SCOTLAND | From the Highlands to the Outer Hebrides
Our 2017 Scotland journey will begin in the modern capital of Edinburgh and continue to the remote Applecross Peninsula, where we will learn about Scottish culture from the local Gaelic community while staying at the wilderness eco-resort of Eagle Rock. Although there are only 238 locals in 62,000 hectares of the Applecross Peninsula, they are a vibrant and creative community of artists, musicians, artisans, craftspeople and entrepreneurs. The community lives off the land and is self sustainable. We will take botanical and foraging walks and visit crofters and makers of textiles who raise grey Gotland sheep and Shetland cattle between the seashore and high mountains.
From there, we travel to the picturesque port town of Ullapool and by boat to Lewis and Harris, exploring the small fishing and crofting communities of these mystical islands. The tour includes a visit to traditional Harris Tweed weavers and meeting with the last postman to deliver post by foot. We also tour the future of these islands, with stops to places such as the Isle of Harris Distillery in Tabert, run by the new generation of islanders. From Harris, we take a speedboat to the farthest western tip of the Outer Hebrides, to the remote National Nature Reserve archipelago of St Kilda. Our Scotland journey will also include many short hikes in the stunning and wild Scottish countryside and long walks on the unusual white coral sand beaches.
Day 1 | Tuesday, August 29 | Edinburgh/Applecross In the morning you meet your CCJ trip manager in central Edinburgh and together we begin our day’s drive to Eagle Rock in the Applecross Pennisula. On the way we will pass through Lewiston, the site of the famous Loch Ness and enjoy a traditional lunch. Setting off to search for the infamous underwater creature we will explore the lake. Then we continue onward to the coast arriving where three lochs (lakes) meet, the site of the picturesque Eilean Donan Castle, a 13th century fortification. We will explore this castle, climbing over the ramparts and imagine ourselves living as Scottish royalty. In the afternoon we will depart for the eco-retreat of Eagle Rock located at the tip of the rural peninsula of Applecross. The Gaelic name of Applecross, "A' Chomraich” means 'The Sanctuary', and comes from the sanctified ground surrounding an ancient monastery. When we arrive at Eagle Rock we will check in and have a moment to unpack before joining together for a welcome dinner on the deck, featuring the diverse bounty of the local seafood. Eagle Rock (L/D)
Day 2 | Wednesday, August 30 | Applecross We will start our day with a leisurely breakfast and a chance to explore the beautiful Eagle Rock surroundings. Then, we will have a introductory presentation of the Applecross Peninsula by docents from the local Heritage Centre. Lunch is on your own at the Michelin Star winning Applecross Inn. Enjoy an afternoon Heritage Walk featuring a 7th century broth (an Iron Age drystone hollow-walled domicile). We will also see a restored Victorian-era walled garden, a paleolithic midden, and visit the Clachan, or traditional village, to see the St Maelrubbe Church, the first built of 300 Scottish churches. We will enjoy a locally sourced Scottish Supper at Eagle Rock—perhaps haggis in Drambuie, or local venison, as well as special prawns—and finish it all off with a traditional Scottish desert called Cranachan, made with a mixture of whipped cream, whisky, honey, fresh raspberries and toasted oatmeal. After dinner, there will be an optional screening of the documentary, Laxdale Hall, a 70's classic, set in the local area. Eagle Rock (B/D)
Day 3 | Thursday, August 31 | Applecross After breakfast at Eagle Rock, we have the opportunity to go on a foraging walk through the surrounding area, led by a local forager. This is a fair-weather dependent activity and will last around 2 hours. Then we will test what we learned by enjoying a foraging lunch inside a walled garden. In the afternoon we will explore modern life in the highlands with visits to a local brewery, the small fishing port and other industries that are specific to small town Scotland. Dinner will be on your own at the pub followed by a whisky tasting at Eagle Rock with local whiskey lover and collector. We’ll keep the left-overs to sip for the rest of our stay at Eagle Rock! Eagle Rock (B/L)
“We still have fond memories of our wonderful adventures in the Outer Hebrides with an amazing knowledgeable guide. Once you are there you sense what a mystical place it is; the air is unlike any other area. There were many highlights, especially meeting local people for long talks about life there, but the best one was spending time in Lewis with the 5000+ year old stones at Callinish. Going to St. Kilda and seeing all the wildlife was an added treat.” --Sally Henderson, Scotland 2016
