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Enjoy a wonderful tour at the best time of year.


You'll really notice the longest day, because you'll be way north at a latitude of almost 60 N on that day.  The night barely gets dark before turning light again.

Our tour timing gives you the maximum amount of daylight, and hopefully favorable early summer weather, to enjoy, see, and do as much as you wish as we travel the length and breadth of Britain on this unique Grand Expedition.

 
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Detailed Day by Day Itinerary for the 2018
Great Britain Grand Expedition Page 2
 

A feature of our Great Britain Grand Expedition is the depth of commentary provided.

This is an intelligent and interactive experience for thinking people who wish to learn about the regions they go through, not just passively look at them.

Tour Itinerary Part 2 - Scotland

We've split the itinerary over two pages, because there's a lot to tell you about this tour and its panoply of inclusions.

The first page covers the section in England and Wales, this second page now details our time in Scotland. 


The blue line approximates our journey as we travel from the south and west of England, through Wales, and up to the north and east of Scotland.

Whether it is cities or countryside, manmade objects or natural beauty, there's plenty of everything for you on this Grand Expedition.

You can read through the itinerary simply by scrolling down, or if you wish to jump to a particular part, here are links to each day.

The first section - England and Wales - can be seen on the first page of the itinerary.

Pre-tour options  In/around Salisbury

Day 1  Salisbury to Exeter via Glastonbury

Day 2  To Penzance via Plymouth

Day 3  Around Cornwall and Land's End

Day 4  To Bristol via Tintagel

Day 5  To the Cotswolds via Oxford

Day 6  Around the Cotswolds

Day 7  To Chester via Wales

Day 8  To the Lake District via Liverpool

The rest of the tour - the Scotland section - continues on below.

Day 9  To Glasgow via Hadrian's Wall

Day 10  To Beauly via Glencoe & Loch Ness

Day 11  Around Inverness

Day 12  To Thurso and Mey Castle

Day 13  To John O'Groats and the Orkneys

Day 14  Around the Orkneys

Day 15  To Elgin via Dunrobin Castle

Day 16  To Aberdeen via coastal towns

Day 17 to Edinburgh/Glasgow via Glamis Castle

Click here for the main details of this expedition and the booking form to confirm your interest.


Detailed Daily Itinerary

Day 8 :  For the earlier days of the tour, please go to the first page of the itinerary for detailed information.

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Day 9 (Monday 18 June) :  To Glasgow via Hadrian's Wall

Lake Ullswater and the small township of Glenridding.
The Castlerigg Stone Circle near Keswick.
Lanercost Priory, close to Hadrian's Wall, dates back to 1169.
A view of the wall at Housesteads.  Originally the wall was up to 15' high and 10' wide.

We start off our day (after breakfast of course) by continuing north (again, of course!) and through more of the Lake District National Park.

We head up to the Castlerigg Stone Circle at the north end of Derwent Water, on top of a hill above Keswick, where we'll have our first stop of the day (always assuming you've not asked us to stop for 'Kodak moments' prior to now).

We next go to the tranquil and happily well preserved remains of Lanercost Priory, then continue on a short distance to have one last highlight of our time in England before crossing into Scotland.

This last highlight is when we travel along some of Hadrian's Wall, going to Birdoswald Roman Fort where we'll stop for lunch.

If people wish to, we'll drive along some more of the wall and the ruins at Housesteads, too.

This allows you to see the best preserved sections of Hadrian's Wall.

Then we go to the M6, and speed northwards, crossing the border into Scotland at Gretna Green, once famous as a place where young English couples would elope to, because Scottish law allowed marriage at an earlier age (without parental consent).

These days the law has been made consistent in both Scotland and England, much to the disappointment of the people in Gretna Green.

An easy drive up the A74 and M74 gets us to Glasgow, where there's a special option open to you for this evening - please see the next section in the blue box.

Included Meals: Breakfast

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Tour Option :  One Night in Culcreuch Castle

(Monday 18 June) Continue on from Glasgow to Culcreuch Castle

The outside of Culcreuch Castle, historical seat of the Clan Galbraith.
The castle cellars and dungeon have now been repurposed into their dining room.  There is also a formal room for formal dining, upstairs, if you prefer!
Just so you know the castle isn't all stonework and nothing else.  This is one of their upgraded bedrooms.

Here's a special bonus for you in the middle of our Expedition.

Would you like to spend this evening in a 700+ year old castle, located in lovely grounds and even with a small private loch, just 45 minutes north of Glasgow in the tiny town of Fintry?

If this appeals, then after we drop the rest of the group at their central Glasgow hotel for the night, we'll take you on up to Culcreuch Castle for the night.

