Callanish Standing Stones, Isle of Lewis
Callanish Standing Stones, Isle of Lewis

Archaeological Tours

Scotland & its Islands: Megaliths and Mythologies

Amid Scotland’s highlands and islands, framed by dramatic settings of blue-hazed mountains, emerald green valleys and rugged shores, some of Europe’s most ancient standing stones, dating from the Neolithic New Stone Age and Bronze Age, continue to broadcast their voiceless message from millennia long past. One Ancient Greek philosopher even claimed they were the work of a race of giants living on the northern edge of the world. Their purpose (religious or ceremonial perhaps?) largely remains a mystery on which archaeologists can only speculate.

Visit Scotland where this tour guides you through the glorious scenery of the Scottish mainland and beyond to the islands of the Hebrides, Orkneys and Shetlands in pursuit of a deeper insight into the origins and purpose of these monumental prehistoric landmarks and their historical context. We’ll encounter stone circles and megalithic tombs; remote intricately decorated Pictish stelae; towering brochs; stone-built villages; and wild landscapes of peat-covered moors and swift-flowing burns. Equally intriguing are Iron Age remains whose warrior-like creators might feature in later Celtic mythology.

We’ll also visit excellent museums showcasing artifacts of these ancient cultures and those of the Picts, Romans (brief occupiers of the south) and Vikings, as well as learning about Scotland’s early church and the eventful story of its clans.

What's included?

  •  Expert scholar & tour manager
  •  Accommodation
  •  Local transport & private transfer to/from airport and group hotel
  •  Entries & tips
  •  Flights (excluding airfare from the US)
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary
  •  Four lectures from your expert scholar
  •  A name badge, luggage strap and bag tag
  •  A study guide, reading list, and other useful tour documentation compiled by your expert scholar and your Archaeological Tours team

Please note, this itinerary is subject to change dependent on tide levels and timings.

Led by...

Peter Yeoman

Peter Yeoman Expert Scholar

Peter Yeoman was, until recently, Head of Cultural Heritage at Historic Scotland, with responsibility for the archaeology and the knowledge base for the estate of 345 properties in their care.

Full Price

Today's Price


Deposit: $1,250 Single supplement: $1,360

Tour highlights:

  • Marvel at the impressive site of Skara Brae’s excavated stone-age village where artifacts 5,000 years old have been uncovered
  • Pay an indulgent visit to a great Oban distillery, where we can learn how single malt whisky is produced – and, of course, we can sample a dram or two
  • Sail the ferry to the legendary Isle of Skye, one of the most scenic and romantic of the Hebridean Islands
  • Visit fabled Iona island and its abbey, thought to be the first Christian site in Scotland
  • Take the short boat trip to the Shetlands’ Mousa Island to see the most complete of Scotland’s 500 ancient drystone roundhouses called brochs

Tour details

Dates May 14 2020 - May 30 2020
Duration 17 days
Full Price
Today's Price
Deposit: $1,250 Single supplement: $1,360 Balance due by February 20 2020
Activity Level
Tour code A20SCO

Book Now or call 866-740-5130 if you have any questions

May 14 2020: Itinerary

We arrive at Stornoway and transfer to our hotel. We take the rest of the day to relax, before an introductory talk and group dinner.

Meals include: Dinner

Hotel: Cabarfeidh Hotel, Stornoway

A quaint harbor town with its own island flavor and an epicenter of Gaelic culture, Stornoway is the capital of Lewis and Harris. Highlights include the Callanish Standing Stones, dating from the Late Stone Age and Early Bronze Age, with the later addition of a central cairn. Also on our list is the Iron Age Dun Carloway Broch, constructed about 2,000 years ago and among Britain’s best preserved brochs (sturdy circular stone structures, built as homes and defensive forts). Later, we learn more about Hebridean heritage at the Museum nan Eilean at Stornoway’s Lews Castle.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Cabarfeidh Hotel, Stornoway

Today we drive 40 miles south to Tarbert on the Isle of Harris, no boat is required as both Lewis and Harris are on the same landmass. We continue another 20 miles to the richly carved tombs at Rodel’s early-16th century St. Clement’s Church before returning to Tarbert for a ferry crossing to Uig on the Isle of Skye, where we stay tonight.

