Monday September 25, 2017 – Wednesday October 4, 2017
10 Days – $3,500
Final Payment May 15, 2017
Scotland is a land rich in rouges and rebels, clans and crowns, and impossibly beautiful scenery comprised of castles, crags, moors and dark lochs. Explore the best of Scotland on a varied itinerary that includes some of the most stunning landscapes you are ever likely to see. We invite you to explore this wild and romantic land with a true expert on the subject, author Sue Ellen Welfonder. On this tour, you’ll discover the legends and lore surrounding Scotland, visit iconic castles and experience the wild Highland landscape in a most unique manner.
- Visits to Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood House, Inverary Castle, Glamis Castle, Blair Castle and Stirling Castle.
- Afternoon cruise on Loch Lomond
- Land Rover Highland Safari
- Tour of the royal yacht Britannia
- Shopping at the House of Bruar
Arrival at the 18th century George Hotel, our luxury lodgings in the New Town. This evening we’ll gather in the lobby before going on to the elegant Dome Restaurant for a Welcome Dinner.
This morning we’ll explore the legendary Edinburgh Castle, whose rooms have witnessed centuries of key events in Scottish History. We’ll view the Great Hall with its heraldic emblems; the Stone of Destiny upon which all Scottish rulers have been crowned; the Scottish Crown Jewels and St. Margaret’s Chapel – the oldest building in Edinburgh. Afterwards, we’ll walk the Royal Mile with Sue Ellen, explore the many historic Closes, stop for a dram and lunch and visit the many landmarks that line the streets.
You will have free time to shop or sightsee before we meet again this evening for a private guided tour of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland. Best known as the home of Mary, Queen of Scots, the Palace was the setting for many dramatic episodes in her short reign. Today, the State Apartments are used regularly by The Queen for ceremonial events and official entertaining. Our group will enjoy a private tour of the Apartments once the Palace doors have closed to visitors for the day, giving us the unique opportunity to go ‘behind-the-ropes’ in several rooms, including the West Drawing Room, used by members of the Royal Family as a private sitting room and not normally open to the public. It is among the most beautiful rooms in the Palace and boasts one of the finest examples of a17th-century plasterwork ceiling.
Today we’ll be taking the High Road as we travel to romantic Loch Lomond, the largest inland stretch of water in Great Britain. We’ll take in the stunning scenery as we cruise the Loch and discover the legends, myths and islands associated with it. The castle on Inchmurrin, now in ruins, was visited by James IV, in 1506, Mary Queen of Scots, in 1563, and James VI, in 1617. On Inchcailleach, “The Island of Nuns,” there is a graveyard which was used by the clan MacGregor, where some of Rob Roy’s ancestors are buried. Afterwards, we’ll stop at the picturesque village of Luss, which has stood on the western shore of the Loch since the 18th century. Late afternoon finds us traveling on to the 4 Star Loch Fyne Hotel & Spa in Inveraray, known as the “Gateway to the Highlands.”
This morning we’ll visit Inveraray Castle, the seat of the Dukes of Argyll, chiefs of Clan Campbell, which has stood on the shores of Loch Fyne since the 1400s and recently stood in as ‘Duneagle Castle’ in the 2012 Downton Abbey Christmas Special
. We’ll see the State Dining Room, with its opulent hand-painted interior and the French-influenced Tapestry Drawing Room with an exquisite display of Oriental and European porcelain. Also on view is the Armoury, boasting the highest ceiling in Scotland and a vast array of arms. The North West Hall contains costumes worn by the family, including the Coronation robes of HRH Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s daughter who married the Duke of Argyll. Other family artifacts include two fragile Clan standards which were carried into battle at Culloden in 1746 and a carved bed complete with the ghost of a harper who plays whenever a family member is about to die.
Leaving the Castle, you’ll have free time to shop in the Inveraray Woollen Mill for traditional tartans and cashmere before visiting the historic Inveraray Jail Museum, a 19th-century prison and courthouse used between 1820 to 1889. Afterwards, there will be time for you to explore the town on your own or to use the spa facilities at the hotel before dinner.
This morning we’ll embark upon a scenic drive through the Highlands to Blair Atholl, where we check into the Atholl Arms Hotel, a traditional Scottish Highlands hotel overlooking Blair Castle. After check-in, we’ll walk up the Lime Avenue to the Castle for lunch and a tour. The collections displayed in 30 rooms on our tour give a rich and varied impression of Scottish life over seven centuries. Fine pictures and furniture, arms and armour, porcelain, embroidery and lace, Masonic regalia, Jacobite relics and many family treasures provide fascinating insights into Scottish social history. In addition to the family, we’ll become acquainted with their circles of friends, visiting Royalty and Scottish nobility down the age, and with the ordinary people who have lived and worked at the castle through the centuries. Foresters and gamekeepers, gardeners and maids, butlers and estate managers have all left their mark and have an equally fascinating tale to tell.
Afterwards, we’ll walk the extensive Castle grounds to see Diana’s Grove, the Banvie Burn, the ruins of St. Bride’s Kirk and the Hercules Garden. Along the way, we’ll stop at the enclosures beyond the Castle to see some of the sheep, deer, horses and cattle who live nearby.
We begin our day at The House of Bruar
, known as “the Harrod’s of the North,” and with good reason. The shopping complex bills itself as carrying traditional country clothing for ladies and gents, but there’s so much more – cashmere, tweeds, fishing gear, jodhpurs, gloves, luxury leather goods, boots, travel essentials, home furnishings and a food hall. Don’t worry, we’ve built in plenty of time for this visit, after which we’ll head off to Glamis Castle, birthplace of Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, and home to the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne.
