The Scottish Highlands: Great Country Houses, Castles & Gardens 2023

Status: limited

29 May – 12 Jun 2023

Other Departures

The Scottish Highlands: Great Country Houses, Castles & Gardens 2023
Tour Highlights

Join Richard Barley on this 15-day tour of the Scottish Highlands. Richard is currently the Director of Gardens at The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and a member of the Board of Trustees for UK’s National Garden Scheme. Richard regularly spends his holidays in Scotland and has developed a great passion for its spectacular landscapes, great castles and beautiful gardens.

  • The best of Scotland’s natural landscapes; we drive through deep glens with towering mountains and glittering lochs, and tour magnificent coastal scenery.
  • Explore Scotland’s greatest castles and finest estates including Balmoral, Inveraray Castle, Eilean Donan Castle, Cawdor Castle and Glamis Castle.
  • View the Scottish Highlands’ finest gardens: Mount Stuart Gardens, Benmore Botanic Garden, Drummond Castle, Inverewe and Dunvegan Castle.
  • Tour the Edinburgh Royal Botanical Gardens, a world-renowned scientific centre for the study of plants, their diversity and conservation.
  • Enjoy leisurely walks in the dramatic Glencoe, along the coast to view Dunnottar Castle, the forest paths of Scottish Highlands, and the rugged coastline of the Isle of Skye.
  • By boat visit the Isle of Iona and its famous abbey founded by St Columba in 563 AD and view the large colony of Atlantic puffins which breed on Staffa.
  • Glasgow’s outstanding Burrell Collection is one of the UK’s greatest art museums. It houses everything from Chinese porcelain to paintings by Cézanne.
  • Tour Scotland’s new design museum, the V&A Dundee, by architect Kengo Kuma.
  • Study the work of Scotland’s greatest turn-of-the-century designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. We visit the Hunterian’s Mackintosh House and The Hill House in Helensburgh.
  • Walk the streets of Glasgow with Peter Trowles, the former Mackintosh Curator at the world-renowned Glasgow School of Art and join him for tour of the Glasgow Art Club.
  • Ride The Jacobite, a steam train made famous as the ‘Hogwarts Express’ in the Harry Potter films.
  • Spend 2 nights within the magnificent Cairngorms National Park at The Fife Arms, a 5-star boutique hotel housed in a former 19th-century coaching inn featuring an exceptional art collection and a garden designed by Chelsea Flower Show medallist, Jinny Blom.
  • Dine at the gourmet Three Chimneys Restaurant on the Isle of Skye.

Overnight Glasgow (2 nights) • Rothesay, Isle of Bute (1 night) • Oban (2 nights) • Portree, Isle of Skye (3 nights) • Inverness (2 nights) • Braemar (2 nights) • Kinclaven (2 nights)

The tour is timed for early June when the gardens enjoy their late spring flush. Gardens should have combinations of rhododendrons, blue Himalayan poppies, hawthorns, foxgloves, Laburnum, marsh orchids, alliums, euphorbias, aquilegias, late bluebells and roses. We avoid the busy July/August summer season when the biting midges are most active.



The following itinerary describes a range of gardens and estates which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure in 2023. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. Meals included in the tour price and are indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=Lunch and D=dinner.

Glasgow - 2 nights

Day 1: Monday 29 May, Arrive Glasgow
  • Tour commences at 4pm in the foyer of The Apex City of Glasgow Hotel
  • Welcome Meeting at the hotel
  • Orientation Walk with Charles Rennie Mackintosh Specialist, Peter Trowles

Meeting Point: The tour commences at 4.00pm in the foyer of the Apex City of Glasgow Hotel located in central Glasgow, Scotland’s most populous city, located on the banks of the Clyde. Following a brief welcome meeting there will be a short orientation walk led by Peter Trowles, the former Mackintosh Curator at the world-renowned Glasgow School of Art. After this walk, the evening will be at leisure. (Overnight Glasgow)

Day 2: Tuesday 30 May, Glasgow
  • The Burrell Collection
  • Lunch at Mackintosh at the Willow
  • Mackintosh House, The Hunterian (by special appointment)
  • Glasgow Botanic Gardens
  • Welcome Drinks and Dinner at the Glasgow Art Club and exclusive tour by Club Archivist

This morning we visit Glasgow’s famous Burrell Collection, which reopened in the Spring of 2022 after a major refurbishment. The collection, which played a key role in Glasgow’s 1970s ‘Renaissance’, was amassed by shipping magnate Sir William Burrell (1861–1958) and given to the City of Glasgow in 1944. It is displayed in an award-winning building located in a beautiful woodland setting. The museum includes reconstructions of rooms from Sir William’s former home. The collection, which focuses on late medieval and early Renaissance Europe, includes a Bellini Madonna and Child and a Rembrandt self-portrait. It also contains important examples of Chinese and Islamic art, ancient artefacts, and Scottish, French and Dutch late 19th-century art, especially the works of artists Manet, Degas and Rodin.

