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  • Inverness
  • Cawdor Castle and Gardens
  • Highlands' Sheep Farm
  • Whisky tasting, Edinburgh, Scotland
    Scottish Whisky Tasting
  • Hermitage woodlands, Dunkeld, Scotland
    The Hermitage Woodlands
  • Cathedral ruins, St. Andrews, Scotland
    St. Andrews
  • Edinburgh

Tour Questions? See our FAQ | Call 425-608-4217

Heart of Scotland in 8 Days Tour

from $2,495 per person + air

Single Supplement $575

See Dates & Prices

Tight on time? This tour is Rick's personal "best of" distillation of our two-week Best of Scotland tour. Starting in the "urban" Highlands town of Inverness and ending in regal Edinburgh, you'll cruise mystical Loch Ness, explore stony castles, ponder evocative battlefields and prehistoric crannogs, marvel at sheepdogs in action, taste test a wee dram of whisky, read the green at St. Andrews, and stroll the narrow lanes and alleyways of Edinburgh's Royal Mile. Join us for the Heart of Scotland in 8 Days!

Dates & Prices

To request advance notification of when a tour will be available for booking, please select ‘Notify Me’ next to the departure date and join the list. We'll send the notification email when a tour opens within a season (spring, summer, fall, winter) or region.


2021

    • Aug 15–Aug 22 (Su–Su)
    • $2,895 + Air

    Opportunity to enjoy the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo!

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    • Aug 22–Aug 29 (Su–Su)
    • $2,895 + Air

    Opportunity to enjoy the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo!

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    • Sep 5–Sep 12 (Su–Su)
    • $2,895 + Air

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    • Sep 26–Oct 3 (Su–Su)
    • $2,695 + Air

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    • Oct 3–Oct 10 (Su–Su)
    • $2,495 + Air

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What's Included

You'll get at least 18 group sightseeing events — at no extra cost!

Here's what you'll see and do on our Heart of Scotland tour:

  • Inverness walking tour
  • Loch Ness cruise
  • Urquhart Castle
  • Afternoon tea
  • Cawdor Castle
  • Culloden Battlefield
  • Whisky cooperage
  • Sheepdog demonstration
  • Scottish musical evening
  • Scottish crannogs
  • Hermitage walk
  • Whisky distillery tour and tasting
  • St. Andrews
  • Edinburgh orientation
  • Edinburgh's Royal Mile walking tour
  • Edinburgh Castle
  • Scottish Parliament
  • Palace of Holyroodhouse

Plus you'll get all this, too.

  • A small, friendly group of 24 people — half the size of most tour groups
  • Full-time services of a professional Rick Steves guide and local experts who will make the fascinating history, art, and culture of Scotland come alive for you
  • All group transportation from Inverness to Edinburgh
  • 7 nights' accommodations in memorable, centrally located hotels and B&Bs
  • All breakfasts and half your dinners
  • All tips for guides and driver
  • A tour kit including a guidebook (or books) and a moneybelt
  • Guaranteed tour price, locked in the moment you make your deposit
  • Tour alum discount of $50 for each tour you've taken prior to 2021
  • 50% discount on a consulting appointment with our in-house experts to assist with your pre- or post-tour travel plans
  • Flexibility should you need to transfer or cancel your tour

Group sightseeing events subject to change.

Itinerary

Day 1: Welcome to Scotland

We'll gather at our hotel in Inverness at 4 p.m. for a "Welcome to Scotland" meeting. Then we'll take a neighborhood orientation walk and get acquainted with one another over dinner together.

Light walking: 2–4 miles throughout the day on mostly level terrain. No bus. Sleep in Inverness.

Day 2: Castles and Culloden

This morning we'll enjoy a panoramic cruise of Loch Ness (monster sightings not guaranteed) before disembarking at the dramatic lochside ruins of Urquhart Castle. Then we're off to still-lived-in Cawdor Castle, where we'll stroll through manicured gardens and enjoy afternoon tea. We'll end our day together with a tour of evocative Culloden Battlefield, where Bonnie Prince Charlie's defeat in 1746 marked the beginning of the end of the Highland clan system. Tonight is a great opportunity to enjoy some traditional music in one of Inverness' many pubs.

Strenuous walking: 2–8 miles throughout the day with lots of hills, stairs, and uneven terrain. Bus: 2 hours. Boat: ½ hour. Sleep in Inverness.

Day 3: The Rugged, Romantic Highlands

We'll explore more of the scenic and romantic Highlands today as we travel to Pitlochry. Along the way, we'll stop in Speyside, happy home to half of all Scottish whisky distilleries, where we'll visit a cooperage and watch master coopers build the oak casks so vital to the industry. After lunch together, we'll head to a local sheep farm to learn about Scotland's wool industry and marvel at the talented sheepdogs in action. This evening we'll enjoy dinner together.

