Return to the Tours of the Realm Home Page Tours Tours of the Realm Testimonials Jane Martin Biography Sample Itineraries
Contact Tours of the Realm

Tours of the Realm
PO Box 1023
Canterbury
CT1 9GR

Mobile: +44(0)7595 769615

Email:
enquiries@toursoftherealm.com

Find us on Facebook

 

CARL AND MARSHA

16th August - 1st September, 2003

ITINERARY

Saturday, 16th August

9.35 pm Depart Memphis NW 8626/KL 626

Sunday, 17th August

1.30 pm Arrive Amsterdam

3.30 pm Depart Amsterdam on NW 8741/KL 1409

3.50 pm Arrive Manchester Airport (Terminal 1)

Arrival information: 0901 0101000

Directions to the hotel: Follow the signs for the 'Skylink Walkway' from Terminal 1 towards the Airport Railway Station. The Radisson SAS Hotel is a short distance beyond the Station between it and Terminal 2.  

Tba Dinner at hotel (please note no reservation has been made here)

Dress code: comfortable

Overnight: Radisson SAS
Chicago Avenue
Manchester Airport
Manchester , M90 3RA
Tel: 0161 490 5000
Fax: 0161 490 5100
E-mail: Gareth.Evans@radissonsas.com
Contact: Gareth Evans

Overnight: Ash Farm
Little Bollington
Altrincham
Cheshire WA14 4TJ
Tel: 0161 929 9290
Fax: 0161 928 5002
E-mail: jan@ashfarm97.fsnet.co.uk
Hosts: David and Janice Taylor

Monday, 18 th August

7.15 am Denise to be at hotel Luggage day

7.20 am Depart for tour by fastest route

11.45 am Check-in with Calmac Ferries Ardrossan

Tel: 08705 650 000

Latest check-in 30 mins before departure (12.00)

Reservation No 431690

(Mileage/time - from Manchester (260 miles 4½ hrs)

12.30 pm Depart Adrossan

1.25 pm Arrive Brodick

Things to see en route:

Brodick Castle and Goatfell Country Park Price: GBHP/NTS/£7.00
Isle of Arran Castle open: 11.00 am
Tel: 01770 302 202 Last admission: 3.30 pm

Built on the site of a Viking fortress, Brodick Castle incorporates a 15th-century keep, the lower part of which may date from the 13th century, which was extended and remodelled in the 1550s and 1650s. Extensive castellated additions were made in 1844 by the architect James Gillespie Graham.

The Stewarts built the original castle, but it was held by the English during the Wars of Independence, until 1307, when it was recaptured by the Scots. In 1503 it passed to the Hamilton Earls of Arran, and part of the castle was built by the 2nd Earl of Arran, who was Mary, Queen of Scots, Regent and guardian. In the 1650s the castle was occupied by Cromwell's troops.

A 'Grey Lady' is said to haunt the older part of the castle, her spirit possibly that of one of three women starved to death in the dungeons because they had the plague.

Brodick was taken over by The National Trust for Scotland in 1958 and the castle contains a fine collection of furniture, porcelain, pictures and silver.

Lochranza Castle Price: HS/ Free - keys available from post office/local shop
Lochranza Open: 9.30 am
Tel: 0131 668 8800 Last admission: 5.30 pm

((Mileage from Brodick to Lochranza 15 miles ½ hr)

In a beautiful location, Lochranza Castle is a ruined L-plan tower house, much of which dates from the 14th century. Lochranza was used as a hunting lodge by the early Stewart Kings.

John de Montieth, Lord of Arran conferred Lochranza Castle on Sir Duncan Campbell of Lochow in 1433, James II granted it to the 1st Lord Montgomerie and James IV raised him to Earl of Eglinton.

James IV used it as a base to attack the MacDonald Lords of the Isles and Cromwell garrisoned the castle in the 1650s. 1n 1705 the castle was bought by Anne, Duchess of Hamilton, but it lay abandoned by the end of the 18th century.

Standing Stones at Machrie Moor 1 - VI Price: Free
Machrie Open: Any Reasonable time
Tel: N/A Last admission: N/A

((Mileage/time - from Brodick 10 miles ½ hr)

The Isle of Arran, off the West Coast of Scotland, has many stone circles and standing stones dating from the Neolithic period and the early Bronze Age. The finest collection of circles can be found on Machrie Moor, on the West of the island. The whole moorland is littered with the remains of early man, from hut circles to chambered cairns and solitary standing stones. The focus of this site is upon six stone circles of varying structure, concentrated in a small area of the moorland.

The most distinguishable of the circles consists of three up right red sandstone pillars, the tallest of which is just over 18 feet high. Many of the other stones within the circle have fallen and two of the granite boulders within the circle have been carved into millstones still in situ. The other tall pillar, closer to the abandoned farmstead, looks like a solitary standing stone but is part of a larger circle, the stones of which have been removed or lie buried. The second most interesting circle is a double ring of squat granite boulders called Fingal's Cauldron Seat. The outer circle is egg shaped but the inner ring of eight stones forms an almost perfect circle. When this circle was excavated a ruined cist was found but it did not contain any traces of burial.

7.45 pm Dinner at Kilmichael Country House Hotel

Dress code: Smart casual

Overnight: Kilmichael Country House Hotel
Glen Cloy
By Brodick
Isle of Arran
Tel: 01770 302 219
Fax: 01770 302 068
E-mail: enquiries@kilmichael.com
Contact: Anthony Butterworth

Overnight: Glen Cloy Farmhouse
By Brodick
Isle of Arran
Tel: 01770 302 351
E-mail: N/A
Mark and Vicky Padfield

Kilmichael is in a world apart and a class of its own. Beautifully secluded in the perfect peace of Glencloy, the house is thought to be the oldest on the island and its estate has links with Robert the Bruce.

Beautiful bedroom suites, rich fabrics, superb award-winning food, excellent personal service and exceptional attention to detail make Kilmichael a first-rate hotel, but with the atmosphere of a small and elegant, warm and friendly private country house. Given "The Taste of Scotland Country House Hotel of the Year" award in 1998, Kilmichael is the perfect place to come home to at the end of a day exploring the glories of Arran .

Believed to be the oldest house on Arran , it is certainly among the richest in its historic associations. Situated at the heart of grounds that were granted to the forebears of its builders, by King Robert the Bruce in 1307, it occupies a spot known to have been inhabited long before that. Indeed the name Kilmichael indicates the site of one of the earliest Christian missionary cells, dedicated to St Michael.

By the middle of the 16 th century there were just two principal landowners on the island, the Dukes of Hamilton at the castle and the Fullartons of Kilmichael. No doubt, to reflect the family's prominence, the estate was improved in Victoria 's time by the addition of a lodge with gates and, inside the house, a tiny, private, family chapel.

For all its proud history and its description in the title deeds as a fine Scottish Mansion House, it is actually quite small and has a charming intimacy about it, which compliments these grand associations and its historic associations.

Tuesday, 19 th August

9.00 am Depart Kilmichael Hotel for Lochranza Luggage day

We could catch the earlier ferry at 09.30, or visit Lochranza Castle today, if we didn't manage it yesterday - whatever suits you both.

10.30 am Check in at Calmac Ferries (Lochranza)

Tel: 08705 650 000

Latest check-in 5 minutes before departure (10.40)

(Mileage/time - 15 miles, ½ hr)

10.45 am Depart Lochranza ( Arran ) (non-bookable)

11.15 am Arrive Claonaig (Argyll)

Things to see en route:

Skipness Castle and Chapel Price: HS/Free

Skipness Open: Any reasonable time

Tel: N/A Last admission: N/A

(Mileage/time from Claonaig - 3 miles 6 mins)

Skipness Castle is a fine ruinous 13th-century castle of enclosure, consisting of a courtyard with a curtain wall surrounding a tower house and ranges of buildings. The wall has three ruined towers.. The main entrance was from the sea, which was defended by a gatetower, with a portcullis and machiolation and an early 14th-century chapel lies near the seashore and holds a small collection of fine grave slabs.

The first castle was probably built by the MacSweens around 1247, and it was strengthened and used as a stronghold against the Vikings about 1262.

It was held by the MacDonald Lords of the Isles until 1493, when they were forfeited. The castle was then granted to the Forresters, but in 1499 it was acquired by the Campbell Earl of Argyll. It was besieged unsuccessfully by Alaisdair Colkitto MacDonald in the 1640s, but was abandoned at the end of the 17th century.

Castle Sween Price: HS/Free

On the E shore of Loch Sween , in Knapdale off the B8025. Open: Any reasonable time

Tel: N/A Last admission: N/A

(Mileage/time from Skipness Castle - 35 mils 1¼ hrs)

Castle Sween was built in the late 12 th century by Suibhne (pronounced sween). It has seen many lords over the years. The MacSweens held the land until 1262 when the MacDondalds captured it. During the latter part of the 1500's, the MacNeills of Gigha were appointed keepers. Alexander MacMillan inherited the castle from his father-in-law and is known for erecting the MacMillan Cross a Kilmory.

The castle reverted to the crown in 1481, when Colin Campbell was granted Sween and became the first Earl of Argyll. The castle was captured by the MacDonalds in 1647 and partly dismantled. It was placed in the care of HBMD Scottish Developemnt Center in 1933 and is now under the care of Historic Scotland.

5.15 pm Check in at Calmac Ferries

Tel: 08705 650 000

Latest check in 30 mins before departure (5.30 pm)

Reservation No 890852

(Mileage/time from Castle Sween - 49 miles 1¾ hrs)

6.00 pm Depart Oban (Argyll)

6.45 pm Arrive Craignure ( Mull )

7.30 for 8.00 pm Dinner at Tiroran House

Dress code: Comfortable - some gentlemen wear ties, others don't

Overnight: Tiroran House
Isle of Mull
Tel: 01681 705 232
Fax: 01681 705 240
E-mail: colin@tiroran.freeserve.co.uk
Hosts: Colin and Jane Tindal

(Mileage/time from Craignure - 11 miles 20 mins)

Remote and romantic, Tiroran House lies in its own secluded grounds on the north shore of Loch Scridain . The garden is enchanting with trees and shrubs surrounding spacious lawns and a burn that tumbles down to the sea.

The house is filled with fresh flowers, which Jane arranges daily. She also prepares interesting and scrumptious menus for dinner. This is served in the intimate dining room or adjoining sunroom, with its growing vine.

Colin's interest in sailing and boats is very evident with many photographs and nautical books to browse through. They are both knowledgeable and enthusiastic about Mull and Iona , which is nearby. Tiroran is close to Ben More, the only 'Munro' on the island, and also on the track to the Burg peninsula and aptly named 'Wilderness'. Wonderful walking country.

Wednesday, 20th August

tba Depart Tiroran House for day tour

Check-in at Fionnphort
(Mileage/time from Tiroran House – 39 miles, 1¼ hrs)

Ferry from Fionnphort (Mull) to Iona (passenger only) Price: £3.30
Tel: 08705 650 000
Latest check-in 10 mins before departure

0845/0850
1000/1005
1030/1035
1145/1150

and frequently until

1600/1605
1630/1635
1700/1705
1745/1750

Things to see:

Isle of Iona

For the Gaels, Iona is I Chaluim Chille - the isle of Colm Cille, an Irish priest and prince who was to become revered as Saint Columba. A tiny island, of typical Hebridean beauty, it holds a unique place in the story of Scotland and kindles the imagination of thousands who journey there each year. Yet it is also where people have lived, worked and worshipped over many centuries. To and from its shores have come monks and pilgrims, clan chiefs and kings, artists and craftsmen, farmers and fishermen.

Of the earliest, we catch only fleeting glimpses now: a few Stone Age flints and tools, unearthed by the plough; a grassy cairn where some Bronze Age mourners laid their dead; fragments of pots, beads and bones which speak of a thriving Iron Age community early in the first millennium.

Later, members of the Columban settlement became skilled in the working of metal, glass, wood and leather. Succeeding generations bequeathed a rich artistic legacy in their intricately carved stones and crosses, fine prayers and poems, and exquisite illuminated manuscripts. The life of the crofting population down the ages is etched into rigs on the landscape, immortalised in Gaelic place names and remembered in local lore.

