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Best Scotland Tours, From its castles to its history to its fabled food and drink, Scotland has a great variety of attractions to offer visitors. It can be difficult to see the country by yourself, so why not take a guided tour? Should you be staying in Edinburgh or Glasgow, you can make the most of your time with a half-day history or food tour of those cities. If you want to escape the bustle for a bit, sign up for a trip to the world-famous Scottish Highlands, which can be tricky to reach on your own without a car. Using both expert opinion and traveler sentiment, U.S. News determined that these are the best tours of Scotland. No matter which one you choose, or where you decide to go, each trip features a local guide eager to share their knowledge and love of Scotland.

SANDEMANs New Europe – Edinburgh Dark Side Tour

History buffs and thrill-seekers alike will enjoy this two-hour walking tour, which covers some of Edinburgh’s most famous murders and mysteries. During the stroll, you’ll hear tales about cannibals and vampires, body snatchers and witch burnings. You’ll also visit Calton Cemetery and the Canongate Kirkyard, where caged-in graves still exist. Reviewers rave about the tour guides, who they describe as humorous, engaging and adept at storytelling. Travelers assure that though the subject matter is grim, the tour is not too scary. Tours are generally available each evening at 6:30 p.m.; they depart from High Street and finish on the Royal Mile. Tickets start at 16 pounds (around $20) for adults and 5 pounds (about $6) for kids ages 5 to 13; children 4 and younger can join for free. SANDEMANs New Europe also operates free walking tours that offers an overview Edinburgh’s top attractions, as well as a “Harry Potter” tour, among others.

City Sightseeing – Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour

City Sightseeing offers hop-on, hop-off bus tours of both Edinburgh and Glasgow. The Edinburgh route features 12 stops, including the Grassmarket, the National Museum of Scotland, John Knox House and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Glasgow’s route offers 21 stops, including the Glasgow Cathedral, the Riverside Museum and the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Both tours permit passengers to explore the various destinations at their own pace and hop on a later bus to proceed to the next stop. Travelers find the tours convenient for taking in the popular spots in both cities. If you take the full loop without hopping off, the Edinburgh tour lasts approximately one hour; the buses run approximately every 30 minutes. The Glasgow tour is slightly longer at roughly 90 minutes; buses run every 15 minutes during summer, every 30 minutes in the spring and every 60 minutes in the fall and winter. Both tours provide recorded audio commentary in multiple languages. The Glasgow tour deploys live guides on select tours from March through October. Single-day tickets for both tours cost approximately $20. Two-day hop-on hop-off tickets are also available.

Cruise Loch Ness – Daily Cruise

Cruise Loch Ness’ Daily Cruise offers views of sights such as Loch Ness’ sole island, Cherry Island, and Fort Augustus Abbey. Guides provide information regarding the environs and area history, and trip-takers typically find them friendly and entertaining. But the coastal scenery is the real reason for taking the boat ride and travelers find the natural surroundings strikingly beautiful. The 50-minute excursions depart from Fort Augustus, which is located on the southern end of Loch Ness. Tours are generally offered daily at 11 a.m., 1 and 3 p.m., but additional times may be offered depending on the month. Tickets cost around 18 pounds (about $24) for adults and 11 pounds (roughly $14) for children 4 to 15. Snacks and beverages are available for purchase on board. Cruise Loch Ness also offers an hourlong evening cruise in the spring and summer.

Little Fish Tours – Old Town Tour – “Best Scotland Tours”

Little Fish Tours’ walking excursion offers an overview of the city’s architecture, history and folklore. Specific sights and topics may vary according to tour the guide’s expertise, but usually include stops at the Mercat Cross, St. Giles’ Cathedral, the Grassmarket, the National Museum of Scotland, the Greyfriars Bobby statue and the exterior of Edinburgh Castle. Guides are considered to be enthusiastic, passionate and knowledgeable about the city and its history. Tours, which depart from High Street, are offered daily at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and last two hours. Tickets start at 14 pounds (about $18) for adults and 9 pounds (around $12) for kids and teens ages 5 to 15; children 4 and younger can join for free. The company also operates tours of Edinburgh Castle and a whisky tasting.

Little Fish Tours – Old Town Tour - Best Scotland Tours

Visit the picturesque town of Portree during a visit to the Isle of Skye with WOW Scotland.(Getty Images)

WOW Scotland – Isle of Skye Tour

This excursion from WOW Scotland departs Inverness for a daylong bus trip to the Isle of Skye. During the approximately 12-hour tour, you’ll see everything from quaint towns to natural wonders, such as the Old Man of Storr and the Fairy Pools, to castles like Eilean Donan. The views invariably win enthusiastic plaudits for their beauty, while guides earn high praise for their energy and storytelling abilities. Reviewers describe it as a great trip overall. Tours, which start at 8:15 a.m., are typically offered daily, though availability may vary by season. Tickets start at 84 pounds (around $104) per person. Note that the tour is not recommended for children 5 and younger. Want to see more of the Isle of Skye? Check out WOW Scotland’s multiday tours.

