Alison Weir Tours

Flowers of Scotland

 

ITINERARY
 

ITINERARY

Day 1: Monday, 29th April

We welcome guests at The Intercontinental Hotel, Edinburgh. Check will be open in throughout the day.

A grand hotel since 1881, situated in the UNESCO World Heritage area of the beautiful and cultured city of Edinburgh, the Intercontinental is a collection of fine Georgian townhouses. It has connections with literary legends such as Robbie Burns and Sir Walter Scott, charming characterful rooms and gardens, and award-winning hospitality.
Condé Nast Traveller 2022 Readers’ Choice Awards – Top 10 Best Hotels in the UK.
Winner of Best Cultural Hotel in the World Luxury Travel Awards 2022.
Winner of Best Hotel in Scotland over 200 rooms in the 2022 Prestige Hotel Awards.
Winner of Best Concierge, Scott Keenan, in the 2022 Prestige Hotel Awards.
Regional winner for Luxury Business Hotel of the Year in the 2020 Scottish Hotel Awards for the Edinburgh & The Lothians Region.
Winner of Luxury Brand of the Year in the 2019 Scottish Hotel Awards.
Awarded Conference Hotel of the Year in the 2018 Scottish Hotel Awards for the Edinburgh & The Lothians Region.

Optional: At 1pm, a courtesy coach will take guests into Edinburgh for free time in the city or an optional guided walk led by our historians.  The coach will depart from Edinburgh at 4pm and return to the hotel around 4.30pm.

Edinburgh is one of the most vibrant, beautiful and interesting cities in the world.  Steeped in history, it seamlessly blends old and new, providing the perfect destination to experience the sights, sounds and tastes of a diverse and vibrant city. With its castle towering over the city and the contrast of the New Town and the Old, Edinburgh has a way of ‘savouring the old and fuelling the new’. With narrow and cobbled passageways, the city has a rare charm. As well as its beautiful buildings, gardens and museums, it’s also known for its dark corners, where terrifying events have taken place. You will soon discover why Edinburgh is the second most visited city in the UK after London. Every year over two million tourists visit Scotland’s capital.

5pm: Welcome reception and drinks.

7pm: Welcome dinner at hotel.

Overnight: The Intercontinental Hotel, Edinburgh.


Day 2: Tuesday, 30th April

9am: Depart The Intercontinental Hotel, Edinburgh.

9.45am: Visit Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh Castle dominates Scotland's capital city from its great rock. Its story has helped shape the nation's story. Battles and sieges were fought over it, royalty lived and died within its walls, and countless generations have been inspired by it. Fierce Iron-Age warriors defended a hill fort here, and Scotland's oldest poetry tells of a war band feasting here for a year before riding to their deaths in battle. During the 13th and 14th-century Wars of Independence, the Scots and English struggled for control of the castle. In 1314 it was recaptured from the English in a daring night raid led by Thomas Randolph, nephew of King Robert the Bruce.
    The castle has sheltered many Scottish monarchs, including the sainted Queen Margaret, who died here in 1093, and whose chapel may still be seen; and Mary, Queen of Scots, who gave birth to James VI in the Royal Palace in 1566, in a room that you will visit (below left). Mary’s great-great-great grandson, Charles Edward Stuart, known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, captured Edinburgh but was unable to take the castle during the 1745-6 Jacobite Rising. In 1996, the Stone of Destiny, on which kings were enthroned for centuries, was returned to Scotland. It is now displayed in the Crown Room with the Scottish regalia - the Honours of Scotland.
    In the 1600s, the castle became a military base. Some buildings were rebuilt, and new ones were raised to house a huge garrison - and provide a secure jail for prisoners of war. The military presence remains unbroken, but over the last 200 years the castle has become a national icon. It is now Scotland's leading tourist attraction, and a key element of the Edinburgh World Heritage Site.

Free time for an independent lunch in Edinburgh. 

1.30pm: Visit St Giles’ Cathedral.

St Giles’ Cathedral, founded in 1124 by King David I, has been a working church for almost 900 years. A backdrop to Scotland’s turbulent religious history, it saw the seeds of civil war sown and was John Knox’s parish church during the Reformation. It is still an important centre for civic services such as the Kirking of the Parliament and services for Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle. Queen Elizabeth II lay in state her after her death in September 2022.

