Orkney Day Tour from Inverness

About the Orkney Day Tour from Inverness

On our one day bumper tour from Inverness you will visit: The prehistoric sights of Skara Brae and The Ring of Brodgar; Orkney’s most fascinating WWII sight, The Italian Chapel; the town of Kirkwall, home of the magnificent St Magnus Cathedral; and the architectural gemstone of Stromness.

The journey itself is definitely a firm favourite too, with highlights including sights of the North Coast 500 and the ferry trip home, which enables you to enjoy views over to The Old Man of Hoy; a 450 foot high sea stack towering in front of Britain’s tallest vertical sea cliffs.

You will have to get up early in the morning, but you will be able to see and explore more on this one day tour than others see in two or three days… trust us, it is worth it to see it the WOW way!

£119 15 hours Departs Inverness Bus Station May- September

Why choose WOW Scotland?

Luxury mini-coach coach with A/C, WiFi and USB ports

Family-run local business

Free cancellation up to 7 days prior to departure

Guaranteed departures with no minimum numbers

Our tours are not available on any other website!

Orkney Day Tour itinerary

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WOW Bus Beauly Firth 450

1. The Journey Begins

Our Orkney Day Tour starts in the Highland capital of Inverness.
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You will be greeted by the WOW Scotland team and will board our executive mini-coach ready for departure at 5.30am.. This early start is essential as it enables us to take the first ferry onto the island, giving us the whole day on Orkney. It is a long journey, so we want to make sure that you experience as many sights as possible when you get there; we are confident that the early start will enable you to do this. Once on the coach your guide will excite you with some details of the action-packed day ahead of you, then he will let you sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery.
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2. North Coast 500

Sit back, relax and enjoy views of the rugged mountains and sweeping coastline.
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The North Coast 500 has been a runaway success, taking its place on many “world’s best road trips” lists.  On this tour we will drive the first 120 miles of this route, on our journey from Inverness to the ferry terminal in Gill’s Bay. The early part of the journey is though the county of Sutherland, where you will be able to sit back, relax and enjoy views of unspoilt mountainous landscapes out one side of the coach, and stunning seascapes out of the other side.  This is an area of scattered fishing communities, award-winning golf courses, quaint harbours and archaeological wonders, so there is plenty to look out for along the way. We will stop for a quick comfort break in Golspie or Brora, before we push on to Caithness, arriving at the ferry terminal around 8.45am.
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3. Ferry to Orkney

Upon arrival on the north coast we will board a small, family-owned ferry for the short crossing to Orkney.
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The journey on the MV Pentalina is the quickest there is to Orkney, taking only one hour ,but we would encourage you to bring binoculars as this may well be a heavenly hour for wildlife fans!

As the ferry departs you will see the islands of Stroma and Swona in the distance. Keep your eye out for both common seals and grey seals, which can often be seen basking on these islands’ shores, as well as for the feral cattle of Swona, which have been roaming free on the island for over 30 years.

This area is a haven for birds and you should look out for puffins, fulmars, great skua, razor bills, guillemots and gannets.  It is also possible to see orca, dolphins, minke whales and even basking sharks, so bag a window seat, or venture outdoors if you can.

As we sail towards the Orkney island of South Ronaldsay we will pass the abandoned gun towers and lookout posts of the Hoxa Head, which give an poignant reminder of Orkney’s role during both WWI and WWII. Shortly after this the village of St Margaret’s Hope comes into view and our Orkney adventure begins!

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4. Churchill Barriers

Upon arrival in St Margaret’s Hope our tour of Orkney begins!
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The Churchill Barriers are a series of four causeways which link the islands of South Ronaldsay, Burray, Glims Holm and Lamb Holm.  They were commissioned by Winston Churchill during WWII to protect the anchorage at Scapa Flow, after the sinking of the HMS Royal Oak while it lay at harbour there in 1939. As construction was not completed until after the war had ended their lasting legacy was the linking of these five islands, and it is courtesy of these barriers that we can quickly island hop northwards.

If we have time we will stop to take some photos at a beach on the way.

