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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 | Email tour@ricksteves.com

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

2022

2023

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
  • The Scottish Crannog Centre
  • 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 24–28 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 (when available) 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 2022
  • 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

Fine print: You are responsible for the cost of your drinks and free-time sightseeing. See our Tour Conditions for important details regarding everything listed above.

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 the 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 near Pitlochry.

Day 4: Crannogs and Whisky

This morning we'll learn about the Iron Age people who first farmed these lands and built Scotland’s unique crannogs — prehistoric, thatched-roofed defensive huts built on piers out over the lochs. 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 relax "lochside" before dinner.

Moderate walking: 2–6 miles throughout the day with some hills and stairs. Bus: 2 hours. Sleep near 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 hasn't 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.

Reviews

Catherine

Tour: 06/05/22

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

I thought the overall experience was great.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Cooperage and the sheep hearding"

Elizabeth

Tour: 06/05/22

Overall rating: rating 3 of 5

Overall, the trip itinerary was good and the tour guide and coach driver were excellent; however, I tested positive for Covid near the end of the tour and could not participate in the final 3 days of activities. I believe certain members of our group did not take Covid precautions seriously and were responsible for the spread within our group.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I can't pinpoint one "wow" moment. Scotland was beautiful and the itinerary offered the opportunity to see different regions and lifestyles in the country. Unfortunately, my experience was marred by testing positive for Covid."

Dennis

Tour: 05/08/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Being my first tour I really have no comparison, everything was top shelf in my opinion. Charlie and Jimmy were outstanding and just added to much to the experience

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The "pre-historic site and the enthuisasm of the members of the crew. They truly lived the life"

Clarence

Tour: 05/08/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Overall, I thought the tour was fantastic - it far exceeded my expectations! The common factor that made it so great was our tour guide, Charlie Rawson. Charlie was extremely prepared every day with facts about what we were seeing and doing each day as well as the historical context about the locations we were visiting. Even more important, Charlie's positive attitude about everything was infectious. Also, the amount of traveling versus "seeing" was excellent. Not too much bus time.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I have a tie for favorite between the visit to the Cooperage and the sheep dog demonstration. I was totally surprised by the manual labor involved in making/repairing the casks, and thought it was amazing how few individuals were involved in the number of casks that go through that facility each day. Both the shepherd and the dogs were amazing! A close second (or third) was Holyrood."

Allison

Tour: 05/08/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

It exceeded my expectations, was very educational, relaxing and fun!!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Seeing the Edinburgh Castle from the street was a WOW, and I enjoyed looking at it from every angle."

Timothy

Tour: 05/01/22

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Highlands, St Andrews & Edinburg were outstanding

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Edinburg Castle"

Scott

Tour: 05/01/22

Overall rating: rating 3 of 5

Enjoyed our first tour with others. We had used the Rick Steve's books in the early nineties to tour Europe. Tour was a bit overloaded with venues on a few of the days. As a first timer, we needed some down days or days with less hectic pace. Our next tour may be just one city to help with this issue. So, in a nutshell, less long days in the bus, and more extended visits to the cool cities. Skip the out of the way stopovers like Lock Rannoch.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Scotland in general was a "Wow" for me. Edinburgh was truly way above my expectations. The castle, city, architecture, history, etc. really blew me away. We also did a few add on days in Glasgow, which was also quite impressive."

Debra

Tour: 05/01/22

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Robert is a well informed guide who has the gravitas of an experience tour leader, doesn’t chatter why t you only brings to your attention significant historical insights.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The smaller towns and countryside of Scotland: sheep herding, the guide who walked u through Edinburgh"

Alan

Tour: 05/01/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Most enjoyable. Great guide and very amiable group of fellow travelers.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Seeing a parade of marching bagpipers down the Royal Mile in Edinburgh"

Donald

Tour: 05/01/22

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

I enjoyed the tour very much. My fellow travelers were very nice and quite interesting; I enjoyed touring with them. Robert, our tour guide, was very helpful and knowledgeable.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"It was a very unexpected moment. Visiting Neil and his sheepdogs herding the sheep and meeting his wife, Gwen and their little daughter Allyson, was a real treat. It's amazing what Neil can do with his dogs and the sheep. And what a beautiful setting!"

Jean

Tour: 05/01/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

It was a wonderful introduction to many aspects of Scotland, including its history, its current social and political situation, the city of Edinburgh, and some of the rural parts of the Highlands.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Hearing the lecture in the Scottish Parliament Building in Edinburgh, learning about the amazingly complex current political and legal relationship between Scotland and England."

