Leading Specialists in European Barge Cruises

Spirit of Scotland

This tour incorporates 6 days discovering the magnificent Royal city of Edinburgh and surrounding regions while staying at the historic Balmoral Hotel, including VIP seats at the spectacular Military Tattoo; a week on the luxury hotel barge “Spirit of Scotland” in the Highlands, cruising through the extraordinarily picturesque lochs and mountains of this stunning region; and finishing with a stay at exquisite Inverlochy Castle.

Full of unique experiences such as visits to the Royal Yacht Britannia and Rosslyn Chapel, tasting at a renowned Scotch whisky distillery, a 4×4 wildlife & scenic tour on a country estate and a train trip on the famous Jacobite Express, this is a truly exceptional opportunity to see the best of amazing Scotland.

2019 Tour Dates:
August 17th – September 3rd, 2019

Tour Price:
Twin/double share: 12,400 British Pounds per person
Single supplement: On application

Detailed Itinerary

Saturday 17th August, 2019
Our tour begins with welcome drinks at our hotel in Edinburgh, the historic Balmoral Hotel. Greeted by charming Scots doormen in kilts (of course!), every visit leaves me feeling that I could not possibly ever choose another hotel in Edinburgh – from the friendly staff, beautifully appointed rooms, excellent restaurants and fabulous location to the beautiful framed movie posters of Sean Connery in every room!

 

Sunday 18th August – Old Town of Edinburgh & Rosslyn Chapel
This morning we meet our wonderful Blue Badge guide who is going to share her extensive knowledge of Edinburgh with us as we explore the city. Beginning with a walk through the Old Town, we end at the Palace of Holyrood House, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland. Founded as a monastery in 1128, and situated at the end of the Royal Mile, this magnificent residence is closely associated with Scotland’s turbulent past, including Mary, Queen of Scots, who lived here between 1561 and 1567. Successive kings and queens have made the Palace of Holyroodhouse the premier royal residence in Scotland. *Please note that if any of the Royal Family is in residence, we cannot gain access to the palace, so will need to make alternative arrangements.

 

Rosslyn Chapel has had a resurgence of interest during the last few years, due to its place in the story of “The Da Vinci Code”, but it has been an important part of Scotland’s heritage for hundreds of years. A Category A listed building and Scheduled Ancient Monument, located in the village of Roslin, approximately 7 miles south of Edinburgh it was built between 1446 and 1484, and has been described as an “Architectural Wonder” and a “Library in Stone”. Practically every surface of Rosslyn Chapel is covered with carvings of individual figures and scenes.  People travel from all over the world to see the carvings, and there are many different interpretations of their meanings.  Myths, legends and Hollywood fiction writing have given Rosslyn a unique sense of mystery and wonder. This evening we enjoy dinner at the hotel’s renowned restaurant, No. 1. (B, D)

 

Monday 19th August – Scottish Borders & Hadrian’s Wall
Today a wonderful day trip to explore the incredible history of the Scottish borders and Hadrian’s Wall. We leave Edinburgh travelling on old Roman Dere Street, which linked the supply ports of the south of England up to modern day Scotland. Our first stop on this tour is the border town of Jedburgh, a historic burgh dominated by a magnificent 12th century Augustinian Abbey.

 

Continuing south we make a stop at the scenic Carter Bar on the edge of the Cheviot Hills. This crossing point between Scotland and England runs close to the ancient Roman road and has formed the border between the two countries for the past 700 years. We then continue through the magnificent forests of Northumberland National Park before turning west towards Hadrian’s Wall. Following the road that takes us along the south side of the wall, we stop at Steel Rigg. We have time to walk beside the wall and experience the isolation that Roman foot soldiers would have experienced as they guarded their empire from the ‘barbarians’ to the north.

 

We have time to explore sections of the wall and the remains of the Roman settlements before we turn north and travel back to Edinburgh through the Galloway hills. Free evening this evening. (B, L)

 

Tuesday 20th August – Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia
The Royal Yacht Britannia is a wonderful experience and offers a fascinating insight into the private lives of the Royal family. Situated in Leith, Brittania was de-commissioned in 1997, and the Queen is said to have wept at the ceremony, over the loss of her beloved yacht. Following a superbly arranged audio-guide tour, we discover the life of the ship both above and below deck, seeing crew’s quarters, officer’s quarters, the Royal bedrooms, state dining room and much more, including the double bed that Charles bought and had installed for Diana for their honeymoon, the yacht previously being only equipped with singles! It was a sad day when The Queen finally bid farewell to a ship that had served her family for over forty years. All the clocks on Britannia are stopped at 15:01, the time The Queen was piped ashore for the last time. This was one of the few occasions The Queen publicly shed a tear.

