock. The Quiraing offers wide open views of Skye, surrounding waters, and the Scottish mainland. We’ll settle in to the whimsically named Hotel Flodigarry, a stately and friendly restored 1895 hunting lodge, commanding a panoramic position overlooking the sea toward the Torridons (our former home away from home in Scotland), the Quiraing and the mainland of Scotland. The hotel’s most famous occupant was the “proudly Jacobite”, Flora MacDonald. The Skye heroine raised her family in the cottage adjacent to the hotel. The hotel is traditional, non-trendy, warm and friendly, with an easy-going atmosphere. What’s not to like?! We’ll enjoy dinner tonight in the hotel’s High Tide Restaurant, Hike: Old Man of Storr: 2.7 miles; or the Quiraing: 4.23 miles. Meals: B, L, D. Overnight: The Flodigarry Hotel in the Skye, Flodigarry, Isle of Skye.
Day 5: Skye Museum of Island Life, High Cliffs, of Ramasaig Hike and Dunvegan Castle
After a hearty breakfast, we’ll travel 15 minutes to the Skye Museum of Island Life and 100 years back in time. There are very few old-fashioned thatched cottages today in the Highlands yet a hundred years or so ago thatched houses were very much a part of the Highland scene. Within their walls, by the light of the peat fire – the crofters of the Islands kept alive the songs and stories which have made the Hebrides famous throughout the world. (A crofter is the person who occupies and works a small landholding known as a croft. A crofter is normally the tenant of the croft, paying rent to the landlord of the croft. But many others have purchased their crofts and are owner-occupiers of their crofts.)
The Skye Museum preserves a township of thatched cottages, each one depictingas closely as possible the conditions prevailing on the island at the close of the 19th Century. We'll then travel from the Skye Museum to Ramasaig to enjoy a classic circular coastal walk along the most dramatic clifftop in Britain. We'll head out from the road end and return via the clifftops, where we'll enjoy a picnic lunch. Alternatively, we may hike the Neist and Milovaig Circuit, including a visit to a lighthouse, yet more dramatic cliff scenery and great views.
On the way back to the hotel, we'll take Dunvegan Castle by storm, well, we'll visit it anyway. Built on a rocky outcrop on the shores of Loch Dunvegan, it was once entirely encircled by the sea. Dunvegan is the ancestral home of the Chiefs of the Clan MacLeod. It is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland, and has been the stronghold of the clan for 800 years.The lovely formal gardens are a contrast to the starkly beautiful surrounding countryside. We'll celebrate our last night on Skye with a feast of local seafood prepared for us especially by the hotel, with an alternative for non-seafood eaters. Hike: approximately 6 miles. Meals: B,L,D. Overnight: The FLodigarry Hotel in the Skye, Flodigarry, Isle of Skye.
Day 6: Glencoe and Edinburgh
Fortified with a hot breakfast, we’ll transfer to Edinburgh, a five plus hour drive stopping along the way for lunch in Glencoe (Gleann Comhann in Scottish Gaelic), often considered one of the most spectacular and beautiful places in Scotland. Glen Coe is the most famous and perhaps dramatic of all Scottish glens, the perfect scenic match for the dark history of the Massacre of the MacDonalds, which took place there in 1692. Our destination for the night is BEST WESTERN PLUS Bruntsfield Hotel, a four star hotel that is a 15 minute walk from Edinburgh city center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and next to Bruntsfield Links Park and The Meadows. Our farewell dinner tonight is in the hotel’s Bisque Brasserie. Meals: B, L, D. Overnight: The Bruntsfield Hotel, Edinburgh.
Day 7: Farewell to Scotland - Edinburgh Extension
After an early breakfast we’ll say good-bye to Scotland. There will be a private group transfer at 7:30 a.m. for the 20 minute drive to the Edinburgh Airport. For those, who can’t bear to tear themselves away from Scotland, we will organize a one day extension in Edinburgh, allowing you to stay in the same room as on the last night of the main tour, and spend an additional day in this beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site. Meals: B.
Please bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary, and the actual hikes and sites may vary due to season, special events or weather. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary since tour arrangements are made many months in advance, and unforeseen circumstances or opportunities that mandate changes may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and your experience. We also always strive to provide a pleasant surprise or two.