When it comes to adult beverages, Scotland may be best known for its whisky, but don’t overlook its beer. Tennent’s Brewery Tour takes visitors inside Tennent’s Wellpark Brewery, one of the best-known beer-making facilities in Glasgow. Tours start at the Tennent’s Story Heritage Centre, which chronicles the centurieslong history of Tennent’s Lager (and which can be visited even if you don’t take the full tour). The guided tour shows how the beer is made today. Tours end, appropriately enough, with a pint of beer. Brewery visitors typically enjoy learning the local lager’s history and find the guides rather adept. The 90-minute tours are offered several times a day Wednesday through Sunday. Tickets start at 12.50 pounds (about $16) per adult ages 18 and older; kids and teens ages 12 to 17 can tour for 9 pounds (about $11). Tennent’s also conducts a Tennent’s Heritage Walking Tour of Glasgow, among others.

Heart of Scotland Tours – Loch Ness & The Highlands

Marvel at the photogenic scenery of Loch Ness and the Highlands on this 12-hour bus tour, which is capped at 12 participants and departs from Edinburgh. Highlights along the way include Cairngorms National Park, Loch Lomond, Ben Nevis and Glencoe. Though the majority of the tour takes place on the bus, you’ll enjoy several short walks at various stops and have the option to hop aboard a boat for a cruise on Loch Ness. Tourgoers describe the scenery as breathtaking and the guides as friendly, knowledgeable and entertaining. Tickets start at 50 pounds (around $62) for adults and 47 pounds (about $59) seniors 60 years and older and children and teens ages 5 to 17. Heart of Scotland Tours operates a variety of daylong and multiday excursions across the United Kingdom to top sights like Alnwick Castle, St. Andrews and Inverness, among others.

The Ghost Bus Tours – Edinburgh

Hop aboard this black double-decker bus to hear spooky stories about Edinburgh. Actors serve as guides on this 75-minute ride through the city, offering commentary as you drive by top sights like Edinburgh Castle, the Greenmarket, the Royal Mile, New Town and more. Tour-takers enjoy their trips and typically find the haunted tales an equal blend of creepy and funny. Tours depart from the Lawnmarket every day at 6 and 7:30 p.m. with additional 9 p.m. rides on Friday and Saturday. Tickets cost approximately 18 pounds (approximately $22) per adult, with discounts for seniors, students and children. The Ghost Bus also haunts the streets of London and York, England.

For a taste of distinctive Scottish fare provided by local purveyors, take the Wee Food Tour in Glasgow. Along the way, you could sample cheese, chips and haggis, visiting a total of six different shops and restaurants. Food enthusiasts praise the guides as passionate and knowledgeable about the city and its cuisine. The tour departs Wednesday through Saturday at 11 a.m. from the entrance to the Buchanan Street underground station. It lasts approximately four hours, with about 1 1/2 miles of walking. Tour tickets cost approximately $110 and include food as well as water and soda; alcoholic beverages can be purchased separately where available. As an added bonus, the Wee Food Tour donates 5 pounds (around $6.50) from each tour to a local food bank. The company also offers private tours.

The Ghost Bus Tours – Edinburgh

Take a visit to Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery with Timberbush Tours on its Ultimate Whisky Experience.(Courtesy of Timberbush Tours)

Timberbush Tours – Ultimate Whisky Experience

Timberbush Tours’ Ultimate Whisky Experience spotlights Scotland’s best-known adult beverage. First, the tour departs from Edinburgh to Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery, where you’ll participate in a two-hour whisky and chocolate tour. You’ll stop in the village of Aberfeldy for lunch then travel to Glenturret Distillery – Scotland’s oldest working distillery – for your second whisky tasting. After a stop at Doune Castle, the tour returns to Edinburgh. Along the way, drivers serve as guides and offer commentary, which tour-takers tend to enjoy. Tickets for the tour start at 45 pounds (roughly $56) for adults and 43 pounds (approximately $53) for children, seniors and students. Fees are higher in peak summer months. Note: Whisky tastings and tours at both distilleries as well as lunch are not included in the ticket price. Tours, which last about 10 hours, occur Tuesday and Saturday. Timberbush Tours also conducts other sightseeing excursions from Edinburgh, as well as those that depart from Glasgow and Iverness.