We'd pick you up again when traveling north with the group from Glasgow, mid the next morning.

You can choose from a standard or an upgraded room; and if you want to be sure to avoid the reputed castle ghosts, you could ask for a room in the stable block adjacent to the castle instead.

The night at Culcreuch is typically a very popular option among our groups, and the castle only has a dozen or so rooms, so be sure to let us know quickly if you'd like to add this to your experience.

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Day 10 (Tuesday 19 June) :  To Beauly via Glencoe and Loch Ness

Everyone loves a sunny day, but the haunting unhappiness of Glencoe is best appreciated in the mist.
Fort Augustus is a lovely town on the shores of Loch Ness, with the Caledonian Canal running through it, and some pubs with lovely canalside outdoor seating.
Beauly is a lovely quiet little town, largely unharmed by modernity and tourism.

This morning we'll collect first the people who spent the night in Glasgow, then travel north to Fintry to collect the people who treated themselves to a castle stay.

We then continue our journey, going next to one of Scotland's most sombre places, a place that has written its name - in blood - into the annals of Scottish history, and which sees a feud between some of the highland clans continuing on to this very day, 325 years later.

This is of course Glencoe.  Set in a beautiful valley which makes the treachery all the more poignant, we have time to wander around and also to have lunch, before continuing our journey north.

We pass through Fort William and Fort Augustus, and drive along the shores of Loch Ness before turning west and ending our journey in the lovely little town of Beauly (indeed, its name comes from the French words for 'beautiful place').

But before we do so, we have a choice - would you prefer to spend time in Fort Augustus and with a cruise on Loch Ness, or a visit to Urquhart Castle, or to go through the presentation at the Loch Ness visitor center?

We'll do the activity that proves most popular with the group as a whole.

We will have our 'mid Expedition' dinner in Beauly this evening.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

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Day 11 (Wednesday 20 June) :  Touring around the Inverness region

A series of commemorative stones on a largely empty field denote key locations at the Culloden battle field.
A bit of the old and a bit of the new in Inverness.
The Victorian Spa Pavilion in Strathpeffer has been beautifully restored.
The spirit safe at Glen Ord, where the still man decides which part of the distillate should be kept and which should be rejected, thereby determining the character of the whisky.

After breakfast this morning we'll head over to another of the defining places in the history of Scotland - the moors of Culloden, the site of the (hopefully!) final battle between the Scottish and the English, in 1746.

While the subject of Scottish independence is definitely still not yet settled, these days battles are done at the ballot box, not at Culloden, Bannockburn, and the other such places that saw the better part of a millennium of feuding between the English and Scottish.

Next we go into the city of Inverness, generally considered the unofficial 'capital of the highlands' and more recently anointed as the happiest place in Scotland.  We hope you'll be happy too for your time in Inverness.

After a visit to Inverness, we go to two smaller towns before returning back to Beauly.  Dingwall was once home to the largest castle north of Stirling, and Strathpeffer was home to a fascinating seer, Scotland's equivalent of Nostradumus - the Brahan Seer.  Some people interpret his sayings as foretelling such things as the Caledonian Canal and North Sea oil.

More recently, Strathpeffer became a popular spa town during the Victorian era which simultaneously saw a fascination with mineral water 'cures' and also with Scotland.

Strathpeffer's natural spring water may possibly have healing properties, or so it was fashionable to believe/hope.

It is still possible today to sample the waters - some rich in sulfur, some in iron - mix the two together and they turn black!

Talking about magical water, if time allows we might end the day with a distillery visit - Glen Ord - the only remaining distillery on the 'Black Isle' close to Inverness, and a chance to sample some of what was formerly called 'uisge beatha', or 'water of life'.  We know it, these days, as Scotch whisky.

Glen Ord's whisky is sold both as a single malt and is featured in Johnnie Walker blends too.

Included Meals: Breakfast

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Day 12 (Thursday 21 June) :  To Thurso and possibly John O'Groats

Lairg is a nice little town where the River Shin becomes Loch Shin.
Dounreay from the sea.  The road we'll be driving on is barely visible in the background.
Thurso in the sun.
The sign at John O'Groats.  The only thing missing is you!
They truly do take their whisky seriously in Scotland.  It is not uncommon to find ordinary pubs offering over 100 different whiskies, and some will stock 250+.

Today we realize that 'we're not in Kansas anymore'.  Or, in our case today, we've switched from being in the highest population density part of all of Europe (ie England) to now being in the least dense part of the least dense (ie the upper highlands of Scotland).  There are approximately 100 times fewer people per square mile where we'll be traveling today than was the case last week in England.

