- See the highlights of Edinburgh on a musical walking tour
- Go on a wildlife safari in Cairngorms National Park
- Cruise legendary Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal
- Visit the Highlands, battlefields, and islands of Scotland
- Experience the best of southern Ireland, from Dublin to Cork
|Day 1||Arrive in Edinburgh & Musical Walking Tour||Edinburgh|
|Day 2||Cairngorms National Park Wildlife Tour & Whiskey Tasting||Aviemore|
|Day 3||Queen Victoria Canal & Loch Ness Cruise||Inverness|
|Day 4||E-Bike Ride Around Inverness & Tour Culloden Battlefield||Inverness|
|Day 5||Travel to Isle of Skye & Glass Bottom Boat Trip, Gin & Chocolate Tour||Isle of Skye|
|Day 6||Transfer to Mallaig & Wildlife Boat Tour of Loch Nevis||Oban|
|Day 7||Coast of Mull Tour, Folk Music & Dining in Glasgow||Glasgow|
|Day 8||Glasgow by Bicycle, Transfer to Dublin & Walking Tour||Dublin|
|Day 9||Day Trip to Kilkenny & Wicklow National Park||Dublin|
|Day 10||Transfer to County Cork & City Tour||Cork|
|Day 11||Free Day in Cork||Cork|
|Day 12||Return to Dublin, Foodie & Musical History Tour||Dublin|
|Day 13||Guinness & Jameson Tour, Dublin Literary Walk||Dublin|
|Day 14||Depart Dublin|
Day 1: Arrive in Edinburgh & Musical Walking Tour
Welcome to the capital of Scotland! Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will pick you up for the transfer to your hotel. After check-in, it will be time to head out and explore Edinburgh, one of the most dynamic, exciting, and historic cities in western Europe. On a 2-hour walking tour, you'll experience the capital from a truly unique perspective: with musical accompaniment.
This musical journey through Edinburgh begins in historic Old Town. Your guide for today is a local musician who will reveal the legacy of Scotland's capital by performing both modern and traditional songs. As you walk along the Royal Mile (Edinburgh's main thoroughfare), the tunes will recount fascinating city lore, including history, mysteries, and even murder. It's the most entertaining way to discover the events and characters that have shaped this city.
Afterward, you can spend the remainder of the day however you like. You'll want to walk up Castlehill, a short and steep road that ends at the city's most famous landmark: Edinburgh Castle. This medieval fortress has a long and storied history dating back to the 12th century. It was built on a rock outcropping formed hundreds of millions of years ago by a volcanic eruption. At various times it has also served as a military stronghold, royal residence, and even a prison.
Day 2: Cairngorms National Park Wildlife Tour & Whiskey Tasting
In the morning, you'll leave Edinburgh and head north to Cairngorms National Park, located in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. At 1,748 sq miles (4,528 sq km), it's the largest park in the UK. You'll have plenty of time to explore this unspoiled region, but first, you'll stop at a distillery for a drop or two of authentic Scotch whiskey.
The Dalwhinnie Distillery is located a few miles north of Pitlochry, a charming 18th-century village. The distillery is unique in that it's the highest whiskey distillery in Scotland, sitting at 1,164 feet (354 m) above sea level. You'll tour the facilities, which date back to 1897 and learn about the production process. At the end of this 1.5-hour tour, you'll enjoy a whisky masterclass in which you get to sample six Dalwhinnie single malts. A bonus is that each one is paired with a delicious offering from the Highland Chocolatier, an award-winning master chocolate maker.
After enjoying your tipple, it will be time for a 6-hour guided photo safari around Cairngorms National Park. This is a real treat, as the park offers some of the best wildlife diversity in the United Kingdom. The virgin landscapes here are home to a quarter of the UK's threatened species, like the Scottish mountain hare and wildcat. Then there's the majestic red deer, the largest land mammal in the park. Your expert guide will point out these animals and provide insight into the region as you enjoy a 4x4 tour of the area, stopping at different vantage points to snap photos.
The wildlife safaris are also flexible. If you want something shorter, you can opt for a 4-hour mini-safari. Or there's the full-day safari that lasts 12 hours or more. Know that you can observe wildlife from the vehicle at some sites; however, exiting the vehicle is often required, and light walking is involved in obtaining better views.
