Scotland: Edinburgh, Balmoral, and Moray

  • Fife
  • Balmoral Castle
  • Cairngorm Highlands
  • Moray
  • Black Isle
  • Edinburgh


August 6 - 15, 2024


  • Excellent hotels, including one castle hotel, lovely settings, and top-shelf hospitality
  • Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and the stories represented there
  • Edinburgh’s New City and its planned neighborhoods of Georgian townhouses
  • Fife’s quaint villages, including Falkland and St. Andrews
  • Braemar’s natural beauty and the Royal Castle of Balmoral
  • Whiskey-brewing in the Spey Valley and stories of the Jacobites
  • The tranquil and scenic Black Isle

Trip Description

It’s time to return to Scotland—a place intertwined with the travel style and sense-of-place values that we embrace at Explore Up Close.  Our itinerary will take shape around four “places” / regions that deserve it:  Edinburgh, Scotland’s primary city and cultural hub; Fife, the historic heartbeat of Scotland, just north of the River Forth; Balmoral Castle and the lovely Cairngorm Highlands; and Scotland’s near North Coast, including Moray and the enchanting “Black Isle.”  We’ll start in Edinburgh and drive north with multi-night stays in each region.


Day 1-2

Departure for Scotland. Overnight over the Atlantic.

Our trip will officially begin upon arrival in Edinburgh. We’ll gather at the Edinburgh Airport and be met by our private minibus and driver. We’ll take a short drive along the Pentland Hills to arrive at the lovely Roslyn Chapel—a great place to unwind after our flight. You’ll be able to do what’s comfortable for you: explore the lovely glen footpaths outside, see exhibits in the beautiful chapel, and catch your breath in the coffee shop and grab a well-timed bite to eat.

Then we’ll drive into Edinburgh, stopping at the NTS (National Trust for Scotland) Georgian House—a delightful house museum in Georgian-era New Town. Afterwards, we’ll check into our hotel—The Inn on the Mile. We’ll be situated about midway along the Royal Mile—a great location for exploring as a small group and on your own.

Dinner and overnight in Edinburgh.

Day 3

In the morning, we’ll enjoy a walk past St. Giles Cathedral into the grounds of Edinburgh Castle. We’ll wind up at the National Museum for Scotland, where we’ll enjoy free time to explore and lunch on site.

We’ll have a rest / “free time” in the middle of the day, and then gather to visit Holyrood Palace at the lower end of Canon Gate.

That evening, dinner is on your own, and then other options abound! Those interested in tickets for The Royal Military Tattoo (a festival at the nearby Edinburgh Castle) can get help securing tickets from Explore Up Close; and those interested in walking the paths that explore Arthur’s Seat can do so.

Day 4

That morning, we’ll make our way to Edinburgh’s port of Leith, where we’ll visit the Royal Yacht Britannia. Then we’ll drive along the Firth of Forth—with great morning views of the Forth River Railroad Bridge—to make our crossing at the Queensferry auto bridge over to Fife: our home for the next two nights.

Our scenic drive will take us to the pretty village of Falkland, framed by the lovely Lomond Hills. (Fans of the series Outlander may recognize filming locations in Falkland, in Fife, and even in Edinburgh!)

By the mid-afternoon, we’ll be checked into our lodgings at The Bank Hotel in the coastal village of Anstruther. We’ll enjoy strolls in the village, scenes from the rear deck of The Bank, and then dinner and our overnight.

Day 5

Our first visit of the day will be to the nearby Scottish Fisheries Museum. Then we’ll wind through rural lanes to the famous town of St. Andrews. Enjoy free time to explore in St. Andrews: the beach, the famous Old Course (as well as the New Course), St. Andrews University, and ancient ruins of the castle and cathedral.

In the afternoon, we’ll gather to return to our lovely residence in Anstruther. You can enjoy “down time” (which might include a variety of pretty walks in Anstruther) or optionally join us for a visit to nearby Kellie Castle and Gardens (another NTS site). Dinner and overnight in Anstruther.