2.45pm: Visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Founded as a monastery in 1128, the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh is H.M. the King’s official residence in Scotland. Situated at the bottom of the historic Royal Mile, the Palace is closely associated with Scotland's turbulent past. It has served as the principal residence of the kings and queens of Scots since the 16th century, and is still a setting for state occasions and official entertainment.
    James IV constructed a new palace adjacent to the abbey in the early 16th century, and James V made additions to the palace, including the present north-west tower. The royal apartments in the north-west tower of the Palace were occupied by Mary, Queen of Scots, from her return to Scotland in 1561 to her forced abdication in 1567. The Queen had archery butts erected in her private gardens to allow her to practice and hunted deer in Holyrood Park. It was at Holyrood that the series of famous interviews between the Queen and John Knox took place, and she married both of her Scottish husbands in the palace: Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, in 1565 in the chapel, and James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, in 1567 in the great hall. In her private apartments, she witnessed the shocking murder of David Rizzio, her private

5pm: Depart Holyrood for The Intercontinental Hotel, Edinburgh.

5.20pm: Return to the hotel.

Dinner is independent tonight.

Overnight: The Intercontinental Hotel, Edinburgh.


Day 3: Wednesday, 1st May

8.30am: Depart The Intercontinental Hotel, Edinburgh, for Abbotsford House. 

10.15am: Visit Abbotsford House.

Abbotsford is the ancestral home of Sir Walter Scott, the 19th-century novelist and poet of ‘Waverley’, ‘Ivanhoe’ and ‘Lady of the Lake’. It is one of the most famous houses in the world. Constructed on the ample proceeds of a literary career without parallel, it is an enduring monument to the tastes, talents and achievements of its creator, the ‘Great Scott’ who popularised tartan, saved the Scottish banknote and rediscovered his country’s Crown Jewels.
   Sitting on the banks of the River Tweed between Melrose and Galashiels, Abbotsford is at the heart of a landscape of folklore and legend. It began the craze for Scottish Baronial architecture and inspired Scott as he became the biggest-selling author of his day. From here, Scott’s writing transformed how the world saw Scotland, and how Scotland saw itself.
   Immerse yourself in Scott’s home, explore his beautiful gardens, riverside and woodland walks, and indulge in the café, shop and exhibitions.

12.15pm: Depart Abbotsford for Traquair House.

1pm: Light lunch in the Garden Café in the 1745 Cottage at Traquair House.

2pm: Visit Traquair House.

Twenty-seven Scottish kings and queens have visited Traquair. Dating back to 1107, the house was originally a royal hunting lodge. Later it became a refuge for Catholic priests. The Stuarts of Traquair supported Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Jacobite cause, without counting the cost. In the 1500s. the lairds of Traquair played important roles in public life. John Stuart, 4th Laird of Traquair became Captain of the Queen's Bodyguard to Mary, Queen of Scots, and was host to her when she visited Traquair with her husband, Lord Darnley, and her infant son James in 1566. The cradle where she rocked her baby, her bed and other possessions can still be seen in the house. Today Traquair is a unique piece of living history welcoming visitors from all over the world to its magical and romantic setting. You are invited to enjoy the house, the extensive grounds, the maze, the craft workshops and the famous Traquair House Brewery, housed in the eighteenth-century wing and producing the world famous Traquair House Ales.
 
We hope to arrange a private reception hosted by the house’s owner, Catherine Maxwell Stuart, 21st Lady of Traquair, in the beautiful 18th-century Dining Room, where Cuvée Catherine, Traquair's own French sparkling wine, and soft drinks are served. All guests are provided with a complimentary guide book, and a private guided tour led by the Lady of Traquair will follow.

4pm: Depart Traquair House for The Intercontinental Hotel, Edinburgh.

5.30pm: Return to hotel.

6.30pm: Depart The Intercontinental Hotel, Edinburgh for the Royal Yacht Britannia.

7pm: The Britannia Experience.

We are hosting a very special evening on board the Royal Yacht Britannia, once the floating residence of Queen Elizabeth II, and now moored at Leith, the port of Edinburgh. A Scots piper will greet us as we ascend the red carpet on the Queen’s Brow (stairs), the original royal entrance, then we will enjoy a drinks reception in the Salon, where the Royal Family gathered before dinner, with a pianist playing in the background. The piano has notably been played by Princess Diana, Princess Margaret and Sir Noel Coward. There follows a private tour of Britannia, and a 4-course dinner in the magnificent candlelit State Dining Room. Britannia’s outstanding Executive Chef has created a sumptuous menu meticulously prepared in the original Royal Galley, adhering to its traditional high standards, all in keeping with royal tradition.
    Britannia was home to Her Majesty the Queen and the Royal Family for over 40 years, sailing over 1,000,000 miles around the world. Now you can follow in the footsteps of royalty and world leaders such as Sir Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Rajiv Gandhi, and discover the heart and soul of this most special of Royal residences. The private tour gives guests a fascinating insight into how the Royal Family lived on board Britannia, and how the crew manned it. The Royal Yacht is now a five-star visitor attraction in Edinburgh.

