Callanish standing stones at sunset
Callanish standing stones at sunset

Scotland & its Islands: Megaliths and Mythologies


17 days From $7,980

September 23 2019

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.

Our wide-ranging tour guides us 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
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary
  •  Local Transport
  •  Entries & Tips

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

Led by...

Peter Yeoman

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.

Book Now $7,980
Includes deposit: $500 Single supplement: $970

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 September 23 2019 - October 09 2019
Duration 17 days
Cost $7,980
Single supplement: $970
Deposit: $500 , balance due by 01 July 2019
Activity Level Moderate
Tour code A19SCO

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

September 23 2019: Itinerary

We arrive in Stornaway, on the Isle of Lewis, and transfer to our first hotel. We take the rest of the day to relax after our flight, before coming together for a welcome dinner as a group.

Meals include: Dinner

Hotel: Caladh Inn, Stornaway

Our stay here gives us an opportunity to explore some of the heather-covered moors and brightly painted villages. However, we have traveled this distance primarily to see the Stones of Callanish, which are among the most important megalithic monuments of the British Isles. The site dates from the Late Stone Age and Early Bronze Age (3000-1500 BC) and has a central cairn, which was a later addition. We will also visit Dun Carloway Broch, the Museum Nan Eilean, and other ancient and historic monuments.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Caladh Inn, Stornaway

Today we take a leisurely drive to the Isle of Harris, unique in its unspoilt atmosphere and an unusual lunar landscape indented with hundreds of tiny lochs. Here, we visit St. Clement’s Church before boarding our ferry from Tarbert to Uig, located on one of the most scenic islands in the Hebrides – the Isle of Skye.

All meals included

Hotel: Hotel Eilean Iarmain, Isleornsay

Our visits today include the brochs of Dun Telve and Dun Troddan. Dun Telve, at 10 meters, and Dun Troddan are two of the best-preserved and informative brochs in Scotland. Built by the Picts 2000 years ago, they demonstrate the defensive nature of these structures. We then travel through a landscape of craggy hills and glacial lochs on a trip considered to be one of the most scenic journeys in Scotland. We cross the Skye Bridge and continue our touring with a visit to the local Oban Distillery. Here we will learn how single malt is made and taste their smoky, peaty whiskey.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: The Royal Hotel, Oban

We begin with a ferry from Oban via the Island of Mull to the historically important Island of Iona, where St. Columba exiled from Ireland, established a monastic community in AD 563. The Columban Church had a key role in the establishment of Christianity in Scotland until Viking raids caused most of the community to move to Kells, in Ireland. We will visit the Early Christian remains and the medieval abbey and nunnery before returning to Oban.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: The Royal Hotel, Oban

An early morning drive brings us to Cairnpapple Hill. Here five phases of occupation can be seen, the earliest of the Late Neolithic period, a large burial cairn from the Bronze Age and lastly, four graves probably of the Early Iron Age. We will then visit two forts along the Roman Antonine Wall: the well-preserved Rough Castle and Kinneil, a fortlet that has been excavated and partially reconstructed. We then continue to Edinburgh for two nights at our centrally located hotel.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: The Principal, Edinburgh

After a morning lecture, our city tour begins with Edinburgh Castle and a walk down the Royal Mile past wonderfully restored 15th- and 17th-century buildings, such as the John Knox House, St. Giles’ Cathedral, and the Holyrood Abbey and Palace, official residence of the Queen when she is in town. These sites are imbued with the spirit of Mary Queen of Scots and brings the history of that period to life. We continues at the National Museum of Scotland, where we will see the fine archaeological collection, illustrating Scottish life and culture. The rest of the day will be at leisure to visit the city’s landmarks.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: The Principal, Edinburgh

Driving north, we enter the center of the Pictish kingdoms, haunted by hill forts and mysterious stone circles. Our first stop is Dunning Church, one of Scotland’s earliest surviving churches, where we see the Dupplin Cross, a 9th century monument dedicated to King Constantine found at Forteviot, a Pictish royal site and prehistoric ritual center. En route to Aberlemno, we see four Pictish stones. At Meigle, burial place of faithless Guinevere, we see a collection of early Christian monuments. Our last stop is Dunnottar Castle, steeped in history including William Wallace and the battle against Cromwell’s army that saved the Scottish Crown Jewels and the honor of Scotland.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Hilton Garden Inn, Aberdeen

We travel through the land of Buchan, stopping to inspect the Maiden Stone en route. At Rhynie, we see the Craw Stane as well as three other Pictish symbol stones. We continue to Inverness, stopping to visit Burghead, a Pictish fort and well with bull carvings, and at Sueno’s Stone, which is covered with mysterious symbols. Our final visit will be at Clava Cairns, built between 2500 and 2000 BC.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness

We drive north along the coast to the ferry at Scrabster, visiting prehistoric sites en route, including the Trabat Discovery Center, a series of Pictish cross slabs at Hilton and Shandwick, The Hill o’Many Stanes – often compared to Brittany’s Carnac – and the Grey Cairns of Camster. An overnight ferry brings us over to the Orkney Islands and its quiet capital, Kirkwall, one of the earliest Norse trading centers.

