Scotland is a dream destination for nature and adventure lovers. 

Castles nestle in rugged landscapes, mirror-like lochs contain mysteries of monsters within their bowels, islands have some of the most dramatic geological formations in the world, plus so much more waiting to be discovered.  

If you’ve never been to Scotland, it may be overwhelming trying to plan a trip with so much to see and do. Enter small group Scotland tours – the best, most flexible to book and hassle-free way to explore the country. 

The beauty of a small group tour is that you can stick to the main travel route or go as intrepid as you like. It just comes down to the one you choose. 

Woman in a red coat sitting and looking at a lighthouse on one of the Scotland small group tours.

So, with so many tour options out there, which one should you pick? 

To make it easier, I’ve rounded up the best small-group tours of Scotland. I’ve chosen each one based on my own experience, the reviews, the company and of course, the itinerary. 

All tours featured are eco-certified which means they have a positive impact on the environment and help you travel sustainably too. It’s a win-win!

Quick answer: best Scotland small group tours 

Why book a small group tour of Scotland 

Scotland is well-known for its rugged scenery and jaw-dropping views around every corner. If you’re planning a trip, it can be overwhelming to know where to start and what you want to include in your itinerary. 

Tours do the hard work for you by fitting in all the best highlights that guarantee a rewarding trip. 

Plus, you don’t need to worry about the logistics of transport in Scotland or hotel bookings either. This is vital at a time when travel is so precarious and restrictions change at a moment’s notice. 

The best tours are flexible and have less complicated moving parts, giving you peace of mind if you do have to postpone or cancel. 

View of Portree, Skye in the evening light with a boat coming into the harbour.

What’s more, doing a group tour of Scotland is a great way to get a more in-depth understanding of the history and culture as they’re run by local guides. 

You’ll get insider information and recommendations. Plus, activities and experiences you might not have come across otherwise. 

You’ll also get a chance to meet like-minded people. Small group tours rarely go above a dozen people to keep them intimate and personalised. 

Who knows, you could be swapping stories with your new best friend over a dram in a cosy pub in Orkney!

Read More: 11 of the Best Responsible Tour Operators in the World

Best small group tours of Scotland 

Here’s a round-up of some of the best Scotland small group tours that highlight the very best of the country from its rugged highlands, remote islands, scenic castles, mysterious lochs, history, fishing villages and more. 

Whether you have a week or a day, there’s a tour to suit every schedule. 

Highlights of Scotland 

View of the colourful shops of Victoria Street in Edinburgh, Scotland.
  • Length: 7 days
  • Start & Finish: Edinburgh – Glasgow
  • Highlights: Edinburgh Castle, Loch Ness, Culloden Moor, Isle of Skye, Eileen Donan Castle, watching the Jacobite Steam Train cross Glenfinnan Viaduct. 

This Highlights of Scotland tour is exactly that, giving you a snapshot of the very best the country has to offer within a week. 

It starts in Edinburgh and you have the option to do guided or self-guided tours of the city before being whisked to Inverness in the heart of the highlands. 

From there, you’ll discover the mystery of “Nessie” on a boat cruise of Loch Ness and see Culloden Moor where the Jacobite Rising was defeated in 1746. 

Other exciting highlights of the tour include the Isle of Skye, the chance to see the famous Jacobite Steam Train cross Glenfinnan Viaduct and a whisky tasting at Ben Nevis Distillery before finishing in Glasgow, the cultural capital of Scotland. 

This guided tour is best for those who are short on time but want to see as many Scotland highlights as possible. You travel mainly by private vehicle with an average group of 12 people and a friendly local guide with you the whole way. 

I recommend this tour because it’s a great balance of comfort and adventure. You stay in cosy accommodation but you also get to explore the wilds of the Scottish Highlands through hikes, kayaking, cycling and even visiting a reindeer farm (all optional)! 

That’s exactly what the best Scottish tours should be like. 

Scotland’s Orkney Islands 

The Orkney Islands, one of the best small group tours of Scotland to do.

