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Welcome to Scotland and the fabled landscapes of the Highlands. On this family vacation, you and your family will discover enchanted glens, remote bays, windswept battlefields, ancient forests, and heather-clad hills during this unparalleled family adventure. Enjoy up-close encounters with nature as you spy on beavers and pine martens from a nighttime hide, and make a pre-dawn run to view otters fishing for breakfast. Climb to the top of a mountain for a look across the Atlantic, take a thrilling boat ride to watch dolphins at play in the North Sea, and stand at the edge of Loch Ness to search for a legend. Learn how to build your own sleeping shelter, how to identify what an owl ate for dinner, and how patience and dedication can help return a wildlife species to its wilderness home—one magnificent animal at a time. Your base of exploration for the duration of your Scotland family vacation is the House of Aigas, the Victorian country estate of the Lister-Kaye family who warmly welcome you to their home. A team of highly knowledgeable and friendly Aigas Rangers will introduce you and your children to the natural, historic, and cultural wonders of the Highlands from your first exciting day in Edinburgh to the stories and music of the farewell Ceilidh.

Single supplement: $700

Alumni Discount: $500 per family for returning Thomson and Smithsonian Family Adventures guests

If you don’t see a date that works for you, call us; we can personalize any trip to meet your travel needs.

*Minimum of six participants required. 

Days 1 & 2 - Home / Edinburgh, Scotland

Arrive In Edinburgh, where your family will be transferred to your hotel to check in, eat lunch, and dive right into your adventure. 


  • Explore Edinburgh, a  UNESCO World Heritage Site
  • See the sights of Old Town and New Town Edinburgh
  • Walk Edinburgh Castle & encounter the Stone of Destiny 
  • Traverse the city on foot after dark, but beware of ghosts!
Days 3 & 4 - Aigas Field Centre

Discover the iconic landscapes of the Scottish Highlands, passing lochs, glens, battlefields, and ancient ruins on your way to Aigas Field Centre. This stately Victorian sporting lodge offers endless opportunities to explore the unique surrounding nature, with expert Aigas Rangers at the helm to share their tremendous wealth of knowledge with your family. 


  • See the ruined Ruthven Barracks from the Jacobite Rising
  • Meet the beavers in the freshwater loch at Aigas
  • Trek past rivers and woodlands in Glen Strathfarrar
  • Join a Ranger on a nighttime search for nocturnal wildlife
  • Look for martens, badgers, deer, foxes, owls, and more
Day 5 - The Highlands
The Highlands are steeped in a wealth of interesting (and at times quite bloody) history. Your family will enjoy an up-close look at sites associated with the tumultuous Jacobite Rebellion, 14th century castles, and burial tombs dating all the way back to the Bronze Age, as well as the natural habitats of unique wildlife. 
  • Walk the infamous Culloden Battlefield 
  • Participate in an exciting battle reenactment 
  • Visit the mysterious and sacred site of the Clava Cairns
  • Explore the fairytale-like 14th century Cawdor Castle
  • Venture on a nighttime walk with bat detectors 
  • Or learn about the feeding habits of owls
Day 6 - The Central Highlands

Swift silver rivers thread the Central Highlands, a glaciated landscape of majestic mountains and heather-covered glens. Red squirrels, mountain hare, Scottish wildcats, and feral goats roam beneath wide-open skies here. With long centuries of turbulent history left to “once upon a time,” the proud Gaelic culture prevails, celebrated in colorful local festivals.


  • Walk across the dramatic Corrieshalloch Gorge by bridge
  • Hike breathtaking Stac Pollaidh, known as "Stack Polly" 
  • Eat fish and chips in the charming village of Ullapool 
Day 7 - Otter Expedition & Aigas Field Centre
In Gaelic the otters of Scotland are called beaste dubh, “black beast.” Mostly solitary by nature, they live near rivers, lochs, and the sea, feeding on the aquatic bounty. 
  • Start your day early in search of otters
  • Kids join Aigas Rangers into the woods to learn hands-on survival skills
  • Parents can relax, explore the Aigas grounds, or visit Beauly Village
  • Later, kids can catch and release frogs or play forest games
  • Kids and parents alike may opt to camp in the forest overnight
Day 8 - The Black Isle
The peninsula of the Black Isle is surrounded by the channels and coastal inlets of the North Sea. On the south side lies the estuary of The Moray Firth, a favorite hangout and feeding ground of the area’s 250 resident bottlenose dolphins, the most northerly colony in the world. 
  • Ride an inflatable motorboat through a scenic harbor
  • Look for dolphins, porpoises, seals, and minke whales 
  • Wander the maritime village of Cromarty 
  • Build sand sculptures on the beach
  • Walk the woodlands of Fairy Glen Nature Reserve
  • Sing and dance together at a traditional Ceilidh (pronounced kay-lee)
Day 9 - Glen Affric & Loch Ness
Loch Ness evokes such wonder in the minds of curious families. The area is blessed with postcard-perfect and largely unspoiled natural scenery, ruined medieval castles, and – of course – the fascinating legend of the Loch Ness Monster. Nessie has a way of making imaginations run wild in children and parents alike!
  • Hike through ancient forests in Glen Affric 
  • Look for deer, pine marten, weasels, eagles, and more
  • Explore 13th century Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness
  • Explore the banks of Loch Ness -- maybe you'll see Nessie!
Day 10 - Aigas Field Centre / Edinburgh