11pm: Depart the Royal Yacht Britannia.

11.30pm: Return to hotel.

Overnight: The Intercontinental Hotel, Edinburgh.


Day 4: Thursday, 2nd May

Check out of The Intercontinental Hotel, Edinburgh.

Today, when we travel north to the Highlands, guests have two options.

OPTION 1:

9am: Depart The Intercontinental Hotel, Edinburgh for Scone Palace. 

10.45am: Visit Scone Palace.

Poised above the River Tay in Perthshire, Scone Palace overlooks the routes north to the Highlands and east through Strathmore to the coast. The Grampian mountains form a distant backdrop, and across the river stands the city of Perth.
   Scone Palace has an exciting and colourful history as one of Scotland's most important stately homes. Fifteen hundred years ago, Scone was the capital of the Picts. In the intervening centuries, it has been the seat of parliaments and the crowning place of the kings of Scots, including Macbeth and Robert the Bruce. The Palace houses an outstanding collection of antiques, paintings and rare artefacts, and the grounds are renowned throughout the world.
   There can be few places of interest in Scotland as historically potent as Scone Palace. When you visit the Palace you are walking in the footsteps of Scotland’s ancient founding fathers, both pagan and Christian. It was an important religious gathering place of the Picts, then the site of an early Christian church, and it housed the Stone of Scone, also known as the Stone of Destiny, which is wreathed in myth and legend. Tradition has it that it was the coronation stone of Kenneth MacAlpin, the 36th King of Dalriada. But the historical view is that King Fergus brought the revered stone from Ireland to Argyll, and was crowned on it. Whatever the origin, the Stone of Destiny was placed on the Moot Hill and used in the coronations of the Kings of Scots until the end of the 13th century.   In 1296 the Stone of Destiny was captured by Edward I as spoils of war and taken to Westminster Abbey, where it was fitted into the wooden chair on which most subsequent English sovereigns have been crowned. On Christmas Day 1950, a group of four Scottish students reclaimed the Stone from Westminster Abbey. Once the London police were informed of its whereabouts, the Stone of Scone was returned to Westminster. In 1996, the Stone was finally restored to the people of Scotland when the British Government moved it to Edinburgh Castle. The Stone of Destiny was last used at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II - and so it still performs its ancient duty.
   The celebrated Moot Hill, the ancient crowning place of the kings of Scots, is located immediately in front of the Palace and is crowned by a tiny Presbyterian Chapel. A replica of the famous Stone of Scone sits in front of the Chapel.

12.30pm: An included lunch will be served in the Old Kitchen at Scone Palace, which has a magnificent Victorian cooking range and original copper utensils.  Lunch at Scone Palace

2pm: Depart Scone Palace for The Golf View Hotel, Nairn.

OR

OPTION 2: THE WHISKY EXPERIENCE

9am: Depart The Intercontinental Hotel, Edinburgh for Dewar’s Distillery, Aberfeldy.

11am: Visit Dewar’s Distillery for a guided tour and tutored sensory tasting of single malt and blended Scotch across different ages.

Discover the Dewar family’s pursuit of Scotch whisky perfection in the distillery they built in 1898. Producing the beautifully balanced single malt at the heart of the Dewar’s blend, Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery is the spiritual home of America’s top selling Scotch.
   Tour the distillery to see how they create the distinctive honeyed richness of their spirit. Access the atmospheric warehouse and learn how they double age their whisky for extra smoothness. Explore and soak up the atmosphere in the welcoming cafe and Whisky Lounge.

12.30pm: Lunch at Dewar’s Distillery.
The Visitor Centre's café boasts a locally sourced menu offering an extensive selection of freshly prepared hot and cold dishes based on the finest ingredients. There is an enhanced dramming bar, which provides a homely yet stylish retreat with hand-crafted furniture, large sofas and a cosy fireplace, the perfect place to sample the range.

2pm: Depart Dewar’s Distillery for the Blair Athol Distillery, Pitlochry.

