Ancient Scotland - Uncrowded, custom, cultural, small group tours including 2 nights on the Orkney Islands
Day 1 - GlasgowArrive Glasgow and transfer to your pre-booked accommodations. Like most Scottish towns, Glasgow is a friendly city with a good selection of traditional music at pubs around town and very good shopping choices. Using the included 2 day hop-on hop-off bus pass, see the sights of Glasgow and familiarize yourself with the layout of the town. You can also see some of the many sites used for filming the Outlander TV series. See my blog about Things to do in Glasgow for more information. On the second day in Glasgow, we'll have special entertainment provided by 'Gwyllyn the Bard' who played for Jamie and Claire in Castle Leoch in the Outlander TV show. Gwyllyn will entertain you with songs, stories about Scottish history, plus his work on the Outlander set. (The performance may be another night of the tour or a different performer depending on availability.) Overnight in Glasgow.
Day 2 - Journey begins - Loch Lomond, Ancient Seat of the Early Scottish Kings, Ancient Monuments in Kilmartin GlenAfter a good night’s sleep and a nice breakfast, the journey will start with a drive up along the fabled Loch Lomond enroute to Lochgilphead and Kilmartin. Rising dramatically from Moine Mhor, Dunadd appears as a rocky outcrop near Lochgilphead. Many people have heard of Tara, the seat of the High Kings of Ireland. Well Dunadd Fort, in the Kilmartin Glen in Argyll, is the Ancient Seat of the Early Scottish Kings!! And just like Tara, when you climb to the top of Dunadd, you can feel the vibrations of ancient energy! The rest of this day will be spent investigating the ancient monuments in Kilmartin Glen which holds over 300 of them in a few square miles.
Day 3 - Tigh An Truish, Loch Linnhe, Old Inverlochy CastleEnroute to Inverness, we’ll stop and see some fascinating pieces of Scottish History. Tigh An Truish Inn is along the way and if time permits, you'll enjoy a look at the pub from a time gone by. The Gaelic name translates into English as "The House of the Trousers." Then you’ll drive along the west coast of Scotland with views of the lovely Loch Linnhe and on to Old Inverlochy Castle. This is an ancient site from the 13th century which is situated at the south-western end of the Great Glen just north of Fort William on the banks of the River Lochy. Your guide will regale you with tales of its fascinating history and many scenes of splendor and carnage which occurred here. From the castle, you’ll drive along the Great Glen and the amazing length of Loch Ness before arriving in Inverness.
Day 4 - Day in Inverness, Shopping, Whiskey, Music, Books, Hop-on Hop-off BusThis day will be a day off for the guide and a day for you to investigate Inverness with your included hop-on hop-off bus pass. Like most Scottish towns, Inverness is filled with friendly people and has traditional music and very good shopping. Recommended places to visit: The Whisky Shop just up the hill from the River Ness on High Street, Leakey's Second-hand Bookshop filled with thousands of books, MacGregor’s Bar (with regular music sessions), Gellions Bar (nightly live music) across the street from the Whisky Shop, Hootananny (more music) down Church Street, Highland House of Fraser - Kiltmaker & Supplier of Highland Dress, "The Bar" at the Glenmoriston Townhouse Hotel (for a wee dram), and just past there, the Ness Islands (a lovely walk thru tall trees). See my blog : Things to do in Inverness.
Day 5 - Ferry to the Orkney Islands for 2 nights! Sites include the Italian Chapel, Orkney Winery, Bishop's Palace, Earl's Palace, St Magnus CathedralToday you will begin your journey to the remote Orkney Islands with a drive up to the far north of the Scottish mainland. You will drive up through the scenic Scottish Highlands before catching a ferry to the Orkney Islands and on to visit the Italian Chapel, a beautiful Roman Catholic chapel in Lamb Holm which was constructed by Italian POWs during the Second World War. Then you will visit the Orkney Winery, Bishop's Palace, Earl's Palace, and finally St Magnus Cathedral, known as the 'Light in the North' which was founded in 1137 in honour St Magnus who was martyred in Orkney.
Day 6 - Standing Stones of Stenness, Ring of Brodgar, Ness of Brodgar, Maeshowe, Skara BraeThis day will include a plethora of intriguing ancient sites. You will begin your day with the captivating Standing Stones of Stenness, a henge which is older than Stonehenge by hundreds of years. Next you’ll visit the majestic circle of standing stones known as Ring of Brodgar, or Orkney's Legendary Dancing Giants. The height of the stones ranges between smaller stones at seven feet tall, and the largest reaching to above 15 feet, creating a circle that would have been over 300 feet in diameter. Near by you’ll see the extensive Neolithic archaeological site, the Ness of Brodgar. Next you’ll see Maeshowe, a Neolithic chambered cairn and passage grave built 5,000 years ago. On the southern shore of the Bay o' Skaill, in the West Mainland parish of Sandwick, is the Neolithic village of Skara Brae which was inhabited for around 600 years, between 3200BC and 2200BC. Rounding out the day will be the Orkney Brewery and perhaps Broch of Gurness and/or Brough of Birsay if time permits.
Day 7 - Cliffs of Yesnaby or Sheila Fleet Jewelry Designer then Ferry back to Mainland ScotlandPrior to catching the ferry back to mainland Scotland, in the morning, weather dependent, will be either walking at scenic cliffs of Yesnaby, especially its famous sea stack called the Yesnaby Castle or a visit to local jewelry designer, Sheila Fleet.
Day 8 - Cairngorms National Park, Medieval Cathedral and Priory of St AndrewsDeparting Inverness, you’ll drive through Cairngorms National Park where rare remnants of ancient Caledonian pine forests still stand. There is likely to be time for a stop at a distillery for a wee dram. The highlight of this day will be the royal burgh of St Andrews, once the ecclesiastical capital of Scotland. The medieval cathedral and priory began with a foundation of Augustinian canons established between 1127 and 1144. Built partly in the Norman and partly in the early Gothic style, it was by far the largest church in Scotland, with an internal length of 357 feet (109 metres). The cathedral and priory were enclosed by an elaborate precinct wall, much of which survives.
Day 9 - Edinburgh - End of TourBreakfast is included on this final day but the tour is over after breakfast. You may schedule your flight home for this day (or you may choose to extend your stay and see more of Scotland).
Hugh Allison and I have worked together to design this tour and we will strive to see all of the places in the list above but they are subject to change dependent on weather and availability and ferries.