Grand Tour of Scotland12 Days & 11 Nights 4.5 Read 2 reviews
- Discover Scotland in its entirety on a journey from the east to the west coast
- Historic St Andrews, home of golf and the oldest university in Scotland
- Picturesque Royal Deeside and Balmoral, the Queen's Scottish home
- Drive Scotland's Route 66 (the NC500) round the rugged north coast
- The wild west coast, Isle of Skye and atmospheric Glencoe
What To Expect
Self Guided | Go at your own pace on an independent holiday.
Multi-Centre Discovery, Self-Drive Discovery | On this discovery tour spend a mix of multiple nights in more than one location, but on some tours this may be combined with only one night in a place too., A tour where you can travel from A to B at your own pace exploring the sights en-route.
This trip is suitable for:
Families, Multi-Generational, Mixed Abilities, First Timers
As a guide, we would suggest that the minimum age of traveller this holiday would be suitable for is: 5 Years
Ideal if you have an interest in:
- Wine, Whisky & More...
- Historical Journeys
- Special Occasions
Your information pack will include a day-by-day itinerary, with recommended driving routes between overnight stops, as well as recommended detours and must-see sights and attractions. You can use Google maps to navigate the route on your phone, or your car's sat-nav. If you are hiring a car we recommend adding on a sat-nav as internet signal in the Highlands isn't always reliable.
You will stay overnight in hand-picked small hotels, B&B's and guesthouses, all of which have been chosen to ensure you experience warm Scottish hospitality at its best! We regularly use the below properties but may accommodate you elsewhere if these are unavailable.
This holiday is available to solo travellers but as all our tours are priced per person based on two sharing there is a single supplement payable to cover the additional costs. If you require single rooms within your party we will, of course, try to accommodate your request subject to availability.
Breakfast is included each morning and normally consists of a continental buffet with tea and coffee, fresh fruits, yoghurt, cereals, eggs and bread with jams. Often also on the menu are cooked options like freshly made porridge, a traditional cooked Scottish breakfast and smoked fish with scrambled eggs.
We don't include lunch and dinner so you are free to choose from the available options. Your information pack includes details and recommendations of convenient lunch stops, cosy cafes and restaurants along the way. A couple of decades ago the food scene in Scotland was somewhat lacking, but now you'll find a range of high quality, varied options with everything from award-winning fish and chips to intimate Michelin-listed dining experiences, and casual restaurant menus showcasing delicious locally-sourced produce.
You can add additional nights wherever you please on the route. Of course we highly recommend additional nights in the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow at the start/end of your trip!
- Overnight in 3 and 4* B&B's, guesthouses and small hotels
- Ferry ticket (car included) from Skye to the mainland
- Detailed information pack brimming with our local knowledge
- Our daily recommendations for places to see and visit
- Our daily recommendations for top places to eat and drink
- 24/7 emergency support from our UK office
- Car hire (available as an optional extra)
- Lunches, dinners, snacks and drinks
- Travel Insurance
- Personal equipment
- Accommodation in Edinburgh or Glasgow
- Entrance fees
- Car hire
- Additional nights
When To Go
You can start this tour on any day of the week from March to November, subject to availability. The busiest times of the year are around Easter and May when accommodations fill up quickly, so book as early as possible if you are planning to travel then. If you travel before Easter, and after mid-October it is worth noting that some attractions may either be closed, have limited access (i.e. castle interiors may be closed but the gardens open), or may open later and close a little earlier in the day. We always recommend checking the links in our information pack for up-to-date opening times to avoid disappointment.
During the shoulder season - March to early April and after mid-October - the Scottish weather tends to be more unpredictable and is often colder and rainier. It is worth keeping in mind that the driving conditions, particularly in the far north of Scotland, will also be more challenging at this time. However, attractions and popular viewpoints will generally be quieter.
Weather and Climate
Scotland enjoys a temperate climate, meaning it's relatively mild all year, except in winter when temperatures occasionally dip below 0 degrees Celsius for short periods. The Highlands are renowned for variable weather so you should be prepared for everything; from 'dreich' days (a Scottish word for drizzly days that are a bit bleak) to days with beautiful blue skies and warmer weather. Whatever the weather it tends to be breezy so spare layers are always recommended.
