England and Scotland: Ancestors and Ancient Sites
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Pamper yourself with this upscale tour, which takes you through the history and beauty of some of the major and off-the-beaten-track sites in England, before heading to the marvelous country of Scotland to enjoy the culture and heritage there. Luxury accommodations spoil you throughout the tour, and you travel in comfortable private transport with your knowledgeable tour leader from start to finish.
ADDITION RATE INFORMATION
Rate based on double occupancy. Single supplement of $1270.00 CAD applies for solo travellers.
Ask us about pairing you with a same sex room mate to save the single supplement cost!
Day 1: Arrive LondonLondon, England, United Kingdom
Today you arrive into the city of London, where your tour leader will be waiting to greet you. We recommend flights that arrive in the morning, so you can join our afternoon activities. You are transferred to the hotel to check in and get refreshed before we head off to enjoy some of this marvelous city. The best way to get over jet lag is to accustom yourself to the time difference immediately, so we will push through today and have an early night.
Lunch will be our first stop so we can fuel ourselves for this afternoon. We will be using public transport (train/subway/bus/boat) and our own feet for our days here in London as streets can be crowded and traffic slow.
This afternoon and tomorrow we will be visiting a variety of sites. While this itinerary includes descriptions of the sites we will go to, this may not be the order in which we visit. Activities will be planned according to opening and closing times and presentation times, which are not available for 2019 at the time of the writing of this itinerary.
Tonight, we will be enjoying a welcome dinner as a group. Your tour leader will give you the details when you arrive.
Some of the sites we will see over the next few days include: Buckingham Palace: Buckingham Palace is recognized around the world as the focus of national and royal celebrations as well as the backdrop to the regular Changing the Guard ceremony. We may be able to explore the magnificent State Rooms which are open to visitors for only 10 weeks each summer. We can have a short walk through the beautiful parks that surround the Palace itself. We have time to take pictures and soak up the atmosphere. *Please note, that at the time of the writing of this itinerary, information is not available about the changing of the guards (doesn’t happen every day), or if the Palace will be open for visits. If the Palace is open, we will be enjoying a visit to the opulent State Rooms.
The Royal Mews: This is home to historic royal carriages and one of the finest working stables in existence. The Mews is responsible for all road travel arrangements for The Queen and members of the Royal Family and is home to the most dazzling display of coaches including the Gold State Coach, which has been used at every coronation since that of George IV in 1821, and The Diamond Jubilee State Coach. Look out for a horse or two during our visit to the Mews. There are 2 types of horses used to pull the carriages at the Mews: Windsor Greys and Cleveland Bays. Imagine stepping into a royal carriage, sitting down and practicing your regal waving just as Queen Victoria did in 1897. In the Royal Mews State Stable, you can experience this with the replica Semi-State Landau. During your visit you can see the livery worn by The Queen's coachmen. Apart from a few small details, the livery remains much the same as it was in Victorian times, and some of the tailors who produce today's livery are the same companies used during the reign of George III. In the State Stables, you can dress up as a footman in specially-created livery for children and adults.
Hyde Park and Rotten Row: Hyde Park was created to satisfy a royal passion for hunting. But over the years it became a place where people have pursued many other pleasures. One of the more unusual features of this park is Rotten Row. Rotten Row is a broad track running for 1,384 metres (4,541 ft) along the south side of Hyde Park. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Rotten Row was a fashionable place for upper-class Londoners to be seen horse riding. Rotten Row was established by William III at the end of the 17th century. Having moved court to Kensington Palace, William wanted a safer way to travel to St. James's Palace. He created the broad avenue through Hyde Park, lit with 300 oil lamps in 1690– the first artificially lit highway in Britain. The lighting was a precaution against highwaymen, who lurked in Hyde Park at the time. The track was called Route du Roi, French for King's Road, which was eventually corrupted into "Rotten Row". The sand-covered avenue of Rotten Row is still maintained as a bridleway and forms part of Hyde Park's South Ride. It is convenient for the Household Cavalry, stabled nearby at Hyde Park Barracks in Knightsbridge, to exercise their horses.