Long stretches of empty scenery will be the order of the day, and even cars will be far and few between.  This truly now is an expedition, and all the more interesting for being so.

We'll make a stop in Lairg for a 'mid morning snack' - this might have to do double duty as an early lunch, because it isn't clear where else we could count on easy access to lunch until we get to Thurso.

On our way to Thurso we pass through a town that is interesting for what it was than what it is - Strathy.  Unlike the clearances all around it, Strathy's population increased during that tragic time, because people moved there from wherever they had been dispossessed.

We also pass by Dounreay, an interesting site that alas we can't see much of directly.  Why not?  Because it is a double nuclear reactor/research facility, both to develop propulsion plants for submarines and for commercial power generation.

Dounreay has been at the forefront of British nuclear power research for 60 years, but is now in the process of being largely decommissioned.  It is believed decommissioning will be completed by 2336 (this is not a typo).

We'll see how we're going for time when we get to Thurso.  There are three things we'd like to see/do before heading to the Orkneys early afternoon tomorrow, and depending on time and weather, we'll decide which we do this afternoon and which we do tomorrow.

One of the three things is of course to go to John O'Groats.  It is only eight days since we were at Land's End, and now here we are, at the diagonally opposite corner of the country.

A bit like Land's End, there's not a lot to see at John O'Groats.  A gift shop, the famous sign, and a few related shops.  But the achievement of having completed the journey - that's what it is all about.

We spend this evening in Thurso, and will celebrate our achievement with a toast to travel in the hotel bar this evening.

Included Meals: Breakfast

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Day 13 (Friday 22 June) :  Perhaps the Castle of Mey, then the Orkney Islands

The lighthouse at Dunnet Head, with the Orkneys clearly visible on the horizon.
The lovely Castle of Mey has been well cared for, and still regularly hosts members of the Royal Family.
Today's ferry is actually a catamaran.

Depending on what we did yesterday, there are two other 'should see' things in the area that we'll do either yesterday or this morning.

We will visit the true northern-most point in mainland Britain - Dunnet Head, where there's a Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Sanctuary.

The other thing that is well worth seeing is the Castle of Mey - the former favorite home of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother.  She bought it in 1952, saving it from abandonment, and it is now the northernmost inhabited castle in Britain.

We take an early afternoon ferry over to Stromness in the Orkney Islands.

Our ferry today takes 90 minutes to get us to the Orkneys; we take a different ferry and route for a 60 minute journey back on Sunday.

The ferries are large and stable, and will take our coach too.

Once we reach Stromness we travel a short 25 minute journey to the main town of Kirkwall.

To celebrate reaching the absolute northern-most point in our journey, why not visit a distillery!  We go to one of the best distilleries in Scotland, Highland Park.

We spend two nights in Kirkwall.

Included Meals: Breakfast

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Day 14 (Saturday 23 June) :  Touring around the Orkneys

A Churchill barrier between two of the small islands in the Orkney group, with a wrecked block ship visible on the right.
The neolithic village of Skara Brae.
Scapa Flow in 1939.  Iron Duke, minus a couple of turrets in the foreground, two R class battleships behind her.  No trace of such leviathans remain today.

There's such a lot to see in the Orkneys that we've decided to invite a local specialist guide to tour with us today, pointing out sights and telling stories that only a local would know.

We will visit several special sites during our day of island touring - well, actually better to say islands touring, because we'll be traveling among several of the different islands that make up the group of islands collectively called the Orkney Islands.

A series of 'Churchill Barriers' erected at Churchill's instigation during World War 2 helped seal off the huge Scapa Flow moorage, and now provide an easy way to island hop.  Wrecks of earlier ships that had been sunk in WW1 to (imperfectly) block the channels can be seen from the barriers.

 The Skara Brae site is well known the world over.  This is an excellently excavated and preserved neolithic village dating to about 3000BC and with about 8 - 10 structures housing perhaps 50 - 100 people, looking out over the North Sea.  It, together with the nearby stones, is a World Heritage site.

We'll see some of the remains of the Scapa Flow naval base, one time home of the greatest and grandest fleet of warships the world has ever seen.

We also will visit the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness, as well as have a chance to explore a bit of Stromness and Kirkwall.  A lovely day, with lots to see and do, and very little time on the coach.

Included Meals: Breakfast

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Day 15 (Sunday 24 June) :  To Elgin via Dunrobin Castle

Kirkwall, with the St Magnus Cathedral overlooking the town.
Dunrobin Castle and its lovely gardens.
Not a falcon (a Eurasian Eagle Owl) and not at Dunrobin (I'm on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh) but still an amazing Scottish experience.

This morning it is time to say farewell to the Orkney Islands - a part of Britain and Scotland that very few international tourists ever get to visit.

