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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
*Minimum of six participants required.
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!
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
- 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
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
- 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
- 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)
- 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!
- Drive back to Edinburgh (3.5 hours)
- Explore Edinburgh on your own
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.
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.
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 with Thomson and Smithsonian?