Today's island community follows in the tradition of all those who have gone before them - helping shape Iona's story in new ways, fostering a variety of creative talents and continuing to welcome visitors from across the globe.

Iona Abbey and Nunnery Price: HS/£3.00
Iona Open: when ferries run!
Tel: 01681 700512 (ferry info) Last admission: when ferries stop!
www.historic-scotland.gov.uk

Situated on the beautiful and peaceful island of Iona. St Columba came here from Ireland in 563 and founded a small wood, wattle and daub monastery and converted the Picts on the mainland to Christianity. He died in 597, and St Columba's shrine, within the abbey buildings, dates from the 9th century. The abbey was abandoned after Viking raids of the early 9th century, but was re-established by Queen Margaret in the 11th century.

Later, the timber frame was replaced with stone and in around 1200, the Columban Monastery was transformed into a Benedictine Abbey. Numerous additions were made to the building from then until the mid 16th Century when the Abbey was used as the cathedral of the Bishop of the Isles. The architecture of the church was determined by the demands of its monastic community, local congregation and pilgrims, so its shape has continually evolved to meet their needs.

The highest point of the island is Dun I at 323 ft and commands wonderful panoramic views towards Mull, Staffa and beyond.

It is an uphill walk from the ferry to the abbey, of a walk of a quarter of a mile, however, a pre-booked taxi is available which can also carry folded wheelchairs. To book, telephone: 0781 032 5990.

Public toilets are nearby at the Iona Community shop.

Despite surviving many attacks from Vikings several centuries before, the Abbey was unable to escape the Reformation in 1560 and was left derelict. It remained so until, in 1899, the Duke of Argyll transferred ownership of the buildings to the Iona Cathedral Trust (linked to the Church of Scotland) but the gift of ownership to the public was not accompanied by any endowment and funds had to be raised by the Trust. The Boer War had made such a heavy demand on the public purse that the first appeal for the restoration fund was not made until 1901. Work began the following year, re-roofing and re-glazing, for the sum of £2,750. Rebuilding continued as and when funds allowed, individual donors were often most generous and some have windows in the Abbey dedicated to them.

Restoration of the monastic buildings began in 1938 when Rev George F MacLeod established the Iona Community. The scheme was designed to unite craftsmen and trainee ministers in the task of renovating the monastery. Experiencing the physical renewal of the Abbey was intended to prepare the young ministers to achieve spiritual renewal when they returned to their inner city parishes. The monastery restoration was completed in 1965 and it now houses a superb collection of over 180 mediaeval carved stones, high crosses and pillow stones. St Martin's Cross and St John's Cross - the latter a replica - stand just outside the abbey church

Between the abbey and nunnery is MacLean's Cross, a fine 15th-century carved stone cross.

The Nunnery

Reginald, son of Somerled (Lord of the Isles), founded the nunnery in 1200 and installed his sister, Beatrice, as its first prioress. One of only two Augustinian Orders in Scotland, the nunnery earned itself the name 'An Eaglais Dhubh' - the black church - after the colour of nuns' robes.

Unlike the rest of the Abbey buildings, the nunnery has not been restored since being made derelict during the Reformation. The pink granite walls that remain, despite being ruinous, are amongst the best examples of a medieval nunnery left in Britain.

Little is known of the nuns who lived here, like the Benedictine monks, they followed a strict life of prayer and contemplation. A few clues have been left which shed light on aspects of the nuns' lives. For instance, the tomb of Prioress Anna Maclean is so detailed in its carving as to give a clear depiction of her dress. Some of the nuns were thought to have fled to a cave at Carsaig, on Mull, during the Reformation.

St Oran’s Cemetery

Odhrán (St Oran in the anglicised form) was, according to legend, buried alive as a sacrifice to prevent the walls of the first church from falling down. Dedicated to his memory, the Reilig Odhráin 'Street of the Dead' is the cemetery adjacent to the Abbey.

It was between the 9th and 11th centuries that the cemetery became a royal burial ground. In 1549 an inventory of 48 Scottish, 8 Norwegian and 4 Irish kings was recorded. None of these graves are now identifiable (their inscriptions were reported to have already been worn away by the end of the 17th century) but it is undoubted that Iona is the burial ground for several Kings of Scotland, no matter how unsure the total number may be.

When landing at Port nam Mairtear, funeral processions would move along Sraid nam Marbh - the street of the dead - to their burial site. Port nam Mairtear is translated as Martyrs Bay, which may be either a reference to St Columba's relics leaving Iona to go to Kells or to a viking massacre which took place there.

There is a memorial, commissioned by Ina, the Dowager Duchess, for her husband the 8th Duke of Argyll who died in 1900, the year after he relinquished ownership of the abbey to the Iona Cathedral Trust and her own statue was placed alongside the Dukes when she died in 1925.

It is said that when the St Columba died, his tombstone was made from the stone on which he rested his head as he slept. A stone called 'St Columba's Pillow' was unearthed in 1870 by a crofter whose cart-wheel bumped over the stone regularly - until he finally dug it up – and this too may be seen in the Abbey museum.

In more recent times politician John Smith, leader of the Labour Party, was buried in the north eastern extension in 1994.

Ferry from Iona to Fionnphort
Check-in 10 mins before

Ferries depart at

0900/0905
1015/1020
1045/1050
1155/1200 and frequently until

1615/1620
1645/1650
1715/1720
1800/1805
1830/1835

St Columba Centre Price: Entrance with ticket to monastery
Fionnphort (5 min walk from the ferry to Iona) Open: 11.00 am
Tel: 01681 700660 Last admission: 4.00 pm

A modern interpretation centre focusing on the life and work of St Columba and the religious community he founded on Iona in AD 563.

Duart Castle Price: HHA/£4.00
Nr Craignure Open: 10.30 am
Tel: 01680 812 309 Last admission: 5.00 pm

Home of the chief of the Clan MacLean, Duart Castle stands on a crag at the end of a peninsular jutting out into the Sound of Mull at the intersection of the sound of Mull, Loch Linne and the Firth of Lorne and within view of the neighbouring castles of Dunstaffnage, Dunollie, Aros and Ardtornish, part of a chain of castles up the Sound of Mull to Mingary Castle.

Duart was originally a rectangular wall enclosing a courtyard. In 1350 Lachlan Lubanach, the 5th Chief, married Mary Macdonald, the daughter of the Lord of the Isles and she was given Duart as her dowry.

Lachlan Lubanach built the keep (tower house) on the outside of the original curtain wall, but forming an integral part with it, and enclosed the well. Later in the mid 17th century small vaulted cellars with a hall at first floor level and perhaps a small chamber above, were built within the courtyard on the south east side. At the same time the defence to the gateway entrance to the courtyard was strengthened by a two-story gatehouse.

In 1673 Sir Allan MacLean re-built the three storey building on the north east side of the courtyard, facing the entrance. There was a kitchen at ground floor level and residential rooms above. In 1691 the MacLeans surrendered Duart and all their lands on Mull to the Duke of Argyll.

The Castle, although in a fairly ruinous condition was used as a garrison for Government troops until 1751. It was then abandoned until 1910, when it was purchased by Sir Fitzroy Maclean, 26th Chief. He then set about the enormous task of restoring the building.

7.30 for 8.00 pm Dinner at Tiroran House
Dress code: Comfortable – some gentlemen wear ties, others don’t

Overnight: Tiroran House
Isle of Mull
Tel: 01681 705 232
Fax: 01681 705 240
e-mail: colin@tiroran.freeserve.co.uk
Hosts: Colin and Jane Tindal

Thursday, 21st August

8.45 am Depart Tiroran House for Fishnish Luggage day

9.00 am Check-in at Calmac Ferries
Tel: 08705 650 000
Last check-in 10 mins before departure (9.10)
(Mileage/time from Salen - 7 miles, ¼ hr)

9.20 am Depart Fishnish (Mull) (non-bookable)
9.35 am Arrive Lochaline (mainland)

Things to see:

Inverlochy Old Castle Price: Free
Nr Fort William Open: any reasonable time
Tel: N/A Last admission: N/A
(Mileage/time from Lochaline – 44 miles 1½ hrs)

The significance of Inverlochy Castle is witnessed by the three battles, which have taken place outside its walls, the first a naval engagement in 1297, and the others on dry land in 1431 and 1645.

The Lordship of Lochaber was entrusted by the crown to the Comyns, one of the most important families of the new Anglo-Norman nobility. It was they who built Inverlochy Castle, probably towards the end of the 13th century. They were also Lords of Badenoch, with its great castles at Ruthven and Lochindorb, and another branch of the family owned Balvenie Castle.

Inverlochy Castle differs from other west highland early stone castles in that it was built on a level site, which allowed the layout of a quadrangular courtyard with circular towers at each corner (unlike, for example, Dunstaffnage Castle, where the walls follow the edge of the rock). It was surrounded on three sides by a now silted up ditch, and the fourth side was protected by the River Lochy. The west tower is larger than the others and was used as a 'Donjon' or Lords residence, with its hall on the first floor and his private rooms above.

As is usual in such cases, it was placed, for safety, in the most inaccessible part of the site, by the river. The towers have stairs curving round within the thickness of the walls; in the north tower survives a narrow slit window and a 'fish-tail' base. Both these features can be found in 13th century work at Dunstaffnage.

The accommodation within the towers would have been supplemented with buildings of fairly light construction, within the courtyard, mostly built against the curtain walls. The wall-walks have parapets on both sides, and were no doubt covered to protect the defenders: the battlements on the south-west wall date from c.1905, but the original surface of the wall-walk survives there and elsewhere around the circuit. It does not survive above either of the gateways, but here there would have been winches by which the portcullises could be lowered.

Inverlochy remained an important castle after the forfeiture of the Comyns, and was later held by the Gordon Earls of Huntly, who were granted it in 1506 with permission to strengthen its defences and outworks. Some of the additions made around the landward gate may date from this time.

During the mid-seventeenth century the castle was superseded by the construction of a fort some 2 kilometers to the south-west, around 1650, later to be called Fort William. From then onwards, it became a picturesque ruin, much loved by painters such as Horatio McCulloch.

King Robert Bruce, in ordering the destruction of all castles that might fall into English hands, seems to have excluded a number of castles in the west Highlands. Not many castles survive from before the wars with England between 1296-1357, and of those that do, Inverlochy is one of the best examples.

Brochs of Glenelg Price: Free
Glenelg Open: Any reasonable time
Tel: N/A Last admission: N/A
(Mileage/time from Inverlochy Old Castle – 65 miles 2 hrs)

The definition of a Broch is an Iron Age stone structure, built throughout Scotland and concentrated near the coasts, as a defence against raiding parties. Many are in a poor state of repair, but the most complete examples look almost like the cooling towers of a power station! Typically they had one, small, easily blocked and defended entrance leading to a circular "courtyard" within. The walls were double skinned, providing small rooms and storage areas between the inner and outer walls. Steps were also built in the gap between the walls providing access to upper wooden platforms. They were not standard living quarters, people would take refuge in the broch when a raiding party was sighted, possibly taking some of their valuable live stock with them (such as would fit through the entrance anyway).

Dun Telve Broch

Dun Telve and Dun Troddan are not in a remarkable state of repair, however, it is possible to get some idea as to the original structure. Dun Telve is in a better state of repair out of the two, the entrance is intact and you can explore various rooms built into the cavity walls, even climb some of the steps that wound up between the inner and outer walls. There is a visible trace at Dun Telve of a ledge where it is thought that a wooden platform would have rested giving a ground and upper floor within the structure.

The construction date for Dun Telve is not known. The broch was excavated in 1914 and a pottery shard was found that is believed to be a piece of a Roman jar from the 2nd century (AD). Other finds included stone cups and dishes along with some rotary querns.

This broch would have stood over 10 meters in height. The ground floor was probably used for stabling livestock. Stout wooden posts held up the first floor where the communal area was surrounded by smaller chambers for sleeping. It is supposed that the compartments in the stone wall structure were used for storage.