Loch Ness by Jacobite – Temptation Tour

In addition to a 30-minute lake cruise, this tour includes visits to Urquhart Castle. Audio guides on board the boat offer tales about the region and its legendary Loch Ness monster. Visitors describe the castle as particularly impressive and the tour price as quite reasonable. Tours depart from the Inverness city center, where you’ll board a coach bus to the lake. Tickets cost approximately 37 pounds (about $46) for adults and 27.50 pounds (around $34) for children, which covers transportation, entrance to the castle and the boat ride. Beverages and snacks are available for purchase separately. Overall, the excursion, which starts at 10:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m. daily, lasts three hours. If you’re only interested in cruising the lake, the company also offers tours that skip the castle visit.

Walking Tours in Glasgow – City Center Tour

Participants on this tour regularly call guides enthusiastic and informative, making the experience fun for travelers of all ages. The approximately 90-minute excursion takes visitors to some of the most celebrated spots in Glasgow, including George Square (where tours commence), the Necropolis, Glasgow Green and the River Clyde. During the stroll, guides share background regarding the city’s history and key figures, including its patron saint, St. Mungo. Tours operate daily at 10:30 a.m. According to reviewers, tickets are a bargain; they cost about 12 pounds (around $15) per person. Children 11 and younger can tag along for free. Walking Tours in Glasgow also offers tours with various themes, such as street art and whisky.

HAGGiS Adventures – Lochs, Castles and The Kelpies

The first stop on this distinctively Scottish tour is Balmaha. This village sits on the shores of Loch Lomond and grants tourgoers exceptional views of Ben Lomond – one of Scotland’s most popular mountains (munros). In the afternoon, the tour heads to Stirling Castle, a former royal residence and fortress. The final stop is The Kelpies, which are a pair of nearly 1,000-foot-tall metal horse heads inspired by folkloric creatures of the same name. HAGGiS Adventures tour guides, who provide commentary throughout the day, are regarded as both professional and informative. Outings run on Monday, Wednesday Friday and Sunday during peak season (June through August) and on Friday and Sunday throughout the rest of the year. They depart Edinburgh around 8:45 a.m. and return to the city approximately nine hours later. Prices vary by time of year, but start at $75 per adult. The fee does not include entrance to the castle. HAGGiS Adventures also operates other daylong and multiday excursions, including an “Outlander” tour.

HAGGiS Adventures – Lochs, Castles and The Kelpies

During Eat Walk Edinburgh’s Old and New Town Tour, you’ll taste not only Edinburgh’s great food, but also its spirits.(Courtesy of Eat Walk Edinburgh)

Eat Walk Edinburgh – Old and New Town Tour

If you’re craving haggis, wild boar sausage, black pudding, smoked salmon and Scottish cheeses, this approximately three-hour tour is for you. Eat Walk Edinburgh’s Old and New Town food tour takes travelers through the city to sample all these delicacies along with tastings of whisky, gin, wine and beer. Both the food samples and the guides routinely win high marks from patrons. The tours are offered at 1 p.m. Monday through Saturday and also at 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Tours run at noon on Sunday. Tickets cost approximately 69 pounds (or around $85) and include all food and drink. Groups are limited to eight people, who can opt to use headphones to hear their guide as they walk at their own pace between stops, which is generally deemed a nice bonus feature. Eat Walk Edinburgh also operates a food tour that explores the lower half of the Royal Mile, known as the Canongate.

Rabbie’s – Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands – 1 Day Tour from Glasgow

This daylong tour celebrates Scotland’s natural beauty, with visits to mountains, valleys, moors, woods and lakes. During the nearly 12-hour trip, you’ll see Loch Lomond, the Glencoe Valley, Urquhart Castle, Ben Nevis and more. Drivers of the 16-seat vehicles double as guides, and they are generally deemed quite knowledgeable and amusing. Excursions Depart Glasgow around 8 a.m. daily. Prices, which vary by season, start at 57 pounds (about $71) for adults and 54 pounds (around $67) for kids and teens ages 5 to 15. Children younger than 5 are not allowed to tour. Rabbie’s also offers tours of the Scottish countryside departing from Glasgow, as well as trips that depart from Edinburgh.

The Potter Trail shows curious readers the locations said to have inspired the “Harry Potter” books. During the approximately 1.25-mile walk, you’ll explore the real-life Diagon Alley, see the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote the first novel in the series and more. Fans of the books find the guides exceptionally knowledge about the iconic series and its author. Even those not familiar with the “Harry Potter” tales find this tour an informative introduction to Edinburgh. The family-friendly tours are available twice daily at noon and 4 p.m. from April through August and at noon only from September through March. Excursions typically last up to 90 minutes. There’s no charge for this walk, though the guides happily accept contributions. The Potter Trail also offers private, fee-based tours for groups.

