Scotland: The Highlands

Self-Guided Walking Tour, Scotland: The HighlandsSelf-Guided Walking Tour, Scotland: The Highlands

Scotland

The Highlands

overview

Here lies the countryside that inspires stories: turreted castles, purple-heathered hills, sparkling lochs, rivers winding to views of moorland sky and bog. Let your maps guide you from 13th-century Blair Castle and the gardens of Atholl Estate to the Pass of Killiecrankie, site of a famous 1689 battle. Ancient forests along the River Garry lead to great bird-watching at Loch Faskally, while the trail to Bealach Pass reveals fine Scottish views. An optional extension takes you to the summit of Ben Vrackie before descending to sleepy Moulin, a 5,000-year-old village, home to the 1695 Moulin Inn & Brewery and Edradour Distillery—Scotland’s smallest! Ride through west coast glens and lochs and arrive on foot into Fort William, with its stunning vista of Ben Nevis, Great Britain’s highest peak. Walk the Great Glen Way, the West Highland Way, or take a steam locomotive over the 21-arch Glenfinnan Bridge featured in Harry Potter. However you make this journey your own, you’ll see much of the “off-the-beaten-path” Scotland.

2014 Downloadable Itinerary

2015 Downloadable Itinerary

Activity Level
Easy to moderate;
5-11 miles daily
Meet
Dunkeld, Scotland
Depart
Fort William, Scotland
Reading List
Recommended
pre-trip reading
Self-Guided Walking 
7 days, 6 nights Trip Includes 

Trip Includes

  • Breakfast daily, one lunch (day 5), and four dinners (days 1, 3, 4, and 5); beverages not included
  • All accommodations while on tour
  • Local transfers as noted in the itinerary
  • Luggage transfers between the hotels
  • Detailed route notes and maps
  • 24-hour emergency service
  • The unbeatable and cumulative experience of the Country Walkers staff
Compare Dates & Prices
Prices Starting from...
Season
2+ travelers
Single Supplement
Solo Surcharge
2014
Apr 1 - May 31
$2,048
$355
$275
June 1 - Sept 30
$2,098
$355
$275
Oct 1 - 31
$2,048
$355
$275
2015
Apr 1 - May 31
$2,248
$375
$295
June 1 - Sept 30
$2,348
$375
$295
Oct 1 - 31
$2,248
$375
$295

*Price is based on per person, double occupancy.

Number of Travelers
Total in your party
Price From
per person double occupancy

Call 800.234.6900 to book this trip.

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Itinerary and Accommodations

Days
Destination
1
Dunkeld
View on map
2
Dunkeld
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3
Killiecrankie
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4
Killiecrankie
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5
Fort William
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6
Fort William
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7
Fort William
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Day 1

Dunkeld

Arrival in Dunkeld. Fiddlers Path and Inver Path; 6 miles, easy, no significant elevation gain or loss

As you step off the train at the Birnam/Dunkeld station, you take in the crisp fresh air of the Highlands, with the wild mountains of Perthshire nearby. You check into your beautiful hotel, set on 280 acres, before departing for your walk. The well-maintained Dunkeld Path Network winds along the bank of the River Tay, Scotland’s longest river, most famous for salmon fishing. A short ascent on the Inver Path leads to the manicured grounds of the Hermitage, with its impressive Douglas fir trees. The route continues to the edge of the early to mid-Victorian Highland resort of Birnam, home of the “Birnam Oak,” considered the last remnant of the great Birnam Wood made famous in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. You cross the Dunkeld Bridge linking the towns of Dunkeld and Birnam. The bridge was designed by Scottish engineer Thomas Telford and financed mainly by the 4th Duke of Atholl. Time permitting, you may peruse the artisan shops or admire the cathedral before strolling back to your hotel just outside of town.

Hilton Dunkeld House Hotel

Dunkeld, Scotland

This beautiful property is set within 280 acres of pristine land on the bank of the River Tay, Scotland’s premier salmon fishing river. Bright guest rooms combine contemporary furnishings with rich, warm accents. The oak-paneled bar with its grand piano and log fire is ideal for relaxing with an aperitif before dining on fine fare from locally sourced ingredients at the Garden Restaurant overlooking the river. A heated indoor pool, sauna, gym, and spa treatments are available, and tennis, golf, fishing, or horseback riding can be arranged. Walks start at the hotel’s front step, located just a mile outside of town.

