Scottish Castles and Isles
Upon arrival at Glasgow Airport, we meet our driver and English-speaking guide and depart for Glasgow City. Once in Glasgow, we enjoy a panoramic tour of the city, which is the largest in Scotland and third most populous in the United Kingdom. Glasgow was known as the “Second City of the British Empire” for much of the Victorian era and Edwardian period. Next, we visit Glasgow Cathedral of St. Mungo, which stands majestically in the heart of Scotland’s largest city. It is the only medieval cathedral on the Scottish mainland to have survived the Protestant Reformation of 1560 virtually intact. Then we visit the Govan Old Parish Church and discover the unique collection of early medieval stones carved in the 9th-11th centuries. We explore the 31 monuments dating from this period which include beautifully carved crosses and cross shafts, and 5 magnificent hogback stones. Afterwards, we check into our Glasgow area hotel for overnight and enjoy a welcome dinner at the hotel. The next day we depart North of Glasgow to Oban. We start our sightseeing with a visit to Stirling Castle, one of Scotland’s grandest castles due to its imposing position and impressive architecture. It towers over some of the most important battlefields of Scotland’s past, including: Stirling Bridge, the site of William Wallace’s victory over the English in 1297. Then we make a stop at Glencoe. Awesome mountains such as Buachaille Etive Mor and the Three Sisters loom on either side, with riverine scenery at the bottom of the glen. The name Glencoe means ‘Valley of Weeping’, and has a melancholy air thanks to it being the site of the Massacre of Glencoe in 1692. We continue to the Oban area and check into our hotel for dinner and overnight. In the morning we take a ferry to Craignure on the Isle of Mull. We visit Duart Castle, dating from the 13th century and spectacularly situated on a clifftop overlooking the Sound of Mull, Loch Linne, and the Firth of Lorne- this imposing castle has been the base of Clan MacLean for over 400 years. Then we enjoy a scenic drive across the Isle of Mull, take a passenger ferry from Fionnphort to Island of Iona, and enjoy a packed lunch. Then we visit Iona Abbey, a holy isle, an enduring symbol of Christianity in Scotland. St. Columba and his followers came here from Ireland in AD 563 and founded a monastery that became the heart of the early Scottish Church. As a celebrated focus for Christian pilgrimage, Iona Abbey is one of Scotland’s most historic and sacred sites. Then we return to our hotel for dinner and overnight in the Oban area. The next morning we enjoy a boat tour from Fionnphort to the Isle of Staffa with its hexagonal pillars and Fingal’s Cave. On the way to Staffa, we keep an eye out for dolphins, porpoises, and minke whales which are often seen during the warmer months. Afterwards, we proceed to Glencoe and Fort William where we will check into our hotel for dinner and overnight.
This morning we depart Glencoe and Fort William and drive through the Northern Highlands to Inverness. En-route we enjoy a stop at the Glenfinnan Monument and Viaduct as the ‘Harry Potter steam train’ passes. Then we enjoy a cruise on Loch Ness, the deepest freshwater loch in the Scottish Highlands. It is one of the most visited locations in Scotland. Loch Ness is about twenty-four miles long by one mile wide and at its deepest point, it goes down nearly 1,000 feet. Lying northeast of the Great Glen in the Highlands, Loch Ness is best known for alleged sightings of the crypto-zoological Loch Ness Monster, also known affectionately as “Nessie”. In the evening, we enjoy Ceilidh dinner with traditional Scottish entertainment at Bogbain Farm. Scottish Showtime is the best way to experience authentic Highland culture at its most lively. Our evening will take place in the rustic and romantic surroundings of Bogbain Farm, an award-winning venue just outside the landmark city of Inverness. We can sample whiskies at the ‘barn bar’, tuck in to local Highland fayre at our hay-bale tables, and dance the night away in the stunning converted barn. Then we check into our hotel in the Inverness area for overnight. In the morning we depart Inverness and journey to St. Andrews. En-route we enjoy a sheepdog demonstration at Leault farm. During this demonstration amidst some of the most beautiful scenery in Scotland, we will see up to eight dogs working as a team maneuvering sheep and ducks through various obstacles and demonstrations of the skills of sheep shearing. This truly is an experience not to be missed. Meet the collie pups, bottle-feed the orphan lambs, and take part in shearing a sheep. Then we visit the Blair Athol Distillery. Established in 1798, it is one of the oldest working distilleries in Scotland. Blair Athol Distillery stands at the gateway to the Scottish Highlands in the picturesque town of Pitlochry, and produces a 12-Year-Old Single Malt Whiskey with mellow deep-toned aromas, a strong fruity flavor and a smooth finish. After absorbing a few secrets of the distillers’ art on a leisurely conducted tour, you can mull over the distinctive character of the finished article as you sip our complimentary dram. Then we continue to St. Andrews area where we will check into our hotel for dinner and overnight.
Scottish Cathedrals and Monuments
This morning we depart St. Andrews and journey to Edinburgh. We will visit St. Andrews Cathedral, the remains of what was Scotland’s largest and most magnificent church still shows how impressive St. Andrews Cathedral must have been in its prime. St. Andrews Cathedral dominated the history of the medieval Church in Scotland, from its construction in the 12th century until the Protestant Reformation in 1560. Then we enjoy a stop at St. Andrew’s Castle and then at St. Andrews Links. The oldest ‘new’ course in the world, the second course at the Home of Golf was designed by the Keeper of the Green Tom Morris in 1895. Boasting undulating fairways and challenging greens, the New Course is a classic test of Links golf. Then we enjoy a quick stop at Falkirk Wheel, which is an exceptional feat of modern engineering and is already being recognized as an inspirational sculpture for the 21st Century. Designed to reconnect the Forth and Clyde Canal and the Union Canal, this remarkable and elegant mechanical marvel is the only rotating boatlift in the world. Then we enjoy a stop at the town of Falkirk which is home to the magnificent Kelpies, the world’s largest equine sculptures, each made with 300 tons of structural steel as monumental tributes to the horse power heritage that was vital to the early industries of central Scotland. Then we check into our hotel in the Edinburgh area for dinner and overnight. The next morning we enjoy a panoramic city tour of Edinburgh. Edinburgh is one of the world’s finest cities. Its magnificent architecture shifts from the lofty buildings of its medieval Old Town, as they tumble down the Royal Mile, to the graceful houses of the Georgian New Town. City tour including the Georgian New Town and photo stop on Calton Hill to admire the splendid views of the city and the historic Old Town. Overlooking it all perches Edinburgh Castle, the medieval fortress which dominates the city’s skyline. You will also pass St. Giles Cathedral noted as the mother church of Presbyterianism, which you can visit on your own later. Then visit Edinburgh Castle. Edinburgh’s Castle rock has been a stronghold for over 3000 years. In its dominating position overlooking the capital city, the grandeur and historical significance of Edinburgh Castle has made it a globally famous icon of Scotland and part of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site. Sited on top of an extinct volcano, gaining stunning views across City of Edinburgh, the castle has witnessed many of the defining events of Scottish history. The rest of the day will be spent at leisure, and dinner is on your own this evening. We return to our hotel in the Edinburgh area for overnight. After breakfast at our hotel, we enjoy a free day in Edinburgh to explore the city and shop. There will be more whiskey-tasting opportunities. Dinner is on our own this evening, and overnight is back at our hotel. In the morning we depart for the airport for our return flight home.