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  • Length: 5 days 
  • Start & Finish: Inverness
  • Highlights: Neolithic town of Skara Brae, coastal walk on Shapinsay Island, live music and whisky tastings.

This five-star rated tour takes you up to the Orkney Islands on the northeastern coast of Scotland. 

Perfect for ancient history lovers, the tour starts in Inverness where you’ll meet your local guide before taking a scenic train journey to Thurso, transfer to the port of Scrabster and catch the ferry to Kirkwall in Orkney. 

Here, you’ll spend the next 4 days exploring the Neolithic Skara Brae, the historic Ring of Brodgar and 12th-century St Magnus Cathedral. You also have plenty of coastal sea walks, whisky tastings, live music and pubs galore against a wild, scenic backdrop. 

The maximum number of people on this tour is 12 and you get around using a mix of private and public transport. Your group leader stays with you for the duration of the trip too. 

I recommend this tour because it gives you the chance to explore lesser-travelled areas of Scotland. 

Although you’re with a group, you can easily split off and do your own thing too. Plus the use of public transport allows you to experience the local culture up close!

Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands Small Group Day Tour from Edinburgh

View of the Scottish Highlands with a stream winding through.
  • Length: 12 hours approx.
  • Start & Finish: Edinburgh
  • Highlights: Loch Ness boat trip, Glencoe and Cairngorms National Park. 

If you’re looking for a small group tour of Scotland that covers the best of the highlands in a day then this one’s for you. 

During this one-day excursion, you’ll head straight up to Glencoe passing Stirling Castle, the Wallace Monument and Linlithgow Palace along the way.

You’ll then journey onwards to Fort William, soon reaching the shores of Loch Ness where you can take a boat cruise on the water. After lunch, it’s another drive to the breathtaking Cairngorms National Park before heading back to Edinburgh. 

The small group tour has a maximum of 16 travellers and transport is a comfy Mercedes minibus. Your driver guide will also give you some insightful commentary during your trip. 

My favourite thing about this tour is that even though it’s a busy schedule there are plenty of breaks along the way so you’re not constantly on the road. 

Departing from Edinburgh, it also brings some of the most remote Scottish landmarks within reach. Don’t just take my word for it, it’s highly rated too!

St Andrews & the Fishing Villages of Fife Small Group Day Tour from Edinburgh

Anstruther Harbour with boats and terracotta-roofed houses behind.

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  • Length: 8.5 hours approx. 
  • Start & Finish: Edinburgh
  • Highlights: The Forth Road Bridge, fishing villages of East Neuk, St Andrews, Falkland Palace and Gardens. 

If you like the idea of exploring more of the east coast (Scotland’s west coast already gets a LOT of love), then this St Andrews & Fishing Villages of Fife tour is the perfect option for you. 

The day trip starts by crossing over the famous Forth Bridge where you’ll get a chance to see the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Forth Rail Bridge. 

Journey onwards to Fife, a peninsula bordered by the North Sea where you’ll stop to explore the traditional fishing village of Anstruther. 

Soon, you’ll arrive in St Andrews where you’ll have free time to enjoy its 1000 years of history and its accolade as the birthplace of golf! 

The last stop on the tour is Falkland Palace and Garden, a gorgeous fairytale palace that was once home to the Stewarts (Scottish Royal Family). Explore the palace or the town of Falkland, an Outlander filming location!

The tour has a maximum of 16 travellers and you travel in comfort in a Mercedes minibus. The tour guides are highly knowledgeable and the local area too. 

It’s a fantastic way to get a snapshot of Scotland’s east coast!

Discover more Edinburgh day trips here.

Outlander Day Tour from Glasgow or Edinburgh

A tall hunting lodge castle with an ornate stone arch entrance sits at the end of a track surrounded by grass and trees. Midhope Castle in Scotland.
Midhope Castle (Lallybroch)
  • Length: 8-10 hours approx. 
  • Start & Finish: Glasgow or Edinburgh depending on the option picked 
  • Highlights: Filming locations from Outlander including Midhope Castle (Lallybroch), Blackness Castle (Fort William), Culross (Crainsmuir) and Doune Castle (Castle Leoch). 

