Highlands Tours from Edinburgh: History, Whisky, Harry Potter &; Outlander

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Looking for the best Highlands tours from Edinburgh? While it takes over three hours to get there, Edinburgh is the perfect starting point for exploring the rolling hills, deep lochs and history in the north of Scotland because there are so many one-day and multi-day tours to meet every budget, timeframe and reasons for visiting.

Tours are accompanied by expert guides who love Scotland so not only are you getting comfortable transport to a difficult to reach region, you will also learn about Scottish culture and history.

The most popular bus tours from Edinburgh tend to leave from a central point the Old Town so consider this when you are researching where to stay.

Highland Cow Close Up with Blue Skies

Where are the Highlands?

Stretching from Fort William along the West coast, up along the top of Scotland to John O’Groats, and down towards Elgin Inverness and Aviemore; the Highlands takes in some of the most rugged and beautiful lands. 

The mountains tower above you as you meander through the glens. 

Discovering the lochs, of which Scotland has over 30,000, there is so much to explore, and getting the right tours from Edinburgh to the Highlands can seem a huge task so let’s dive in and discover which is the best tour for you.

Glen Co Mountains Scotland

Best Day Trips from Edinburgh to The Highlands

Day trips from Edinburgh to the Highlands are a must for you to be able to see everything you want to in Scotland while using Edinburgh as the perfect base. 

To get a good day tour from Edinburgh to the Highlands, we have sourced some of the top choices for you. 

1. Loch Ness and the Highlands

Tours from Edinburgh to Loch Ness are one of the most sought-after routes in Scotland. 

Departing from Edinburgh, you are driven by a tour guide who has all of the local knowledge that you will need to get the most out of your day trip.

Leaving Edinburgh and the city behind, you wind your way up through the hills which slowly turn into mountains. 

As you wind your way through Glen Coe, you can truly understand why this Glen is one of the most famous in the world. 

The ghosts of the Glen Coe massacre whirl about the mountain tops in the mists and clouds that can often be hiding them. 

Make the most of this photo stop by drinking in the sights around you. 

Wee White House at Glencoe Scotland Highlands

From there you travel on to Fort William for a lunch stop. 

There is plenty to see in the town and a wee walk along the waterfront to see Loch Linnie is advised. 

On a clear summer’s day, the loch looks like a mirror, reflecting the mountains around it.

Onwards to Loch Ness, and once again the beautiful scenery that surrounds this loch. 

Loch Ness is the deepest freshwater loch in the UK, it holds more water than all the lakes, reservoirs, and bodies of water in England!

This dark, deep and mysterious loch holds the secret of our infamous Nessie. 

If you wish, you can add an optional boat cruise onto your tour and get up close and personal with Nessie herself!

On the way back to Edinburgh, you have a stop off in one of the jewels of the Highlands, Pitlochry.

Surrounded by mountains and more lochs, you have the opportunity to have a wander around this picture-perfect Highland town.

Pitlochry Dam Visitors Centre Scotland

On your way back to Edinburgh, you can marvel at all the photos you have taken on your 12-hour tour of the Highlands.

As far as tours to Loch Ness from Edinburgh go, this one packs a lot into the time and is well worth you booking in advance.

Glen Co Mountains Road Scotland

2. Hogwarts Express & Scottish Highlands Tour For Harry Potter Fans

One of the best-guided tours from Edinburgh for Harry Potter fans is the Hogwarts Express and Scottish Highlands Tour.

This Highland day tour from Edinburgh takes you on a journey where you learn about the Scottish connections to Harry Potter.

Potter Figure at Victoria Street in Edinburgh

The coach takes you to Mallaig, a small fishing village at the end of the Jacobite Steam train line, and here you will enjoy a trip on the infamous Hogwarts Express, traveling down to Fort William. 

Crossing over the Glenfinnan Viaduct, make sure you are up at the windows to take pictures of this iconic moment. 

Once you are back on the coach, you travel towards Glen Coe and are able to enjoy spotting the places you will recognize from the films. 

Jacobite Steam Train Scotland

On the way back to Edinburgh, you will be regaled with tales of Scotland’s past.

To guarantee a spot on this Hogwarts Express tour, book in advance.

For more Harry Potter inspiration during your Edinburgh stay, have a read of our article.

