Blue Planet Journeys
Fully Scorted Tours
Orkney and Europe's Northwest Edge
7 Days 6 Night
Rannoch Moor - Glencoe - Loch Ness - Urquhart Castle - Inverness Gairloch - Northwest Coastline - Assynt - Tongue - Sutherland Stromness - Orkney

Enjoy the beauty of Scotland on your own! The self drive tours give you the opportunity to explore Scotland in a private, individualized way.

Day 1: Rannoch Moor, Glencoe, Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle, Inverness & Gairloch
Start your journey in the northwest and head into The Trossachs - the Gateway to the Highlands. Pass through Crianlarich and Tyndrum, over the bleak beauty of Rannoch Moor - the largest area of true wilderness in Europe, and into the infamous, haunting landscape of Glencoe. Travel up to Fort William and along the Great Glen, a natural fault line that links the North Sea in the East with the North Atlantic in the West. The drive will take you along the shores of Lochs Lochy, Oich and the world famous Loch Ness, where you may wish to stop and partake in a bit of Nessie spotting! Continue North along the shores of Loch Ness and you will reach Drumnadrochit, the home of Urquhart Castle, an impressive stronghold dating from the 14th Century. Continue up to Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, where you can explore the shops, Museum, Castle or take a walk along the shores of the River Ness that flows right through the City. From here, take the Kessock Bridge over the Moray Firth. There is a pod of bottle-nosed dolphins that live in these waters, so keep a look out. Take the road for Ullapool, then head West for Gairloch through the Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve, the first national reserve in Britain, and along the shores of beautiful Loch Maree with views across the sea to Skye and the mountains of Harris beyond. Gairloch is a lovely wee village set at the head of Gair Loch and is a perfect base for exploring the area. Your hotel accommodation is booked here for 2 nights.

Day 2: Flexible Day in Gairloch
Today you are given the freedom to explore this wonderful area which has some of the most outstanding scenery in Scotland. There are plenty of walks for all abilities around the nature reserve where the great mountain mass of Slioch dominates the skyline. The Torridon Estate to the south is a haven for naturalists, ornithologists, walkers, climbers and geologists with 26,000 acres of towering mountain landscape. Poolewe gardens on Loch Ewe is home to a tropical garden. Founded in 1862, plants, shrubs and trees from all over the world can flourish here thanks to the influence of the warm Gulf Stream. You can also visit the thriving fishing port of Ullapool - "The Gateway to the Western Isles" with regular ferries going over to the Isle of Lewis. To the South is the fabulous Eilean Donan Castle used as a film location for "Highlander" which offers fine views of the Isle of Skye.

Day 3: Northwest coastline, Assynt & Tongue, Sutherland
Depart Gairloch early as you have the most amazing drive ahead of you! You are now in the far northwest, where you can really feel that you are escaping to Europe's northern edge. The coastline features everything from hidden sandy beaches to the highest cliffs on the British mainland. You will be torn over where to stop here, but remember you have the whole day tomorrow if you want to go back and spend more time anywhere. Make your way through Assynt with its superb mountains and shimmering Lochs, and head straight up to the top of the country where you will spend the next 2 nights in Tongue, Sutherland with its varied and dramatic coastline peppered with steep cliffs and small villages waiting to be explored.

Day 4: Flexible day on Northern Coastline
Today you are free to roam along the Northern coastline. Just a few suggestions - visit the Craft Village at Balnakiel, the beach at Durness with its sand dunes, take the wee boat crossing from Scourie over to Handa Isle to view the seabird colonies, take a trip into Smoo Cave - an amazing limestone cavern, or enjoy a long walk into the beautiful beach at Sandwood Bay. You can also enjoy the day by catching the ferry and minibus to Cape Wrath - the north west tip of the Scottish mainland. The options are vast, and you will be astounded at the richness of this whole area.

Day 5: Ferry to Stromness
Head for the Orkney Islands. You are booked on the ferry departing from Scrabster at 12:00pm. The crossing takes 2 hours and arrives in the picturesque fishing village of Stromness passing the spectacular cliffs of Hoy and the legendary "Old Man" - a sea stack rising 450 feet out of the waves below. Check-in to your accommodation here for the next 2 nights.

Day 6: Flexible day in Orkney
Orkney is rich in heritage and culture as well as marine, plant and bird life. Civilizations date back as early as 3000 BC, and there is an abundance of Prehistoric sites - by far the greatest concentration in Britain. You must be sure to see Skara Brae, Ring of Brodgar, The Italian Chapel, Tomb of the Eagles and Maes Howe.

Day 7: Journey back to starting point
Homeward bound to your starting point. The ferry departs Stromness at 9:00 a.m. You will head South mainly on the A9, accessible from Thurso, meeting the coast at Latheron. You will continue down through Inverness, Speyside - home to many Whisky distilleries and the Cairngorm Mountain Range, Perthshire with its fine rivers and lush landscape and then over the Forth Bridges just North of Edinburgh. There are many possible stops and detours off the A9.

Departures: Any day

Tour includes:

- 2 nights Table d'hote Dinner B&B at The Old Inn Gairloch
- 2 nights Table d'hote Dinner B&B at The Tongue Hotel
- 2 nights Table d'hote Dinner B&B at the Stromness Hotel, Orkney
- Return Ferry crossing with car from Scrabster to Stromness, Orkney

Tour not included:

- Vehicle. Car Hire/Rental can be arranged by us from as little as $26.38 per day
- All items of a personal nature and phone calls
- Lunch and refreshments
- Entrance fees to visitor attractions

Important Information:

This tour is designed to start from lowland Scotland Edinburgh/Glasgow/Stirling/Perth), but could be started from northern England (with an early start!!) or even from central Scotland or Inverness. Mileages are approximate. The roads in the Highlands can be very hilly and many are single track. When calculating drive times, it's best to estimate your speed at no more than 40 mph.

Edinburgh - Glencoe : 120 miles
Glencoe - Fort Augustus (Loch Ness) : 52 miles
Fort Augustus - Inverness : 33 miles
Inverness - Gairloch : 73 miles
Gairloch - Durness : 126 miles
Durness - Tongue : 31 miles
Tongue - Thurso (Scrabster for ferry) : 44 miles
Thurso - Inverness : 108 miles
Inverness - Edinburgh : 158 miles

Last Modified 08/05/03

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