Are you an Outlander lover? If so, this tour is a must-do! 

Follow in the footsteps of Claire and Jamie on this full-day tour from Glasgow of all the major filming locations of this television series. 

The tour starts with a drive to Doune Castle which you might recognise as Castle Leoch and Winterfell from Game of Thrones (quite the film star!). 

Then you’ll journey to Falkland, the filming location for Inverness in the 1940s before arriving at my personal favourite, Midhope Castle (Lallybroch).

Look out for the Royal Burgh of Culross too which was the filming location for Crainesmuir where Geillis Duncan lived. 

The last stop is the imposing Blackness Castle used in some of the scenes for Fort William and Wentworth. 

I recommend this five-star rated tour because it’s perfect for Outlander buffs but those who are keen to discover Scottish history and culture will love it too. 

Enjoy dramatic countryside views, a dram or two of whisky and a knowledgeable local guide giving you all the insider info on Outlander. 

This small group guided Scotland tour is a private minibus with max 8 people so it’s nice and intimate. You have the flexibility to start from either Glasgow or Edinburgh too. 

Editor’s tip: You can also do a two-day Outlander tour that covers the Clava Cairns (the inspiration behind Craigh na Dun) and Culloden Moor. Check it out here.

Rosslyn Chapel and Hadrian’s Wall Small Group Day Tour from Edinburgh

View of Hadrian's Wall snaking over the green hills of Northern England.

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  • Length: 10.5 hours approx. 
  • Start & Finish: Edinburgh
  • Highlights: Rosslyn Chapel (featured in the Da Vinci Code), Melrose Abbey, English border and Hadrian’s Wall. 

No trip to Scotland is complete without visiting the borders. This small group day tour takes you there and beyond to Northern England where you can walk part of the way along the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Hadrian’s Wall. 

Ideal for history lovers, this small group tour combines history with architectural intrigue against the stunning backdrop of the Scottish and English border. 

The first stop is the mysterious Rosslyn Chapel which gained international fame after featuring in The Da Vinci Code. 

Next, it’s a visit to the ruins of Melrose Abbey wherein lies the final resting place of King Robert the Bruce’s heart. Then it’s time to cross the English border to reach Housesteads Fort, the best-preserved section of Hadrian’s Wall which was built 1900 years ago by the Roman Empire. 

The last stop is Jedburgh, a pretty market town in the Scottish Borders as you head back north to Edinburgh. 

I recommend this tour because it’s got a bit of everything – including two countries! Although it’s a bestseller, tour groups are kept to 16 people max so you can make the most of your knowledgeable guide. 

Read More: No-Fly Holidays: The BEST Train from London to Edinburgh (Review)

Isle of Skye Small Group 3-Day Tour from Edinburgh

Green hills and grey lochs of the Quiraing, the famous landslide in Skye. You can see this on this Skye 3 day tour.
  • Length: 3 days
  • Start & Finish: Edinburgh
  • Highlights: Glencoe, 5 Sisters of Kintail, Eilean Donan Castle, Isle of Skye and Loch Ness. 

If you’re keen to see the highlights of Scotland but you don’t have a whole week to spare, this 3-day tour is a great choice. It gives you a snapshot of the highlands and islands. 

On the first day, you’ll go on a detour through the highlands to the Isle of Skye – passing Doune Castle, Glencoe and Fort William at the foot of Ben Nevis (Scotland’s highest peak). 

Then it’s a truly breathtaking drive ahead as you take the ‘road to the isles’ through the 5 Sisters of Kintail (my nose was practically glued to the window in awe!). 

The second day is all about Skye – as it should be! There’s some flexibility here but the Trotternish Peninsula is not to be missed. 

Home of the Quiraing, a famous landslide, it’s a jaw-dropping sight. Neist Point and the Old Man of Storr are worth seeing too. Make the most of your private vehicle because you won’t be able to see it all on foot!

On the third day, you’ll head back to the mainland to Loch Ness for lunch, and pass Loch Laggan, Dalwhinnie and Blair Castle before returning to Edinburgh. 

If you want to make the most of your time in Scotland but you only have a few days I highly recommend doing this tour. 