We take a different ferry back to the mainland, and then hurry down the coast to Dunrobin Castle.  Why the hurry?  Sure, the glorious castle isn't going anywhere!  But we want to arrive in time for the falconry display in the early afternoon.

After our visit to Dunrobin we skirt around Inverness (we saw Inverness on Wednesday) and continue east along the Moray Firth and then the North Sea to Elgin, a town in the heart of the Speyside region.

This region is famous for having a greater concentration of distilleries in a smaller area than anywhere else in Scotland.  Over half of Scotland's 115 distilleries are in this area.

We spend one night in Elgin.

Included Meals: Breakfast

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Day 16 (Monday 25 June) :  To Aberdeen via the coast

Baxter's is sort of the Scottish equivalent of Campbells Soup in the US.
The oldest bridge in Scotland, dating back to the early 1300s.
Busy downtown Aberdeen.
Aberdeen's Marischal Museum, now repurposed as the City Council offices.

We'll travel around the coast of eastern Scotland today and head south to Aberdeen, Scotland's third city and re-invigorated by the North Sea Oil Fields off the coast.

It is an easy day, we've no schedule to keep up with, and we'll pause from time to time in some of the lovely little fishing villages as we wend our way.  Perhaps a stop in Cullen, the home of Cullen Skink - a strange name for sure, but which describes a lovely Scottish soup made from smoked fish and potatoes.

And having been to the northern most part of Scotland, why not go to the eastern most part, too - Peterhead.

Mid afternoon should see us arriving into Aberdeen, leaving you time to explore the city.  It has a fine maritime museum with a display on North Sea oil rigs, and nearby is the Tolbooth Museum - a former jail and including the actual blade of its 17th century guillotine.

The city is known for its mile long Union Street, lined with classic granite faced buildings that have earned it the description of 'one of the most architecturally distinctive cities in Europe'.

It also has Scotland's oldest bridge, built on the orders of Robert the Bruce, the Brig o'Balgownie.

Tonight is the final night of the formal tour.  How quickly time has passed!  To formally observe the completion of our Grand Expedition, we'll have a dinner together this evening.

Included Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

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Day 17 (Tuesday 26 June) :  To Edinburgh and perhaps on to Glasgow

Dunnottar Castle on a promontory overlooking the ocean.
Traditional Arbroath Smokies.  Yum!
Glamis Castle, as featured on this Royal Bank of Scotland 10 bank note.

Although we had our farewell dinner last night, we still have a full final day of touring today, with some interesting sights on our way to Edinburgh or Glasgow (you can of course leave the tour wherever it suits you).

We travel generally south, but detouring off the main highway from time to time.

If you wish, we could visit the spectacularly located Dunnottar Castle.

A vsit to Arbroath, a town where a formal declaration of Scotland's independence was made in 1320, and a document that was one of the models for the American declaration of independence, some 450 years later, might also be interesting or popular.

Arbroath is also famous for Arbroath Smokies - a particular type of smoked haddock that is considered the best in Britain (and great in Cullen Skink - see yesterday's mention of Cullen).

We've been careful not to overload you with castles (or churches) but if we don't visit Dunnottar, or even if we do, perhaps we visit Glamis Castle, the former home of Macbeth.

Some people consider Glamis to be Scotland's most beautiful castle.

A visit to Dundee, the fourth largest city in Scotland, will give us time for lunch, and then we meander on down to Edinburgh, arriving mid/late afternoon, and over to Glasgow, arriving late afternoon/early evening.

Included Meals: Breakfast

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Optional Extra :  Time in Edinburgh

Wednesday and on

Victoria St in Edinburgh with two level shopping, a bit like in Chester.
London is only 4.5 hours from Edinburgh by high speed train.

We've noticed that everyone we've taken to Edinburgh has been amazed at how much there is to see and do in Scotland's capital city, and we'd urge you to spend a day or two in Edinburgh if you're not already familiar with the city.

If enough people wish it, we might organize some touring in/around Edinburgh, and possibly on down to York.

We also point out that if you fly in and out of London (or most other cities) then you'll end up not only having done our Grand Expedition, but what in essence has become a circumnavigation of the entire country - from London, along the south, up the west, across the north, and then down the east again.

Wow.  Truly an experience of a lifetime, truly a bucket-list activity that you'll remember and treasure.

 

Note - the schedule sometimes changes slightly to fit in with traffic, etc, and so this itinerary may slightly change between now and departure.

Click here to return to the first half of the itinerary.

Click here for the main details of this expedition and the booking form to confirm your interest.

 

 

Originally published 5 July 2017, last update 08 Jul 2017

 
 
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