Day 3: Exploring LondonLondon, England, United Kingdom
Our exploration time in London continues! We will spend the day enjoying some of the iconic sites here. We stop at a convenient time and place to have lunch. At some point today we will see the sights from a totally unique perspective aboard a Thames River Cruise and motor past the iconic landmarks of Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge, all the way down to Greenwich past the historic HMS Belfast and Cutty Sark.
Horse Guards Parade: 'The Queen's Life Guard', mounted on immaculately groomed horses with breastplates shinning in the sun, present a stirring sight as they ride through the streets of London to Change the Guard on Horse Guards Parade. Life Guards have stood guard at Horse Guards, the official entrance to St James and Buckingham Palace, since the Restoration of King Charles II in 1660.
Westminster Abbey: Kings, queens, statesmen and soldiers; poets, priests, heroes and villains - the Abbey is a must-see living pageant of British history. Westminster Abbey is one of the world's great churches, with a history stretching back over a thousand years and an essential part of any trip to London. Due to open in 2018, Westminster Abbey is embarking on an exciting new project to build a new museum and gallery: The Queen's Diamond Jubilee Galleries, in the Abbey's medieval triforium. The gallery runs 70 ft above the Abbey floor, and has been hidden to the public for over 700 years. The new galleries will give visitors magnificent views to the Palace of Westminster and into the church, displaying treasures and collections reflecting the Abbey's rich and varied thousand-year history.
Big Ben: Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster and is usually extended to refer to both the clock and the clock tower. The tower is officially Elizabeth Tower, renamed to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II in 2012; before that, it was known simply as the Clock Tower. We will only be able to view the clock tower from the outside, as Big Ben and the Elizabeth Tower tours are now suspended due to refurbishment. Tours are scheduled to resume in 2021 once the work is complete.
Tower of London: Dating back to 1066 and the Norman Conquest, this historic fortress is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the city as it documents over eight centuries worth of London history from the royal family, to notorious prisoners and politicians. Visit the oldest exhibition in the world, the Line of Kings, to see the armour of the old rulers, as well as the priceless Crown Jewels and Traitor’s Gate. See the legendary ravens hopping around the courtyard, pop into the Jewel Tower and follow a Beefeater Tour to learn of the tales of those who used to live in this historic building.
British Museum: If there is time, we will enjoy a visit to the British Museum. The Museum houses a vast collection of world art and artifacts.
If the group is in agreement, we will head to London’s Chinatown for dinner.
Day 4: London To Stonehenge To BathBath, England, United Kingdom
This morning we can enjoy an early breakfast in the hotel before we depart on our 2-hour drive to Stonehenge. Here we walk in the footsteps of our Neolithic ancestors at Stonehenge – one of the wonders of the world and the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe. We explore the ancient landscape on foot and step inside the Neolithic Houses to discover the tools and objects of everyday Neolithic life. We visit the world-class exhibition and visitor centre with 250 ancient objects and come face to face with a 5,500-year-old man. We will also enjoy lunch here in the café.
We are going to spend 4 to 5 hours here in order to really have an experience. There is no hurry. At the end of our visit we will be getting back into our private transport to travel approximately one hour to the city of Bath. Bath is a town set in the rolling countryside of southwest England, known for its natural hot springs and 18th-century Georgian architecture. We arrive and check into our hotel.
There is no better way to start our time in Bath than actually visiting the Roman Baths here, so we have a unique experience tonight which includes a phenomenal dinner. Our evening visit to the Roman Baths, plus a 4-course meal in the elegant surroundings of the famous Pump Room restaurant will be a memorable experience. We view the Roman treasures, baths and temple complex at our own pace using audio-guides, before reaching the Great Bath, where we can meet Roman characters and then join a site guide for a tour of the 2,000-year-old suite of bathing pools. After our tour we will relax in the Pump Room restaurant and enjoy a summer cocktail and a glass of famous spa water alongside an indulgent four-course dinner, all whilst listening to live music.
Our evening concludes with a walk back to our hotel.
Day 5: Bath Area – Cheddar Gorge And CavesCheddar Gorge, England, United Kingdom
While there are plenty of things to do and see in Bath, those will have to wait until later. Today, after breakfast in the hotel, we are going to head off for a 45-minute drive to the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. (Yes, that’s the actual name of the area.) Here we are going to spend the day exploring and enjoying this phenomenally beautiful area.