The Hairy Coo – 1-Day Loch Ness, Scottish Highlands, Glencoe & Ben Nevis Tour

According to reviewers, this tour offers a convenient and enjoyable way to see some of Scotland’s most famous natural wonders in a short amount of time. On the daylong bus tour, you’ll visit Glencoe, Loch Ness and plenty of villages and towns tucked into the Highlands, such as Fort Augustus and Callander. Along the way, you’ll pass iconic sights like Ben Nevis and Stirling Castle. Tours are offered daily and depart from the Lawnmarket at 8 a.m.; they return to Edinburgh around 8:30 p.m. Tickets start at 48 pounds (about $60) per adult ages 18 and older and 41 pounds (around $51) for kids and teens between the ages of 7 and 17. Note that tour prices do not cover the cost of any food or drink or the optional boat cruise on Loch Ness. If you’re up for more exploration outside of Scotland, consider the company’s daylong tour to Alnwick Castle and the Northumberland Coast.

Once Upon a Whisky Tours – Glasgow’s West End Whisky Tour

Whisky lovers will enjoy this tour of Glasgow’s West End, which stops at four bars for samples of four award-winning single malt Scotch whiskies. Along the way, guides impart little-known facts and surprising trivia about the renowned beverage. Tour-takers report learning a great deal about whisky, how it’s made and how best to enjoy it. Tours are available Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays from 4:30 to 7 p.m. It costs around 60 pounds (or about $74) to take the tour (nondrinkers will only be charged 30 pounds, or about $37); participants must be at least 18 years old. The price includes the whisky tastings but not food, which can be purchased separately at most of the establishments visited. Once Upon a Whisky also runs a whisky tour in Edinburgh.

Once Upon a Whisky Tours – Glasgow's West End Whisky Tour

Head beneath Edinburgh’s streets with a trip from Mercat Tours.(Courtesy of Mercat Tours)

Mercat Tours – Historic Underground

Mercat Tours’ Historic Underground tours take patrons beneath Edinburgh and provide exclusive access to the Blair Street Underground Vaults, a system of caverns constructed in the 18th century. Guides explain how and why the vaults were built and how they came to be used. Reviewers say this walking tour offers an unusual perspective on the city and find the guides well-versed in Edinburgh’s history. Tours, which last about 75 minutes, start at the Mercat Cross on High Street and conclude with a visit to the company’s Discovery Room, which houses various artifacts as well as a model of the vaults. Tours depart three times daily at noon and 2 and 4 p.m. Tickets start at 20 pounds (about $25) for adults and 15 pounds (around $19) for children 5 to 15. Children younger than 5 may not tour. Mercat Tours also leads a number of other walks related to Edinburgh’s history and lore, in addition to private tours.

Scotland’s Wild Tours – Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Tour

Admire some of the country’s most spectacular natural wonders on this eight-hour bus journey, which explores Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park – Scotland’s first national park. Beyond viewing the mountains, valleys, lakes, waterfalls, flora and fauna from the seat of the bus, travelers also enjoy several hikes. Guides provide information regarding the geography, history and culture of the area, and they are generally regarded as both professional and personable by fellow travelers. The tour, which is limited to eight participants, is generally offered at 9 a.m. daily from April through October. Tickets cost approximately 59 pounds (about $73) for adults and 54 pounds (around $67) for children ages 12 to 15. Keep in mind, the minimum age to take the tour is 12. The tour departs from the village of Balloch, which sits about 20 miles northwest of Glasgow. The company also operates tours of Glencoe and the Highlands in addition to private tours.

Glasgow Gander Walking Tours

This walking tour of Glasgow leads participants to top destinations, such as Buchanan Street, the Glasgow City Chambers, Trades Hall, Merchant City, the Glasgow Cathedral and more. Travelers laud guides as highly entertaining and knowledgeable about the city’s architecture, culture and history. Several reviewers also say this tour is a fantastic value. Tours depart from Royal Exchange Square near the Gallery of Modern Art (where the Duke of Wellington statue typically dons a traffic cone on its head) Wednesday through Sunday at 10:30 a.m. The approximately 1 1/2-mile jaunt usually last about three hours. Tickets cost 12 pounds (or about $15) per person.

City Explorers – Free Ghost Tour

Is Edinburgh haunted? Here’s one way to find out. City Explorers’ Free Ghost Tour explores the city’s more fiendish history, as guides recount tales of infamous murders, witch trials, public executions and the like while traipsing through Old Town’s cemeteries and dark alleyways. While some tour-takers say the expedition could be spookier, most agree that it is great fun and that the guides’ storytelling is highly entertaining. The 90-minute walking tour takes place each evening at 7 p.m., starting outside the Copper Still bar. While there’s no charge to take this tour, guides appreciate tips at the conclusion. City Explorers also offers a free tour of Edinburgh and a free “Harry Potter” tour, among others.

Note: Some tour providers on this list may be running more limited operations due to COVID-19 or may impose testing or vaccine requirements. Check with your tour operator about availability before you book.