Strap on your boots for a hiking journey into Scotland like no other. Boundless Journeys’ Highlands & Islands Hiking tour combines the breathtaking cliff-lined coasts of the Orkney Isles, the Isle of Skye, and the sylvan wilderness trails of the Scottish Highlands.
Enjoy the stunning coastal beauty of two jaw-dropping isles, Burray and Hoy, and marvel at the remarkably preserved Neolithic ruins of Skara Brae. More magnificence awaits you in the Scottish Highlands and on the Isle of Skye: vast glens draped in pines and graced by bonnie brooks, moors blanketed with moss, and serene lochs that just may harbor a fabled monster or two. Visit two of Scotland’s spectacular castles, Eilean Donan and Urquhart, and enjoy a hike above the village of Plocton with views to the Isle of Skye.
With ample opportunity to toast the culture with whiskey, song, and dance on this Boundless Journeys Highlands & Islands Hiking tour, you’ll soon discover why Scotland is world-renowned for its splendid hiking trails and its warm embrace.
Inverness to the Orkney Isles
We meet in Inverness, gateway to the Highlands, before traveling to the north coast to catch the ferry to Orkney. The Orkney Isles, about ten miles off the northern coast of Scotland, comprise an archipelago of about 70 islands. They boast some of Europe?s oldest and best-preserved Neolithic sites.
During our one-hour ferry crossing, we may spot a pod of dolphins riding the bow wave. Our destination is the island of Burray, just off the coast of Orkney?s main island, appropriately known by the locals simply as ?Mainland.? We settle in at our lovely hotel, built in 1860 as a fish store before it was renovated and transformed into a hotel in 1997. We enjoy a welcome dinner this evening.
Sands HotelBurray, Scotland
Set in a 19th century building, the charming Sands Hotel is along the shore of Scapa Flow in the small fishing village of Burray. The modern and tastefully decorated rooms offer beautiful sea views overlooking Burray Harbor and Watersound Bay. The restaurant’s menu features the freshest local ingredients transformed into authentic Scottish specialties.
Coastal Hike & Skara Brae Stone Age Village
We begin our exploration with a spectacular hike along the dramatic coast from Brough Head to Marwick Head. Have your binoculars ready, as this is home to one of the largest seabird colonies in Scotland, including Herring gulls, Lesser-backed gulls and Long-billed curlew. After our walk, we visit Skara Brae, a Stone Age village which thrived for 600 years, between 3200 and 2200 BC. It remained buried under coastal sands for millennia until 1850, when a winter storm battered Orkney and stripped away the grass and sediment that had hidden it for so long. Its structures remained incredibly preserved under the sand.
We end our day at the Scapa whisky distillery, witnessing what goes into making Scotland?s prized spirit and sampling a wee dram for ourselves.
The Old Man of Hoy
A short morning drive takes us past Scapa Flow. Sheltered by five of the Orkney Isles, it is one of the world?s great natural harbors, having hosted naval fleets from the Viking era to the time of World War II. But with its shallow, sandy bottom, it has also been witness to many shipwrecks. Upon arrival in Houton, we embark on a ferry to Hoy, the archipelago?s second largest island.
Our hike today traces the island?s dramatic coast, with sweeping views of some of Britain?s highest and most spectacular cliffs. The day?s highlight is the sea stack known affectionately as the Old Man of Hoy, a 449-foot tower of basalt soaring from a rocky point at the foot of the sea. It was first climbed in 1966, in a daring ascent led by mountaineers Sir Charles Bonington and Dougal Haston, and televised by the BBC. We?ll have amazing views of the Old Man from nearby cliffs, and might even spot some climbers clinging to its vertical walls. We return via the picturesque Rackwick Bay, with its crescent beach.
Orkney to the West Highlands
We ferry back to mainland Scotland today, then enjoy a scenic and leisurely four-hour transfer through the West Highlands to the picture-perfect village of Plockton. Along the way, we pause for photo opportunities and for a short hike into a cascading waterfall, where we might catch sight of salmon jumping against the torrent to get upriver.
In Plockton, there will be time to explore the waterfront lined with palm trees, perhaps meeting one of the artists who gather here to capture the area?s coastal charms on canvas. We close our day at the Plockton Inn, a cozy seaside spot boasting award-winning seafood and a friendly pub. If we a?re lucky, there wi?ll be local musicians playing traditional folk songs here.
