Detailed Itinerary

 

Every effort will be taken to keep as closely to the following itinerary as possible, but with all travel, it is sometimes necessary to change plans (bad weather, attractions closing early, traffic, etc.).  We will issue an updated itinerary that includes exact times a few weeks prior to our departure.  For now, this itinerary can give you a general idea of what you'll experience on the trip and if it would be something you'd enjoy.  For info on how to book or general info about the trip, visit our general info page.  

A quick note about the itinerary and the schedule:  This trip is designed to be as structured or as non-structured as you like.  You're welcome to do your own thing each day or join the group.  The only days you'd "have" to join the group would be the days we'd move from one hotel to another (days #6 and #9).  Our recommendation would be to do a mix of the group activities and your own stuff so you can get exactly what you want out of your trip.  

Our trip dates are Thursday, October 4 - Saturday, October 13, 2018.  We will meet in Mason City on the afternoon of October 4 and take a chartered bus up to the Minneapolis airport and our flight will leave early evening.  We will arrive in Edinburgh via Amsterdam around noon on Friday, October 5.  Because of how the flight schedule and time zones work out, we will both fly out of Edinburgh and arrive home on Saturday, October 13.

 

Day 1 -  Edinburgh  -   Welcome! 

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Our tour guide will meet us at the airport when we arrive (likely around noon) and take us to the hotel.  We'll have a few hours to rest before an introductory walking tour of Edinburgh to learn about where we'll be spending the next few days. 

 

Day 2  -  Edinburgh

Breakfast:  At the hotel on your own or a café (there a lot of great ones near our hotel).  (Breakfast is not included in the package at our Edinburgh hotel but it is everywhere else.)

Morning activity:  Edinburgh Castle

This massive castle has played a pivotal role through much of Scottish history, and is one of Scotland's most famous and atmospheric tourist attractions  -  a perfect start to our trip!

Lunch:  Pub lunch on your own and then free time (good idea because it's our first big day and jeg lag is a real thing) until…

Afternoon activity:  Scottish Beer Tour at 5 PM

Join us on a walking tour of Edinburgh's historic brewing area in the Old Town before visiting 3 of Edinburgh's best beer spots for tutored tastings of 5 of Scotland's finest beers.  Our tour/tasting will run about 2 hours.  After which we suggest…

Dinner:  Dinner on your own in Edinburgh's old town

 

Day 3   -  Scottish Borders Road Trip

Breakfast:  On your own

Belhaven Brewery

Belhaven Brewery

Morning activity:  Melrose Abbey

Melrose Abbey is a partly ruined Cistercian monastery dating back to 1136.  It is one of the most famous historic abbeys in the world and is of great historic and architectural importance. 

Lunch:  Locally sourced gastro pub lunch and beers at Born in the Borders Brewery.

Afternoon activity:  Belhaven Brewery in the coastal village of Dunbar has been making beers for almost 300 years and is currently the oldest consistently operating brewery in Scotland.  We'll have a private tour and then have sample some beers in the brewery bar, the Monk's Retreat, before heading back to the city.

Dinner:  Dinner on your own in Edinburgh's old town.  After-dinner suggestions include live music at a bar like the Jazz Bar or pub trivia (many options).

Eden Mill Distillery/Brewery

Eden Mill Distillery/Brewery

 

Day 4   -  St. Andrews Road Trip

Breakfast:  On your own

Morning activity:  Scotland’s Secret Bunker

A top secret nuclear bunker located in a labyrinth 150ft below ground behind an unassuming farmhouse has re-opened its blast-proof doors to the public after undergoing a major refurbishment.  The underground Cold War command center, which is the size of two full-size football fields on top of each other, was built in 1951 as a secret seat of government should Britain ever come under nuclear attack.  It was opened to the public in 1994 after being decommissioned in the late 1980s following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Lunch:  Lunch on your own in St. Andrews' Old Town. 

Afternoon activity:  Eden Mill Distillery/Brewery Tour OR free time in St. Andrews (golf museum, cathedral, castle on the beach, etc.)  St. Andrews is a famous university town with lots of stuff to see and do.

Dinner:  Dinner suggestion would be a Victorian-era pub in the Princes street area near the hotel.  After-dinner suggestions include a Haunted Edinburgh Tour (must pre-book on your own).

Leith waterfront

Leith waterfront

 

Day 5   -  Edinburgh free day

Activity suggestions…

Within walking distance of hotel are:

Holyrood Palace (and then optional hike to Arthur's Seat, famous look-out on a big hill), the National Museum (Dolly the sheep!) and Galleries (free of charge), shopping on Princes Street, Harry Potter and J. K. Rowling locations of interest, the Writers Museum, Leith waterfront, Scottish Whiskey Experience, Mary King's Close tour, botanical gardens, old churches/cemeteries, etc.

Slightly farther afield but still VERY easy to get to on public transport or taxi are:

The Royal Yacht Britannia, Rosslyn Chapel (of Templar and DaVinci Code fame) which is near Rosslyn Castle and Stewart Brewing, or Linlithgow Palace, Inchcolm Abbey, golf courses, etc.

