Gardens of the Far North

6 Days

From £555pp

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  • The desolate beauty of the Highland landscape
  • Inverewe, widely regarded as one of Scotland’s greatest gardens
  • The holly maze, styled on the Minotaur’s labyrinth, at Cawdor Castle
  • The lovingly restored gardens of the Castle of Mey

A journey to the far north of Scotland brings many rewards, not least the sense of freedom and open space to be found in the thrilling seascapes of the coasts or the vast, empty expanse of mountain and moorland that separates east from west. Rewards also come in the shape of some enchanting castles and gardens, which we have threaded together to bring out the best of this remote and unspoilt region.

William Shakespeare immortalised Cawdor in Macbeth, however, both the castle and its history are colourful enough without the aid of myth boasting magnificent gardens with vast herbaceous borders. We will also visit Abriachan Garden on the banks of Loch Ness. 

Heading as far north as is possible on the British mainland to Thurso we will call in at Old Allangrange on the Black Isle and also visit the manicured walled gardens at Dunbeath Castle. The Castle of Mey sits high on a cliff, overlooking the turbulent waters of the Pentland Firth, and it is here that the late Queen Mother had one of her favourite garden retreats. Also overlooking the Pentland Firth lies Bighouse Lodge, situated by the white sands of Melvich. We return south visiting Dunrobin Castle – the château-style ancestral home of the Dukes of Sutherland. The castle is a wonderful early 19th-century fantasy with a touch of the Loire and a dash of Bavaria, with formal gardens leading to the North Sea. 


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Day 1

We travel north to Blair Castle to visit Diana’s Grove, which presents probably the best 'big tree' experience in this country. Most of the trees were planted over 100 years ago as specimens of newly introduced conifers, mainly from America. Blair Castle is the ancestral home of the Dukes of Atholl, known as the 'Planting Dukes' in the 18th & 19th centuries. By 1830, the family had planted over 27 million trees around the glens and straths of the Atholl Estate. 

Later we continue to Inverness to our comfortable accommodation. Dinner will be served here this evening.

Day 2

After breakfast we have a long but most rewarding day as we drive across the north of Scotland to visit Dundonnell House Garden. The main part of the garden lies within very old walls and is divided into distinctive compartments, adding greatly to the interest here; other highlights include riverside walks in the fine arboretum and a restored Victorian glasshouse. Our final visit of the day is to Inverewe Gardens, unquestionably one of the most outstanding gardens in the country.  The northern road into Inverewe is spectacular - towering mountains and breathtaking vistas. We arrive at Castle of Mey the most northerly inhabited castle in England and the former favourite residence of The Queen Mother. This afternoon tour the gardens of this grand castle; the beautiful walled garden, East Garden and Woodland area. 

Dinner will be served on our return to the hotel.

Day 3

We visit the gardens of Cawdor Castle, near Nairn. William Shakespeare immortalised Cawdor in Macbeth as the scene of Duncan's murder, however, both the castle and its history are colourful enough without the aid of myth. The magnificent gardens include vast herbaceous borders, a rose garden, a peony walk and a kitchen garden - there is also a fascinating holly maze and a romantic bluebell woodland walk. Following our visit we enjoy some free time in Inverness before heading south to visit Abriachan Gardens, near Drumnadrochit. These unique woodland gardens offer a fantastic mix of native and exotic plants.

We return to the hotel where dinner is served.

Day 4

After breakfast we visit the private gardens of Old Allangrange. The formal gardens lie in front of the 17th century lime washed house from where the sculpted hedges play with perspectives by blocking and exposing views. Following our visit we continue to Timespan at Helmsdale, a museum which brings together our past, our present and our future. Our next stop is Dunbeath Castle. These extensive gardens feature mature and new plantings, with a landscaped lake, water and bog gardens, a formal garden, rhododendrons and a woodland walk.  

Following our visit we continue to Thurso and the St Clair Hotel, where dinner is served on arrival.

Day 5

We visit The Castle of Mey, the former holiday home of the late Queen Mother.  She renovated and lovingly restored it and for over half a century she spent her summers here and created the beautiful gardens you see today. Following our visit we travel along the coast, past the pioneering nuclear power station at Dounreay, to Bighouse Lodge, situated at the mouth of the River Halladale. Each garden here contains a sculpture to reflect the aspects of the Bighouse Estate, namely the River, the Forest, the Strath and the Hill.  

We return to the hotel where dinner is served.

Day 6

This morning we visit the gardens at Dunrobin Castle - the château style ancestral home of the Dukes of Sutherland, for a brief visit. The castle is a wonderful early 19th-century fantasy with a touch of the Loire and a dash of Bavaria. Below the castle is a magnificent example of a formal nineteenth century garden. The gardens are laid out on terraces which descend to the sea.   

Following our visit, we continue our journey south to our original pick-up points.

 What's Included

  • 3 nights at Best Western Inverness Palace Hotel – dinner, bed & breakfast
  • Visits to the gardens of Inverewe, Cawdor, Dunrobin Castle and the Castle of Mey
  • Services of a professional tour manager

 Supplements per person

  • Single room supplement: £180.00
  • Insurance: £21.00 (under 65); £42.00 (65-74); £63.00 (75-90)

Rail/air travel and overnight accommodation in Glasgow, Edinburgh or Perth before or after the tour available on request

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Please note 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.

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Departure points and times

Depart Return
(Millennium Hotel, George Sq)
0715 2045
(Marriott Hotel, Glasgow Rd)
0830 1930
(Carnegie College)
0900 1900
(Moto Services, M90)
0915 1845
(Canal St)
0930 1830