Light walking: 2–4 miles throughout the day on mostly level terrain. Bus: 4 hours. Sleep in Pitlochry.

Day 4: Crannogs and Whisky

This morning we'll tour a reconstruction of Scotland's unique crannogs — prehistoric, thatched-roofed defensive huts built on piers out over the lochs — and learn about the Iron Age people who first farmed these lands. Then we'll head to the Hermitage, a magical stretch of forest, where we'll hear tales of Scottish Romanticism amidst Black Linn Falls and towering fir trees. After lunch, we're off to Aberfeldy to tour a whisky distillery and enjoy a wee dram while learning about this iconic Scottish elixir. This evening is yours to explore Pitlochry and find dinner on your own.

Moderate walking: 2–6 miles throughout the day with some hills and stairs. Bus: 2 hours. Sleep in Pitlochry.

Day 5: Charming St. Andrews

Today we're off to St. Andrews, Scotland's oldest university town and a mecca for golfers worldwide. You'll have time to explore the ruins of St. Andrews' medieval cathedral, watch duffers playing the Old Course — considered the birthplace of golf — and enjoy lunch. Then we'll cross the famous Firth of Forth on our way to Scotland's capital city, Edinburgh. Your guide will orient you to our lively neighborhood before setting you free for the rest of the evening.

Moderate walking: 2–6 miles throughout the day with some hills and stairs. Bus: 3 hours. Sleep in Edinburgh.

Day 6: Edinburgh's Historic Heart

This morning we'll take a walking tour of Edinburgh's old town, winding our way up the Royal Mile — with its wealth of historic buildings, quaint shops, narrow lanes, and hidden courtyards — then onto Grassmarket and Greyfriars cemetery. This afternoon, visit imposing Edinburgh Castle at your leisure to see the Scottish Crown Jewels and Stone of Scone and to soak up the dramatic views from this military stronghold and birthplace of the city. Tonight, join your guide and fellow tour members for an evening of Scottish music.

Moderate walking: 2–6 miles throughout the day with some hills and stairs. No bus. Sleep in Edinburgh.

Day 7: The Politics of Scotland

Since the days of William Wallace, the Scots have chafed under English rule, and over the centuries Scotland's drive for independence has not waned. Today we'll explore the complicated relationship between Scotland and England, beginning with a tour of the Scottish Parliament, where we'll learn about the modern independence movement that came with self-rule. Then we'll take a look at the "other side" with a visit to the Queen's official residence in Edinburgh, the elegant Palace of Holyroodhouse. The remainder of the day is yours to explore more of this regal city. Tonight we'll share memories of Scotland and toast new friends at our final dinner together. Slàinte!

Moderate walking: 2–6 miles throughout the day with some hills and stairs. No bus. Sleep in Edinburgh.

Day 8: Tour Over After Breakfast

Breakfast is provided, but there are no group activities today. Edinburgh's airport and train station are easy connections from our neighborhood. Glasgow is one hour away by train; London is 90 minutes by air. For those tempted to continue their trip, Edinburgh is a great jumping off point to Paris, Dublin, Amsterdam, and many other exciting destinations. Turas math dhut! (Happy travels!)

Itinerary specifics subject to change.

Physical Demands

Our tours are physically active! It's an essential part of the Rick Steves tour experience. On our Heart of Scotland in 8 Days tour — among other things — you'll need to happily…

  1. Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (possibly several blocks) and up stairways to reach your hotel, then up several flights of stairs to reach your room.
  2. Be on your feet, walking and standing, for up to three hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions.
  3. Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
  4. After orientation and transportation lessons, be able to navigate towns and cities on your own.
  5. Walk up steep hills in Edinburgh and at Urquhart Castle.

When To Go & Weather

Any time between April and October is a good time to visit Scotland. However, the months of April, May, September, and October are best for combining the convenience of peak season with generally good weather and lighter crowds. While Scotland never quite feels crowded, July and August are considered peak season, with long days and the best weather (though never guaranteed).

Scotland / Edinburgh

Hotels & Flights

Tour Hotels

In case you wish to book pre- or post-tour hotel accommodations, the contact information for the tour's first and last hotels is included in your tour confirmation email as well as in the Itinerary section of your tour account. One month prior to the tour departure, you'll find the directions to your first tour hotel and a complete list of hotels where we'll be staying while on tour in the Documents section of your tour account.

Please note: There are no triple rooms available on this tour.

Flights

Our tours don't include airfare, so your flight arrangements and transfers are completely up to you.

Most tour members arrange to fly in and out of Edinburgh Airport (EDI).

We suggest arriving a day or two before your tour begins to allow ample time to get over jet lag and be well-rested for the first few days of your tour. For more information about transportation options for getting to and from your tour, see your Rick Steves Scotland guidebook.