5 star rating: Highly Recommended 4 Reviews

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  • Location: Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • Duration:  5 days (approx.)
Venture to the far-flung Orkney Islands on a 5-day tour from Edinburgh with 3-star accommodation included, and visit top Highland towns and attractions, too! With a friendly guide, travel through the Highlands, visiting Loch Ness and Glencoe, and pass John o’Groats on route to the stunning Orkney Island archipelago. With Kirkwall (Orkney’s capital) as your base, discover the area’s historical highlights such as Lamb Holm Italian Chapel and the Standing Stones of Stenness. On route back to Edinburgh, call in at the 15th-century ruins of Ardvreck Castle and Culloden Moor, an important Jacobite battlefield. Overnight stays in Inverness and Ullapool are included, plus two nights in Kirkwall.

Highlights

  • 5-day Orkney Island tour from Edinburgh including the Highlands
  • Travel through the breathtaking Highlands, and look out for the Nessie the monster at Loch Ness
  • Pass through John o’Groats and cross Pentland Firth by ferry to the Orkney Islands
  • Visit historical Orkney attractions including the Italian Chapel on Lamb Holm and the Neolithic village of Skara Brae
  • Stop at Culloden Moor near Inverness, the site of the final Jacobite uprising in the 19th century
  • Enjoy overnight stays in Inverness and Ullapool plus two nights in Kirkwall, capital of the Orkney Islands

What You Can Expect

5-Day Orkney Islands Tour from Edinburgh Including the Scottish Highlands

Visit the ancient village of Skara Brae on your Orkney tour!

Your 5-day tour follows a route from Edinburgh through the Highlands and John o’Groats to the Orkney Islands, a remote archipelago of 70 or so small islands adrift off Scotland’s northernmost tip. Just 16 of the Orkney Islands are inhabited, with most of its tiny population residing on Mainland island. As such, the windswept countryside is unspoiled, rugged and a haven for wildlife. Besides the incredible scenery and wildlife, the Orkney Islands are history rich, too, with a Viking past and several stone circles that hark back to prehistoric days.

See scenery, historical sites and wildlife during your time in the Orkney Islands, as well as several exciting Scottish towns on your way to and from Edinburgh. Spend a night in Inverness — capital of the Highlands — followed by two nights in Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands, and your final night in Ullapool, northwest Scotland. Nights are spent in centrally located 3-star guesthouse or hotel accommodation that’s well placed for you to explore the towns independently between excursions. Entrance fees, lunches and dinners are at your own expense throughout the tour.

Itinerary

Day 1: Edinburgh – Highlands – Loch Ness – Inverness
Leave Edinburgh in the morning and travel west to the town of Stirling, roughly an hour away. Pass Stirling Castle and the Wallace Monument, a tribute to the man who won the Wars of Independence, and travel out of the city past Doune Castle — a filming site for the satirical British Monty Python film Holy Grail.

Stop in the pretty town of Callander to stretch your legs and grab lunch (own expense), and then continue to the Highlands. Sit back and relax as you pass some of the region’s most stunning stretches of water including Loch Luibnaig, Loch Earn, Glen Ogle and Glen Dochart, and travel north through Rannoch Moor to Glencoe, site of the brutal 1692 Glencoe massacre. Stop for photos on the rugged mountain, and then continue north through the Great Glen to Loch Ness for some ‘Nessie spotting’! Look out for the fabled Loch Ness monster while looping around the lake, and travel onward to Inverness, capital of the Highlands and your final destination of the day. Check in to your hotel and spend the rest of the evening doing whatever you please.

Overnight: 3-star hotel or guesthouse in Inverness

Day 2: Inverness – John o’Groats – Kirkwall in the Orkney Islands (B)
Check out of your accommodation after an early breakfast and travel through the scenic Black Isle region, past Skibo Castle and along the dramatic northern coastline. Scotland’s finest wildlife is often seen here, so look out for golden eagles and red deer as you journey through the remote countryside.

