Mid-semester tour # 1

3,5 day tour – Inverness & the wild, spectacular North & Northwestern Highlands

February 2020 exact dates tbc

£69 per person (for February 2019 tour) – 2020 low season discounted special tours per person prices tbc

⇒                                   Please note we would be delighted to run this tour at any stage as a private, small group tour – if you have a group of up to 8 people on one of our still available days


  • On our longer multi-day tours on request we offer a per person per day rate to enable you to opt out of or opt in the tour to join and arrive later, to depart and leave earlier or to stay away for longer and allow for more flexibility to accommodate your personal circumstances and preferences. This rate is £19 per person per day on this tour.
  • This is also meant to help those of you, who really would like to join our tour, but can’t make the first or last day and the discount will go somewhat in paying for your public transport costs to join us on our tour. We happily advise your options.
  • Anyone who is already staying in the Inverness area is welcome to join us on a daily basis subject to seat availability.

Pick up from addresses in the Stirling area & the University plus many additional pick up / drop off locations

throughout Scotland, for departure times, links & more info see further down*


 

Itinerary

Have 3 full days to explore Scotland’s wildest and most dramatic scenery in 3 or 4 of the 8 different regions around Inverness below with Inverness at the heart of it all and the Northcoast 500 route encircling much of the various regions below:

North of Inverness: If we make it all the way to Scotland’s Northcoast along the Northcoast 500 route, we will be able to see some of the most beautiful beaches at Durness, Balnakeil, Smoo Cave and the John Lennon memorial. We will go for some cliff walks, but overall this is also a long journey with a lot of time on the bus and for that reason, the as and if not even more stunning region NW and  West of Inverness is high up on the agenda:

Balnakeil

Durness

Smoo cave

Durness weather forecast


Northwest of Inverness: On the road to Ullapool we will be stopping at Rogie falls, one of the most stunning waterfalls in Scotland. We cross the bridge at Corrieshalloch gorge gouged out by the glaciers making their way to the sea during the ice ages. Ullapool is stunning and beautiful, the Westcoast’s third most important ferry port after Oban and Mallaig with the regular ferries over to Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis. Let’s have our last stop in civilisation here before we are heading into one of the last wildernesses and least populated parts of Europe. We stop for a photo overlooking the Rhue lighthouse and over to the summer isles in the sealoch of Loch Broom. The geology in NW Scotland is amazing and we are entering Inverpolly and Assynt and will be going on a walk 600 million year into the past at Knockan crag. The clear colourws of Achmelvich bay beach on a sunny day with blue skies will feel like the Caribbean and the single track roads along the coast will lead us into paradise, so amazing until we come to Stoer lighthouse, where on a clear day we have the Atlantic coastline and the Western isles on the one side and the most spectacular and in February snow-covered wild Highland mountain scenery with some of Scotland’s most iconic peaks, such as Suliven, Stac Pollaidh, Cul Mhor, Cul Beag, Coigach and the Assynt mountains. For outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers it does not get any better and yes, you have arrived in paradise.

 

Rogie Falls

Optional one-way Silverbridge walk

Corrieshalloch gorge

Ullapool

Lochinver

Achmelvich Bay

Discover Assynt

Lochinver weather forecast


West of Inverness: Past Rogie falls and Corrieshalloch gorge the road forks towards Gairloch and you enter a land of serenity and wild beauty with lots of photostops along the way. We pass Inverewe subtropical gardens, the largest in Scotland, as due to the golf stream there is hardly any frost down along the actual west coast. During winter there are more regular cold easterly winds in  Scotland, that also keep the Westcoast more sheltered,

Gairloch weather forecast

Gairloch

Loch Maree

Gairloch is the capital of the region and the harbour and beach are great places to stop. Gairloch is also from where many roads lead to remote peninsulas with some spectacular views across the Minch and over to the Isle of Skye and to the Western Isles – depending on the weather, the group’s preferences and our time keeping lots of options exist, incl. a picnic stop at Loch Maree with its islands and surrounded by Beinn Eighe and other wild peaks we have reached one of Scotland’s most dramatic views. Through the Beinn Eighe nature reserve our road leads us via Kinlochewe and Achnasheen back towards Inverness.


