Walk the North Highland Way
A train journey from Edinburgh takes you to the unspoilt beauty and tranquility of Scottish coastline. Visit Duncansby Head and John O’Groats in the far north-east and take a ferry to the Orkney Islands, rich with Viking heritage and folklore. Then head west to evocative Cape Wrath before sampling the magnificent beaches of Sandwood Bay on the wild Atlantic coast.
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Vacation Style Holiday Type
Activity Level Challenging
Lesser-known, lesser-travelled, but no less spectacular. A train journey north from Edinburgh is the stepping stone into our adventure. Beginning with three nights in Thurso, the northernmost town in Scotland, highlights include a visit to Duncansby Stacks, John O Groats and Dunnet Head Lighthouse. As befitting the most northerly point of the UK mainland, the views across the Pentland Firth to the Orkney Islands cannot be done justice with mere words.
Equally, history and culture here cannot be ignored.nbsp; We take a ferry to the Orkney Islands, rich with Viking heritage and folklore. We also visit Wolfburn Distillery to witness a process that’s been going hundreds of years.
We then head west to Bettyhill and onto the village of Durness where we continue walking across some of the most dramatic landscapes in the world, none more evocative than Cape Wrath. The final walk of the week is to the magnificent beaches of Sandwood Bay on the wild Atlantic coast before bidding farewell to the North Highland Way and returning to Edinburgh where our journey ends.
Day 1: Start Edinburgh; morning departure by train to Thurso; arrive late afternoon
The trip starts this morning from Edinburgh Waverley Station where you will meet your tour leader and the rest of the group to depart by rail just before 10am. Today’s journey north, provides the perfect opportunity to admire Scotland’s stunning landscapes whilst getting to know your fellow group members and leader along the way. Throughout the train journey, there will be two changes required; first in Stirling and then in Inverness, arriving in Thurso by 6pm.nbsp; Thurso is the northernmost town on the UK mainland and will be our base for the first 3 nights on the North Highland Way. Due to the relatively early morning train departure from Edinburgh to Thurso on day 1, we do recommend arriving in Edinburgh the day before the trip starts if you would also like to explore Scotland’s captivating capital. Exodus can provide pre-tour accommodation (on request- additional cost) in Edinburgh, please enquire at time of booking. Pentland Lodge House and Pennyland House or similar
Day 2: Morning transfer to John O' Groats; walk to Duncansby Head and Stacks followed by a day trip by ferry to Orkney
After breakfast, we transfer (approx. 30 mins) by private mini-coach to John OGroats. Upon arrival, take a walk along the coast to the lighthouse and Duncansby Heads to admire the breathtaking scenery and impressive sea stacks. We then depart to Orkney by ferry (approx. 40 min journey crossing). This archipelago of islands is renowned for its rich folklore, history and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and is home to some of the oldest and best-preserved Neolithic sites in Europe. Upon arrival, we enjoy a tour visiting all the iconic sights such as Scapa Flow (where the German fleet was scuttled in WW1), The Churchill Barriers including the Italian Chapelnbsp;(built by Italian prisoners of war while constructing the barriers),nbsp;Skara Brae; the Neolithic site on the west of island along with the Standing Stones and Ring of Brodgar at Stenness.nbsp;Finally, we will also the beautiful capital town of Kirkwall with the Nordic Cathedral. nbsp;We return by ferry back to the mainland in the late afternoon before transferring back to Thurso for the evening. Pentland Lodge House and Pennyland House or similar
Day 3: Dunnet Head walk; back to Thurso via Castletown Bay. Evening walk to Scrabster Harbour and out to Holborn Head
This morning we take a short private transfer to Brough to the start point of today’s walk. We first walk out to Dunnet Head Lighthouse. This wild and remote location is the most northerly point on the British nbsp;Mainland. From here, we can view the Orkney Islands on the horizon over sweeping sea views with bird colonies on the cliffs below. Continuing our journey, we then take a coastal walk around Dunnet Bay to the town of Castletown back to Thurso. In the evening, we walk down to explore Scrabster Harbour and out to Holborn Head Lighthouse. Pentland Lodge House and Pennyland House or similar
Day 4: Visit Wolfburn Distillery; followed by transfer to Bettyhill; Torrisdale Bay and Ard Mor walk