Jacobite Steam Train Hogwarts Train for Harry Potter Scotland

Three Day Scotland Tours from Edinburgh To The Highlands

3. Popular Isle of Skye Tour From Edinburgh

Using Edinburgh as a base allows you to take advantage of the multi-day tours that there are on offer. 

One of the areas that everyone wants to visit is the Isle of Skye.

This route is like Disneyland in the summer, everyone wants to go here and the roads can be very busy and slow.

Isle of Skye tours from Edinburgh takes the hard work out of this experience and allows you to enjoy the scenery from the comfort of the coach.

Old Sligachan Bridge Isle of Skye Scotland

Day One – Loch Lomond, Glen Coe & Skye

The first day takes you along the banks of Loch Lomond and into the chocolate box village of Luss.

From here you then travel to Tyndrum and up through the mountains into the vast Rannoch Moor.

Rannoch Moor Scotland West Highland Way

Stopping in Glen Coe, you are able to soak in the atmospheric surroundings and see the Buachaillie Etive Mor – one of the most photographed Munros in Scotland!

Buachaille Etive Mor in Glencoe Scotland Highlands

As you make your way towards the Isle of Skye, the Great Glen envelopes you in its beauty. 

Onwards to Portree, the capital of the island and where you will spend the night if you have booked accommodation with the tour.

You are able to book accommodation yourself if you so wish.

Portree Isle of Skye, Scotland

Day Two – Isle of Skye Attractions

Today your guide takes you around the island visiting castles, famous landmarks, and enjoying the towering Cullins that watch over you as you travel around Skye. 

There is plenty to see and the choices are given to you.

Ending the day with The Old Man of Stor before heading back to Portree, is the perfect day of exploring this island.

If you love your seafood and enjoy fine dining, then Skye has a plethora of Michelin recommended restaurants and even one with a Michelin star!

Old Man of Storr Isle of Skye Scotland

Day Three – Majestic Eilean Donan Castle, Loch Ness & Pitlochry

First stop today is Eilean Donan Castle.

The backdrop to the film Highlander, this castle is the home to the Clan MacKenzie and is rich with history and many artifacts relating to the clan.

An unforgettable instagrammable opportunity for you.

Eilean Donan Castle - Scotland

As the day progresses, you wander down to Loch Ness and stop for lunch at Fort Augustus where you can do a spot of Nessie spotting.

The next stop is Pitlochry, a jewel in the Highlands and another photo opportunity for you.

This beautiful Victorian town is surrounded by forests, lochs, and mountains.

Finally, you will end up back in Edinburgh after this unforgettable three-day tour of the Highlands.

Queens-View-in- Perthshire-Scotland

4. Isle of Skye and the Highlands

For a slightly different itinerary, this 3-day tour of the Isle of Skye and the Highlands gives you another route to explore.

Day One – Stirling Castle, Glen Coe & Eilean Donnan Castle

Driving up towards Inverness, you pass by Stirling Castle and you can get in a spot of castle-bagging photo opportunities.

The road through Rannoch Moor is atmospheric and the landscape bleak and romantic.

Glen Coe’s spectacular mountain ranges catch your breath as you snake your way through them. 

As you reach the coast, the medieval Eilean Donan Castle is another photo and castle-bagging opportunity for you.

You enjoy an overnight stay in Inverness.

Stirling Castle blue skies train trips from edinburgh

Day Two – Isle of Skye Points of Interest

Today is spent on the Isle of Skye where you can explore the many attractions this Hebridean Island has. 

From here, you are back to Inverness to spend the night.

Kilt Rock Isle of Skye on Scotland

Final Day – Urquhart Castle, Loch Ness, Culloden & Edinburgh

Day three gives you time to wander around Urquhart Castle, take a boat trip, or a walk along the banks of Loch Ness where you can see if Nessie, our famous monster, will pop her head above the water for you. 

A stop off at the Culloden battlefield is next where you can take a tour of the area. 

Steeped in the blood of the Jacobites, this is one of the most historic sites in Scotland.

On your way back to Edinburgh, you will stop off in Pitlochry for a wander around this picturesque Victorian town. 

Edinburgh to the Isle of Skye excursions book up fast, so it is advisable to pre-book these.

Culloden Battlefield Scotland

5. Isle of Skye & Jacobite Steam Train 3-Day Highland Tour

There are so many Highland tours from Edinburgh and so many ways to visit everything that is on your Scottish bucket list.

