Scotland Itinerary

Anam Cara Tours, LLC

Scottish Highlands

Clans, Castles & Cathedrals

April 19-28, 2023
Rev. Kathleen McKern Verigin, Director/Guide

Transportation provided by Edinburgh Coach Lines

Adults 18+ – Land Package $3,399.00 per person, double occupancy (Travelers provide own air travel)

ARRIVAL DAY – Tuesday, April 18 (Free day in Edinburgh to acclimate & roam, dinner on your own, pre-paid overnight accommodations, Wednesday breakfast included.)

Overnight: Ibis Hotel Edinburgh Centre South Bridge

DAY 1 – Wednesday, April 19 – NEW MOON

After a first of many complimentary hotel breakfasts, we begin our journey traveling east to Rosslyn Chapel. It is touted as being one of the most mysterious places in Scotland, especially since the book and film, “The Da Vinci Code.” The exquisite carvings are some of the finest in the whole of Europe, and portray scenes not found in any other 15th century chapel. It has become a kind of Mecca to those interested in the mysteries of life, and contains many carvings relevant to biblical, masonic, pagan and Knights Templar themes.

Our lunch stop will be at Abbotsford House, built by author Sir Walter Scott as his grand home in the Scottish Borders. The Willow Tea Rooms offers a good choice of modern Scottish cuisine, with something for every appetite. Freshly made every day by the team of the award-winning Orde Food Co. the menu ranges from light lunches, soups and sandwiches to hearty pies and burgers.

After lunch, our next stop is Melrose Abbey, a Gothic abbey in the Borders region of Scotland, founded in 1136 and now in picturesque ruins. Few ruins can rival the completeness of the remaining structure and evoke the grandeur of what it must have looked like during the height of Melrose Abbey’s power. It is said to enshrine the heart of Robert the Bruce. Robert who was King of Scots from 1306 until his death in 1329. Robert was one of the most famous warriors of his generation, and eventually led Scotland during the First War of Scottish Independence against England. He fought successfully during his reign to regain Scotland’s place as an independent country and is today revered in Scotland as a national hero. While you browse, be sure to look for the infamous Pink Pig!

We’ll return to Edinburgh for a complimentary dinner at our hotel.

Overnight: Ibis Hotel Edinburgh Centre South Bridge

DAY 2 – Thursday, April 20

After a hearty breakfast, today we travel by private coach to the nearby area known as East Lothian. Alexander Bloomer will be our private guide. He is an engaging story teller, filled with fun facts and little-known secrets of the area

East Lothian has a wealth of archaeological and historical remains spanning from the early prehistoric period through to, and including, Second World War structures. In 2002, the oldest hunter-gatherer house in Scotland was discovered close to Dunbar in advance of quarrying. Excavations have revealed that it dated to approximately 8300 BC, making it not only one of the earliest sites in Scotland but the oldest house ever known in the country. East Lothian can also boast a number of fantastic medieval castles and tower houses.

The area figures prominently in the annals of witch-hunting in Scotland between 1560 and 1727. The passing of the Scottish Witchcraft Act in 1563 made witchcraft, or consulting with witches, capital crimes in Scotland. Trials in 1590 were held in St. Andrew’s Auld Kirk (church) where we will step back in time while reading the names of the accused witches.

One name in particular may surprise “Outlander” fans!

The trials ran for two years and implicated 70 people. Overall, an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 people, mostly from the Scottish Lowlands, were tried for witchcraft in this period, a much higher rate than for neighboring England. The last Scottish woman to face trial for witchcraft was jailed for her crime as recently as 1944.

Three of the most pivotal characters in Shakespeare’s iconic Scottish play, “Macbeth,” are the witches, who serve in many ways as one character. Throughout the play, the witches, also known as the weird sisters, declared many curious incantations, including this familiar one, “Double, double toil and trouble.”

A visit to Scotland must include a distillery!

Popularly referred to as the ‘Home of Edinburgh Malt,’ the Glenkinchie Distillery is situated in East Lothian and was brought to life in 1837. It is surrounded by much history owing to its location and the exploits of Prince Charles Edward Stuart in 1745 after he became one of the most powerful leaders of his time. Illegal distilleries flooded this place at a time until smaller distilleries were forced to get their license. When Glenkinchie was launched, there were more than 170 distilleries run with a license in the Scottish Lowlands, although their products then would be rejected by whisky lovers today. We will tour the distillery and enjoy tasting some impressive whiskies

We return to Edinburgh for a free evening. There are numerous pubs that feature live music. Our hotel will be helpful with suggestions.

