A Wild Scottish Journey
Towering mountains and enchanting lochs. Dramatic castles and quaint villages. Infamous battles and gripping legends. The Scottish Journey takes us from coastal cities to Hebridean islands, seeking out one-of-a-kind landscapes, mesmerising history and undeniable charm.
Then discover the wild isles of Scotland, from the windswept Hebrides, inhabited for over 8,000 years, to the verdant Orkney Islands, where ancient Neolithic and Viking sites conjure images of civilisations long gone. Zodiac-cruise past sea-sculpted coastlines watching for dolphins, seals, and photograph seabirds in one of Europe’s largest seabird colonies. Visit charming villages, meet the friendly locals and maybe even sample a wee dram of Scotland’s finest.
Your Fly, Tour and Cruise Package includes:
- Return economy class flights from Sydney to Edinburgh, returning from Aberdeen
- 9 night A Scottish Journey tour with Backroads Touring Co.
- Includes hand picked accommodation, some meals, premium touring and much more
- 12 night Wild Scotland cruise with Aurora Expeditions onboard the Greg Mortimer
- Includes all meals onboard, beer and wine with meals, shore excursions, lectures and much more
- Port charges, fees, and taxes onboard your cruise
Pricing is based on per person twin share for travel 17 May - 22 June 2022
A SCOTTISH JOURNEY ITINERARY
Day 1 - Edinburgh
Majestic landscapes, scenic roads and imagination-firing landscapes: Scotland delivers on every level. After meeting the group at our hotel, we’ll get to know each other over a delicious welcome meal. Accommodation: Eden Locke (or similar)
Day 2 - Edinburgh – St Andrews – Cairngorms Region
After breakfast, we’ll board the mini-coach and take to the scenic route. Now, the journey begins! Travelling along the coast, we’ll stop in at tiny East Neuk fishing villages before reaching St Andrews: a small town with a big reputation for world-class golf. Next, we’ll visit the historic town of Dunkeld, enjoying a walk around to discover its medieval cathedral. Later today, we’ll check into our accommodation in the Cairngorms region. Accommodation: The Lodge on the Loch (or similar)
Day 3 - Cairngorms National Park
Get ready to delve into a day of truly authentic Scottish experiences. First, we'll explore the stunning surrounds of Cairngorms National Park, heading to specially chosen viewpoints. Next, we’ll stop at the open-air Highland Folk Museum, used as the filming location for the TV series Outlander. Then, a lesson in Scotch whisky awaits. We’ll uncover the centuries-old legends and intricate processes behind turning malted barley into ‘liquid gold’ – sampling a dram or two while we’re at it. This evening, we’ll have some free time to spend as we wish. Accommodation: The Lodge on the Loch (or similar)
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Day 4 - Cairngorms Region – Culloden – Loch Ness – Inverness
Our day will begin in dramatic fashion as we travel through the awe-inspiring scenery of Cairngorms National Park on the way to the atmospheric Culloden Battlefield. At the Visitor Centre, we’ll immerse ourselves in the fascinating history of the Highlands and gain a unique insight into the battle that took place on this vast moorland. Next, a chance to spot the illusive Nessie in mythical Loch Ness. Our final stop of the day will be Inverness, the welcoming capital of the Highlands. Tonight, we’ll come together to share stories of the day’s adventures over an included meal. Accommodation: The Kingsmills Hotel (or similar)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Day 5 - Inverness
After this morning’s orientation tour, the city is your oyster. Visit Inverness Castle and Cathedral, explore the charming Victorian Market or simply hunt down a good pub to relax in. What you do today is completely up to you! For dinner tonight, why not take advantage of the array of local eateries filled with character and delicious Scottish fare. Accommodation: The Kingsmills Hotel (or similar)
Day 6 - Inverness – Plockton – Isle of Skye
This morning: a visit to the quaint village of Plockton, where painted cottages cluster around a picturesque bay. We’ll have the opportunity to stroll the harbour and observe the passing yachts – before enjoying lunch at our leisure. The day’s final destination will be the breathtaking region of Skye: our home for the next two nights. At our hotel, we’ll share the excitement for tomorrow’s adventures over an included dinner. Accommodation: Duisdale House Hotel (or similar)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Day 7 - Isle of Skye
Sensational landscapes, rare wildlife and imagination-firing history – the Isle of Skye delivers on every level. This is North Highland scenery on a grand scale! We’ll spend the day taking in the island’s unique geology and jaw-dropping scenery – including the extraordinary Quiraing, Kilt Rock and Old Man of Storr. After a full day of exploring, we’ll have the evening free to dine at our leisure or relax in our idyllic surrounds. Accommodation: Duisdale House Hotel (or similar)
Day 8 - Isle of Skye – Isle of Mull