Dun Troddan Broch

Dun Troddan may date back to 100 BC. It originally stood at over 11 meters. The stones were quarried to be used in the construction of public buildings. It is believed that much of the top of the broch was used to help the construction of Bernera Barracks in 1722.

The broch was excavated in 1922. The excavation showed three hearths within a concentric circle of upright posts. Some stone whorls, schist discs and a bead were found.

Eilean Donan Castle Price: £4.00
Dornie Open: 10.00 am
Tel: 01599 555202 Last admission: 4.30 pm
www.eileandonancastle.com
(Mileage/time from Brochs of Glenelg – 18 miles ¾ hr)

Picturesque Eilean Donan Castle sits on an island between three lochs; Loch Long, Loch Alsh and Loch Duich. It stands on the remains of a Pictish Fort and was once inhabited by the religious hermit, St. Donan. Hence the name Eilean Donan (Island of Donan).

It was built during Alexander II's reign (1214-1250). Alexander III gave the castle to Colin Fitzgerald, the predecessor of Clan MacKenzie.

As protectors of the MacKenzies, the MacRaes first became Constables of the Castle in 1511 with considerable control over the surrounding area.

In 1539 a feud between the MacKenzies and the McLeods of Dunvegan, over the disputed claims of Donald Gorm MacDonald to the title of Lord of the Isles, came to head when he attacked the Castle with 50 galleys. He was famously shot and killed by Duncan MacRae with a single arrow.

By 1715 the castle was garrisoned by Government troops, but was later retaken by the Jacobites before the Battle of Sheriffmuir and in 1719 the castle was defeated by four English frigates and for the next 200 years fell to ruins.

In 1911 Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap bought the castle and was responsible for restoring it as we see it today between 1912 and 1932 and the bridge to the island completed. The Conchra Charitable Trust was formed by the MacRae family to care for the Castle in 1983.

7.30 pm Dinner at Hotel Eilean Iarmain
Dress code: No strict dress code

Overnight: Hotel Eilean Iarmain
Sleat
Isle of Skye
IV43 8QR
Tel: 01471 833 332
Fax: 01471 833 275
e-mail: hotel@eilean-iarmain.co.uk
Contact: Lyn Anne

Overnight: 6 Duisdale Bheag
Sleat
Isle of Skye
IV43 8QU
Tel: 01471 833 230
Hosts: Mr and Mrs Macdonald

(Mileage/time from Eilean Donan Castle – 25 miles ¾ hr)

Hotel Eilean Iarmain, also known as Isle Ornsay Hotel, is small and privately owned, situated on a sheltered bay in the south of Skye, with expansive views over the Sound of Sleat to the hills of Knoydart on the mainland.

People have been coming here for over a hundred years, drawn by a love for the landscape of this Hebridean island, its geology, botany, ornithology, history, culture and language. Writers and historians, poets and artists come for inspiration and knowledge. Others come for the peace of the hills and sea.

Friday, 22nd August

tba Depart Eilean Iarmain Luggage day

Things to see:

Dunvegan Castle Price: HHA/6.50
Dunvegan Open: 10.00 am
Tel: 01470 521 206 Last admission: 4.30 pm
(Mileage/time from Armadale –56 miles 2 hrs)
(Mileage/time from Eilean Iarmain – 49 miles 1 ½ hrs)

Dunvegan Castle has been the stronghold of the Chiefs of MacLeod for nearly 800 years and it remains their home. Built on a Rock once surrounded entirely by salt water, it is unique in Scotland as the only house of such antiquity to have retained its family and its roof throughout the centuries, surviving the extremes of feast and famine, the intermittent periods of warring with neighbouring clans, and the immense changes of social, political and economic life through which the Western Highlands and Islands have passed.

The motto of Clan MacLeod is "Hold Fast", and throughout the centuries their Chiefs have endeavoured to do so. Although three individual Chiefs in the last seven generations have been comprehensively ruined by the apocalyptic difficulties caused by the unrelenting hostility from centralised government towards the Clan system practised behind the Highland line, they have remained faithful to the Rock.

The last major difficulty - the Potato famine of 1847-51 - caused the "clearance" of the 25th Chief from his home, exhausted and ruined by the stress of providing food and work for his people. After 12 years of devoted service and at the comparatively early age of 39 he left Dunvegan, obliged to take a job as a clerk in London in order to raise his family. For eighty years thereafter, and because of the continuing financial difficulties stemming from this disaster, no Chief was able to reside at Dunvegan, until in 1929 his second son, the 27th Chief, returned as an old man to his boyhood home, the castle of his ancestors.

The 27th Chief was the first Chief to share his home with the public by opening it for charitable purposes two days a week in 1933. Since then the number of visitors has risen from a few hundred to tens of thousands. Despite such numbers crowding into so small a space, the castle maintains the atmosphere of a well-loved family home.

Visitors can also enjoy a stroll round the gardens which were originally laid out in the 18th century and with considerable replanting and landscaping will continue to provide a legacy which future generations can enjoy and admire.

1.15 pm Check-in with Calmac Ferries
Tel: 08705 650 000
Latest check-in 30 mins before departure (1.30pm)
Reservation no 98036
(Mileage/time from Dunvegan Castle – 27 miles ¾ hr)

2.00 pm Depart Uig (Skye)
3.35 pm Arrive Tarbert (Harris)

Harris is a beautiful island of contrasts with spectacular scenery and a unique unspoilt atmosphere. In the west are vast expanses of white sand whilst the north and east are rugged, rocky places which make you think you have reached the moon. There are very few trees so look out for those in Tarbert, Borve, Horgabost and Luskentyre and make the most of them. In the Bays area, the lunar landscape is indented with hundreds of little lochs and on a clear day you can see over to the Isle of Skye.
Here in the Western Isles (formerly known as the Outer Hebrides) the landscape and history of Harris, together with the hospitality of its people provide a wonderful escape from the pressures of modern life. With luck you may even see otters, seals, eagles or dolphins. Deer tend to keep to the high ground during the summer, but sometimes you can see them near Ardhasaig and Ardvoulie along the main road from Tarbert to Stornoway. In the summer months there are many colourful wild flowers to be seen on the machair.

You can often see what look like patterns on the hillsides of Harris. These are the so-called Lazy Beds (and yet life was hard!) where the crofters used to grow potatoes and a few vegetables. They managed to cut strips of land between the rocks and fertilise what little soil there was with enough seaweed to provide them with a bit of something to put with the fish they caught. Today you will still see them cutting peat for fuel.

The famous Harris tweed is made all over both Harris and Lewis. It can be bought in many of the islands' shops and also direct from the weavers (at Luskentyre for example or Plocrapool). Genuine Harris tweed bears the orb symbol, the mark of the Harris Tweed Association. The wool is Scottish in origin (often from the islands, although not always), but for it to be classed as Harris Tweed, it must be spun, dyed, finished and woven in the Hebrides.

Things to see or do:

St Clement’s Church Price: Donation
Rodel Open: Any reasonable time
Tel: N/A Last admission: N/A
(Mileage/time from Tarbert – 24 miles ¾ hr)
Rodel was once the historic capital, religious centre and the main port of Harris. Today it is hard to realise the importance of this windswept place, but fortunately Saint Clement's Church enables us to understand something of its former significance.
Cruciform in shape, the church was built around 1500 by the Macleods of Dunvegan and Harris. In 1784 the church was rebuilt by Captain Alexander MacLeod. Three years later there was a fire and he had to repair his work and in 1873 it was further restored under the orders of the Countess of Dunmore. Today it is in the care of Historic Scotland. It is thought that the sandstone used inside and around the windows might have been imported from Carsaig on Mull.

In days gone by the key used to be held at the local hotel where visitors had to go and fetch it. Nowadays, with so many visitors coming here, the key is kept attached to the door. Inside to the right of the entrance is a marble plaque noting the restoration by the Countess of Dunmore.

At 20 metres long and 5 metres wide, the nave runs directly into the choir, but these might originally have been divided by a timber structure. In the north transept four grave slabs are displayed against the wall. These were moved from their original position in the choir floor to protect them. A fifth grave slab came from a caibeal outside near the tower.

The church's main points of interest are the three tombs carved in black gneiss, depicting knights in armour. One of these is the tomb of Alisdair Crotach, the 8th Chief of the MacLeods of Dunvegan, who had it sculpted for himself 19 years before his death in 1547. It is decorated with well-preserved panels containing carvings of the 12 Apostles, angels, the Holy Trinity, the 4 Evangelists, a 12-rayed sun, the Virgin and Child, bishops (one is probably Saint Clement), a hunting scene (possibly representing Crotach himself) with dogs and deer, a castle and galley (MacLeod emblems) and Saint Michael and the Devil at the weighing of souls.

The square tower of the church is a unique architectural feature in these parts. Rising 20 metres above the floor of the nave, it was built on a crop of rock, which makes it stand at a higher level than the rest of the church. This soon becomes apparent when you climb the dark staircase and see that the first chamber has a door leading to the outside. Continuing up the dark staircase of the tower you reach the second chamber where a wooden ladder takes you into the third chamber where yet another ladder takes you to the top.

When you go into the graveyard, take a look at this door from the outside. Above it is the carving of a bishop (possibly Saint Clement himself) who is supported by a bull's head. Panels to the left and right show various figures. One of these is the earliest known representation of a man in kilt and plaid. The graveyard contains several 'cabeil' (private burial enclosures). Many of these are for prominent local families.

Toilets have recently been built near the church. If you approach from the east, you will see them easily enough. The outside is decorated with flowers in the summer (enclosed by a fence to keep the sheep out).

Katie Campbell Price: Free
4 Plockropool, Drinishader Open: 9.00 am
Tel: 01859 511 217 Last admission: 5.00 pm
Call before visit
(Mileage from Tarbert –5miles south of Tarbert on the Golden Road towards Rodel)

The weaving of woollen cloth has been a domestic activity throughout the Highlands and Islands for many centuries. Rents were often paid in blankets or plaiding, though the cloth was mainly produced for the immediate household. In the early years of last century, the estate of Harris came into the ownership of the Earls of Dunmore, the first non-native proprietors. The waving skills of two sisters, from Strond in South Harris, came to the notice of the Countess of Dunmore. Known as the 'Paisley Sisters', they had both received training of weaving at Paisley and were thus able to produce cloth of a higher quality than that of her neighbours, which the Countess was quick to realise had a significant market potential. However, production of cloth had to be sufficient to meet the demand, and she sent some young Harris girls to the Scottish mainland for training in the weaving of intricate patterns. In this small way the Harris Tweed industry was started. Initially the customers were in the top income bracket, always on the lookout for cloth which could withstand much wear in outdoor activities as they hunted, fished and shot on their estates. But it was not long before other customers were eager to have garments made of the hard-wearing tweed.

The popularity of the cloth grew to such proportions that demand often outstripped supply, and other islands began to take an active part. About 1877 South Uist tweeds found their way to the London market. Lewis, however was conspicuous by its absence for some years until, slowly, Lewis weavers turned to the loom, though their cloth was called Harris Tweed to take advantage of the cachet which the Harris cloth had so successfully exploited.

There were problems. All the processes involved in making the cloth were hand-done, from washing and dying the wool to carding, spinning, warping, weaving and then finishing. By the turn of the century it was obvious that, to keep up with the demand, some of the processes had to be carried out by machines. The first process to receive attention was carding. This was a slow task and extremely tiring. In 1900 a carding mill was erected at Tarbert, Harris, with machinery powered by water. Three years later another carding mill was built in Stornoway and both facilities not only eliminated a bottleneck in production but actually increased demand. This was catered for by introducing spinning mills in the island. Later, other processes were added to ensure the consistent quality of the product. While all this was going on, the cloth was, as it is today, still woven by crofters in their own homes.

Over the decades it is Stornoway which has emerged as the centre of the Harris Tweed industry with the bulk of the cloth being woven by Lewis crofters. A small amount of cloth is still woven in Harris and elsewhere by more traditional methods. A mill at Shawbost on the west side of Lewis, which started operations in 1915 in a very small way, now employs about 40 people and is the largest industrial operation of its kind in the whole of the Western Isles, outside Stornoway.