We shall have lunch at the recently restored Willow Tea Rooms on Sauchiehall Street, now called ‘Mackintosh at the Willow’. They are the only surviving tea rooms designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for local entrepreneur and patron Miss Kate Cranston.

After lunchtime we transfer to the Mackintosh House, a recreation of the main interiors from Charles Rennie and Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh’s original house which once stood nearby. Its decoration, fixtures and furniture resemble the original as closely as possible.

After exploring the Mackintosh House, we will transfer to the Glasgow Botanic Garden where we will view the splendid Kibble Palace. This 19th-century wrought iron framed glasshouse was originally designed as a private conservatory at Coulport on Loch Long for John Kibble by architects, James Boucher and James Cousland in the 1860’s. It moved to its current location in 1873 and was used as an exhibition space, meeting place and concert venue. Now it is used to house temperate plants including a forest of tree ferns.

After transferring back to our hotel there will be some time at leisure before we make our way to the Glasgow Art Club. At the Glasgow Art Club where we will have an exclusive tour of the building by the Club’s Archivist, followed by our welcome meal. (Overnight Glasgow) BLD

Rothesay, Isle of Bute - 1 night

Day 3: Wednesday 31 May, Glasgow – Helensburgh – Loch Lomond – Rothesay
  • The Hill House, Helensburgh – a domestic masterpiece by Charles Rennie Mackintosh
  • Mount Stuart House & Gardens, Rothesay, Isle of Bute

Today we drive from Glasgow to Rothesay, principal town on the Isle of Bute via The Hill House, Loch Lomond and Mount Stuart House. The Hill House (1902–1904), Helensburgh, designed for Walter Blackie of the publishers Blackie and Son, is one of Charles and Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh’s most famous works, probably second only to their Glasgow School of Art. Mackintosh also designed most of the house’s interior, furniture and fittings. His attention to detail extended to prescribing the colour of cut flowers that the Blackies might place on a table in the living room! As part of the 10-year conservation program, Carmody Groarke have designed ‘The Box’, a steel frame structure covered in chainmail mesh which encloses the house and protects it from the weather. There are elevated walkways looping around and over the top of the house that affords us with unique perspectives of the house and surrounding countryside. Following a private tour of the house, there will be time to explore The Box and the lovely gardens.

We next drive from Helensburgh to Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute via Loch Lomond. Along the way, we shall stop to allow you lunchtime at leisure. Mount Stuart House, situated on the east coast of the Isle of Bute, is a flamboyant Gothic Revival country house and the ancestral home of the Marquesses of Bute. It was designed by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson for the 3rd Marquess of Bute in the late 1870s. Its interior includes a colonnaded Marble Hall at the centre of the main block and the Marble Chapel, which has an elaborate spired tower. Two earlier Georgian wings remain from the house’s predecessor, which burnt down in 1877. The famous English Gothic Revival architect, William Burgess, built the house’s oratory. The Scottish Arts and Crafts architect, artist, landscape designer and furniture designer, Robert Weir Schultz, designed much of the house’s furniture as well as its gardens.

The gardens were begun in 1718 by the 2nd Earl of Bute, and later expanded by his son, the 3rd Earl of Bute and founder of Kew Gardens. The 300 acres of gardens and grounds include an 18th-century woodland, several formal gardens, designer wilderness, a kitchen garden, glass pavilion plant collection, a rock garden designed by Thomas Mawson, a magnificent old Lime Tree Avenue and a collection of endangered conifers.

After exploring the house and gardens, we shall drive the short distance to Rothesay. Tonight we will dine at our hotel. (Overnight Rothesay, Isle of Bute) BD

Oban - 2 nights

Day 4: Thursday 1 June, Rothesay – Benmore – Inveraray – Oban
  • Benmore Botanic Garden
  • Inveraray Castle & Gardens

Today, on our way to Oban, we visit the Benmore Botanic Garden and Inveraray Castle. Benmore’s 120-acre garden has a world-famous collection of plants brought from diverse regions including the Orient, Himalayas, North and South America. Trees includes a 150-year-old Redwood Avenue, as well as Douglas firs, Scots pines and Monkey puzzles. In spring and early summer, Benmore’s slopes come alive with myriad blooms of its unique and world-leading rhododendron collection; 300 species are arranged by botanical grouping and geographic origin. There are Bhutanese and Chilean pavilions, the ‘Golden Gates’ (1878), a large pond, and a Victorian fernery. Among local fauna are red squirrels, sparrow hawks and the occasional Golden Eagle. A spectacular viewpoint at 137 metres offers panoramic views of Holy Loch and neighbouring mountains.

