Scotland is a land of magic, of fairies and giants and of lakes and mountains. With miles and miles of rugged yet magnificent coastline and unspoilt landscape, it’s not surprising that tourists from around the world flock to Scotland. Scotland offers something for everyone – Tours to Isle of Skye, Whisky tour from Edinburgh, Staffa tour. The list goes on. You can explore cities like Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness and then head over to the countryside to see the the best of what Scotland has to offer. Edinburgh has many tour operators that have scheduled tours throughout the year. Here are my top 10 Scotland tours from Edinburgh that you should not miss!
A Wee Bit About Scotland
Scotland has been one of my favourite destinations to visit over the last few years. I love visiting historical places, seeing forts and ancient ruins. I love hiking – I can walk for miles if the scenery is beautiful. And most importantly I love good food and drinks. Scotland has everything covered!
Edinburgh, the country’s capital is a tourist hotspot. No matter whichever time of the year you visit, it is always buzzing with travellers. It is an ideal base for exploring rest of the Scotland. You can take day trips, extended trips, trips to highlands or lowlands, hike up the mountains or visit breathtakingly beautiful islands thriving with wildlife. There are tours to cater to every need. With so many tour operators, it is difficult to decide which is the best one for you. I have made a list of my favourite top 10 Scotland tours from Edinburgh which will suit travellers of every budget and interest.
Trips to Scottish Isles
Scotland is blessed with a massive coastline and over 700 islands (yes!). If that doesn’t give you enough options, what does! While some islands are closer to the mainland and some like Shetlands are closer to Norway. Scottish Islands are a magnet for wildlife enthusiasts and photographers alike. Most of the islands have great connectivity by boats and island hopping is getting very popular.
Tours to Isle of Skye
Isle of Skye in the inner hebrides undoubtedly is the most popular island with the tourists. It is connected to the mainland by a bridge and this accessibility is its biggest USP. Dramatic landscape and Cuillin mountain ranges make it hikers’ favourite destination.
This 3-Day Tour to Isle of Skye and Scottish Highlands gets you the best of Isle of Skye. You spend 2 nights in Portree, the Isle of Skye’s biggest town and also explore Loch Ness, Glencoe and city of Stirling on your way over to the island.
This is operated by Rabbies tours, Edinburgh (named after the famous Scottish poet Robert Burns) and you will see that a lot of the tours I recommend are operated by Rabbies. There’s a reason for that. They are professional yet friendly, the tours are extremely well organised and you are guaranteed an authentic Scottish experience. Rabbies Tours, Edinburgh also have some of the friendliest tour guides. Even if you are a solo traveller, you will certainly never feel alone on any of their tours!
If you are a Harry Potter fan, this 3-Day Tour to Isle of Skye and Scottish Highlands is perfect for you. This includes a Hogwarts train ride – as seen in the Harry Potter films! And even if you are not a big fan of this movie, this is still a beautiful train journey through the dreamy landscape from Mallaig to Fort William.
Isle of Mull & Staffa Tours
Isle of Mull does not get as much attention as its famous neighbour Isle of Skye. It is the second largest island in the inner hebrides after Isle of Skye and I think its kind of a hidden gem. It is surrounded by equally beautiful smaller islands – Iona, Staffa and Treshnish isles. Staffa tours that last for few hours are very popular amongst travellers. You can walk through the geological wonders of the Fingal’s cave or look out for Puffins and Otters on this tour.
First of all, Isle of Mull is one of the best destination for foodies in Scotland. This is home to the delicious Isle of Mull cheddar cheese and freshly caught seafood. For whisky lovers, the coloured harbour town of Tobermory has one of the prettiest distilleries.
This 4-Day Tour to Mull, Iona and West Highlands is just the tour you need to explore the best of these islands. This tour also includes a trip to the island of Iona to visit the Iona Abbey – founded in 563 it is one of the most popular site of christian pilgrimage. Spending 4 days on this tour means you can do a half day Staffa tour (organised by tour operator themselves). This is one of my most favourite tours – highly recommended!