The weavers are classed as self-employed and are thus dependant on the aggressive selling techniques of the mills and the Harris Tweed Association, which have won markets for Harris Tweed all over the world. Inevitably, as fashions change, so does the demand for cloth fluctuate. Even allowing for this, the industry has played a vital role in the economy of Lewis in particular. There are about 750 weavers at present, with the spinning and finishing mills employing some 350 people. Over 80 percent of the cloth is exported - with the Queen's Award to Industry coming to Lewis a number of times in recent years.

The important point must be made that, though the initial and finishing processes are carried out by the mills, every single web of cloth is woven by crofter- weavers in their own homes. Were it not so, the cloth and its Orb trade mark would not be protected by law and many imitations would appear on the market, thus placing a risk a vital island industry.

Superb beaches and ideal light for photography and great fishing

7.00 pm Dinner at Harris Hotel
Dress code: Comfortable

Overnight: Harris Hotel
Tarbert, Isle of Harris
Western Isles, Scotland, HS3 3DL
Tel: 01859 502154
Fax: 01859 502281
E-mail: Cameronharris@btinternet.com

Harris Hotel was built in 1865 and at that time belonged to the North Harris Estates. The estates have been owned over the last century by several families such as the Earl of Dunmore, Sir Samuel and Sir Edward Scott, Lord Leverhulme and Sir Tom Sopworth among others.

The Cameron family took over the lease of the hotel in 1903, having moved from the Taychreggan Hotel on the shores of Loch Awe in Argyllshire. The family has been here continually since then apart from a brief period in the 1930's and purchased the hotel outright from the estate in 1948.

The third and now fourth generation are involved in the running of the hotel. Today they welcome visitors from all over the world to experience the attractions of the Western Isles - artists, writers, geologists, archaeologists, and more recently even castaways and film producers!

The well-known novelist J. M. Barrie visited Harris in the 1920's, where he was inspired in his writing of Mary Rose. His initials, which he himself etched, can still be seen in the dining room window.

Saturday, 23rd August

tba Depart Harris Hotel Luggage day

Things to see:

Calanais Standing Stones Visitor Centre and Stone Circle Price: GBHP/£1.75
On a minor road from the A958. Open: 10.00 am
Tel: 01851 621 422 Last admission: 5.00 pm
(Mileage/time from Tarbert – 39 miles 1 ¼ hrs)

Situated near the village of Calanais, on a ridge of land above Loch Roag, the Calanais Stones form one of the more remote stone circles in the British Isles. The circle consists of a central stone just under five metres in height, surrounded by a circle of thirteen stones.

To the north, a double avenue of stones runs from the circle for eighty metres, probably the original entrance to the site. To the south, east and west run three single rows of stones forming the arms of a cross, the southern arm extending slightly longer than the east and west alignments.

History

The stones were quarried and erected at the site during the Neolithic period, somewhere between 2900 - 2600 BC. There is some evidence to suggest that there were earlier structures at the site. A short period of time after the construction of the circle, a chambered cairn was built between the central standing stone and the circle. This was ransacked around 1950BC, give or take a few hundred years, at a time when the site fell out of ritual use. A climate change around the same time led to the formation of the blanket bogs seen in the area today. The stones were actually buried up to 1 metre in depth in the bogs until 1857, when a local landowner had the peat removed.

Ancient Astronomy

As with many other stone circles in Britain, Calanais is said also said to incorporate many astronomical alignments within its structure. Alexander Thom who investigated the site, found that the Southern stone alignment, points to the setting Midsummer full moon behind Mount Clisham.

Folklore

The stones are known as 'Fir Bhreig' meaning the false men in Gaelic, it is possible they were looked upon as petrified people in the distant past. A legend suggest that the stones were giants, turned to stone by St Kieran when they would not convert to Christianity.

The stones were also said to have a spectral visitation on the dawn of the Midsummer Solstice. A shinning figure is said to walk down northern avenue heralded by the call of a Cuckoo. This may be a folk memory of astronomical alignments or seasonal ritual at the site.

One tale that has a common variant in other areas, is the tale of a white fairy cow that came out of the sea during a year of harsh famine. The cow made its way to the stones and allowed itself to be milked by the people of the village. They were each allowed 1 pail of milk. A local witch came to the cow and tried to get 2 pails, she was refused and returned with a sieve and proceeded to milk the cow dry.

Dun Carloway Broch Price: Free
Carloway Open: Any reasonable time
Tel: 01851 643 338 Last admission: N/A
(Mileage/time from Calanais Stones - 8 miles ¼ hr)

Dun Carloway stands on a hillside, overlooking the ruins of blackhouses that were probably built using stone robbed from it. It's a fine location for a broch, in that it can be seen clearly from a distance and the steep hillside below it would make for excellent defence.

Part of the tower still stands to a height of around thirty feet on the side directly over the steep drop. At the other side of the building is the single, low entrance and one has to get down on one’s hands and knees to get inside. Once within the structure you can explore the various rooms at ground level (but still on one’s knees ) and also climb a portion of the stairway that was built between the outer and inner walls. At head height you can still see a ledge running around the inside wall of the broch that would have helped to support a wooden floor

The Exhibition centre is also free of charge, but is open from 10.00am until 4.00 pm

Black House Price: GBHP/HS/£3.00
Arnol Open: 9.30 am
Tel: 01851 710 395 Last admission: 5.30 pm
Hs.explorer@scotland.gsi.gov.uk Closed between 1pm – 2.00 pm
(Mileage/time from Carloway Broch – 10 miles 20 mins)

This is one of the old croft dwellings, which were built without so much as a window or even a chimney: the smoke from the open peat fire went directly through the thatched roof. Inside its double stone walls, filled with earth for insulation, lived both the family and their animals. Fascinating and well worth while visit.

1.00 pm Check-in with Calmac Ferries
Tel: 08705 650 000
Latest check-in 90264
(Mileage/time from Arnol – 15 miles ½ hr)

2.00 pm Depart Stornaway (Lewis)
4.40 pm Arrive Ullapool (Mainland)

7.30 pm Dinner at Altnaharra
Dress code: Smart casual or jacket and tie

Overnight: Altnaharra
By Lairg
Sutherland, IV24 4UE
Tel: 01549 411 222
E-mail: enquiries@altnaharra.com
(Mileage/time from Ullapool – 65 mils 1¾ hrs)

The Altnaharra Hotel is one of the oldest and most famous sporting hotels in Britain and has been a home away from home to fly fishers for over 170 years. But it is not merely its sporting potential which brings guests back again and again to the Altnaharra: there is the austere beauty of Sutherland's Flow Country itself, with its endless vistas over timeless moorland dotted in the distance with a succession of peaks inviting the hill walker, the peace and solitude of a truly "get away from it all" location, and last, but not least, the truly Highland hospitality, warm and friendly atmosphere

Renowned for its cuisine with only fresh products being used: venison, game and lamb is supplied from neighbouring estates, sea food is daily fresh from Scrabster, salmon and trout are from the hotel’s own waters, beef and pork comes from the famous McBeth farm in Forres and there's always fruit and vegetables fresh from the market.

The cuisine is Scottish with a continental touch and among the very best you'll find up north. There's also a superior wine selection with over 50 items on the list. Both the public and the residents' bars are well stocked with
a wide range of single malts, beers and spirits.

Altnaharra is a fishers' destination first and foremost and the hotel offers a comprehensive range of loch and river fishing. There are currently about 50 salmon, 300 sea trout and over 3,000 brown trout to our rods each year and while this is certainly quite good, stocking and a range of conservation measures are undertaken to improve the catches. As a result, the decline of the sea trout population in Loch Hope has been reversed. It is also very encouraging to see this most challenging gamefish reappearing in significant numbers in Loch Naver.

You do not have to be an angler though to enjoy the place: Altnaharra is located in the middle of Sutherland and an ideal base for touring the Highlands. The scenery is absolutely glorious with spectacular mountains such as Ben Hope and Ben Klibreck nearby and the beautiful North Sea coastline only 20 miles away.

It is also a birdwatchers' paradise with the full range of birds of prey including osprey and golden eagle as well as waterfowl such as divers, swans and ducks. Gamebirds are plentiful too. Other animals to see are otters, deer, roe buck, seals, rabbits, foxes, badgers and the occasional pine marten.

Sunday, 24th August

9.00 am Depart Altnaharra Inn Luggage day

11.45 am Check in at Northlink Ferries
Tel: 01 856 851 144/Res No: 0845 6000 449
Latest check-in ½ hr before departure (12.00)
Reservation No: 2627094
(Mileage/time from Altnaharra – 56 miles 1¾ hrs)

12.30 pm Depart Scrabster on m/v Hamnavoe
2.00 pm Arrive Stromness (Orkney)

The town of Stromness is usually the first port of call for the visitor to Orkney and is glimpsed for the first time from the car ferry as it rounds the headland prior to docking. The first impression of Stromness is that of an old traditional stone built port that nestles comfortably against the hillside of Brinkies Brae. The main street through the town is very narrow with flag paving and a cobbled centre. Steep narrow roads climb the hillside on the north side of the street, while on the south, the houses and shops back onto the shore.

The town had strong links with the Hudson Bay Trading Company and its ships called in to Stromness for supplies and to hire labour - in fact many of the company's employees were Orcadians. At the south end of the street is Login's Well, sealed in 1931, which supplied water to ships calling at the port. A stone by the well bears an inscription proclaiming that water from the well was used to supply Captain Cook's 'Discovery' and Sir John Franklin's arctic exploration vessels, as well as the ships of the Hudson Bay.

The Stromness Museum has permanent exhibitions on the First World War German Fleet and the Hudson Bay Trading Company, as well as other items of local interest.

Outside of Stromness, the Brig o' Waithe has the dubious distinction of being the place where a stray bomb caused the first civilian death of the Second World War.

Things to see:

Unstan Chambered Cairn Price: Free
Stenness Open: Any reasonable time
Tel: N/A Last admission: N/A
(Mileage/time from Stromness ¼ hr)

The chambered cairn at Unstan was opened in 1884 by R S Clouston and a number of wide, shallow pottery bowls with deep collars of the type now known as Unstan ware were found along with four arrowheads. Two crouched skeletons were also discovered in the side cell.

The Unstan cairn sits on a small grassy promontory that juts out into the salty water of the Stenness Loch.
The Ring o’Brodgar and the Salt Knowe are clearly visible out across the loch and to the north-east and the Deepdale Monolith is silhouetted against the western horizon.

From the outside the structure is not unlike a smaller version of Maeshowe - a little, neat grassy mound. Inside, however, we find a tomb structure entirely distinct from Orkney’s Maeshowe-type tombs.

Unstan is a fine example of a stalled tomb of the Orkney-Cromarty type. Instead of the side chambers found within the Maeshowe-type tombs, the stalled cairns are divided into stalls by large slabs of Orkney flagstone.

However, unlike most stalled cairns, which tend to be oblong or rectangular, Unstan is circular. This shape is because of the fact that Unstan has a side chamber similar to those found within the Maeshowe-type structures. As such, Unstan can be said to be a hybrid design, incorporating elements of both style of tomb.

Because the roof of Unstan is modern, the original having fallen in some time ago, the addition of a skylight gives the interior a bright and airy feel. Ideal for those fed up of scrambling about the inside of these Neolithic tombs with torches.
The 7.8 metre (25.6 ft) entrance passage is low and narrow and once inside the visitor is faced with the opening into the side cell set in the wall directly opposite the entrance. During the 1884 excavations, two crouched skeletons were found within this cell.

The main chamber is 8.4 metres (27.6 ft) long and split into five sections by vertical slabs of flagstone. Three of the stalls are central, the other two being shelved end compartments.

When excavated there was a considerable amount of bone found throughout the chamber but what is most interesting is that there was also several crouched skeletons.

As mentioned above, two of these were found within the side cell, the rest within the main compartment.
These crouched burials differ from other Neolithic burial traditions in which the remains were brought into the tomb already stripped of flesh. The bones were not necessarily kept together but instead were mixed and rearranged among those of the tribe’s ancestors.