Overnight: Ibis Hotel Edinburgh Centre South Bridge

DAY 3 – Saturday, April 23

After breakfast, we’ll load our bags on to our private coach and travel north to Inverness. Taking the Queensferry Crossing bridge across the Firth of Forth, we emerge into the area of Scotland known as Burns country. It was the birthplace of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet and the most popular literary giant of all times.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and auld lang syne!

We’ll travel on to Stirling Castle, one of Scotland’s grandest fortresses due to its imposing position and impressive architecture. The scenery will take your breath away! Highlights include The Royal Palace, The Great Hall, The Great Kitchens, Chapel Royal and Regimental Museum. We’ll enjoy lunch on our own at the Stirling’s Unicorn Café before traveling on. (The Unicorn is the national animal of Scotland.)

Departing Stirling, we’ll visit Wallace’s Stone named after William Wallace, the legendary Scottish independence fighter in the 13th century. Folklore around the stone tells that Wallace and his fighting clans gathered here in 1297 before the Battle of Stirling Bridge, but the stone is more likely to have long been standing and took on the appropriation of history. Blind Harry, the famous Wallace follower and storyteller, first narrated these tales.

“Here is no choice but either do or die.” – William Wallace (1270-1305)

We will continue on our northern route, stopping at the magical Highland Folk Museum, a site used for several episodes of “Outlander.” To access the open-air site, we take a gentle walk through a forest glen. We will enjoy a tour with a private guide—in costume. We can see firsthand what life was like in the Highlands from 1700s up until the 1960s. There are over 30 historical buildings furnished to reflect their appropriate time period.

We travel on to Inverness, our home for three nights in an elegant hotel on the banks of River Ness, which eventually flows into Loch Ness. We’ll enjoy a complimentary arrival dinner at our hotel.

Overnight: Best Western Palace Hotel, Inverness

DAY 4 – Sunday, April 24

After breakfast, we’ll spend the morning at Culloden. The course of British, European and world history was changed here at on April 16, 1746. It was here that the Jacobite army fought to reclaim the throne of Britain from the Hanoverians for a Stuart king. The British army was equally determined to stop this happening. Now, over 250 years on, Culloden is still a site that connects us intimately with our past and is a critical part of the “Outlander” books and TV saga. Our group will enjoy a one-hour private tour of the sobering battlegrounds. Volunteers are on staff at the visitor center offering help in researching clan names. If this is important to you, definitely bring ancestry paperwork to start the process. The on-site café will be our lunch stop.

Down the road we’ll process along a short path that weaves through enchanting woodlands and delivers us to St Mary’s Well. It is a site of spiritual pilgrimage, past and present. On the first day of May, people flock to St Mary’s Well to tie “clouties” (prayer ties) to nearby trees, which, according to local lore, will ward away evil spirits for a year. You will be provided with a prayer tie for your personal offering.

We’ll then make a short drive to Clava Cairns. It’s one of the best-preserved Bronze Age burial (and likely ceremonial) sites in Scotland, dating back to the late Neolithic period, similar to Newgrange in Ireland. There are three cairns here, two with passage ways aligned to the winter solstice sunset, and all with subtle features, incorporated to reflect the importance of the South-west horizon. Some of the large boulders which make up the outer facing of the cairns have been carved with enigmatic cup and ring markings.

Is it said that the elegant and craggy trees that meander through the site were planted by a Druids.

After an early dinner on your own, we’ll be treated to a private traditional Scottish music session led by local lad, Arron Alderson. Later, since Monday is a free day, you may want to venture out to one of the many nearby pubs for music, beverage and “craic,” the Gaelic word for fun.

Overnight: Best Western Palace Hotel, Inverness

DAY 5 – Monday, April 25

FREE DAY to sleep in and roam about Inverness. Or you can book for yourself a day trip for golf, horse-back riding, whisky tasting, or maybe a spa visit.