2.30pm: Visit the Blair Athol Distillery, Pitlochry.

Blair Athol Distillery stands at the gateway to the Scottish Highlands in the picturesque town of Pitlochry, Perthshire. Set in open moorland south of the town, in the foothills of the Grampian mountains, Blair Athol’s ancient source of water – the Allt Dour – flows through the grounds from the slopes of Ben Vrackie, contributing to the whisky’s, mellow quality and smooth finish. Here, we will enjoy a whisky tasting.

3.30pm: Depart the Blair Athol Distillery for The Golf View Hotel, Nairn.

5.30pm: Check into The Golf View Hotel, Nairn.

Set in beautiful surroundings, the Golf View Hotel and Spa enjoys a seafront setting in Nairn that embraces the stunning coastal scenery through sea-facing guest rooms, the open-air hot tub and the vast picture windows in the Hickory restaurant offer spectacular views of the stunning coastal scenery of the Moray Firth and the Black Isle. Pretty gardens lead down to the seashore. Guests can choose fine dining in the AA Rosette-awarded Hickory Restaurant, a casual meal in the contemporary Links Brasserie with panoramic views out over the Moray Firth, or afternoon tea in the comfort of the lounge. The hotel offers spacious rooms, elegant design and modern comforts. Nearby golf fairways, beach strolls and relaxing spa treatments all add to the experience. This Morayshire spa hotel near Inverness provides the perfect place to discover the Highland and Speyside regions.
Reputed to be one of Scotland’s sunniest and driest places, the fishing town of Nairn is a delightful place to visit all year. Perched on the southern edge of the Moray Firth, Nairn’s coastal location is stunning, with hundreds of seals and bottlenose dolphins in and around the water, and the occasional minke whale and basking shark, too. Nairn is also an ideal springboard for exploring the Highlands. It’s a small town, easily explored on foot, with most places of interest to the west of the River Nairn and championship golf courses to both the east and west. Nairn was nicknamed the Brighton of the North after it became a popular seaside resort in the 1880s. It was frequented by silent-movie star Charlie Chaplin, who travelled to the town every year.
7.30pm: Drinks and dinner at the Golf View Hotel, Nairn.

Overnight: The Golf View Hotel, Nairn.


Day 5: Friday, 3rd May

9am: Depart The Golf View Hotel, Nairn for Fort George.

9.30am: Visit Fort George.

Following the 1746 defeat at Culloden of Bonnie Prince Charlie, George II created the ultimate defence against further Jacobite unrest. The result, Fort George, is the mightiest artillery fortification in Britain, if not Europe. Its garrison buildings, artillery defences bristling with cannon, and superb collection of arms - including bayoneted muskets, pikes, swords and ammunition pouches - provide a fascinating insight into 18th century military life.
   After 250 years as a military garrison and training depot, Fort George continues to house a Regular Infantry Battalion of the British Army, currently the 3rd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
   This key historic site, cared for by Historic Scotland, is visited by approximately 60,000 people every year and offers the visitor superb views across to the Black Isle. From the Fort Ramparts you will see a variety of birds and occasionally dolphins, minky whales, orcas and seals. The Highlanders’ Museum (Queen’s Own Highlanders Collection) tells the stories of the many Highlanders who served in one of the Regiments that were raised from the region.


11.30am: Depart Fort George for Dunrobin Castle.

1pm: Visit Dunrobin Castle.

Independent lunch in the tea room.

The sumptuous Dunrobin Castle is on the east coast of the Northern Highlands, overlooking the Moray Firth. It is the most northerly of Scotland's great houses and the largest in the Northern Highlands, with 189 rooms. It is also one of Britain's oldest continuously inhabited houses, dating back to the early 1300s, and is home to the earls and later the dukes of Sutherland.
   The Castle, which resembles a French château with its towering conical spires, reflects architectural influences of Sir Charles Barry, who designed London’s Houses of Parliament, and Scotland’s own Sir Robert Lorimer. The Castle was used as a naval hospital during the First World War and as a boys’ boarding school from 1965 to 1972. The interiors are filled with fine furniture, china, paintings and silver. Below the castle are beautiful formal gardens modelled after those at Versailles. There are daily falconry displays.

4.30pm: Depart Dunrobin Castle for The Golf View Hotel, Nairn.

6pm: Return to hotel.

Dinner is independent tonight.

Overnight: The Golf View Hotel, Nairn.


Day 6: Saturday, 4th May

9.15am: Depart The Golf View Hotel, Nairn for Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre.

