Morag Dunbar, Scottish Driver-Guide and an accredited Scottish Blue Badge Tourist Guide - Suilven Mountain in the late summer sunshine

Highlands & Islands

Guided Tours of the Scottish Highlands and Islands

GlencoeThis area is vast and cannot be done in a day tour. To see the Highlands and Islands properly requires overnight stays. Here is a taste of what could be included.

Our driver-guided tour would include the atmospheric and magnificent mountains of Glencoe, the site of the infamous massacre of 1692 and nowadays a haven for mountaineers. From there our private tour can lead past Castle Stalker to Oban. South of Oban is the attractive Crinan Canal and the prehistoric Kilmartin Glen with its burial sites and standing stones. Near to this is Dunadd, site of the ancient capital of Dalriada.

MULL

Duart Castle on the Island of MullFrom Oban, on our tour of the Western Highlands we take the ferry to the island of Mull where the ancient seat of Clan McLean (Duart Castle) sits right on the coast. A tour to the small island of Iona  made famous by St Columba is next on the itinerary to see the lovely restored Abbey, the ancient nunnery and the beautiful carved Celtic Crosses and old gravestones. 

Returning by the small passenger ferry to Mull, a journey up the spectacular west coast leads to the colourful little town of Tobermory, (famous to all young children because of the BBC programme “Balamory”) and well worth an overnight stop. [Check out the fish and chip van as well. It has won awards]. On the way, there is a possible detour to the charming little island of Ulva to explore or just to relax and eat freshly caught seafood in the little Boathouse Cafe.

Back on the mainland, we can take a guided tour on the Road to the Isles to the town of Fort William beneath Ben Nevis (Scotland’s highest mountain) and then to Mallaig via Glenfinnan, site of the beginning of the 1745 Jacobite rebellion led by “Bonnie Prince Charlie”. Alternatively you might like to travel by the Jacobite Steam Train from Fort William to Mallaig.

SKYE 

The Mountains of Skye

Our guided tour from Mallaig continues by ferry taking us “over the sea to Skye”. This is a big island and more than one day is recommended. I would suggest we visit Armadale Castle Gardens and Museum of the Isles, the town of Portree (the island’s capital), Dunvegan Castle (seat of the Clan MacLeod) and Flora MacDonald’s grave. Ancient brochs, stunning mountains, old religious sites – Skye has them all, not forgetting its malt whisky distillery – Talisker – where a tasting tour can be arranged.

Back on the mainland it is a short journey to the most photographed castle in Scotland, Eilean Donan Castle, where your private guided tour gives you all the time you need to take in the atmosphere.

CENTRAL AND NORTHERN HIGHLANDS 

Dunnottar Castle near AberdeenRather than putting a full driver-guided tour together I have listed some combinations of visits to build into a tour. 

A really interesting tour is to Scone Palace (where the monarchs of Scotland were once crowned). Both it and the spectacular Blair Castle can be built into a Highland tour leaving from Edinburgh or Glasgow as we head north through Pitlochry towards the city of Inverness (capital of the Highlands). This is a good touring base with some lovely hotels to choose from and nice shopping opportunities. 

From there we can explore Loch Ness and visit the ancient ruin of Urquhart Castle – perhaps taking a boat trip to do this. 

A guided tour to the site of the Battle of Culloden can be taken east of the city – the last battle fought on British soil  and one which changed the way of life in the Highlands forever. The graves of the fallen clansmen are still sad to see even today. Nearby are the mysterious Clava Cairns and not far beyond is the charming Cawdor Castle with its links to the legend of Macbeth. 

From here it is possible to take a personal guided tour to Scotland’s 3rd city of Aberdeen via Royal Deeside. This is the area made famous by Queen Victoria who built Balmoral Castle which the royal family still uses for holidays (in August). We can see Crathie Church (where the Royal Family worships) and the little town of Ballater with its lovely old railway station. [If you come in September you might even manage to attend the Braemar Highland Gathering along with the Royals.] Just south of Aberdeen is the amazing Dunnottar Castle, a spectacular ruin clinging to the steep cliffs where the Scottish Crown Jewels (the Honours of Scotland) were once hidden from Oliver Cromwell. 

FURTHER NORTH 

Old Man of Hoy, OrkneyFrom Inverness we can tour further north to Caithness and Sutherland, where some of the most infamous Highland Clearances of the local people took place to make room for sheep back in the 19th century. On our guided tour we can go to Dunrobin Castle (home of the Earl and Countess of Sutherland) sitting in its imposing position above the sea with its beautiful gardens. This area is rich in archeological sites. If we were to go to the far north coast then a visit to the Castle of Mey (former home of the late Queen Mother) is a must – a truly charming castle.  

Beyond the north coast can be found the Islands of Orkney, rich in their own history with many islands, archaeological remains and wildlife.  Further north lie the Shetland Islands, again with their unique and rich history as well as being a haven for birdlife. Both island groups have strong connections with the Vikings and re-live their ancient traditions.  If you like fiddle music then this is where to find it.

Whatever your requirements for a personal driver-guided tour of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, contact me to put together a tour tailored exactly to your needs.