Day 2

Dunkeld

Loch of the Lowes Path; 6.2 miles, easy to moderate, no significant elevation gain or loss, or Birnam Hill Path, 8 miles, moderate to challenging, 1,000-ft elevation gain and loss

Today offers several walk options right from the doorstep of your hotel. Our suggested route follows the now-familiar riverside path to Dunkeld. While the beginning and ending sections of the walk follow the quiet road past the Dunkeld Golf Club, the path soon leads to open country where great crested grebes, goldeneye ducks, and coots can be spotted. From this vantage point, you also enjoy views of the day’s destination, the Loch of the Lowes Nature Reserve. Here, at the Scottish Wildlife Trust visitor center, you can observe live and recorded footage of a pair of breeding ospreys who call the reserve home. You retrace your steps and complete the loop back to the village where, time permitting, you may wish to visit the Beatrix Potter Exhibition and Garden located down the street from the Birnam train station. A moderate option is also available, culminating at the King’s Seat viewpoint on Birnam Hill.

Hilton Dunkeld House Hotel

Dunkeld, Scotland

This beautiful property is set within 280 acres of pristine land on the bank of the River Tay, Scotland’s premier salmon fishing river. Bright guest rooms combine contemporary furnishings with rich, warm accents. The oak-paneled bar with its grand piano and log fire is ideal for relaxing with an aperitif before dining on fine fare from locally sourced ingredients at the Garden Restaurant overlooking the river. A heated indoor pool, sauna, gym, and spa treatments are available, and tennis, golf, fishing, or horseback riding can be arranged. Walks start at the hotel’s front step, located just a mile outside of town.

Day 3

Killiecrankie

Killiekrankie to Pitlochry via Bealach Route and Moulin; 6.2 miles, moderate, 1,400-ft elevation gain and loss, or Killiecrankie loop via River Garry and Lock Faskally, 9.4 miles, easy to moderate, no significant elevation gain and loss

Today you transfer to Killiecrankie and your home for the next two nights, a small hotel nestled in forest and rose gardens. Today’s route starts with a gradual uphill section (approximately 2 hours) through fields of heather, offering some of the best views in Scotland. Before reaching the Bealach Pass, there is a challenging option (2 miles round trip) all the way to the summit of Ben Vrackie, at 2,760 feet. The path then descends to the town of Moulin with its 1965 brewery (which won the Scottish Pub of the Year award twice), where you may stop to refuel with a hearty lunch and a pint of Braveheart. There are several easy walk options through fields and woodlands, including one past the Edradour Distillery, the smallest in Scotland. You may spend a leisurely afternoon in Pitlochry and return by taxi (at your own expense). A longer, but easier option is to walk the Killiecrankie loop following a tranquil route alongside Loch Faskally and the River Garry, ideal for bird watching and plant identification.

Killiecrankie House Hotel

Killiecrankie, Scotland

An intimate award-winning hotel and restaurant overlooking the Pass of Killiecrankiethe deep gorge of the River Garry. Recently refurbished elegant guest rooms are individually decorated with rich colors, fabrics, and fresh flowers. The fine-dining restaurant serves exceptional cuisine, and the cozy wood-paneled bar is a magnet for guests and locals. An inviting living room has a fireplace for cool weather or opens to manicured gardens and patio in warmer days. Surrounded by expansive lawns and woodlands, the hotel is just 3 miles from the Highland Victorian town of Pitlochry.

Day 4

Killiecrankie

Killiecrankie to Blair Atholl and return, 10.2 miles, easy to moderate, 950-ft elevation gain and loss. Blair Castle Discovery

After a full Scottish breakfast, you head out on a gentle path following the River Garry, leading to the Atholl Estates and Blair Castle. The ancient seat of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl, Blair Castle presides over the heart of Highland Perthshire. Dating from the 13th century, Blair Castle’s history extends over some 740 years, and it is still home to Europe’s last private army, the Atholl Highlanders. You may choose to join a guided tour of the castle, a fascinating historical introduction, before lunch at the local tearoom, a working 1590 water mill known for outstanding homemade soups and scones. The return to your cozy home offers some beautiful open vistas.

Killiecrankie House Hotel

Killiecrankie, Scotland

An intimate award-winning hotel and restaurant overlooking the Pass of Killiecrankiethe deep gorge of the River Garry. Recently refurbished elegant guest rooms are individually decorated with rich colors, fabrics, and fresh flowers. The fine-dining restaurant serves exceptional cuisine, and the cozy wood-paneled bar is a magnet for guests and locals. An inviting living room has a fireplace for cool weather or opens to manicured gardens and patio in warmer days. Surrounded by expansive lawns and woodlands, the hotel is just 3 miles from the Highland Victorian town of Pitlochry.