 

This afternoon, you will have a free afternoon to further discover Edinburgh on your own, or do some shopping for the famous woollen knits or whiskies! If you want serious quality cashmere in beautiful designs, go to Hawick on the Grassmarket. For those who are interested, I will take an optional excursion to “The Real St Mary’s Close”. Buried deep beneath Edinburgh’s Royal Mile lies the city’s deepest secret warren of hidden streets that has remained frozen in time since the 17th century. In the company of an expert guide, you can explore this unique site and experience what it was really like for the people who lived, worked and died here. This visit is only an hour long so you will still have plenty of free time if you wish to join me.  (B, D)

 

Wednesday 21st August – Alnwick Castle & the Northumberland Coast
Our tour begins by following the road that connected Caledonia with Roman Britannia. We stop in Kelso, where we can explore this handsome town, its beautiful boutiques and what is thought to be Scotland’s largest market square. We also see the ruins of Kelso Abbey, a reminder of the many ancient conflicts between Scotland and England.

 

Continuing South, we cross the border and travel to Alnwick Castle, an immense fortification that has stood strong for nearly a millennium. It was originally built to assert Norman rule over newly conquered lands. But more recently Alnwick Castle and its perfectly manicured gardens have found fame as one of the settings for the fictional Hogwarts school in the Harry Potter movie series. Book lovers can take the opportunity to explore one of the largest and most impressive second-hand book shops in Britain.

 

After Alnwick, we travel north along the Northumberland Coast, one of the UK’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty. We stop at points along the way to admire some of the area’s best known beaches, castles, and ancient Border towns. (B, L)

 

Thursday 22nd August – Edinburgh Castle
Today we pay a visit to majestic Edinburgh Castle, location of the famous Military Tattoo. The castle is the oldest building in Edinburgh, dating back to the 12th century and dominating the skyline of the city. The afternoon is free at leisure and this evening we will dine at a beautiful local restaurant. (B, D)

 

Friday 23rd August – St Andrews & Falkland
Today a day trip to St Andrews, beginning as we travel over the Forth Road Bridge and get a great view of one of Scotland’s greatest man-made landmarks, the Forth Rail Bridge. We then continue north to the medieval town of St Andrews. St Andrew is the patron Saint of Scotland, and according to legend his remains were washed up on the Fife coast. St Andrews is also home to the third oldest university in Britain and a beautiful ruined castle perched on a cliff.

 

After St Andrews, we take a pleasant drive through the rolling countryside of central Fife to Falkland. Falkland Palace dominates this old village, and was one of the main residences of the old Royal family of Scotland, the Stewarts (Stuarts). Aside from the palace the village is simply one of the most beautiful in Scotland with an array of old cottages and narrow winding streets. Leaving Falkland we return to Edinburgh, passing Loch Leven, where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned by her Protestant nobility. (B, L)

 

Saturday 24th August – The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
Today is a free day as we rest in preparation for our evening at the Royal Edinburgh Tattoo. We enjoy a pre-show dinner and seats undercover in the Royal Gallery, as well as an invitation to the Producer’s post-show champagne reception. On Saturday evenings, the show finishes with a fireworks display. (B, D)

 

Sunday 25th August – Transfer to the Highlands via Stirling
Today we transfer to Inverness or Fort William (to be advised) for the next exciting part of our tour, our cruise through the magnificent Highlands on board the “Spirit of Scotland”. We travel via Stirling, one of Scotland’s one of the largest and most important castles in Scotland, both historically and architecturally. 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.

 

We arrive late afternoon for a Champagne welcome and dinner on board. (B, D)

 

*The following itinerary assumes a start from Fort William. On alternate weeks the cruise will be in the reverse direction and this far out we do not yet know the cruise direction.

 

Monday 26th August – Glencoe, Loch Lochy & Laggan Locks
Our excursion today will take us to the mystical area of Glencoe, renowned for its geographical beauty and famed for one of the darkest days in Scottish history. Alternatively, we can enjoy some breath-taking panoramic views on a cable car ride to the summit of Aonach Mor mountain. If time permits we can visit the ruins of the 13th century, Old Inverlochy Castle, before embarking on our first cruise, through Moy Bridge, the last hand-operated bridge of its type on the Caledonian Canal. En route, we may visit the Clan Cameron Museum, before crossing Loch Lochy. As we approach our mooring at Laggan, a Highland Piper may be there to greet us with a stirring rendition of traditional Scottish music. Dinner on board. (B, L, D)

 

Tuesday 27th August – Laggan to Cullochy
Today, we take in some of the finest scenery Scotland has to offer as we drive to one of its best known and most photographed castles, Eilean Donan, which has featured in movies such as “Highlander” and James Bond’s “The World Is Not Enough” and overlooks three sea lochs. Our afternoon cruise today takes us across the very scenic Loch Oich, with the opportunity of enjoying a walk en route, then onto our pretty mooring at Cullochy. Dinner on board. (B, L, D)

 

