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The 12 Best Scotland Tours

Bagpipes, highland cows (or “coos”), tartans, castles, breathtaking landscapes – there’s a lot to love about Scotland. Add in its famous whisky and legendary cities and you’ll find plenty to do here. With so much to see, you’ll need a few days – at minimum – to explore. Save yourself the hassle of planning outings, meals and transportation by signing up for a guided tour.

Using both expert opinion and traveler sentiment, U.S. News determined that these are the best tours of Scotland. To help you find the perfect trip for you, our editors found a range of trips of different durations that take travelers to must-see destinations like Edinburgh, Glasgow and the Scottish Highlands, but will also bring you to lesser-known destinations.

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Highland Explorer Tours – Isle of Skye & the Highlands

Price: Adults from $745; kids from $715
Duration: 3 days

This bus tour is a feast for the eyes as it takes you through the lush Scottish Highlands. You’ll view Rannoch Moor, Glen Coe, Fort William, Dunvegan Castle, Loch Ness, Ben Nevis and the Isle of Sky (where you’ll spend a full day). What’s more, if you book the tour for sometime between April and October you’ll get a chance to ride on the Jacobite Steam Train, famous for its appearance as the Hogwarts Express in the “Harry Potter” films. Travelers routinely praise the storytelling guides as well as the scenery that surrounds you for the trip.

The trip begins and ends in Edinburgh. The fee includes bed-and-breakfast accommodations, the ferry to Isle of Skye and entrance to Dunkeld Cathedral and the Dundreggan Rewilding Centre. Some activities (like the Jacobite Steam Train) cost extra, as do meals. Highland Explorer Tours also runs a wintertime version of this tour.

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Rabbie’s – Speyside Whisky Trail

Price: From 195 pounds (around $250)
Duration: 3 days

This tour for whisky-loving travelers stops at three distilleries where you can sample their tipples. You’ll also visit Speyside, a region with 50 different distilleries, and Elgin, a town with a great whisky shop. If you depart on Monday or Wednesday, you’ll also stop by a cooperage to see how barrels are made. In between tastings, you’ll see Cairngorms National Park and Royal Deeside. Travelers applaud the attentive guides and note that if someone in your party isn’t a whisky drinker, they’ll still find plenty to do.

The tour does not include meals, tickets to attractions or accommodations so that you can customize the experience to your liking. However, you can have Rabbie’s book hotel or B&B accommodations in Grantown-on-Spey, the town where you’ll stay for two nights. Fees vary based on the number of occupants and accommodation type, but you can expect to pay 55 to 150 pounds (about $70 to $190) per night per person. Breakfast is typically included in your stay. Short on time? Try a one- or two-day whisky tour from the company.

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Scottish Routes – Four-Day Islay Whisky Tour

Price: From 1,175 pounds (about $1,500)
Duration: 4 days

Stop at around six different distilleries and warehouses for whisky tastings on this tour with Scottish Routes. The bulk of your stay is on Islay island, where you won’t only get tours of local whisky establishments and tastings, but you’ll also be able to explore the surrounding villages and sites. On the way back to Edinburgh, you’ll also stop in Inveraray to grab lunch and visit the Loch Fyne Whisky Shop. Whisky lovers say the tour is excellent and praise the itinerary.

No more than 18 people will be on the tour and travelers must be at least 18 to participate. Transportation, B&B accommodation and whisky tours and tastings are included in the fee. There’s also a five-day version of this tour.

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HAGGiS Adventures – Puffin Island Hopper

Price: From $929
Duration: 4 days

If you’re visiting Scotland in the summer, don’t miss the chance to see nesting puffins. This trip focuses on the cute little birds as it travels to Mill Iona and Staffa islands. You could see more wildlife (think: seals and whales) during the included wildlife cruise. You’ll also see Loch Lomond and Oban, and stop at a distillery for a tasting. Tourgoers say the guides are great and applaud the locations along the tour.