From the end of April to October average daily temperatures vary from 9-15 degrees Celsius. Monthly rainfall varies from 10-16 mm per month on average. Generally, May to July is the driest and mildest months, but exploring later in the year from September to October is pleasant in cooler temperatures and the autumnal scenery is spectacular as the leaves begin to change colour.
Getting to the Start
Your trip begins in the well-connected city of Edinburgh. If traveling in your own car from across the UK, or western Europe via the Channel Tunnel, you'll find the city is easily accessible and well-connected by the M8, M77, M74 and M6 motorways. If you are driving or traveling from further afield we recommend and extra night in Edinburgh at the start of your trip so you can make the most of your first day of sight-seeing.
By Road: Edinburgh is served by an excellent motorway network. It's a 1h 15m drive from Glasgow to Edinburgh on the M8 motorway. Newcastle is approximately a 2.5 hour drive from Edinburgh, and Manchester and Birmingham, 4 and 6 hours respectively. London is 7.5 hr (via the M1 and A1), and if arriving in Folkestone from France (via the Channel Tunnel) it's an 8-8.5 hour drive via the M20, M11, and A1 roads.
Alternatively, if arriving in Edinburgh by public transport and renting a car please see the excellent Traveline Scotland website for timetables and fares and more information regarding public transport in Scotland. Edinburgh is well-linked across the UK, Europe and beyond by flying into either Glasgow or Edinburgh international airports. Glasgow and Edinburgh are just over an hour apart by road and it doesn't take much longer to travel between the two by an express bus or train service.
By Air: Located 8 miles east of the city of Edinburgh, the international airport is served by routes from around the UK and the world. There are regular shuttle bus and tram services running from the airport into the city centre, with a journey time of around 30 minutes. There's also a taxi rank outside the airport to take people into the city centre.
We don't include car rental in the cost of our discovery tours to keep things flexible as we realise many people may wish to use their own car. If you decide to arrange car rental through us, we have a partnership with Europcar and can arrange this easily for you. As standard we would book an Economy category car (suitable for up to 4 people) with included comprehensive insurance and sat-nav. Prices are on a request basis, so please just add this on as an option if you would like to book car hire, and we will confirm the cost.
Getting from the End
Getting from Glasgow
By Road: Glasgow is served by an excellent motorway network. It's a 1hr 15 min drive from Glasgow to Edinburgh on the east coast. Manchester is approx a 3.5 hour drive or Newcastle on the east coast is approx 3 hours.
If dropping off a rental car and continuing your onward journey by public transport we recommend breaking the journey by adding an extra night in Glasgow or Edinburgh. For specific information regarding public transport in Scotland, please see the excellent Traveline Scotland website for timetables and fares.
By Air: Located 8 miles west of Glasgow, the international airport is served by routes from around Britain and the world. A regular shuttle bus service runs from the city centre to the airport. Or if you wish to drop your car off in Glasgow and enjoy some time there before heading back to Edinburgh, regular bus and train services link the two cities, taking approx 1 hour.
For further information regarding public transport in Scotland, please see the excellent Traveline Scotland website for timetables and fares.
On confirmation of your booking, you will receive a personalised itinerary and comprehensive information pack. This carefully curated pack, designed with our extensive local knowledge and expertise, will include recommended driving routes, personal recommendations for places and attractions to stop at enroute, and our recommendations for the best places to eat and drink.
We don't include car rental in the cost of our discovery tours to keep things flexible as we realise many people may wish to use their own car. If you decide to arrange car rental through us, we have a partnership with Europcar and can arrange this easily for you. As standard we book an Economy category car (suitable for up to 4 people) with included comprehensive insurance, prices are on a request basis. Please just let us know if you would like to upgrade your car.
It is a requirement of booking this tour with Macs Adventure that you have suitable travel insurance which covers you for the activity and emergency evacuation and hospital care.
Your information pack will include a day-by-day itinerary, with recommended driving routes between overnight stops, as well as recommended detours and must-see sights and attractions. You can use Google maps to navigate the route on your phone, or we recommend using your car's sat-nav. If you are hiring a car we recommend adding on a sat-nav as the internet signal in the Highlands isn't always reliable.
ItineraryDay 1 Ancient St Andrews and the coastal villages of Fife
Your trip starts from Edinburgh, and if you have the time we highly recommend adding on additional nights in our vibrant capital city to make the very most out of your time in Scotland.