All meals included

Hotel: Ayre Hotel & Ayre Apartments, Kirkwall

Today begins with a visit to the Iron Age settlement of Broch of Gurness, strikingly positioned beside Eynhallow Sound with views across to the island of Rousay. We then take a ferry to the island to see Midhowe, a fabulous broch and cairn with a coastal walk, known as the Westness Walk, visits several archaeological sites. We will enjoy a picnic at the beach with gray seals providing our entertainment.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Ayre Hotel & Ayre Apartments, Kirkwall

Touring continues today with the Italian Chapel, built by Italian prisonsers of War during WWII. We will also visit Scapa  Flow, Maes Howe — the most outstanding Stone Age burial cairn in Britain — and the Kirkwall museum. We have the after to spend at leisure.

Meals include: Breakfast

Hotel: Ayre Hotel & Ayre Apartments, Kirkwall

Today we visit the Stone Age settlement of Skara Brae, where excavations revealed houses with stone furnishings, tools and implements after 5,000 years of burial. We then continue to the Ring of Brodgar, the Standing Stones of Stennes and Barnhouse. In Brough of Birsay, we see the remains of Pictish and Norse settlements, where Norse longhouses give a picture of early 12th century life on the islands. We will also be treated to special access at the Ness of Brodgar which includes a talk by the site director and TV historian Neil Oliver. 

Overnight, a ferry takes us to the Shetland Islands.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: Northlink Sea Ferry

Upon arrival on the Shetland Islands, we see Old Scatness, an Early Iron Age broch and village built between 400 and 200 BC. Next, we visit Jarlshof and its museum, which has a small collection of finds from the site. Later, a short boat trip brings us to the uninhabited and atmospheric island of Mousa, where we see the most complete of Scotland’s more than 500 brochs.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: The Queens Hotel, Lerwick

Morning visits include Clickimin Broch and the prehistoric sites of Staneydale “Neolithic temple” and nearby standing stones (weather permitting). The Shetland Museum completes our touring.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: The Queens Hotel, Lerwick

Today we fly to Glasgow where we have time at leisure to explore the city on our own. This evening we gather for our farewell dinner.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: The Grand Central Hotel, Glasgow

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

Meals include: Breakfast

September 23 2019: Additional Info

September 23 2019: Accommodation

This property is 6 minutes walk from the beach. Stornoway's largest hotel, Caladh Inn is just half a mile to Stornoway Lewis Ferry Terminal and less than 3 miles from Stornoway Airport. Free Wi-Fi and free private parking are available.

Rooms at the Caladh Inn offer complimentary mix of colour and neutral shades and they are all equipped with an en suite bathroom, a TV and tea and coffee making facilities.

The restaurants offer both a traditional Scottish dinner and cuisine with an international flavor. The Eleven Bar offers a selection of draught beers, malt whiskeys and wines from around the world.

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.

This property is 2 minutes walk from the beach. Just 550 yards from Oban Railway Station and Oban Ferry Terminal, the Royal offers en suite rooms, free Wi-Fi and free parking. It serves traditional Scottish food and has a whisky bar.

Rooms at the Royal Hotel have traditional decor, many with tartan furnishings or curtains. Some rooms have sea views and all rooms have a TV and en suite bathroom.

The hotel was built in 1895 and the restaurant retains its high ceilings and large windows with views of the town. The bar and lounge serve light meals and a full Scottish breakfast and have coal fires. Evening entertainment includes classic Scottish tunes.

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 Queens Hotel features free WiFi and views of sea in Lerwick. The property has a bar, as well as a restaurant serving British cuisine. The accommodation provides a 24-hour front desk.

At the hotel, rooms have a desk and a flat-screen TV. The private bathroom is fitted with a bath, free toiletries and a hair dryer. All rooms have a wardrobe.

A buffet or à la carte breakfast can be enjoyed at the property.

Golfing is among the activities that guests can enjoy near The Queens Hotel.

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.

September 23 2019: Enquiries

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