Wednesday 28th August – Cullochy to Fort Augustus
This morning we cruise to Fort Augustus and down the “flight” as the locals call it, to moor opposite the Benedictine Abbey at the entrance to Loch Ness. After lunch on board, we encounter some of Scotland’s bloody past as we visit the ruins of Urquhart Castle in a spectacular setting overlooking Loch Ness, then take a gentle drive to the Invermoriston Falls and the “Old Bridge” designed by Thomas Telford where you may even see a salmon leaping. This evening we have dinner ashore at a local restaurant. (B, L, D)

 

Thursday 29th August – Loch Ness, Cawdor Castle & Culloden Moor
This morning we enjoy a picturesque cruise across world-famous Loch Ness, with perhaps a chance of spotting “Nessie”, before mooring at the hamlet of Dochgarroch. After lunch we visit Cawdor Castle*, forever immortalised in Shakespeare’s “Scottish Play”. The picturesque gardens have been listed as being amongst the top 100 in the UK. The castle contains a superb collection of tapestries, pictures and furnishings and is still in use as a home for the Dowager Countess of Cawdor who resides there for several months of the year. Then we visit Culloden Moor, scene of the last major battle on British soil in 1746 and end our tour at the Clava Cairns, a pre-historic clan chieftain burial site dating back to 2000 B.C. Dinner on board. (B, L, D)

 

Friday 30th  August – Dochgarroch to Muirtown
Today, our final cruise will take us through Tomnahurich swing bridge and then the locks to Muirtown, where there will be the opportunity to take a bicycle ride or walk to the sea lock with wonderful views over the Moray and Beauly Firths. After lunch we drive through stunning hill scenery to take a closer look at one of Scotland’s best known exports, whisky, at the Glen Ord distillery, founded in 1838 on the Black Isle by the Mackenzie’s of Ord. A fascinating description of the maturing and ageing process of single and blended malts is followed by our special tasting. Captain’s Farewell Dinner on board. (B, L, D)

 

Saturday 31st August – Inverlochy Castle
Today we transfer to Inverlochy Castle Hotel, a beautiful 19th century castle surrounded by the luscious green of the evergreen trees and the sparkling blue from the nearby loch. The area surrounding Inverlochy Castle is rich in landscape and history, to name but a few of these breath-taking places – the falls at Glen Nevis, the monument at Glenfinnan and the mountains of Glencoe. During a trip to Balmoral in 1873, Queen Victoria spent a week at Inverlochy sketching and painting where she wrote in her diaries ‘I never saw a lovelier or more romantic spot’. Nestling in the foothills of the mighty Ben Nevis, Inverlochy Castle sits amidst some of Scotland’s finest scenery. This evening we will dine in the hotel’s beautiful restaurant. (B, D)

 

Sunday 1st September – Jacobite Express & Isle of Skye
Today we take the fabulous Jacobite Express to Mallaig, off the coast of Skye. Described as one of the great railway journeys of the world this trip takes you past a list of impressive extremes. Starting near the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis, it visits Britain’s most westerly mainland railway station, Arisaig; passes close by the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, Loch Morar and the shortest river in Britain, River Morar, finally arriving next to the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis.

 

The train stops en route to Mallaig at the village of Glenfinnan. Beyond Glenfinnan are the beautiful villages of Lochailort, Arisaig, Morar and Mallaig. From here, on a clear summer’s day, you can see the “Small Isles” of Rum, Eigg, Muck, Canna and the southern tip of Skye. The train continues on from here passing Morar and the silvery beaches used in the films “Highlander” and “Local Hero”.

 

From the finishing point of the train trip, Mallaig, we will take a half hour ferry ride “over the sea to Skye”.  We’ll take a tour of the southern tip of the island, and then return to Inverlochy Castle ready for our evening meal. (B, D)

 

Monday 2nd  September
Today a day with the locals as we do a half day wildlife and scenic tour on Achnacarry Estate. The Estate extends to approximately 75,000 acres and there are a wide range of activities to suit all interests and abilities, including wildlife, sightseeing & photography tours, hill walks, stalking, fishing and much more. The area is steeped in history, with connections to the Clan Cameron, Bonnie Prince Charlie, The Commandos and other local interest.  Guided tours are conducted by locals who have connections with the Estate going back many generations. Their experience and knowledge of the area is unsurpassed. Achnacarry Estate is home to an abundance of wildlife including red deer and you may also see Highland cattle, pine martens, wild boar, foxes, otters and rare species of butterflies. Tours are in 4×4 vehicles and if the weather permits we will enjoy a hillside picnic.

 

The rest of the day is free to relax in the beautiful environs of Inverlochy Castle before our final dinner this evening. (B, L, D)

 

Tour Inclusions: Meals as per itinerary, private air conditioned buses on day tours, private guides, accommodation in exclusive luxury hotels, all-inclusive 6 night cruise on board the luxury hotel barge “Spirit of Scotland”, all entries and excursions, the full time services of your tour director.



Spirit of Scotland Photo Gallery