Overnight accommodations at three-star hotels, three breakfasts, ferry tickets, the distillery tour and the wildlife cruise are all included in the tour fee. Trips depart from and return to Edinburgh. Keep in mind the minimum age to take this tour is 18. Since HAGGiS Adventures is a sister company to Highland Explorer Tours, you may be traveling with tour-takers from that company.

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Abercrombie & Kent – Scotland by Rail: Royal Scotsman, A Belmond Train, Scotland

Price: From $11,385
Duration: 5 days

Climb aboard an Edwardian train to see Scotland in style. During your trip aboard Royal Scotsman, A Belmond Train, you’ll pass by incomparable landscapes in between stops. Stops include the towns Keith, Plockton and Garve, plus Ballindalloch Castle and Glamis Castle. Activities throughout the tour include guided walks, fishing, shopping, private tours of a whisky distillery and more. Tourgoers say A&K is well organized and appreciate the pacing of the trip.

Accommodations aboard the train, all meals, internet access and activities are included in your fare. In order to book this trip, you’ll need to contact an A&K representative who will help customize your trip.

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Culture Trip – Scotland by Train – London Start

Price: From $3,209
Duration: 7 days

If you’re hoping to tack on a few days in London before your Scottish adventure, this tour is a great option. After departing London, you’ll journey to Glasgow for a city tour and whisky tasting. You’ll then venture through some high points of Scotland’s landscape including the Isle of Skye and Cairngorms National Park. The trip’s finale is in Edinburgh. Some of the included activities are guided walks, private museum tours, whisky tastings and a boat trip. Overall, tour-takers enjoyed their trips but some wished the hotels chosen were better quality.

Stays in three- or four-star hotels, daily breakfast and many activities are included in the tour fee. Keep in mind that you need to be in moderately good shape for this tour as there is a lot of walking (and some hiking) involved. Culture Trip offers tours around the world, including one to Italy.

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Abercrombie & Kent – Scottish Highlander – Caledonian Canal & Loch Ness

Price: From $5,690
Duration: 7 days

This small tour (no more than eight participants) takes place on the Scottish Highlander boat. During the cruise, you’ll make stops at Cawdor Castle, Loch Ness (where you’ll get to cruise again), Urquhart Castle, Fort Augustus, Eilean Donan Castle, a whisky distillery and more. Onboard, you’ll find a deck with radar and fish finder equipment, a lounge with a stereo and internet access. Tour-takers applaud the company’s selection of stops, though some wish communication before and after the tour had been better.

The tour’s price includes meals, beverages, onboard accommodations and activities. You will need to contact the company to book the cruise. A&K runs a similar Scotland tour where the grand finale is watching the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, a renowned music and cultural festival.

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Firebird Tours – Best of Scotland

Price: From $3,745
Duration: 8 days

Get an overview of all Scotland has to offer with this train and car tour. Along this private tour, you’ll explore Edinburgh, Inverness, Isle of Skye, Fort William, Loch Ness and Mallaig. You may have the chance to ride the Jacobite Steam Train to Mallaig (subject to availability). You’ll have some time at each stop to explore on your own in addition to group activities like a tour of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and castle, a Loch Ness cruise, a wildlife cruise in Mallaig and more. Tourgoers appreciate the enthusiastic guides and the company’s help in creating the perfect getaway.

Daily breakfasts, hotel accommodations, transportation, a customer support line and select activities are included in the tour price. You’ll pay for lunches, dinners and snacks out of your own pocket. Firebird also runs Scotland tours that combine visits to Ireland or England.

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Grand European Travel – Country Roads of Scotland

Price: From $4,125
Duration: 9 days

Throughout this coach journey, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to soak in local culture, from afternoon teas to evenings of Gaelic stories and music to ecology and preservation walks. Many of these activities are included in the trip fee as well as select meals, tours, cruises, museum visits and much more. The trip begins in Edinburgh and travels through the Scottish countryside and island before concluding in Glasgow. Travelers say the trips are excellent, but that communication during the booking process can be somewhat lacking.