We have the day to explore one of Britain's most spectacular natural landmarks. From its awe-inspiring cliffs to its extraordinary subterranean stalactite show caves, Cheddar Gorge & Caves holds many fascinating secrets about our prehistoric ancestors. Nature, wildlife, history, adventure – we experience the wonder of it all on a perfect day out in Somerset. At 400ft deep and 3 miles long, this is England’s largest gorge and with its spectacular pinnacles and beautiful caves, it’s just waiting to be discovered! There is plenty to keep us busy today.
BEYOND THE VIEW: This show takes about 15 minutes. Take a seat in front of a state of the art 270-degree screen but feel like you’re flying through the Gorge! Your journey starts from the heart of Cheddar village itself, discovering how it’s been transformed over the years before taking you up through the Cheddar Gorge itself and the ice-age river bed. The tour finishes by climbing over 450ft to the very top of the Gorge where you’ll enjoy breathtaking, panoramic views of the plateau and learn about the special wildlife that lives amongst this stunning scenery. The stunning footage is enhanced even further with visual and audible interpretations of interesting buildings and landmarks throughout - which really help to bring the landscape and the history of Cheddar Gorge to life.
GOUGH'S CAVE: This takes about 45 minutes. Get ready to explore the mysterious chambers of a cave that’s over 500,000 years old! Duck into secret caverns, see the ancient elders’ meeting chamber, and prepare to be amazed at the incredible vistas created by stalagmites and stalactites. Excavated in the late nineteenth century, Gough’s cave is the largest of our show caves and is widely considered to be one of the finest in the country. The cathedral-like caverns are decorated with unbelievable rock formations; you’ll be astounded by the soaring chambers of St Paul’s Cathedral and the towering spires of Solomon’s Temple. Our ancestors, the Horse Hunters of Cheddar Gorge, lived in Gough’s Cave 14,700 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age. Archaeological evidence suggests they may have been cannibals, killing and eating their enemies! You’ll enjoy a year-round constant temperature of 11C, keeping you cool in summer and warm in winter. This also creates the perfect conditions for ageing the world-famous Cheddar cheese! Shelves of maturing cheese can even be seen within the cave. Cheddar Man and Gough's Cave.
DREAMHUNTERS: THE ADVENTURES OF EARLY MAN: This takes about 35 minutes. We walk in the footsteps of our ancestors in this spectacular multimedia experience. See the pioneering journey that took mankind from a primitive existence, to being the most successful species on the planet. Discover the ingenuity that saw our forebears master tools, weapons and fire to overcome fierce predators and a changing climate. Set deep within the magical and mysterious chambers of Cox’s Cave, Dream hunters tells a story like no other. State of the art projectors, sound systems and lighting see the life of early man projected and brought to life on the very walls of Cox’s Cave.
MUSEUM OF PREHISTORY: This take about 30 minutes. With a history stretching back over hundreds of thousands of years, many artefacts of great historical importance that shed invaluable light on our ancestors and how they lived have been found in Cheddar Gorge and its caves. Re-imagined in 2016, the museum tells the story of how our ancestors lived through a 40,000-year struggle for survival during the last Ice Age. You can get an up close view of the incredible flint tools our forebears made and an array of objects they used in their everyday life. There’s also plenty of information about the world-famous Cheddar Man, the oldest complete human skeleton ever found in Britain, which was discovered in Gough’s Cave in 1903! And the hands-on cave art painting and demonstrations by our very own hunter-gatherers will delight the young and the young at heart.
JACOB'S LADDER AND THE LOOKOUT TOWER: This takes about 30 minutes. Join your tour leader to climb the 274 steps which make up Jacob’s Ladder, and then 48 more to get to the top of the unique Lookout Tower. The climb is well worth the effort. You’ll be rewarded with magnificent views of the Mendips and beyond. To the south you’ll see the flat, lush water meadows of the Somerset Levels and to the north you'll see the windswept plateau that runs for over 22 miles east to west! If the ascent up Jacob’s Ladder sounds a little daunting to you don’t worry; there are 4 strategically placed breaks in the steps so that you can stop and catch your breath if needs be. Once we’ve conquered Jacob’s Ladder and the Lookout Tower, we can continue on the Cliff-top walk; taking in a bird's eye view of the captivating natural landscape and its geographical features.