Day 6

We’ll bid farewell to our hosts and then drive to points north. Our route will take us through the Scottish seaside titan of Dundee and into the Highlands of the Cairngorm Mountains.

We’ll arrive at the Dalmunzie Castle Hotel—near the village of Spittal of Glenshee (… it doesn’t get more “Scottish” than that!)—where we’ll spend the next two nights. Dalmunzie is a hunting lodge in a lovely natural setting. Enjoy walks on the property and the beautiful and comfortable sitting rooms and bar. Dinner and overnight at Dalmunzie Castle.

Day 7

We’ll drive to nearby Balmoral Castle—official Scottish residence of the Royal Family. We’ll enjoy time on site: touring Balmoral’s public rooms and gardens, and enjoying lunch on site.

Afterwards, we’ll visit the Royal Lochnagar Distillery, just up the road. Then we’ll return to Dalmunzie Castle for dinner and overnight.

Day 8

Upon departing Dalmunzie, we’ll drive via Braemar and Ballater through lovely Cairngorm valleys—taking in the village of Corgarff and the “legend” of the Blackwatch Regiment, en route to Tomintoul. After lunch, we’ll cross the valley of the Spey River, then descend to the North Sea resort town of Nairn.

We’ll check into the lovely Invernairne Hotel and enjoy walks on the beach, sea views from the hotel garden, and great comfort and hospitality. We’ll venture into town this evening for a proper look around and to enjoy dinner in a repurposed schoolhouse. Overnight in Nairn.

Day 9

That morning, we’ll enjoy a drive to the nearby Black Isle. It’s one of the most enchanting regions of Scotland (not called “the Highlands”)—home to forests and farms, fishing villages, and the pretty town of Cromarty. It’s a day for the camera and a heart to be inclined toward Scotland.

We’ll return to Nairn for one more delightful evening, celebrating our adventures together. Dinner and overnight in Nairn.

Day 10

It’s a short drive to the Inverness Airport to begin our journeys home. Fare thee well!

What's Included

  • Comfortable ground transportation
  • Accommodation for 8 nights with breakfast in outstanding inns
  • 4 lunches and 4 dinners
  • All activities / admissions per the itinerary
  • Guide and concierge service throughout the trip

Trip Price

$6,091 / person (double occupancy; single supplement, $1,380)

What's Not Included

Price does not include international airfare, alcohol, other meals, or trip insurance (recommended).

I highly recommend Explore Up Close. Not only did we enjoy some beautiful cities and landscapes, we learned so much history. They are memory makers!
If you want first-class service within a small group of traveling companions that you can really get to know, then definitely consider Explore Up Close.

Trip insurance safeguards your travel investment, your belongings, and most importantly, you. Trip insurance is required for all international trips, in the event you have to cancel or leave a trip for any reason. Please note, all trip participants should wait for confirmation from Explore Up Close that the trip has the minimum sign-up required to be a “go” before purchasing travel insurance or airline tickets. Please confirm with Explore Up Close before making any additional travel arrangements.

Once you have received confirmation from Explore Up Close, we recommend contacting a travel insurance provider directly to request a quote and compare pricing and features. You can find other providers that may fit your needs at, or we can gladly connect you with our travel agent.

Please note, all trip participants should wait for confirmation from Explore Up Close that the trip has the minimum sign-up required to be a “go” before purchasing airline tickets.

Explore Up Close will provide a recommended flight itinerary for your consideration, which is intended as a helpful suggestion. We encourage travelers to choose airfare depending on their personal preferences, as some travelers may prefer to travel independently and meet at our destination, or may wish to extend their travels at the beginning or end of the trip. Our travel agent is available to assist you with booking flights and trip insurance.

Again, please confirm with Explore Up Close before purchasing your airline tickets or making additional travel arrangements!

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