Day 4 | Friday, September 1 | Applecross After breakfast at Eagle Rock we begin a full day of nature walking with incredible naturalist. who has spend most of her life living in the remote parts of the Scottish Highlands. She will lead us on an incredible excursion tracking highland habitats and animals, learning about highland crafts and outdoor survival. Lunch will be at Applecross Café and we will continue the afternoon with Willow to end with a dinner on your own at the Walled Garden, famous for locally sourced and in-house grown food. The proprietor works on a local fishing boat bringing home prawns, squat lobsters, fish for fishcakes, crab and even the occasional octopus. Eagle Rock (B/L)
Day 5 | Saturday, September 2 |Applecross After breakfast we will head out for a day trip to the Isle of Skye, visiting the famous Skye fairypools, the magical waterfalls known for their usually vivid green and blue colors. Then to the bustling port and cultural center of Portree, to wander the shops and see the rhythms of daily life. Later we head out to the beach to see some truly remarkable fossilized footprints, left by a family of dinosaurs walking across the sand, some 165 million years previously. Lunch will be on your own in the stunning garden of the Cullin Hills hotel which over looks the picturesque Portree harbor. In the late afternoon we will return to the Applecross Pennisula for dinner at the pub. Eagle Rock (B/D)
Day 6 | Sunday, September 3| Applecross Today we head to the ocean, kayaking out to a small island to observe the Grey seals and Sea otters that feed, play and mate among the rocky shore. We will have a guided walk on a spectacular beach made from crushed white coral. The trip will be about 2 hours long and you can choose between a single or a double kayak. Then we have the chance to visit with local crofters and makers of textiles. They raise grey Gotland sheep and Shetland cattle between the seashore and high mountains. You will learn about the art of crofting, the traditional system of small farming in Scotland, and the process of dying of wools with natural plants. They live the modern crofting lifestyle and master tweed weaver. Lunch will be in the town of Shieldaig, “Lake of the Herring”, whose bays are still full of the small fish. After lunch we will head to Torridon, where the surrounding mountains rise steeply to 3,500 feet. Stopping at the Visitor’s center and gallery, before we walk around the edge of Torridon loch with a local expert and end with High Tea at the grand castle-style hotel (with turrets!), Torridon Inn. As the sun sets over the Torridon Mountains we sail gently around the shores of Loch Torridon. A perfect way to end the day. When we arrive back at Eagle Rock we will enjoy a light dinner provided by the local pub. Eagle Rock (B/L/D)
“Having traveled with Cross Cultural Journeys in the past, I am always drawn to the trip announcements they send via email. Last spring I was searching for a summer journey and CCJ’s trip to the “Mystical” Outer Hebrides leapt off my screen and I signed up. I had never traveled to Scotland and from the first moment I landed in Glasgow, I fell in love with the landscape, the people, the history and the art. Over the next 12 days we explored rocky beaches and fields of wildflowers and heather, heard the poems of Robert Burns sung at a Celtic music festival, encountered 12th Century Chessmen, Standing Stones as old as Stonehenge, saw Harris tweed being woven in a small workshop in a person’s home, saw the largest flock of puffins in the world and had pod of Orca swim home with us from St. Kilda. Combine these adventures with great new friends, food and a bit of Scotch (we sample a few) and it was nothing short of a once in a lifetime journey!” --Robert Bush, Scotland 2016
Day 7 | Monday, September 4| Applecross/Stornoway Following breakfast we bid farewell to Eagle Rock and the Applecross Peninsula to drive over the famous Bealach na Ba, the break in the mountains, historically the cattle pass, from the summer grazing to the winter. We arrive in Poolwe and go straight to the Inverse Garden, a lush, sub-tropical-style, oasis at the edge of Loch Ewe amid the rugged landscape. This world-famous garden is one of Scotland’s most popular botanical attractions.The garden was created out of bare rock and a few scrub willows in 1862 by Osgood Mackenzie and now is full of colorful, exotic plants from around the world. From there we will depart for Corrieshalloch Gorge and the Falls of Measach to venture out on the Victorian-era suspension footbridge and see the view of the 200 ft deep box canyon. We continue on to Ullapool, the gateway to the Hebrides, where we will find our ferry and next adventure. Lunch will be on our own near the ferry dock, perhaps at The Seaforth, a famous fish and chips shop. After lunch we will take the 3.5hr ferry from Ullapool to Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis, our first step into the Outer Hebrides. Dinner will be onboard the ferry as we make our way to Stornoway and settling into our new hotel for the next few nights. Stornoway Hotel (B/D)