From Edinburgh, we recommend a scenic route via the Queensferry Crossing and the charming coastal villages of Fife to reach St Andrews, with a possible detour to Falkland Palace, adored by Mary, Queen of Scots. On arriving in this ancient town, home of golf and also Scotland's oldest university, take time to walk along its wide sandy beach (featured in the film Chariots of Fire), discover its impressive Norman cathedral, and enjoy a pint of beer in one of its traditional pubs.
Driving Time: Approx 2 hours
Doune House is a carefully maintained Victorian townhouse with many original features and modern comforts. The accommodation has been completely modernised to offer the highest quality of comfort and the rooms have all the amenities you require for a great overnight stay.
The Saint, St Andrews, is located in the heart of the picturesque town famed for golf. There are 4 comfortable ensuite bedrooms that are spacious and have been decorated in modern style. The restaurant serves high-quality food with a menu that combines contemporary and traditional dishes.
You can be assured a warm welcome at this small and friendly 3-star hotel. The first in St Andrews to be awarded the prestigious title ‘Townhouse Hotel’ by the Scottish Tourist Board. The quaint old building has a warm personality all of its own boasting many original features and 22 en-suite rooms. This is the perfect location for exploring the glorious town of St Andrews.
Head north to Highland Perthshire this morning. Explore the ancient town of Dunkeld with its beautiful Cathedral on the banks of the River Tay, and the bustling town of Pitlochry, where you can enjoy a short walk to the salmon fish ladder and dam, or enjoy your first sample of whisky at the Blair Atholl distillery.
Continue to Royal Deeside, and walk in the footsteps of Queen Victoria who fell in love with this area, and is home to picturesque villages Braemar and Ballater, as well as the famous Balmoral Castle, the holiday home of the Royal family.
Driving Time: Approx 3 hours
The Alexandra Hotel offers a friendly service, comfortable accommodation and excellent meals. All rooms are en-suite with free Wifi, tea and coffee making facilities, satellite television and other essentials that go to make up everything you would expect of a quality family run hotel.
The Deeside Inn is known for its traditional Scottish hospitality and lively music scene as much as it is for its homely lounge, open fires and welcoming bar with quality homemade food. The lovely rooms have complimentary tea and coffee making facilities.
There isn't as far to drive today, which allows plenty of time to explore the region of Speyside & the Cairngorms. Speyside is famed for its delicious malt whiskies, and Glenlivet, Glenfiddich & Aberlour are just some of the well-known distilleries you can visit here. If you can drag yourself away from whisky tasting (you will need to designate a responsible driver!) we also recommend taking time to explore the Cairngorms National Park. There are some fantastic short walks to enjoy in the area around Aviemore and Rothiemurchus, which may help to burn off some of that whisky!
Driving Time: Approx 2.5 hours (allow extra for exploring more of the Cairngorms)
Ravenscraig has 14 bedrooms providing 4-star bed and breakfast accommodation in Aviemore. It is ideally situated on the main street just a short stroll from the town centre with its numerous shops, bars and restaurants.
Carn Mhor is a bungalow on the outskirts of Aviemore, providing light and airy accommodation with a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Your hosts Adrian and Carol will make you feel at home and although this property is slightly off the beaten track, we assure you that the hospitality and breakfast are more than worth it!
Cairngorm Guest House is a 12 bedroom Victorian house located in the centre of Aviemore. All rooms are en-suite and the guest house enjoys amazing views across the Cairngorm Mountains. At night you can relax next to the log burning fire in the lounge as you reflect on your day.
A scenic route from Aviemore leads you down to Fort Augustus, a picturesque town sitting on the Caledonian Canal and the most southern tip of Loch Ness. Watching the canal boats navigate the locks here is a fascinating experience, or take a boat trip on Loch Ness to see if you can spot Nessie herself! Continue up the scenic A82 road alongside the banks of Loch Ness, stopping off to visit the grand ruins of Urquhart Castle.
Once in Inverness, there is plenty to discover nearby including the atmospheric Culloden Battlefield, where the Jacobite rising came to an end in 1746, and the 14th century Cawdor Castle with its literary connections to Shakespeare's Macbeth.