10am: Visit Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre.

This is a powerfully moving site where the 1745 Jacobite rebellion met its tragic end. On 16 April 1746, the final Jacobite Rising came to a brutal head in one of the most harrowing battles in British history. Jacobite supporters, seeking to restore the Stuart monarchy to the British thrones, gathered to fight the Duke of Cumberland's government troops. It was the last pitched battle on British soil and, in less than an hour, around 1,500 men were slain – more than 1,000 of them Jacobites. You will stand on the windswept moor where Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobites made their final stand.
   The richly researched, stimulating and sensitive Culloden Visitor Centre, which is
situated beside the battlefield, features artefacts - including weapons, clothing, miniatures and coins - from both sides of the battle, and interactive displays that reveal the background to the conflict. You can experience the Battle of Culloden in the visitor centre’s immersion cinema. The Visitor Centre stands as a monument and a guide to a pivotal day in history.  
   The audio guide to the battlefield was created by AWT’s very own Julian Humphrys, who will be guiding you on the day.

Noon: Depart Culloden Battlefield and Visitor Centre for Loch Ness Visitor Centre.

1pm: Visit Loch Ness Visitor Centre.

We will visit the Loch Ness Visitor Centre for an independent lunch in the café  and time to view the exhibitions. The Centre opened over 30 years ago. Nowadays, a hi-tech multi-media presentation leads you through seven themed areas and 500 million years of history, natural mystery and legend revealing the unique environment of Loch Ness and the famous ‘Nessie’ legend.

2.30pm: Depart Loch Ness Visitor Centre for the Clansman Harbour.

2.45pm: Arrive at the Clansman Harbour for a one-hour cruise on Loch Ness.

No trip to Scotland is complete without a visit to Loch Ness. This beautiful loch is shrouded in mystery, thanks to the legend of a long, thin green creature who circles the deep waters, occasionally raising her head above the water for a picture. It goes without saying that Nessie is Scotland’s favourite monster, but the place where she lives is even more fascinating    
   Over 20 miles long, a mile wide and 700 feet at its deepest, Loch Ness is the largest lake in Scotland. The Loch Ness Monster is just one of the many myths and legends to be discovered in this particularly beautiful part of Scotland, which is world-famous for its dramatic Highland scenery, with nearby castles and solitary lighthouses dotting the landscape.
   You will see Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness; it has a distinctly Highland heritage, and the site has witnessed some of the most dramatic chapters in Scotland’s history. This is where St Columba is said to have worked miracles in the 6th century, where acts of chivalry and defiance provided inspiration during the Wars of Independence, and where the MacDonald Lords of the Isles struggled with the Crown for power.

4pm: Depart the Clansman Harbour for The Golf View Hotel, Nairn.

4.45pm: Return to hotel.

Dinner is independent tonight.

Overnight: The Golf View Hotel, Nairn
 

Day 7: Sunday, 5th May

9.45pm: Depart The Golf View Hotel, Nairn for Cawdor Castle.

10am: Visit Cawdor Castle.

Discover the romantic Highland castle, the 14th century home of the Thanes of Cawdor. Located about 5 miles south-west of Nairn, Cawdor Castle was built around a 15th-century tower house that originally belonged to Clan Cawdor before passing into the hands of Campbells in the 16th century. Although famed for its literary connection to Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the events upon which the play is based took place centuries before the castle was built. However, it does boast its own unique tale surrounding its construction. According to legend, the castle is built around a thorn tree, which has since been identified as a holly dating from 1372, which visitors can still see today in the dungeon.
   We will view the castle’s sumptuous interior and see the impressive Drawing Room, its wall adorned with portraits of generations of Campbells; the Tapestry Bedroom with its precious wall hangings; the Dining Room with its magnificent stone fireplace; and the Old Kitchen which retains its 19th-century range and an array of antique cooking implements.
   The castle’s carefully manicured grounds encompass three beautiful gardens, the Cawdor Big Wood and a 9-hole golf course. The castle also has a gift shop and wool shop, in addition to a restaurant located in the castle itself and a snack bar near the car park.

Noon: Depart Cawdor Castle for the Cawdor Tavern.

12.15pm: Included lunch at the Cawdor Tavern.

The Cawdor Tavern is situated in the beautiful conservation village of Cawdor, close to the castle. Since 1994, it has been a haven for locals and visitors alike to enjoy quality dining, fine malts, interesting ales and an excellent wine selection.
   Open all year serving modern Scottish food with flair, the Cawdor Tavern uses fresh local ingredients where possible, to provide an enjoyable dining experience.