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5. Italian Chapel

Our first stop is at this remarkable chapel, built by prisoners of war during WWII
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During WWII a shortage of manpower to build the Churchill Barriers coincided with the capture of thousands of Italian soldiers in North Africa.  It was thus decided to transport these prisoners of war to camps in Orkney, where they were permitted to build their own chapel. The building started out as two disused Nissen huts but, due to the ingenuity of the parishioners, and in particular artist Domenico Chiocchetti, the resulting building is a beautiful chapel, which is now a major tourist destination.

We will spend 20 minutes here.  Entrance is payable separately and costs £3 for adults (children under 12 are free).

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6. Kirkwall

Orkney’s vibrant and thriving capital will appeal to fans of culture, history, and even shopping!
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With independent shops, cute cafes and no shortage of historic sights, it is no wonder that this town is immensely popular with visitors keen to experience the islands’ unique culture and heritage.

We would recommend a visit to St Magnus Cathedral; one of the most impressive examples of medieval architecture anywhere in the UK.  Just a stone’s throw from here are the Earl’s and Bishop’s palaces, which provide a thought-provoking reminder of Orkney’s turbulent past.

If it’s shopping you are after, Kirkwall’s thriving town centre is bustling with character, and indeed remains an inspiration for the island’s creative folk as independent retailers offer their locally-made jewellery, arts, crafts, fashion, knitwear and unique souvenirs.

For those who would prefer to relax with a coffee and some local delicacies (be it cheese, icecream, sweet treats or seafood, Orkney can produce their own version, and produce it exceedingly well!) there are a number of noteworthy cafes in the town, and your guide will be on hand to offer recommendations.

We will spend around one hour in the compact town of Kirkwall.

Stones of Stenness

7. Standing Stones of Stenness

These ancient megaliths may be the oldest stone circle in the British Isles.
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Dating back over 5000 years, there are only four of the original 12 stones still standing today.  However,  it is still possible to get a sense of the sheer scale and importance of this site which, it is thought, took over 5000 man days to build.

We will have a short photo stop here.

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8. Ring of Brodgar

If there is one iconic symbol which represents Orkney’s ancient heritage, this is surely it.
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As the third largest standing circle in the UK,  The Ring of Brodgar is also one of four monuments in the Heart of Neolithic Orkney UNESCO World Heritage site, and is referred to by this organisation as, “unquestionably among the most important Neolithic sites in Western Europe”.

This jewel in Orkney’s archaeological crown was built over 4000 years ago, and originally encompassed 60 stones.  Today half of these four metre high megaliths have survived more-or-less intact, and you can also see 13 burial mounds and a large rock cut ditch surrounding the site. Whether the stones were used for astrological purposes, as a religious shrine or place of ritual, we will probably never know; you will have around 45 minutes to explore, and to draw your own conclusions.

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9. Skara Brae & Skaill House

This 5000 year old prehistoric village is a real tour highlight.
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At over 5000 years old, the level of preservation at Skara Brae is unparalleled for a prehistoric settlement in Northern Europe, due to the fact that it was covered by sand for over 4000 years.   It was only during a ferocious storm in 1850 that the site became partially uncovered, although the village as we see it today wasn’t fully excavated until the 1920s.

Skara Brae survives as eight dwellings, linked together by a series of low, covered passages.  The walls are still intact, the alleyways are roofed with original stone slabs, and even the interior fittings of the houses give a fascinating insight into life in Neolithic Orkney.   You will have the opportunity to walk around the settlement and also to step inside a complete replica house, to give you a greater insight into the lives of the farmers and fishermen who lived here (long before Stonehenge or even the Eygptian Pyramids were built!).  There is also a visitor centre here, displaying many artefacts, as well as a cafe and gift shop.

Included in the entrance fee for Skara Brae is entry to Skaill House, a 17th Century manor which was home to the laird who unearthed Skara Brae back in 1850.  The house has been carefully restored gives a fascinating insight into Orkney’s diverse past.

We will spend around 1 1/4 hours at Skara Brae and Skaill House.  Entrance is payable separately, costs £7.50 for adults (£4.50 for children, £6 for concessions) and is free for Historic Scotland members

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10. Stromness

Our time in Orkney draws to a close in this picturesque town, with its colourful maritime history
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Stromness is dramatically set above the iconic natural harbour of Hamnavoe, and strong sea links are prominent in the town’s architecture.  The lanes, nooks, crannies and closes of this unique and unusual townscape are fascinating to wander around, and the scattering of independent galleries, cafes and boutiques add to the natural charm of this appealing seaport.