Driving Time: Approx 2.5 hours
Ballifeary Guest House is an impressive Victorian Villa with many original features. It is ideally located only a matter of yards from Eden Court Theatre and a short walk from the River Ness where you can find many restaurants, Inverness Castle and the cathedral. Rooms have been refurbished to a high standard offering every comfort you would expect.
Located in the capital of the Highlands, Kinnoch Lodge offers an ideal place to stay in Inverness. This accommodation is conveniently located near Inverness Castle and only 5 minutes away from the town centre. Each room is finished to a high standard and Sharon and Donnie will make you feel right at home.
A warm and friendly welcome awaits you at The Castle B&B. This lovely Victorian property is situated on a quiet street on the west side of the city close to the city centre. There is a large dining room/lounge as well as a private back garden where you can relax and enjoy the evening sunshine.
Today you join Scotland's very own answer to Route 66, the NC500 route. Enroute to Thurso, visit Dunrobin Castle and the scenic Black Isle, where if you are lucky, you may even spot dolphins! Stopping off at John O'Groats it is possible to enjoy a short walk to Duncansby Head, a 5-mile round trip which leads you to the most north-easterly point of mainland Scotland with some incredible sea stacks. You will also pass the rugged peninsula of Dunnet Head, the most northerly point and home to some incredible birdlife including puffins, razorbills and guillemots. The fresh air and sea breezes mean you will enjoy a welcome rest in Thurso this evening!
Driving Time: Approx 3.5 hours
Bed and Breakfast at 4 is a stylish townhouse centrally located in Thurso, Scotland's most northerly town. It is located within easy walking distance of shops, pubs, and restaurants. The rooms are all well-appointed with ensuite facilities and breakfast is served in a spacious conservatory.
The hotel retains much of its character with the thistles above each of the dormer windows and a cockerel above the main entrance. The restaurant uses locally sourced seasonal produce and has a warm and relaxed atmosphere, there is also a well-stocked bar area for you to relax in after a day’s sightseeing.
The seafront Marine B&B offers 5 superior en-suite rooms with outstanding views of the bay, Orkney Islands and Pentland Firth. Rooms are simply furnished and have all the amenities you need.
Continue on the NC500 right across the top of Scotland to reach Durness. The wild and rugged beaches along the way are the real highlight of today, so take your time to enjoy them! Melvich Beach with its sandy dunes and large areas of machair, Strathy Bay with its caves and sea stacks, and Torrisdale Bay, where you can spot seals and sea otters are just some of the untouched beaches which will entice you. The Smoo Caves, the largest coastal caves in the UK are another real highlight of this section, and you should be sure to take time to enjoy one of the geological tours here before finishing in Durness.
Driving Time: Approx 2 hours
Fiona and Robbie will welcome you warmly to their scenic retreat with every aspect of Highland hospitality. All seven bedrooms are individually decorated with their own unique style, offering total relaxation and comfort.
This small family-run hotel is situated in the east of Durness the most north-westerly village in Mainland Britain and was named after the famous Smoo Cave. Set in a tastefully extended traditional crofting house the hotel has developed with character and in keeping with its surroundings.
You will be guaranteed a warm welcome when you check into this accommodation. This guest house is a modern property and the guest rooms have all the amenities you require for a comfortable overnight stay.
Leaving Durness, the Kylesku Bridge takes you over the Atlantic to Scourie, where you continue south through Sutherland. Discover the white sands of Achmelvich beach, and then arrive in Assynt, a wild landscape of mountains and lochs. If you fancy getting your walking boots on, it is possible to climb the little, craggy hill of Stac Pollaidh, which offers a perfect viewpoint over Assynt. Finish in Ullapool, a pretty fishing village nestled at the head of Loch Broom.
Driving Time: Approx 3 hours
Harbour House is a family-run bed and breakfast situated on the shores of Loch Broom just a short stroll from the village of Ullapool. The comfortable and pleasantly furnished en-suite bedrooms have modern amenities and look out to either the loch or the rugged mountains. The spacious lounge with its panoramic view of the harbour, loch and hills, provides a place to relax and unwind.
A warm and friendly welcome awaits at this family-run guest house that is perfectly located on the shores of Loch Broom with views out across the water. There are seven ensuite rooms and a delicious breakfast is served in the Conservatory overlooking the garden, Loch Broom and the Beinn Dearg mountain range.