Today we’ll continue our journey through soul-stirring Scottish scenery before taking a short ferry ride over to the breathtaking Isle of Mull. Here, the evening will be yours to spend as you please. Accommodation: The Western Isles Hotel (or similar)
Day 9 - Isle of Mull – Isle of Iona – Isle of Mull
First today, we’ll visit the grand staterooms and empty dungeons of the imposing Duart Castle – the oldest inhabited castle on the island. Then: the best way to see the Hebrides is by island hopping – and this afternoon, we’ll do just that. From Mull’s little village of Fionnphort, we’ll set sail to Iona: where the Abbey and Nunnery await us. After a busy day, we’ll return to our hotel on Mull to enjoy a final dinner together. Accommodation: The Western Isles Hotel (or similar)
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Day 10 - Isle of Mull – Stirling – Edinburgh
Back to the mainland we go. It’s been a tour that’s delved deep into Scotland’s heritage, so it’s only right that we finish with a stop in historic Stirling. A drive through the Old Town will bring us to the magnificent hilltop castle, one of Scotland’s most impressive and significant monuments. Here, we’ll spend some time exploring the castle’s many rooms and soaking up the sweeping views from atop the castle walls. What better way to round off our tour before returning to Edinburgh?
WILD SCOTLAND ITINERARY
Day 1 Edinburgh
Arrive in Edinburgh and transfer to our group hotel. Upon check-in at Courtyard Edinburgh hotel, reception staff will provide you with Aurora Expeditions cabin tags. Please fill out the luggage tags clearly, showing your name and cabin number to allow us to deliver your luggage to your cabin. At tonight’s voyage briefing, enjoy a welcome drink and meet fellow expeditioners.
Accommodation: Courtyard Edinburgh (or similar)
Day 2 Troon, West Scotland
After check-out, discover Edinburgh on a sightseeing tour before transferring to Troon, where our expedition team will welcome you aboard the Greg Mortimer at approximately 4.00 pm. You’ll have time to settle into your cabin before our important briefings. We will set sail along Scotland's northwest coast in the evening, and meet your expedition team and crew at Captain’s Welcome Dinner.
Days 3-4 Inner Hebrides
From golden beaches to jagged peaks, bleak moors and heather clad hills; from abandoned settlements to picturesque villages, our days in the Hebrides archipelago will be packed with variety. We may explore remote lochs beneath some of Britain’s most untamed mountains and wander between unusual rock formations. We may watch for whales, dolphins, otters, seals, and the increasingly rare basking sharks. Possibly we will land at an island reserve that is home to red deer and white-tailed sea eagles.
Kayakers will be introduced to their craft and will be briefed for their adventures, before picking up paddles to circumnavigate tiny islets or glide into narrow waterways that intertwine the islands. Hikers may opt for panoramic views from summits and ridges. Early the next morning we will aim for the tiny island of Iona. Barely 5 kilometres / 3 miles long, Iona is renowned as the birthplace of Christianity in Britain. It is also a burial ground of early Scottish Kings. The Irish monk, St Columba and twelve disciples, landed here and founded a monastery in 563 AD. From this base, St Columba set about converting Scotland and much of Northern England to Christianity.
On Staffa, we hope to have the chance to explore Fingals Cave, where the melodious sound of waves crashing against towering basalt pillars inspired Mendelssohnns Hebridean Overture. We may enter the cave in Zodiacs, or clamber ashore to walk into the mouth of the cave. On shore we will also find Puffins in abundance. The rugged Isle of Skye, named after the Norse word for ‘cloud’, is a hikers’ paradise. It is a centre of Gaelic culture and some islanders still speak the language. The wildlife, history, geology and beautiful scenery make it one of our favourite islands to explore.
We hope to make the following landings: The Cuillin Hills have earned a reputation as Britain’s most untamed and challenging mountains. The rocky jagged Black Cuillins attract rock climbers. The smoother conical granite peaks of the Red Cuillins are crowned with heather. We may land at Loch Scavaig in the heart of the Cuillins and take a short hike, perhaps to Loch Coruisk, for spectacular views and get a glimpse of the range’s grandeur. Keener hikers may be able to venture further afield, weather permitting. Meanwhile kayakers may paddle around Loch Scavaig, into Loch Coruisk. They may explore the island of Soay and an abandoned shark fishing station – all against the backdrop of classic views of the Cuillins. To the south of the Cuillin hills we may visit Rubha’ an Dùnain, a small uninhabited peninsula on the southwest corner of Skye commanding an impressive view of the sea routes nearby. As a result of its strategic position we can see archaeological remains—from a Neolithic chambered cairn, to a Viking canal and more recent black houses. Depending on weather conditions, we may choose to visit the small island of Canna in search of the rare basking sharks, common seals and bird cliffs.