A slightly shorter tour is this 3-Day Small Group Tour to Mull & Iona. This tour will take you through Oban, Isle of Mull, Iona and west highlands. The only thing you would have to skip is the Staffa tour. But you still get to cover exactly the same places on Mull & Iona.
You could also do a full inner hebrides tour which combines two favourites – Isle of Skye and Isle of Mull. This 5-Day Tour to Isle of Skye, Iona and Mull. You will be staying on Oban for the first two nights in this tour. Oban is a beautiful harbour town on the mainland famous for its distillery and seafood. This is a good value for money tour for spending wonderful 5 days in inner hebrides.
Visit Outer Hebrides
Outer hebrides are the islands from another world. The main islands in the outer hebrides are Lewis & Harris, North Uist, South Uist and Barra. All of these islands are interconnected. Being further away from the mainland, almost on the edge of the Atlantic ocean means you can see the unspoilt beauty, rich island history and hebridean wildlife on each of these islands. The landscape is significantly different than the rest of the Scotland and other islands. Allow yourself an extra day or two from your usual island tours from Edinburgh to explore these islands fully.
This 5-Day Outer Hebrides Tour is a perfect slow tour from Edinburgh. You will be driving through the highlands before reaching Ullapool where you will spend one night. Ullapool is a beautiful & quiet coastal village and a getaway to western isles. Isle of Lewis & Harris is next where you can see the archaeological marvel of Callanish standing stones. Nobody knows why these stones were placed there and who placed there. It adds to this island’s mysterious landscape. This landscape inspired the Scottish author Peter May to write his Lewis trilogy – a must read before or after your tour!
If you an spare another night, you can book this 6-Day Tour to Isle of Skye and Outer Hebrides. This includes everything from the 5 day tour plus you get to visit Isle of Skye. Both the tours again, are offered by Rabbies tours, Edinburgh so you are guaranteed the best experience no matter whichever tour you choose.
Sail Away to Orkney
So far we have just talked about westen isles, inner and outer hebrides. There is a whole different world in north of Scotland that I should not miss in my list of top 10 tours to Scotland from Edinburgh.
Orkney is a different world. These far-flung islands are an archipelago of 70 small islands. Orkney has some of the oldest Neolithic sites in Europe and some are also on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Due to their remote location, Orkney has abundance of birds and marine life.
You can choose between this 5-Day Orkney & Norther Coast Tour or this combined 6-Day Tour of Isle of Skye, Highlands and Orkney. Both tours will take you to the northern coast of Scotland, all the way up-to John o’Groats from where you will catch a ferry to these remote islands. Second tour has an added bonus of spending 2 nights on Isle of Skye. A full week in Scotland is just what you might need!
Whisky Tours from Edinburgh
One thing that Scottish people love drinking and love to talk about is their favourite dram of whisky (not whiskey!). For a whisky to be called a Scotch whisky it needs to be made in a certain way. Furthermore it must be aged in oak barrels for at least 3 years. This strict whisky making process is what gives scotch whisky its unique flavours and aromas.
You can find whisky anywhere and everywhere in Scotland but if you are a true connoisseur, a visit to whisky distillery is a must. Scottish whisky’s are classified based on the regions they are produced in – lowland whisky, highland whisky, Speyside, Islay etc. Each region brings with it a different flavour profile and characteristics.
Speyside Whisky Tours
Speyside gets its name from river Spey which provides water to many distilleries. Speside whiskys can be fruity, spicy or rich and have smoky aroma.
There are many tour operators that offer multi-day whisky tours from Edinburgh that take you to various distilleries across Scotland. Best thing about going on a tour is that you can enjoy whisky without worrying about driving back to your accommodation! This 3-Day Whisky Tour from Edinburgh is designed for you to soak up the spirit of Speyside. You visit 4 of the region’s famous distillers and taste whisky to your heart’s content. If you are pressed for time but want to visit any many distilleries as you want, you can also do this Speyside Private Day Tour which takes you to 3 distilleries in one day.