The Arch Inn in Ullapool offers comfortable ensuite rooms with views over Loch Broom and the Fannich Mountains in the distance. It is also known as a great place for live music and the restaurant serves fresh, locally sourced products such as local scallops, langoustines, lobster and oysters. Meet the locals in the Drink Inn Bar before enjoying a night of restful sleep.
Continue to wind your way through the mountains and lochs of the breathtaking landscapes of Wester Ross. Stop for a picnic lunch beside the island-strewn Loch Maree, widely regarded as the most beautiful in Scotland, and reputedly with its own monster! Or head right round the Applecross Peninsula, driving over the twisting Bealach na Ba mountain pass, and tucking into a freshly caught seafood platter at the Applecross Inn. From Applecross, drop down to the Kyle of Lochalsh. It is here you will find the 13th century Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland's most photographed castle and a true icon of the country. Once you have filled your camera with fantastic shots, drive over the Skye Bridge to the magical Isle of Skye. Depending on availability you may stay in either Broadford or Portree whilst in Skye.
As there is so much to see today, we suggest an extra night in Torridon or Applecross to make the most of your sightseeing today.
Driving time: Approx 4-6 hours (depending on the route you take)
Martin and Vanessa will give you a warm welcome at the Otter Lodge and make sure that you feel at home right away. The B&B has six bedrooms and a spacious lounge for guests. Most rooms enjoy views of the sea and the surrounding countryside – the rooms are a mixture of shared and ensuite facilities.
The Broadford is a 4* hotel that has been redecorated in contemporary style to offer a warm welcome and excellent service and food in beautiful settings. Each room is en-suite with free WIFI, flat screen TV, hairdryer and hospitality tray.
The Hebridean Inn is a simple small hotel with great views over Broadford Bay. Their comfortable en-suite rooms have all the amenities you require for a comfortable stay.
Quite rightly one of Scotland's most popular islands, there is plenty to do here to fill a day and in fact, if you have time, we highly recommend adding some extra nights if you can. Some highlights include the dramatic Nest Point lighthouse, the fairy pools below the jagged Cuillin Ridge and the dramatic landscapes of the Trotternish Peninsula including the Quiraing and Old Man of Storr. We will provide details of a couple of optional walks you can do, or take it easy and explore other highlights including Dunvegan Castle and the colourful town of Portree.
The owners would like to welcome you to Duirinish Guest House B&B, Portree, the Isle of Skye's largest town. The B&B is located on Viewfield Road and only a five-minute walk from the lively town centre, where there are parks, restaurants, pubs, shops and banks. All guest rooms are en-suite and have blackout curtains, complimentary toiletries, Freeview TV and WIFI.
Erisco is a most relaxing accommodation on the Isle of Skye, very close to the town centre attractions of Portree. Recently refurbished and renovated, all rooms are en-suite, comfortably furnished and have all the amenities you require for a great overnight stay. Jessie and John will provide you with a very warm Skye welcome at this lovely property.
The Pink Guesthouse is situated on the Portree Harbour with spectacular views across the sea to the Isle of Rasaay and Ben Tianavaig. Most of the 11 rooms enjoy brilliant sea views, comfortably furnished and have all the amenities you require for a lovely overnight stay.
Leaving Portree drive south to a contrasting part of Skye, the green Sleat Peninsula. In Armadale enjoy a walk through the beautiful gardens of the ruined Armadale Castle and visit the Clan Donald museum before taking the ferry (1 hour) to Mallaig on the mainland.
Follow the "Road to the Isles" south along the white sandy beaches of Arisaig Sound before reaching the Glenfinnan Monument at the head of Loch Sheil, where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard at the start of the Jacobite rebellion and the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct - where the "Harry Potter" steam train passes over daily. Take a short detour to pass by the mighty Ben Nevis and discover the atmospheric valley of Glencoe, famous for the tragic Massacre of Glencoe which took place in 1692. If you have the time recommend adding in an extra night in Fort William or the Glencoe area to give you more time for sightseeing. Continue to Oban, the seafood capital of Scotland and an attractive seaside town.
