Sightseeing IdeasScotland Tourist Information

The Best Small Group Tours of Scotland

Small-group tours are a great way to sit back and relax while a professional driver whisks you around a carefully chosen selection of top Scottish attractions. You’ll never get lost, you’ll always take the scenic route, you won’t have the stress of dealing with busy roads, and you’ll be able to sample the occasional dram of whisky when you de-bus at each destination. Seriously, what’s not to like about that?!

Discover the best small group tours of Scotland in this comprehensive guide which includes itineraries for the best tours in the main tourist areas.

Eilean Donan Castle

Small Group Tours of Scotland

While there are lots of small group bus operators running guided tours all over Scotland the biggest and best (in my opinion) is Rabbies. These guys have been going since 1993 and they have a small army of buses and drivers at their disposal with tours that head into the remotest regions of Scotland.

I’ve used them before, and I can recommend them to anyone visiting this country, not just because their drivers are so enthusiastic and knowledgeable but also because their website makes booking an absolute breeze and their prices are very reasonable.

Whenever I’ve used them I’ve found their coaches to be clean and modern and they go to all the best parts of the country so I honestly don’t think there’s any need to book with anyone else. The icing on the cake, however, is the fact they actively support Scotland’s local communities and they go all-out to be eco-friendly.

With that in mind, I’ll offer you a few suggestions in this article for small group bus tours you might like to take with Rabbies, all of which offer a different experience in different parts of Scotland. Please note that these tours are overviews of what Rabbies offer and the actual itineraries may change over time.

Small Group Tours of the Isle of Skye

The Storr

Skye, or ‘the misty isle’ as it’s often called, offers some of the most dramatic scenery in Scotland. It’s on this west coast island (the second-largest in the country) that you’ll find yourself transported into a mythical landscape full of dramatic mountain peaks, crystal-clear lochs, windswept moors, and quaint villages. But it’s not just the landscapes that attract people to the Isle of Skye.

Fabulous restaurants, sumptuous hotels and the friendliest people you’ll ever meet are the order of the day wherever you go on this island which has more famous attractions than anywhere else in northern Britain, barring, perhaps, the city of Edinburgh.

Looking for breathtaking walks across landscapes forged by ancient landslides? Visit The Quiraing. Want to see amazing views across mountains from jaw-dropping clifftops? Visit The Old Man of Storr. Fancy swimming in the deepest blue pools of crystal-clear water you’ll ever see in your life? Then take a trip to The Fairy Pools.

Once you’ve had your fill of dramatic scenery you’ll be pleased to know the wildlife-spotting opportunities on Skye are also out of this world and there are guided tours to take you around the coastline to see golden eagles, basking sharks, dolphins, seals and even the occasional minke whale.

Highlights of a visit have to be wandering around Portree (the main village on the island which has amazing fish and chip shops), Dunvegan Castle (the ancestral home of Clan MacLeod), Neist Point lighthouse and Armadale Castle.

As a bonus, you’ll find Scotland’s most photogenic historic attraction – Eilean Donan Castle – a short drive (40-ish minutes) on the other side of the Skye Bridge. Clearly, Skye has something for everyone and a visit there offers more than enough activities to occupy the entirety of your holiday in Scotland.

It’s all too easy to miss the best sights if you don’t join a professionally-run organised tour that’s been designed to show you the maximum number of attractions in a fairly short space of time, but Rabbies come thundering to the rescue with a first-class collection of tours to choose from.

Take a look at a few of the ideas below for Isle of Skye tours that’ll blow your socks off.

Skye & Eilean Donan Castle 1-Day Tour


  1. Travel along the Great Glen fault line towards Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle.
  2. Stop at Invermoriston and then head towards Skye – but not before stopping at Eilean Donan Castle.
  3. Cross the sea to Skye and follow the road up the east coast through the Red Cuillin mountains to Sligachan.
  4. Stop at Portree for food.
  5. Explore the Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock and the Quiraing.
  6. Head to Kyleakin to see Castle Moil then cross the Skye Bridge and finish the tour in Inverness.