After breakfast, we check out of our Thurso accommodation and visit the Wolfburn Distillery in the town where we join a 10am tour to learn how they craft their award-winning whiskies. In the afternoon, we transfer (approx. 45 min) by private mini-coach to the small village of Bettyhill, where we will stay overnight. Upon arrival, we head out for a walk around Torrisdale Bay and Ard Mor overlooking Farr Bay. This afternoon’s walk takes in a striking beach, dunes, riverside, moorland, visits an iron-age broch with stunning views and also passes an area considered a special scientific interest due to rare plants found in there. Bettyhill Hotel or similarnbsp;
Day 5: Transfer to Loch Eribol; walk to Durness
This morning we take a private transfer (approx.1 hour) to Loch Eribol where we will be dropped off at Polla (located at the head of the sea loch) to be begin our walk. The path for today’s walk runs mainly on sandy beachside taking us to the thriving village of Durness, that is surrounded by dramatic landscapes. We stay overnight in Durness. Smoo Cave Hotel or similar
Day 6: Morning ferry; Cape Wrath Lighthouse walk; transfer to Kinlochbervie
Early morning transfer to ferry point at the Kyle of Durness for a 10 minute crossing to the Cape Wrath ferry port. Upon arrival, the group will either take an onward minibus transfer to the lighthouse at Cape Wrath and then walk back to the ferry port or walk to the lighthouse upon arrival (with a minibus transfer back). Today’s walk can be completed in either direction and your leader will advise on your departure. The lighthouse at Cape Wrath is the most north-westerly point on the British mainland and was built in 1828 and manned until 1998. Located in a landscape largely untouched by man, Cape Wrath has a wide diversity of wildlife, including red deer, fulmar, hooded crow, rock pipit, golden eagle, cormorant and gannet. Please note, the ferry is a small boat (5 persons max), so for bigger groups, the group will need to split across a couple ferry trips.nbsp; For those who would like to opt for a quieter day, there is the option to walk aroundnbsp;Balnakeil Beach or visit Smoo Cave from Durness. Later in the afternoon, the group will transfer (approx. 35 min) to the harbour village of Kinlochbervie where we stay for the next 2 nights. Please be advised, in the event of adverse weather, it may not be possible to take the ferry and complete the walk on Cape Wrath. If this occurs, your leader will offer a suitable replacement walk around Balnakeil Beach and Durness. 4th September 2021 departure: This tour departure will stay a 2nd evening in Durness, instead of transferring to Kinlochbervie. Please refer to Is This Trip for You section of the trip notes for more details. Kinlochbervie Hotel or similar
Day 7: Walk to the picturesque Sandwood Bay
Today we commence our last walk of the trip straight from our hotel in Kinlochbervie. Our path will follow mostly moorland track and will culminate with spectacular views of Sandwood Bay, arguably the most beautiful beach in Britain. Here we can spend time exploring the 1.5 miles of golden sand and dunes, with rocky cliffs and a giant sea stack to complete the scene. The roaring sea completes a feeling of sheer isolation at the isolated location, considered one of the most un-spoilt beaches in the whole of Scotland. We spend our last evening of the trip in Kinlochbervie where we will enjoy a final group dinner together. 4th September 2021 departure:nbsp;The group will complete the walk to Sandwood Bay (with a transfer down to Kinlochbervie in the morning to start the walk). After finishing the walk to Sandwood Bay, the group will then transfer (approx. 2 hours) down to Tain, to spend the final night together and stay overnight at the Royal Hotel. On day 8, the group will arrive back into Edinburgh mid-afternoon where the trip will end. Kinlochbervie Hotel or similar
Day 8: Transfer to Lairg; train journey south to Edinburgh; end of trip
This morning we take a private transfer (1 hour and 15 min) to Lairg for our train connection to Inverness; followed by an onward train journey south back to Edinburgh, where the trip will end upon arrival at Edinburgh Waverley Station in the late afternoon/early evening. If you would like to extend your stay in Scotland to explore Edinburgh independently, Exodus can provide post-tour accommodation (on request- additional cost), please enquire at time of booking. 4th September 2021 departure: This morning, the group will depart Tain by train for the journey back down to Edinburgh (there will be one change of train in Inverness), arriving back into the capital mid-afternoon where the trip will end. nbsp;