Mount Stuart
Mount Stuart

Gardens and Architecture of the Firth of Clyde

4 days From £595

9 June 2019

“Art is the flower. Life is the green leaf.” It’s almost as if Charles Rennie Mackintosh were describing our tour himself. Join us as we visit some of his greatest works as well as other architectural marvels and fine gardens in and around the Firth of Clyde.

Sadly, the Glasgow School of Art, Mackintosh’s iconic masterpiece, has had to be removed from this tour following a second, more devastating fire which will result in the building being demolished. It is hoped that it will be rebuilt and one day perhaps we will return…

In the meantime, its place has been taken by Scotland Street School, built in 1906 to a design by Mackintosh, with many typical features and details. In its present day role it also happens to be a very interesting museum, lifting the desk lid on Scottish school education, once the envy of the world.

We will also visit the House for an Art Lover and away from the city it is hoped that we will visit Hill House, one of his finest domestic creations, which sits high above the River Clyde with commanding views of the firth. Currently undergoing a major conservation project, it will be enclosed in a metallic mesh structure which will become a feature of the visitor experience. This visit is subject to the work being completed in time, and if necessary we will instead visit Scots architect Sir Robert Lorimer’s grand house at Ardkinglas, along with its impressive woodland garden.

We also visit the nearby gardens of Glenarn, reputedly one of the best woodland gardens in Scotland, and sail across the Firth of Clyde to the Isle of Bute for a visit to Mount Stuart, one of the largest High Gothic houses in Britain – which offers the perfect combination of architectural grandeur and captivating gardens.

Finally, no Mackintosh tour would be complete until we’ve enjoyed afternoon tea at the Mackintosh at the Willow Tearooms in Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street, newly opened after a major refurbishment – you won’t be disappointed!

What's included?

  •  Accommodation
  •  Services of a professional tour manager
  •  Comfortable coach travel throughout
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary
  •  Ferry crossings
Book Now £595 Deposit: £100 Single supplement: £135

Tour highlights:

  • Views over the River Clyde from Hill House
  • The Gothic splendour of Mount Stuart
  • 1,000 year old King Fern at Ascog Hall
  • Afternoon tea at the world-famous Mackintosh at the Willow Tearoom

Tour details

Dates 9 June 2019 - 12 June 2019
Duration 4 days
Cost £595 Deposit: £100 Single supplement: £135 Balance due by 17 March 2019
Activity Level Moderate
Tour code BWCRM19A

Departure Points

Location Depart Return
Aberdeen 0700 2145
Montrose 0745 2100
Arbroath 0805 2040
Dundee 0830 2015
Perth 0900 1945
Kinross 1000 1845
Dunfermline 1015 1830
Edinburgh 1100 1815
Glasgow 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.

Book Now or call 01334 657155 if you have any questions

9 June 2019: Itinerary

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.

Meals include: Dinner

Hotel: Gleddoch House Hotel

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.

Note: for the next few years Hill House is undergoing extensive work to make the building fully weather-proof. As part of this process a huge semi-transparent steel mesh cover is being erected over the house to allow it to completely dry out before the weather-proofing begins. The ‘box’ will become a feature of the visitor experience and those who wish can use the walkways within it to take a closer look at the exterior of the house. Please note that this visit is subject to the work being completed in time.

Should Hill House not be open in time, we will instead visit Ardkinglas House at the head of Loch Fyne. Recognised as Sir Robert Lorimer’s masterpiece, Ardkinglas was built in 1907, though it has the appearance of a much older Scots baronial-style house, thanks to the use of traditional materials which were skilfully and creatively mastered by expert craftsmen but with a wealth of new technology incorporated into the design. The house remains practically unaltered and is a very popular location for TV dramas and film production. Following our private tour of the house we will have some free time to enjoy the fine woodland garden, full of mature specimen trees. Highlights include five of Britain’s tallest or largest conifers, an extensive sorbus glade and (in June) some stunning Rhododendron ‘Loderi’.

