Enjoy the best of both worlds with a mix of private guided tours and transfers mixed in with a number of days on a small group trip taking in the best sights (some off the beaten path) along the way. After spending time in Edinburgh exploring the sights in the company of a private guide or doing some independent exploring, make your way to Inverness to meet up with your small group multi-day tour make the most of the sightseeing opportunities en route through Europe's last great wilderness region. One of the most interesting places on earth, the Orkney Islands offer a mix of outstandingly rugged coastal scenery teeming with bird and sea-life, the greatest single collection of pre-historic remains in the world, a land steeped in Viking history, and contemporary sites dating from the two great World Wars. Remember, there is always the option to add a full day or afternoon of private guided services throughout your small group multi-day tour. Do things your way, at an affordable price, knowing that you have 24/7 support as you travel.
The small group tours depart every 2nd Tuesday from May 21, 2013 until September 24, 2013. The small group tours have a maximum of 15 people per trip.
Meet your driver for your private airport transfer today. Please note that this service includes up to 3 hours of service.
A welcome package with your vouchers, a city map, train tickets (if relevant) and any other touristic information that we deem you may find useful will be waiting for you upon your arrival at your first hotel on your trip.
This is a fantastically central hotel, located in the heart of Grassmarket, steps away from Edinburgh Castle in the Old Town. The Apex City (4*) is located next door to its sister hotel, the Apex International. One of the best hotels in Edinburgh, the Yu Spa leisure facilities are based at the Apex International Hotel next door, and are available to residents free of charge and open daily. Facilities include ozone pool, tropicarium, plunge shower and gym with state-of-the-art technogym equipment.
You will be met at your central Edinburgh hotel by your guide to commence your walking tour. The buzz of Scotland's capital city sits in perfect contrast to the peaceful tranquility of the surrounding Lothians region. Edinburgh has one of the most beautiful cityscapes in the world, making it the ideal city break destination. From ceilidhs and science to ghost, film and food festivals there's always something going on in the festival city, and that's just for starters. Discover world-class museums and galleries, learn the history of the city or spend an afternoon pub crawling - whatever your fancy! Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and perhaps take an umbrella!
The Witchery Restaurant located on the Royal Mile is a great place for dinner. The 16th century building located close to the Castle is lit exclusively by candlelight. The tapestry-draped main dining room is an ode to opulence: the seats are a rich red leather, the ceiling is gilded, and the walls are covered with oak panels salvaged from an old cathedral. The Secret Garden annex, meanwhile, is full of brass candlesticks and stone statues, and displays a series of painted doors that tell the story of Edinburgh's wine trade with France. The menu is equally sumptuous, offering dishes such as melt-in-your-mouth steak tartare, rabbit wrapped in Parma ham with tea-soaked prunes, and loin of roe deer with an earthy black pudding. But be sure to save room for the desserts — from the chocolate torte to the bramble, sherry and mascarpone trifle, they make a wickedly decadent end to the meal. Please speak to your Sales Advisor if you would like to have a reservation made for you.
Travel from Edinburgh to Inverness by train. Approximately 3.5 hrs.
The Kingsmill Hotel (4*) is surrounded by the Invernesshire Mountains and is just a 1 mile from the city centre. The hotel has an excellent reputation, and hospitality has been enjoyed by both locals and visitors to Inverness for many years. The hotel is set in four acres of carefully kept gardens and manicured lawns. At the Kingsmills Hotel you’ll find high standards of hotel keeping in a quiet and pretty location. You’re close enough to the city centre to walk there, or you can take a stroll in the hotel grounds with scarcely a hint that you’re in the middle of the Highland capital. The hotel has the pedigree plus dashes of character and panache only delivered by genuine hoteliers. The conservatory is light, spacious and very relaxing while the bar is stocked with over 40 whiskeys. The Kingsmill hotel also boasts an extensive leisure club with a swimming pool, solarium, sauna, and gym.
Meet your small group who you will be with for the next number of days as you journey on adventure of the Orkneys and Scottish Highlands. Departure time is 8:30am from The Waterside Hotel - 19 Ness Bank, Inverness and it is recommended to be here 30 minutes before departure.