Note: departures for this tour are from Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Isle of Skye 3-Day Tour

Itinerary day 1:

  1. Travel across the Highlands and the fault line past Loch Lubnaig and Rannoch Moor.
  2. Continue through Glencoe, stop for lunch, and pass Ben Nevis.
  3. Continue into the Great Glen and head towards Eilean Donan.
  4. Stop at the castle for photos.
  5. Cross the Skye Bridge and drive to Portree.

Itinerary day 2:

Explore Skye depending on the weather. Visit the Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock, the Quiraing and/or Dunvegan Castle.

Itinerary day 3:

  1. Travel back through the Cuillin Hills before heading onto the mainland.
  2. Head towards Loch Ness and stop at the loch for lunch.
  3. Continue past the Grampian mountains, Loch Laggan and Dalwhinnie (home of Dalwhinnie whisky).
  4. Travel past Blair Castle.
Fairy Pools

Isle of Skye 4-Day Tour

Itinerary day 1:

  1. From Edinburgh travel northwest past The Kelpies artworks.
  2. Stop for lunch at the rural village of Callander.
  3. Continue through the Highlands past Rannoch Moor.
  4. Travel to Glencoe.
  5. Drive alongside Loch Linnhe and stop overnight at Fort William.

Itinerary day 2:

  1. From Fort William pass the Glenfinnan viaduct (as seen in the Harry Potter movies).
  2. Continue to the coastal port of Mallaig and take the ferry to Skye.
  3. Explore the Sleat Peninsula, the Glenbrittle waterfall and/or the Cuillin mountains.
  4. Stay overnight in the Lochalsh area of Skye.

Itinerary day 3:

Visit the Old Man of Storr, the Quiraing, and Neist Point, dependent on the weather.

Itinerary day 4:

  1. Travel back to the mainland through Glen Shiel, past Loch Cluanie and towards Ben Nevis.
  2. Drive past the Monadhliath mountains in the central highlands and stop in the village of Dunkeld to see the cathedral.
  3. Travel south through the Lowlands to return to Edinburgh.

Small Group Scotch Whisky and Distillery Tours


Whisky has links to Scotland in a way that no other product has to any other country. Uisge beatha (to use its Gaelic name, or ‘the water of life’ in English), has been distilled in Scotland for at least five hundred years and likely has a history stretching back even further than that.

It’s known that Irish monks brought some of the first samples of their distilled spirits to the Isle of Skye in the 14th century and from there the process of making whisky was refined across the Highlands as canny Scots realised there was money to be made in the whisky trade.

There are five main Scotch whisky regions to discover when you embark on a whisky tour of Scotland, and each is unique for the style of whisky they produce. Speyside in the northeast is generally light and sweet; Highlands whisky is light and smoky; Lowland produces light and fruity single malts; Campbeltown is a mixture of peat and fruit; and Islay whisky is heavily peated.

A whisky tour is a great way to see the more off-the-beaten-path areas of Scotland as many of the distilleries were built long before the tourist industry was imagined and you’ll find the country’s 120 distilleries spread far and wide from seafront to mountainside.

Nearly all of Scotland’s distilleries have visitor centres and organised walk-around tours and many of them also have their own cafes so you’ll never struggle to find somewhere to eat. And you might even have the time to sample a few drams afterwards.

Speyside Cooperage

Speyside Whisky & Moray Firth 1-Day Tour


  1. Depart Inverness and travel east to the Moray Firth coastline.
  2. Stop at the Benromach distillery.
  3. Drive to and stop at the coastal village of Findhorn.
  4. Continue to Elgin to see Elgin Cathedral.
  5. Head south to the River Spey and stop for photos.
  6. Continue to the Glenfiddich distillery in Dufftown for a tour.
  7. Visit Balvenie Castle.
  8. Return to Inverness via the River Fiddich and the Speyside Cooperage.

Cairngorms & Speyside Whisky 1-Day Tour


  1. Depart Inverness and drive south to the Cairngorms National Park.
  2. Stop at the forest village of Carrbridge then continue towards Aviemore.
  3. Head to Glenmore Forest Park to either go for a woodland walk around Loch Morlich or stop at the loch’s beach and visitor centre for refreshments.
  4. Drive to the town of Grantown-on-Spey for lunch.
  5. Follow the River Spey to Dufftown and the Glenfiddich distillery.
  6. Take a guided tour around the distillery before visiting nearby Balvenie Castle.
  7. Return to Inverness.