Plockton InnPlockton, Scotland
Set in the heart of the beautiful village of Plockton, in the West Highlands, the Plockton Inn is well known for its exceptional hospitality, award-winning seafood restaurant, and breathtaking sea views. Sample a local malt or ale in the lively pub while listening to traditional Scottish music of local musicians.
Isle of Skye
Today we take our cue from the beloved folk tune, The Skye Boat Song, and speed 'over the sea to Skye' to the tiny settlement of Elgol. Here, we board a boat to the remote bay of Loch Scavaig, just as Queen Victoria herself once did. This beautiful body of water is surrounded by the Black Cuillin Mountains, which serve as the backdrop for our gently sloping hike along their base. The trail skirts the shores of Loch Coruisk, whose wild beauty and rugged mountains inspired Sir Walter Scott and Lord Tennyson to capture the gorgeous landscape in verse.
*If joining our August 2023 departure, this day will be devoted to attending the Isle of Skye Highland Games. This open-air event dates to 1877 and takes place on a scenic headland with views of the harbour. Locals and visitors alike flock to the 'Games Field' to watch an array of athletic and cultural competitions including Highland Dancing in full tartan regalia, bagpipping, and the 'Heavy Events,' in which athletes compete in areas such as hammer throw, weight over bar, caber toss, and tug of war, all while wearing a kilt! We are free to watch the spectacle at the field and meander the craft and food stalls.
Plockton to Loch Ness
Our day begins with a trail hike from our hotel in the village of Plockton. A steady and moderate ascent along even terrain rewards us at the summit with excellent views of Isle of Skye and the fishing village of Applecross. From here, we may peek at the village of Plockton a bit beyond the cairn. Our descent takes us through forested land and along the shore of a loch. We may be able to glimpse over the water to see a crannog — the remains of an ancient island dwelling.
A short drive after our hike delivers us to the Eilean Donan Castle. A Scottish icon set amidst magnificent vistas, it is easy to see why this is one of the country's most photographed spots. After a visit, we transfer to our lovely hotel in Fort Augustus — set at the southwest tip of the mysterious Loch Ness!
The LovatFort Augustus, Scotland
The Lovat is a landmark Victorian Loch Ness hotel overlooking the loch-side village of Fort Augustus. It is surrounded by stunning scenery, sitting at the southern tip of the mysterious deep waters of Loch Ness. This exceptional eco-friendly Highland hotel offers rooms of modern comfort combined with traditional aspects of Highland life, and views of the Highland mountains, Caledonian Canal or world-famous Loch Ness.
Today is one of our most scenic days as we hike the trails of Glen Affric, widely regarded as one of Scotland's most beautiful valleys. Blanketed by Scots pines, the glen's slopes reach up to resplendent peaks that overlook the pristine waters of Loch Affric. There are countless options for great hikes in this glen, so we're spoiled for choice. Our guide will decide on the best hike which will ensure magnificent views of this unique wilderness of pinewoods and moorland. If you're up for it, we may hike to a summit for an elevated panorama across the numerous peaks of the Highlands.
Loch Ness to Inverness
After breakfast, we return to Inverness. But we can?t visit Loch Ness without pausing to look for the elusive monster in its waters. After stopping for a search, we continue to the lakeside ruins of Urquhart Castle, once a stronghold of Robert the Bruce, and one of Scotland?'s largest medieval castles. A final scenic drive returns us to Inverness and our journey?'s end.
Please note that this is a typical itinerary, and actual activities may vary due to weather conditions, local events, and to allow serendipity to play a hand in your experience. Accommodations are as outlined in the itinerary, although we reserve the right to change these or the order visited should the need arise.
Jun 10-17, 2023
Aug 5-12, 2023
Sep 9-16, 2023
*Jul 31, 2021 and Jul 30, 2022 departures will attend the Highland Festival Games in Skye.
Take over a date for your group! See "Make It Private" on Dates & Prices tab.
From $5,395 Per Person
First two reserved:$295
See single supplement policy below.
MAKE IT PRIVATE
9+ Guests: $5,395 per person
5 to 8 Guests: $5,895 per person
Make it Private price is based on Land Cost only, and a guarantee of the specified number of guests in double occupancy. For groups smaller than the numbers shown, or those requiring single occupancy, we reserve the right to adjust the per person price. Additionally, some trips have minimum group sizes. Please call 1-800-941-8010 for details.