Southwest of Inverness: Past Rogie falls the road forks and we are taking the route towards Kinlochewe from where we are heading into the Torridon area, steep sheer mountain rock faces, driving through spectacular scenery through Caledonian pine forests until we reach the coast at Loch Torridon, there are some wild and most amazing coastal views and routes. Eventually we head via Shieldaig to the Applecross junction, where during the summer months the Bealach na Ba, Scotland’s highest mountain pass route, which is a dream is open to complete the Applecross circuit, one of the wildest and remotest peninsula in Scotland. We will however travel inland via stunning Kishorn and will have some panaromic views back towards the Torridon mountains and ahead of us towards the village of Lochcarron for a stop as this is the first settlement of any size again, we have a shop as well. We drive around the sealoch of Loch Carron and later on can take some super photostops down to Stromeferry and will have a stop and go for a walk through very picturesque and atmospheric Plockton and a quick drive across the Skye bridge to Kyleakin for a photostop and back to the Scottish mainland before we can have a stop at Eilean Donan fairy tale castle and head via the the dramatic Kintail mountains ( a good chance to spot some wild mountain goats, last year we came across a whole herd) and along Loch Ness back to Inverness.

Torridon

Shieldaig

Bealach na Ba

Applecross

Lochcarron

Plockton

Eilean Donan castle

Plockton weather forecast

A lot shorter option for the SW would lead us into Glen Affric with its wild and pristine Caledonian pine forests, bens, lochs and glens. We will be visiting some great waterfalls along the way.

Glen Affric

Glen Affric & Strathglass


South of Inverness: Via the iconic 300 year old Carrbrige and Aviemore, the heart of Scotland’s skiing industry we can visit the golden sandy beach of inland loch Morlich and head up to the Cairngorm mountain resort, some great walking in the area, to the south is also Kincraig wildlie park and the South can easily be combined with the East in a day:

Cairngorm nationalpark

Tomatin distillery

Carrbridge

Loch Morlich

Cairngorm mountain base (funicular railway is closed)

Aviemore weather forecast


East of Inverness: The stunning beaches of Moray, Elgin cathedral & Lossiemouth, the Speyside whisky trail, the Sueno stone highest Pictish slabstone  – near the ancient capital of Pictland/Burghead with its views across the sea, Cawdor, the fairy tale castle, the Culloden battlefield, that changed the Gaelic Highland history forever and Clava Cairns/Craig na Dun standing stones and a lot more

Moray Firth

Fort George

Culloden battlefield

Clava Cairns

Findhorn

Lossiemouth

The Speyside whisky trail

Elgin weather forecast


Northeast of Inverness: Wild beaches, seal colonies, visit historic Dornoch (famouse for its golf, Andrew Carnegie, its beautiful cathedral, where the pop star Madonna got her son christened, etc.) Dunrobin/Scotland’s largest castle, some of Scotland’s finest waterfalls and the millionaire’s view, Tarbat Ness lighthouse with all round views of the Moray Firth, the Dornoch, Falls of Shinn, Cromarty and Kessock bridges & what about some dolphin watching and magic fairy glen or a clootie well plus lots more.

Black Isle

Cromarty Firth

Dornoch

Dunrobin castle

Glenmorangie distillery

Tarbat Ness lighthouse

A long way in the NE – Duncansby head

Dunnet head – the most northerly point of the Scottish mainland

Golspie weather forecast


We only have 3 days and in mid-February a lot will be weather dependent, but the great thing about Inverness, which is surrounded on 3 sides by mountains and it is where all roads of the Highlands join and meet, if the weather is bad rainy and stormy out in the West, it will be sheltered and dryer in the East. If we have cold wintry easterly winds, we can head across the mountains to the Westcoast, etc.