Islay & the Whisky Coast 4-Day Tour

Itinerary day 1:

  1. From Edinburgh head to the Highlands and stop at the Trossachs National Park for food.
  2. Continue through the West Highlands towards the coastal town of Oban.
  3. Take a tour around the Oban distillery and have a seafood lunch.
  4. Visit Kilmartin Glen to see the ancient standing stones.
  5. Take the evening ferry to Islay.
  6. Once on Islay head to Bowmore for overnight accommodation.

Itinerary day 2:

  1. Take a tour of the Bowmore Distillery.
  2. Visit Ardnahoe Distillery for a tour and lunch.
  3. Visit Kilchoman distillery for a tour and a whisky tasting.
  4. Return to Bowmore.

Itinerary day 3:

  1. Visit the Ardbeg distillery for a tour and lunch.
  2. Visit the Laphroaig distillery.
  3. Explore Kildaton church and Dunyvaig castle.
  4. Visit Lagavulin Distillery for a tour and a tasting.
  5. Return to Bowmore.

Itinerary day 4:

  1. Take the ferry back to the mainland and drive south through the Highlands.
  2. Stop at the village of Inveraray on the banks of Loch Fyne.
  3. Continue to Loch Lomond and stop for photos.
  4. Return to Edinburgh.

Loch Ness and Loch Lomond Small Group Tours

urquhart castle

Loch Ness needs no introduction, as it’s one of the most famous bodies of water in the world, mainly because of the legend of the secretive monster that lives somewhere deep within its murky depths.

You’ll find the loch north of Fort Augustus and south of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands, more-or-less midway between Skye and the Cairngorms National Park, and to be honest, even if the legend of the monster had never surfaced, the loch would still be a haven for tourists.

Not only is it surprisingly big at 23 miles in length it’s incredibly deep at 750 feet, so it’s no small wonder that many people believe something strange can hide away from prying eyes at the bottom.

The waters are heavily stained with peat which makes the surface pitch black and glassy, and with the setting sun bouncing off the surface it’s a magical place – although be aware that it gets very busy with crowds of tourists in the peak season.

Luckily for you though, Rabbies guides are well versed in making sure you see the loch in all its glory away from the heaving crowds which is something I bet all those noses pressed up against the windows of the big coaches will be highly envious of.

Popular attractions at Loch Ness are Urquhart Castle and the Loch Ness Exhibition Centre but a visit can also include a boat cruise along its length as well as trips into the popular loch-side villages of Drumnadrochit and Fort Augustus.

Loch Lomond meanwhile, lies in the Trossachs National Park on the west coast of Scotland, around 40 miles north of Glasgow. In my opinion, this is one of the nicest parts of the country, and it’s a must-visit for anyone interested in the great outdoors.

There are too many places to list in one short article but highlights have to be a visit to Loch Lomond (obviously), Balloch Castle Country Park which lies on the southern edge of the loch, Ben Lomond which has a lovely walking trail around it, and Loch Katrine which is just as scenic as Loch Lomond but is much quieter.

Urquhart Castle

The Complete Loch Ness Experience 1-Day Tour


  1. Depart Inverness and follow the Caledonian Canal to Loch Ness.
  2. Either go on a 1-hour cruise around the loch or a 30-minute cruise to Urquhart Castle.
  3. Visit the village of Drumnadrochit near Loch Ness for lunch.
  4. Visit the village of Invermoriston before heading to Fort Augustus for photos.
  5. Travel along the side of the loch to visit the Falls of Foyers waterfall.
  6. Head to the eastern end of the loch at Dores.
  7. Return to Inverness.

Loch Ness, Inverness & the Highlands 2-Day Tour

Itinerary day 1:

  1. Depart Edinburgh and head north towards the Highlands.
  2. Stop at a town in the Highlands for a break, then continue into the Cairngorms National Park.
  3. Choose an activity from whisky distilleries, forest walks, or exploring historic sites.
  4. Stop for food then continue to the overnight accommodation in Inverness.

Itinerary day 2:

  1. Travel to Loch Ness to either take a cruise on the loch or explore Urquhart Castle.
  2. Travel through the Great Glen past Ben Nevis and Fort William.
  3. Stop for lunch and continue to Glencoe.
  4. Drive through Rannoch Moor and continue onwards to Stirling.
  5. Arrive back in Edinburgh.