CLIFF-TOP WALK: This will take approximately 90 minutes. Time to stretch our legs and get close to nature! This spectacular walk takes us around a 3-mile route and rewards us with some of the finest views in Somerset. On a clear day, elevated over 900ft above sea-level, we can see for miles out across the Mendip Hills. As well as discovering one of England’s most impressive landscapes, we’ll get to experience a diverse and captivating habitat, teaming with flowers and wildlife. Some of the species that make their home here, such as greater horseshoe bats, dormice and great crested newts, are so rare in Europe that the Gorge is now a Special Area for Conservation (SAC). Cheddar Gorge is also home to primitive goats and the UK’s biggest flock of Soay sheep who roam free and keep the scrub down. And don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for the Cheddar pink, a delicate flower which is only found in Cheddar! There’s a whole host of British wildlife just waiting to be discovered.
After our day out, we definitely deserve some rest and relaxation! We return to Bath to enjoy an evening at the Thermae Bath Spa featuring a relaxing spa session and delicious meal and drink in the Springs Restaurant. Here we are going to enjoy a 3-hour spa session, with complimentary use of towels, robes and slippers. We can choose one dish from the menu and a choice of a glass of specially selected wine, beer, juice or water.
The New Royal Bath is a fusion of glass, stone, light and water. We can relax in two spectacular baths, fed by the naturally warm, mineral-rich waters and rest and relax in the multi-sensory new Wellness Suite. We can enjoy the open-air Rooftop Pool with spectacular views over the city of Bath and surrounding hills while relaxing in the naturally warm, mineral-rich waters are enhanced by air seats and bubbling jets.
The Minerva Bath is named after the Roman Goddess of Health & Wisdom, and is the largest of the thermal baths. Distinguished by flowing curves and grand columns, the thermal waters are complemented by an invigorating massage jet, whirlpool and lazy river.
Our time here includes the new, multi-sensory Wellness Suite which offers five distinctive experiences, so we can rest and relax in an entirely different atmosphere.
The Roman-inspired Steam Room encapsulates Bath’s rich Roman history. Featuring hand-crafted, traditional stone seating and fluted columns, the mosaic of Sulis Minerva embodies the Romano-Celtic philosophy of the benefits of Bath’s natural thermal water. The steam is infused with the stimulating aroma of botanicals and flowers. Herbs were highly prized by the Romans for their antiseptic and healing powers. Flower essence was used freely to scent their baths, beds, clothes and even hair.
The Georgian-inspired Steam Room offers a trip to another hugely influential period of Bath’s history. Utilizing elements of traditional Georgian architecture to create strikingly elegant surroundings, warm light and garden scenes fill the space, while water trickles from an ornate fountain. Guests are wreathed in comforting floral fragrance and steam that will provide the ideal ambience for revitalization.
Find yourself in contemporary surroundings with a state-of-the-art Infrared Room, which transmits soothing infrared waves of light deep into the muscles and joints. To fully experience the restorative glow of the Infrared Room, take a seat directly in front of a heater panel. Relax as penetrating waves of light gently warm the body from within. Acacia and lime wood panels are draped in a warm amber glow to create the perfect environment for a detox.
In contrast to the warmth of the steam rooms and sauna, guests can step into a distinctly different environment with an invigorating Ice Chamber. Here, you will see refreshing menthol-infused mist swirling around a giant ice trough. Take a handful of flaked ice from the trough and rub gently over your body to instantly reduce surface temperature, close skin pores and gently exfoliate.
The Celestial Relaxation Room presents another dimension with twinkling lights, five heated loungers, warm fragrant air, and calming sounds. Inspired by the work of William Herschel - the Bath–based astronomer who discovered the planet Uranus – this intimate area crafts a serene, dream-like environment.
Once guests have indulged in the key thermal and sensory experiences of the Wellness Suite, they can enjoy the refreshing Experience Showers, which include two sets of body jets and separate Chromotherapy showers.
After this full day we return to the hotel for a good night's rest.