Feeling more ambitious?  Three suggestions for you:

1.  Edinburgh is very centrally located and train/bus connections are fantastic to the rest of Scotland and northern England.  If you have somewhere in the area that you really want to visit, it would very possible to go there and back in one big day.  You can either do this yourself by just showing up at the bus/train station close to when you want to leave and buying a ticket (book ahead to save money).  Suggestions for on-your-own day-trips would be Glasgow (1 hour on train), Stirling (1 hour on train), or Perth and Scone Palace (1 hour 15 minutes on train).

2.  Book a day-trip ahead of time through a local tour company like Rabbies (or others).  These tour operators often have theme tours that fit perfectly into one day.  Options would include itineraries like an Outlander tour (Culross, Doune Castle, Linlithgow, Blackness Castle), Alnwick Castle & the Northumberland Coast tour, Hadrian's Wall, Whisky-themed tour, etc.

3.  Hike farther afield (weather dependent).  Some famous routes already go through Edinburgh (the John Muir Way, for example) so you can start/end from the hotel door, or take a bus/train to one end and walk back or vice versa. 

 

Glen Coe

Glen Coe

Day 6 -   Edinburgh to Mull Road Trip

We're working our way up into the highlands today so be ready for some spectacular scenery.

Breakfast:  On your own.

Morning activity:   Driving through two gorgeous national parks, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs. 

Lunch:  Pub lunch in one of the national park villages and a stop at Fyne Ales Brewing for a pint.

Tobermory

Tobermory

Afternoon activity:   A stop at magnificent Glen Coe, one of the most famous beauty spots in Scotland and a frequent filming location (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Skyfall, Braveheart, Rob Roy, Highlander, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, etc.), before taking a ferry across Loch Linnie (with its lovely Castle Stalker on a loch island) on the way to Tobermory on the island of Mull.

Dinner/Evening:  On your own in coastal Tobermory, which has been called the prettiest village in Scotland.  An after-dinner suggestion would be Macgochans Pub and the Mishnish Pub  -   both have regular live music and great beer.

 

Day 7 -   Around Mull

Breakfast:  Included, at the hotel

Morning activity:   A visit to the settlement of Dervaig to the north of the island, followed by the beautiful beach at Calgary Bay (shown above).  On/around Mull we expect to see the most wildlife on the trip.  Hopefully this will include seals, puffins, and maybe even whales or dolphins.

Lunch:  Lunch on your own in Tobermory. 

Afternoon activity:   You have the rest of the day free.  Activity suggestions would be a visit the Tobermory Distillery, Mull Museum, Mull Aquarium, shop, or take a hike to Aros Park via a scenic trail hugging the coast (trail starts at Distillery parking lot).  

Dinner/Evening:  On your own in Tobermory.  Pub!

 

Staffa

Staffa

Day 8 -   Islands of Iona and Staffa

Breakfast:  Included, at the hotel

Morning activity:   A visit to tiny Iona, birthplace of Celtic Christianity, its Abbey and Nunnery.  This is the location where the famous Book of Kells was transcribed.

Lunch:  Lunch on your own on Iona.

Afternoon activity:   Boat trip to the dramatic Isle of Staffa and Fingal's Cave, weather permitting.

Dinner/Evening:  On your own in Tobermory.  Pub!

 

Goodies at Black Isle Brewing

Goodies at Black Isle Brewing

Day 9 -   Road trip to Inverness

Breakfast:  Included, at the hotel

Morning activity:   Free time in the morning in the coastal town of Oban.

Lunch:  Lunch on your own in Oban or Fort William.  (Oban is famous for its seafood.)

Afternoon activity:   Tour and tastings at Black Isle Brewing, a remote organic brewery in the highlands.  After our tour, we'll check into the hotel in Inverness.

Dinner/Evening:  On your own in Inverness, the capital of the Highlands, where Black Isle has a second tap room.  Explore the scenic riverfront, close to our hotel.

 

Day 10 -   Highland Fling

Breakfast:  Included, at the hotel

Morning activity:   Time for our monster hunt!  We will get to see famous Loch Ness and explore its visitor center, just a few miles from Inverness.  

Lunch:  Lunch in a history pub on the way to our next adventure, which is…

Inverness

Inverness

Afternoon activity:   Eilean Donan Castle (right) is recognized as one of the most iconic images of Scotland  all over the world. Situated on an island at the point where three great sea lochs meet, and surrounded by some majestic scenery, it is little wonder that the castle is now one of the most visited and important attractions in the Scottish Highlands.

Dinner/Evening:  On your own in Inverness, which has a lively live music scene that you can check out.  After that, get packing!  We leave EARLY tomorrow for the airport. 

 

Day 11 -   Heading home

Breakfast:  Included, at the hotel

Morning activity:  Ever wanted to see a highland sunrise before?  Today's your lucky day!  We'll leave Inverness very early in the morning for our flight, which is out of the Edinburgh airport, probably around noon.  We'll stop for a great good-bye group photo on the way.

Lunch/2nd breakfast:  On your own, at the airport

Flight info:  You'll arrive in the US in the late afternoon of day 11 because of the time change.  A chartered bus will take you directly from the airport back to Mason City.  Expect to arrive early evening.

 

 

Sound awesome!?  Please click here to ask any questions you might have and/or reserve your spot.