Loch Lomond Cruise & Whisky 1-Day Tour


  1. Depart Glasgow and head to Loch Lomond.
  2. Take a 1-hour boat cruise on the loch and see Inchmurrin Island.
  3. Travel to the village of Luss for photos.
  4. Leave the Loch Lomond area and head to the Clydeside whisky distillery in Glasgow.
  5. Return to Glasgow city centre.

Loch Lomond National Park, the Kelpies & Stirling Castle 1-Day Tour


  1. Depart Edinburgh and head to Loch Lomond via Linlithgow Palace.
  2. Stop at The Kelpies artworks.
  3. Drive to Loch Lomond and walk the lochside trails.
  4. Drive into the Trossachs National Park.
  5. Stop for lunch in the park before continuing to Stirling Castle.
  6. Return to Edinburgh.

Scottish Highlands Small Group Tours


Most descriptions of the Scottish Highlands tend to go into a superlative overload when it comes to describing the region, and with good reason. The Highlands are wild in every sense of the word, full of stunning mountainscapes and secluded glens and there’s simply no better place to see Scotland’s wildlife.

A tour of the Highlands will let you see herds of red deer and our famously hairy Highland Cows across landscapes that are as diverse as they are hauntingly beautiful.

Barren moors give way to dense forests which in turn pause at the foot of the most majestic mountains you could possibly imagine, interspersed with battle-ravaged castles and rustic villages. Visit any of these locations as the sun rises when there’s a low-lying mist and I guarantee you’ll get goosebumps.

Popular places to visit in the Highlands are Glen Etive, Ben Nevis, and Glencoe but as the area is so vast (it’s the biggest region of Scotland, covering over 10,000 square miles) you’ll need to do a bit of research when deciding which parts of it you want to see.

The Highlands are defined by a geological fault line that stretches north of Glasgow to Stonehaven in the northeast, and it’s this Highland boundary that is the reason why the north-west region of Scotland is so mountainous.

Head to the far north in the area around Wick and you’ll find it’s quite a flat landscape, but travel west along the coastline and you’ll notice the terrain quickly becomes alpine with towering mountains and deep gulleys around every corner.

I reckon the section of the west coast from Ullapool to Durness is the most beautiful place in Scotland, but you’ll be equally well rewarded if you visit Applecross (the Bealach na Ba pass is one of the highest roads in the country, reaching 2,053 feet) and Braemar which hosts the Royal Highland Games.

If you have the time try to give Bidean Nam Bian mountain a look and maybe visit Glenfinnan on the Jacobite Steam Train, or explore the Cairngorms if you want an alternative to the Nevis mountain range.

As I said, you’ll need to research which parts of the Highlands you really want to see if you intend to include it in your Scotland itinerary as there’s so much on offer, but the tours listed below will make a great starting point for your adventures.

Bealach na Ba

Glen Affric & Highland Villages 1-Day Tour


  1. Depart Inverness and head to Strathpeffer village to explore the area.
  2. Drive to Beauly and explore Beauly Priory. Stop for lunch.
  3. Travel to Glen Affric and stop for a woodland walk.
  4. Travel to Loch Ness then return to Inverness.

Torridon, Applecross & Eilean Donan Castle 1-Day Tour


  1. Depart Inverness and head into the Northern Highlands.
  2. Stop for photos at Loch Maree.
  3. Drive to the Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve Visitor Centre and take photos of the area.
  4. Drive to the Torridon mountains before stopping at the town of Sheildaig for refreshments.
  5. Continue to Applecross and stop for food in a local pub.
  6. Drive along the Bealach na Bà road.
  7. Head to Loch Duich and visit Eilean Donan Castle.
  8. Drive through the Kintail mountain range, loch Ness and the Great Glen.
  9. Arrive back in Inverness.