Day 6: Bath To LudlowLudlow, England, United Kingdom
There is much to discover in this historic town, so we start with a good breakfast in the hotel to fuel ourselves before setting off on a unique private walking tour of the town. This tour will take approximately an hour and a half. Our local guide will meet us and we head off to discover the Pultney Bridge, the Bath Abbey, Queen's Square, the New Theatre Royal, the Circus and of course the famous Royal Crescent. We will discover the history of the city and its sights, but also the many scandals and human stories that are in truth at the heart of Bath's development from a Roman outpost to a bustling modern city. In between these two eras are of course the Medieval Bath, full of religion, trade and scandal, and the notorious Georgian Bath, famous for its society, and also for its wicked parties, gambling houses and intrigues!
We will be enjoying a tour of the Bath Abbey. Pilgrims and visitors have been made welcome at Bath Abbey for hundreds of years. Magnificent stained-glass windows, columns of honey-gold stone and some of the finest fan vaulting in the world, create an extraordinary experience of light and space. But there is more to it than that. There has been a place of Christian worship on this site for over 1,200 years and the Abbey remains very much a living church today with services taking place throughout the entire week.
After the tour of the town and the Abbey, we will find somewhere to have lunch before setting off to our next destination. Our travel time this afternoon will take approximately 3 hours, and we can stop for picture, snack and bathroom breaks along the way.
One of the places we will stop for a picture opportunity is Badminton House, which is a large country house and Grade I Listed Building. The Badminton Estate lies in the heart of the Gloucestershire countryside and is home to the Duke and Duchess of Beaufort. The House dates from the 17th century and is set in a beautiful deer park which hosts the world-famous Badminton Horse Trials. The game of Badminton was invented in the house in 1863. This remains a private family home, so we are not able to actually visit the house.
Our destination today is the fantastic town of Ludlow. Ludlow is a thriving medieval market town and an architectural gem with a lively community feel. The historic town centre is situated on a cliff above the River Teme and is surrounded by the beautiful countryside of south Shropshire and the Welsh Marches. Ludlow has a reputation for the quality of its food and drink with many excellent restaurants and cafes encouraged by the area's abundance of quality producers.
Day 7: Ludlow To KeswickKeswick, England, United Kingdom
We enjoy a little bit of a sleep in this morning and a leisurely breakfast this morning. At about 9:45 am we will be wandering from our hotel to the amazing Ludlow Castle. The impressive ruins of the castle occupy the oldest part of Ludlow. Building of the castle started around 1086, with many later additions in the following two centuries. It is one of the most interesting castles in the Marches, in a dominant and imposing position high above the river Teme. It features examples of architecture from the Norman, Medieval and Tudor periods. We spend the morning here, exploring the castle and grounds at our own pace using informative audio guides.
We will have lunch in town before heading off to the Ludlow Food Centre for a short stop. This is a unique food shopping experience where farming, food production and retailing come together to create a very special environment. It is part of the Earl of Plymouth's Oakly Park Estate which extends to approximately 8,000 acres of Shropshire countryside. Ludlow Food Centre is designed to not only sell food, but to produce it; and half of the products are made on the premises in kitchen units that surround the food hall. These are visible through glass windows that allow you to see our artisan producers making your food by hand. This is the main reason for our visit (but also because here you can buy some of the biggest meringues we have ever seen!) and we can stock up on snacks or unique items like locally-made gins.
This afternoon we have one of our longest drives as we head north into the Lake District. We can stop at any time for pictures, bathroom breaks, or to stretch our legs. We are heading to the town of Keswick, which is approximately a 4-hour drive from Ludlow. Keswick is a market town in northwest England’s Lake District National Park, surrounded by mountains like Skiddaw. There is considerable evidence of prehistoric occupation of the Keswick area, but the first recorded mention of the town dates from the 13th century, when Edward I of England granted a charter for Keswick's market, which has maintained a continuous 700-year existence. On a hilltop east of town, Castlerigg Stone Circle dates back to the Neolithic era.
We arrive in the early evening and, after checking into our hotel, if we feel like stretching our legs before dinner (and as light permits), we can visit the stone circle. Castlerigg is perhaps the most atmospheric and dramatically sited of all British stone circles, with panoramic views and the mountains of Helvellyn and High Seat as a backdrop. It is also among the earliest British circles, raised in about 3000 BC during the Neolithic period. The circle is just a 10-minute drive from our hotel.