Unstan’s crouched skeletons may represent burials made at a later period - probably the last of the inhumations made in the tomb.

Along with the human and animal bones, an unusually large quantity of pottery was found scattered across the floor of the tomb. These fragments came from at least 30 Neolithic bowls, the distinct shape and decoration of which was identical to that found at theKnap o’Howar on Papay.

Outside the tomb, two fortification lines of rampart and ditch cross the top of the promontory. Little is known about the date of this construction or even whether it had anything to do with the tomb.

Like Maeshowe, Unstan was visited at some time in the past by Norsemen whose carved twig runes can still just be seen on the stone that is now set above the entrance to the side cell.

Beside the faint runes is a clearly discernible carving of a bird. Whether this was carved earlier or later than the Norse runes is unclear.

Skara Brae Price: GBHP/£5.00
Sandwick Open: 9.30 am
Tel: 01856 841 815 Last admission: 5.30 pm
(Time from Stromness – ¼ hr)

The Bay of Skaill will probably be the visitor's first stop in Sandwick. This beautiful (and usually) sandy bay is a delight in itself and an ideal place to sit and relax. At the south end of the bay is the Hole O' Rowe, a large sea cave that has weathered through the cliff to form a large arched hole.

At the north end of the bay is the old churchyard of St Peters, however, the real treasure of the Bay of Skaill is the prehistoric village of Skara Brae. This unique and remarkably well-preserved village was exposed by a violent storm in 1850. Approximately 5000 years old, it seems that the village was occupied for about 600 years until approximately 2600BC.

The village consists of a group of six houses and a workshop connected by covered passages. The walls of the houses and passages are of drystone construction, and are buried to the top in midden - a mixture of shells, ashes. bones, and sand. The houses contain beds, cupboards in the walls, a type of dresser, and stone tanks in the floorspace.

Skaill House Price: £4.50 (Joint ticket available with Skara Brae. But you have a pass)
Sandwick Open: 9.30 am
Tel: 01856 841501 Last admission: 5.30 pm
(Time from Skara Brae – 2 mins)

Skaill House is the finest mansion in Orkney, a family home steeped in 5000 years of history. Situated in the parish of Sandwick overlooking the spectacular Bay of Skaill, the house is surrounded by spacious gardens and stands in a peaceful secluded spot between the Loch of Skaill and the sea. The name Skaill is Old Norse for a hall, and most of the farmsteads north and south of the Bay of Skaill have Norse names, suggesting that the area has been farmed continuously for at least one thousand years. But the Norse were not the first settlers in the area. The southern wing of Skaill House stands on a pre-Norse burial ground, and hill dykes, also believed to be pre-Norse, still stand five feet high on the cliff tops a mile north and south of the bay.

The remains of a broch and another iron-age building can still be seen on the shoreline of the Bay, and several bronze-age burial mounds have been found closer to Skaill House. And of course, just two hundred yards away is the Neolithic village of Skara Brae, still largely intact and older than the great pyramids of Egypt.

The house itself is a simple mansion that was built for Bishop George Graham in the 1620's. This has been added to by successive Lairds over the centuries, culminating in the addition of the north tower and wing which gives the house its characteristic profile that you see today. After 3 years of careful restoration work you can now enjoy visiting this Lairds family home. See Bishop Graham's bedroom, Capt. Cook's dinner service from his ship the Resolution, the Gun Room with sporting and military memorabilia and many other items collected during the lives of the Lairds who have lived at Skaill.

In 1991 the estate passed to the present Laird, Major Malcolm Robert Scarth Macrae of Binscarth. The house stood unoccupied for six years before being restored and was opened to the public in June 1997.

During the preparation of the house, fifteen skeletons were discovered south of the south wing and under the gravel in front of the east porch. Initial studies suggest that these are early Christian, possibly Pictish. No tradition predicted this discovery, or that of the skeletons found under the hall in the 1930's, so we can only suppose that the first builders of Skaill were either unaware of or indifferent to this ancient burial ground.

Skaill abounds with ghost stories. The present Laird, a winner of the Sword of Honour at Sandhurst, and no believer in the supernatural, swears that he and his dog heard footsteps late one night when he was doing up the flats around the courtyard. His dog raised her hackles and, barking loudly, ran out of the room. But there was no one there. The Countess Temple of Stowe attributed this to the ghost of Ubby, who many years ago built the small island in the middle of Skaill Loch by rowing out and dumping stones, which can still be seen there. He is reputed to have died on the island. Two recent tenants of the flats have also had strange experiences, one swearing someone sat on his bed beside him, the other that their dog went berserk one night. And one day cleaners saw a woman with a shawl over her head standing inside the doorway of the top flat - only later did they discover that there was no-one in the flat at the time. But all of the stories agree that the ghost or ghosts of Skaill are friendly.

Broch of Gurness Price: GBHP/HS/£3.00
Evie Open: 9.30 am
Tel: 01831 579 478 Last admission: 5.30 pm
(Time from Bay of Skaill – ½ hr)

Close to Aikerness beach is the Broch of Gurness. This is the best preserved broch in Orkney, and it is surrounded by an extensive settlement.

Dating from the 1st Century AD, this broch was originally built as a tall, easily defended tower but as time went on the broch's defensive role decreased and its upper sections were dismantled. Over the ensuing years its walls were reduced again, probably due to the removal of stone to be used as local building material. The structure that remains today is at maximum 3.5 metres tall with a solid base with cells in the hollow section of the wall on either side of the main entrance.

Within the broch, alterations occurred over the years of its occupation but the original rectangular hearth and an underground cellar containing a spring-filled water tank are still clearly visible. At the peak of its use it is likely that the Broch of Gurness was surrounded completely by outer defences comprising of a band of three ramparts and three ditches.

Surrounding the broch and filling all the space available between it and the outer defences is a sprawl of stone dwellings, which probably housed a community of up to forty people. These external structures are arguably the most well preserved settlement outside a broch as is found in Scotland and contain prime examples of Pictish architecture with one house typical of a Pictish dwelling in which five cells surround a central living area.

The broch was accessed by an entrance causeway on the eastern side of the settlement. The houses surrounding the broch line this causeway giving the appearance of a processional path.

Gurness was one of the many Pictish sites across Orkney that after the Norse settlement was occupied by the new island overlords. A female grave containing typical Scandinavian brooches was found at the site, inserted into the old rampart that surrounds the settlement. One of the domestic structures surrounding the broch is large and rectangular and has led to the assumption that it may have been a Norse Hall. The truth of the matter is that the structure could also be Pictish as evidence uncovered on the site has been inconclusive.

The Stenness Standing Stones Price: Free
Stenness Open: Any reasonable time
Tel: 0131 668 8800 Last admission: N/A
(Mileage/time from Evie – ½ hr)

The Standing Stones of Stenness is the smaller of Orkney's two stone circles and was built in the third millennium BC. Originally there were twelve stones in the circle surrounded by a rock-cut ditch and earth bank, with a single entranceway on the north side of the circle. Of the original twelve stones, only four remain, with the position of the missing stones clearly marked.

Perhaps the largest of all Orkney’s standing stones are found around the group known as the Standing Stones o' Stenness.

With the tallest megalith towering at six metres (around 19 feet) high, the sheer scale of the Standing Stones o' Stenness makes them clearly visible from the main Kirkwall to Stromness Road.

Considerably larger than the megaliths of the Ring o’Brodgar, approximately one mile further to the north west, the Standing Stones o' Stenness are generally thought to be older - dating from around 3000BC. This early date makes it likely that the Stenness complex predates many henges on mainland Britain.

As with the Ring o' Brodgar, the Stenness monument is a henge, the stone ring positioned within a rock-cut ditch and substantial earth bank. With an approximately diameter of 44 metres, the earth bank had an entrance causeway at the north side, facing the Neolithic Barnhouse Settlement on the shores of the Harray Loch.

Today, only four of the Stenness ring's original 12 stones remain standing. Eighteenth century records tell us that at that time there were also four stones standing and the stump of a fifth. A large stone slab lay on the ground, not quite in the centre of the ring and traces of a bank still surrounded the monument.

Odin Stone and Watch Stone

Other stones in the vicinity, now thought to have been part of the original Stenness complex are the Watchstone, a massive slab of stone that towers over the Brig o’ Brodgar, and the Barnhouse Stone, a solitary stone that stands some distance to the south east of the Stenness giants.

Until the beginning of the nineteenth century, the complex contained at least one other significant monolith – the powerful Odin Stone of Orkney legend.

Temple of the Moon?

Around this time another visitor to the islands wrote that the Stones of Stenness were known locally as "The Temple of the Moon" - a term that was claimed remained in use until at least 1841. The origin and validity of this term is questionable however.

One historical account tells that during the five days of New Year Feasting, lovers would visit the Standing Stones where the woman knelt and prayed "to the god Woden" that they might keep the oaths they were about to swear. They would then make their way to the Ring o' Brodgar where the kneeling "ritual" was repeated before finalising their pact before the Odin Stone.

Destruction at the Stones

In 1814, shortly after the monument was visited by Sir Walter Scott, disaster struck. A farmer, tired of ploughing around the stones, began to demolish them. This tenant farmer, himself not an Orcadian, was also responsible for the destruction of the Odin Stone.

The miscreant's actions raised such a public outcry that not only was legal action taken to restrain him damaging any more, but attempts were also made to burn down his house. The farmer apologised for his actions but not before successfully toppling one stone and destroying another.

In 1906 the Standing Stones o' Stenness were taken into state care and the remaining toppled stone re-erected.

While this work was being carried out another stone was discovered beneath the turf and subsequently re-erected using an existing socket-hole.

At the time doubts were raised as to whether this small stone belonged in a circle containing such huge monoliths, but it could be that its smaller size had some significance to the ring's builders.

The Ring of Brodgar Price: Free
Stenness Open: Any reasonable time
Tel: 0131 668 8800 Last admission: N/A
(Mileage/time from Stenness – 5 mins)

If there is one site in Orkney that has come to represent our ancient heritage it must surely be the Ring o' Brodgar in Stenness. The site stands on an eastward sloping plateau on a thin strip of land between the Harray and Stenness lochs.

The Ring o' Brodgar - or Brogar, to use its correct name - takes its name from the nearby farm. Brogar derives from the Old Norse Brogarðr, meaning Bridge Farm. The 'bridge' in this case refers to the narrow causeway that separates the two lochs.

Only 27 of Brodgar's original 60 stones are still standing - jutting starkly out of the gentle Orcadian landscape. In contrast to the giant megaliths that make up the Standing Stones o' Stenness, however, the Stones in the Ring o' Brodgar are much smaller. The stones vary in height from 2.1 metres (7 feet) to a maximum of 4.7 metres (15ft 3in).

Situated in the area considered the “Heart of Neolithic Orkney”, any visitor to the ring will immediately recognise why the Ness o' Brodgar was considered the ideal place to construct such a great ceremonial monument. The stone circle is practically in the centre of a massive natural "cauldron" formed by the hills of the surrounding landscape and therefore bordered by hill, water and sky.

The exact age of the Ring o' Brodgar is uncertain as the interior of the circle has never been fully excavated and scientifically dated.

However, from the limited excavations that have been carried out around the site, it would seem that the ring was raised sometime between 2700BC and 2500BC.

It also seems likely that Brodgar was part of an enormous prehistoric circle complex that incorporated the Stones of Stenness, approximately one mile to the south-east.

Like the Standing Stones o’Stenness, the Ring o' Brodgar belongs to a distinct class of monument known as a henge. Surrounded by a massive ditch, it has two ceremonial entrance causeways, one to the north-west and the other to the south-east.

With a diameter of 103.6 metres (340 ft), the Brodgar ring is the third largest stone circle in the British Isles.
Covering an area of 8,435 square metres (90,790 square feet), Brodgar is beaten only by the outer ring of stones at Avebury and the Greater Ring at Stanton Drew in England. Incidentally, the Brodgar ring is exactly the same size as Avebury's two inner rings.

