Glasgow's Artistic Heritage (The Arts Society)

4 Days

From £495pp

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  • Admire the original interiors of Thomson's Greek Revival Holmwood House
  • Set sail on a scenic ferry ride to the Isle of Bute, home to the splendid Mount Stuart
  • Get up close with Old Masters and French Impressionists at Kelvingrove

Follow the works of Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson and Charles Rennie Mackintosh through the streets of Scotland’s largest city and beyond, from the High Gothic splendour of Mount Stuart to the Art Nouveau flourishes of the Glasgow School of Art.

We begin in Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park at Mackintosh’s unique House for an Art Lover, which began as an unsuccessful and unrealised competition entry but came to life 85 years later. Today, it offers a remarkable insight into the work of an architect of extraordinary vision. His finest domestic creation, Hill House, features on our second day, and is complemented with a visit to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, home to one of the finest civic collections in Europe.

Then, it's on to the coast for a day of sea breezes and sumptuous surroundings as we sail to the Isle of Bute and visit Mount Stuart, arguably the finest piece of domestic architecture to emerge from Britain's Gothic Revival in the 19th Century. We conclude back in Glasgow with a tour of the exterior of another of Mackintosh’s masterpieces, the Glasgow School of Art, which came perilously close to being lost forever in a fire, and Holmwood House, Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson’s elaborate and influential flight of fancy.

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Day 1

We depart by coach this morning from our pick-up points and head for Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park, where we will visit the House for an Art Lover. The origins of this unique building lie in drawings prepared by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1901 as his entry to a competition to design a ‘Haus Eines Kunstfreundes’ or ‘Art Lovers House’ set by German design magazine ‘Zeitschrift Fur Innendekoration’. The entry, though highly commended, was unsuccessful and for more than 80 years Mackintosh’s concept remained an unrealised design on paper, until Graham Roxburgh, the Consulting Engineer responsible for restoring Mackintosh interiors in nearby Craigie Hall, had the idea finally to build the House for an Art Lover. After much detective work and various setbacks Roxburgh’s dream finally became a reality in 1996 when the house opened to the public and today it offers a remarkable insight into the work of an architect of extraordinary vision and imagination.

Later we continue to the 4-star Gleddoch House Hotel, situated within 360 acres of ground overlooking the River Clyde. The hotel has full leisure facilities including an indoor swimming pool, and an exclusive spa facility complete with an assortment of sauna, steam and massage treatments.

Day 2

After breakfast this morning we cross the Erskine Bridge for a visit to Hill House, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s finest domestic creation which sits high above the River Clyde commanding fine views of the estuary. Commissioned in 1902 by the Glasgow publisher Walter Blackie, the house still makes a striking statement today. Blackie wanted an individual feel to his home and he asked Mackintosh to design not only the house and gardens, but much of the furniture and interiors too. Mackintosh’s wife, Margaret Macdonald, contributed fabric designs and a unique panel over the fireplace in the drawing room. The result is a daring design with an air of restrained elegance, which still appeals to modern-day tastes.

Returning to Glasgow, we visit Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, which first opened its doors to the public on 2 May 1901 when it formed a major part of the Glasgow International Exhibition. Since then has established itself as one of the finest civic collections in Europe. French, Italian and Dutch art feature alongside exhibits as diverse as Ancient Egypt, Dinosaurs and Scotland’s Wildlife and there are also galleries devoted to the work of the Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists. One of the most popular exhibits is Salvador Dali’s Christ of St John of the Cross.

We return to our hotel, where dinner is served in the evening.

Day 3

After breakfast we head for Wemyss Bay, from where we will catch the morning ferry to Rothesay on the Isle of Bute – while waiting for the ferry it is worth having a quick look at the railway station, one of the finest in Scotland with an elegant roof of glass and steel. On arrival in Rothesay we continue to the spectacular house and gardens of Mount Stuart, which is one of the largest, most spectacular High Victorian Gothic houses in Britain and yet one of the least known. The house itself is arguably the finest piece of domestic architecture to emerge from Britain's Gothic Revival in the 19th Century. The lavish palace boasts a majestic marble hall with remarkable stained glass windows, an awe-inspiring white marble chapel, sumptuous accommodation and richly decorated reception rooms.