One way to incorporate the most famous island, Skye, and the Jacobite steam train – which is a must-do when visiting Scotland, is to book this three-day tour

Glenfinnan Viaduct arches Scotland

Day One – Perthshire, Eilean Donan Castle & Skye

Day one brings you from Edinburgh to the gateway of the Highlands, Perthshire. 

A stop off in the beautiful village of Dunkeld gives you a taster of the towns and villages to come.

Wandering onwards and upwards, you encounter the Great Glen.

Steeped in history, this Glen follows the route of the Caledonian Canal which links three lochs creating a waterway from Inverness down to Fort William. 

Neptune Staircase Caledonian Canal For William Scotland Highlands

Another famous landmark you will pass is Eilean Donan Castle, one of the most photographed castles in Scotland. 

From here you move on to the Isle of Skye and then towards Portree where you will spend the night. 

Eilean Donan Castle in Scotland

Day Two – Skye Attractions

Today sees you exploring the island itself with a knowledgeable guide who will regale you with the history of the island and the attractions.

With attractions such as the Old Man of Stor, the waterfalls of Kilt Rock, and Dunvegan Castle, you will be spoilt for choice. 

Old-Man-of-Storr-Skye_

Day Three – Jacobite Steam Train aka Harry Potter Train

On the third day, you are taken to the south of the island and then on the ferry over to Mallaig where you will catch the Jacobite steam train to Fort William.

This train route is one of the most scenic routes in the world.

Make sure you have your camera ready as you cross the Glenfinnan Viaduct, made famous in the Harry Potter films.

Glenfinnan Viaduct Sign Scotland

From the train, you will be able to spot the Glenfinnan Monument set on the shores of Loch Sheil and is said to stand on the spot where Bonnie Prince Charlie arrived to begin his campaign of restoring the Stuarts to the throne.

Loch Shiel, Glenfinnan Scotland

You will be picked up by the coach in Fort William and the drive back to Edinburgh takes you through Glen Coe.

You will be spoilt for choice when deciding what photographs to take!

As far as Scotland tours from Edinburgh to Skye go, this one is a must for your itinerary.

Jacobite Steam Train Hogwarts Train Harry Potter Scotland

6. Distillery Tours from Edinburgh

No trip to Scotland would be complete without a visit to a whisky distillery. 

‘Today’s rain is tomorrow’s whisky’ is a well-known saying in Scotland and is very true.

Scotland is full of distilleries and finding the right tour can be daunting with so many to choose from. 

Speyside is one of the areas in Scotland that isn’t always on visitors’ radar when they come to Scotland, so using this whisky tour allows you to see another stunning part of this beautiful country.

Whisky, plate with Scottish cheeses and variety of Scotch in glasses in Edinburgh food

Day One – Fife, Pitlochry & Granton-on-Spey

Beginning in the Kingdom of Fife at Lindores Abbey where the modern distillery is built on the site of the first-ever recorded distillery in the country, your whisky tour begins.

From here, you move on to the Victorian town of Pitlochry where you can have lunch and wander around this beautiful spot.

The oldest to the highest distillery is next when you pop into Dalwhinney which uses the River Spey as its source. 

After a dram or two, you are taken to Granton-on-Spey where you will be based for the two nights accommodation. 

Day Two – Cardhu Distillery

The middle day is a tour around the Spey area visiting four distilleries while enjoying the scenery. 

Your visit includes a tour around Cardhu Distillery, which is the first distillery pioneered by a woman.

Cardhu whisky is the most important whisky in the Johnny Walker Balck Label.

Last Day – Glenlivet, Balmoral Castle & Edinburgh

Day three takes you to Glenlivet, another distillery, and also a beautiful glen where walks and wildlife are to be enjoyed.

The trip back to Edinburgh passes by Balmoral Castle, the Queen’s Scottish residence, and then onto Braemar.

This bustling Highland town is in the heart of the national park and is surrounded by mountains and forests.

The drive through the highest mountain road in Scotland is breathtaking and you will enjoy a different side to Perthshire as you wind your way towards Edinburgh.

Booking this Speyside whisky tour is a must and you need to factor in your meals as well as your entrance fees to the attractions that you will visit.