Days 5-7 Outer Hebrides
From the Inner Hebrides we make our way to the Outer Hebrides – also known as the Western Isles – that stretch for 209 km / 128 mi and look out on their western side to the Atlantic Ocean. Our first stop is at the Isle of Lewis, the largest and northern-most island in the Outer Hebrides. We plan to make a stop at Callanais, where archaeology buffs will be keen to see the fascinating group of Standing Stones, dating from around 3,000 BC. Nearby we may visit Bostadh House, a remarkable reconstruction of an Iron Age dwelling tucked away just above a beautiful white beach.
Weather permitting we plan to land at the isolated archipelago (and World Heritage site) of St Kilda, where derelict crofts bear testament to the fortitude of islanders who once tended the unique Soay sheep and harvested seabirds for food—and to pay their rent in the form of wool, meat and feathers. The isles hold Europe’s most important seabird colony and is home to Britain’s highest sea stacks (rock columns).
Island hopping northeast, we aim to visit tiny specks of land that bear the brunt of violent Atlantic storms and rarely see visitors. Home to breeding seals and some of Europe's largest seabird colonies, Sula Sgeir, North Rona and Flannan boast spectacular cliffs, fantastic rock stacks, hidden beaches and luxuriant heaths where sheep once grazed
Days 8-9 Shetland Islands
Britain’s most northerly islands lie almost 160 km / 99 mi north of the Scottish mainland, at a similar latitude to the southern tip of Greenland, or Bergen in Norway. Kept relatively warm by the Gulf Stream, Shetland’s 100 islands experience almost 24 hours of daylight in summer. They abound with nature reserves and archaeological sites, and offer a taste of traditional island life.
We plan to explore some of the following sites: the island of Foula is the most remote inhabited island in the UK. Its small community of about 30 residents welcome us to their island to enjoy the magnificent scenery, large seabird colonies, beautiful wildflowers and remarkable community life. Papa Stour offers some of the best sea caves in Britain where we may explore with Zodiacs and kayaks. Jarlshof is one of Shetland's best preserved and most complex archaeological sites. It was exposed by storms in the late 19th century. The Old House of Sumburgh, built here in the 17th century, was named 'Jarlshof' by Sir Walter Scott in his novel 'The Pirate'. The record of human occupation dates from around 3,200 BC. Jarlshof’s main Bronze Age site is the house of a bronzesmith working around 800 BC. Clay moulds into which molten bronze was poured revealed that he was casting axe heads and short swords. It seems that Shetland suited early Norse settlers, for they quickly settled here and left their mark on Shetland's history for ages to come.
Mousa Broch, on the small uninhabited island of Mousa, is the best preserved of Scotland’s 570 brochs (fortified Iron Age towers). Storm petrels nest among its stones, which can be seen when visiting the broch at night. In daylight, a large colony of common and grey seals basks on its shores and you may spot otter (Dratsi, in Shetland dialect). Hermaness National Nature Reserve, is close to Britain’s most northerly point. The reserve is a place of bird cries and sea smells, of myth and mist. The cliffs rise 170 m / 558 ft above the Atlantic. During summer they are alive with the cacophony, and raw guano smell of over 100,000 breeding seabirds: kittiwakes, shags, snipe, dunlin, golden plover and Arctic skua, making this one of Europe’s most diverse colonies.
The grasslands, moors and cliff tops are a tapestry of colourful wildflowers – gentians, heather, orchids and thrift are a few of the species here. A rocky islet, Muckle Flugga is Britain’s most northerly point and only 274 km / 170 mi from Norway. A lighthouse was established here in 1854, to protect navy ships during the Crimean War. With its mile-long seabird cliffs, the Island of Noss is a National Nature Reserve. In breeding season the sound of around 150,000 birds and chicks fills the air. Millions of years of wind and ice have honeycombed thousands of nesting ledges in sandstone cliffs almost 200 m / 656 ft high. Resident seals and visiting otters feed in dense kelp around the shores.
