Classic tectonic models for the Caledonian orogeny in Scotland involve Ordovician collision of Laurentia–Midland Valley arc (Grampian orogeny), followed by middle Silurian collision of Laurentia–Baltica (Scandian orogeny) and 500–700 km of sinistral displacement along the Great Glen fault separating the Northern Highlands (Moine Supergroup) from the Grampian Highlands (Dalradian Supergroup). A review of the timing of magmatic and metamorphic rocks across Scotland allows a simpler explanation that fits with a classic Himalayan-style continent–island arc–continent collision. Late Cambrian – Early Ordovician NW-directed ophiolite obduction (Highland Border complex) coincided with the ending of stable continental shelf sedimentation along the eastern margin of Laurentia. Following collision between Laurentia and the Midland Valley arc–microcontinent in Early Ordovician time, crustal thickening and shortening led to almost continuous regional metamorphism from c. 470 to 420 Ma, rather than two discrete ‘orogenies’ (Grampian, Scandian). U–Pb monazite and garnet growth ages indicating prograde metamorphism, and S-type granites related to melting of crustal protoliths are coeval in the Grampian and Northern Highlands terranes. There is no evidence that the Great Glen fault was a terrane boundary, and strike-slip shearing post-dated emplacement of Silurian – Early Devonian granites. Late orogenic alkaline granites (c. 430–405 Ma) in both Moine and Dalradian terranes are not associated with subduction. They are instead closely related to regional alkaline appinite–lamprophyric magmatism resulting from simultaneous melting of lower crust and enriched lithospheric mantle. Caledonian deformation and metamorphism in northern Scotland, with continuous SE-directed subduction, show geometry and time scales that are comparable to the Cenozoic India–Kohistan arc–Asia collisional Himalayan orogeny.