Overnight: Best Western Palace Hotel, Inverness

DAY 6 – Tuesday, April 26

After breakfast and loading our bags onto the coach, we’ll head south along the 62-mile Glen Albyn. Following along the shores of the legendary Loch Ness, we’ll journey through some of Scotland’s most fabulous scenery; lush forests, vast heather-clad hillsides and dramatic sea lochs (lakes). Over 20 miles long, a mile wide and 700 feet at its deepest, Loch Ness is the largest lake in Scotland by volume. We’ll visit the elegant and informative Visitor Centre, which includes The Nessie Shop, The Whisky Shop, Cashmere & Woolens Shop, Kilt makers, Ancestral Names Research Centre, plus bistro and café.

Our next stop will be Fort Williams, located at the foot of Ben Nevis, Scotland’s highest mountain peak at 4,400 feet. There are many lunch spots to choose from along the pedestrian-friendly High Street. We’ll also allow time to visit the small yet lavish West Highland Museum known for its nationally important collection telling the turbulent history of the West Highlands.

We’ll travel on through the Highland’s “other worldly” landscape of grassy knolls, scenic hillsides, rock formations, and castles, and where fairy folklore abounds. Our home for the next two nights is in Oban, a Victorian harbor town and Gateway to the Hebrides islands. The Inner Hebrides encompasses 35 inhabited and 44 uninhabited islands. A chain of over 100 islands and skerries, including 15 inhabited ones, comprises the Outer Hebrides. After settling into our Oban hotel, we’ll enjoy another complimentary group dinner.

Overnight: Muthu Alexandra Hotel, Oban

DAY 7 – Wednesday, April 27

This morning, after breakfast, we’ll have an extra special guide who will share with us Celtic Fairy Lore. Joan Morrison tells traditional stories of magic and mystery, from Scotland and beyond: stories and ballads of the Scottish Borders, Arthurian legends, tales of mythical creatures, wonder tales, hero adventure tales and stories of the Faery Hills of Scotland, to entertain, educate and inspire. Her storytelling is often combined with music and song – a love song, an old lullaby, a children’s street song, a lively tune, or a gentle slow air played on concertina, to enhance and enrich the experience for the listener.

Our lunch stop will be nearby at The Taynuilt Inn, situated at the heart of the picturesque village of Taynuilt in Argyll.

“At The Taynuilt Inn our passionate kitchen prepares everything onsite always making sure to utilize the amazing produce the West Coast of Scotland has to offer. Our menu offers robust simple cooking using our unique wood fire grill.”

The village takes its name from the hotel as Taynuilt in Gaelic means ‘house by the burn’. Nestling at the foot of Ben Cruachan, between Loch Etive & Loch Awe, in an area of outstanding natural beauty and steeped in history.

After lunch, our final stop for the day is at the famous Oban Distillery. It is one of Scotland’s oldest sources of Single Malt Scotch Whisky. Founded in 1794, the distillery is the heart of the town. In fact, there wouldn’t have been an Oban town if it weren’t for entrepreneurial brothers Hugh and John Stevenson. At the conclusion of our one-hour tour of the working distillery, we’ll be treated to a generous taste of Oban whisky.

Evening is free with dinner on your own.

Overnight: Muthu Alexandra Hotel, Oban

DAY 8 – Thursday, April 29

Today we’ll enjoy another fine breakfast before loading our bags onto our private coach. Our destination is Glasgow. On the way we’ll witness magnificent landscapes as we drive through Argyll, a historic county of ancient origin, corresponding to most of the part of the ancient kingdom of Dál Riata on Great Britain. Heard of Argyle socks? An instantly recognizable design thanks to its distinctive diamond motif, Argyle was originally derived from the tartan of Clan Campbell of Argyll in western Scotland. The tartan would have featured on kilts, plaids and pattern socks worn by Scottish Highlanders since at least the 17th century.

Following the A85 road, we’ll pass through several small villages and hamlets. This drive will deliver us to the north end of the “bonnie, bonnie banks” of Loch Lomond. The largest lake in Scotland, (23 miles long and up to 4 miles wide) its fresh waters cross the Highland Boundary Fault, often considered the boundary between the lowlands of Central Scotland and the Highlands. It is, of course, famous for the Scottish folk song, “Loch Lomond.”

O you’ll take the high road and I’ll take the low road
And  I’ll be in Scotland afore ye
But  me and my true love will never meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond

The song has been recorded by many performers over the years. The original author is unknown. One story is that the song was written by a Scottish soldier who awaited death in enemy captivity; in his final letter home, he wrote this song, portraying his home and how much he would miss it. Another tale is that during the Jacobite rising of 1745 a soldier on his way back to Scotland during the 1745–46 retreat from England wrote this song.