In the afternoon, guests have two options:
 
OPTION 1

2.15pm: Depart the Cawdor Tavern for Ballindalloch Castle.

3.15pm: Visit Ballindalloch Castle.

Located in the heart of Speyside, Scotland’s most prolific whisky region, Ballindalloch Castle has been the home of the Macpherson-Grant family since it was begun in 1546. It is one of the few private castles in Scotland that has been lived in continuously by the family which founded it. Originally a fortified tower house, Ballindalloch underwent a significant period of renovation and extension during the Victorian era, which transformed it into the sumptuous country retreat that stands today.
   An independent company of what was to become known at the Black Watch regiment was formed under the command of Colonel William Grant, the 9th Laird of Ballindalloch. The Black Watch was formed in 1725 to watch and patrol areas of the Scottish Highlands, and to prevent cattle-rustling and smuggling, after the Jacobite Rising of 1715.
   Despite its history and grandeur, Ballindalloch remains first and foremost a beloved family residence, and there are plenty of personal heirlooms and memorabilia belonging to the current occupants scattered amongst the general finery. Highlights include a fine collection of 17th-century Spanish paintings, one of the finest country house libraries in all of Scotland, the grand dining room with its magnificent fireplace, the vaulted hall and the delightful nursery with its antique toys.
   The Rivers Spey and Avon run through the estate, offering excellent fishing, and the cattle that graze here belong to the oldest Aberdeen Angus herd in the world. The beautifully maintained walled and rock gardens are spectacular when in full bloom and offer a tranquil haven during the summer months.
   The Castle shop stocks a wide selection of quality Scottish crafts and goods. Light refreshments are available in the Castle tearoom.

5pm: Depart Ballindalloch Castle or The Golf View Hotel, Nairn.

6pm: Return to hotel.

OR

OPTION 2: THE WHISKY EXPERIENCE

2.15pm: Depart the Cawdor Tavern for the Glenfarclas Distillery.

3.30pm: Visit the Glenfarclas Distillery for a whisky tasting.

Established in 1836, Glenfarclas is one of the very few remaining independent, family-owned and managed distilleries. The story of Glenfarclas is as rich and colourful as the whisky that bears its name. It is the story of the Grants, who since purchasing the distillery in 1865, have been united in the creation of the perfect Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky. By using the finest ingredients, combined with traditional distillation methods, the unforgettable flavour of Glenfarclas is created.
The Glenfarclas range of traditional Speyside single malts includes the 10, 15, 21, 25,
30, 40 Years Old, and the distinctive 105 Cask Strength at 60% vol. Glenfarclas is renowned for its full bodied, smooth, and heavily sherried style.

5.30: Depart the Glenfarclas Distillery for The Golf View Hotel, Nairn.

6.30pm: Return to hotel.

Dinner is independent tonight.

Overnight: The Golf View Hotel, Nairn.


Day 8: Monday, 6th May

Check out of The Golf View Hotel, Nairn.

10.15am: Depart The Golf View Hotel, Nairn for Blair Castle.

12.15pm: Visit Blair Castle.

Blair Castle is the ancient seat of the dukes and earls of Atholl, and home to Europe's last remaining private army, the Atholl Highlanders. The castle stands imposingly in the landscape of Highland Perthshire and has been home to nineteen generations of Stewarts and Murrays of Atholl. Unique amongst Scottish castles, the story told here will take you through time from a visit by Mary, Queen of Scots, to the Civil War, and from the Jacobite cause to the disaster of Culloden, following Bonnie Prince Charlie's own stay in the castle. You will hear how the lucky inheritance of a smuggler-infested island helped turn the castle into a comfortable home, and how a visit from Queen Victoria led to the creation of Europe's only surviving private regiment, the Atholl Highlanders.
   More than thirty rooms are on display, full of Scottish cultural history, architectural design, period furnishings, family portraits, landscape paintings and a colourful military past. Highlights include the Victorian Ballroom, which is decorated with 175 pairs of antlers, the Entrance Hall, which features weapons used at the Battle of Culloden, the classic Georgian styling of the Picture Staircase and the grandeur of the Drawing Room and State Dining Room.
   The castle grounds feature a magnificent nine-acre walled garden, recently restored to its original Georgian design, with fruit trees and vegetables, a Chinese bridge, a gothic folly and a trail of contemporary and 18th-century sculptures. A peaceful, wooded grove with some of Britain’s tallest and finest trees sits alongside the ruins of St Bride’s Kirk, the final resting place of Jacobite leader Bonnie Dundee. Around the grounds, visitors can spot local wildlife and enjoy picturesque views across Highland Perthshire.

