The Far North and Orkney

Thursday 13th August to Friday 21st August 2020
9 - Days


Prices from: £1595


The rugged landscapes of the Scottish Highlands and Islands take centre-stage on this popular tour to one of the most extraordinary places in Northern Europe.


Departure Date: 13-Aug-2020
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  • Explore both of Northeast Scotland’s steam traction heritage railways, the Royal Deeside Railway west of Aberdeen and the Caledonian Railway at Brechin.
  • Experience a midsummer ‘White Night’ when the sun never entirely sets, on a sea ferry trip to the enchanting island of Orkney.
  • Explore Orkney’s pristine beaches, stunning coastline and mystical rock formations during your 3-day visit, including a distillery visit and a trip to the ‘Heart of Neolithic Orkney’ World Heritage Site.
  • Journey back to the mainland over the most northerly railway in the UK, taking in lunch at John O’ Groats before travelling on the spectacular Far North Line via Thurso to Inverness.
  • Cap your memorable holiday with a trip on the nostalgic heritage Strathspey Steam Railway and a visit to the formidable artillery fortification at Fort George.

Thursday 13th August
London to Aberdeen
Your adventure begins in the First-Class lounge at London Kings Cross, for a mid-morning departure from London to Aberdeen. Travelling along the East Coast Main Line aboard the HST 125 train, you’ll enjoy complimentary drinks and a light lunch as you travel north via York, Newcastle and Edinburgh, crossing the stunning Firth of Forth and Tay Bridges. You arrive in Aberdeen late afternoon and check into your city centre hotel. The rest of the evening is spent at leisure. (L)

Friday 14th August
Steam at the Royal Deeside Railway and Crathes Castle
You’ll visit both of Northeast Scotland’s steam traction heritage railways during the next two days, starting with the Royal Deeside Railway. This delightful standard gauge railway features a two-mile round trip through rural scenery and gentle rolling hills, running close to its namesake river. There’ll be photo opportunities en route and a ‘false arrival’ staged at the station. Afterwards, lunch is taken at the Milton Crathes Brasserie followed by a visit to Crathes Castle, replete with turreted towers and walled gardens. There’ll be plenty of time to explore this stylish estate before your road coach takes you back to Aberdeen. (B L)

Saturday 15th August
Steam at the Caledonian Railway and Ferry Crossing to Orkney
After breakfast your coach transfers you to Brechin, home of the Caledonian Railway. A privately chartered steam train takes you on the eight-mile round trip from Brechin to Bridge of Dun and back. Light snacks and refreshments are provided, afterwards there’s time to visit Brechin’s historic Cathedral and Round Tower. You then return to Aberdeen and board the modern ferry for a six-hour evening crossing to Kirkwall. The ferry sails within sight of the north-eastern coast of Scotland before entering the open North Sea. Dinner is served on board. You reach Kirkwall at 11pm, as the sun is setting, an experience common to the far north during summer solstice. You disembark and transfer to your centrally located hotel. (B L D)

Sunday 16th August
At leisure in Kirkwall and a visit to the Highland Park Distillery
You are free to relax and explore the quaint town of Kirkwall at your own pace. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by its vibrant artisan scene, diverse galleries and craft shops. Orkney’s capital boasts many historical buildings, such as the 12th century St. Magnus Cathedral, the most northern cathedral in the British Isles. In the afternoon you visit the Highland Park whisky distillery, where world-famous Scotch has been produced since 1798. Dinner is served at your hotel. (B D)

Monday 17th August
Exploration of Neolithic Orkney
You embark this morning on an exciting exploration of mainland Orkney by coach. Among the highlights are the wonderful and fascinating landmarks that form the ‘Heart of Neolithic Orkney’ World Heritage Site to the west of Kirkwall. You’ll have plenty of time to discover the tremendous natural beauty and cultural legacy at Maes Howe, Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar and the Standing Stones of Stenness. You’ll visit the delightful fishing port of Stromness, where you can explore and purchase lunch. In the afternoon, following your visit to Skara Brae, you’ll see the breathtaking sea cliffs at Yesnaby before returning to Kirkwall. (B)