Outside Brodgar's external ditch are a number of burial mounds. Of the 13 that are known about, four are large and clearly visible. These four large mounds are thought to have been built between 2500 BC and 1500 BC.

Lying to the north-west there is the remains of another henge known locally as the Ring of Bookan. Little remains of the Bookan henge today.

Meanwhile, a short distance to the east of the Brodgar ring is the solitary standing stone known as the Comet Stone.

Maes Howe Price: GBHP/HS/£3.00
Stenness Open: 9.30 am
Tel: 01856 761 606 Last admission: 5.30 pm
(Mileage/time from Evie – 20 mins)

Maes Howe Cairn is considered to be one of the finest chambered tombs in Western Europe and is thought to have been in existence for over 3,500 years when the Vikings raided it. The mound stands on a flattened area which is encircled by a shallow ditch, peat from the bottom of which has been carbon dated at approximately 2700 BC. The mound, which measures 35 metres in diameter and just over 7 metres high, is composed of clay and rock fragments and covers the stone built cairn. The burial chamber is reached by a passage 14 metres long and is about 4.5 metres square.

The quality of the drystone masonry is superb: no mortar was used and some of the slabs still fit so well together that a knife blade cannot be inserted between them. It has been estimated that the building of Maes Howe, including the quarrying and transportation, could have taken almost 39.000 man-hours.

As the original contents of the tomb are unknown to us, it is very difficult to speculate on rituals carried out at the site. The fact that the entrance faces SW suggests that the builders of Maes Howe had an interest in the winter sunset. At mid-winter, light from the setting sun streams through down the passage to illuminate the inner chamber.

Vikings raided Maeshowe in the 12th century, and left behind one of the largest collections of runic inscriptions known. Sample translations are: "A great treasure is hidden in the northwest" and "Hakon alone bore the treasure out of this mound".

In local folklore, Maes Howe was believed to have been inhabited by a very strong goblin, the Hogboy, perhaps derived from Haugbuie, Norse for Ghost of the Tomb.

5.45 pm Check-in with Orkney Ferries
Tel: 01856 872044
Latest check-in 20 mins before departure 5.50 pm
(Mileage/time from Ring of Brodgar 20 mins)

6.15 pm Depart Kirkwall
6.40 pm Arrive Shapinsay

Shapinsay

History is layered deep within the islands of Orkney and Shetland, in the settlements of the earliest peoples to the Viking invaders. Today's invasion is from the thousands of birds and other wildlife that make their home in these magical isles. Lying at the very edge of Europe, the peaceful Northern Islands have a rugged natural beauty, with unspoilt beaches, plentiful wildlife and unique culture and traditions.

Tradition has it that this little isle was home to banished thieves and witches but now it is the haunt of Cormorants, Kittiwakes and seals. Crossing The String, the deep water exit from Kirkwall Bay, the Victorian turrets of Balfour Castle loom ahead. To the right is the uninhabited island of Helliar Holm with its automatic lighthouse.

Approaching Shapinsay Pier and ro-ro terminal the scene is one of warm stone colours of traditional drystone walls and the pleasing symmetry of the village street. Balfour village was built in the late 18th century as a home for smiths, carpenters and masons employed on the Balfour estate.

Shapinsay is low-lying with its highest point being Ward Hill at 210 feet (64 metres) from where, on a clear day, a breathtaking view of almost all the other Orkney isles is possible.

The island is six miles (10 km) at its longest and in common with most of Orkney the island is made up of Middle Old Red Sandstone. Interesting features of the island are its storm beaches or as they are known locally 'ayres' a name rooted in the Old Norse meaning a strip of sea water completely shut off from the ocean by narrow necks of land. Look for these at Vasa Loch, Lairo Water and for the natural process near completion at the Ouse.

The landscape of Shapinsay is quite unusual for Orkney, with straight roads and a regular field grid system designed and imposed by the 19th century Laird, David Balfour. The system removed the old layout of runrigs, or long narrow strips of land, enabling more of the land to be used and production increased.

7.30 pm Dinner at Balfour Castle
Dress code: informal, comfortable and warm

Overnight: Balfour Castle
Shapinsay
Orkney Isles
Tel: 01856 711282
Fax: 01856 711283
E-mail: balfourcastle@btinternet.com

Balfour Castle has been the family home of the Zawadski family since 1960 and has been a hotel for over 18 years. A Scottish Baronial castle, designed by the architect David Bryce, it is actually an extension to an older house called Cliffdale. The original house has been largely extended to the north and south, with the newer part of the building reflecting the Baronial style with conically roofed turrets, square towers, and crowstepped gables.

Monday, 25th August

Tba Depart Balfour Castle for the day

09.00 am Check-in with Orkney Ferries
Tel: 01856 872044
Latest check-in 20 mins before departure (09.10)

09.30 am Depart Shapinsay
09.50 am Arrive Kirkwall

Things to see and do

St Magnus Cathedral Price: Donation
Kirkwall Open: 9.00 am
Tel: 01856 872 856 Orkney Tourist Board Last admission: 5.00 pm
(Mileage/time from Wideford Hill – 10 mins)

The most striking building in the town is that of St Magnus Cathedral. Construction of this magnificent red sandstone building by master masons from Durham started in 1137, and took about 15 years to complete. The Cathedral is owned by the Orkney Islands Council and the people of Kirkwall, and although used by the Church of Scotland, it is available to all denominations. A number of interesting 17th century tombstones are on display inside the Cathedral, bearing the motif of skull and crossed bones, hourglass, and coffin. Most of the inscriptions are still legible, and with a little effort, may be read.

Close to St Magnus Cathedral are the remains of the Bishop's Palace, built by Bishop William the Old in the 12th century, and then repaired and refurbished in the middle of the 16th century. The Norwegian King Hakon died in the Bishop's Palace in 1263 after suffering defeat in the battle of Largs.

The Earls Palace was built shortly after 1600 by Earl Patrick Stewart with the use of forced labour. It was taken over by the Bishopric shortly after completion

Tankerness House Price: Free
Broad Street, Kirkwall Open: 10.30 am
Tel: 01856 873 191 Last admission: 4.00 pm
(Mileage/time from Cathedral – 5 mins) Closed between 12.30 pm– 1.30 pm

The Fine 16th century vernacular Tankerness House Museum was originally the residence of church officials, and contains a fascinating collection of Orcadian artefacts from Neolithic to contemporary.

Churchill Barriers Price: Free
Lambholm Open: Any Reasonable Time
Tel: N/A Last admission: N/A
(Mileage/time from Kirkwall – 20 mins)

The parish of Holm is connected to the southern islands of Lambholm, Glimsholm, Burray, and South Ronaldsay by the Churchill Barriers.

In 1914 the Royal Navy's Grand Fleet moved to a new base in Scapa Flow. They needed somewhere suitable to take on a German Fleet based in the Baltic and this atoll-like stretch of water, one of the largest sheltered harbours in the world, was ideal for the needs of the Admiralty.

On arrival the Navy found a wonderful harbour, but no defences at all in place. Approaches were rapidly defended, and steps taken to close the narrow passages between five islands on the eastern side of Scapa Flow by sinking blockships.

At the start of WWII the WWI defences were brought back into use and further blockships sunk. But they proved inadequate. On 14 October 1939, The German U-Boat, U-47, took advantage of a high tide to get past the blockships and into Scapa Flow. Once there, U-47 torpedoed HMS Royal Oak before leaving the way it had entered. 833 members of the Royal Oak's crew were killed.

Within a month, Winston Churchill visited Orkney and ordered that work begin on the construction of four permanent barriers linking together the chain of islands from Mainland in the north to South Ronaldsay in the south. The contract was given to Balfour Beatty and work began in May 1940.

The Churchill Barriers were formally opened by the first Lord of the Admiralty on 12 May 1945: ironically just in time for the war's end. As a result their lasting role was not as a defence for Scapa Flow but as a series of causeways linking the five islands together.

The total length of the four causeways was 9150 feet, or not far short of two miles. 40,000 cubic metres of rock was encased in wire cages and dropped into water up to 70 feet deep from overhead cableways. These were topped off with 300,000 tonnes of concrete blocks, the part of the structure most readily visible today. Material was quarried on Orkney, and concrete blocks were cast on an industrial scale on the islands before being brought to the cableways by a network of railways.

Today, the three most northerly barriers remain much as built, though the roads crossing them have been upgraded over the years. The most southerly, Churchill Barrier No 4, no longer looks artificial. Over the years dunes have accumulated on the eastern side and as a result Burray and South Ronaldsay are no longer really separate islands. Today the barriers, or more accurately the remaining blockships still in the channels either side of them, also provide an attraction for divers visiting Orkney.

Italian Chapel Price: Free
Lambholm Open: 9.00 am
Tel: 01856 872 856 (Orkney Tourist Board) Last admission: 9.00 pm
(Time from Churchill Barriers – 1 min)

In early 1942 around 550 Italian prisoners of war, captured in North Africa, were brought to Orkney. They were needed to overcome the shortage of labour working on the continuing construction of the Churchill Barriers, the four causeways designed to block eastern access to Scapa Flow following the sinking of HMS Royal Oak by a German U-Boat in 1939.

Prisoners of war were prevented by treaty from working on military projects, so the barriers became causeways linking the southern islands of Orkney together, which is what they remain today.

The causeways are not all that remains to remind us of this period. On a bare hillside on the north side of the little island of Lamb Holm, overlooking the most northerly of the Churchill Barriers is what has become known as the Italian Chapel. The Chapel, together with a nearby concrete statue of St George killing the dragon and an Italian flag fluttering atop a pole are all that remain of Camp 60.

Camp 60 was home to the Italian prisoners from 1942 until early 1945. The camp comprised 13 huts, which the Italians improved with concrete paths (concrete was never in short supply during the construction of the Churchill Barriers) and gardens, complete with flower beds and vegetable plots.

In the centre of the camp, one of the prisoners, Domenico Chiocchetti, produced the statue of St George you can still see today, fashioned from barbed wire covered with concrete. The prisoners also worked to produce a theatre, and a recreation hut with a billiard table made, perhaps inevitably, from concrete.

One thing Camp 60 did lack was a chapel. In 1943 the camp acquired a new commandant, Major T.P. Buckland. He favoured the idea, as did Father Giacombazzi the Camp Padre. Late in 1943 two Nissen huts were provided. They were joined together end to end, with the intention of providing a chapel in one end and a school in the other.

The work of turning the Nissen huts into a chapel fell to the prisoners themselves, led once more by Domenico Chiocchetti. The interior of the east end of the huts was lined with plasterboard and Chiocchetti started work on what is now the sanctuary. The altar and its fittings were made from concrete and were flanked by two windows made from painted glass. The gold curtains either side of the altar were purchased from a company in Exeter using the prisoners' own funds.

Chioccetti then set to work on the painting of the interior of the sanctuary. The end result is a work of art that is magnificent even to jaded 21st Century eyes, and must have been utterly stunning to those imprisoned here in 1943. Another prisoner, Palumbo, who had been an iron worker in the USA before the war, spent four months constructing the wrought iron rood screen, which still complements the rest of the interior today.

The contrast between the east end of the double hut and the remainder was by now so stark that the decision was taken to improve whole interior of the structure. This in turn was lined with plasterboard, before being painted by Chiocchetti and others to resemble brickwork.

The contrast was now between the interior of the huts and their exterior, so a number of the prisoners built the facade you can see today, again largely from concrete. This had the effect of concealing the shape of the Nissen huts behind it, and came complete with a belfry, decorated windows, and a moulded head of Christ above the door. At the same time the metal exterior of the huts was thickly coated in concrete.

The end of the war meant that the chapel was only in use by the prisoners for a short period of time. It was still not fully finished by the time the prisoners left the island early in 1945, and Chiocchetti stayed behind to complete the font. Before the Italians departed the Lord Lieutenant of Orkney, who also owned Lamb Holm, promised that the Orcadians would look after the chapel they had created.