In the afternoon we drive to Inveraray Castle (1743), one of the UK’s earliest Gothic Revival buildings, contemporary with Horace Walpole’s Strawberry Hill. William Adam and Roger Morris designed the house, which originally had flat roofs and crenelated façades. A third floor with a pitched roof and dormer windows was added on all four wings and its four round corner towers topped with steep conical roofs. The castle’s 16-acre garden includes around two acres of formal lawns and flowerbeds which feature a stunning collection of rhododendrons and azaleas which flower from April to June. The park and woodland feature many fine tree specimens including Cedrus Deodars and Sequoiadendron Wellingtonia.

After exploring the castle and gardens, we shall drive to our hotel in Oban. The evening will be at leisure. (Overnight Oban) B

Day 5: Friday 2 June, Full Day Boat excursion visiting the Isles of Iona and Staffa
  • Iona Abbey, Isle of Iona
  • Fingal’s Cave, Basalt columns & Puffin colony, Isle of Staffa
  • Carsaig Arches (Geographical formation)

Today travel by boat, from Easdale, to visit the small Isles of Iona and Staffa. On Iona we visit the Romanesque Abbey, a centre of Gaelic monasticism for three centuries. According to tradition, Iona monastery was founded in 563 by the monk Columba who had been exiled from Ireland. It played a crucial role in the conversion of the Picts (Scotland) and of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Northumbria (635). Iona consequently became the centre of one of the most important monastic systems in Great Britain and Ireland and was, until 715, an important supporter of Celtic, rather than Roman, Christianity. It also played a significant role in the development of insular art, such as the sculpted high crosses and the Book of Kells (8th c.), which may have been produced or begun in Iona’s great scriptorium. Although the Columban community survived being raided by Vikings on several occasions, in 1203 the Benedictines established a new monastery, and an Augustinian Nunnery, on the Columban Monastery’s foundations. The Abbey remained an important place for pilgrimage and worship. A number of early Scottish kings are thought to have been buried in its grounds. From 1899, the Iona Cathedral Trust undertook extensive restoration of the Abbey church, which had been dismantled and abandoned, along with the Nunnery, following the Scottish Reformation.

After exploring the monastery, and having lunchtime at leisure, our boat takes us to the uninhabited Isle of Staffa, where we shall view Fingal’s Cave and the colony of Atlantic puffins who breed here between May and July. Other seabirds that either nest or feed from the island include gannets, guillemots, razorbills, great northern divers, fulmars and great skuas. The cave is composed of hexagonal volcanic basalt columns with a naturally formed arched roof that enhances the harmonies made by the echo of the smashing ocean waves. If the weather is kind to us then the boat will able to nudge into the entrance where we may experience the natural acoustics that inspired Felix Mendelssohn to compose the The Hebrides, Op. 26. On our return journey to Easdale, we also view Carsaig Arches, natural arch cliff formations located on the south coast of the Isle of Mull. From Easdale we return by coach to our hotel in Oban. (Overnight Oban) BL

Portree, Isle of Skye - 3 nights

Day 6: Saturday 3 June, Oban – Glencoe – Eilean Donan Castle – Portree
  • Glencoe & the An Torr Trail (1hr easy trail)
  • Eilean Donan Castle (to be confirmed in 2023)

Today we drive from Oban to Portree on the Island of Skye via Glencoe and the castle of Eilean Donan. We begin at Glencoe, infamous for the Glencoe Massacre (13 February 1692), following the Jacobite uprising of 1689. Thirty-eight men from Clan MacDonald of Glencoe were killed by government forces because they had not been prompt in pledging allegiance to the new monarchs, William and Mary. Dramatic Glencoe, that takes its name from the River Coe, is U-shaped, formed by an Ice Age glacier. It is the remains of an ancient super volcano that erupted 420 million years ago. We shall take a one-hour guided walk in this awesome valley on the picturesque An Torr Trail before visiting the Glencoe Visitors Centre.