  • Drive back to Edinburgh (3.5 hours)
  • Explore Edinburgh on your own
Day 11 - Depart Edinburgh
The House of Aigas & Field Centre

The Victorian sporting lodge was purchased in 1977 and restored as the family home by renowned naturalist-author, Sir John Lister-Kaye. The estate grounds encompass an arboretum and formal gardens and its freshwater loch, native pine woods, birch woodlands, and moors are habitats for beavers, badgers, deer, pine martens, and more than 120 different bird species. Amenities include laundry service, Wi-Fi, and hair dryers.

King James Thistle Hotel

The pleasant, modern King James Thistle Hotel is situated in the heart of the city, just off Princes Street and within an easy stroll of Edinburgh’s historic sites along the Royal Mile. The 143 en suite rooms are spacious, comfortably furnished, and offer a full-range of convenient amenities, including wireless Internet access, electric coffee and tea maker, phone, TV, hair dryer, and room safe. The hotel also has its own restaurant, Craig’s, and a cozy bar, the Boston Bean Company. 

Hilton Edinburgh Airport Hotel

Conveniently located just a few minutes from the airport, the Hilton Edinburgh Airport Hotel features spacious, bright and airy rooms with wireless Internet access, and a flat-screen TV. There is an indoor swimming pool, sauna, and fitness center on the property as well as a restaurant and bar. Access to the center of Edinburgh is an easy 20 minute-taxi-cab ride away. The airport shuttle makes frequent runs to all airport terminals just a few minutes ride away.

Why Scotland?

Edinburgh, UNESCO World Heritage Site
The two distinct quarters in Edinburgh—Old Town and New Town—comprise a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Old Town is a labyrinth of medieval lanes and half-timbered houses; drive along its legendary Royal Mile, passing Grassmarket Square, Canongate, and the Palace of Holyrood, home to Scottish kings and queens since the 16th century. The New Town is 200 years young, and a quieter collage of tidy squares, gracious parks, and elegant Georgian architecture.
The fabled Scottish Highlands
Scotland's scenic Highlands are more than deserving of the recognition they get. They boast rolling glens, glistening lochs, fertile green fields, ruined medieval castles, and even Bronze Age burial tombs.
Unique wildlife
Most people probably don't think of Scotland as a wildlife destination, but the highlands are alive with beavers, martens, bats, deer, foxes, owls, otters, and more -- not to mention the dolphins, porpoises, seals, and whales you'll look for off the coast!

Why Scotland with Thomson and Smithsonian? 

The Aigas House & Field Centre
With the Aigas House & Field Centre as your base, your family will enjoy an unparalleled experience of the Scottish Highlands. An expert team of knowledgeable Aigas Rangers will show you the ins and outs of the beautiful natural landscapes and habitats here. Hands-on workshops include a nighttime walk with electronic bat detectors and a chance to study owl pellets under a stereomicroscope to identify the bones, fur, and feathers of their prey.
Your time in Scotland is filled with a variety of activities, such as climbing to the top of a mountain for a look across the Atlantic, take a boat ride to watch bottlenose dolphins at play in the North Sea, and stand at the edge of Loch Ness in search for a legend.
Historical exploration
Families will have plenty of opportunities to delve deep into the history of Scotland and learn about events associated with the Jacobite Rebellion. For example, you'll join a historian guide for a fascinating walk out to the Culloden Battlefield. Learn about the events that led up to that bloody April day, and about its turbulent aftermath. As the government sought to integrate Scotland into the Kingdom of Britain, extreme measures were imposed on the Highland clan society with the intent to destroy its centuries-old traditions—including a ban on the wearing of tartans. Family members of all ages have the chance to participate in an exciting battle reenactment. Spend time in the outstanding Visitor Centre for an interactive Culloden experience, then take in a birds’ eye view of the battlefield from the roof deck.
a map of Splendors of Scotland: A Smithsonian Family Adventure