James

Tour: 05/01/22

Overall rating: rating 4 of 5

Good combination of city and rural. Food was always good, sometimes a bit too much. It was a good balance from historical sites, The Crannog Center and Culloden, castles, excellent.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Gardens at Cawdor Castle, and The Hermitage and Scottish Parliment."

Gail

Tour: 04/24/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Our guide, Liz, made our tour both fun and educational. We felt comfortable and safe while touring parts of Scotland that we would not have been able to visit on our own.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"I was surprised by that quality of the hotels and meals, especially the Loch Rannoch Resort. Our room had a view of the Loch!"

Rita

Tour: 04/24/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Liz our guide added interesting tidbits everywhere we went. Took care of special requests and helped with some medical situations.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Shepard at the sheep ranch. Jacobite stories second"

Jackie

Tour: 04/24/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

It was fun, educational, and well organized.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Exploring Dunkeld and the Hermitage. The waterfall was amazing!"

Kristina

Tour: 04/24/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Incredible. While I had heard great things about Rick Steves tours from trusted friends, it still far surpassed my hopes. Our tour guide, Liz Lister, and our bus driver were extraordinary. The agenda was filled with happy surprises, the accommodations were great. The meals were great.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Every day was filled with "wow" moments, so I had to think about this. The crannog visit was filled with wonder, particularly the musicians and the museum (the fabric artifacts - wow!). But I think my biggest "wow" was our stay at Loch Rannoch. We drove up and the staff was waiting outside for us. The service was impeccable and the location breathtaking. It was peaceful and beautiful. For a moment (until I remembered my obligations at home), I considered purchasing one of the condos for sale."

Joseph

Tour: 04/24/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

As always, an excellent Rick Steves tour! Well organized, well planned and well executed!

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Cawdor Castle Gardens. View from Edinburgh Castle. Culloden battlefield. Bridge at St. Andrews 18th hole."

Steve

Tour: 04/24/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Liz was the best possible guide. Not only knowledgeable she cared about the traveller's. She introduced us yo her personal friends at many of the places we visited.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The view of Edinburg Castle from the hotel."

Jolene

Tour: 04/24/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Our guide was so amazing. She was always there to help and answer questions.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Sailing up to Urghaurt Castle on Loch Ness. The Hermitage waterfalls."

Lucy

Tour: 04/24/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Excellent overview of Scottish history and culture with a wonderful guide and great group of fellow travelers. Elizabeth Lister did an outstanding job, managing to keep everyone happy and keeping the tour on track while juggling last minute changes and demands that arose due to the pandemic and due also to this being the first time this particular tour to Scotland was offered.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"Many wow moments: a snare drummer riffing and improvising on a Scottish tune (reel? jig?) with incredible virtuosity, accompanied by an accordion player; the visit to the sheep herder's farm and holding a lamb while learning the herder has individual whistle commands for all his (20+) dogs and seeing a sheep outrun one of the dogs! -; seeing Urqhart Castle reflected in the Loch Ness on a misty day as we took the boat there; being moved to tears at Culloden battlefield."

Valerie

Tour: 04/24/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

Everything was great. Our guide, Liz, was fantastic. The sights, the amenities, the food - all was outstanding.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"The sheepdog farm experience. Meeting and talking to the couple who ran the farm and learning about the sheep and herding dogs, was a wonderful experience. It was amazing to watch them in action, and getting to hold the lambs and pups was an added bonus. This is something unique to a RS tour since I would have never had the chance to do this if I were traveling on my own. LOVED this experience!"

Lynne

Tour: 04/24/22

Overall rating: rating 5 of 5

I was really pleased with everything. Elizabeth Lister was an outstanding guide - so knowledgeable, fun responsive and perceptive. She knew when we needed a lift, how to work with a large group and lead with so much gusto. Our group was a wonderful mix of experienced travelers who were pleasant partners on the trip. The choices of activities, the places we stayed and the food were all memorable and wonderful. I wish I was there now.

Favorite "WOW" moment

"There were many but I'll mention two - the sheep farm with the dog demonstration will always be my favorite memory, with the stay at Loch Rannoch and the bagpiper as a close second."

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 into Inverness (INV) and out of Edinburgh (EDI), or fly into Edinburgh and take a train to Inverness.

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.