After lunch, we shall drive to Eilean Donan Castle, arguably the most picturesque in the United Kingdom. The castle is located on a small island, Eilean Donan (Island of Donnán), named after Donnán of Eigg, a Celtic saint martyred in 617. Three sea lochs, Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh, meet here. The castle developed through several phases from the earliest fortifications (13th c.) through to its destruction in 1719 and subsequent reconstruction in the 20th century. After exploring the castle, we cross to the Isle of Skye. (Overnight Portree, Isle of Skye) BD

Day 7: Sunday 4 June, Portree – Dunvegan – Portree
  • Dunvegan Castle & Gardens
  • Lunch at The Three Chimneys
  • Afternoon at leisure in Portree

The Isle of Skye is the largest and northernmost of the Inner Hebrides’ major islands. The island’s peninsulas radiate from the mountainous spinal Cuillin Mountain Range; its rocky slopes afford some of Scotland’s most dramatic views. Skye has been occupied since the Mesolithic period. It was ruled for a time by Norse leaders and for a long time by Clan MacLeod and Clan Donald. After the failed Jacobite risings (18th c.) the clan system was broken up and the land cleared, replacing entire communities with sheep farms and leading to overseas migration. Some one third of Skye’s residents were Gaelic speakers in 2001 and local Gaelic culture is still important.

Today we shall visit Dunvegan Castle, which occupies the summit of a rock some 15 metres above sea level, on a promontory on the eastern shore of an inlet on Loch Dunovan. Its eastern, landward side is protected by a 5.5-metre-deep ditch. The castle is the seat of the MacLeod of MacLeod, chief of the Clan MacLeod, and is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland. Probably a fortified site from Norse times, the castle was first built in the 13th century and developed piecemeal over the centuries. In the 19th century the whole castle was remodelled in a ‘medieval’ style. The castle collection contains many beautiful paintings and important heirlooms such as the ‘miraculous’ Fairy Flag that assured Macleod victories and Sir Rory Mor’s ceremonial drinking horn (possibly 10th c.).

We shall also explore Dunvegan Castle’s five acres of formal gardens, first laid out in the 18th century. In stark contrast to the barren moor land and mountains which dominate Skye’s landscape, the castle’s Water Garden, Rose Garden, Walled Garden and woodland walks have an eclectic mix of flowers, exotic plants, specimen trees, pools fed by waterfalls and streams flowing down to the sea. The 2-acre walled garden was created in the 1990s and laid out on a formal plan with each of the four quarters having a different focus.

Following our visit to the castle we shall dine at The Three Chimneys, a world-renowned Scottish restaurant set in a stunning location beside the sea. The remainder of the day is at leisure for you to explore the charming fishing village of Portree which includes numerous restaurants and cafés. (Overnight Portree) BLD

Day 8: Monday 5 June, Portree – The Trotternish Loop – Portree
  • Full day exploring The Trotternish Loop incl. Fairy Glen, Quiraing, Kilt Rock and Mealt Falls & Old Man of Storr

Today we shall drive the scenic ‘Trotternish Loop’ around Skye’s northern Trotternish Peninsula. This loop itinerary passes some of Skye’s most extraordinary natural features. Staffin Bay is dominated by the dramatic basalt escarpment of the Quiraing; its impressive land-slipped cliffs and pinnacles constitute one of Skye’s most remarkable landscapes. The Old Man of Storr is a 50-metre-high pinnacle of crumbling basalt. The Fairy Glen is a strange landscape of miniature conical hills, rocky towers, ruined cottages and a tiny roadside lochan (small loch). The route also affords stunning panoramas of the surrounding sea. (Overnight Portree, Isle of Skye) BLD

Inverness - 2 nights

Day 9: Tuesday 6 June, Portree – Armadale – Inverness
  • Armadale Castle & Gardens, Isle of Skye
  • The Jacobite Steam Train from Mallaig to Fort William
  • Loch Ness

Today we drive across to eastern Scotland via Armadale Castle. We shall also take The Jacobite steam train from Maillag to Fort William. Armadale Castle, a ruined country house, was once the seat of the Macdonalds of Sleat. A mansion was first built here around 1790 and some of the garden dates from this time. In 1815, a Scottish baronial style mock-castle, intended for show rather than defence, was built next to the house. After 1855, part of the house destroyed by fire was replaced by a central wing. Since 1925 the castle, abandoned by the Macdonald family, has fallen into ruin but the magnificent 40 acres of woodland gardens have been maintained. “The sheltered aspect and the mild climate created by the Gulf Stream sea current make the Gardens a floral paradise. Magnificent trees, many over 100 years old, tower above carpets of bluebells, orchids and wildflowers in spring and summer. Ponds, herbaceous borders and terrace walks provide a tranquil place to sit or stroll, with walks through dappled woodland linking these sunny havens”.