You will have around 45 minutes to peruse the narrow, winding streets of this welcoming gem of a town.

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11. Old Man of Hoy

As we complete our round trip back to the mainland we will see another of the area’s top sights.
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As we sail past the island of Hoy look out for the iconic 137m sea stack of the Old Man of Hoy, as well as the tallest vertical sea cliffs in the UK, which rise steeply behind it.  After you have snapped a few photos of these famous sights we would recommend visiting the ferry’s convenient on-board restaurant.  Here you can enjoy a well-deserved dinner from The Feast Menu, and perhaps sample some of the tasty beers and whiskies that Orkney is famous for; a well-earned reward after a busy day!

We will board the Northlink ferry for departure at 4.45pm and the journey takes 1 ½ hours. Meals/snacks/drinks are at your own expense.

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12. The Journey Back

There are still lots of stories to be told on the way home.
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OOn the last leg of our adventure we will stop for a comfort break, before arriving back into Inverness at around 9/9.30pm.

There’s no place in the British Isles quite like Orkney. Now that it’s time to return, you can look back at the smorgasbord of sights you have immersed yourself in today, and reflect on the magic of these truly unique islands.

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Tour Times
05.30 – 21.30

Departure Point
Stance 7, Inverness Bus Station, Margaret St, Inverness, IV1 1LT

Luggage
You are welcome to bring luggage on the tour if required. Please contact us for details.

Children
The minimum age for this tour is 6 years old. Unfortunately we are unable to accommodate children under the age of 6.

Clothing
We recommend wearing sensible shoes (ideally hiking boots/shoes or, as a minimum, trainers/sneakers) and a waterproof jacket.  It is also a good idea to bring warm clothing, particularly for the ferry journeys if you wish to go out on deck.

Prices
The tour is priced at £119 for adults and £99 for children.

Meals
It is possible to pre-order a sandwich lunch when you arrive at the bus stop in the morning. Please bring cash if you wish to do this.

Upgrades
We offer the opportunity to purchase front row seat upgrades for £20 pp and extra legroom upgrades for £15 pp

Cancellation Policy
Free cancellation up to 1 week prior to departure.

What sort of vehicle do you use?

Here at WOW Scotland we only have two coaches, both of which were built to our precise specifications, to ensure the highest levels of passenger comfort.  The vehicles have 30-seats and are very well-appointed with panoramic windows, comfortable reclining seats, USB ports under every seat and on-board WiFi.  You can rest assured that you will be able to relax and enjoy the majestic scenery in complete comfort.  You can read more about our coaches here.

Where is the pick-up point in Inverness?

We pick-up from Stance 7 at Inverness Bus Station, Margaret Street, Inverness, IV1 1LT. Look out for the kilted WOW guide and WOW-branded coach and you won’t miss us!

Can I reserve seats on the tour?

Due to customer demand, we have a booking system for the four seats at the front of the coach. These seats are available to pre-book for a £20 per seat surcharge (if you are not given this option when booking then this will be because the seats have already been taken). Please note that it does not make any difference which side of the coach you sit on, so we don’t take requests for specific front seats.

We also give you the opportunity to book the extra leg room seats near the back of the coach. The surcharge for extra legroom seats is £15 per seat.

The rest of our seating works on a first-come-first-served basis, as we feel that this is the fairest system of allocating seats. It is not possible to reserve window seats, or seats together if you are travelling as part of a group but, if you do wish to choose your seat, we would recommend arriving early at the bus stop (i.e. a few minutes before check-in closes). If you are unhappy with your seat please let your tour guide know and he will do his best to accommodate your requests, although obviously many guests would prefer a window seat so it is not possible for everyone to have these!

Note that any fees paid for front row or extra legroom seat upgrades are non-refundable if you cancel your tour.

What time does the tour start and finish?

The Orkney Day Tour departs at 5.30am (0530). Please ensure that you are ready to board the bus at 5.20am (0520) as we will leave promptly at 5.30am (0530), and are unable to wait for any latecomers.  The tour will return to Inverness city centre at approximately 9.30pm (2130).  It is possible that we may return a bit later than this, as we are dependent on the ferries running to time; generally they do, unless there is severe weather.

What is included in the price?

