Cawdor Castle
Cawdor Castle

Castles and Gardens of the Scottish Highlands (Country Living/Good Housekeeping)

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.

Top of the bill is Inverewe, a truly wonderful garden, which involves a journey to the wild beauty of the west coast through some of the most spectacular scenery to be found anywhere in the world. The Castle of Mey sits high on a cliff, overlooking the turbulent waters of the Pentland Firth, and it is here that Queen Elizabeth, the late Queen Mother, had one of her favourite retreats, and where she created a homely garden which reflected her great love of flowers. We also visit the gardens of Cawdor Castle, immortalised by William Shakespeare in Macbeth, Dunrobin Castle, the château-style ancestral home of the Dukes of Sutherland, and three privately-owned gardens. Finally we visit the House of Aigas, where we enjoy a guided tour and lunch using estate produce, a lovely way to round of a delightful tour.

Our tour will be led by Colin Crosbie, the former Curator of RHS Wisley Garden and prior to that Head Gardener to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother at the Royal Lodge in Windsor, in which capacity he was a regular visitor to the Castle of Mey.

Standard river view sup £40 (£80 single)
Deluxe river view sup £200 (£400 single)
No flight discount £175

What's included?

  •  Flights
  •  Accommodation
  •  Services of a professional tour manager
  •  Comfortable coach travel throughout
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary

Led by...

Colin Crosbie

Colin Crosbie Tour Manager

Our tour will be led throughout by one of our most popular guides, the horticulturalist and former curator of RHS Wisley Colin Crosbie, whose knowledge, expertise and good humour will bring an added dimension to this holiday.

Today's Price

Deposit: £200 Single supplement: £300

Tour highlights:

  • 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
  • Falconry display at Dunrobin Castle

Tour details

Dates 30 June 2020 - 4 July 2020
Duration 5 days
Today's Price
Deposit: £200 Single supplement: £300 Balance due by 7 April 2020
Activity Level
Tour code BYJS200630

Book Now or call 01334 657155 if you have any questions

30 June 2020: Itinerary

We depart from London Gatwick on a lunchtime flight for Inverness (regional flights available at a supplement or alternatively make your own way to Inverness). On arrival we continue to the nearby 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. A turreted 14th century tower, protected on one side by a gully and on the other by a dry moat, rises majestically from the woods of the Nairn Valley.  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. 

Later we will continue to Inverness to our accommodation at the Glen Mhor Hotel in Inverness, where dinner will be served in the evening.

Meals include: Dinner

Hotel: Glen Mhor Hotel

Enjoy your full Scottish breakfast. This morning we travel north and visit Dunrobin Castle - the château-style ancestral home of the Dukes of Sutherland.  The castle is a wonderful early 19th-century fantasy castle 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. A display of falconry is included here, offering some excellent photo opportunities of superb birds of prey.

We later continue to John O'Groats before having an afternoon visit to the private gardens and former home of Her Majesty the Queen Mother, at the Castle of Mey. In 1952, HM Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother saw what was then known as Barrogill Castle while staying with Commander and Lady Doris Vyner at the House of the Northern Gate on Dunnet Head, a short distance to the west. Despite its poor condition, Her Majesty purchased the castle that year and set about renovating and restoring both the castle and its gardens and parklands, which extended to about 30 acres. She also restored the castle's original name changing Barrogill Castle back to The Castle of Mey. Since her death the gardens have been open to the public, carrying on a tradition that Her Majesty began.

Dinner will be served on our return to the hotel.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: Glen Mhor Hotel

After breakfast we have a long but most rewarding day as we drive across the north of Scotland to visit Dundonnell House Garden. The house was completed in 1769 by the Mackenzie’s of Dundonnell, who lived in it until the 1940s. Since then it has had a number of owners, including the late Alan Roger – rumoured to be in MI5, but known locally simply as a plantsman and bonsai expert. The current owner, has added delightful new borders for year-round colour, centred on an enormous and ancient yew tree over 300 years old. 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 – and the view from above Gruinard Bay has to be seen to be believed. Famous gardens do not always live up to their reputations but it would be hard to imagine anyone failing to be excited by Inverewe, when at this time of year it will be at its most colourful. The balmy Gulf Stream Drift Climate promotes luxuriant growth and today it is a jungle of mature exotic trees and shrubs laced with winding walks, rising and falling, giving sudden glimpses of shimmering water through the foliage. 

We will return to Inverness via Loch Maree and Achnasheen, another spectacularly scenic journey.  Dinner will be served on our return to the hotel.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: Glen Mhor Hotel

This morning, after breakfast, we will visit the private garden of The Lookout at North Kessock. This small, award-winning garden enjoys lovely views over the Moray Firth and is created out of a rock base with shallow pockets of ground, planted to encourage all aspects of wildlife. There is a small sheltered courtyard, a raised bed vegetable area and a pretty cottage garden. Further features include a scree and rock garden, a rose arbour and a lily pond with waterside plants.

We continue to Old Allangrange at Munlochy, just north of Inverness. A beautiful 17th century lime washed house is the backdrop to a semi-formal garden with many fine old trees including an ancient stand of yews. The gardeners have used sculpted hedges to play with perspective.  There is an ice house, vegetable garden, a mound, orchard and two large polytunnels where vegetables are grown bio-dynamically. Tea or coffee and home-made cakes are included here.

Our final visit takes us to Inverness Botanic Garden, a sub-tropical oasis in the heart of the Highlands with greenhouses, cactus house, landscaped gardens, tropical fish pond, sensory raised flower beds and cafe. The floral hall, gardens and cafe is a unique visitor attraction that offers a tranquil break amidst beautiful floral displays. It was opened in 1993 by Prince Edward and has been inspiring local gardeners and visitors from every continent ever since.

Following our visit we will return to our hotel for dinner.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: Glen Mhor Hotel

This morning after breakfast we depart for the House of Aigas, near Beauly, just west of Inverness. Around the picturesque, high Victorian country house an arboretum and woodland walk with a sizable collection of specimen trees - all named - overlook the River Beauly; there is also an extended garden of rockeries, shrubberies and herbaceous borders. Here we will enjoy tea/coffee and shortbread on arrival then a guided tour of the garden followed by lunch using produce from the estate.

In the afternoon we transfer to Inverness Airport in time to check-in for our flight back to London Gatwick.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

30 June 2020: Additional Info

30 June 2020: Accommodation

This 3-star hotel is centrally located on the banks of the River Ness, set in a series of adjoining Victorian townhouses. All rooms have en-suite bathrooms with tv, hairdryer and tea/coffee-making facilities. River view and deluxe rooms are available at a supplement.

There is an in-house bar and restaurant which offers traditional Scottish food, ales and spirits. There is also room service, a 24-hour front desk and daily housekeeping. 

30 June 2020: Enquiries

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