Every day we will present you will have many different routes, options, stops and activities,

it will be up to you in the group to decide which places you prefer to visit and what you like to do in any of the above regions.

Everyone is welcome, this tour is open to anyone, but

  • **as on Friday, 15th February there are still lectures going on at Stirling Uni, we will be leaving later in the day as soon and early as possible after the last person in our group has finished his/her lectures, so the 15th February is more of a travel date to get us to “our home-base Inverness, where we will be staying for 3 nights in the capital of the Highlands” and until we know, who is all joining the tour, we won’t be able to confirm a departure time on that day yet – please note for that reason we have also further reduced the tour price – 3 days+ full guided tour for £69 per person – however if we can leave earlier in the day, we will be stopping and touring at places along the way up north at no extra cost
  • Spectacular, wild scenery in the Northwestern Highlands, endless options for every interest, walks, wildlife, castles to explore the finest scenery  along the Northcoast 500 route and beyond on day excursions from our base in Inverness  = £69  pp + hostel (SYHA hostel for £13.50 pppn).
  • Depending on the weather we have options to visit Torridon, Loch Maree, Gairloch, Applecross in the NW or Ullapool, Achmelvich, Kylesku, the stunning Durness/Balnakeil beaches in the North or Tarbat Ness lighthouse, historic & beautiful Dornoch & cathedral (this is also where the pop-star Madonna got married), seal colony close up, Scotland’s biggest castle and great scenery in the NE or the beautiful beaches along the Moray Coast combined with the Speyside whisky trail or the Cairngorm nationalpark, Glen Afric or Europe’s northernmost dolphin colony in the Moray Firth, etc.. –
  • As this is a min-bus tour, we will be quite flexible and should be able to accommodate some special requests, interests,hobbies, activities, etc. on the trip. 

 

Just a few of many places to visit (we will decide based on the weather – (Inverness/Black Isle is the ideal location to explore the Northern Highlands, for example, if there is a storm coming from the West, the East is normally sheltered, there are so many different regions all with their micro-climate, that we will have plenty of choices and the group’s preferences):

  • East / Moray coast – Sueno stone, Findhorn Bay, Burghead Pictish fort, Lossiemouth beach, Spey Bay, Speyside whisky trail, etc.
  • South / Cairngorm nationalpark / Loch Morlich / Cairngorm mountain resort, 300 year old Carrbridge, etc.
  • South / stunning, wild Glen Affric, Loch Ness & the Great Glen, etc.
  • Northeast / Tarbat Ness lighthouse, Dornoch, beaches, Loch Fleet seal colony, Dornoch castle, Falls of Shinn, etc.
  • West / Applecross / Torridon / Beinn Eighe national nature reserve, Loch Maree , Gairloch area coast and beaches,  Inverewe subtropical gardens (still open during the winter), etc.
  • North:

· The stunning Northwestern Highlands, a geologist’s dream, Coigach, Assynt, Suliven, Inverpolly etc.
· Drive past Ardvreck castle and Loch Assynt to Loch Inver and taking the scenic coastal route with a possible walk to the Old Man of Stoer
· Via Scourie
· Possible option of Kinlochbervie – Sandwood bay beachwalk side trip
· Balnakeil beach – our favourite!!!
· Wild and remote, stunning beach of Durness, Scotland’s northwesterly corner, Smoo Cave
· Drive along the Northcoast Loch Eribol and through the Kyle of Tongue
· Via Altnaharra inland south or if we stay in Thurso, Dunnet bay beach walk, Duncansby cliffs at Scotland’s northeasterly corner walk heading south along the northeast coastline with great coastal views and along Loch Fleet, Dornoch Firth, Cromary Firth, Beauly and Moray Firth, etc.


EXTRAS TO PAY:

* food, drink, entrance fees (castles, museums, attractions, etc.)