The tour price includes guiding, coach transportation and all ferry fees.

The tour price does not include entrance to the Italian Chapel (£3 per adult, children under 12 are free) or Skara Brae (£7.50 for adults (£4.50 for children, £6 for concessions, free for Historic Scotland members).  Meals, snacks and optional gratuities are not included either and we would recommend budgeting around £20 – £40 per person for this.

How often are bathroom/toilet stops

On this tour there are bathrooms on the ferries and at most of the attractions we visit (with the exceptions of the Italian Chapel and the Ring of Brodgar).  To give you an idea, after leaving the bus station (where there are public toilets) at 0530 there will be bathroom stops at approximately 0700, 0830, 0900 – 1030 (on ferry), 1130/1200 (Kirkwall), 1400-1500 (Skara Brae), 1645 – 1830 (on ferry) and at around 2000 on the way home.

 

Where will we be stopping for lunch?

We are delighted to be working with Jolly’s of Orkney to offer packed lunches. We will take orders and cash (only) in the morning then we will deliver the meals to you at lunch time, to be eaten on the coach.

To see the full lunch menu please go to our Orkney Lunch Menu page here.

Where will we be stopping for coffee/snacks enroute?

There will be opportunities to purchase snacks and/or hot drinks at the following places;

  • Gills Bay (ferry terminal cafe)
  • Ferry from Gills Bay to St Margaret’s Hope  (on-board cafe)
  • Kirkwall (various coffee shops, pubs and restaurants)
  • Skara Brae (coffee shop)
  • Stromness (various coffee shops, pubs and restaurants)
  • Ferry from Stromness to Scrabster (on board licensed restaurant)

You are also welcome to bring your own cold snacks and drinks with you.

Where will we be stopping for dinner?

We will board the ferry in Stromness at 1645 and will be on the ferry until 1830.  Consequently, we would recommend that you purchase dinner on the ferry.  They have a self-service restaurant which offers The Feast Menu, and you could also sample some of the tasty beers, whiskies and fudge that Orkney is famous for.

What should I wear?

On both ferry journeys you have the opportunity to go out onto the deck, and this is certainly something we would recommend for the awesome views! However, please be aware that, regardless of the time of year, it will be cold and windy on deck.  Consequently, we would strongly recommend bringing/wearing layers (e.g. t-shirt, fleece, warm jacket), a hat, gloves and a waterproof jacket (waterproof trousers can also come in useful if you have them!).

On Orkney itself there is some walking involved and most of the sights are outdoors, with Ring of Brodgar in particular being in quite an exposed location, where the ground can be muddy and slippery. We would definitely recommend that you wear hiking boots or, as an absolute minimum, sensible shoes/trainers/sneakers which have good grip and which are suited to this type of terrain.

Even if the sun is shining brightly when you leave Inverness, they do say that you only really experience Scotland when you see four seasons in one day, so please be prepared – it’s better to leave extra layers on the coach unused than to feel cold and wet on such a long day!

Can children come on the Orkney Tour?

Yes, children are welcome to come on the Orkney Day Tour and, as such, benefit from a reduced price.  Note that there is a lot of time spent on the coach at the start and end of the day (it is approx. three hours each way between Inverness and the ferry ports) but, on Orkney itself, there are frequent stops for kids to get out and run around!

Why should we choose WOW Scotland?

We know that you have a choice of tours, and we are always reviewing our offering to ensure that we are providing the best tour, combined with the best value for money and best customer care, from the minute you land on our website.  We are confident that we do this, and are proud to have been awarded a 5 star rating from VisitScotland in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 for providing “exceptional” tours.

Also, we have been consistently rated as “excellent” on Trip Advisor  as of November 2019 1680 out of 1760 reviews i.e. 95% rate us as excellent) and are proud to be ranked as the number 1 tour operator in Inverness (out of a staggering 94!).

For those who are unsure about booking with a small company, please click on any of the following links for assurance that we are a member of the national tourism body; Visit Scotland and also of the Federation of Small Businesses and  local tourism body; Visit Inverness Loch Ness

I am planning to drive to the tour pick-up point then leave my car – is this possible?

Absolutely.  Rose Street car park is right next to the tour pick-up point and you can find further information on parking here.