We shall next drive and take a ferry to the town of Maillag, where we board The Jacobite steam train. The Jacobite runs a distance of 70 kilometres on the West Highland line between Mallaig and Fort William, passing through an area of great scenic beauty including alongside Loch Eil, Glenfinnan Viaduct and Arisaig. The line, which first opened in 1901, was made famous as the ‘Hogwarts Express’ in the Harry Potter films. After alighting from the train, we drive to Inverness along Loch Lochy and Loch Olch. The evening will be at leisure. (Overnight Inverness) B

Day 10: Wednesday 7 June, Inverness – Inverewe – Inverness
  • Inverewe House & Garden (to be confirmed in 2023)
  • Private gardens of 2 Durnamuck (by special appointment)

We begin today with a visit to Inverewe Garden, a botanical garden created on barren land in 1862 by Osgood Mackenzie on an 850-hectare estate. The garden is noted for the extraordinary variety of its plants, containing nearly 6,000, made possible by the warming effects of the Gulf Stream. It has a noteworthy rhododendron collection in flower throughout the year and a large collection of Erythroniums that flower in Spring. In summer, the sloping walled gardens with views of the sea, display many exotic plants from all over the world.

After lunch at leisure, we drive to 2 Durnamuck, a coastal plantsman’s garden situated on the edge of Little Loch Broom. It constitutes a rich mix of herbaceous borders, trees and shrubs, vegetables, drystone wall planting, South African plants, Mediterranean plants and a wild meadow. Plants here have been collected from all over the world. The gardens were featured on Gardeners’ World in 2016 and in Garden Magazine and Country Life in 2017. On our return to Inverness, the evening will be at leisure. (Overnight Inverness) B

Braemar - 2 nights

Day 11: Thursday 8 June, Inverness – Cawdor Castle – Balmoral – Braemar
  • Cawdor Castle & Gardens
  • Balmoral Castle Gardens (to be confirmed in 2023)

Today we drive to Braemer, visiting two grand estates along the way. Our first visit is to Cawdor Castle. Set amid fine gardens, this extensive castle is built around a 15th-century tower house. It passed to the Campbell family in the 16th century and remains in Campbell ownership. Shakespeare’s Macbeth is entitled ‘Thane of Cawdor’; the castle, however, was built many years after the 11th-century King Macbeth. The stonework in the oldest part of the castle dates to approximately 1380. Today the 6th Earl’s second wife, the Dowager Countess Angelika still lives in the castle. The castle is known for its gardens, which include the 17th-century Walled Garden, the 18th-century Flower Garden and the Wild Garden of rhododendrons and azaleas that was added in the 1960s. The castle grounds also include a wood featuring numerous species of trees, as well as over 100 species of lichen. A holly maze that was added to the Walled Garden when it was remodelled in 1981, depicting the Minotaur’s labyrinth inspired by a Roman mosaic floor of the ruined Roman villa of Conimbriga in Portugal. There are also other gardens including the Paradise Garden, a symbolic representation of ‘heaven-on-earth’, and the Knot Garden. The French-styled formal Flower Garden was laid out in 1710 comprise yew hedges swathed by the climber, Tropaeolum speciosum, locally known as the ‘Scottish flame flower’. In 1850, the lavender beds and rose gardens were added, and the herbaceous borders were developed during this time.

After lunch at leisure, we shall drive to Balmoral Castle. Balmoral Castle has been one of the residences of the British royal family since 1852, when the estate and its original castle were purchased privately by Prince Albert. It remains private property of the royal family and is not part of the Crown Estate. Albert found the existing house to be too small and commissioned William Smith of Aberdeen to design the current Scottish Baronial style house; Prince Albert amended Smith’s original designs. The new castle was completed in 1856 and the old castle demolished shortly thereafter. The gardens surrounding the granite castle have been extended over time and now include formal gardens, Victorian glasshouses, conservatory, water garden, front lawn, a charming garden created by Queen Mary between 1923 and 1925, as well as a large kitchen garden designed by the Duke of Edinburgh.

The Balmoral Estate, lying within the Cairngorms National Park, has been added to by successive members of the royal family, and now covers an area of approximately 20,000 hectares. It is a working estate, including grouse moors, forestry, and farmland, as well as managed herds of 2,000 – 2,500 deer, Highland cattle, and ponies. Approximately 8,000 acres of the estate are covered by trees. Ballochbuie Forest is one of the largest remaining areas of old Caledonian pine growth in Scotland. (Overnight Braemar) BD

Day 12: Friday 9 June, Braemar – Pitmedden – Stonehaven – Braemar
  • Pitmedden Garden: a Scottish Renaissance walled garden
  • Dramatic ruined Castle of Dunnottar
  • Harbour town of Stonehaven

