On this 13-day jaunt through Scotland and Ireland, you'll visit iconic landmarks and immerse yourself in local culture. In Scotland, visit Edinburgh Castle while enjoying food and distillery tours. Then fly to Northern Ireland and experience Belfast before heading south to iconic Irish highlights like the Cliffs of Moher and Kilkenny Castle—eventually winding down in raucous Dublin with tasty visits to the Jameson and Guinness factories.


  • Tour Edinburgh Castle, the most famous landmark in Scotland
  • Travel to the Scottish Highlands and whisky distilleries
  • Visit Belfast and its "Game of Thrones" shooting locations
  • Discover the Cliffs of Moher and Kilkenny Castle
  • Immerse yourself in Irish culture on Dublin city tours

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Edinburgh, Tour Edinburgh Castle Edinburgh
Day 2 Edinburgh Food Tour Edinburgh
Day 3 Transfer to Pitlochry: Queen's View, Castle & Distillery Tour Pitlochry
Day 4 Visit Cairngorms National Park, Transfer to Oban & Distillery Tour Oban
Day 5 Coast of Mull Boat Tour, Folk Music & Dining in Glasgow Glasgow
Day 6 Fly to Belfast, Hike to Cave Hill Belfast
Day 7 Game of Thrones Private Tour Belfast
Day 8 Transfer to Clifden, Stop at Slieve League & Fjord Boat Tour Clifden
Day 9 Kylemore Abbey, Connemara & Galway Tour, Transfer to Doolin Doolin
Day 10 Cliffs of Moher Cruise, Rock of Cashel & Transfer to Kilkenny Kilkenny
Day 11 Visit Kilkenny Castle, Transfer to Dublin & Food Tour Dublin
Day 12 Hidden Homes of Dublin, Guinness & Jameson Tour Dublin
Day 13 Depart Dublin  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Edinburgh, Tour Edinburgh Castle

Learn about Scotland's royal and military history at Edinburgh Castle
Welcome to Scotland! Your grand tour begins in Edinburgh, the capital of the country. Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel in the city. After checking in, you can head out and explore this bastion of Celtic history and culture.
Make a beeline to the UNESCO-listed Old Town and its famous Royal Mile (the main thoroughfare), which boasts a wealth of medieval Gothic landmarks. Highlights include the 12th-century St Giles Cathedral, Holyrood Palace (home of the British monarchy in Scotland), and Princes Street Gardens, one of the loveliest green spaces in the city. You can also venture outside the historic center to the New Town (also a UNESCO site), whose wide avenues are lined with elegant Georgian townhomes. 
Out of all Edinburgh's famous landmarks, however, none are more iconic than Edinburgh Castle. This medieval fortress sits on a rock outcropping and has a storied history dating back to the 12th century. At various times it has served as a military stronghold, royal residence, and even a prison. On a tour, you'll learn all about this history plus see The Honours of Scotland, the oldest crown jewels in Britain. You'll also see the Great Hall, which was built for King James IV in 1511 and has hosted many a royal banquet over the centuries.

Day 2: Edinburgh Food Tour

Savor the best culinary treats Edinburgh has to offer
Scottish food is often stereotyped (think whisky and deep-fried Mars bars). Today, you'll put those stereotypes to rest on a three-hour foodie tour of Edinburgh. During this culinary odyssey, your professional chef/food writer guide will take you around the city and reveal how Scottish cuisine is evolving while still adhering to long-standing culinary traditions. Along the way, you'll stop at a few of the city's top eateries to meet shop owners, taste artisanal products, and discover some of the best-kept secrets of Scottish culinary traditions.

For example, you'll walk through the charming, upscale area of Stockbridge, popping in at gourmet food shops. Perhaps visit Scotland's most famous deli and wine merchant to discuss the influence Italian immigrants had (and still have) in shaping the tastes of Edinburgh. You'll also stop at the first independent coffee shop in Edinburgh to savor locally roasted beans. Later, visit a butcher to see the season's wild game and sample meat pies, then try hot and cold smoked salmon, haddock, and trout from an award-winning smokehouse.

Throughout the tour, you'll examine how all of these shops, restaurants, and produce purveyors factor into the Scottish diet. You'll also learn how poverty and wealth have influenced Scottish eating and drinking habits. The tour reveals firsthand how Edinburgh and its surrounding areas have become the epicenter of Scotland's fine dining and cutting-edge food trends. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel. 