During the years after the war the chapel increasingly became a visitor attraction, and in 1958 a preservation committee was set up. In 1960, the BBC funded a return visit to Orkney by Domenico Chiocchetti. His restoration of the paintwork was followed by a service of rededication attended by 200 Orcadians, and broadcast on Italian radio.

Domenico Chiocchetti returned to Orkney again in 1964 with his wife, and gifted to the chapel the 14 wooden stations of the cross on view today. 50 years after the Italians were originally brought to Orkney, 8 of the former prisoners returned in 1992, though Chiocchetti was too ill to be with them.

Domenico Chiocchetti died on 7 May 1999 in his home village of Modena, aged 89. He did so in the knowledge that his masterpiece will live on as a tribute to his artistry and to the spirit of all those who worked on its construction and preservation.

Hoxa Tapestries
Neviholm, Hoxa
Tel 01856 831395

The Hoxa Tapestry Gallery was purpose-built to house Leila Thomson's unique, large, handwoven tapestries and to provide her with a studio to work in. Leila graduated from Edinburgh College of Art with BA hons. (1st class) in 1980 and then returned home to her birthplace, Orkney, to live and work.
Due to the success of the Gallery Leila now works mostly to commission and has tapestries in private collections in Britain, America, Europe and Australia. Each piece is unique and original, allowing Leila freedom of expression and room to grow as an artist.

5.00 pm Check-in with Orkney Ferries
Tel: 01856 872044
Last check-in 20 mins before departure (5.10)
(Mileage/time from Lambholm – 20 mins)

5.30 pm Depart Kirkwall
5.50 pm Arrive Shapinsay

7.30 pm Dinner at Balfour Castle
Dress code: informal, comfortable and warm

Overnight: Balfour Castle
Shapinsay
Orkney Isles
Tel: 01856 711282
Fax: 01856 711283
E-mail: balfourcastle@btinternet.com

Tuesday, 26th August

Early continental breakfast to be provided this morning

06.50 am Depart Balfour Castle for ferry Luggage day

7.00 am Check-in with Orkney Ferries
Tel: 01856 872044
Latest check-in 20 mins before departure (0710)

7.30 am Depart Shapinsay
Arrive Kirkwall

ASAP Check-in with Northlink Ferries
Reservation No 082657
(Mileage/time from 15 miles , ½ hr)

09.00 am Depart Stromness on m/v Hamnavoe (Orkney)
10.30 am Arrive Scrabster (Mainland)

Things to see and do:

Castle of Mey Price: £5.00
Thurso Open: 11.00 am
Tel: 01847 851 227 Last admission: 3.30 pm
(Mileage/time from Thurso – 13 miles 20 mins)

Since 1952 the property of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, the Castle of Mey is situated on the north coast of Caithness, in the parish of Canisbay, about 15 miles east of Thurso and 6 miles west of John O'Groats. It stands on rising ground about 400 yards from the seashore, overlooking the Pentland Firth and the Orkney Islands. It is thought that a fortified granary occupied the site originally.

The Castle was built by George, 4th Earl of Caithness, who passed it to his second son, William Sinclair. On his death a short time later, it went to the third son, George Sinclair, who founded the family of the Sinclairs of Mey, who then succeeded to the earldom in 1789. The Castle became the seat of the Earls of Caithness for the next 100 years. Originally known as the Castle of Mey, the name was then altered to Barrogill Castle. It changed hands several times over the next fifty years before coming into the possession of Captain F B Imbert-Terry in 1929 who then sold it to the Queen Mother in 1952.

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother saw the Castle while staying with Commander and Lady Doris Vyner at the House of the Northern Gate on Dunnet Head, a short distance to the west. Despite its poor condition, she purchased it and set about renovating and restoring both the Castle and its gardens and policies, which extended to about 45 acres and also restored the name to the original, 'The Castle of Mey' from Barrogill Castle.

The Castle is constructed on a Z-plan indicating that it was built between 1566 and 1572. Seen from a distance, its turreted aspect is very striking. The jutting towers and corbelled turrets are typical of that period of the sixteenth century, particularly the chequered character of the corbelling of the smaller turrets. The parapet of the large turret is supported on winged cherub heads as corbels, similar to those on Carberry Tower, Midlothian. There are numerous gun slits throughout the ground floor, several in the angles of the tower and more at first-floor level. The round arched entrance to the courtyard, on the north aspect is unaltered. The walled garden and policies to the west and the east border and policies to the east are protected by the Great Wall of Mey - 12 feet high - which gives very necessary protection from the severe gales and salt spray.

Carn Liath (Grey Cairns) Price: Free
Camster Open: Any reasonable time
Tel: N/A Last admission: N/A
(Mileage/time from Mey – 28 miles 1 hr)

The grey cairns of Camster are very appropriately named since the stones of which they are composed are most definitely grey in hue.

The two cairns are complete but are of different types - the easterly one being a ring cairn and its sibling farther to the west is a massive long cairn with 3 chambers. In both cases one may enter the chambers which are lit by skylights that were placed during their excavations when they were also restored.

Camster Long

The long cairn is just to the north and is a very impressive structure. You approach it on a catwalk over the boggy ground. The cairn is about 70 metres long covers two separate round cairns. The right hand cairn is thought to have been the earliest as it is of a more simple construction.

It has quite a long narrow chamber that makes quite a crawl to get to the centre. The left hand chamber is easier to get in and has a shorter and taller passage, an antechamber and main chamber similar to the round cairn.

This cairn is one of the largest in Scotland and has been likened to a cathedral of the time. It remains an awe-inspiring sight to this day.

The whole long cairn structure has a short “horns” form of forecourt at each end, which was probably used for ceremonies.

On initial excavation in 1866, fragments of human bones were found but no artefacts.

Camster Round

This site known as the Grey Cairns of Camster contains two of the best-preserved tombs in the UK. On excavation in 1865 a thick layer of black earth was found together with charcoal, ashes with broken bones, some broken pots and some flint implements. Several human skeleton remains were also found.

The round cairn is about 18 metres diameter and 3.5 metres high and has a lintelled entrance passage of 6.1m, leading to the large corbelled central chamber. The entrance to the chamber is set along a flattened face on the east marked by portal stones. The cairn was originally surrounded by dry stone walling but this is only visible now by the entrance.

Entry is down a long narrow and quite low passage. It is a good idea to bring a torch. This passage leads to an antechamber containing two standing stones then onto the main central chamber that is divided with two more large stones. The walls rise over 3 metres and carry the capstone in the roof. It is in very good condition and interesting to visit.

Fort George Price: GBHP/HS/£5.50
Ardesier by Inverness Open: 9.30 am
Tel: 01667 460 232 Last admission: 5.30 pm
(Mileage/time from Camster – 106 miles 3 hrs)

Fort George was built by the English to reinforce their hold on Scotland. It was designed by William Skinner to house the governor, officers, an artillery detachment and 1600 infantrymen.

The fort was started in 1747 and completed in 1769 after all the Jacobite uprisings. In 1881, the fort became the exclusive home of the Seaforth Highlanders and it has served as a barracks ever since. It remains virtually unaltered and presents a complete view of the defensive system of an 18th century artillery fort.

The fort includes reconstruction of barrack rooms in different periods and the Seafield Collection - a display of muskets and pikes.

The entire structure has survived intact and is very impressive. It's impossible to convey the size of this fort a visit is a must.

If you walk the ramparts – do look out for dolphins in the Moray Firth.

Urquhart Castle Price: GBHP/HS/£5.50
Drumnadrochit Open: 9.30 am
Tel: 01456 450 551 Last admission: 5.30 pm
(Mileage/time from Fort George – 27 miles 1 hr)

This was the site of a hill fort before the castle was built. The dating for the fort is not very good but seems to indicate about 2000 BC.

Standing in a picturesque location on the shore of Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle consists of a 13th-century castle of enclosure with a curtain wall and gatehouse. The courtyard encloses ranges of buildings, including a hall and chapel, and has a 16th-century tower house at one end. The buildings are ruinous.

The Picts had a fort here in the 6th century, which St Columba visited and indeed it was during one of his visits that the first Nessie story is recorded. Saint Columba was journeying to see King Brude (Pictish king) and discovered a man being attacked by a water beast. He drew the sign of the cross and ordered the monster to leave. Of course the beast turned and fled.

The castle was held by the Durwards in the mid 13th century, but passed to the Comyns. It was taken in 1296 by the English, was retaken by the Scots, only to be recaptured by the English in 1303. In 1308 it was besieged again by the Scots, led by Robert the Bruce, and taken for the Scots.

The castle held out for David II in 1333 against Edward Balliol and Edward III of England. It was captured in 1437 by the Earl of Ross; in 1515 by the MacDonalds; and in 1545 by the MacDonalds and Camerons. In 1644 the castle was sacked by Covenanters.

The castle held out against the Jacobites in 1689, but was dismantled in 1691 when the gatehouse was destroyed with gunpowder.

7.30 pm Dinner at Bunchrew House Hotel
Dress code: Smart casual

Overnight: Bunchrew House Hotel
Inverness, IV3 8TA
Tel: 01463 234 917
Fax: 01463 710 620
E-mail: welcome@bunchrew-inverness.co.uk
Contact: Gill

Overnight: Trafford Bank Guest House
96 Fairfield Road
Inverness, IV3 5LL
Tel: 01463 241 414
enquiries@traffordbankguesthouse.co.uk
Contact: Lorraine Freel

(Mileage/time from Urquhart Castle – 17 miles ½ hr)
(Mileage/time from Fort George – 16 miles ½ hr)

Bunchrew comes from the old Gaelic word ‘Buncrev’ or ‘Buncrieve’ meaning the ‘root of the tree’ or ‘the wooded slope’. The house was started as far back as 1505 by Alexander of Lovat, but then had just two rooms. It would have been the type of dwelling known at the time as a “black house” and the family would have lived in it along with their animals. There is a fine reconstruction of this type of house at the Battlefield at Culloden. The original wall still stands behind the wood panelling in the Drawing Room. The House was enlarged to near its present state by Simon the eighth Lord Lovat, for his wife Lady Jane, a cousin of the Earl of Moray. It was completed in 1621.

Around 1673 Bunchrew was bought by John Forbes. The Forbes’ of Tolquhon were an Aberdeen family of high standing. John’s father Duncan became Provost of Inverness. He died in 1654 aged 82. John bought Bunchrew and the estate eventually passed on to his son Duncan – the most famous of the Forbes family who was actually born at the house. He became Lord President of the Court of Session at Inverness. He was known to be a very diligent student, as well as a very sociable man, and is said to have read the bible three times in the original Hebrew, during his various holidays at Bunchrew. At that time there was a moat round the house and a drawbridge the last remains of which could be traced until 1839 when the last arch fell into ruins.

During his time at the head of the Town Council President Forbes was responsible for the first hats ever to be worn in the Town council in place of the old blue bonnets. He presented them to the Councillors one day after lunch at Bunchrew. These hats were so highly cherished that they were worn only on council days and the rest of the time were locked up at home. Before this there were only four hats in Inverness – those of the two ministers, the Provost and the Sheriff.

When Forbes took over the house he is reputed to have had the motto “Fraser – Lord Lovat” which was carved above the door removed. This evoked a vigorous response when a squad of about 30 Lovat ruffians came and smashed all the windows and destroyed the meal mill in the grounds. Forbes planted the grounds as they are today including the magnificent Lebanon Cedar tree opposite the front entrance. This tree is known locally as the ‘loving tree’ and it is said to bring good luck if young couples plight their troth underneath the branches. There is also a holly tree at the far end of the top lawn, which is reputed to be one of the oldest, if not the oldest in Scotland.

Duncan Forbes was largely responsible for the defeat of the Jacobite force at Culloden in 1746, but was not in favour of the means used to ensure that this could never happen again – i.e. the Highland Clearances. He was also disillusioned by the fact that he was never compensated for the money - £4500 a (huge sum at the time) he spent on helping quash the rebellion. He was granted the privilege of ‘distilling into spirits the grain of the Barony of Ferintosh’ which he also owned but that in no way really repaid him.

