Scotland Itinerary

Anam Cara Tours, LLC
(June 25, 2018, subject to change)


Castles, Cathedrals & Clans

April 19-28, 2019

Rev. Kathleen McKern Verigin Director/Guide

Transportation provided by Edinburgh Coach Lines Ltd


Thursday, April 18 – ARRIVAL (Free day in Edinburgh to acclimate & roam, dinner on your own, pre-paid overnight accommodations, Friday breakfast included)
Overnight: Mercure Edinburgh, Princes Street

Friday, April 19 – DAY 1 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 best 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 in the village of Galashiels. The name is often shortened to “Gala”. It lies in the narrow valley of the Gala Water, close to its meeting with the River Tweed, in the heart of the Scottish Borders.

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 arrival dinner at our hotel.
Overnight: Mercure Edinburgh, Princes Street

Saturday, April 20 – DAY 2
After a hearty breakfast, today we travel to the nearby area known as East Lothian.

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 you! 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.”

After lunch we’ll visit Midhope Castle, known to “Outlander” fans as Lallybroch, Jamie’s ancestral home. In reality, it was built back in 1582 as a tower house. The castle is now considered derelict with the interior blocked off. We will, however, roam the grounds at our leisure.

We return to Edinburgh for a free evening. There are numerous pubs that feature traditional Scottish music sessions. Our hotel will be helpful with suggestions.
Overnight: Mercure Edinburgh, Princes Street

Sunday, April 21 – DAY 3 – Easter
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, if time permits, we’ll make a quick stop at Doune Castle, another “Outlander” site known to fans as Castle Leoch. Nearby is 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. Before dinner, some may want to attend the 5:30pm Easter service at the nearby Inverness Cathedral.
Overnight: Best Western Palace Hotel

Monday, April 22 – DAY 4
After breakfast, we’ll 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 Druidic circle.

After a lunch stop, we’ll travel on to nearby Culloden, the infamous battlefield that divided families and set clan against clan.

The course of British, European and world history was changed here at Culloden 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, 250 years on, Culloden is still a site that connects us intimately with our past and is a critical part of the “Outlander” saga. Our group will enjoy a one-hour private tour of the battlegrounds. Volunteers are on staff at the visitor centre offering help in researching clan names.

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.

After dinner on your own, we’ll be treated to a private traditional Scottish music session led by local lad, Aaron Alderson. Later, since Tuesday 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

Tuesday, April 23 – DAY 5 – FREE DAY to sleep in and roam about Inverness. Or you can book a day trip for golf, horse back riding, whisky tasting, or maybe a spa visit. Note that our driver will be available for small group excursions.
Overnight: Muthu Alexandra Hotel, Oban

Wednesday, April 24 – DAY 6 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.

After lunch we’ll travel to the nearby Urquhart Castle. Once one of Scotland’s largest castles, Urquhart saw great conflict during its 500 years as a medieval fortress. Control of the castle passed back and forth between the Scots and English during the Wars of Independence. The power struggles continued, as the Lords of the Isles regularly raided both castle and glen up until the 1500s.The last of the government troops garrisoned here during the Jacobite Risings blew up the castle when they left. Urquhart’s iconic ruins remain, offering glimpses into medieval times and the lives of its noble residents.

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. Evening and dinner on your own.
Overnight: Muthu Alexandra Hotel, Oban

Thursday, April 25 – DAY 7
After breakfast, we’ll hop on our private coach for a morning visit to Glencruitten Cathedral of Trees. It is Scotland’s only living cathedral and is considered a sacred place of remembrance. It was laid out in 1921 by Alexander Mackay, the then owner of Glencruitten, who also planted the surrounding woodlands.  He took as his model the old Cathedral in St Andrews, Fife. (St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland.) Planting trees was Mackay’s way of helping to restore the nation’s forests which at that time had been depleted through the demand for timber during the First World War. It was also a way of giving employment to local people, many of them ex-service men returning from the trenches.  As the trees grew and his beloved Cathedral took shape, it spoke to him of hope and the restoration of peace. These ideas remain the ongoing gift and message to today’s visitors.