Day 3: Transfer to Pitlochry: Queen's View, Castle & Distillery Tour

The lake view that captured the heart of Queen Victoria
After breakfast, your driver will pick you up for the ride out of Edinburgh and into the famous Highlands region of northern Scotland. Your destination is the town of Pitlochry, a 19th-century Victorian village nestled in a forested glen (valley) on the River Tummel. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and can then stretch your legs with a walk around town followed by lunch.
Then you'll head right outside town to Queen's View, a famous viewpoint overlooking the azure blue waters of Loch Tummel. This is one of the finest views in the entire United Kingdom and was even a favorite of Queen Victoria, hence the name. You'll also take a tour of Blair Castle, which has been the home of the Atholl family since the 13th century. A highlight of the estate is its walled gardens, which span 9 acres (3 ha). Afterward, enjoy a tasting at the renowned Blair Athol Distillery, where you'll sample no fewer than six aged malt whiskies. 

Day 4: Visit Cairngorms National Park, Transfer to Oban & Distillery Tour

See if you can spot the famous red deer in Cairngorms National Park
In the morning, you'll leave Pitlochry on a drive north to the adjacent Cairngorms National Park, located in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. At 1,748 square miles (4,528 sq km), it's the largest park in the UK. This protected area is home to some of the greatest diversity of wildlife in the country, so keep your camera ready as your expert guide leads you on a tour through these virgin landscapes. Exotic and threatened species you might see include the Scottish mountain hare and wildcat. Of course, the real prize on this safari is the majestic red deer, the largest land mammal in the park.
After the nature tour, continue west for two to three hours to the 18th-century resort town of Oban. This waterfront village is the gateway to many highlights of western Scotland, including the Hebrides islands. The town itself is a delight, as here you can enjoy stunning views across the bay to isles like Kerrera and Mull. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and can then relax and enjoy the town. While you're here, be sure to try Oban's famous seafood.

Once you've settled in, you'll visit a real highlight of the town: the Oban Distillery. Founded by two brothers, it has been producing fine single-malt whiskies since 1793. On a tour, you'll visit the mill room, production area, old filling store, and dram room. The experience includes an exclusive limited bottling and a free gift to take home.
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Day 5: Coast of Mull Boat Tour, Folk Music & Dining in Glasgow

Iona, off island of Mull
See the beauty of western Scotland on a boat tour

After an early breakfast, you'll head over to the harbor in Oban and board a boat for a two-hour tour around the Isle of Mull. During this unforgettable experience, you'll leave Oban Bay and sail to the Firth of Lorn. This inlet between the Isle of Mull and mainland Scotland features many islets that are habitats for various exotic wildlife. From the boat's deck, you're likely to spot sea eagles, seals, and the occasional dolphin. You'll also pass a few ancient castles, like Dunollie, which dates back to the seventh century.

When you return to land, you'll transfer about two hours south into the western lowlands to Glasgow. This port city on the River Clyde rivals Edinburgh, as it boasts a world-class art scene and historic architecture ranging from Victorian to Art Nouveau. Once you've settled into your hotel, you'll discover this fascinating city on a walking tour that focuses on Glasgow's storied folk music scene. It begins with an hour-long guided walk around Merchant City, after which you'll stop at a local restaurant. The upmarket menu features everything from haggis and meat pies to fresh seafood and seasonal produce. 

As part of the tour, you'll also enjoy two contemporary folk music sessions during the tour from a rotating line-up of Glasgow's up-and-coming musical talent. Hearing such authentic music performed live is the best way to learn about one of the great traditions that define Scottish culture. 

Day 6: Fly to Belfast, Hike to Cave Hill

Get some exercise with a hike up Belfast's famous Cave Hill
In the morning, you'll transfer to the airport in Glasgow for the 45-minute flight to Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. When you arrive at the airport. a driver will be waiting to transfer you to your hotel in the city. Then you can spend the rest of the day exploring this modern metropolis at your own pace on a self-guided walking tour.