Glamis Castle is also known as Scotland’s most beautiful castle, as well as Scotland’s most haunted castle, and offers a thousand years of history. By the time Mary Queen of Scots and her entourage visited Glamis in 1562, the East Wing was dominated by the main Tower, which had been added in about 1435. In the 17th century, the West Wing was added, as well as the chapel. In 1893, the 13th Earl laid out the Dutch Garden in front of the Castle. This return to a formal style was continued with the creation by The Queen Mother’s parents of the Italian Garden in 1910. This was the last major alteration and completes the modern day appearance of the Castle. Renovations may have stopped, but legends surrounding the Castle persist, especially those concerning the “monster of Glamis,” who may or may not have been a vampire child. Our guide will explain the evolution of the castle, while sharing legendary tales and secrets. Every painting, every piece of furniture, every little detail along the way is a sharp reminder that this is not a museum but an incredible family home that has witnessed everything from Royal births to being the setting for Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
Today we return to Blair Castle for a Land Rover Highland Safari – a once in a lifetime experience not to be missed. In the morning, one half of our group will embark on the Safari and travel off the beaten track to explore the breathtaking scenery of the 145,000 acre Atholl Estate, offering scenes of rolling farmland and the wild open hills that are home to a fantastic array of native wildlife including herds of deer, red grouse and birds of prey, including the Golden Eagle. Traverse Glen Tilt and the Cairngorms while scaling the heights of rocky crags, splashing through freshets and streams – your Safari will include some of the most remote, dramatic and tranquil scenery to be found in Scotland. Your Land Rover will be driven by an expert guide who lives and works on the Estate and who will share their detailed knowledge of the area and the wildlife with you.
The other half of our group will visit nearby Pitlochry, one of Scotland’s most beautiful villages. Here you’ll find quaint shops and pubs, the Pitlochry Heritage Museum and the Atholl Palace Museum, Heathergems, where heather is turned into fashion jewelry, as well as the Blair Athol Distillery, located half a mile from the town centre.
In the afternoon, the groups will be reversed so that everyone will experience both the Highland Safari and Pitlochry.
This morning we depart for Stirling Castle, James V’s splendidly furnished 16th
century Palace, which also served as the childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots. Our tour includes the Great Hall, the largest banqueting hall ever built in Scotland, complete with minstrel’s gallery. Costumed interpreters we’ll meet along the route will be able to tell us about the royal intrigues that took place within these walls. We’ll also visit the Chapel Royal built by James VI, as well as Argyll’s Lodgings, Scotland’s finest 17th-century townhouse standing just beyond the castle walls. Afterwards, there will be time to see the kitchens, the gardens and to have a bite of lunch in the Unicorn Cafe if you so desire.
Leaving Stirling Castle, we’ll continue on to the award winning Dalhousie Castle Hotel, a magnificent 13th fortress set within acres of wooded parkland on the picturesque banks of the River Esk. Dalhousie Castle holds the title of “Scotland’s Oldest Inhabited Castle,” but we won’t be touring it – we’ll be staying here for the next two nights. Dinner this evening will be served in the Castle’s Orangery Restaurant.
Today we’ll enjoy a leisurely day at the Castle and you will be free to join us for as many or as few activities as you wish. Perhaps you’d like to strike off on your own in order to stroll the Castle grounds. Or channel your inner Robin Hood by taking a lesson in the medieval sport of archery using a recurve bow. Luncheon today will be served al fresco in the grounds, after which you may choose to join us as we visit the Castle’s falconry, where you can witness an owl’s silent flight or meet the falcons, eagles and kestrels that call the Castle home. Alternately, you may choose to sleep in and then make your way to the Aqueous Spa. As a Castle guest, you are welcome to use the hydro pool, sauna, Ottoman steam bath and rain-and-fog shower. Spa treatments are available at extra cost.
Dinner this evening will be served in the hotel’s Dungeon Restaurant – a unique dining experience that takes place in the ancient barrel-vaulted dungeons. Awarded 2 AA Rosettes, the menu is a modern interpretation of classic Scottish dishes with a French flair, using locally sourced produce.
After breakfast, we’ll travel back to the George Hotel in Edinburgh and, after checking in, the remainder of the day is at your leisure in order to sightsee, shop and explore the City. At 5 o’clock, our group will gather in the hotel lobby for the short drive to Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia
, the former royal yacht of the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, in service from 1954 until 1997. Our farewell celebrations begin with a private guided tour of the yacht, allowing us
exclusive access to Britannia’s
five decks, and a unique insight how the Royal Family and 220 crew who lived and worked on board. We will also have the opportunity to step inside the Admiral’s Cabin and discover the charm of the beautiful State Apartments.
Afterwards, we’ll make our way to The Witchery, the famed landmark restaurant now in its fourth decade, housed in a 16th century building at the gates of Edinburgh Castle. In addition to serving fabulous food, Andrew Lloyd Weber declared that The Witchery was “the prettiest restaurant ever.”
- 3 Nights at the George Hotel
- 2 Nights at the Loch Fyne Hotel and Spa
- 3 Nights at the Atholl Arms Hotel
- 2 Nights at the Dalhousie Castle Hotel and Spa
- Full English breakfast each day
- 9 Dinners
- Services of an expert tour guide throughout the tour
- Private coach transportation on travel days
- Entry or admission fees to all venues