Islay Whisky Tours
Islay whiskys are best known for their peaty & robust aromas. There are some that are lighter and fruity but I would highly recommend tasting the ultra-peaty malt whiskys.
If you ask a whisky lover like me, how many days are enough for tasting whiskys in Scotland, I would say as many as you can spare 🙂 Otherwise this 4-Day tour to Islay and the Whisky coast or this 4-Day Islay Whisky Tour from Edinurgh is just what you need to book. You spend 3 nights in the Bowmore distillery cottages and visit 6 (yes 6!) distilleries in 4 days. The guides are always local and have expert knowledge in Scottish history, culture & of course whisky!
Explore the Best of Scotland
Highlands and Lowlands
Most of the tours that take you to the Scottish isles pass through Highlands and Lowlands. Highlands is the mountainous area with sights famous with tourists such as Inverness, Glencoe, Loch Ness and Cairngorms National Park. It is full of historic places that represent Gaelic culture. Lowlands is the area between highland boundary and England. Cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen are also part of lowlands. There is so much to explore in both of these areas that you might need to take different tours to cover them fully.
This 2-Day Loch Ness and Inverness tour is a quick getaway in Scottish highlands. You can take a boat ride in magnificent Loch Ness and search for the mysterious monster Nessie.
A slight variation to this tour is this 2-Day Jacobite experience which will combine two experiences in one – Jacobite uprising and Harry Potter’s Hogwarts express train.
Alternatively this 5-Day Best of Scotland tour will take you in the interiors of the highlands where you will travel through the stunning Trossachs National park and see Loch Lomond. If this wasn’t enough, this tour also includes overnight stays in Isle Of Skye, Oban and Fort Augustus. Also, no tour to Scotland is complete without visiting one of the Scottish castles. This tour includes a visit to the Eilean Donan castle. See how gorgeous it is?
Outlander was one of the hottest TV shows. (Ok, I’m biased!) The first season was shot in Scotland and includes stunning scenery from across the country and highlands in particular. There are tours where you can visit the filming locations of this TV show. And even if you are not a fan of the show, you will definitely appreciate the beauty of these locations.
How does a 4-Day Outlander Trail sound? Visit the charming village of Culross which posed as a village of Cranesmuir in the show. Visit Culloden Moor where the Jacobite army fought the British troops in the show as well as in the real life.
If not 4 days, you should definitely take the Outlander Adevnture Day Tour and listen to the stories from your guide who will most likely be an Outlander fan!
Other Hidden Gems
The North Coast 500 Tour
The North Coast 500 is a 516 miles long scenic route around the north coast of Scotland. It is an ultimate road trip and if you want to enjoy it fully by stopping at distilleries and without the hassle of driving, I would highly recommend joining a tour.
This circular route starts from Inverness and runs through Muir of Ord, Ullapool, Durness, Thurso, John o’Groats, Wick, Dingwall before ending in Inverness. From John o’Groats you can easily combine this tour with a short trip to Orkney.
Day Tours from Edinburgh
In Edinburgh for just few days and can’t spend a lot of time in Scotland? No problem! There are so many day tours from Edinburgh that take you to the different parts of the country that you’ll be spoilt for choices.
Like this day Tour to Rosslyn Chapel, Dunfermline Abbey and Stirling Castle. Think of all of the history that you will cover in this tour. The Rosslyn chapel that prominently featured in Dan Brown’s novel Da Vinci Code is considered to have one of the finest architecture in Scotland.
No matter whichever tour you decide to book, you will not be disappointed. You will experience 3 things – beautiful landscape, amazing local produce and meet the best people. Personally I think this is Scotland’s winning formula which is why people like me and from other countries dream of visiting this country – over and over again.
Have you recently taken a Scotland tour from Edinburgh? What activities did you do and what did you like the most in Scotland? If you have any questions, comments or just some thoughts on Scotland tours let me know in comments. I will be happy to answer any questions 🙂
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