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From expert-led city tours to cruises to some of the most remote Scottish isles, here are some of the best Scottish tours and cruises to make the most of your next trip
Scotland is a country of vast contrasts, from the soft green hills and rumbling rivers of the Lowlands to the jagged peaks and snake-like passes of the Highlands. You can mingle with the masses on a culturally-packed visit to Edinburgh, marvel at the panoramic views from the Isle of Skye’s most westerly tip, Neist Point Lighthouse, or experience the tranquillity of an empty mile-long beach in the Outer Hebrides. And whether you want to learn about local flora and fauna or visit traditional communities to see centuries-old crafts in action, there is no better way to ensure you get the most of your visit than by booking a tour or cruise with those who know the place best. Read on for some of our favourite Scottish tours and cruises booking now.
Scottish tours and cruises
The Grand Tour
For the ultimate British Isles cruise, step aboard the Regal Princess, which in 2023 will depart on 12-night cruises from Southampton, taking in several Scottish locations as well as other ports. On the British Isles with Portland cruise, guests will visit Greenock (for Glasgow), Invergordon (for the Culloden Battlefield and Loch Ness), and Edinburgh. On departures on 31 July and 12 August, guests can also experience the Edinburgh Military Tattoo from Greenock. In 2024, the British Isles cruise will include stops in Cork and Dublin. Princess Cruises also offers a 14-night Scottish Highlands and Wales cruise aboard its more intimate ship, Island Princess, which stops in both the Shetland and the Orkney Islands (25 August-8 September 2023).
Prices: British Isles with Portland cruise from £899pp/£1,499pp all inclusive; British Isles cruise from £1,599pp/£2,199pp all inclusive; Scottish Highlands and Wales cruise from £1,599pp/£2,199pp all inclusive Contact: princess.com; 0344 338 8663
The William Wallace Tour
Few names in Scottish history evoke such a strong sense of patriotism than that of William Wallace. On these tours, which follow in the footsteps of the hero of the Scottish Wars of Independence, who has become known to many as ‘Braveheart’, guests will visit the site of the Battle of Falkirk; the National Wallace Monument in Stirling (pictured below), which is located close to the site of his most famous victory over the English, the Battle of Stirling Bridge; and Dumbarton Castle, where he was imprisoned before his trial and execution.
Braveheart Tours also offers several other themed tours, including the Ultimate Scottish Royal Tour in and around Edinburgh, and the Executive Scottish Golf Tour, which takes in St Andrews, among other golf locations.
Prices: Day tours from £110pp 31 March-30 September, and £70pp 1 October-30 March Contact: bravehearttours.com; 07802477830
Small ship cruising
HEBRIDEAN ISLAND CRUISES
These small-ship cruises take place aboard the Hebridean Princess, a ship so traditionally Scottish and grand that Queen Elizabeth II chartered it twice for private celebrations. The ship takes a maximum of 48 passengers and it’s thanks to its small size that these cruises are able to offer an unobtrusive way of visiting some of Scotland’s quieter islands, such as the Orkney and Shetland Islands, which can be explored on a nine-night History & Heritage of the Northern Isles cruise, while the four-night Outer Isles and Small Isles cruise is a great introduction to some of the lesser-known islands off Scotland’s west coast, including the beautiful isles of Barra (pictured above) and Canna, and the little known and uninhabited Bishop’s Isles. The company also runs cruises aboard its smaller sister ship, The Lord of the Highlands, which takes just 38 passengers.
Prices: The History & Heritage of the Northern Isles cruise from £7,310pp; Outer Isles and Small Isles cruise from £3,390pp Contact: hebridean.co.uk; 01756 704 704
The Harris Tweed tour
If ever a fabric was synonymous with the Scottish isles, it is Harris Tweed – a material so iconic it has its own stamp of approval: the ‘Orb’. On these tours, run by local people, who really know the dual islands of Harris and Lewis and want to share the best bits about their home with visitors, you will go inside a working mill, see a working loom in a weaver’s shed, and of course visit the official Harris Tweed shop. In between, you’ll hear about life on the isles and get a real sense of place and enjoy an authentic Hebridean adventure.
Prices: Please get in touch with the HEB360° team for prices. Contact: heb360.co.uk/the-harris-tweed-tour; 07799571563, 07885250860
Taking place aboard a former Admiralty fishing vessel, these private cruises allow you to be captain of your own itinerary with a fully bespoke offering. Run by couple Mary and Scott, there is room on board for up to four guests in a cosy double and two single cabins, making it perfect for family cruises, couples, or groups of friends. Prior to your trip, Mary and Scott will discuss with you what you want to get out of your cruise, be it wildlife watching, whisky distilleries, local culture, or reaching remote anchorages.
In spring, cruises depart from Argyll, and cruise around the Mull and Oban areas, while as summer approaches, cruises set off from near Skye and offer unique perspectives of the Misty Isle and its surrounds, including the Small Isles, and Knoydart. Fully booked for 2023, now’s the time to book for 2024.
Prices: Four-night cruises from £7,360 for four people Contact: redmooncruises.co.uk; 07768 101667
Cruise the Great Glen
Not all cruises in Scotland are coastal, on these slow cruises that take place aboard one of two charming canal barges that each sleeps 12, guests can traverse all or some of the Great Glen, via the Caledonian Canal, which provides a waterway between Inverness in the north and Fort William, where it spills out into Loch Linnhe.
Offering plenty of chances to disembark and walk, cycle or paddle along the glen, and with generous homecooked meals provided on board, private cabins and en suites, and communal living spaces, it’s a great way to mingle with other travellers as you enjoy Highland scenery and visit that most legendary of Scottish lochs: Loch Ness.
Prices: Three-night Discover Loch Ness cruise from £725
Contact: caledonian-discovery.co.uk; 01397 772167
For more cruises and tours in Scotland see our latest issue 128, on sale from Friday 14 April. Get your copy here.
Published six times a year, every issue of Scotland showcases its stunning landscapes and natural beauty, and delves deep into Scottish history. From mysterious clans and famous Scots (both past and present), to the hidden histories of the country’s greatest castles and houses, Scotland‘s pages brim with the soul and secrets of the country.
Scotland magazine captures the spirit of this wild and wonderful nation, explores its history and heritage and recommends great places to visit, so you feel at home here, wherever you are in the world.