Our visits (and coastal walk) today includes Pitmedden Garden, Dunnottar Castle and Stonehaven Harbour Town. Pitmeddin Garden was originally laid out by Sir Alexander Seton in 1675. In the 1950s the National Trust re-created the garden based on 17th-century plans of the gardens found at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh as little of the original design was left. The old house had been destroyed by fire in 1807. This formal garden consists of almost 7 kilometres of clipped box hedging and infilled with 40,000 annuals. The parterres at the heart of the garden are a masterpiece of intricate patterns and sparkling colours; formal plantings include the design of Sir Alexander Seton’s coat of arms. The garden is enclosed by a wall on one side and high terraces on the other three sides from where we will be able to enjoy the full impact of the geometric layout or from the original ogival-roofed stone pavilion at the north of the garden. Old apple trees in fan and espalier styles cover the south and west-facing walls and produce almost 2 tonnes of fruit at the end of the season. An orchard planted in 2014 has more than 200 fruit trees.

After lunch at leisure in a café in Pitmedden, we drive to Stonehaven Harbour Town where we shall alight and walk 3 kilometres around the coast to Dunnottar Castle. The spectacular medieval castle ruins are located on the steep cliffs of a headland; its sheer cliffs drop 49 metres precipitously to the North Sea. The various buildings within the castle include a 14th-century tower house as well as the 16th-century palace. The site, however, was probably fortified much earlier in the Early Middle Ages. Dunnottar has played a prominent role in the Scotland’s history through to the 18th-century Jacobite risings because of its strategic location and defensive strength. After thoroughly exploring these breath-taking ruins, we shall walk back to picturesque Stonehaven where there will be time at leisure before we return to Braemar. (Overnight Braemar) BD

Kinclaven - 2 nights

Day 13: Saturday 10 June, Braemar – Glamis – Dundee – Kinclaven
  • Glamis Castle & Gardens
  • V&A Dundee

Today, on our way to Kinclaven, we shall visit another castle, Glamis, as well as the Dundee Victoria and Albert Museum. Grand Glamis Castle has been owned by the Lyon family since the 14th century; it was the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother (Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon). Glamis is situated in the centre of the Vale of Strathmore, in a picturesque and well-wooded part of Forfarshire. The pink-grey castle’s original 14th-century central tower was altered to an L-plan in the 16th century and had a large round stair-tower attached to it (1605); the spiral staircase within, possibly designed by Inigo Jones, is magnificent. The walls of the oldest parts of the tower are up to 5 metres thick, allowing for hidden passages within them. During the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, the building has been extended and features like bartizans and dormers have been added. The park was landscaped in 1790s in the style of ‘Capability’ Brown, and an Italianate Garden hedged by yew trees was laid out in 1910 by The Queen Mother’s mother, Countess Cecilia to designs by Arthur Castings. It includes a raised terrace between two small gazebos, two long bowers of pleached beech, and borders of alliums, roses, Iris sibirica, nepeta and geraniums, punctuated by obelisks bearing honeysuckles, golden hops or roses. Wildlife such as butterflies, bees, pheasants and squirrels can also be spotted in this garden. The Walled Garden was redeveloped in 2015 by the 18th Earl and Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne as it has fallen into disuse. It now beholds new flower beds, fruit trees and vegetables, and water features including a Monet-style bridge over an ornamental pond. The Nature Trail meanders through woodlands and pastures surrounding the Castle. Eastwards along the trail is the Pinetum that comprises a variety of exotic trees planted by the 13th Earl in c.1870. As Glamis Castle is famous for being the setting of Shakespeare’s play Macbeth (1603-09), a series of seven sculptures have been commissioned to capture the essence of the play. They are located within the Pinetum and are carved by collaborative artists from Neith Art and Sculpture from Oak, Douglas Fir and Noble Fir grown on the Estate.

After lunch at Glamis Castle, we shall drive to Dundee. The Victoria and Albert, Dundee, is the first design museum in Scotland and the first Victoria and Albert museum outside London. It is also the first building in the United Kingdom that was designed by the Japanese architect Kengo Kuma (b. 1954), whose innovative design was inspired by the eastern cliff edges of Scotland; the Museum opened in 2018. Along with interesting temporary exhibitions, the Museum has the Scottish Design Galleries that feature a permanent collection of design works. A highlight is Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Oak Room that was originally completed in 1908. Catherine Cranston commissioned this tearoom, situated on Ingram Street in Glasgow. The Oak Room was restored from over 700 original parts that were stored by Glasgow City Council for over 50 years; it took 16 months to install. After exploring the Museum, we shall drive to our hotel in Kinclaven. (Overnight Kinclaven) BLD

Day 14: Sunday 11 June, Kinclaven – Drummond Castle – Kinclaven
  • Drummond Castle (to be confirmed in 2023)
  • National Park Nature Walk
  • Farewell Dinner