An included lunch will be served in the Tullibardine Restaurant, which has fine views and a terrace.
 
4pm: Depart Blair Castle for Gleneagles Hotel.

5pm: Check into Gleneagles Hotel.

Established in 1924, The Gleneagles Hotel is a prestigious resort in the heart of Scotland and one of the most famous hotels in the world. Set within 850 acres, it offers three championship golf courses and a spa, along with a falconry school. Guests can also enjoy off-road driving, horse-riding, dog training, shooting and other leisure pursuits. This grand resort offers a variety of elegant rooms and luxurious suites, with free Wi-Fi. The Gleneagles Hotel serves an award-winning full Scottish breakfast. It has three restaurants, including Andrew Fairlie’s, Scotland’s only 2-Michelin-starred restaurant, and several elegant bars. Gleneagles Hotel also offers The Club, where guests can enjoy fitness classes. It boasts 2 swimming pools, a sauna, a steam room, a gym and an outdoor hot tub.
   Set amongst rolling hills, the Gleneagles resort is home to The PGA Centenary and National Academy Golf Courses, along with The King’s Course and The Queen’s Course.

7pm: Drinks and dinner at Gleneagles Hotel.

Overnight: Gleneagles Hotel.


Day 9: Tuesday, 7th May

10am: Depart Gleneagles Hotel for Bannockburn Visitor Centre.  
 
10.30am: Visit Bannockburn Visitor Centre.

Prepare for battle at this multi-award-winning visitor centre. The Battle of Bannockburn experience puts you at the heart of the action with cutting-edge 3D technology.
   Located near the historic city of Stirling, in the vicinity of the battleground, the visitor centre expertly harnesses technology to bring this thrilling chapter of Scotland’s story to life. Experience medieval combat like never before and discover more about this crucial event in Scottish history.
   Outside, follow in the footsteps of Robert the Bruce in the memorial park and see the spot where he raised his royal standard. Admire the battleground and restored commemorative monuments, including the iconic statue of Robert the Bruce, cast in shimmering bronze.

11.45am: Depart Bannockburn for Stirling Castle.

Noon: Visit Stirling Castle.

Free time for an independent lunch. There is a café at the castle.

Stirling Castle is a great symbol of Scottish independence and a source of national pride. Knights, nobles and foreign ambassadors once flocked to the royal court at Stirling to revel in the castle's grandeur. It is a place of power, beauty and history, and was a favoured residence of Scotland's kings and queens. The castle's long, turbulent history is associated with great figures from Scotland’s past such as William Wallace and Mary, Queen of Scots.
   Stirling is the grandest of Scotland's castles and one of the most popular visitor attractions in the country. Built 250 feet above the plain on an extinct volcano, Stirling became the strategic military key to the kingdom during the 13th- and 14th-century Wars of Independence, fought against the English. Many important events from Scotland's past took place there, such as the nearby Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Mary, Queen of Scots, spent her childhood in the castle, and was crowned in the Chapel Royal in 1543.
    There are excellent historical displays, a recreation of the 16th-century kitchens with sensory and interactive exhibits, and the Regimental Museum of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, which details their eventful history from 1794 to the present. The vast Great Hall, which dates from the end of the Middle Ages, has been restored to its medieval glory, and was formally opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1999. Built by James IV in 1503, it has been restored with a new oak hammerbeam roof, refurbished wall walks, lead-light windows and interior galleries. This is how the original building would have looked, and why it has long been widely admired for its magnificence on the Stirling skyline.
   The first fortification on the site dates to the 11th century. Much of the castle that exists today, including the Palace and the Chapel Royal, is magnificent Renaissance architecture with a strong French influence. In fact Stirling Castle is widely regarded as having the finest examples of Renaissance architecture in Europe. The Chapel Royal, built by James VI for the baptism of Prince Henry in 1594, has been refurbished and features a 17th-century fresco of elaborate scrolls and patterns.
   The Royal Palace at Stirling Castle is the finest Renaissance building in Scotland. Restoration work on the rich decoration of the King’s and Queen’s apartments was completed in 2011.  You can see the King’s and Queen’s Lodgings as they might have appeared in the mid-16th century. A three-storey structure, the palace boasts an ornate facade of tall windows and niches containing a selection of grotesque carved figures and Renaissance sculptures. The King's Presence Chamber originally had an ornate ceiling decorated with over 100 carved oak heads (the Stirling Heads, above). Many of the heads have been lost or destroyed, but they have been colourfully recreated.