Four Day Tours of the Highlands 

Often three days touring in the Highlands doesn’t give you enough time to explore the area in full. 

These four-day tours have added in some more attractions for you to take advantage of and they give you that extra time to feel less rushed.

7. Isle of Skye and West Highlands: 4-Day Tour from Edinburgh

Day one – Edinburgh to the Kelpies

This 4-day tour packs in a lot of Scottish landmarks!

Kelpies are folklore in Scotland, water gods that stalked the shores of the lochs and rivers to stop children from straying too close to the water.

These water gods would take those who were bold enough to go too close to the water’s edge as a human sacrifice.

The stories did the trick, and children were too afraid to go near the water!

These glorious 30 meter high statues are a sight to behold.

They glisten in the sun as though they have just risen from the water.

After you have had a chance to wander here, your guide will take you through the small villages of Killin and Callendar where you will have the chance to stop at one of them. 

Driving on towards Glen Coe, you will pass by many beautiful lochs and mountains – make sure you have your camera ready for all the photo opportunities!

Once you reach Fort William, this is where you stop for the evening and spend the night.

Make the most of this Highland town. 

There is so much to explore here and the scenery surrounding the town is spectacular. 

Kelpies Scotland

Day Two – Fort William & Mallaig

Today your destination is the Isle of Skye.

Beginning in Fort William, your route takes you past the Glenfinnan Viaduct which you will recognize from the Harry Potter films. 

The road towards Mallaig gives you views over towards the Isles of Eig, Muck, and Rhum and you will catch glimpses of sands so white, you will think it is the Caribbean.

Mallaig itself is a small Highland fishing village where the Jacobite Steam train arrives and departs from.

Here you catch the ferry over to the Isle of Skye and spend the afternoon exploring the Sleat Peninsula.

You will spend the next two nights on Skye giving you plenty of time to explore the island and all it has to offer. 

Inverlochy Castle Fort William Scotland

Day Three – Stunning Isle of Skye

Excursions today are all about the attractions that Skye has, from the Old Man of Stor to Coral Beach. 

Your guide will tailor your itinerary to your needs.

Portree Color Houses Skye

Final Day

Day four, when you wave goodbye to Skye and you begin your journey back towards Edinburgh.

The route takes you down towards Perthshire and the village of Dunkeld where you can visit the ruins of the cathedral.

This four-day trip of Skye and the West Highlands is more relaxed in its itinerary and allows you a little more breathing space.

Dunkeld Atholl Memorial Fountain

Outlander Tours

We’ve had the Harry Potter tours and we’ve had the whisky tours, what are we missing?

Outlander! 

This series has made famous more areas of Scotland than just the usual tourist routes.

These next two tours give you the opportunity to visit some of the places Outlander is filmed at and your guide will walk you through the history the countryside is steeped in.

Outlander Edinburgh Tour in Scotland

8. Outlander Experience Two Day Tour

A visit to Edinburgh wouldn’t be complete without this two-day tour.

It is ideal for those who want to enjoy Scottish Highland tours from Edinburgh as their base, but don’t have the time to put it together themselves.

Day One – Blackness Castle, Doune Castle & Loch Ness

The first day you guide will take you to Blackness Castle overlooking the Firth of Forth. 

The castle was used as the backdrop to Fort William and other places in the television series.

Doune Castle is next which was used as Castle Leoch, and once you have had a chance to walk a little, you are then on to Deanston Distillery for lunch and a wee dram.

Up through Glen Coe, you have a quick stop at Loch Ness then you will arrive at Inverness where you will be staying the night. 

Doune Castle Outlander Audio Guide_

Day Two – Craig na Dun, Culloden Battlefield & Midhope Castle

Day two sees you exploring the ruins of Clava Cairns or for the Outlander fans Craig na Dun.

Will you be transported back in time as Claire was when you touch the stones?

Culloden Battlefield is next and here you can see where the last fought battle took place on British soil.

As the day progresses, you will visit the Highland Folk Museum where you can get a taste of Scotland through the ages.

Making your way back to Edinburgh, your last stop is Falkland Village where the scenes for Inverness were shot.

Your final stop and chance to walk in the footsteps of Claire and Jamie is Midhope Castle.

This castle is the setting for Lallybroch.

This short Outlander tour is the perfect experience for those diehard Outlander fans!