The “low road” may be a reference to the Celtic belief that if someone died away from his homeland, then the fairies would provide a route of this name for his soul to return home. Within this theory, it is possible that the soldier awaiting death may have been writing either to a friend who was allowed to live and return home, or to a lover back in Scotland.

Our lunch stop will be in Luss, (population 450) a village on the west banks of Loch Lomond. Around 1,500 years ago, an Irish missionary, St Kessog, arrived at Loch Lomond, bringing Christianity to the area. At the time Luss was called Clachan Dhu (the dark village) because it lay in the shadow of the surrounding hills. St Kessog was martyred and his body embalmed with sweet herbs. Legend has it that the herbs grew and covered his grave, providing a new name for the village – lusis Gaelic for herb.

After lunch we’ll have a very special opportunity to experience Loch Lomond—by boat. The 90-minute circular cruise departs from Luss Pier and takes us past the magical islands of Loch Lomond, including Inchconnachan and Inchtavannach. Our hosts give live commentary of stories on the marauding Vikings to feuding clans. They say to watch out for wildlife and a chance to see deer, osprey and even wallabies. Yes wallabies! Food and snacks available for purchase at the onboard bar.

After our cruise, a 40-minute drive by coach will deliver us to our hotel in Glasgow city center. Population of 633,120, Glasgow (pronounced GLAZZ-go) is considered the business capital of Scotland. It grew from a small rural settlement on the River Clyde to become the largest seaport in Scotland.

Once settled into the hotel, you’ll discover many dining options just short walks away.

Overnight: Mercure Glasgow City Hotel

DAY 9 – Friday, April 29

After our first of two Glasgow breakfasts, we’ll hop aboard our private coach for a morning visit to St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art. The museum is named after Glasgow’s patron saint who brought the Christian faith to Scotland in the 6th century. It is built on the site of the medieval Bishops’ Castle and is designed in its style. The galleries are full of displays, objects and stunning works of art that explore the importance of religion in peoples’ lives across the world and across time. The venue aims to promote understanding and respect between people of different faiths and those of none and offers something for everyone. We can relax in the popular cafe which opens out to the first Zen Garden in Britain.

The museum sits across from Provand’s Lordship, which is the oldest house in Glasgow, and alongside the Glasgow Cathedral. We will visit both if time allows.

We will then enjoy a complimentary lunch at the Art Lover’s Café, Bellahouston. It combines the amazing setting of a Mackintosh inspired house with fresh ingredients from the best local suppliers. There we will meet up with our afternoon guide, Maggi Sales, known as Grandmother of the Burning Hearth. This fun, knowledgeable and native Scots woman will introduce us to The Govan Stones. We’ll discover the unique collection of early medieval stones carved in the 9th-11th centuries to commemorate the power of those who ruled the Kingdom of Strathclyde. One of Glasgow’s most important historical and cultural assets, there are 31 monuments within the beautiful setting of Govan Old Church.

Besides the Viking and Roman influences, historians know that people first inhabited the Govan area over 5,000 years ago. What will the stones reveal to you?

This will be our closing night with our driver/guide. After dinner on our own, we’ll meet up at the hotel for a Farewell Session. You’ll have to wait until we’re in Scotland to learn the details!

Overnight: Mercure Glasgow City Hotel

DAY 10 – Saturday, April 30 – Return to Edinburgh

After a leisurely breakfast, we’ll load our bags onto the coach and make the 45-minute drive back to Edinburgh. You’ll have a free day to see some of the Edinburgh sites you might have missed at the beginning of our tour. Plus, time to shop for souvenirs and pack for departure.

We’ll close our adventure with a rousing evening of complimentary dining, imbibing, music and dance at The Spirit of Scotland Show. The show is a rip-roaring evening of traditional Scottish song and dance accompanied by a great selection of quality Scottish food to delight your pallet. The resident band and traditional Scottish Dancers provide breathtaking performances for their audience and never fail to entertain.

We’ll say our farewells back at our hotel, savoring the magic of the past 10 days.

Overnight: Ibis Hotel Edinburgh Centre South Bridge

DEPARTURE Day – Sunday, May 1 (at traveler’s expense)

Rev. Kathleen McKern Verigin
Anam Cara Tours LLC
Oregon USA