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Discover the historic castles and palaces of the Scottish Highlands
Scotland has some of the most beautiful and dramatic scenery in the British Isles and these landscapes provide the backdrop for a vast number of historical castles - all with their own fascinating stories to tell of the lives of the Scottish people in centuries past.
This excellent five-day tour will take you through the Highlands' most impressive landscapes as you visit several of the country's grandest castles and learn all about the myths, legends and turbulent history that surround them.
One of the highlights will be a visit to Cawdor Castle, immortalised in William Shakespeare's Macbeth as the scene of Duncan's murder. You'll be joined here by Lady Cawdor for a private drinks reception to get an intriguing insight into what life in the castle is really like.
You'll also see magical Blair Castle, the ancestral home to Clan Murray, nestled in the secluded Perthshire countryside, and travel around the western edge of the Cairngorms National Park - where you might spot osprey and capercaillie among the amazing scenery.
The capital of the Scottish Highlands, Inverness, will be your base for exploring a captivating selection of castles, including the privately owned Ballindalloch Castle, the château-style Dunrobin Castle and the blush-coloured Brodie Castle.
You'll be staying at the city's four-star Kingsmills Hotel, an award-winning property offering luxurious rooms, impeccable dining and good old-fashioned Scottish hospitality.
Your trip will be led by expert tour manager Alison Reid, who has a particular interest in the early and medieval history of Scotland. A native of Glasgow, Alison spent 30 years working in local museums throughout Scotland before becoming a tour guide.
Reasons to book
Expert tour manager
- Stay for four nights' at the four-star Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness
- Return flights from London Stansted to Edinburgh**
- Enjoy four dinners and breakfasts at the hotel
- Visit Cawdor Castle with a drinks reception hosted by Lady Cawdor
- Enjoy lunch and a guided tour of the gardens at Scone Palace with head gardener Brian Cunningham
- Enjoy lunch and a guided tour at Blair Castle
- Take a one-way trip in the Strathspey Railway
- See a falconry display at Dunrobin Castle
Visits to Ballindalloch Castle, Brodie Castle and Dunrobin Castle and Scone Palace
Scottish history expert Alison Reid as your tour manager
Comfortable coach travel
Day1Cairngorms National ParkEdinburgh, United Kingdom
You'll arrive in Edinburgh in the morning, where you'll be met by your coach and depart northwards to the village of Blair Atholl, the gateway to the Cairngorms National Park. Here you'll discover Blair Castle, nestled in the hills and surrounded by tranquil countryside, and home to some of the finest views in Scotland. Throughout the ages the castle has been transformed from its cold and austere beginnings in the Middle Ages to a delightful Georgian mansion and then to a Baronial Victorian castle. You'll then enjoy a private guided tour of the castle followed by a light lunch. Later on you'll dine at your hotel in Inverness.
Day2Ballindalloch CastleBallindalloch, United Kingdom
This morning you'll head west to Banffshire where you'll explore Ballindalloch Castle, a privately owned castle which has been the home to the Macpherson-Grant family since the 16th century.
The Macpherson-Grants will welcome you to their home, where you'll discover the curious castle layout and see generations of family memorabilia and photographs as well as a trove of antique furniture, delicate china and a spectacular collection of 17th-century Spanish paintings.
You'll also have the chance to wander among the delightful rock and rose gardens that surround the castle. Along the banks of the river are meandering paths and the wider estate is a refuge for a variety of native wildlife including a healthy population of red squirrels.
Later this afternoon you'll travel back in time with a steam-hauled, nostalgia-fuelled trip on the Strathspey Railway. You'll take the train to Aviemore, and then continue your journey by coach back to Inverness.
Day3Dunrobin CastleInverness, United Kingdom
After breakfast you'll travel north, following part of the scenic NC500 route, and pay a visit to Dunrobin Castle, the château-style ancestral home of the Dukes of Sutherland. The castle is a wonderful early 19th-century fantasy with a touch of the Loire and a dash of Bavaria.
In the castle grounds you'll find a magnificent example of a formal nineteenth century garden, laid out on terraces which descend to the sea. You'll have a full day to explore all the highlights of the estate as well as time to enjoy a display of falconry which is included here, with some great photo opportunities.
Day4Cawdor Castle and Brodie CastleNairn, United Kingdom
Today you'll make the short journey to Brodie Castle. Set in acres of mellow Moray countryside, this blush-coloured castle has been the ancestral home of the Brodie clan for over 400 years. As you explore the castle, you'll witness how the building has been altered through time, from the impenetrable 16th-century guard chamber to the cosy 17th-century wing and the rambling Victorian extension.
This afternoon you'll head to Cawdor Castle, near Nairn, famous as the scene of Duncan's murder in MacBeth. The magnificent gardens include vast herbaceous borders, a rose garden, a peony walk and a kitchen garden - there is also a holly maze and a romantic bluebell woodland walk.
You'll enjoy a drinks reception with the chatelaine, Lady Cawdor, who will join you to answer questions and share her insights into what it's like to live in such an important historical castle.
Day5Scone PalacePerth, United Kingdom
You'll depart the Highlands this morning and visit Scone Palace. Perched above the River Tay in Perthshire, this red sandstone palace's enviable location overlooks the routes northwards to the Highlands and eastwards through Strathmore to the coast. The Grampian Mountains make a dramatic backdrop and across the river you can gaze upon the city of Perth. Scone Palace has been the seat of parliaments as well as the crowning place of the Kings of Scots, including both Macbeth and Robert the Bruce.
You will be met by Head Gardener and TV presenter Brian Cunningham who'll give you a guided tour of the gardens. You can also explore the palace's fine collection of antiques, paintings and extraordinary artefacts as well as enjoying a delicious lunch. Later, you'll continue south to Edinburgh in time for your return flights or onward connections.