You get to see the very best of the Highlands and Skye. It’s just 16 people max so you don’t feel too crowded either. What’s more, the tour is operated by Rabbies, one of the best Scottish tour companies to book. 

Editor’s tip: If you would rather keep the tour to one day instead of three, this one is a great alternative.

Lewis, Harris, and Outer Hebrides Tour from Inverness

Luskentyre beach in the sunlight on the Isle of Harris.

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  • Length: 3 days
  • Start & Finish: Inverness
  • Highlights: Ferry to the Isle of Lewis, Callanish Standing Stones, white sand beaches of Luskentyre on the Isle of Harris. 

Did you know Scotland is home to some of the best beaches in Europe? I’m talking soft white sand and striped turquoise waters that would almost make you think you’ve stumbled across a portal to the Caribbean. The only giveaway is the lack of palm trees… and the weather. 

If you’re keen to see the beauty of these beaches first-hand, this 3-day island hopping tour in the Outer Hebrides is a must! 

Starting from Inverness, you’ll head to Ullapool where you’ll catch the ferry to Stornoway on Lewis. Look out for dolphins and whales!  

On day two, you’ll venture to Harris with its striking mountains and unspoilt beaches. The one you’ve been waiting for is Luskentyre Beach which looks like the Caribbean on a good day. 

On day three, the tour will take you to the Lewis parish of Uig, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty where Vikings settled more than 800 years ago. Then you’ll visit the Callanish Standing Stones, 5000-year-old megaliths that are said to be once giants. 

With just 16 people maximum, this tour offers an amazing way to explore some of Scotland’s most remote and breathtaking islands on the west coast. It’s ideal for those who love wildlife, rugged isles, ancient history and beaches!

Find out more about how to get to Inverness by road, rail or air.

Isle of Skye & Jacobite Steam Train 3-Day Highland Tour

The red Jacobie Steam Train crossing Glenfinnan Viaduct. This 3-day tour is one of the best Scotland small group tours to do this activity.
  • Length: 3 days
  • Start & Finish: Edinburgh
  • Highlights: Loch Ness, Isle of Skye, riding on the Jacobite Steam Train (from May – October) and Culloden Moor. 

If riding the Jacobite Steam Train is on your Scotland bucket list then this tour is a must. Similar to the other 3-day tour above, it focuses on the key highlights of the Highlands and Isle of Skye. 

The main difference is the third day. Instead of driving from Skye back to the mainland, you go down to the south of the island and take a short ferry ride to the fishing village of Mallaig (look out for dolphins on your way. One loved following our ferry!). 

From Mallaig, you have the option to ride the Jacobite Steam Train to Fort William and enjoy spectacular views as the train crosses Glenfinnan Viaduct (if you want a photo op, sit or stand on the right – trust me!). The train slows down over the viaduct so you can soak it all in. 

Once you arrive in Fort William, you follow the spectacular rugged route south through Glencoe and Rannoch Moor before reaching Edinburgh in the early evening. 

This tour is perfect for those who want to get all the highlights of Scotland – including the steam train – in just three days. 

Just make sure to book it between May and October otherwise the steam train is unavailable. It’s also important to book it in advance as tickets for the steam train sell out quickly!

Editor’s tip: Prefer to do Skye in a day? Do this tour instead!

What about self-guided tours? 

Want to have the structure and ease of a tour with the flexibility of travelling solo? I recommend Byway Travel. 

Girl standing in the distance looking at the Fairy Glen circle of stones on Skye.

The travel company specialises in building bespoke no-fly travel itineraries based on your interests and budget. 

Although it’s a self-guided trip, Byway is with you every step of the way via Whatsapp and handles all the logistics so you can enjoy the travel part. It’s a great alternative to doing a guided tour of Scotland!

Looking for more Scotland travel tips? These articles can help!

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Discover the best small group tours to do in Scotland for a perfect trip. From tours of the highlands to Skye, Hebrides, Outlander and more, there's an itinerary to suit every timeframe and interest. All tours are eco-certified too. Take a look and get inspired for your trip to Scotland.

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