Scotland's Finest Castles and Gardens
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- Find yourself at the centre of world-defining plant science research at the RBGE
- Experience dinner in the Gothic opulence of The Witchery by the Castle
- Visit the oldest inhabited dwelling in Scotland, the 11th century Traquair House
This right royal trip sees us embark on a grand tour of Scotland's grand designs, from the former seats of kings and queens to gardens of 'cosmic speculation' (don't worry, all will become clear). Journeying from central Edinburgh, unrivalled in its architectural and natural beauty, to the farther-flung burghs, glens, and towns of Perthshire, this is the perfect holiday for those looking to combine fascinating tales from Scotland's rich history with its most striking outdoor spaces, ancient and modern alike.
We've said it before, we know, but it never gets any less true: Scotland is truly a land of contrasts, and nowhere is this more evident than on tour. We journey through mind-bending contemporary grounds full of statuary and optical illusions, wild glens with artistic associations, imposing castles with impeccable formal landscaping, cities at the very centre of modern living, and outliers with more than a nod to a quieter past — won't you join us?
After being whisked from our pick-up points by our luxury coach, we embark on our first visit of the day, to the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh. Founded in 1670 as a physic garden — one with the primary aim of growing medicinal plants — it is now world-renowned as a centre of scientific study and education. We enjoy lunch and a look around here, before heading into Edinburgh itself for a panoramic, introductory tour.
After getting acquainted with the capital city, we check in to our hotel for our first dinner, and our first night.
After breakfast, our second day begins in earnest with a visit to Floors Castle. Don't let the name fool you: the castle is definitely a country home — seat of the Duke of Roxburghe — rather than a fortress, as evidenced by its warm, plush interiors. As well as a free-flow tour of the house, we are treated to a guided tour of its impressive outdoor spaces, including a formal Millennium garden and walled Victorian kitchen garden.
After lunch at Floors Castle, we move on to Traquair House. The oldest inhabited house in the whole of Scotland, it has been home to the Stuart family since 1491, and has been visited by 27 Kings and Queens of Scotland. After our tour of the house and free ramble through the grounds, we're bound to build up quite an appetite: the perfect excuse for dinner at The Witchery by the Castle, a splendidly Gothic Edinburgh restaurant.
Our first visit this morning is to Portrack House, home of the thirty-acre Garden of Cosmic Speculation. As previous visitors to this intriguingly named garden will know, we are extremely privileged to receive a guided tour of this outdoor extravaganza, with its reality-bending illusory landscapes and clever incorporation of its existing natural surroundings.
After lunch in the friendly former burgh of Moffat, we move on to Portmore Gardens (SGS). Between beautiful mature trees we catch glimpses of the equally gorgeous surrounding countryside, but more formal aspects are also a huge part of Portmore's charm — box-edged herbaceous borders alive with colour, Victorian glasshouses bursting with fruit and flowers, and an Italianate grotto are just some of them. After our visit, we return to our hotel, where dinner is included this evening.
Our morning kicks off with a visit to Broadwoodside (SGS), site of an ancient settlement which has played host to witch trials and appeared on what is believed to be the very first map of Scotland. There are many other stories from Broadwoodside's long history, but today, what we see is one of the finest contemporary private gardens in the country. Proof positive that it is possible for a garden to have something to offer in every month of the year, Broadwoodside's impeccable design is evident, with its willow pond, orchard, terraces, courtyards, and avenues.
Moving from the painstakingly curated to the unstructured, we finish our exploration of Broadwoodside and head into the city for a free afternoon to spend at our leisure — what will you discover?
We bid farewell to our Edinburgh hotel this morning and depart for Stirling, where we find the site of our first visit of the day. This is Stirling Castle, where we are invited to travel back to the time of the powerful (and utterly sumptuous) royal court, plentifully evident in the castle's imposing architecture and abundance of stories. Several Kings and Queens of Scotland have been crowned here, including Mary, Queen of Scots.
After lunch in Stirling itself, we head on to another impressive fortress, that of Drummond Castle. Our focus here, though, is the gardens surrounding the structure. The attention to detail and clever planting has brought it, deservingly, straight into the list of contenders for the top gardens in Europe. After our exploration of Drummond's 'wonder-landscape', we check in to our new home for the next two nights, the Crieff Hydro Hotel, where we enjoy dinner this evening.
The drive to our first visit this morning is a scenic one. We wend our way to Cluny House Gardens through Sma' Glen, a lovely glen just 5 miles north of Crieff, but seemingly a world away. It's rumoured that legendary Gaelic bard Ossian is buried here — be sure to keep an eye out for the 8-foot-tall monolith 'Ossian's Stone' ostensibly marking the spot.
On our arrival, we are free to explore the magical woodland garden at Cluny House. Created by Bobby and Betty Masterson in the 1950s, it is home to the Himalayan plants which the couple found to thrive in the garden's perfect conditions, and two magnificent Wellingtonias (or giant Sequoias) which preceded them at over 150 years old. You'll also spot Britain's widest conifer (11 metres in girth) and, if you're lucky, some of Perthshire's elusive local wildlife, including the red squirrel.
We then move on to Blair Castle, where, after lunch, we are treated to a guided tour taking in 700 years of history spread across 30 impressive rooms. Afterwards, we step outside for a turn around the fabulously named Hercules Garden, a nine-acre walled garden restored to its original Georgian design, over which the man himself (in life-sized statue form) presides. Afterwards, we return to our hotel for our final night and farewell dinner.
This morning is sadly our last on tour, and we are returned to our drop-offs in central Edinburgh and Edinburgh airport for our returns home.
- Six nights' accommodation on a bed and breakfast basis: four nights in a 4* hotel in central Edinburgh; two nights in the Crieff Hydro Hotel
- Six dinners with wine; six lunches
- Coach travel throughout
- Visits to RBGE, Floors Castle, Traquair House and Gardens, Portrack House and Garden of Cosmic Speculation, Portmore Gardens (SGS), Broadwoodside (SGS), Stirling Castle, gardens of Drummond Castle, gardens of Cluny House, and Hercules Garden
- Guided tours of Edinburgh, Floors Castle house and garden, Traquair House, and Blair Castle
- Free afternoon to spend at our leisure in Edinburgh
- Services of a Brightwater Holidays Tour Manager
- Water on the coach
Supplements per person
- Single room supplement: £350
2018 Insurance Prices
As part of our booking conditions, our travellers must have adequate insurance protection for any holidays overseas but we strongly recommend that you are covered for any of our tours. Our travellers are welcome to take out their own insurance policy, providing that we have the details of this before departure. Alternatively, we can provide our own recommended single-trip travel insurance for all holidays, please see the most upto date prices below:
Under 65, from £18.00 | 65-74, from £35.00 | 75 and over, from £52.00
Under 65, from £32.00 | 65-74, from £64.00 | 75 and over, from £96.00
Prices on application
22/09/2018 from £1450pp
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(Royal Botanic Garden, Inverleith Row)
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