Pass through John o’Groats, Britain’s most northerly mainland village, and then board your ferry from Gills Bay to the Orkney Islands archipelago. After approximately one hour crossing Pentland Firth, dock at the main Orkney port, and then drive to the famous Italian Chapel in Lamb Holm. Hear how it was built by Italian prisoners of war when the island was uninhabited, and admire its intricately built architecture. Continue to the former Viking stronghold and Orkney capital of Kirkwall, check in to your accommodation and then sightsee at leisure, perhaps paying a visit to St Magnus Cathedral.

Overnight: 3-star hotel or guesthouse in Kirkwall


Day 3: Kirkwall – Skara Brae – Stromness – Maes Howe – Kirkwall (B)
After a relaxing breakfast in your hotel, meet your guide for an action-packed day, spent exploring the Orkney Islands and learning their history. Visit the Neolithic village of Skara Brae — a site older than the Pyramids of Egypt — and immerse yourself in prehistoric mystery on a trip to the stone circle at Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness.

Stop in Stromness, one of Scotland’s most picturesque seaside villages, and then travel to Maes Howe, the village where 12th-century Vikings left a vast collection of Norse runic inscriptions. Enjoy some free time for lunch (own expense), and then finish your excursion with a drop-off at your hotel.

Overnight: 3-star hotel or guesthouse in Kirkwall

Day 4: Kirkwall – Ardvreck Castle – Ullapool (B)
Leave Kirkwall after breakfast, and travel to the port with your guide to board your ferry back to the Scottish mainland. Journey through the Ben Loyal and Ben Hope mountains, following the rocky cliffs and gold-sand beaches of the northern coast, and then work your way deep into the Assynt Mountains of the Highlands. Stop to explore the 15th-century ruins of Ardvreck Castle and gaze out at the sweeping vistas of rugged Scottish countryside.

After a break at a nearby town for lunch (own expense), travel to the whitewashed fishing village of Ullapool, located at the mouth of Loch Broom. Check in to your hotel, and then spend your night at leisure.

Overnight: 3-star hotel or guesthouse in Ullapool

Day 5: Ullapool – Culloden Moor – Edinburgh (B)
Relax over breakfast, check out of your hotel, and leave Ullapool behind as you start your journey south to Edinburgh. Pass alongside the River Droma, stopping to see the waterfalls at Corrieshalloch Gorge, and take in the beautiful Loch Glascarnoch on the way past Inverness.

In the early afternoon stop at Culloden Moor, the site of the third and final Jacobite uprising (a series of battles for independence during the 18th century). The gruesome Battle of Culloden, in which some 2,000 men were killed, was the last pitched battle (pre-planned fight) to be waged on British soil. Explore the battlefield with your guide, imagining what it was like to be at the center of the action in 1746.

Continue to the standing stones and Bronze Age burial ground at Clava Cairns for a photo stop, and then travel through the Caledonian Pine Forest that hugs the Cairngorm mountain range for the final lunch break of your tour. From the forests, travel south through the picturesque Kingdom of Fife, and arrive back in Edinburgh in the early evening.

Customer Reviews

5 star rating: Highly Recommended November 2014

Really enjoyed this. Fun, knowledgeable guide with considerate microphone announcements (she began every announcement quietly so we didn't feel attacked). Playing the music of the areas was a nice touch. It was particularly good having a guide and a driver.Thoughtful planning of the route to include lots of interesting stops. Enough time in most places, though I would have liked more time on Orkney. The drive through the wildness of Scotland after we left Orkney was awesome. Loved seeing the red deer. The trip to Culloden was fascinating - the tourist centre there is terrific. Could have spent another hour walking around. The group was small and sociable. Have recommended the tour company to my friends.

5 star rating: Highly Recommended September 2014

It was a wonderful tour with a great guide. The company that offers it is Rabbie's. So I assume that Viator is just a middleman and that I wasted money by dealing with your company rather than directly with Rabbie's. So I won't thank you.

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Tour code: 22505DORK

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