Are you looking for a Highland coach holiday?
One which is based in Inverness with trips out to the surrounding Highlands?
A Highland coach holiday which you can join by plane, train or drive yourself?
Great – because SAGA have a new holiday for 2021 called the ‘Scottish Highlands Escape’.
Having spent 25 years taking tours all over the world as a coach holiday Tour Manager I’m a bit of a coach holiday expert. Here is my detailed review of the Scottish Highlands Escape itinerary with practical information to help you get the most from this trip
I have also lived in the Highlands and guided many tours around this beautiful part of the country so there are also some suggestions on how to use your free time on this Highland coach holiday.
As always this guide is just for your information – you should double check the itinerary and details for yourself before making a booking. I have merely tried to provide some deeper insight into the program and also highlighted some things you might like to consider before booking this tour.
Day 1 – Highland Coach Holiday
This holiday is part of the stay and discover collection from SAGA, leaving you free to travel whichever way is most convenient to you to the Macdonald Drumossie Hotel which is the base for this Highland coach holiday.
Getting to the Scottish Highlands is easy with plenty of options including;
- Flights from London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Luton and Bristol. Flight times are around 1 hour and 15 minutes.
- Sleeper train from London Euston
- Highland Chieftain train service leaving London around midday and arriving into Inverness at 8pm
- Driving up the A82 from Glasgow and driving through Glen Coe and past Loch Ness
- Driving up the A9 from Edinburgh
For all the information on the options including current flight scheduled check out my guide to Getting to the Highlands. This includes current flight times, although as travel restrictions start to ease flight schedules are likely to start changing as demand builds again, particularly for domestic flights.
If you are arriving by plane or train then you will need to take a taxi to reach the hotel.
Inverness Taxis have a handy feature where you can book your taxi online.
A taxi from the airport to the hotel will cost from £34.00 one way depending on the vehicle you select.
A taxi from the train station to the hotel will cost from £18.00 one way depending on the vehicle you select.
Having made your own way to the Highlands you need to make your way to the Macdonald Drumossie Hotel.
The address of the hotel is Old Perth Road, Inverness, IV2 5BE.
Check in time is from 2pm.
If you are driving from the South on the A9 you need to turn left at the Milton of Leys turning off the A9 just before Inverness. Turn right at the roundabout and pass back under the A9 and bear left at the next roundabout and you will find the Macdonald Drumossie a short distance on your left hand side.
There is plenty of free parking on site at the hotel and your vehicle should be quite safe.
Reception is in the main revolving doors to the left hand side of the hotel.
On the first day there is a welcome drink with your host and then dinner at the hotel. The timing of this meal will no doubt be advised in your holiday confirmation details.
The Drumossie has a great reputation for food and drink with fine dining being served in the Grill Room, focussing on local ingredients.
You can find more information on Drumossie dining here.
The Macdonald Drumossie hotel is perhaps smaller than you might imagine, with 44 hotel bedrooms. It is a large and popular conference and wedding venue with a separate entrance to the front of the building which leads directly to the function rooms.
As you would expect from a 4 star hotel rooms have free WIFI, satellite TV and tea and coffee facilities in the room. There is a comfortable lounge area beside reception which serves refreshments throughout the day.
There are no leisure facilities as such at the hotel but there are lovely grounds around the hotel. It’s a great base for your Highland coach holiday, giving good access to the attractions of the area.
Day 2 – Highland Coach Holiday – Loch Ness and Whisky Tour
After breakfast Day 2 of your Highland coach holiday off at Loch Ness with a 2 hour cruise on the Loch itself. Whilst it doesn’t specify the tour is most likely to be with Jacobite Cruises who are the biggest cruise operator on Loch Ness with a base at Dochgarroch.
Cruising from Dochgarroch means you get to cruise partly on the Caledonian Canal, a real engineering feat by profilic engineer Thomas Telford. The canal runs alongside the River Ness which connects Loch Ness and Inverness itself.
After emerging onto Loch Ness the cruise will head down the Loch giving you plenty of time to enjoy the views. The great thing about Jacobite cruises is that the boats are large with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. They are accessible and they have onboard toilets, as well as an onboard bar and small gift shop.
One of the other great features of these cruise boats is that there is a commentary during the trip and there are sonar readings with sonar displays inside the boat so you can see what is happening underneath the water as you cruise over the top.
Loch Ness is a very famous Loch, not only because of the monster but also because of the scenery.
Here is a video of the Jacobite 2 hour contemplation cruise;
Professional Traveller Note;
- It might be worth checking that the cruise is with Jacobite Cruises before you book if this is particularly important to you.
After the Loch Ness cruise there is free time for lunch at Dochgarroch.