West Highland Lochs & Castles 1-Day Tour


  1. Depart Edinburgh and head in the direction of Stirling to arrive at Doune Castle.
  2. Visit the castle then continue through Callander to Loch Lubnaig.
  3. Stop at Loch Lubnaig, then drive to the Braes of Balquhidder.
  4. Continue to Kilchurn Castle and visit the loch and castle ruins before stopping for lunch.
  5. Head to Loch Awe and stop at the town of Inveraray near Loch Fyne.
  6. Explore the old jail in Inveraray and Inveraray Castle before continuing through the Arrochar Alps. Stop along the way for photos.
  7. Drive along Loch Long towards Loch Lomond. Stop at the village of Luss.
  8. Continue towards Stirling Castle for photos.
  9. Arrive back in Edinburgh.

Small Group Tours of Scotland’s Islands


Scotland’s islands are mostly found on the west and north coasts with Mull, Skye, Islay and Arran on the west and Shetland and Orkney on the north. Those aren’t all the islands by any means (there are nearly 800 in total) but they’re the most popular and you’ll find guided tours that visit each of them at all times of the year.

I’ve visited all the ‘big’ tourist islands over the years so I can safely say I’ve got my favourites but to be honest they’re all wonderful places to visit and each one has something different to offer tourists.

We’ve already looked at Skye but many visitors seem to forget about the Isle of Mull which I think is almost as pretty but is much quieter, with a more accessible coastline and a general atmosphere that feels more remote (I guess because there’s no bridge from the mainland, unlike on Skye).

Highlights of a trip to Mull are Iona Abbey, Duart Castle and Ben More, but if you manage to visit it yourself I also recommend a look around the main town of Tobermory, the Carsaig Arches in the south and a walk to Quinish Point in the north.

There’s also the gorgeous Treshnish Isles to the west if you want to see lots of sea life, including some impossibly cute puffins. Islay is another incredible west coast island, but it’s more famous for its whisky distilleries than its landscapes, which is a shame because the beaches and nature reserves are some of the best in Scotland.

I’ve written guides about Visiting Islay as well as Visiting the Islay Whisky Distilleries but if you want to get away from the usual tourist hotspots check out Finlaggan which is the former stronghold of the Lords of the Isles, Claggain Bay which is a stunning estuary (visit it when the tide is out – it’s one of those ‘wow’ moments), and The Oa which is a nature reserve on the southern coast of the island.

If you’re a new visitor to Scotland I highly recommend Arran as you’ll see pretty much all the regions of the country across the island’s 167 square miles, from mountain to forest and loch to glen. If you manage to visit Arran yourself you’ll soon understand why this west-coast island has the nickname ‘Scotland in miniature’.

Isle of Arran

Regular CalMac ferries sail out of Tarbert, Claonaig and Ardrossan with the Claonaig ferry taking just 30 minutes. That means it’s perfectly possible to include the island in a day trip from Glasgow, but if you really want to see the sights (the village of Brodick and the mountain of Goatfell are recommended) you should try to spend at least three nights there.

If you’d rather just visit for a quick spin around the island on your bike you can easily pop over to Brodick from Arran and cycle around the Arran Coastal Way for a few hours before returning on the same route or deviating to Lochranza and taking the ferry to the Campbeltown peninsula. Both options are highly recommended for a biking road trip.

Shetland and Orkney lie at the northern tip of Scotland with Orkney sitting much closer to the edge of the mainland (it’s around 50 miles from Wick on the mainland to Kirkwall on Orkney) and Shetland lying further out around 180 miles from Wick.

There are ferries to both islands from the mainland as well as flights but for a quick taste of Viking-infused culture, I’d personally choose Orkney over its northern cousin. In addition to the Skara Brae prehistoric village, there’s the Ring of Brodgar (an ancient stone circle) and the St. Magnus Cathedral on Orkney, as well as a wild and rugged coastline to explore across the archipelago of islands.

Mull & Iona 3-Day Tour

Itinerary day 1:

  1. From Glasgow, head to Loch Lomond and stop at the village of Luss.
  2. Continue through Glencoe and stop for lunch in a traditional pub.
  3. Travel to the port of Lochaline and take the ferry to the Isle of Mull.
  4. Visit Aros Park before heading to Tobermory.

Itinerary day 2:

  1. Depart Tobermory and head to the south of the island.
  2. Take the short ferry to the Isle of Iona.
  3. Explore Iona and Iona Abbey.
  4. Take a boat trip to the Island of Staffa and Fingals Cave.
  5. Return to Tobermory.