Nearby are the gardens of Glenarn, reputedly one of the best woodland gardens in Scotland. Glenarn was originally planted by the Gibson brothers, and filled with rhododendrons and other plants collected by Kingdom-Ward, Ludlow and Sheriff on their expeditions to Tibet and China. The garden had been neglected for many years when Mike and Sue Thornley acquired it in 1983 and they have spent the last ten years or so gradually restoring it. The mild, damp location supports old plants of Rhododendron tanastyllum, arboreum var. nigagiricum and Magnolia rostrata to mention but a few, and all should be at their best at this time of year.

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: Gleddoch House Hotel

After breakfast we head for Wemyss Bay where we will catch the morning ferry to Rothesay on the Isle of Bute. Our first visit will be 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 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. A guided tour of the house and lunch are included here.

Thereafter we will visit Ascog Hall Fernery. In the secluded and long neglected gardens of Ascog Hall a sunken fernery with beautiful rock work and water pools was found. Even in its dilapidated state the potential was spotted and it has now been carefully refurbished with an impressive collection of ferns researched by the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. Open to the public only recently for the first time this unique fern house is a joy to behold. It offers a rare opportunity to glimpse a bygone era and is a tribute to the imagination and ingenuity of Alexander Bannatyne Stuart, a former owner of Ascog Hall in Victorian times, whose passion for collecting exotic ferns inspired him in his endeavour to replicate a tiny fragment of sub-tropical jungle on a small Scottish island.

We then catch an afternoon ferry and return to the hotel. 

Meals include: Breakfast, Dinner

Hotel: Gleddoch House Hotel

This morning, after breakfast, we will check out of the hotel and travel into Glasgow for a visit to the Hunterian Museum, part of the University of Glasgow, which was founded in 1807, making it Scotland's oldest public museum, and is home to one of the largest collections outside the National Museums. You may be interested in visiting the Mackintosh Collection, numbering around 1000 items, including architectural, furniture and interior designs, textile designs, flower drawings and watercolours. Entrance to the Macintosh House is optional (entrance charge £5 adult, £3 senior citizen). Please note entrance is restricted to 12 passengers at a time and cannot be pre-booked.

We continue to the Scotland Street School, which was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh 1903-1906 for the School Board of Glasgow. With many typical Mackintosh features and details built into the stonework and staircases, there is something to admire around every corner. Now a museum, it tells the story of 100 years of education in Scotland, from the late 19th century to the late 20th century. When Scotland Street School first opened on 15 August 1906, it educated the children of families mainly working in shipbuilding and engineering on the south side of Glasgow. We will find out what school days were like in the reign of Queen Victoria, during World War II, and in the 1950s and 60s, in three reconstructed classrooms. With Scottish education now sadly slipping down the world rankings it is a poignant reminder of an education system that was once the envy of the world.

Following our visit here we will transfer to the newly restored Mackintosh at the Willow Tearooms in Sauchiehall Street. The famous Tea Rooms first opened in 1903 and are of huge importance to Glasgow’s architectural and cultural heritage and are the only surviving Tea Rooms designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for local entrepreneur and patron Miss Kate Cranston. For the last four years it has been undergoing an extensive restoration in order to bring it back to its former glory, using painstakingly crafted furniture and fittings which are exact replicas of the originals. Afternoon tea is included here – a traditional selection of sandwiches, scones, shortbread and cake, accompanied by your choice of loose leaf tea or freshly ground coffee.

Following this we will return to our original departure points.

Meals include: Breakfast

9 June 2019: Additional Info

9 June 2019: Accommodation

Set within 360 acres of grounds and with panoramic views over the River Clyde, Gleddoch House Hotel & Golf Spa boasts an indoor heated swimming pool, and an on-site 18-hole championship golf course. Free WiFi access throughout is available and on-site public parking is possible free of charge.

Rooms at Gleddoch House Hotel & Golf Spa are equipped with tea and coffee making facilities, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom fitted with either a bathtub or a shower and a hairdryer. There is also free WiFi. All rooms offer views either the surrounding grounds, gardens, golf course or Clyde Estuary.

The hotel features an à-la-carte restaurant serving fine cuisine, as well as an on-site bar where guests can get snacks, refreshments and spirits throughout the day. Breakfast is served every morning in the common dining room or in the guest rooms and suites upon request, and special dietary needs can be accommodated.

9 June 2019: Enquiries

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