After a lunch stop, we’ll travel on to Finn Falconry to witness/participate in the 2:30pm interactive display. (Who among us will be brave enough to have a falcon land upon your gloved hand?) Their mission is to champion bird of prey conservation and their importance to healthy ecosystems through education and engagement. Throughout Europe and Celtic regions, the Falcon was a symbol of authority and prestige. Only the nobles or wealthy could own them, and often used them in the hunt. In Celtic astrology, the falcon/hawk governs those born between November 25 and December 23.

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

Friday, April 26 – DAY 8
After another delicious home cooked breakfast, we’ll load onto our coach, traveling south. Iona is our destination. We’ll pass Fort Williams, constructed in stone around 1698. It withstood a siege during the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 and was subsequently used as the base for the hunt of Bonnie Prince Charlie. Not far away is the site of the infamous Massacre of Glencoe, part of the aftermath of the Jacobite rising of 1689. Glencoe was a popular topic with 19th century poets, the best-known work being Sir Walter Scott’s “Massacre of Glencoe.”

“O, tell me, Harper, wherefore flow,
Thy wayward notes of wail and woe,
Far down the desert of Glencoe…”

We’ll continue by coach to the Oban ferry dock where we’ll enjoy a leisurely cruise along the Firth of Lorn and the open end of Loch Linnhe. Here we’ll pass by the lighthouse on Eilean Musdile off the southern tip of the Isle of Lismore. Landing at the Isle of Mull, our driver will traverse the tiny island and bring us to the small ferry that will deliver us—by foot—to Iona. Upon arrival a shuttle bus from our hotel will help us manage our bags.

Tonight, we’ll enjoy a complimentary feast with our private guide, Maggi Sale, known as Grandmother of the Burning Hearth. A Glasgow resident, she has a special affinity to Iona and will share with us it’s myths, lore, rituals and prayers.
Overnight: Iona, Ardoran House

Saturday, April 27 – DAY 9
After a home cooked breakfast, with Maggi as our guide, we’ll strike out on foot and roam the Isle of Iona. (Iona means “purple jewel.”) This small Inner Hebrides island is considered one of the holiest sites in all of Scotland and the birthplace of Celtic Christianity.

It was a center of Gaelic monasticism for four centuries. Prior to that Iona was believed to have been a sacred island to the Druids. Saint Columba (next to Patrick and Brighid, one of the three patron saints of Ireland) settled in 563AD to build Iona Abbey. There he began to spread Christianity to the Celts. Next to the Abbey is a small graveyard where 48 Scottish kings are buried, including Macbeth. At the structure known as the Nunnery, if you look closely you’ll see a weathered image of a Sheela-na-gig. If the day is clear, you may want to walk up Dùn Ì, the highest point on the island for panoramic views of Mull, Tiree and Coll.

If you feel the call of Iona, then answer that call and make the journey to her.
She is like a very old Crone, rocky and barren and eternally loving and gentle
and tough and wise. She is very old. She is very holy.
There is no other place on earth quite like Iona.
Like all Shamballah places, Iona shall always be.
Iona is a Grail-lit Isle. Iona is deathless.
On Iona one finds the Rainbow which bridges Heaven and Earth.

– Elinore Dettiger

Throughout the day there will be opportunities for free time to explore on your own, have lunch, contemplate, pray and vision. In the evening we’ll enjoy another complimentary dinner at our hotel with Maggi as our guest. She’ll lead us in a closing ceremony as night falls.
Overnight: Iona, Ardoran House

Sunday, April 28 – Return to Edinburgh
After a hearty island breakfast, we’ll shuttle back to the walk-on ferry and back to Mull where we’ll meet our driver and coach. Today’s destination is back to Edinburgh. Along the way we’ll make a lunch stop in Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland, and third most populous in the United Kingdom. Inhabitants of the city are referred to as “Glaswegians” or “Weegies.”

After settling back into our hotel in Edinburgh, 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: Mercure Edinburgh, Princes Street

Monday, April 29 – AIRPORT DEPARTURE (at traveler’s expense)