Itinerary day 3:

  1. Depart Tobermory and travel to Craignure for the ferry to the mainland.
  2. Stop in Oban to explore the town and have lunch.
  3. Head to Kilmartin Glen and stop to explore the site.
  4. Continue to Inverary and Loch Fyne to explore the area.
  5. Return to Glasgow.
Ben More

Outer Hebrides & the Highlands 5-Day Tour

Itinerary day 1:

  1. Depart Edinburgh and head towards the village of Dunkeld in the Scottish Highlands.
  2. Explore Dunkeld Cathedral then continue towards the Grampian Mountains. Stop for lunch.
  3. Travel to Loch Ness for photos then visit Corrieshalloch Gorge.
  4. Spend the night in the village of Ullapool.

Itinerary day 2:

  1. Take the ferry to the Outer Hebridean islands of Harris and Lewis.
  2. Drive across the islands and explore the northwest coast.
  3. Spend the evening in Stornoway.

Itinerary day 3:

  1. Explore the landscapes of Harris.
  2. Stop for lunch then visit the Callanish stone circle.
  3. Visit the stone fort of Dun Carloway.
  4. Return to Stornoway.

Itinerary day 4:

  1. Continue exploring the Harris and Lewis landscapes.
  2. Visit the Arnol Blackhouse and stop for lunch.
  3. Return to Stornoway then take the ferry back to the mainland.
  4. Travel to Inverness for overnight accommodation.

Itinerary day 5:

  • Depart Inverness and travel to Tomintoul village in the Highlands.
  • Travel to the River Dee and visit the Royal Lochnagar whisky distillery.
  • Head to the village of Braemar for lunch.
  • Travel through Perthshire and stop at Scone Palace.
  • Return to Edinburgh.
Lochranza Isle of Arran

Isle of Arran 3-Day Tour

Itinerary day 1:

  1. Depart Glasgow and travel through Europe’s largest wind farm.
  2. Continue through Ayrshire to Culzean Castle. Stop for lunch in the castle grounds.
  3. Visit the Robert Burns Museum in Alloway.
  4. Continue to Ardrossan and catch the ferry to the Isle of Arran.
  5. Spend the night in the village of Brodick.

Itinerary day 2:

  1. Explore Arran by visiting the Arran distillery, and Lochranza castle as well as several of the island’s beaches.
  2. Visit Machrie Moor stone circle.
  3. Travel south to the harbour village of Blackwaterfoot.
  4. Return to Brodick

Itinerary day 3:

  1. Return to the mainland via the Kintyre Peninsula.
  2. Travel to the Highland fishing village of Tarbert.
  3. Continue to Loch Fyne and stop at the village of Inveraray for lunch
  4. Drive to the village of Luss on the banks of Loch Lomond and stop for photos.
  5. Return to Glasgow.


Frequently Asked Questions

How many days are sufficient for Scotland?

It’s difficult to say exactly how many days are needed for a holiday in Scotland as it depends on the individual and what they want to see and do while they’re there.

Scotland is a beautiful country with a lot to offer, from stunning landscapes and historic castles to vibrant cities and world-class museums. It’s possible to spend two weeks in Scotland and still only scratch the surface of what the country has to offer.

What is the best way to tour Scotland?

There are many different ways to tour Scotland, and the best way will depend on your personal preferences and interests.

Some people prefer to travel by car which allows them to explore the country at their own pace and visit more remote areas. Others prefer to take a guided bus tour which can provide a more in-depth look at the country’s history and culture.

Additionally, many people enjoy travelling by train which allows them to take in the beautiful scenery while getting from place to place. Ultimately, the best way to tour Scotland is to plan a trip that suits your interests and budget.

Is a group tour cheaper than an individual tour?

It’s possible that a group tour could be cheaper than an individual tour, but this is not always the case. The cost of a tour can depend on a variety of factors such as the length of the tour, the number of people in the group, and the types of activities and experiences included.

In some cases, group tours may offer discounts for larger groups which can make them more affordable. However, individual tours may also offer discounts or special deals so it’s always best to compare prices and read reviews before deciding on a tour.

Craig Neil

Craig Neil is the author, photographer, admin, and pretty much everything else behind Out About Scotland. He lives near Edinburgh and spends his free time exploring Scotland and writing about his experiences. Follow him on Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube.