Duncansby Heads Stacks

Walk the North Highland Way

8 days
from
£1,749
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Walking & Trekking
Suitable for:
Age 16+
Activity level:
Moderate
Activity Rating - Moderate
Trip code: 
TEM
Way to Travel:
Guided Group
Activity:
Walking & Trekking
Max group size:
12
Min age:
16

Walk Scotland's less-travelled North Highland Way for the perfect combination of scenery & history

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.  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.

Highlights

  • Cliff-top views & white sandy beaches with the opportunity see to puffin bird colonies (in season)
  • Day trip to the magical Orkney islands; famed for its Viking heritage, rich folklore and ancient Neolithic UNESCO sites
  • Visit the Wolfburn Distillery, the most northerly whisky distillery on the Scottish mainland
  • Walk to Sandwood Bay, one of the most magnificent beaches in Scotland

 

Key information

  • 7 nights in local, family-run hotels and guest houses
  • 6 days walking
  • Group normally 4-12, plus leader. Min age. 16 yrs
  • Low altitude throughout
  • Travel by private minibus and train
  • Countries visited: United Kingdom, Europe

What's included

  • All breakfasts included
  • All accommodation
  • Transport as listed in itinerary & luggage transfer throughout week

 

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Visas & Vaccinations
  • Single supplement (available on request and subject to availability)
Call for general departures:
020 8772 3943
Call for private group trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

6

Days of Walking & Trekking
Terrain:

Low altitude throughout; varied coastal paths; sandy beaches and occasionally rugged and/or steep paths

Day by day breakdown
Day 2 5.0km/3.0miles
Day 3 24.0km/15.0miles
Day 4 11.0km/7.0miles
Day 5 23.0km/14.0miles
Day 6 20.0km/13.0miles
Day 7 24.0km/15.0miles

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Itinerary

Edinburgh
to
Edinburgh
  • 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. 

    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 & 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 O’Groats. 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 Chapel (built by Italian prisoners of war while constructing the barriers), Skara Brae; the Neolithic site on the west of island along with the Standing Stones and Ring of Brodgar at Stenness. Finally, we will also the beautiful capital town of Kirkwall with the Nordic Cathedral.

     We return by ferry back to the mainland in the late afternoon before transferring back to Thurso for the evening.

    Pentland Lodge House & Pennyland House or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • 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  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 & Pennyland House or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • 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 similar 

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • 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

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • 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. 

    For those who would like to opt for a quieter day, there is the option to walk around 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

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • 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: 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

    Meals included: Breakfast
  • Day 8

    Transfer to Lairg; train journey south to Edinburgh; end of trip

    This morning we take a private transfer (1 hour & 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.

     

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info

Visas

Vaccinations

United Kingdom

No vaccinations are obligatory.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts are included.

Lunches can be purchased from local bakeries, shops and mini-markets which will offer you the opportunity to try lots of local produce and delicacies. Packed lunches may also be possible to organise with accommodations stayed at during the trip.

Dinners will be taken at accommodations we stay at or traditional local pubs along the way.

Weather

The North of Scotland provides an opportunity to experience vast landscapes and open skies rarely found in any other part of the UK.  The climate is generally mild between April – October with changeable days when it is entirely possible to have rain, wind and brilliant sunshine in a short period. 

Waterproof clothing is therefore essential and should be carried at all times as should a light thermal vest / jacket as the wind that blows west to east off the Atlantic can be fresh. Temperatures rarely fall below 12 degrees but can reach the mid 20’s during the height of the summer when daylight dims for only 4 hours at the Summer Equinox period in June.

Is this trip for you?

Activity Level: 3 (Moderate)

The terrain and type of tracks will vary but most of the walking is on coastal paths (not always clearly marked) that also include walking through moorlands, grassy paths, sandy beaches and the occasional rough, rugged or steep sections, with little shelder. The walks are not technically difficult and are low altitude through-out. However you will need to cover distances of up to 24km so a good level of fitness is required. Equally you must be prepared for inclement weather. 

You will only need to take a daypack with you on the walks and luggage will be transferred between the accommodations during the trip.

4th September 2021 departure:

Due to limited accommodation availability, please be advised the 4th September 2021 departure will not stay overnight in Kinlochbervie on day 6 & 7 of this departure. Instead on day 6, the group will stay a 2nd night in Durness. On day 7 the group will complete the walk to Sandwood Bay as per day 7 of the trip notes (with a transfer down to Kinlochbervie in the morning to start the walk). After finishing the walk on day 7, 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.

Following a review of all our trips we have categorised this trip as generally not suitable for persons of reduced mobility. However if you are a regular traveller on such trips, please contact customer services to discuss the trip and your personal condition.

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3943
Call for private group trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Accommodation

Hotels & Guesthouses

Throughout the week, you will spend 7 nights in locally owned, family-run hotels and guesthouses. The accommodations have been selected for their charm, character and offer a comfortable stay. All accommodations offer rooms with en-suite.

Please be advised that for bigger group sizes, the first 3 nights in Thurso will be accommodated in two properties located closely to each other. 

Call for general departures:
020 8772 3943
Call for private group trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

Have you been on this adventure? Tell others what it’s like by writing a review.

Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.

 

What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros  Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.

 

2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
 
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros  Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.

 

3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros  Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.

 

 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 

 

Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

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