Accommodations (hotels, tents, cruise cabins) are based on double occupancy. A single supplement is paid by participants who specifically request single accommodations, subject to availability. If you reserve at least 120 days prior to departure, you may be eligible for a reduced or free single supplement.* This is generally limited to the first one or two solo travelers to reserve, and the reduction is outlined in the pricing for each trip. Please note, free or reduced single supplements are not combinable with other offers or promotions.
If you are traveling alone and wish to share accommodations, we will try to match you with a roommate of the same gender. If you reserve at least 120 days ahead and a roommate is not available, you will only be charged a “forced” single supplement in the amount of 50% of the standard single supplement* (unless otherwise noted in the detailed itinerary). Single accommodations are limited so you are encouraged to reserve early!
*This may not apply to certain trips with unique accommodation arrangements. Please see specific trip information for more details.
Boundless Journeys' trips are designed for energetic and flexible individuals who like to be active and have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. Scotland: Highlands & Islands Hiking is rated 3, moderate, on a scale of 1-5 (with 5 being the most strenuous). The hikes will be conducted at a leisurely pace, but average 4-7 hours per day on a full day of hiking. They are a mixture of hikes along coastal and loch paths, and through barren mountains and heather fields. Some days are planned as half-day hikes, and these are a bit easier.
The terrain in the Highlands is mountainous and rugged, and there are typically daily ascents and descents of up to 1,500 feet. Scotland has excellent walking paths, but not all trails have level footing. You may encounter roots, rocks, mud, and loose gravel. It is important that you are in generally fit aerobic shape. Our guides will select hikes that they feel will be enjoyable and appropriate for the ability level of the group. There are a wide variety of hikes available in each location, making it easy for our guides to pick the perfect outing each day.
Most Convenient Airport: Inverness, Scotland (airport code INV); or Edinburgh, Scotland (airport code EDI). Inverness is the most convenient as this is where the trip begins. Edinburgh may provide better flight options and will allow for exploration of this fascinating city before or after your trip.
Meeting Time and Place: Inverness, Scotland train station; 12:00 p.m. Your Boundless Journeys guide will meet you at the Inverness train station on Day 1 of our trip.
Departure Time and Place: Inverness, Scotland train station; 1:00 p.m.
Scotland's weather conditions can vary greatly, even in the course of a single afternoon. It is not uncommon to have deep blue skies followed by "soft" weather (the local term for a bit of rain). Then the cycle begins again. Therefore, it is essential to be prepared for a variety of conditions -- including dressing in layers and wearing quick-drying clothing. Waterproof hiking boots are not a bad idea either, as you may encounter water or mud along the trails. You can expect the average daytime temperatures to range from the low 60s to mid seventies (Fahrenheit), although it may feel colder on the hikes, especially if it is windy.
You may obtain more detailed weather information by visiting www.weatherbase.com.
Scotland enjoys a milder climate than you might expect, and spring comes quite early. We feel that spring and summer are ideal times to visit Scotland, as the temperatures are comfortable for walking.
Scottish cuisine has come a long way in the past decades, from a time when fish and chips, haggis, and meat pies where the only items to be found on the menu. Modern Scottish cuisine has grown from these traditional dishes and uses fresh local ingredients (seafood, lamb, and root vegetables) in culinary creations that are sure to delight. Vegetarians can be accommodated with advance notice, though choices tend to be more limited.
Cory is an experienced outdoorsman and wildlife guide and is a certified International Mountain Leader. He has worked for various conservation organizations and park services around the U.K. including the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the largest wildlife conservation charity in Europe.
Cory, who calls Scotland home, also runs his own first aid training company--so you will certainly be in safe hands! When he's not at work, Cory is busy scouting for eagles, otter, dolphins, and other wildlife in the Western Highlands. With Cory as their guide, guests know they are getting a feel for the real Scotland.
With a Boundless Journeys guide, your experience is that of friend and local adventurer. We believe strongly in working with local guides, experts in the areas to which we travel, and they hold the keys to unlocking the hidden delights of your chosen destination. Although you will never know they are at work—the mark of a truly great leader—our guides make magical things happen and add a dimension to your trip that you could not experience on your own. Over the years we have forged bonds with some of the best guides in the world, and we typically work with a small team of guides in each region. You will be informed of the guide for your trip one month prior to your departure.
Hiking 4-7 hours per day on mountainous and rugged terrain with daily ascents and descents of up to 1,500 feet.
This trip can be your own adventure by taking over one of our scheduled dates, or we can request a fresh one.
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