Dochgarroch is tiny so there are not many options for lunch. There is a cafe called An Talla which has sandwiches, toasties, burgers and of course cakes and drinks available. Check out their menu here.
Hopefully your included breakfast and dinner today will mean you only need a light lunch!
No Highland coach holiday is complete without a visit to a distillery so from Loch Ness you travel to Glen Ord distillery for a tour to learn all about the production of whisky. There are a couple of routes between Loch Ness and Glen Ord with a journey time of around 1 hour.
Glen Ord, is like so many distilleries in Scotland, located on an old droving route. Drovers used to enjoy whisky while stopping off along their journey to Southern Scotland and Northern England to sell the cattle they had with them. Muir of Ord was a particularly popular stop hence it’s name which means fine moor or grazing place.
Glen Ord produces a single malt whisky using water from the local burn. On the tour you will learn about the proessing of the barley, the aging process and the angels share.
Visiting distilleries often means some stairs to deal with, and possibly open tread stairs with mesh type flooring in some cases. Most distilleries, including Glen Ord, now offer accessible routes for anyone who wishes to avoid the stairs and open mesh flooring.
After the tour there is the all important tasting and then a return to the hotel.
The travel time to the New Drumossie Hotel is around 30 minutes.
Dinner is once again included on the second evening of your Highland coach holiday.
Day 3 – Highland Coach Holiday – Kyle of Lochalsh
The train departs from Inverness railway station. This small station only has around 6 platforms. There is a Costa coffee shop in the station concourse, alongwith a WHSmith and toilet facilities which cost around 50p to use.
Entry to the platform is through ticket barriers.
The train service to Kyle of Lochalsh is generally two or three carriages depending on the time of year. In the tourist season this is quite a popular route.
There is generally a trolley service on the train, although occassionally this is not the case. You may want to double check with the platform team before boarding if you are planning on enjoying a coffee on board.
The journey takes 2 hours and 40 minutes and the train is operated by Scotrail. They have a dedicated page about the Kyle Railway line.
There are currently 4 trains per day to Kyle of Lochalsh as follows;
- Departs: 8.55 arrives 11.30
- Departs: 10.56 arrives 13.30
- Departs: 13.35 arrives 16.15
- Departs: 17.54 arrives 20.31
The journey is scenic with changing scenery. The journey passes Garve where there is a good possiblity of spotting some wild deer. Then it is out past lochs before glimpsing the famous Skye bridge as you approach Kyle of Lochalsh.
Kyle of Lochalsh is a lovely little spot. Just off the mainland are 3 little islands which are wildlife reserves. The small town has several shops and cafes and if you fancy a stroll you can easily walk over the Skye bridge which has fantastic views. The bridge also hops over the top of Gavin Maxwell’s property, the author who famously wrote Ring of Brightwater about otters.
If you fancy exploring a community woodlands area there are walking trails which lead off to the Plock of Lochalsh, which is the headland near Skye. These go from the centre of the town and also from the old ticket office just to the right as you approach the Skye bridge.
The itinerary for your Highland coach holiday shows there is free time in Kyle before returning to Inverness.
Professional Traveller note;
- If the return journey is by train then the free time might be around 2 and a quarter hours, assuming the trip takes the 8.55am train to Kyle and returns on the 13.46 train.
- However, train schedules will change in June and again may change due to demand and Covid so it might be worth asking more details about this before you book.
- It is not clear from the itinerary whether you need to make your own way to and from the railway station, so again it might be worth clarifying this too.
Reutrn Journey Times from Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness
- Departs: 12.08 arrives 14.42
- Departs: 13.46 arrives 16.27
- Departs: 17.13 arrives 19.51
This evening there is another included dinner at the hotel.
Day 4 – Highland Coach Holiday – At Leisure
After another included breakfast.
Day 4 of your Highland coach holiday is a day at leisure giving you an opportunity to explore at your own pace or just to relax and take a leisurely day at the hotel.
Here are some ideas or options of things you might like to do while you are in the area;
You may want to stay local and explore Inverness itself. If so here are Things to Do in Inverness including places to eat, walks and places to visit.
Outlander Tour – if you are a fan of the TV series Outlander then you might want to consider a private tour with local Inverness tour operator Happy Tours.
Full day Whisky Tour – if you are really interested in learning more about whisky, and visiting the world famous whisky trail, then perhaps a full day whisky tour might be of interest? Again this tour is operated by local Inverness company Happy Tours.
If you fancy exploring the Great Glen, further past Loch Ness and delving a bit more into the history of Bonnie Prince Charlie as well as spotting some Harry Potter sights, Happy Tours also operate a full day Glenfinnan and Great Glen tour with prices starting at £60 per person.