Day 5

Fort William

Transfer to Fort William. Great Glen Way, 10 miles, easy, no elevation gain or loss

Following breakfast, you depart Killiecrankie to make the stunning voyage (approximately 2 hours by car) west to Fort William. Today’s walking route is on the final section of the Great Glen Way toward Fort William. You walk near Old Inverlochy Castle, with beautiful views of Ben Nevis, and along the Caledonian Canal, with its “Pepper Pot” lighthouse and Neptune’s Staircase—an impressive series of eight locks raising the canal by 50 feet. The largest town in the western Highlands, Fort William is picturesquely located on the shores of Loch Linnhe and is named after its original settlement around the fort, constructed to control the local population after Oliver Cromwell’s invasion of Scotland during the English Civil War. You may want to stop at the West Highland Museum, which has an interesting exhibit.

Nevis Bank Inn

Fort William, Scotland

A modern Inn on the banks of the River Nevis and a 10-minute walk from the center of Fort William. Spacious rooms are stylishly decorated with wooden furniture and luxurious fabrics. Browns Bar and Restaurant combines dark wood accents, oak floors and large windows in a contemporary style, serving a wide selection of pasta, meat, and seafood.

Day 6

Fort William

Cow Hill Circuit; 6.4 miles, easy to moderate, 980-ft elevation gain and loss, or Train to Mallaig (non-walking option)

A wonderful loop walk departs Fort William for the top of Cow Hill, with superb views of the surrounding area. Or you may choose to take a train-ride excursion along the West Highland Railway through some of Scotland’s most atmospheric scenery (advance reservation recommended, please visit westcoastrailways.co.uk). The 1½-hour train ride to Mallaig crosses the famous 21-arched Glen Finnan viaduct (featured in the Harry Potter movies) and stops at the poignant Glen Finnan monument at the head of Loch Shiel that was erected in honor of the clansmen behind Bonnie Prince Charlie’s attempt to gain the British throne in 1745. The end point, the town of Mallaig, is a thriving fishing community and one of the gateways to the islands of the Inner Hebrides. You can see the jagged peaks of the Isle of Skye just a few miles away across the Sound of Sleat. Mallaig is a good place to have lunch, with many seafood restaurants.

Nevis Bank Inn

Fort William, Scotland

A modern Inn on the banks of the River Nevis and a 10-minute walk from the center of Fort William. Spacious rooms are stylishly decorated with wooden furniture and luxurious fabrics. Browns Bar and Restaurant combines dark wood accents, oak floors and large windows in a contemporary style, serving a wide selection of pasta, meat, and seafood.

Day 7

Fort William

Departure from Fort William

You depart at your leisure after breakfast.

Itinerary Disclaimer

Bear in mind that this is a typical itinerary, and the actual activities, sites, and accommodations may vary due to season, special events, weather, or transportation schedules. We reserve the right to alter the itinerary since tour arrangements are made up to a year in advance, and unforeseen circumstances that mandate change may arise. Itinerary changes are made to improve the tour and your experience. If you are currently booked on a CW adventure, an itinerary has been sent to you for your exact departure date. Please call CW at 800.464.9255 if you have any questions about the exact itinerary or hotels selected for any of our tours.

Guest Comments

B. and B. Stafford, Wisconsin, September 2013

The scenery was wonderful... beautiful and bleak at the same time; the people we met along the way were unfailingly friendly.

B. Richey, Florida, June 2013

Had a great time. The reason for a 4 rather than a 5 was that there was a slight glitch with some of the maps/instructions. Not what I had expected based on my prior trip. Didn't cause a major problem for me, but thought you should be aware of it.

P. Bromberg, Massachusetts, May 2013

I really enjoyed proceeding at our own pace and having the flexibility to tailor the experience to our own interests. At the same time we had carefully detailed instructions for the walks and CW took care of all of the details of hotels, transportation, etc.

R. Lee, Colorado, April 2013

We have never been disappointed with any CW experience. This was our first Self-Guided tour after many guided CW experiences. The arrangements were as seamless as ever, the trail notes extensive, the country and people amazing. We enjoyed being able to hike longer distances.

S. Carr, Pennsylvania, March 2012

1 - Hotel at Killiecrankie was utterly charming. The resident dog was a focal point and the heated waterbottles in old stuffed animals were splendid 2 - Dunkeld Cathedral with its small museum was a surprising gem. 3 - Walk around Ben Vrankie was the best. 4 - Food in the Nevis Bank Inn, Ft. Williams was excellent. 5 - Spa at the hotel in Dunkeld was first rate as was having a fire near the bar where we decided to have dinner one evening.

G. Warren, Washington, March 2012

Good trip—walks in a variety of settings, lots of history. Accommodations were nice and the food and beer were excellent.

L. Haneberg, Texas, September 2012

This trip showed us the people, the landscape, and the truly special qualities of the Scottish Highlands. We loved the recommended itineraries and the great hotels you selected.

D. Merriam, Canada, August 2011

Well organized and covered a wide variety of areas and hiking skills. I am saving my money for another tour!

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