After the tour, you'll travel to the village of Aviemore, located within the Cairngorms, where you'll overnight.
Day 3: Queen Victoria Canal & Loch Ness Cruise
Today you'll follow in the footsteps of Queen Victoria, England's most famous 19th-century monarch. Many outside the UK may not know that she had great affection for Scotland, particularly the Highlands. She loved it so much that in 1852 she made Balmoral Castle, also located in the Cairngorms, the official Scottish residence of the Royal Family.
Another famous event occurred in 1873 when Victoria toured legendary Loch Ness after sailing down the Caledonian Canal. The canal is known for running 60 miles (96 km) across Scotland's Great Glen, a beautiful valley that stretches from coast to coast and whose surrounding landscapes are filled with mountains, lochs, and ancient battlefields. You'll experience this unforgettable scenery when you embark on a 2-hour boat cruise following Victoria's same route.
It leaves from the small settlement of Dochgarroch, and the journey is breathtaking as you travel down the canal. Then you'll head across the legendary lake, where you can keep an eye out for the famous monster. Afterward, you'll transfer a short way to the city of Inverness, where you'll overnight.
Day 4: E-Bike Ride Around Inverness & Tour Culloden Battlefield
Head out in the morning and explore the beautiful countryside around Inverness on an electric bicycle. This is a fun and less strenuous way to travel around the Scottish countryside. Even better: it's a free ride. That means the choice of where to go is up to you.
Should you choose, you can head back toward the Caledonian Canal. The best route here is just off the Great Glen Way, on the path to Dochgarroch. This is a 15-mile (24-km) route with little traffic that's easy and flat. It passes alongside incredible scenery, including rivers, lochs, and of course, the flourishing green countryside of Scotland.
No doubt you'll work up an appetite on your ride. When you do, feel free to stop at the restaurant in Dochgarroch. It's not only a good lunch spot, but it's also ideally located at the point where the route turns back to Inverness. From there, it's a straight ride home.
Or, rather than explore around the canal, you can start the ride heading north from Inverness. It begins with an initial climb out of the city toward Culloden Moor, a historic battlefield. Even on an e-bike, this can be a bit challenging, but you'll be rewarded on the return ride back, which is mostly downhill. Notable landmarks on this route include Clava Cairns, a Bronze Age tomb, and 15th-century Cawdor Castle.
Once back in Inverness, you'll park the e-bike and leave on a 2-hour walking tour of Culloden Battlefield. Located at the top of a ridge four miles from Inverness, it's the historic site of the final uprising of the Jacobites. Through various rebellions, this was the Highland army that attempted to restore Charles Eduard Stuart, the Young Pretender, to the British throne. At Culloden Battlefield in 1746, the Jacobites suffered their final defeat; as it happens, this was also the site of the last-ever battle fought on British soil.
Your guide will reveal more details of the area's rich history on a tour of various points of interest on the battlefield. These include the Main Cairn burial chambers, the Clan Graves (where fallen clansmen are buried), and the Well of the Dead, a hallowed spring where wounded clansmen crawled across the battlefield to take a final sip of water before dying.
Day 5: Travel to Isle of Skye & Glass Bottom Boat Trip, Gin & Chocolate Tour
Today you'll transfer a couple of hours west from Inverness to the coast of Scotland. Here you'll catch a boat to the Isle of Skye, one of the highlights of the British Isles. But instead of a typical ferry, you'll ride a glass-bottom boat that will take you on a 1.5-hour tour around the island. There are stunning panoramic views of Skye's coast on the top deck, while below, you can see a wealth of marine life, including seals, otters, dolphins, and more.
Upon arrival in Skye, you'll receive a fun introduction to the island's cultural legacy with a quick tour of a working tannery. Sheepskin production is a cultural legacy in Scotland, especially on this island, and you'll get a hands-on demonstration. The 15-minute tour of Skyeskyns Tannery covers the different stages of production that turn plain sheepskin into the highest quality rugs, clothing, and footwear.
The next leg of the itinerary is perfect for anyone passionate about the finer things in life, like great spirits and great chocolate. You'll enjoy both on a 1-hour tasting tour at The Isle of Raasay Distillery, the first whiskey and gin distillery on the island of the same name. It's a scenic 25-minute ferry ride to get there, and upon arrival, you'll tour the production areas. Then it's time to taste some fine single malts and handcrafted gins paired with decadent chocolates from the Glenshiel Chocolate Company.