Six dinners, eight breakfasts and three- or four-star hotel accommodations are included. Select activities (such as the Gaelic storytelling evening) are an extra fee. You’ll be responsible for your lunches, snacks and some dinners. Grand European Travel offers several other journeys through Scotland.

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Luxury Scotland Tours – The Luxury Scotland Family Tour

Price: Varies
Duration: 10 days

Take the family on a trip to remember to see Hagrid’s Hut (of “Harry Potter”), the Hogwarts Express bridge (the Glenfinnan Viaduct), Byres Farm to feed livestock, dinosaur footprints in Staffin, Scottish Highlands cows in the countryside and much more. Of course, you and the kids will get plenty of history along the way with visits to castles, museums and historic sites. According to reviews, the company plans the trip perfectly and many recent tourgoers compliment the guides.

Included in the tour fee are accommodations in four- and five-star properties, breakfasts, private chauffeurs, activities (and admission) and guides. Each tour can be customized to your family’s preferences. You must contact the company for prices and to book.

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Kensington Tours – Castles of Scotland Signature

Price: From $12,770 per person
Duration: 10 days

Travelers say the travel agents at Kensington Tours are top notch and take great care in planning an itinerary. And for those with an interest in Scotland’s castles, it’s hard to beat this tour. You’ll visit Edinburgh, Blair, Cawdor, Inveraray and Crossbasket castles, with a sprinkling of other tours and activities in between. What’s more, you’ll be staying at Crossbasket Castle for two nights. The rest of the stay will be at four- and five-star properties.

While accommodations, tours, transportation and guides are all included, lunches, dinners and drinks are not (unless otherwise specified).

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Rabbie’s – Island Hopping Adventure

Price: From 1,577 pounds (about $2,017)
Duration: 14 days

Scotland has hundreds of islands and this tour from Rabbie’s will help you explore several of them. You’ll visit the Isle of Mull, Isle of Skye, Iona, Staffa, the Orkney archipelago and Harris and Lewis. Other sites visited include Skara Brae (a prehistoric site), Loch Ness, Glencoe and a journey along the North Coast 500 to see stunning scenery. Visitors heap praise on Rabbie’s because of the company’s attentive guides, trip planning and gorgeous sights.

Your tour will have no more than 16 people. The tour includes your guide and all ferry tickets, except the ferry to Staffa, as that trip is optional. You will be responsible for attraction entry tickets, meals and accommodations. You can book accommodations yourself or have a Rabbie’s representative book for you. Accommodations typically cost 55 to 150 pounds (about $70 to $190) per night, per person when there are at least two people in a room.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Ideally, you’d want to take at least a week to see Scotland if it’s your first time visiting so that you can experience its cities, culture and nature. However, if you are short on time, consider what’s most important to you when you travel – such as exploring outside, local cuisine or history – and tailor a trip around that.

The best time to visit Scotland is in late spring, summer or early fall. While you could be contending with crowds and more rainy days, you’ll be rewarded with wonderful temperatures. Plus, you’ll have more opportunities to engage in activities, like riding the Jacobite Steam Train. Winter brings a biting cold, but could get you a deal on accommodations and discounted tour rates.

For most tours, tips are not included. Most companies do not require tipping, but drivers and guides will happily accept them. If you’re not sure how much to tip, it’s best to contact your chosen tour company for guidance.

What you include in your luggage will vary based on your tour itinerary, activities and weather. Additionally, your company might impose luggage restrictions, so check the policies before you leave.

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Bernard Greenhall
Bernard Greenhall

Bernard is a sports and physical education expert with years of experience. He's passionate about promoting health and wellness through physical activity, and he's worked with athletes and non-athletes alike to help them achieve their fitness goals. Bernard holds a degree in Physical Education and is dedicated to staying up-to-date with the latest trends and research in his field.

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