* Accommodation in Inverness, the great, modern, friendly, cosy & clean centrally located (for the N, NW, W Highlands and S and E of Inverness) with WIFI, Inverness SYHA hostel, pre-booked and confirmed £13.50 per person per night, but optional as if you prefer to stay somewhere else nearby in Inverness, that is ok as well, you are free to stay where you wish and it won’t make any difference to the tour, as we drop you off at night at your accommodation and in the morning pick you up again.

(Unicorn Tours has pre-booked and pre-paid 9 spaces at the hostel already, so as to be able to offer and guarantee the running of this tour – you don’t have to worry about arranging the accommodation yourself, you just pay us. However if you rather prefer some alternative accommodation, we offer you to opt out and you are then free to chose any other accommodation of your choice for those nights)

however if you prefer, you are free to stay elsewhere for those 3 nights, incl. a B&B or hotel:


Accommodation

We have prebooked and guarantee 8 spaces at the Inverness SYHA.

£13.50 per person per night at the SYHA hostel in Inverness

 https://www.syha.org.uk/where-to-stay/highlands/inverness.aspx

(Unicorn Tours has pre-booked and pre-paid 9 spaces at the hostel already, so as to be able to offer and guarantee the running of this tour – you don’t have to worry about arranging the accommodation yourself, you just pay us. However if you rather prefer some alternative accommodation, we offer you to opt out and you are then free to chose any other accommodation of your choice for those nights)

Or you stay independently at 

Any other hostel/hotel or guesthouse in Inverness.

Accommodation on all of our special tours (2 days & longer):

 We pre-book and guarantee accommodation for all 8 passengers on all our special tours.

The pre-booked and guaranteed accommodation is  a general rule is budget dormitory youth hostel bunk-bed type accommodation in a central and convenient location and depending on where and when typically costs between £12 – £25 per person per night.

We always give you the option to opt-out and find your own private B&B or hotel accommodation nearby, in which case you should advise us early, so we can release those pre-booked bed-spaces.

The tour throughout the day will remain the same, no matter if we pick you up in the morning /drop you off at night at a 5* hotel or hostel, this allows you to pay as little or as much for your accommodation as you like.

Check for additional accommodation info.

 


  • It will also be possible for anyone to join our tour in Inverness later or leave the tour early, if you have time restraints or other commitments and we will discount your tour accordingly
  • also for anyone, who would like to join us for our 2nd mid-semester tour to the Western Isles a few days later to combine both tours at a discounted rate, that is possible as we can pick you up in Inverness again on 21st February and it is just one hour by Citylink coach from Inverness to the ferryport of Ullapool, where you could meet up with the next tour and then have 2 – 3 days free time in the Inverness area between tour # 1 and tour # 2

FAQs

Tourstyle:

  • multi-day tour
  • group choice of daily route on day 2, 3 and 4
  • short, medium or long distance day tours out of Inverness as chosen by the group
  • allowing for some good free time, flexible activities, mixed in with sightseeing and visits

What to bring?


 

*Guaranteed pick ups & drop offs from any location

  • If you book your own private small group tour with us
  • If the special Highlands & Islands tour route passes through or near to your location

 

*Guaranteed pick up from/drop off Edinburgh/Glasgow/Dundee/St. Andrews/Perth & all locations within 1.5 hours driving of Stirling  on our special Highlands & Islands tours:

  • On our 2 days & longer multi-day tours, if you book 2 or more passengers
  • On 1 day tours, if you book as a group of 4 or more

 

*Guaranteed pick up from/drop off at locations more than 1.5 hours driving distance away from Stirling on our special Highlands & Islands tours:

  • On request, if you book 3 or more passengers on our 2 days & longer multi-day tours

 

*Guaranteed pick ups & drop offs from the Stirling area:

  • Always, on any tour
  • Ideally, if at all possible, we like to limit the pick ups to just one convenient time-saving compromise location in central Stirling and a second one at Stirling University, which suits all. We will discuss and confirm once we have received the preferences/addresses of all tour participants.
  • The exact departure times and order of pick ups, who we pick up 1st, 2nd, 3rd and when will then be confirmed as well.t
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