All meals included

Hotel: Hotel Eilean Iarmain, Isleornsay

At 50 miles long, Skye is the largest island of the Inner Hebrides, its name (Old Norse for “Cloud Island”) perhaps a Viking comment on the Cuillin Hills’ frequent mists. A drive across the island takes us over the Skye Bridge to the mainland at Kyle of Localsh, where we skirt Lochs Aish and Duich to reach the valley of Gleann Beag, setting of the well-preserved remains of twin Iron Age brochs Dun Telve and Dun Troddan. We continue south to Oban and we visit the Oban Distillery, producing whisky since 1794. Here, we learn how their single malt is made and get to savor a warming “wee dram”.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Oban Bay Hotel, Oban

We take the ferry (45 minutes) to Craignure on the Island of Mull, where an hour’s drive brings us to Fionnphort and the short crossing to the historically-important island of Iona. Though just 1.5 miles wide by 3 miles long, Iona is a name famous the world over as the place where in 563 CE, after tribal feuds caused his exile from Ireland, St. Columba established a monastic Benedictine community. There’s ample time to admire the restored medieval abbey, the picturesque ruins of the 13th century nunnery - and to enjoy the peaceful mood of this island haven.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Oban Bay Hotel, Oban

We leave early on the 110-mile drive through the northern edge of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park to Scotland’s Central Lowlands. Here in the Bathgate Hills, the broad summit of Cairnpapple Hill was used and re-used as an important ceremonial and burial site for some 4,000 years from the Late Neolithic period. After, we visit the sites of two forts along the Roman Antonine Wall – Rough Castle and Kinneil. We then continue on to Edinburgh.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: The Principal, Edinburgh

Though not among Europe’s largest cities, Edinburgh is certainly one of its most elegant and beguiling. After a morning orientation talk we begin our tour at Edinburgh Castle, before a walk down the famous Royal Mile past splendidly restored historic buildings, among them medieval John Knox House, great St. Giles’ Cathedral and Holyrood Palace and Abbey. We continue to the National Museum of Scotland to see its excellent archaeological collection interpreting ancient Scottish life and culture. Leisure time follows.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: The Principal, Edinburgh

We leave for Aberdeen, entering the ancient realm of the Pictish kingdoms that occupied eastern and northern Scotland from the late Iron Age to the Early Middle Ages – a land of hill forts and stone circles. Our first stop is near Perth at Dunning’s early 13th century St Serf’s Church, site of the Dupplin Cross, a rare carved 9th century monumental stone found at Forteviot, a Pictish royal site and prehistoric ritual center. On our way to Aberlemno, we see four Pictish stones before traveling on to Meigle, legendary burial place of King Arthur’s faithless Guinevere, to see the Stone Museum’s collection of early Christian monuments. Our last stop is Dunnottar Castle, a ruined medieval fortress perched atop rugged sea cliffs.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Hilton Garden Inn, Aberdeen

Today, we see the Pictish standing stone near Inverurie known as the Maiden Stone and believed to date from the 9th century. At Rhynie, we see the carved Craw Stane (“Crow Stone”) and three other Pictish symbol stones. We then visit a Pictish fort and well at the coastal town of Burghead, continuing to the nearby Sueno’s Stone, Scotland’s largest surviving Pictish stone of its type, and notable for its strange symbols. The day’s final visit is to Clava Cairns, three Bronze Age burial chambers around 4,000 years old.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness

On our drive to the northernmost shores of mainland Scotland, we visit prehistoric sites that include a series of Pictish cross slabs at Hilton and Shandwick, and the Tarbat Discovery Center, whose award-winning archaeology program explains some Pict enigmas. After lunch, we continue to The Hill o’Many Stanes and the Neolithic Grey Cairns of Camster. On arrival at Scrabster, a ferry brings us to the Orkney Islands at Stromness, a short drive from Kirkwall.

All meals included

Hotel: Ayre Hotel & Ayre Apartments, Kirkwall

The main settlement of Scotland’s 70 Orkney islands and one of the earliest Norse trading centers, Kirkwall has an island character meriting exploration during our stay. An early start takes us to the Iron Age settlement of Broch of Gurness, beside Eynhallow Sound, overlooking little Rousay island – to which we then cross by ferry to see Midhowe, a waterside Iron Age broch and cairn on the Westness Heritage Walk, Scotland’s most important archaeological mile. Here we have a picnic at the beach, before returning to Kirkwall.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Ayre Hotel & Ayre Apartments, Kirkwall

After a visit to the Italian Chapel, built by Italian prisoners-of-war during WWII, we drive to nearby Maeshowe - perhaps the most awesome Stone Age chambered burial cairn in Britain, built 5,000 years ago. We visit Kirkwall’s Orkney Museum and free time follows.