Midhope Castle Lallybroch Outlander_

9. Four-Day Outlander Trail From Edinburgh

For a more leisurely tour and a bigger Outlander experience, we suggest the four-day tour

Make sure you have your camera charged and a spare battery pack with you. 

This will be a spectacular tour!

Day One – Cute Culross & The Highland Folk Museum

Beginning in Fife with the small village of Culross, you will start to see the magic of the small villages used as filming locations.

Stopping here for a photo opportunity, you next move on to the charming village of Falkland.

The scenes for Inverness were shot here.

From here, you move to Newtonmore and the Highland Folk Museum. 

You can visit the 18th-century turf-roofed Highland crofts that were used as a setting in the first episode of the show.

As you drive to Inverness where you will spend the next two nights, you pass by Aviemore and the setting for Tulloch Ghru.

Geillis Duncan House Culross Outlander_

Day Two – Culloden Battlefield, Clava Cairns (Craig na Dun) & Castle Leod

Your guide will now take you to visit Culloden Battlefield where Claire and Jamie said their tearful goodbyes before Jamie joined the Jacobite army to fight for the Stuarts.

You can spend time at the visitors center and see where so many lost their lives at the last fought battle on British soil.

Your next stop is the ruins of Clava Cairns or for you, Outlander fans Craig na Dun.

Will you be transported back in time as Claire was when you touch the stones?

After lunch, you can explore Castle Leod, the home of Clan MacKenzie in the series before moving on to the heart of the Fraser lands. 

A stop at a distillery will give you a chance to sample the ‘water of life,’ before heading back to Inverness for your overnight stay. 

Day Three – Glen Affric & Fort William With Ben Nevis Views

Today you embark on an exploration journey through Glen Affric, one of the most majestic glens in Scotland.

It is a chance to soak in the extraordinary Scottish Highland scenery and see the a few of the over 30,000 lochs Scotland boasts as you make your way to Fort William.

Your overnight stay is in this lovely Highland town where you will find much to explore.

Make the most of any free time here as you will discover just how welcoming this town in the shadow of Ben Nevis is.

Corpach Wreck in Fort William Scotland Highlands

Final Day – Magical Glen Coe, Doune Castle & Blackness Castle

As you make your way home towards Edinburgh, you will be taken through the most famous of the glens, Glen Coe.

The rugged, towering mountains stand majestically over you as you drive through the valley.

Look out for the most photographed mountain, the Buachaillie Etive Mor. 

Your next Outlander spot is Doune Castle which was used as Castle Leoch.

Blackness Castle rounds off this memorable trip.

After these four days exploring the Outlander trail, you will be completely in love with Scotland and running home to rewatch the Outlander series.

If you’d like to discover more options, read this guide to Outlander tours in Scotland.

Glen Co Scotland

Can You Visit The Highlands Without A Tour?

Once you are in Edinburgh, there are many ways in which you can get to the Highlands. 

From car hire to public transport, Edinburgh can offer you plenty of choices. 

Train

You can get to Inverness from Waverley Station in Edinburgh in around 3hrs and 20 mins.

The trains run from 04:10 am if you are looking to get a full day trip and the last one leaves at 19:42.

Once you are in Inverness you would then need to use public transport, mainly buses, to get around.

Note: The further north you go, public transport tends to get a little less frequent.

Bus

If you want to use the coach, then you can get from St Andrews Square Bus Station to Inverness in around 3hrs and 45 mins. 

The earliest bus leaves at 8 am with the last one leaving at 19:50.

Car Hire

You can hire a car from Edinburgh Airport.

However, many visitors find the Highlands roads a challenge as they are very different to what they are used to at home, especially North American drivers.

Expect narrow winding roads, single tracks with passing places and steep drops.

If you plan to drive and visit distilleries you will need a designated driver as you can’t drink and drive in Scotland.

Small group Highland tours from Edinburgh are a better option for those who want to enjoy the beautiful scenery without the stress of driving!

Final Words

Edinburgh is the perfect base for exploring Scotland. 

Whether it is day trips or multi-day trips you are looking for, you will find something for your budget and itinerary. 

The Highlands of Scotland are very popular to visit, and if you are not a confident driver, then we suggest that you use a guided tour to make sure you get the most out of your visit.

Let us know what you book and how you get on! 

We love to hear about your experiences.

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