Day 8: Lake DistrictLake District, England, United Kingdom
We are going off with a local guide and transport today to explore the area. At 8:40 am, we will meet our driver and board a vehicle destined for Windermere, where the tour officially starts.
On arrival in Windermere, we greet our local guide and board an air-conditioned vehicle destined for the elevated passes of the Lake District National Park. As we travel through Langdale Valley, a mecca for rock climbers, your guide details the culture and history of the region. Trace narrow twisting roads to the top of the Wrynose and Hardknott Passes and soak up views of Scafell and Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountains.
On arrival in the Eskdale Valley, we’ll take a memorable ride on the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway. Trundle through picturesque woodlands and disembark for lunch at a quaint trailside inn.
Then, we continue to Wastwater, home to a lookout point that reveals panoramas once voted Britain’s best view. At Muncaster Castle, a 14th-century fortress owned by the Pennington Family, we’ll wander gorgeous gardens filled with diverse flowers and fauna. If we want, we can opt to visit the Hawk and Owl Centre to see birds of prey.
Our tour ends late afternoon and we have the evening free to enjoy the town and the area.
Day 9: Keswick To GlasgowGlasgow, Scotland, United Kingdom
We are going to depart fairly early this morning as we head towards Glasgow. Our drive will take us approximately 2 hours and we may have a little bit of free time before we meet our local guide for our interesting tour this morning. We will be departing on a food tour at approximately 11 am and will end late in the afternoon.
We will enjoy a walking food adventure through Glasgow, once the “Second City of the British Empire”, that remains today a great city to visit and to live. Golf and whisky remain two of the best exports that Scotland has given the world, but experiencing the wide variety of Scottish dishes, sweets and savories is an experience that cannot be found outside of this ‘Dear Green Place’. Your afternoon of tastings will be experienced in six different restaurants, specialty shops and independent, family-run businesses that are experts in their dishes and products they make. You will be able to wrap your mouth around over 20 different food items that even some locals have never tried! In addition to tasting great food, seeing the city and enjoying the banter, your participation in this tour benefits the local community, as this company donates £5 from each ticket sold to the local food bank. They strongly feel that everyone in the community should not go hungry and know they are not invisible in their time of need.
At the end of the tour we will be heading to the hotel for check in and the rest of the day is free for you to enjoy the city.
Day 10: Glasgow To Kilmartin To InverarayInveraray, Scotland, United Kingdom
We enjoy an early breakfast before we depart to journey our way to some of the historical and mystical places in Scotland. We travel approximately 2 hours to the Kilmartin area. Our first stop will be the Kilmartin Museum, which is our starting point to discover the fascinating prehistoric landscape of Kilmartin Glen.
Kilmartin Glen, in the heart of Mid Argyll, is one of Scotland's richest prehistoric landscapes. Over 800 historic monuments, cairns, standing stones, stone circles and rock art dating back over 5,000 years have been recorded within this area. The Kilmartin Museum collects and cares for all of the archaeological objects that are found, by chance or excavation in Mid Argyll. Visitors and locals alike are able to enjoy these artefacts in the Museum gallery and they are able to step outside into the landscape to enjoy the sites and monuments where they were found. The Museum continues to carry out archaeological surveys and its excavations are continually uncovering new and exciting artefacts.
Also on site is an award-winning cafe and gift and book shop stocked with jewelry, art, cards and craftwork from local artisans. This bookshop provides a range of fiction and reference books, of which many have a local or Scottish theme. We can enjoy lunch here.
From here, we travel on to Carnasserie Castle. We have time to explore this magnificent ruined castle, the former home of the first Protestant Bishop of the Isles. This 15th century tower house was built by the reforming churchman John Carswell, the publisher of the first book printed in Scottish Gaelic, a translation of the John Knox’s Book of the Common Order. Having undergone only minor alterations during the late 17th century, Carnasserie Castle is a superbly-preserved example of 16th century architecture. Positioned on a hill overlooking the serene Kilmartin Glen, it comprises a five-story tower house with an impressive hall attached. It also boasts beautiful Renaissance masonry including molded string-courses, corbelled angle-turrets, ornate rainwater spoots, gunloops and an impressive armorial panel above the entrance. Blown up in 1685 by Royalist Forces during the Monmouth Rebellion, the castle fell into disuse before eventually being purchased by the Malcoms of Poltalloch in the 19th century. Today it is under the care of historic Scotland.