Meals include: Breakfast

Hotel: Ayre Hotel & Ayre Apartments, Kirkwall

Our morning is devoted to the Stone Age settlement of Skara Brae, where excavations revealed 5,000-years-old stone furnishings, tools and implements. After lunch we visit the Ring of Brodgar and the Stenness Standing Stones, among Britain’s oldest stone circles. We also stop at the Barnhouse Neolithic settlement and the lonely tidal island of Brough of Birsay, whose Pictish and Norse remains offer insights into early-12th century Orkney life. In the evening, we board our overnight ferry to the Shetland Islands.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Northlink Sea Ferry

After breakfast on board we disembark at Lerwick, to visit Old Scatness, an Early Iron Age broch and village with Viking and Pictish artefacts. At Jarlshof Prehistoric and Norse Settlement, we explore a site spanning over 4,000 years of human history - with archaeological treasures that include late-Neolithic houses, a Bronze Age village, an Iron Age broch and a Norse longhouse. Our day ends with a short boat trip to uninhabited Mousa, haunting island home of Scotland’s most impressive and best-preserved Iron Age broch.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Shetland Hotel, Lerwick

Visit the reconstructed Clickimin Broch and (weather permitting) the prehistoric site of Stanydale, an intriguing “Neolithic temple” or meeting hall standing amid evidence of prehistoric stone houses. After touring the Shetland Museum, we have time to explore bustling Lerwick, home to a third of the islands’ population.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Shetland Hotel, Lerwick

This morning we fly to Glasgow (75 minutes), where time for independent sightseeing awaits before our farewell dinner.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: The Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow

We transfer to the Airport for our flights home or onward travel.

Meals include: Breakfast

May 14 2020: Additional Info

May 14 2020: Accommodation

This property is 9 minutes walk from the beach. Set within in its own attractive gardens, this modern 4-star hotel is ideally located on the outskirts of Stornoway, just across the road from the golf course leading onto historic Lews Castle grounds.

Rightly known as 'Stornoway's finest hotel', the Cabarfeidh (pronounced cab-ar-fay) provides a relaxing base for both business and leisure travellers. It is also bookable for functions or meals in the Solas Restaurant.

There’s a diverse range of shops, serving local and tourist needs. Visitor attractions include an excellent museum of local history, the Lewis Loom Centre where you can learn about the history of Harris Tweed and the delightful grounds of Lews Castle.

This property is 1 minute walk from the beach. In a picturesque bay in the south of Skye, this hotel has beautiful views over the Sound of Sleat and the distant hills of Knoydart. It offers a 2 AA Rosette-awarded restaurant, and is next to the headquarters of the award-winning Gaelic Whisky company.

With log fires in its reception rooms and a wood-panelled dining room where you can enjoy candlelit dinners, Hotel Eilean Iarmain retains many traditional features. Its hallway is decorated with stag antlers and a stuffed golden eagle.

Rooms have wooden furnishings, and some have open fireplaces. Each also features facilities for making tea and coffee, and has scenic views from the windows. Suites also feature a TV and free Wi-Fi is available in the bar and lounge.

The restaurant offers à la carte dining, with a menu including local seafood and game. There is also a well-stocked bar with a choice of fine wines and real ales.

Set on the edge of Oban’s picturesque Esplanade in the heart of Argyll, Oban Bay Hotel is the ideal base from which to explore Scotland’s West Coast.

Boasting an enviable location in the Edinburgh city center, the historic and chic The Principal Edinburgh George Street, formerly The George Hotel, is close to Edinburgh CastlePrinces Street Gardens and Holyrood Palace. It has elegant rooms, conference and meeting rooms and a gym. Free high-speed WiFi is available throughout the hotel.

This Grade II listed building with its distinctive facade was built in 1775 and has undergone a great refurbishment project transforming the majority of the bedrooms and public areas. The architecturally-designed interior has created a sense of restored grandeur with simple detailing and the use of natural materials.

Each room features a flat-screen TV, free WiFi, and an en suite bathroom.