This morning we visit Drummond Castle. Drummond Castle, the property of Drummond family from the 14th century, occupies a prominent spine of rock known as the Gask Ridge in Perthshire. The castle is especially famous for its gardens, which Historic Environment Scotland describes as ‘the best example of formal terraced gardens in Scotland’. The gardens date to the 1630s, when the 2nd Earl of Perth laid out the first terraced garden around the castle. The gardens were restructured in the 19th century and renewed again in the 20th century. A dominant feature of the garden is the parterre designed in a St Andrew’s Cross with a multiplex 17th century sundial at its centre. Both French and Italian influence can be seen throughout the garden. The castle comprises an original tower house, built by John Drummond, 1st Lord Drummond of Cargill (c. 1490). Appended to the tower is a 17th-century mansion. Both the tower and mansion were rebuilt in the 19th century. We shall visit the castle, tour its extraordinary gardens, and eat lunch here.

After lunch we will explore the natural landscape by going on a nature walk. This evening we shall convene for an evening farewell meal. (Overnight Kinclaven) BLD

Tour ends, Edinburgh Airport

Day 15: Monday 12 June, Kinclaven – Edinburgh – Edinburgh Airport
  • The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
  • Light Lunch
  • Jupiter Artland: Contemporary sculpture park and art gallery, Edinburgh
  • Transfer to Edinburgh Airport

Today, the last day of the tour, we visit Edinburgh’s Royal Botanical Gardens and, after lunch, a contemporary sculpture park and art gallery, Jupiter Artland. The 28-hectare Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh, were founded in 1670 as a physic garden to grow medicinal plants. It now consists of four specialist gardens across Scotland: Edinburgh, Dawyck, Logan and Benmore. Its collection consists of more than 13,302 plant species, and its herbarium contains in excess of 3 million preserved specimens. The Botanic Garden’s Edinburgh gardens are an extremely important member of a worldwide network of institutions dedicated to ensuring that biodiversity is not further eroded. Inverleith House is an 18th-century building situated in the Gardens. It is now a contemporary art gallery.

After a light lunch at the Gardens, we shall drive to the award-winning Jupiter Artland on our way to Edinburgh Airport. Jupiter Artland is a contemporary sculpture park and art gallery that occupies the 120-acre grounds of 19th-century Bonnington House. Its grounds have been developed as a sculpture park and two new wings designed by Benjamin Tindall Architects provide indoor gallery space. Renowned artists, such as Anish Kapoor, Antony Gormley, Andy Goldsworthy, Marc Quinn, Laura Ford, Shane Walterner and the late Ian Hamilton Finlay, were given the challenging brief to respond to the park’s natural surroundings and fit their works into the spaces they chose. The centrepiece was created by American landscape architect and critic Charles Jencks.

After visiting Jupiter Artland, we shall drive to Edinburgh Airport where the tour officially concludes at approximately 5.30pm. BL



ASA has selected 3- and 4-star hotels that are themselves historical buildings and/or are located in historical centres. All hotels provide rooms with en suite bathroom.

  • Glasgow (2 nights): 4-star Apex City of Glasgow Hotel – a modern, boutique-style hotel in the heart of the vibrant city centre. www.apexhotels.co.uk
  • Rothesay, Isle of Bute (1 night): 3-star The Glenburn Hotel – housed in a Victorian building, situated above its own terraced gardens with panoramic views across Rothesay Bay to the Cowal Peninsula. theglenburnhotel.co.uk
  • Oban (2 nights): 4-star Perle Oban Hotel – built in 1882, this historic hotel is located in the town centre, overlooking the harbour. perlehotels.com
  • Portree, Isle of Skye (3 nights): 4-star Skeabost Hotel – 23 acres of woodland on the edge of a loch, with views out to sea and crofting hamlets. https://skyehotel.co.uk/skeabost/
  • Inverness (2 nights): 3-star Best Western Palace Hotel & Spa – set on the banks of the River Ness and opposite Inverness Castle, it is within a 5-minute walk to the restaurants and shops of Inverness. www.invernesspalacehotel.co.uk
  • Braemar (2 nights): 3-star The Fife Arms – housed in a Victorian coaching inn, situated within the village of Braemar, deep in the breathtaking Cairngorms National Park. Owned by Iwan and Manuela Wirth of internationally acclaimed art gallery Hauser & Wirth, the property has recently undergonecomplete renovation and boasts a stunning art collection and a garden by a royal-approved designer. thefifearms.com
  • Kinclaven (2 nights): 4-star Ballathie Country House Hotel – one of UK’s leading country house hotels, situated within its own private estate, overlooking the River Tay. Facilities include an award-winning 2AA Rosette Restaurant. www.ballathiehousehotel.com

NoteHotels are subject to change. In this instance a hotel of similar standard will be provided.