After our visit here, we will be returning partly along the same route back to the town of Inveraray where we will be spending the night. This is a short 45-minute drive. You have the rest of the evening free.
Day 11: Inveraray To Stirling Castle To EdinburghEdinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
We are going to depart early to take a northeasterly route to the historic Stirling Castle. Our drive takes about 2 hours. This castle, located in Stirling, is one of the largest and most important castles in Scotland, both historically and architecturally. The castle sits atop Castle Hill, an intrusive crag, which forms part of the Stirling Sill geological formation. It is surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs, giving it a strong defensive position. Its strategic location, guarding what was, until the 1890s, the farthest downstream crossing of the River Forth, has made it an important fortification from the earliest times.
Most of the principal buildings of the castle date from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. A few structures of the fourteenth century remain, while the outer defenses fronting the town date from the early eighteenth century.
Before the union with England, Stirling Castle was also one of the most used of the many Scottish royal residences, very much a palace as well as a fortress. Several Scottish Kings and Queens have been crowned at Stirling, including Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1542, and others were born or died there.
We are going to enjoy a guided tour as a great introduction to the royal buildings as well as some of the castle’s more infamous and colourful characters. We visit the Royal Palace, which has been restored to its Renaissance magnificence, the Royal Palace of James V is the jewel in Stirling Castle’s crown and can view the King and Queen’s apartments, see the famous Stirling Heads and come face to face with characters from the 16th century Stewart Court. From here we continue to the Great Hall. James IV’s Great Hall, the largest ever built in Scotland, was complete in 1503 as a splendid venue for courtly celebrations and occasions of state. The Chapel Royal was built by James VI in 1594 for the baptism of his son Henry. An elaborate frieze added for Charles I in late 1620s still survives. The Regimental Museum of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders is full of fascinating displays telling the story of the Regiment from its beginnings in the 1800s through to present day.
The Great Kitchens are also worth a visit. Built during James IV’s reign to prepare banquets for his Great Hall, the Kitchens have been reconstructed to show the cooks at work producing a feast. Our visit continues with the Tapestry Exhibition, as we visit the former Tapestry Studio and see the Weaving the Unicorn exhibition which charts the story of the Stirling Tapestry project, the biggest undertaken in the UK in over 100 years and part of the Palace Project to return the interiors of the Royal Palace of James V to how they may have looked in the 1540s.
We take a lunch break to enjoy the comfortable and relaxed on-site café where you can enjoy snacks, meals and drinks. The café specializes in quality traditional Scottish dishes using local ingredients, many prepared in the castle kitchen. The rooftop patio gives spectacular views of the surrounding countryside with its winding river, and of the Wallace Monument. This afternoon we visit Argyll's Lodging, which only opens daily from 1pm-4pm. This 17th century town house on the approach to the castle gives visitors an insight in to Archibald Campbell, the 9th Earl of Argyll and his family.
After our day here, we will continue our drive to the city of Edinburgh. Edinburgh is Scotland's compact, hilly capital. It has a medieval Old Town and elegant Georgian New Town with gardens and neoclassical buildings. Looming over the city is Edinburgh Castle, home to Scotland’s crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny, used in the coronation of Scottish rulers. Arthur’s Seat is an imposing peak in Holyrood Park with sweeping views, and Calton Hill is topped with monuments and memorials. We check into our hotel and you have the evening free.
Day 12: Exploring EdinburghEdinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
This morning you can fuel up on breakfast before our local guide meets us at 9:30 am in the hotel to have a walking tour. This tour will focus on the historical, cultural and architectural heritage of Edinburgh. This tour is private, so we will have our experienced and educated tour guide all to ourselves. We will see some of the most important landmarks and sights around Edinburgh. The tour will be at our pace, and we can choose to stop for refreshments at some point if we like. Our local guides will be either Stuart or Richard, whose family roots are steeped in the history of Edinburgh and Scotland. Stuart's great-great grandfather introduced blended whisky to the world. His family had connections with such notables as Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson and even Prime Minister William Gladstone! Stuart has a fund of humorous anecdotes and stories around the history of our lovely city.