A good place to start is the Cathedral Quarter. Wander the cobblestone streets of this historic trading center that today is home to trendy bars, clubs, and restaurants. Admire the street art followed by a stop for lunch and/or coffee. Then head to the outskirts of the city for a walk up Belfast's most famous landmark: Cave Hill. A two-hour hike will take you to the top of the mountain, where you'll enjoy incredible panoramic views over basalt cliffs to Belfast and the countryside below.
Later, browse the iconic St George's Market for souvenirs and perhaps visit the Titanic Quarter, a waterfront enclave with museums and tourist attractions. Then, after a busy day of sightseeing, head into the Cathedral Quarter again for dinner at a restaurant or historic pub like the George, the Duke of York, and Kelly's Cellars. Or simply enjoy dinner in your hotel followed by a relaxing evening walk along Belfast's revitalized waterfront.

Day 7: Game of Thrones Private Tour

Binevenagh Head - Game of Thrones - Dragon Rescue
Binevenagh Head, one of the locations in Northern Ireland featured in "Game of Thrones"
The day begins with a 9 am pickup from your hotel in Belfast. Your driver/guide will take you about an hour up to the coast and the town of Ballycastle. This is where you'll begin your half-day "Game of Thrones" tour, as many sites along this section of coast in Northern Ireland were used as filming locations in the famous HBO series.

First, travel to the village of Cushendun and visit the ominous Cushendun Caves, the site where the character Melisandre gave birth to her "shadow baby." Continue to Murlough Bay, which doubled as Renly's Camp and Slaver's Bay. Next, head over to the coastal cliff Fair Head, which became famous as the Dragonstone Cliffs of season seven. Another highlight is the harbor at Ballintoy village, which was featured as the Free Cities in the series and was where the character Varys was born.

Take a break from the world of fantasy and enter the realm of Irish mythology as you embark on a guided walking tour along the famous Giant's Causeway. This UNESCO World Heritage Site features around 40,000 cylindrically shaped basalt rocks packed so close together they create a unique geometric formation. The name refers to the legend of Finn MacCool, an ancient Irish giant who supposedly built a causeway to do battle with an invading Scottish giant. After the walk, you'll return to Belfast.

Day 8: Transfer to Clifden, Stop at Slieve League & Fjord Boat Tour

Make the hike to Slieve League, the tallest sea cliffs in Ireland
After breakfast, you'll leave Belfast and head south, crossing the border to the Republic of Ireland and continuing to Clifden, a coastal town in County Galway. The drive there takes about five hours, but you'll stop along the way at Slieve League, a coastal mountain whose famous sea cliffs rise 1,972 feet (601 m) over the ocean. There's a hiking trail that runs a few miles to the cliffs, where you'll enjoy stunning views over the Atlantic.
Afterward, you'll get back in the car and continue driving another three hours or so to Clifden. About 30 minutes before arriving in the city, you can stop off at the Killary Fjord and enjoy a relaxing boat tour across its glassy waters. Then head into Clifden, where you'll check into your hotel.

Day 9: Kylemore Abbey, Connemara & Galway Tour, Transfer to Doolin

Explore County Galway's beautiful countryside and visit landmarks like Kylemore Abbey
In the morning, leave Clifden on a road trip to some of the most famous places in County Galway. The first stop is at Kylemore Abbey. Built in the 19th century, this historic estate has been home to a Benedictine order of nuns since 1920. On a two-hour tour, you'll learn about the abbey's rich history plus visit its famous Walled Gardens, a Victorian marvel that is the largest enclosed garden in Ireland.

Then you'll head over to Connemara National Park. This 7,000-acre (2,832 ha) is a vast expanse of mountains, lakes, bogs, and heathland that's home to the famous Connemara pony, a breed of horse native to the region. No less than Oscar Wilde remarked on the "savage beauty" of Connemara. You'll experience it for yourself on a one-hour hike along one of three marked trails in the park.

After Connemara, you'll get back in the car and continue 1.5 hours south to the city of Galway, the capital of the county. This is the beating heart of Ireland's west, as it boasts artistic, musical, and culinary scenes second to none. Speaking of which, when you arrive, you'll enjoy a walking tour that focuses on the cuisine of Galway, which has been ranked as a top foodie destination in Europe by publications like the BBC. Later, with a full stomach, you'll leave Galway and continue another 1.5 hours south into County Clare and the colorful seaside village of Doolin, where you'll overnight. 

