Ancient History, Celtic Heritage, & the Natural World
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Smithsonian Student Travel  |  Scotland  |  NEW

Stunning landscapes and rich history await on this adventure though Scotland. Dive into the country’s rich history of castles and clans in St. Andrews, home to one of the oldest universities in the world and the birthplace of golf. From the sandy lowlands, venture into the picturesque Highlands to explore small towns and a quieter way of life. Hike alongside deep lochs and across heather-covered hills, watch sheepdogs at work at local farms, and get a better sense of Scottish and Gaelic traditions through music and food. Next, embark on an excursion to the Hebrides islands, rich with Gaelic and Scandinavian history and influence. Sail to an island of columnar basalt formations and inspiring caves and spot Atlantic puffins nesting on the sea cliffs. Finish your adventure in the bustling capital of Edinburgh, a hub of education, medicine, law, literature, and the sciences. Wander the cobblestone streets and meet with historians and guides during visits to Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Botanic Gardens, and the city’s countless other historic sites.
June 22, 2023–July 9, 2023 (18 days)
July 9, 2023–July 26, 2023 (18 days)
Students completing grades: 8–12
Tuition: $7,690 + airfare
Typical Group: 20–24 + 3 leaders


  • Reconstruct a Stone Age settlement on the shores of Loch Tay

  • Hike through epic scenery in the Scottish Highlands

  • Sail to an island with spectacular caves, rock formations, and puffin colonies

  • Explore the immense and fascinating history of beautiful Edinburgh


This itinerary represents our plan for the program. However, we may implement changes if we identify opportunities to improve the experience, to take advantage of unexpected events, or to accommodate local schedule changes.

Departure • Travel Day • Meet your student travel group and one of your trip leaders in New York City and fly to Edinburgh, Scotland. 

St. Andrews • 3 days • Begin your time in Scotland in the university town of St. Andrews. The school here is the third oldest in the English-speaking world, and educates students from around the world in a beautiful coastal setting. You’ll begin your program with an in-depth orientation among the trees and cobbles, then explore the town and its surrounding villages, beaches, and coastal walks. Meet with local guides and cultural practitioners as you start shaping your own independent project. Your Smithsonian Student Travel Expert joins the group here and in the Highlands to share valuable insights into the history and cultural heritage of the Scottish people.

Scottish Highlands • 4 days • Travel from the coastal lowlands to the Highlands, a place of expansive views and remote communities. At Loch Tay, help reconstruct a Stone Age settlement, built for protection on artificial islands in the lochs, as well as medieval castles and historic sites. Attend a traditional ceilidh dance and learn some new steps. Hike through incredible scenery, along lochs, meadows, and some of Scotland’s highest peaks at Glencoe.   

The Hebrides • 5 days • Head to the Highlands’ western edge, where countless islands extend into the Atlantic Ocean. Spend the day at a Gaelic school on the Isle of Skye and learn how the language is being passed down to the next generation. Take a day trip by boat from the Isle of Mull to Staffa, where columnar basalt formations and caves have inspired composers and artists for generations, and turn your eye to the sea cliffs, where Atlantic puffins nest and raise their pufflings. Sail to Iona, where 15 centuries of monastic history create a fascinating setting. Travel to some of the smallest communities remaining in Scotland to experience their remote beauty and learn how traditions and culture are being kept alive.  

Edinburgh & Glasgow • 4 days • Return to Scotland’s bustling capital city of Edinburgh to end your program. From the ancient winding cobblestone streets, royal residences, and former tenements of the Old Town to the genteel planned neighborhoods of the New Town, explore the historic settings that produced world-famous scholars, inventors, and thinkers. Walk up to King Arthur’s Seat, all that remains of an extinct volcano, for stunning views of the city. Head to Glasgow for a day trip to experience the charms of Scotland’s largest city before you head home. 

Return • Travel Day • Fly from Edinburgh, Scotland to New York City with your group and a trip leader, then continue on to your final destination.

Smithsonian Student Travel Expert

The expert(s) highlighted below are examples of professionals that will join the group at various points throughout the itinerary to add their expertise and insight to the program theme.

Michele Gualtieri looking up and smiling while wearing chef coat and standing against old brick building
Tom Dawson, Archaeologist
Tom Dawson is an archaeologist and Principal Research Fellow at the University of St Andrews. He started his archaeological career in London, excavating trenches up to 20 feet deep in the heart of the city. He then conducted excavations in Japan, Italy, Ireland, and France, and spent three years in Sri Lanka, training archaeologists at World Heritage Sites and doing underwater archaeology on the south coast. Since joining Scotland’s oldest university, Tom has pioneered ways of working with sites threatened by climate change. He is the CEO of SCAPE (Scottish Coastal Archaeology and the Problem of Erosion) and, together with his team, has inspired creative ways of recording threatened heritage. A strong advocate of public archaeology, most projects were developed in collaboration with local communities. Tom regularly appears on TV shows in the UK and has written many academic papers. His edited publications include Archaeology and Coastal Erosion in Scotland and Public Archaeology and Climate Change. He sits on a number of international panels and advisory boards and was formerly a Commissioner with the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland and Vice President of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Tom will be joining the June 23 departure of the Scotland program.


What to Expect

Physical Activity • This is a physically active summer travel program. You can expect to walk on beaches after dark, hike through the Highlands on well-worn trails, swim, and kayak over the course of the trip. You do not need to be at peak fitness to participate, but it is important that you have a desire to be physically active, and that you are excited about trying all activities. 

Accommodations • Throughout the trip, we stay at a mix of hotels, hostels, and student accommodations. Breakfasts are included at most destinations. 

Climate • Scotland’s climate is shaped and driven by the sea – expect cooler temperatures and more rain and wind than you may be used to in summertime. Expect daytime temperatures in the 60s and low 70s, with cool nights, and the potential for cooler days in the Highlands and the Hebrides.

Meals • We eat meals either at our accommodations, on-the-go during our daily excursions, or at local restaurants. The group will form cooking and cleaning crews to help with shared meal preparations and cleanup.

Cuisine • Scottish cuisine centers around staples like oats and potatoes, shaped into any number of dishes, but also encompasses fresh produce, wild game, seafood, and delicious breads and baked goods. You’ll certainly have a chance to try haggis, the national dish, as well as a wide variety of local and international flavors. A traditional Scottish breakfast contains fried eggs & mushrooms, sausage, baked beans, potato scones, black pudding, and grilled tomato.

Language  • English, Scots, and Scottish Gaelic are all official languages in Scotland, with Gaelic being primarily spoken in the remote western parts of the country. You will have a chance to learn some Gaelic phrases and traditions.

Enroll in two programs & save $500!

$300 tuition discount + no second application fee