Driving Time: Approx 4 hours
Gramarvin B&B has been fully refurbished over recent years and is tastefully decorated throughout. The bedrooms are individually designed with a bright attractive colour scheme and each with private bathroom facilities.
The Barriemore is a 4* Victorian guest house on Oban’s seafront with stunning views of the narrow shipping channel which passes alongside the patio at the front. The ensuite bedrooms have been beautifully furnished overlooking Oban Bay or the surrounding woodland.
The Old Manse is a Victorian villa dating from 1865 with far-reaching views to Oban Bay and Mull that can be enjoyed from the large and peaceful garden. It is conveniently located at only a 5-minute walk into town. You can look forward to a breakfast that is cooked to order; from porridge and pancakes to steamed fish or a Full Scottish Breakfast.
The islands of Mull, Iona and Staffa are easily visited from Oban on a short day trip. Mull is home to Tobermory, famous for its lovely multi-coloured houses lining the bay, Iona is a small crofting island known to be the "Cradle of Christianity" in Scotland, and Staffa, home to the spectacular Fingal's Cave, the inspiration for Mendelssohn’s Hebridean overture. If you would prefer to stay on the islands, we can arrange extra nights in Mull for you.
Alternatively, you may wish to spend the day relaxing in Oban, enjoying one of the amazing seafood restaurants or perhaps visiting Dunollie or Dunstaffnage Castle.
Gramarvin Guest House has been fully refurbished over recent years and is tastefully decorated throughout. The bedrooms are individually designed with a bright attractive colour scheme. There is a welcome refreshments tray, colour television, hairdryer and radio alarm provided in each bedroom. Free WiFi is available. The accommodation tariff includes a full Scottish breakfast or continental breakfast served in the dining room.
The Barriemore is a splendid example of a Victorian 3 storey town house. It is situated by the water on Oban’s sea front. With stunning views of the narrow shipping channel which passes alongside the patio at the front.
This fine Victorian villa dates from 1865 and has stunning views over the large garden to Oban Bay to Mull. It is a 5 mins walk into town. There are king and twin rooms, and an family suite of 2 interconnecting rooms. Free WiFi. Check in is between 2pm and 8pm. If you would like to arrange a check in outside of these times let us know.
Either Glasgow or Edinburgh can be your final destination today. If heading to Glasgow, we recommend a route taking in the 18th century Inverary Castle, home of the Duke of Argyll, and then skirt the banks of Loch Lomond as you return to Glasgow, perhaps stopping off to enjoy lunch in the pretty lochside town of Luss on the way. Alternatively, if you would like to get back to Edinburgh, head round the northern edge of the Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park before taking in the Trossachs (home of the legendary Rob Roy), stopping to visit his grave in Balquhidder or the bustling little Trossachs town of Callendar is perfect for lunch. One last stopover in Stirling is a must to visit impressive Stirling Castle and the National Wallace Monument, a museum dedicated to the life and legacy of William Wallace.
We can arrange additional nights in either Glasgow or Edinburgh for you. Just let us know where you would prefer to finish up!
Driving Time: Approx 2h 15 (to Glasgow) or 3 hours (to Edinburgh)
The Macs Adventure Way
- Tailor-Made Adventures
- Book With Confidence
- Positive Impact
- Knowledgeable and helpful friendly specialist adventure planners
- Tailor-make your trip to suit your interests
- Start on any date that suits you
- Choose your ideal trip length and difficulty
- Range of accommodation options
- Choice of trip styles
- Choose your own travel companions
- Walk, cycle and explore at your own pace
- Make your own decisions
- Choose your own path
- Indulge your passions
- 15,000+ unbiased trip & service reviews
- Feefo Platinum Award 2021
- As featured in the Guardian, National Geographic Traveller, and more
- Founder owned & operated since 2003
- Passionate team members based in the US, the UK & Europe
- 100% Financial Protection
- "Peace of Mind Guarantee" means no worries if you need to change your plans
- Meticulously planned adventures
- Quality, hand-picked accommodation
- Seamless and reliable arrangements
- Comprehensive trip information & insider tips
- Detailed maps, route notes and mobile GPS app
- Helpful 24/7 support should you need it
- Travel responsibly
- Explore off the beaten track
- Support locally owned businesses
- Engage with local communities
- Minimise your impact
- Maximise the benefit of your travel
- Challenge yourself & grow