Perhaps you fancy heading further North? If so there is great tour from Happy Tours that visits Dornoch, Glenmorangie distillery and the wonderful Dunrobin castle, which also has a fantastic falconry display in the grounds of the castle.
Check out the reviews of Happy Tours on TripAdvisor
Self Drive Options For Your Day at Leisure
Culloden Battlefield is only a few miles away from the hotel and it is well worth a visit. The modern visit centre includes and informative and interactive guide to the build up and events of the famous Battle of Culloden.
It is worth checking the schedule because they have, in the past, had live demonstrations and talks during the day, which is a great way to learn more.
The battlefield has pathways to walk around alongwith GPS activated audio guides to help you learn more about the things you see along the way.
The visitor centre also has a nice cafe with friendly staff and a nice gift shop too.
In the field next to the visitor centre you may also find a Highland cow or two – or to use the local lingo a heilan coo or two. They have been a very popular addition.
There is a charge to park at Culloden. There is no charge to visit the battlefield site itself. If you wish to visit the interpretative centre and get the audio guide it is £11 per person.
(If you are a National Trust member entry and parking is free)
9 miles further East of Culloden lies Cawdor Castle. A small but beautiful, and lived in castle, with quirky descriptions throughout for visitors to enjoy. The Castle is set in lovely grounds, with a small golf course at the front of the castle and a big wood to the rear.
There are some formal gardens and also some interesting sculpture pieces to discover as well.
There is a nice gift shop and cafe to enjoy onsite as well.
Cawdor generally opens up after Easter for visitors.
Circular Self Drive Tour
Why not combine Culloden with Cawdor and a drive to Nairn which has a lovely beach for an easy self drive tour?
If you prefer military history to castles then Fort George might make a good replacement if planning this circular route? Fort George was built after the Battle of Culloden and is a huge fortress, that has never been tested in battle. The sheer size is impressive and it is also a great place to do a bit of dophin spotting, given local dolphins like to fish in the narrow channel in the Moray Firth which is beside the Fort.
Trains from Inverness run East to Nairn and Elgin if you fancy exploring two local towns. Nairn is a traditional fishing town with a lovely beach and harbour (this is the opposite end of the twon from the train station).
Whatever your choose to do today you enjoy another included dinner this evening at the hotel.
Day 5 – Highland Coach Holiday – Strathspey Steam Railway
After breakfast Day 5 of your Highland coach holiday features an included trip on the Strathspey Steam Railway today. Whilst not as famous as the Hogwarts Express perhaps, or rather the Jacobite Steam train which runs out to Mallaig, the Strathspey Railway is very interesting to visit too. It’s one of the few steam railway lines to connect to a mainline railway – the tracks run side by side in Aviemore.
Aviemore is the heart of the Cairngorms national park, the largest national park in Scotland.
This may be a single or return trip and may start from Aviemore but this isn’t specified.
It is a half day tour with the rest of the day at leisure.
Professional Traveller Note;
- It might be worth asking for a little more information about this trip before you book if a steam railway visit is particuarly important to you. Perhaps ask for more details about the journey and if there is any free time for lunch for example.
Once again dinner is included this evening.
Day 6 – Highland Coach Holiday – Departure Day
After a final included breakfast your last day of your Highland coach holiday means it is time to depart from the hotel. Checkout is by 11am.
Highland Coach Holiday – Coach Holiday Expert Review
This Highland coach holiday is a great opportunity to learn about a bit of Scotland you might not be familiar with. It’s a Highland explorer type tour, based in on eplace with day tours happening most days. It is quite likely that this would be a small group tour.
This Highland coach holiday is based in Inverness which gives easy access to the West Coast, to Loch Ness but also to whisky distilleries, one of which is visited on a tour. It gives a good introduction to Scotland if it’s a first time visit to the country, with a chance to see and learn more about the Highlands in particular and to visit Loch Ness.
- This stay and explore tour gives a good opportunity for visitors to get to know the Highlands of Scotland.
- The included meals mean guests only need to purchase lunches.
- There is plenty of variety on this Scottish Highlands tour with varied visits.
Currently this tour has the following dates available;
- Monday 17th May
- Monday 14th June
- Monday 27th September
- Monday 11th October
Prices start from £639 per person based on two sharing.
Single rooms are available from £719.
If you have found this Highland Coach Holiday article useful you might be interested in;
Scottish Highlands Railway Holiday – in depth review of this long running and popular tour featuring lovely train rides
Douro River Cruise in depth review
The Scottish Highlands – all you need to know about this stunning part of the country
10 Things to Know Before Visiting the Highlands – so you can have an even better holiday
For more help to find your perfect coach holiday check out my Coach Holiday Expert page