3.30pm: Depart Stirling Castle for Gleneagles Hotel.

4pm: Return to hotel.

6pm: Depart Gleneagles Hotel for Glamis Castle.

7.15pm: Gala farewell drinks and dinner at Glamis Castle

Arriving at Glamis Castle for a celebratory event is an extraordinary one. There’s the mile long drive along the avenue with spectacular views of the castle and surrounding Angus glens as you approach. Then, upon arrival, you will be greeted by the Castle Piper before venturing into the historic castle where you will experience the warmest of Scottish welcomes and hospitality.

Home to the earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne, and the setting for Shakespeare's Macbeth, Glamis Castle was the beloved childhood home of the H.M. Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and the birthplace of Princess Margaret. It has been witness to a thousand years of history. Its turrets and towers come into view at the end of a mile-long drive, and visitors cannot fail to be impressed by its majesty. Steeped in history, Glamis Castle has evolved over the years into a stunning architectural treasure. Every room has its own story, and the evolution of the castle and its legendary tales and secrets are brought to life by enthusiastic and knowledgeable tour guides. 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. Glamis is also widely renowned as one of the most haunted locations in the British Isles.

11.00: Depart Glamis Castle for Gleneagles Hotel.

12.15am: Return to hotel.

Overnight: Gleneagles Hotel.


Day 10: Wednesday, 10th May

Check out of Gleneagles Hotel.

9.15am: Depart Gleneagles Hotel for Finlarig Castle.

10.45am: Visit Finlarig Castle.

Substantial remains survive of Finlarig Castle, an overgrown 17th-century tower house of three storeys, in an atmospheric wooded location. A ruined square tower with shot-holes survives, along with a larger rectangular block, although another tower has been demolished. A passage leads past two vaulted cellars to the kitchen.
It is best viewed from the exterior as it is dangerously ruined; access is at visitors’ own risk. Outside the ruin are the remains of the 19th-century mausoleum of the Campbells and what is sometimes said to be a beheading pit, containing a block and a sunken cavity for the head. Noble folk were supposedly executed in the pit, while the common people were hanged on a neighbouring oak tree; however, the pit may in fact be a water collection tank – but this does not make such a good story.

11.15am: Depart Finlarig Castle for the Falls of Dochart, Killin.

11.30am: Walk through Killin to see the Falls of Dochart.

The beautiful Falls of Dochart run through the delightful small town of Killin, in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. Located at the western end of Loch Tay, the famous white waters of the Falls of Dochart can be viewed from the village’s bridge. Admire the misty spray rising in the air as the waters of the river crash into the rocks then flow around the Islands of Inchbuie, known as the traditional and ancient burial place of Clan Macnab. The Breadalbane Folklore Centre is found nearby, where you can learn more about the area’s history.

Noon: Independent lunch in Killin.  

2pm: Depart Killin for the House of the Binns.

3.30pm: Visit the House of the Binns.

Cared for by the National Trust for Scotland, the House of the Binns is set in beautifully landscaped parkland overlooking the River Forth. This fascinating laird’s house has been home to the Dalyells for over 400 years. You will see a rich collection of paintings, furniture and porcelain, or enjoy a tranquil woodland walk to the tower for a panoramic view of central Scotland.
   The present house was built in 1612 by Thomas Dalyell, an Edinburgh merchant who made his fortune at the court of King James VI and I in London. Thomas’s son, General Tam Dalyell, formed the legendary regiment of Royal Scots Greys. There are many mementos of him in the house, as well as colourful legends about his dealings with the Devil. It was after Dalyell’s death in 1685 that the legends surrounding ‘Bluidy Tam’ really began to develop. They include accounts of the General’s cavalry boots marching round the house on their own at night, and of a ghostly Dalyell on a white stallion galloping across the grounds.
   Outside, there is extensive landscaped parkland to explore, which has sheep, cattle and a peafowl colony of about thirty.

5pm: Depart the House of the Binns for The Intercontinental Hotel, Edinburgh.

5.45pm: Farewell drinks reception at The Intercontinental Hotel, Edinburgh.

THE TOUR ENDS.