Departing from Inverness, you'll spend a spectacular day travelling through the unspoilt North Highlands to Beauly, a beautiful and inspiriting region of ancient landscapes and fascinating history. The sleepy stone-built village is home to the ruins of Beauly Priory founded in 1230. Pass through the attractive Victorian spa town of Strathpeffer before arriving at Dunrobin Castle with its towering conical spires, home to the Earls and Dukes of Sutherland since the 1400's. Continuing onwards, you'll pass through the “goldrush” village of Helmsdale, where the precious metal was discovered in 1868 in Kildogan Burn – prospectors still try their luck today! From here, you'll pass through the ‘gold rush’ village of Helmsdale and continue through the Caithness, a large area of unspoilt and dramatic scenery with high cliffs and offshore stacks. Arrive at Scotland’s northern-most tip to catch the early evening ferry to the Orkney Islands, a stunning trip sailing pass Hoy, famous for its towering sea stack, the Old Man of Hoy.
Arriving at Scotland’s northern-most tip, you will catch the early-evening ferry to the Orkney Islands. The ferry trip is stunning in the setting sun as you pass by that famous sea stack, The Old Man of Hoy.
Enjoy an overnight stay in Kirkwall later this evening. Your hotel will be determined at a later date.
The Orkney’s are perhaps most renowned for their amazing archaeological sites, and today you will have the chance to go back in time to explore the Neolithic stone circles of the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness. Enter the tomb of Maeshowe to see the artefacts left by Stone Age man. Then it is on to Skara Brae, a collection of ten stone-age houses occupied from about 3100 to 2500 BC, which were only discovered in 1850 when they were uncovered by a storm. The attraction presents a remarkable picture of life around 5,000 years ago, before Stonehenge was built.
Travel through the beautiful island landscapes this afternoon, where birds and flowers are abundant, and explore how the previous settlers lived. Their huge fortified brochs are scattered throughout the islands, and Gurness is one you can explore. The Vikings are also much in evidence, since for several hundred years from around 700AD the country was under Norse rule, and most place names still reflect the Norse heritage. If the tide permits, you can walk “across the Atlantic” to the tidal island of the Brough of Birsay and visit the remains of the Viking village. This is also a great area for watching seabirds on the cliffs, and a sighting of a puffin or two is almost guaranteed! Hear tales from the saga of how Earl Magnus was slain by his cousin.
Today spend some free time this morning in the former Viking settlement of Kirkwall, the main town on the islands, with interesting historical sites such as St Magnus Cathedral, the Earl’s Palace and the Bishop’s Palace. This is also home to one of Scotland’s best distilleries, Highland Park Distillery, where you will stop to explore the traditional methods utilised in producing their famous single malt.
As you travel down through the southern Orkney isles you will come to more recent history - see Scapa Flow, a huge natural harbour that served as the base for the home naval fleet through two World Wars. As well as being the resting-place of HMS Royal Oak, sunk by a daring German U-Boat, it is also the graveyard of the German High Seas Fleet which was scuttled here at the end of the First World War. Visit the Italian Chapel, originally a couple of old Nissen huts, decorated in imaginative style by Italian prisoners of war.
After taking the morning ferry back to the mainland, the first port of call is towards John O’Groats where a visit of the Castle of Mey is in order. This is the beloved home of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who restored the abandoned building and created the beautiful gardens. Then, following the beautiful coast road, take in the views crossing the Dornoch and Cromarty Firths on the return journey back to the Capital of the Highlands, Inverness, where your Small group tour comes to an end.
Travel from Inverness to Edinburgh by train. Journey will take approximately 3.5hrs.
Meet your driver for a private train station transfer. Please note that this service includes up to 3 hours of service.
VISA/PASSPORTThere are no border controls when travelling within the United Kingdom including the land border with England. Scotland has the same immigration and visa requirements as the rest of the United Kingdom.
United Kingdom is a party to the Schengen Agreement. As such, U.S. citizens may enter for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. The passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay.
HEALTHHealth insurance is recommended. Medical facilities are good quality. We recommend that you see a health-care provider who specializes in Travel Medicine. The doctor or health-care provider will determine what vaccinations and medication you will need, depending on factors such as your health and immunization history, areas of the country you will be visiting, and planned activities. For more information on travel requirements, visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website: http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/united-kingdom.aspx COUNTRY INFOCapital: Edinburgh Language: English & Gaelic in parts of Scotland Religion: Predominantly Christian, with sizeable Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and Hindu minorities. Time: GMT (GMT + 1 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October). Electricity: 240 volts AC, 50Hz. Square three-pin plugs are standard. Telephone: Country code +44. Mobile Telephone: Roaming agreements exist with most international mobile phone operators. Coverage is mostly good, but can be patchy in rural areas. Internet: There are Internet cafes and centers in most urban areas.
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