Solo holidays in Scotland

Don’t be under the impression that joining a small group trip in Scotland you’ll be crowding onto a massive coach every morning, then following a distant umbrella as it makes its way from castle gardens to tea room to gift shop.

That idea couldn’t be further from the truth.

Instead, these holidays lean heavily into adventure. Such as dolphin watching off the glorious west coast, tackling classic hiking and cycling routes through the Highlands, or roaming through some of Scotland’s most dramatic and remote landscapes on an escorted rail tour.

Our partners pack in big experiences while ensuring that numbers are kept low. Low enough that you can be on first-name terms with everyone by the end of day one, get to know your tour leader, and stay in small, often family-run hotels and B&Bs.

And while these holidays may take the hassle out of exploring Scotland, they’ll never take your freedom. They follow carefully crafted itineraries designed to help you make the most of your time, but they also ensure you have opportunities to break away from the group at points, to do your own thing if you want.

Because as far as we’re concerned, small shouldn’t mean restrictive.

Types of solo holidays in Scotland

Escorted rail holidays

Our escorted rail holidays in Scotland follow iconic routes such as the West Highland Line, Kyle Line and Far North Line, frequently (and seamlessly) continuing beyond the end of the line to islands in the Inner and Outer Hebrides or Orkney. Journeys are meticulously organised by our partners, so you can have confidence that all of the arrangements are in place throughout.

Group numbers will be capped at around 14 people, so far fewer than you’d find on a typical coach trip, and your tour leader is there every step of the way to make sure you get to every hotel, restaurant and activity.

Small ship cruises

David Schofield loved our small ship cruise of St Kilda and the Outer Hebrides: “The crew and fellow travellers pulled together as members of an ‘expedition’. None of the trip would be enjoyable without this fellowship.” Joining a small ship cruise in Scotland as a solo traveller is a very sociable affair. A sense of close companionship is easily fostered over shared meals, time spent sightseeing on deck and guided shore excursions.

The number of travellers will depend on the size of the vessel, but is usually between eight and 20. As such, they lend themselves perfectly to families and groups of friends so you should not expect the group to be full of solo travellers. You’ll typically moor up somewhere different most evenings, a key advantage of sailing on a smaller vessel being that you can access island harbours and other areas that larger ships cannot.

Cruise itineraries will usually be a mix of short, easy-going hikes on islands, marine wildlife watching (whales, dolphins and seals are all familiar friends in these waters) and exploring the history and mythology of Hebridean and Orkney islands.

Small group walking & cycling

The most immersive way to experience Scotland’s glorious natural scenery, walking holidays in Scotland trace coastal routes in Orkney or the Western Isles, over mountains in the Cairngorms National Park, or classic long-distance hikes such as the West Highland Way. 

Cycling holidays in Scotland take a similar approach, usually sticking to the roads though there are mountain biking trips available. You might ride the iconic North Coast 500, take a grand tour between Inverness and Edinburgh via the Cairngorms National Park, or even embark on an epic ride from Land’s End to John o’ Groats.

These are profoundly motivational trips – you’ll have no shortage of cheerleaders urging you up every incline. The fact that they’re always guided means you can concentrate on the scenery and getting to know your fellow walkers while someone else handles the directions.

You’ll stay in a succession of cosy hotels and B&Bs along your route, chosen not only for their location but for their use of local people as staff, and locally sourced ingredients for their meals. Muddy boots and wheels are not only expected but welcomed – just mind the carpets.

Special interest holidays

Our special interest holidays in Scotland really appeal to solo travellers due to niche interests being covered. This kind of trip usually stays in one place, such as photography holidays in the far north-west of Scotland or exploring traditional Scottish handicrafts such as felting around Glen Affric in the Highlands.

Other special interests catered for range from cookery to painting. This kind of trip provides an inclusive and friendly environment for you to indulge your passions, learning new skills or developing existing ones (beginners are more than welcome). The fact that everyone is arriving with a shared interest makes it very easy for friendships to develop naturally.
Travel Team
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What do solo holidays in Scotland involve?

Our holidays for solos in Scotland bring together groups from diverse backgrounds, but often with a shared interest. Group numbers vary but a maximum of 8-12 people is pretty standard, so that it won’t take long for everyone to get to know each other and the tour leader.

When you’re joining an organised tour in Scotland as a solo traveller, it helps to be sociable from the off. You’ll be sharing journeys, accommodations, activities and meals with your fellow travellers for a week or so. Most trips will include an element of free time now and again, when you can do your own thing for half a day perhaps, or peel off with one or two others as you please. If you enjoy meeting people and making friends over shared interests, you’ll love this kind of holiday.

Scotland’s natural landscapes are as vast as they are beautiful. Joining an organised tour as a solo traveller means that you’re able to cover a lot of ground in a short space of time, and also that you can relax and enjoy the views. These are always accompanied tours, ensuring that all the thorny logistics are handled, which is particularly useful when there’s a lot of getting from A to B involved. There’s no need to worry about hiring cars, working out train schedules or coping with missed connections, no need to think about arranging taxis in remote areas where public transport is limited, or how to find somewhere to eat if you’re arriving late – your tour leader is on top of everything.

Depending on the itinerary, your group may also be joined at different stages by local guides, capable of going into great depth about Scottish history, folklore, culture or geology.
Our tour leaders are with the group throughout, always sharing stories and helping you get the most out of your experience.
“Our tour leaders are with the group throughout, on every train,” says Emma Greer from our partner McKinlay Kidd about their small group rail holidays in Scotland. “They escort you to your hotels, they’re there at mealtimes, always sharing stories and helping you get the most out of your experience. And when it comes to going beyond the end of the line, to the islands off the coast, connectivity between trains and ferries is definitely daunting, which is why we’ve done all that work. I’d find it hard to do it myself. The way we organise our trips, there’s always fallbacks if something gets disrupted.”

Small group trips start and end on set dates, so you’ll need to be in the right place at the right time to begin your holiday. In some cases, it may be possible to join late or depart early but don’t assume that will be the case. If you need a greater degree of flexibility on your travel dates, a tailor made trip is a better option.

When it comes to accommodation, bear in mind that many small group holidays in Scotland can see you sharing a twin room with someone else of the same sex. You may be able to pay extra for a single room (make sure you enquire sooner rather than later), or you could opt for one of our holidays with no single supplements instead.
Written by Rob Perkins
Photo credits: [Page banner: Paleontour] [Escorted rail holidays: Jack Anstey] [Small group walking & cycling: Barney Moss] [What do they involve?: Wild Rose Escapes]