Afterward, you'll return to the Isle of Skye, where you'll overnight.
Day 6: Transfer to Mallaig & Wildlife Boat Tour of Loch Nevis
Today you'll travel to the south of Skye and cross over the water to the port town of Mallaig, on Scotland's west coast. This is a scenic locale, home to stunning white-sand beaches and romantic cottages. There's also a fun atmosphere here with shops, pubs, restaurants, and plenty of fish and chips to enjoy.
Upon arrival in Mallaig, you'll hop on a tour boat for a 1-hour wildlife safari on Loch Nevis. The boat leaves from Mallaig's harbor, and as it enters the loch, you'll travel to Green Island, a haven for birds, seals, dolphins, whales, and basking sharks. You can spot these animals right from the deck, and there are plenty of snacks and drinks on the trip, including an onboard whiskey bar.
Upon returning to Mallaig, you'll transfer about two hours south down the coast to the 18th-century resort town of Oban, where you'll spend the night.
Day 7: Coast of Mull Tour, Folk Music & Dining in Glasgow
You'll begin the day with an exciting 2-hour boat tour. It's an incredible experience that will take you from Oban Bay into 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. The tour also passes by three castles—Dunollie Castle is the oldest, as it dates back to the 7th century.
In addition to the castles, you'll also see Lismore Lighthouse standing guard over the water. This gleaming white beacon is one of the iconic lighthouses built by Robert Stevenson. The Stevenson family were renowned Scottish engineers who specialized in lighthouses, many of which are situated around the Scottish coastline.
Once you return to land, you'll transfer about two hours south across the Highlands and down into Scotland's western lowlands to Glasgow. This port city on the River Clyde rivals Edinburgh, as it's more populous than the capital, plus it boasts a world-class art scene and historic architecture ranging from Victorian to Art Nouveau.
After arriving and checking into your hotel, you'll discover the ins and outs of this fascinating city on a music-themed walking tour. It begins with an hour-long guided walk around Merchant City, the oldest neighborhood in Glasgow. The tour focuses on stories about the history of the city's folk music scene while adding some local color. After working up an appetite, you'll stop in at a renowned Merchant City restaurant to indulge in traditional Scottish cuisine. The upmarket menu features everything from haggis and meat pies to fresh seafood and seasonal produce.
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 8: Glasgow by Bicycle, Transfer to Dublin & Walking Tour
Get some exercise this morning with a 2.5-hour cycling tour around Glasgow. It covers all the major highlights and landmarks, plus some special sights that will please locals as much as visitors. And you don't need to be a fit cyclist to enjoy this tour—the company has created a route that avoids most of the city's hills and goes at an easy pace. If you still need convincing, feel free to request an electric bike, and they'll be happy to arrange one.
Overall, this cycling experience is as entertaining and rewarding as any walking or bus tour of the city. You'll have all the proper safety gear, and your professional guide will lead you along safe roads and dedicated bike lanes. The tour includes stops at major landmarks like the 13th-century Glasgow Cathedral, the Necropolis (a historic Victorian cemetery), the 19th-century People's Palace Museum, 15th-century Glasgow University, etc.
You'll pack your things at the end of the bike tour and leave Scotland for Ireland. After checking into your hotel, you can head off to discover a whole new metropolis: Dublin. Ireland's capital is a gem of a city whose streets are filled with equal parts of history and modernity. There's excitement around every corner and culture to spare, plus no shortage of awe-inspiring architecture that dates back centuries.
On a 2-hour walking tour, you'll experience Ireland's capital through the lens of a bonafide Dubliner and local historian. Learn about the city's rich history, from its early origins as a Gaelic village to the arrival of the Vikings, Normans, and the English. It even covers the Easter Rising of 1916. Along the way, you'll stop in at great pubs and restaurants.
Major highlights and landmarks on the tour include the Gresham Hotel, a Dublin hotspot since the 19th century; statues of famous Dubliners like James Joyce and Daniel O'Connell; the Olympia Theatre, an exquisite example of Victorian architecture; the cobbled lanes of the bohemian Temple Bar District; 13th-century Dublin Castle; famous bridges like the O'Connell and the Ha'penny; and of course the medieval heart of the city and the 11th-century Christ Church Cathedral.