I am planning to stay in Dingwall/Conon Bridge/Muir of Ord/Beauly – can I join the tour?

If you would like to go on the Isle of Skye Tour or Speyside Whisky Tour then yes, absolutely! There is a train regular train service running between Dingwall, Conon Bridge, Muir of Ord, Beauly and Inverness, which allows you to get to Inverness in time for the 0830 departure time, then get back again in the evening. For more details, click here

If you would like to go on the Orkney Day Tour you will not be able to get public transport from outlying towns to Inverness early enough in the morning, as the tour departs at 0530.

I am planning to stay in Elgin/Forres/Nairn – can I join the tour?

If you would like to go on the Isle of Skye Tour or Speyside Whisky Tour then yes, absolutely! There is a train regular train service running between Elgin, Forres, Nairn and Inverness, which allows you to get to Inverness in time for the tour departure, then get back again in the evening. For more details, please click here

If you would like to go on the Orkney Day Tour you will not be able to get public transport from outlying towns to Inverness early enough in the morning, as the tour departs at 0530.

I am planning to stay in Edinburgh/Glasgow – can I join the tour?

Unfortunately there is no public transport from Edinburgh or Glasgow which will allow you to arrive in Inverness before the tours depart, so for all tours you would require to arrive the night before.

If you are interested in the Speyside Whisky Tour you will be able to get a train back at the end of the day as the last train to Glasgow and Edinburgh is at 2015.

If you are interested in the Isle of Skye Tour or Orkney Day Tour you will not be able to get public transport back to Glasgow or Edinburgh at the end of the day, as the last train is at 2015, before the tours arrive back in Inverness. Consequently, if you wish to travel from one of these cities, and take the tour, all in one day then you will require your own transport (the drive takes approx 3 1/4 hours to either city).

I am planning to stay in Aberdeen/Inverurie/Huntly – can I join the tour?

If you have a car then you can certainly drive to Inverness, park for the day and join the tour.

If you wish to travel by train, unfortunately it it not possible to take the first train in the morning from Aberdeen to Inverness, as it arrives at 0836 (after departure time for the Isle of Skye Tour, and after check-in has closed for the Speyside Whisky Tour).  However, if you can stay in Inverness the night before the tour then there is a train back late evening at 2133 (except on Sundays, when the last train is at 2103 – we would strongly advise against taking this train if you are on the Isle of Skye Tour as we sometimes arrive back later than planned).

Consequently, for these tours we would suggest that you stay in Inverness the night before the tour, then return to Aberdeen on the last train back after the tour.

For our Orkney Day Tour it is not possible to get the train from or to Aberdeen on the day of the tour so you will need to stay in Inverness the night before and after the tour.

Is the itinerary fixed/guaranteed?

The itinerary has been carefully planned to ensure that you get the most out of your day. However, there are factors outside of our control, such as traffic flow, road closures and adverse weather, which mean that, on rare occasions, we may not be to achieve everything listed in the tour itinerary. Consequently, we reserve the right to alter the itinerary if necessary, although this will be a last resort, and we will endeavour to visit alternative places of interest instead.

Do I need to bring cash with me on the tour? If so, are Euros/US dollars accepted in Scotland?

It is advisable to bring some cash (GBP £) on all tours. Credit/debit cards are widely accepted but, in some small shops (or for smaller purchases), cash is the only option.

Please note that American Express is not commonly accepted in Scotland, but Visa and Mastercard should be fine. Unfortunately very few places will accept other currencies such as Euros or US dollars.

Can I bring dogs and other pets on the tour?

Unfortunately dogs and other pets are not able to travel on our tours. If you are partially sighted or blind and use a guide dog to get around please do get in touch to discuss ways in which we can accommodate you and your dog.

Can I bring luggage?

Yes, we do have space for a limited amount of luggage. If you wish to bring luggage please contact us before booking. There are also left luggage facilities at Inverness train station for those travelling back to Inverness (please contact the station to find out opening times of this facility prior to use).

Who will our tour guide be?

One of our highly competent local guides will lead your tour – you can read all about the team on our About page, or have a look at their reviews on TripAdvisor.

Should I tip my guide?

If the tour meets or exceeds your expectations then please feel free to tip as it is always very much appreciated. However, please rest assured that tips are not expected in Scotland, so no offence will be taken if you don’t tip. It is worth noting that, if there is a separate driver and tour guide on your tour, they always split any tips equally, so it is fine to give money to either one of them.