Day 8 | Tuesday, September 5 | Isle of Lewis After breakfast at our hotel we will make a visit to Lews Castle and the adjoining museum. This impressive gothic-revival castle was built in the mid 1800’s. Since it’s construction, this beautiful building served as a hospital during WW2, a college, a school and now acts as an iconic wedding venue. We will have a private guided tour of the museum with an local expert and walk the impressive grounds. After lunch at museum café we will tour the Uig District of the Isle of Lewis. In this sparsely populated area, more than half of its inhabitants are Gaelic speakers! We will visit the historic site where the famous Lewis Chessmen were found. Uncovered in 1831, the Lewis Chessmen are a group of distinctive 12th-century chess pieces, carved from walrus tusks. Weather permitting, there will be time to hike along the ridge of the bay where the Lewis Chessman were discovered. We will return to Stornoway for dinner. Stornoway Hotel (B/L/D)
Day 9 | Wednesday, September 6 | Isle of Lewis Departing our hotel after breakfast we will tour the historic west side of the Isle of Lewis. Our first stop will be the Callanish Visitor Center and a stroll to the Callanish Standing Stones, an setting of upright stones placed in a cross-like pattern with a central stone circle. Built in the late Neolithic era, they were the focus for ritual activity during the Bronze Age. After discussing the history of these stones, we will stop by the Doune Carloway Broch, an ancient roundhouse that served as a military structure, and enjoy lunch in the nearby cafe. After lunch we head to the tiny town of Gearrannan, to see a demonstration of weaving and a short film about peat cutting. Then we will explore the beautiful beaches of Dalmore and/or Dalbeg before visiting the Arnol Blackhouse Village, where 9 carefully restored traditional thatched cottages which were still inhabited up until 1974. We return to Stornoway for dinner on our own. Stornoway Hotel (B/L)
Day 10 | Thursday, September 7 | Isle of Harris After breakfast, we will check out and depart the hotel. We will have the opportunity to meet with Kenny Mackay. He was last island postman to hand-deliver the mail, using only walking trails, before the road was built. We continue along the west coast for a visit with Donald John Mackay to see a demonstration of famous Harris Tweed weaving style. We will learn the distinctive color and fashion that the local weavers have been perfecting for generations. Lunch is en route to the town of Tarbert. Once we reach Tarbert, we will start with a walking tour of the small town, visiting the Harris Tweed Shop and peeking our heads into the local grocery. To warm our bellies and minds we will be taught about the history and traditional of scotch and the process of making it, in the local distillery. Later, we meet with a representative of the North Harris Trust to learn the tradition of community ownership of land and current local developments. In the early evening, we check into the Harris Hotel. Dinner on your own. Harris Hotel (B/L)
Day 11 | Friday, September 8 | Isle of Harris After breakfast we will set out to explore the Double World Heritage Site of St Kilda by boat. St Kilda is an isolated archipelago which contains the westernmost islands of the Outer Hebrides. These islands were used for grazing and seabird hunting. The islands are home to two very different types of sheep, the Soay (from the Neolithic age) and the Borerary (from the Iron Age). We might come across some of the amazing bird species that populate the area, such as Northern Gannets, Atlantic Puffins and Northern Fulmars. St Kilda also shelters an endemic St Kilda Wren and Field Mouse. The entire archipelago is protected by the National Trust of Scotland. We will enjoy a boxed lunch during our cruise. This is a full-day excursion with several hours ashore, so don’t forget your binoculars. At the end of the day we will return to Talbert for a special farewell dinner. Harris Hotel (B/L/D)
Day 12 | Saturday, September 9 | Isle of Harris After a farewell breakfast at the hotel, we will drive to Stornoway for flights to the mainland and onward home.
NOTE: This itinerary is subject to change to take advantage of the serendipity of the moment when we are in Scotland... to meet someone special, to engage in an activity that might occur unexpectedly, or to accommodate circumstances beyond our control. Restaurants or hotels may change in similar category. Since many of our activities are weather dependent, and Scottish weather is notoriously unreliable/finicky, we do have alternative actives in place that will be presented in the morning, if the day proves to unsuited to long outdoor plans.
INCLUDED: All accommodations (double occupancy); full breakfast daily at the hotels, lunch and dinner as listed, local guides; guest speakers; all entrance fees on itinerary; preparation materials; bottled water on the bus, CCJ trip manager.
NOT INCLUDED: International air travel from USA to Scotland; alcoholic drinks; meals not on itinerary. Excursions not on the itinerary; tips for local guide and driver (optional, yet customary); travel cancellation and evacuation insurance (strongly recommended, info will be sent upon registration).
Start date: This trip begins in Edinburgh on the morning on August 29
End date: This trip ends in Stornoway on September 9
Cost: $5,990 (Double Occupancy)
Add: $600 (Single room)