Day 10: Cliffs of Moher Cruise, Rock of Cashel & Transfer to Kilkenny

Take a boat tour around the legendary Cliffs of Moher
After breakfast, you'll travel a few minutes outside Doolin to one of the most incredible landmarks in all of Ireland: the Cliff of Moher. Located on the west coast in County Clare, these sea cliffs run for 8 miles (13 km), reaching heights of over 700 feet (213 m). You'll experience the cliffs a little differently—on a fun boat tour around the offshore Aran Islands. Not only will the boat take you right under the cliffs, but you'll also stop at the island of Oírr for a hike or bike ride.
Once you're back on the mainland, you'll continue a couple of hours inland to the Rock of Cashel, another famous landmark. Set on a dramatic limestone outcrop in the Golden Vale pastureland of Munster province, this is one of Ireland's most impressive archaeological sites. It abounds with the ruins of ancient fortifications, cathedrals, chapels, abbeys, and even a 15th-century tower house. A quick hike to the top of the hill rewards you with beautiful views over the countryside. Afterward, you'll transfer an hour further west to the medieval town of Kilkenny, where you'll overnight.

Day 11: Visit Kilkenny Castle, Transfer to Dublin & Food Tour

Kilkenny Castle
Visit Kilkenny Castle, one of the most historic landmarks in the country
The town of Kilkenny is famous for its ancient walls, historic center, and medieval buildings. By far the most famous such landmark is Kilkenny Castle. Founded soon after the Norman conquest of Ireland, the Castle has been rebuilt, extended, and adapted to suit changing circumstances and uses over a period of 800 years. You'll learn all about this history on a 45-minute tour of the grounds and the restored period rooms (mainly from the Victorian era) inside the castle. 
Afterward, you'll continue 1.5 hours north to Dublin, capital of the Republic of Ireland. This dynamic city is full of history, culture, music, and food, and it's the last one you'll focus on today. After checking into your hotel, you'll head out on a three-hour culinary adventure showcasing the prominent position Dublin occupies in the European food revolution. The group tour begins with a coffee in the Liberties, a historic neighborhood known for its specialty coffee roasters. Newly caffeinated, you'll next stop at some local shops selected by your guide to sample various specialty foods.
Then pay a visit to one of Dublin's best bakeries for some traditional soda bread and learn the history of how this food became synonymous with Ireland. Next, depending on the group's mood, it might be time for the seafood portion of the tour—so get ready for classic fish and chips and fresh oysters. Your epicurean journey will likely end in one of Dublin's historic pubs, where you'll enjoy a pint or two of craft beer and a dram of whiskey. At the end of the tour, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 12: Hidden Homes of Dublin, Guinness & Jameson Tour

Learn about the twin pillars of Irish beverages: Guinness and Jameson
This morning, go off the tourist trail to see the "hidden homes of Dublin." On this two-hour walking tour, you'll learn about the city's history through its residences, which run the gamut from tenements to grand estates. One highlight is Henrietta Street, which is lined with Georgian mansions built in the 1700s. Back then, Dublin was a wealthy enclave considered the second city of the old British Empire. In the 19th century, these homes fell into decline and became tenements with entire families living in one room.
The tour also includes stops at religious communities, where various people have lived over the centuries in convents, abbeys, and monasteries. Then cross the River Liffey and stroll medieval Fishamble Street, the birthplace of fictional Molly Malone, the protagonist of Dublin's unofficial anthem. You'll stroll Winetavern Street, a medieval lane where artifacts were found from the Viking-Normal eras. After stopping by the neoclassical City Hall, you'll finish the tour at a famous pub where Irish revolutionary Michael Collins gathered clandestine information during the War of Independence.

The next tour is a four-hour visit to two of the most popular attractions in Dublin, particularly for those who like to imbibe: the Guinness Storehouse and Jameson Whiskey Distillery. Meet your guide in Dublin's old warehouse district, where the Jameson Distillery is located. After a tour and sampling of various whiskeys, you'll head over to the Guinness Storehouse. Here, you'll learn the history of Guinness in Ireland, how it's made, how to pour the perfect pint of stout, and then finish up by enjoying a complimentary glass of the black stuff. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 13: Depart Dublin

Sunset over the River Liffey, in Dublin
Unfortunately, your grand Celtic adventure has come to an end. At the appropriate time, your driver will pick you up at the hotel in Dublin and transfer you to the airport in time to catch your flight home. Slán abhile (safe home).

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Map of Discover Scotland & Ireland: Castles & Cuisine - 13 Days
Map of Discover Scotland & Ireland: Castles & Cuisine - 13 Days