The gardens were only opened to the general public for the first time in June 1995. These 300 acres of stunning woodlands and gardens are a real treasure trove for the garden enthusiast. The temperate effect of the Gulf Stream on Bute ensures that there are always many exotic plants, palm trees and Mediterranean blooms to be seen here. There is a pavilion glasshouse in the grounds which nurtures rare species from the tropical rain forests of south-east Asia while native British plants thrive in the fertile soils and mild climate.

Lunch is available here (not included).

We then catch an afternoon ferry back to Wemyss Bay and return to the hotel. Dinner is served in the evening.

Day 4

This morning, after breakfast, we will check out of the hotel and travel into Glasgow for a visit to the Glasgow School of Art, considered to be Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece. Completed in 1909 the building heralded a new style in 20th century architecture, while fulfilling its original purpose as a working art school, housing the fine art students and staff, at the heart of GSA's campus on Garnethill. On 23 May 2014 a fire damaged the west wing of the Mackintosh building including some studios, the Library and some archival stores and as a result there will be no visitor access to the interiors of the Mackintosh building whilst restoration gets underway. However, we will enjoy an hour-long external guided tour in which we will discover Mackintosh’s ideas, inspirations, education and relationships by exploring the Mackintosh Building façade along with a number of hidden architectural gems in the local area with a special connection to this celebrated architect. There will also be time to look around the 'Window on Mackintosh' Visitor Centre to discover more about the School’s rich history and browse designs by students, staff and alumni in the GSA Shop.

We conclude with a visit to Holmwood House, the finest and most elaborate residential villa designed by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson. It is also rare in retaining much of its original interior decor. Holmwood is considered to be immensely influential by several architectural historians, because the design was published in Villa and Cottage Architecture: select examples of country and suburban residence recently erected in 1868 may have influenced Frank Lloyd Wright and other proto-modernist architects. Holmwood was constructed for James Couper, a paper manufacturer in 1857-1858. Couper owned the Millholm paper mill in the valley of the White Water of Cart immediately below the villa. The polychromatic decoration was designed by Thomson and executed by Campbell Tait Bowie. The most notable survival is in the dining room which has a frieze of panels enlarged from John Flaxman's illustrations of Homer's Iliad. The sculpture on the hall chimneypiece was by George Mossman.

Following this we will return to our original departure points.

What's Included

  • 3 nights’ dinner, bed and full breakfast at the 4-star Gleddoch House Hotel, Langbank. All rooms have private facilities.
  • Comfortable coaching throughout
  • Visits to Hill House, Mount Stuart, Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery, Holmwood House and House for an Art Lover; guided exterior tour of Glasgow School of Art
  • Services of a Brightwater holidays tour manager

Supplements per person

  • Single room supplement: £96.00
  • Insurance: £21.00 (under 65); £42.00 (65-74); £63.00 (75-90)
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Please note pick-up points are subject to minimum numbers and all timings are approximate and may be changed. They will be confirmed when the joining instructions are sent out, approximately ten days prior to departure.


Print tour details
Depart Return
(Skene Street)
0700 2145
(Outside Discovery Point)
0830 2015
(Canal Street)
0900 1945
(Moto Services, M90)
1000 1845
(Outside Fife College)
1015 1830
(Marriott Hotel)
1100 1815
(Millennium Hotel)
1215 1700

Please note pick-up points are subject to minimum numbers and all timings are approximate and may be changed. They will be confirmed when the joining instructions are sent out, approximately ten days prior to departure.

The same 3-night package by air from London (and other airports on request) is also available from £595.00 (single supplement from £96.00)