The Printing Press Bar & Kitchen serves seasonal Scottish produce throughout the day and night. It is open 7 days a week offering breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a late-night bar until 01:00. Coffee, cakes, pastries, sandwiches and salads are available at Burr & Co, open 7 days a week. A full room service menu is also available.

This property is 20 minutes walk from the beach. With an enviable location in Aberdeen center, The Hilton Garden Inn offers spacious rooms with free WiFi, only 5 minutes drive from Aberdeen Beach. The hotel's Native Restaurant specializes in Scottish cuisine with locally sourced produce, and guests can enjoy cocktails in the Native lounge.

The rooms feature modern en-suite bathrooms with free toiletries and walk-in rain showers. Rooms also offer tea and coffee facilities and 32-inch TVs with on-demand movies.

The on-site Precor Fitness Centre features a fully equipped modern gym. There is also a business centre and 24-hour front desk service.

The Pavilion Pantry offers a range of snacks, and room service is also available.

Set in 4 acres of beautiful gardens, the Kingsmill Hotel, Inverness has a spa, a swimming pool and free parking. Inverness city center is just one mile away.

Guests have full use of the leisure club, with a sauna, steam room, spa bath and gym. There is also a hair salon.

Many of the spacious rooms at Kingsmills Hotel have garden views. Features include satellite TV and tea and coffee-making facilities. Some rooms also have patios, or private access to the hotel gardens.

Inglis Restaurant offers excellent cuisine, with a menu of fresh, local produce. Guests at Hotel Kingsmills can also dine in the garden conservatory brasserie, which features an informal menu. 

Set in Kirkwall, Orkney, family-run Ayre Hotel & Ayre Apartments overlooks Kirkwall harbour. It offers local produce in its restaurant and traditionally styled rooms, with free Wi-Fi. Free private parking is available on site.

Rooms are each equipped with a flat-screen TV, telephone and free tea and coffee. Sea view rooms are available, whilst all have a private bathroom with a hairdryer. Ironing facilities are available on request.

Cooked breakfasts are on offer in the Ayre Hotel & Ayre Apartments’ restaurant, which also provides lunch, bar and evening menus. Local ingredients are used, including Orkney Lamb, steaks and freshly caught fish.

 All accommodation on board NorthLink Ferries ships have been built with your comfort in mind. Cabins are modern, clean and fully equipped with en-suite washbasin, toilet and shower facilities. All cabins are now equipped with an individual temperature control and tea & coffee-making facilities.

The average size of a hotel room in the UK is approximately 15 square meters, at the Shetland hotel even our smallest rooms are double that size. We are situated directly across from the ferry terminal.

The Waterfront Bar & Grill, on the second floor, serves delicious lunches and evening meals and is also a perfect retreat for those just wishing to have a drink and soak up the atmosphere.

Further Bar facilities can be found in Beltramis Sports Bar on the ground floor of the hotel. This buzzing bar, with its own entrance has free high speed Wi-Fi for customers, BT and Sky sports shown on 4 large flat screen TVs and a tempting bar menu. Hotel residents can charge purchases to their hotel room account and request matches that are shown overnight to be recorded.

We are also a natural choice for the business guest who can take advantage of our central location and conference rooms and office suites.

The Shetland hotel provides free car parking, wifi throughout the hotel, a 24 hour reception desk, a restaurant with a trip advisor award of excellence, a sports bar, and has well trained and professional staff who will ensure that your stay is a pleasurable one.

Located at Glasgow Central Station, the award-winning Grand Central Hotel is an iconic hotel set within Glasgow’s shopping district. It boasts a fine restaurant, free WiFi and 21 meeting rooms for up to 500 guests. The historic building dates back to 1883. The hotel has original features including the grand staircase and the magnificent Champagne Central Bar with its domed ceiling and marble floor.

The stylish bedrooms all feature a flat-screen TV, a laptop safe and an iron. Guests can enjoy a discount on breakfast rates when selected at the time of booking.

The elegant Tempus Restaurant & Bar serves both traditional and local specialities, made from seasonal local produce as well as a varied cocktail menu. Deli Central offers fresh, light snacks in a relaxed environment.

This historic hotel has hosted stars including Frank Sinatra and Charlie Chaplin, and even features in the James Bond book, Licence Renewed. In 1927 John Logie Baird broadcast the first-ever long-distance TV pictures from a 4th-floor bedroom.

May 14 2020: Enquiries

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