At the end of the tour, you'll return to your hotel and will have the remainder of the evening free.
Day 9: Day Trip to Kilkenny & Wicklow National Park
Today you'll embark on a full-day tour from Dublin to County Kilkenny and Wicklow Mountains National Park. This is a private, guided tour that begins first thing in the morning when your driver picks you up from the hotel. Then it's about an hour's drive south through rugged mountain scenery until you reach the rolling green hills of County Kilkenny.
Upon arrival in the medieval town of Kilkenny, you'll visit some of its most famous sights. This includes the Art & Design Centre, the nation's most prominent purveyor of Irish handcrafted gifts. Then enjoy snacks and gourmet coffee in the café before taking a guided tour of Kilkenny Castle, the town's most famous landmark. The castle, which dates to the 12th century, is the historic symbol of the city and is ideally located on the banks of the River Nore.
The journey continues with a 30-minute walking tour through Kilkenny's winding cobbled streets and under its many medieval arches. Your guide will regale you with the history of this beautiful city as you explore its other attractions and landmarks. After the tour, you'll have an hour on your own to explore Kilkenny at your leisure.
Other points of interest include Black Abbey, a 13th-century Dominican priory, and Rothe House. The latter is a magnificent example of a wealthy silk merchant's home and dates to 1594. The house contains multiple exhibits, including priceless Viking artifacts and a medieval garden with plants of the era, including Gortahork cabbage and Blood of the Boyne apples. Another option is to stroll the grounds of Kilkenny Castle to see its magnificent gardens.
For lunch, you'll want to indulge in the local fare. There's a strong argument to be made that some of the finest produce in Ireland comes from in and around the Kilkenny area. On a break during the tour, you can enjoy lunch at one of the city's many cafés and charming gastropubs. Your guide will be happy to offer recommendations based on your tastes.
After lunch, you'll hop back in the car and head into the wild and rugged Wicklow Mountains. These mountains comprise the largest of the nation's six national parks, and the area is so beautiful that it's known as the Garden of Ireland. You'll have plenty of opportunities to stop the car, hike around, and snap photos of incredible vistas of green glens, shimmering lakes, and exotic wildlife.
Should you choose, you can continue the adventure with a stop at Glendalough, also in County Wicklow. On a tour of this glacial valley, you'll visit the area's ancient monastic site, which St. Kevin established in the 6th century. It grew into a great "Monastic City" and served as a center of ecclesiastical learning until the Normans destroyed the monastery in the early 13th century. On a tour of the area, you'll see the remains of many buildings that date to the 12th century.
After enjoying the monastic site and the beauty of the surrounding countryside and lakes, you'll hop back in the car and return to your hotel in Dublin.
Day 10: Transfer to County Cork & City Tour
In the morning, you'll pick up a rental car, which you'll have for two days. Then hit the road on your own and drive to southwest Ireland and County Cork. When you arrive in Cork City, you'll park the car and check into your hotel.
After settling in, head out on a tour of Ireland's second-largest city on the famous Hop-On Hop-Off bus. This is a network of open-topped double-decker buses that run throughout the city on the same route. So you can feel free to hop off anywhere you like to walk around before catching the next bus that comes by. Highlights include Cork's beautiful Victorian Quarter, St. Patrick's Quay (along the mighty River Lee), the Gothic Revival St. Fin Barre's Cathedral, lovely Fitzgerald's Park, and the campus of the venerable University College Cork, which was founded in 1845.
Once you've experienced the landmarks and highlights of Cork City, feel free to exit the bus and return to your hotel.
Day 11: Free Day in Cork
Spend the entire day exploring Cork at your own pace. This is a fascinating city, surrounded by waterways and packed with grand Georgian avenues, snug alleys, and modern architectural masterpieces like the Opera House, which dates to the 19th century but was rebuilt after a fire and reopened in 1965. Beyond that, Cork is filled with plenty of pubs, shops, and cafés, and it boasts arguably the best foodie scene in the country. An added bonus is the warm welcome you're sure to receive from proud locals.
The city also has a nice mix of traditional culture and a hipster scene. You're never far from live music and cutting-edge restaurants celebrating farm-to-table dining. The English Market is a great place to enjoy as much great food under one roof as possible. This covered market dates to the 18th century and is home to fresh produce stalls, artisanal bakers, specialty butchers, cafés, coffee roasters, and so much more.