We will visit the Royal Mile, which is the name given to a succession of streets forming the main thoroughfare of the Old Town of the city of Edinburgh in Scotland. The thoroughfare is, as the name suggests, approximately one Scots mile long and runs downhill. The Royal Mile connects the magnificent Edinburgh Castle, perched high on a base of volcanic rock, with the splendorous Palace of Holyroodhouse, resting in the shadow of Arthur's Seat. The Mile is overlooked by impressive, towering tenements, between which cobbled closes and narrow stairways interlock to create a secret underground world. Peppered with superb attractions such as The Real Mary King’s Close or the Scottish Storytelling Centre, the historical sites here include St Giles' Cathedral and some of the best eating and drinking spots in the city.
Once a medieval market place and site for public executions, the Grassmarket area is now a vibrant area buzzing with lively drinking spots and eclectic shops. Its detailed medieval architecture, stunning castle views and dynamic atmosphere make it one of the city’s most-loved areas, frequented by tourists, students and professionals alike. Though Grassmarket executions ceased in 1784, some of the traditional area’s pubs, such as The Last Drop and Maggie Dickson's, keep alive the bloody tale of a checkered past.
After our walking tour, we will return to Edinburgh Castle for a visit. Edinburgh Castle is a world-famous icon of Scotland and part of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site. This most famous of Scottish castles has a complex building history. The oldest part, St Margaret's Chapel, dates from the 12th century; the Great Hall was erected by James IV around 1510; the Half Moon Battery by the Regent Morton in the late 16th century; and the Scottish National War Memorial after the First World War. The castle houses the Honours (Crown Jewels) of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, the famous 15th century gun Mons Meg, the One O' Clock Gun and the National War Museum of Scotland. We can choose to have a guided visit or go at our own pace using audio guides.
We have some time on own our, to rest or have an early dinner before our evening activity. At 7 pm we meet our local guide and begin with a walking tour of the darker closes and wynds of Edinburgh, before journeying into the haunted Blair Street Underground Vaults. Finally, we’ll retire to a candlelit cellar for a dram of Scottish whisky and an evening of storytelling.
The air filled with cries and taunts, and a crowd of thousands baying for the blood of two men – snatched from their cells, lynched on a dyer’s pole... Take your place as a member of the ‘Edinburgh mob’, which once surged in riot past the Mercat Cross. Hear grisly tales of witchcraft, torture and restless spirits as you venture down medieval closes and descend into the haunted Blair Street Underground Vaults. Your cloaked guide will lead you through the dimly-lit caverns, filling the night with stories – all of them true. Stories of blood, guts, and gore. And a whisky to warm the heart.
As night thickens, we’ll gather in Megget’s cellar for a whisky – or a glass of lager or soft drink if you’re not fond of a dram. In the warmth of candlelight, your storyteller will conjure more tales of Edinburgh’s ghoulish past, and the tortured souls that stalk the city’s streets.
Day 13: Edinburgh Holyrood Palace And Free AfternoonEdinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
This morning you can sleep in and enjoy breakfast in the hotel before we depart for our final activity here in Scotland. We will depart the hotel at 10:00am to head to the beautiful Holyrood Palace. This is the Queen's official residence in Edinburgh and the home of Scottish royal history. We will visit both the Queen’s Gallery, with its changing exhibits, and the Palace itself. We will spend about two hours here at our leisure, using the audio guides available.
The rest of the day is free! There is plenty to see and do in this marvelous city. Ask your tour leader for suggestions on interesting sites or things to do, or where to find some good shopping! Tonight, we are going to meet as a group for the last time for our farewell dinner.
Day 14: Edinburgh Or Glasgow To Home CountryEdinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Sadly, it is time to say goodbye to this beautiful country and make your way back home. You may have time to enjoy breakfast, or even some free time today before you are transferred to the airport. We can provide transport between Edinburgh and Glasgow if required.
*Please note, if you require train back to London for a flight, your train will be departing today.
Small group tour, maximum 6 travellers.
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