Days 10-11 Orkney Islands
Midway between Orkney and Shetland, Fair Isle houses a major European ornithological research station, and is also famous for knitwear and historic shipwrecks. About five kilometres by three kilometres / three miles by two miles in area, it is surrounded by impressive cliffs. The 70 or so islanders mainly live in traditional crofts on the more fertile low-lying southern part of the island.
A bird watchers’ paradise, Fair Isle lies on the intersection of major flight-paths from Scandinavia, Iceland and Faroe. In summer, the cliffs teem with breeding fulmars, kittiwakes, guillemots, gannets, shags and puffins. The Isle is an excellent place to view seabirds, especially puffins at close range. Fair Isle also has over 250 species of flowering plants, including wetland flowers, rare orchids, alpine species and common wildflowers. We’ll be welcomed by the hospitable villagers and may take a hike or visit the museum. Grey and common seals inhabit these waters around Fair Isle, while sharp eyes may spot harbour porpoises, white-beaked dolphins, Atlantic white-sided dolphins, killer whales (orcas) and minke whales.
Orkney’s archipelago of 70 windswept islands, 10 km / 6 mi north of the Scottish mainland, a rich tapestry of archaeology, history and wildlife awaits. We follow the passage of time – from 5,000-year-old World Heritage Neolithic sites, past relics from Vikings and reminders of World War II occupation, to present day crofting communities. Imposing sea cliffs teem with seabirds and cliff top paths beckon the keen hikers among us.
Our kayakers use paddle-power to explore sections of Orkney’s fascinating coastline. At the Knap of Howar on Papa Westray lies the earliest known house in Northern Europe, occupied by Neolithic farmers over 5,000 years ago. At the east end of Scapa Flow remnants from World War II include an Italian Chapel, created by Italian prisoners of war made out of two Nissen huts, and the Churchill Barriers, constructed on the orders of Winston Churchill to keep out U-Boats.
Discover the rich history in Kirkwall, capital of the Orkney Islands. Initial impressions are misleading, as the harbour area looks modern, but the narrow winding streets and lanes of the old town, which have remained relatively unchanged over the centuries are appealing. Explore magnificent St Magnus Cathedral built from red and white sandstone and considered the finest medieval building in the north of Scotland before popping across the road to Tankerness House and Gardens, a restored 16th century former manse, now housing the Orkney Museum featuring archaeological artefacts from Neolithic times to the Vikings. The exhibition is a great way to whet your appetite for the archaeological gems you will find on the mainland including the unique and well-preserved 5,000-year-old semi-subterranean village of Skara Brae.
Everything west of Kirkwall is known as West Mainland, an area of rich farmland, rolling hills and moorland, with dramatic cliffs along the Atlantic coastline. Some of the main archaeological attractions we may see include the standing Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar, and the chambered tombs of Maes Howes that to this day still have unresolved mysteries. One of the mainland’s main attractions is Skara Brae, the best-preserved Stone-Age village in northern Europe, located in the spectacular white sands of the Bay of Skaill. Revealed in 1850 after a storm below away the dunes, the site dates from approximately 5,000 years ago and was occupied for about 600 years, showing a unique picture of the lifestyle of the original inhabitants.
Day 12 Aberdeen
On arrival in Aberdeen, disembark in the early morning and bid a fond farewell to fellow travellers before a transfer to the airport to continue your journey.
NOTE: At the conclusion of the voyage, we do not recommend booking flights departing prior to 12.00 pm on the day of disembarkation in case there are delays.
Important note: In the spirit of expedition travel, we encourage exploration and adventure offering flexibility in challenging environments. This itinerary is only a guide and is subject to change due to weather, sea and other conditions beyond our control.
Terms & Conditions
* Conditions apply. Offer is limited, subject to availability and change without notice. Promotion is correct and valid at the time of publication. Booking and full supplier terms and conditions apply. Valid for new bookings only and not combinable with any other offer (unless stated).
Prices listed are per person in Australian/New Zealand Dollars, based on twin occupancy, including all discounts unless otherwise stated. The offer is subject to availability at time of booking and shown on the lowest category available at the time. Fares are capacity controlled and are subject to change at any time without notice. Prices/Offers are correct as at16 December 2021 and can be withdrawn without notice. Cabin categories include prepaid government fees and port taxes unless otherwise stated. Hotels may charge resort fees not included in this package, payable direct upon check in. Visas are not included. Airfares are based on economy class flights from Sydney and subject to the carriers’ flight schedules and conditions, please call us for prices from other cities. Payments made by credit card will incur a surcharge.