Does the tour only run on the dates listed on your website?

Yes, you’ll find the most up-to-date tour dates on our calendar.  Scheduled tours will only run on the listed dates.

Do you offer foreign language tours?

At the moment we only offer tours in English, and we are unable to offer any translation services.  This is something which we are working to improve in the future but, for now, hopefully the fantastic Highland scenery can speak for itself!

Do you have any reviews?

Yes, lots! Check out our TripAdvisor ratings to see what our customers say about us (we are currently number 1 in Inverness out of over 94 tour companies, with over 95% of our reviews rating us 5 stars!)

You can also see reviews for WOW Scotland on YelpFacebook and Google

How do I get to Inverness?

To find out how to get to Inverness click here. 

Where can I stay in Inverness?

Inverness is a compact city so any city centre accommodation will be walking distance (up to 20 minutes) from our pick-up point at Inverness Bus Station.  Some hotels, such as the Premier Inn West and the Travelodge at Stoneyfield, are on the outskirts of the city but all are still easily reachable from the bus station (these are both 2 miles/a 10 minute taxi ride from our pick-up point). You can see a list of suggested accommodation in Inverness and Loch Ness here.

Can I book with confidence?

Yes! We know that you have a choice of tours, and we are always reviewing our offering to ensure that we are providing the best tour, combined with the best value for money and best customer care, from the minute you land on our website.  We are confident that we do this, and are proud to have been awarded a coveted 5 star rating from VisitScotland in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 for providing “exceptional” tours.

Also, we have been consistently rated as “excellent” on Trip Advisor (as of  October 2019 we had 1690 5 star reviews) and are proud to be ranked as the number 1 tour company in Inverness (out of a staggering 94!).

For those who are unsure about booking with a small company, please click on any of the following links for assurance that we are a member of the national tourism body; Visit Scotland and also of the Federation of Small Businesses and local tourism body; Visit Inverness Loch Ness.

What forms of payment do you accept?

Payments are taken through our secure online booking system, which utilises both PayPal and Stripe. These accept almost any debit and credit card, including American Express (we cannot accept Diner’s Card or Discover).

 

What are your terms and conditions of booking?

Our terms and conditions can be found here. You’ll find a general overview of our cancellation terms in this FAQ section if you don’t want to read though all the T&Cs!

Is it possible to pay on arrival?

Due to high demand for our tours, we are unable to secure your booking unless you pay the full amount in advance. That being said, you are welcome to come to the bus stop in the morning and, if there are places available, you can join the tour and book/pay online on our website.

Do you offer guaranteed departures?

Yes, if you book onto one of our tours then we will run this tour, regardless if anyone else has booked on or not!

The only reason we would require to cancel a tour would be if the weather forecast was so bad that we or one of our suppliers (e.g. the ferry operators for our Orkney Tour) considered it dangerous to travel. However, this is extremely unlikely, and we would do our utmost to accommodate you  either on on an alternative tour that day, or on an alternative date.

Do you offer group discounts?

For groups of 10+ please contact us for preferential pricing.

Can I cancel my tour if I change my mind, or if I am unable to get to Inverness for any reason?

Yes, and our cancellation terms for the Isle of Skye Tour, Skye Fairy Pools Tour, Whisky Bus and Speyside Explorer are as follows;

  • If you cancel your tour at least 72 hours in advance of the scheduled departure then we will refund you in full (note that any fees paid for seat upgrades are non-refundable)
  • If you cancel within 72 hours of the scheduled departure you will not be entitled to a refund. However, if we are able to re-sell your place then we will be able to issue a partial refund, so please let us know if you need to cancel, no matter how last minute it is.

Our cancellation terms for the Orkney Day Tour are as follows;

  • If you cancel your tour at least 7 days in advance of the scheduled departure then we will refund you in full (note that any fees paid for seat upgrades are non-refundable)
  • If you cancel within 7 days of the scheduled departure you will not be entitled to a refund. However, if we are able to re-sell your place then we will be able to issue a partial refund, so please let us know if you need to cancel, no matter how last minute it is.

Unfortunately we cannot make exceptions to these rules, as it would be unfair to treat customers differently.