More specific recommendations of where to go include the 18-acre Fitzgerald Park. It offers a nice retreat from the bustle of the city with its tree-lined avenues, rose gardens, stately statues, and large central fountain. You can also visit University College Cork. There are nice green spaces on this campus where you can while away the hours relaxing on the banks of the River Lee.
Day 12: Return to Dublin, Foodie & Musical History Tour
You'll drive back to Dublin, drop off your rental car, and check into your hotel in the morning. Then get ready to eat and drink your way through Ireland's capital on a small-group foodie tour. Gone are the days of the potato famine—today, Dublin is at the vanguard of the food revolution in Northern Europe. On this 2.5-hour tour, an expert Dubliner guide will reveal how a country once known for its poor eating habits has embraced the locavore movement to create a rich and diverse culinary scene.
The gastronomic adventure begins near Merrion Square and covers the area around the Liberties, a historic neighborhood known for its pubs, markets, and specialty coffee roasters. You'll start with a coffee in one of the best coffee shops, where you'll learn how Dublin's mercurial economy at the start of the 21st century influenced its food scene. Afterward, you'll stop at some local shops selected by your guide to browse and sample various specialty foods.
Then you'll pay a visit to one of Dublin's best bakeries. Enjoy some traditional soda bread and learn the history of this food and how it became synonymous with Ireland. Then, 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.
After filling your stomach with incredible Irish food, you'll then fill your soul with incredible Irish music. This is a two-hour historical walking tour of the city with a twist: you'll be accompanied by a professionally trained Irish singer. It's the most fun time you can have visiting all the historic landmarks for which Dublin is justifiably famous. Enjoy classic folk tunes performed by your passionate guide while learning about the people and the stories behind them.
Day 13: Guinness & Jameson Tour, Dublin Literary Walk
Two of the most popular attractions in Dublin, particularly for those who like to imbibe, are the Guinness Storehouse and Jameson Whiskey Distillery. You'll visit both on fully guided tours that last about four hours. Even better, you'll have skip-the-line passes to dive right into the action.
In Smithfield's cultural quarter, Dublin's old warehouse district, you'll meet your local guide. This is where the Jameson Distillery is located. You'll go for a tour and tasting and sample various whiskeys from the Jameson collection, including small-batch labels that few know about. Your guide will reveal insight into Ireland's long and storied whiskey tradition throughout the tour.
The experience continues at the Guinness Storehouse, Ireland's number one visitor attraction. Skip the lines and enjoy a tutorial about this famous beer while sipping the perfect pint of dark stout. Learn how Guinness is made as you visit the various floors, which are packed with engaging exhibits. One highlight is the world's largest pint glass, which rises seven stories through the factory's atrium. It's an unforgettable experience that reveals the magic of Ireland's most beloved export.
Next, it's time to discover another cornerstone of Irish culture: its literary tradition. This 3-hour walking tour takes you down Dublin's historic streets, which feel right out of a novel. The tour covers the city's most illustrious writers, including James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, W. B. Yeats, and Oscar Wilde.
It begins in Merrion Square, the cultural heart of the city and the home of Oscar Wilde. Here you'll discuss the religious and social atmosphere of 19th and early 20th-century Dublin and how it affected the writers of the time. Your guide will then lead you to the National Library and Trinity College, perhaps stopping along the way at the favorite pub of Wilde, Beckett, and Joyce. While walking these hallowed streets and seeing these historic sights, you'll discuss the educational and cultural establishment that was fundamental to the development of literary culture in Dublin.
Much of the tour focuses on James Joyce. You and your guide will visit several places that serve as the setting for his most famous novel, "Ulysses." You'll also stop by the hotel where Joyce met his wife, as well as a beautiful little shop that figures prominently in the book and is run by a passionate group of Joycean enthusiasts. At the conclusion of the tour, you can read a scene from the great novel in the very place the episode is set. Afterward, you'll retire to a pub for a drink and discussion about the novel and other literary landmarks in the area.
Day 14: Depart Dublin
In the morning a driver will pick you up from your hotel and transfer you to the Dublin airport for your flight home. This concludes your grand adventure. As they say in Ireland, slán go fóill—goodbye for now!
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