Tuesday 18th August
Orkney Beaches, Italian Chapel, Broch of Gurness and Brough of Birsay
Today you’ll discover the pristine beaches of the southern, eastern and northern Orkney shores and the so-called ‘Churchill Barrier’ causeway roads, built for defensive purposes during World War II. En route you’ll visit the iconic Italian chapel, one of the most loved cultural attractions on Orkney. In South Ronaldsay you venture south to the fishing town of Burwick, with fine views across the Pentland Firth to John O’ Groats. After lunch back in Kirkwall it’s time to explore the outstanding archaeological site at Broch of Gurness, just across the water from the sparsely populated Orkney island of Rousay. You end the day by experiencing the natural beauty of the Brough of Birsay, on the northern tip of mainland Orkney. At low tide you can even walk over to the uninhabited island of Birsay. After your exciting day out, reconvene back at the hotel for dinner. (B D)

Wednesday 19th August
Ferry Crossing over the Pentland Firth, Train Journey to Inverness
This morning you return to the Scottish mainland. Your coach takes you from Kirkwall to Stromness for the ferry crossing over the famed Pentland Firth, past the Old Man of Hoy and St. John’s Head to Scrabster, near Thurso. From Scrabster you continue by coach to the iconic village of John O’ Groats, the most north eastern village on the British mainland, where you can buy lunch. Afterwards you continue to Wick and board a ScotRail service train on the stunning Far North Line for the spectacular railway journey via Thurso to Inverness. Initially the tracks cross over moorland, passing through isolated mountain landscapes, before hugging the coast again and running within sight of seals basking on the rocky shores. Numerous firths are navigated before the train eventually reaches Inverness, hub of the Scottish Highlands. You’ll spend two nights at the Best Western Hotel and Spa in the heart of the city, with ample time to explore in the evening. (B)

Thursday 20th August
Strathspey Steam Railway and Fort George
Today you travel by coach to nearby Aviemore before joining a steam train on the Strathspey Railway. This heritage line shares the main line railway station at Aviemore and runs to Boat of Garten and Broomhill (‘Glenbogle’ in the BBC series Monarch of the Glen). The return trip provides wonderful views of the Cairngorm Mountains. You re-join the coach to travel from Aviemore into the heart of the nearby Cairngorms National Park, where you stop for a short stroll along the banks of Loch Morlich. You return back to the hotel, where lunch will be served, before enjoying an afternoon visit to Fort George. Following the 1746 defeat at Culloden of Bonnie Prince Charlie, George II created the ultimate defence against further Jacobite unrest. The result, Fort George, is the mightiest artillery fortification in Britain, if not Europe. Afterwards, you enjoy a Farewell meal at the hotel. (B L D)

Friday 21st August
Return to London on the Highland Chieftain
After an early breakfast you transfer to Inverness Railway Station to join the ‘Highland Chieftain’ express train for your return journey. Relax in your comfortable First-Class seats as you travel through the scenic Highlands. The train climbs to Drumochter summit, the highest in the UK, and then follows the valley of the River Tay to Perth. You continue to Edinburgh where you join the ECML onwards to Newcastle, York and London King’s Cross. A light lunch will be served on the journey south. (B L)


Details

Price

  • Tour price £1595
  • Single supplement £295

All prices shown are per person based on two persons sharing.

Price Includes

  • 8 nights accommodation with breakfast at hotels
  • 5 lunches and 4 dinners
  • All specially chartered steam trains as detailed in the itinerary
  • All rail, bus and boat journeys as detailed in the itinerary
  • All visits as detailed in the itinerary
  • Rail travel from London to Aberdeen and from Inverness to London
  • All seat reservations and transfers
  • The services of a tour manager

Meals included each day are shown as:
B = Breakfast - L = Lunch - D = Dinner

 

Map feature coming soon!