Single Supplement

Payment of this supplement will ensure accommodation is for sole occupancy throughout the tour. The number of spaces available for single occupancy is extremely limited. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

How to book

How to Book


Please complete the ASA RESERVATION APPLICATION and send it to Australians Studying Abroad together with your non-refundable deposit of AUD $500.00 per person payable to Australians Studying Abroad.

Covid-19 Vaccination Certificate

Commencing from November 2021 it will be a condition of travel that all group leaders and ASA travellers are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. All participants must send ASA a copy of their vaccination certificate at the time of submitting their Reservation Application Form. For information on how to obtain either a Covid-19 digital certificate or a certificate in PDF format please view the Australian Government Services Australia “What types of proof there are” web page.

Practical Information

Practical Information

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 15-day tour of the Scottish Highlands involves:
  • Moderate walking and standing during site visits; walking tours may include steep slopes, flights of stairs, cobbled streets and uneven ground during garden visits.
  • Moderate travel by air-conditioned coach
  • Full day excursion by boat to Iona (weather permitting)
  • Visiting a number of towns and villages on foot, walks uphill from bus parks to historic town centres and other sites.
  • 3- to 5-star hotels with six hotel changes.
  • You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person.

It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers: www.smartraveller.gov.au

Tour Price & Inclusions

Tour Price & Inclusions

AUD $11,680.00 Land Content Only – Early-Bird Special: Book before 31 March 2022

AUD $11,880.00 Land Content Only

AUD $2190.00 Single Supplement

Tour Price (Land Content Only) includes:
  • Accommodation in twin-share rooms with private facilities in 3-, 4- and 5-star hotels.
  • Buffet breakfast daily, lunches & dinners as indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch & D=dinner
  • Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included.
  • Transportation by air-conditioned coach as outlined in the itinerary
  • Full day boat excursion to Iona (weather permitting)
  • Transfer to Edinburgh Airport at the end of the tour arriving at approximately 5.30pm
  • Porterage of one piece of luggage per person at hotels (not at airports)
  • Lecture and site-visit program
  • Entrance fees to all sites
  • Use of audio headsets during site visits
  • Tour notes
  • Tips for the coach driver, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tour Price (Land Content Only) does not include:
  • International Airfare: Australia-Glasgow, Edinburgh-Australia
  • Personal spending money
  • Arrival Airport transfer
  • Luggage in excess of 20kg (44lbs)
  • Travel Insurance
Tour Map

Tour Map

Terms & Conditions

A deposit of $500.00 AUD per person is required to reserve a place on an ASA tour.

Cancellation Fees

If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:

  • More than 120 days before departure: $500.00**
  • 120-46 days prior 30% of total amount due
  • 45-0 days prior 100% of total amount due

**This amount may be credited to another ASA tour departing within 12 months of the original tour you booked. We regret, in this case early-bird discounts will not apply.

We take the day on which you cancel as being that on which we receive written confirmation of cancellation.

Unused Portions of the Tour

We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.

Will the Tour Price or Itinerary Change?

If the number of participants on a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates ASA reserves the right to amend the advertised price. We shall, however, do all in our power to maintain the published price. If an ASA tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all tour monies paid. Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of ASA make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes in due course.

Travel Insurance

ASA requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. A copy of your travel insurance certificate and the reverse charge emergency contact phone number must be received by ASA no later than 120 days prior to the commencement of the tour.

Final Payment

The balance of the tour price will be due 120 days prior to the tour commencement date.

Limitation of Liability

ASA is not a carrier, event or tourist attraction host, accommodation or dining service provider. All bookings made and tickets or coupons issued by ASA for transport, event, accommodation, dining and the like are issued as an agent for various service providers and are subject to the terms and conditions and limitations of liability imposed by each service provider. ASA is not responsible for their products or services. If a service provider does not deliver the product or service for which you have contracted, your remedy lies with the service provider, not ASA.

ASA will not be liable for any claim (eg. sickness, injury, death, damage or loss) arising from any change, delay, detention, breakdown, cancellation, failure, accident, act, omission or negligence of any such service provider however caused (contingencies). You must take out adequate travel insurance against such contingencies.

ASA’s liability in respect of any tour will be limited to the refund of amounts received from you less all non-refundable costs and charges and the costs of any substituted event or alternate services provided. The terms and conditions of the relevant service provider from time to time comprise the sole agreement between you and that service provider.

ASA reserves the sole discretion to cancel any tour or to modify itineraries in any way it considers appropriate. Tour costs may be revised, subject to unexpected price increases or exchange rate fluctuations.

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