After you finish your Norwegian Fjords and Scottish Isles expedition, choose to add on time in Scotland and experience all the mainland has to offer. Over the course of 5 days discover ancient history and UNESCO sites in the Highlands, scenic drives through enchanting green landscapes, and modern towns with colorful pasts.
Disembark National Geographic Endurance and begin exploring Edinburgh’s Royal Mile on foot. Consisting of five streets linking the castle at the top and Holyrood Palace at the bottom, the Royal Mile is flanked by old timber buildings which were traditionally named after their respective landowners. The gaps between the buildings are known as “closes”. Your guided walk along the cobble-stoned street of the Royal Mile will take you past various buildings both old and new including John Knox House, the Church of Canongate and the Scottish Parliament building.
Continue to Edinburgh Castle with its superb views and dimly lit echoing corridors steeped in legends and history. The castle stands on an extinct volcanic rock overlooking and dominating the city’s skyline. Once inside, there will be opportunity to see the castle’s many different architectural styles, reflecting its importance throughout the history of Scotland, with the oldest section dating back to the 12th century.
After lunch at your leisure, transfer to the Apex Waterloo Hotel and check in to your room. This evening, join your fellow travelers for a welcome dinner at one of Edinburgh’s Michelin-Star restaurants. (B,D)
Start your day with visit to the magnificent National Museum of Scotland. Here, spend time at your leisure exploring the vast collections that cover the history of Scotland from the Neolithic period to the modern day. Stop for lunch on the Royal Mile before visiting the Palace of Holyrood House.
Named after the “rood” or cross, which King David I is said to have seen between the antlers of a stag he was hunting here in 1128, Holyrood has been the scene of many a great historical drama including notorious murders, and power-hungry personalities. Most notably, the Palace was once the home of Mary Queen of Scots from 1561 to 1568 and was occupied by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745. Now the official residence of the Queen in Scotland, the Palace’s Royal Apartments are used for investitures and banquets whenever the Queen is in residence. Regroup for dinner this evening and overnight at the Apex Waterloo Hotel. (B,L,D)
Begin the day early and visit Rosslyn Chapel where you will learn of its fascinating history and legends. Rosslyn chapel was built in 1446 by Sir William St Clair, third and last St Clair Prince of Orkney (thought to be a Grand Master of the Knights Templar). Although the chapel’s construction was never completed, it remains a place of pilgrimage thanks to its strong links with the Knights Templar and, if speculation is to be believed, its musty, undisturbed vaults may contain fantastic holy relics, including early gospels, the Ark of the Covenant and the Stone of Destiny.
Continue on to The Kelpies – the largest equine sculptures in the world. The Kelpies represent the lineage of the heavy horse of Scottish industry and economy, pulling the wagons, barges and coal ships that shaped the geographical layout of Falkirk. Afterward, visit the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s only rotating boatlift, which is used to connect the Forth & Clyde and Union canals in central Scotland. Start your visit with a lunch and later experience the rotating boatlift for yourself.
This afternoon, take a scenic drive toward Stirling. From its spectacular setting, high on a volcanic rock above the River Forth, Stirling Castle has controlled one of the main routes between the Scottish Highlands and the lowlands for centuries, earning the title “key to the kingdom”. Earlier fortifications have given way to today's palatial and beautifully furnished 15th-century residence, the home of the Stuart kings and birthplace of James II. Explore the castle with your guide before departing for Pitlochry where you will check into the Atholl Palace Hotel and enjoy dinner. (B,L,D)
Enjoy a more leisurely morning as we prepare to depart for Dalwhinnie Distillery, located in the Cairngorm National Park in the heart of the Scottish Highlands. Take a distillery tour and learn about the traditional art of malt whisky distilling. Journey north through the magnificent Cairngorm Mountains where Idyllic and evocative Scottish scenery abounds, as we continue to Cawdor Castle. One of the Highland’s most romantic stately homes, Cawdor boasts a fine collection of rare tapestries, portraits and outside its lovely gardens and grounds. Tour the castle at your leisure and enjoy lunch.
In the afternoon, visit Culloden. This is the site of the last battle to be fought on British soil: the bloody Battle of Culloden in 1746 between Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Duke of Cumberland. The desolate fields where the conflict took place have scarcely changed over the past 250 years. Visit the new Culloden Heritage Center and walk the historic battlefield before continuing to Inverness. Have a farewell dinner with your fellow travelers before overnighting at the Kingsmills Hotel. (B,L,D)
This morning, transfer to the airport for flights home or onward. (B)
Extension Cost Per Person
Hotel accommodations, meals as indicated, transfers, sightseeing.
International airfare, personal items.
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