At that time there was great uncertainty in the Inverness area due to the Jacobite rebellion and it was common practice to hide valuables pending the “result” at Culloden. There is a tradition that ‘valuables’ from Bunchrew were buried near the top of the hill at Craig Dunain, but that the spot was not clearly marked. It is said that a redheaded girl driving a dun cow will find them. So all you red heads – you provide the hair and we’ll find a cow!! (Denise’s aside …. Maybe I should speak to my friend and bring my own!!)

The Forbes’ Trustees sold the House to John Fraser in August 1842 for sum of £13,650. He was a tea merchant and a native of Inverness. His son Robert married Beatrice Mackenzie of Ord and the name became Fraser-Mackenzie. She owned Allangrange estate. Their son Jack was in charge of the estate. Their other son Leo was an officer in the Inverness Battery, Royal Horse Artillery and served through the 1914-18 war under General Allenby in Palestine. He retired with the rank of major and became factor for the Bunchrew and Allangrange estates until his death after a serious illness. During the 1939-45 war the House was occupied by the Royal Air Force. There was also a great sensation round about this time when their cousin Dick met a tragic death by falling from the balcony of the Highland Club in Inverness.

The House became an hotel in 1986 and was opened by Sir Malcolm Rifkind the then Scottish Secretary of State. Its character has been largely retained and visitors can enjoy the comfort and extremely relaxing and welcoming ambience and imagine how it must have been to live there in a different time.

Bunchrew is an old house and like all such houses when she settles down for the night your senses can play all sorts of tricks on you. You might hear a soft clink or creak or scrape and fool yourself that you’ve seen something move out of the corner of your eye. Chances are that it’s just the sound of the last dying embers dropping in the fires, or floorboards contracting or a shadow thrown by a lamp…. or is it??? It just might be that you’ve been privileged to experience Isobel, our elderly and extremely benign ghost who occasionally walks the corridors at night. She is the long deceased daughter of Sir Gilbert Ogilvie of Powrie and wife to Kenneth 12th Chief of the Clan MacKenzie. Apart from her nocturnal ramblings she has a favourite table in the restaurant. – we won’t tell you which one until you’re seated. Her portrait hangs just inside the front door so don’t even think about sneaking off without paying!!

Wednesday, 27th August

tba Depart Buchrew House Hotel Luggage day

Things to see and do

Culloden Battlefield Price: GBHP/NTS/£5.00
Culloden Moor Open: 9.00 am
Tel: 01463 790 607 Last admission: 5.00 pm
(Mileage/time from Bunchrew House Hotel – 8 miles ½ hr)

The evocative scene of the last major battle fought on mainland Britain. The final Jacobite uprising ended here on 16 April, 1746, when the army of Prince Charles Edward Stuart was crushed by the Government forces, led by the Duke of Cumberland. Turf and stone dykes that played a crucial part in the battle have been reconstructed on their original site, and a small flock of Hebridean sheep is grazing here as they did in 1746, as part of the Trust’s long-term project to remove scrub and so restore the field to its state at the time of the battle.

Relive the drama of Culloden at Living History presentations in the original Leanach Cottage, which survived the battle being fought around it, and has been restored. Also in the Trust’s care are the Graves of the Clans, the Well of the Dead, the Memorial Cairn, the Cumberland Stone and the Field of the English. The Visitor Centre houses a permanent Jacobite exhibition, including an 18th-century sampler commemorating the battle and a historical display.

The Graves, Memorial Cairn and King’s Stables were presented by Hector Forbes of Culloden who also, for a nominal sum, sold the field in which the Cumberland Stone stands. Alexander Munro of Leanach presented 0.5 ha (1.2 a) in 1937 and in 1959 his son Ian Munro added 0.6 ha (1.5 a) to this gift. In 1981 the Trust purchased 44 ha (108 a) from the Forestry Commission. The Field of the English was purchased in 1989, and a further 6.3 ha (15 a) of adjacent land was purchased in 1998.

Clava Cairns Price: Free
On a minor road off the B9006 from Inverness Open: Any reasonable time
Tel: N/A Last admission: N/A
(Mileage/time from Culloden – 2 miles 10 mins)

The Clava Cairns - or more correctly Bulnaraun of Clava - is one of the best-preserved Bronze Age burial sites in Scotland. There are three cairns here, two with passageways aligned to the Midwinter sunset, and all with more subtle features, incorporated to reflect the importance of the south-west horizon.

The site consist of 3 small, relatively well preserved burial chambers, aligned on a north-east to south-west axis. Each cairn consists of a multitude of large water-worn pebbles and boulders, piled in a bun shape, with an outer kerb of larger stones, around which stands a stone circle. The two outer cairns have passages to a central chamber aligned south-west to the Midwinter sun, while the central cairn has only an inner chamber with no connecting passage.

The cairns are thought to date from the late Neolithic period, and this type of cairn seems to be of a style developed in this part of Scotland, which are collectively known as Clava Cairns. Unlike the larger Neolithic tombs found in other parts of the country, it seems that the tombs at Clava were not used over a long period of time for a large community, rather evidence suggests that they were preserved for more elite members of a tribe. Perhaps a ruling caste or priesthood.

Some of the large boulders which, make up the outer facing of the cairns, have been carved with enigmatic cup and ring markings. The true purpose and meaning of these carvings is unknown, and it has been suggested that the cup marked stones may actually date from an earlier period of history, the site being re-used because of its importance. Examining the carved stones it is easy to see that they must have been carved before they were incorporated into the fabric of the cairns. Other more subtle features were incorporated into the construction of the tombs. The kerbstones are graded in size towards the south-west and the mid-winter sun, with the largest facing towards that direction. This grading is also true of the surrounding standing stones. The stones may even be colour graded, as it seems that the more colourful stones also lie to the south-west of the tombs. This attention to geometric detail suggests that the tombs were constructed as part of a larger plan with bias towards the south-west horizon. There may be other subtle landscape features incorporated into the site, which have not yet been discovered.

The site was excavated in 1828, 1857, and in the 1950's. The early excavations revealed small shards of pottery, bones and flint flakes, and later excavations revealed human bones - some of which were cremated - in each of the outer tombs.

Cawdor Castle Price: HHA/£6.30
Nairn Open: 10.00 am
Tel: 01667 404 615 Last admission: 4.30 pm
www.cawdorcastle.com
(Mileage/time from Clava Cairns – 10 miles 20 mins)

Cawdor Castle dates from the late 14th century and was built as a private fortress by the Thanes of Cawdor, with the ancient medieval tower being built around a legendary holly-tree.

The first Thane of Cawdor was appointed in 1236 by Alexander II. The third Thane was murdered by Sir Alexander Rait from the nearby Rait Castle.

This castle started out as a tower. The parapets, upper story and massive iron yett was added in 1454-1455. The ranges were added in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Clan Campbell obtained control of the fortification by capturing the 12 year old heiress in 1511 and marrying her to the Earl of Argyll's son. The Campbells kept the castle and gave refuge to Lord Lovet during the Jacobite Rising in 1746.

Although the House has evolved over 600 years, later additions mainly of the 17th century were all built in the Scottish vernacular style with slated roofs over walls and crow-stepped gables of mellow local stone. This style gives Cawdor a strong sense of unity, and the massive, severe exterior belies an intimate interior that gives the place a surprisingly personal and friendly atmosphere.

Good furniture, fine portraits and pictures, interesting objects and outstanding tapestries are arranged to please the family rather than to echo fashion or impress.

Apparently there are two ghosts inhabiting this estate. One is a ghost in blue velvet and the other is John Campbell, 1st Lord of Cawdor

Elgin Cathedral Price: £3.00
Elgin Open: 9.30 am
Tel: 01343 547 171 Last admission: 5.30 pm
(Mileage/time from Cawdor Castle – 26 miles 1 hr)

The superb ruin that is Elgin Cathedral was established in 1224 and many think it was Scotland’s most beautiful cathedral. The church started as a chapter house and by the end of the 13th century it had reached it's full size. Much of the work is in a rich late 13th century style, which was further modified after the burning of the church by Bishop Alexander Stewart, the infamous "Wolf of Badenoch", in 1390. The chapter house is still intact, so are the towers at the entrance to the main chapel.

There are several effigies on tombs and there is also a Pict stone, known as Sueno’s Stone with several symbols, inside the cathedral precincts

If time you could do Drum Castle this afternoon, which would give you longer in and around Edinburgh and
Stirling over the next couple of days.

7.00 pm Dinner at Raemoir House Hotel
Dress code: comfortable

Overnight: Raemoir House Hotel Bank Cottage
Banchory 4-5 Bank Terrace
Kincardineshire Alford
AB31 4ED Aberdeenshire, ABB33
Tel: 01330 824884 Tel: 019755 62497
Fax: 01330 822171 E-mail: mike.webber@akerkvaerner.com
E-mail: relax@raemoir.com Hosts: Mike and Alison Webber
Contact: Peter

(Mileage/time from Elgin Cathedral 64 miles 2 hrs)

Raemoir is situated in 3,500 acres of parkland and forest in beautiful Royal Deeside.

The original House of Raemoir known as 'Ha Hoose', or hall house, is of great historical importance. The main mansion was built in 1750 and today the makes a popular annex adjacent to the main hotel. This unique building is judged to be one of the finest examples of its type and has been officially included in the list of buildings of special architectural and historic interest. The main mansion was built around 1750 with east and west wings added during the following hundred years. This impressive house remained a private residence until 1943 when it was turned into a first class hotel.

Thursday, 28th August

Tba Depart Raemoir House Hotel Luggage day

Things to see and do:

Drum Castle Price: GBHP/NTS/£7.00
Drumoak Open: 10.00 am
Tel: 1330 811 204 Last admission: 4.30 pm
(Mileage/time from Raemoir House Hotel – 10 miles 20 mins)
(Mileage/time from Elgin Cathedral – 68 miles 2 hrs)

Drum Castle was probably built by Alexander III in the late 1200's. King Robert the Bruce gave it to William de Irwin in 1323 for his part in the War of Independence. In 1619 an L-shaped wing was added to the old keep. In 1876, the courtyard was restored and an arched entrance added. Two years later, it underwent several modifications.

The family name was changed from Irwin to Irvine. The family were Royalists during the troubled 18th century.

Drum Castle is the oldest intact building in the care of the National Trust for Scotland and it stands at the gates to Royal Deeside on a ridge over looking the River Dee just 10 miles from the heart of Aberdeen

Lochleven Castle Price: GBHP/HS/£3.50
Lochleven Open: 9.30 am
Tel: 01388 040 483 Last admission: 5.30 pm
(Mileage/time from Drum Castle – 101 miles 2¾ hrs)

Lochleven Castle, near Kinross off M90, was granted by King Robert II to Sir Henry Douglas, husband of his niece, in 1390. The Douglases, however, had been involved with the castle prior to that time as Sir Henry's father, Sir John Douglas, had been a member of the garrison in a seige by the English in 1335. It was property of Sir William Douglas of Lochleven, 5th Earl of Morton at the time Mary, Queen of Scots was held there (1567-1568). She escaped captivity at Lochleven with the aid of Sir William's son, George Douglas and a young page, Willie Douglas. It is said that young Willie secreted the keys to the Castle gates from his Lord and freed the queen. He then rowed her across the loch to where George Douglas and a troop of horsemen waited. Together, the band of conspirators rode to Niddrie Castle where Mary remained until her defeat at the hands of Moray and her ill-fated flight to England. It became the preferred home of James, 4th Earl of Morton, after his removal as Regent of Scotland in 1578 until his execution in 1581. The castle was sold to Sir William Bruce of Balcaskie in 1672. The castle came under care of the State, after numerous changes of ownership, in 1939.

Palace of Holyrood House Price: GBHP/£7.50
Edinburgh Open: 9.30 am
Tel: 0131 556 5100 Last admission: 5.00 pm
www.royal.gov.uk
(Mileage/time from Doune Castle – 45 miles 1 hr)

The Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence in Scotland of Her Majesty The Queen, stands at the end of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile against the spectacular backdrop of Arthur’s Seat. This fine baroque palace is closely associated with Scotland’s rich history. Today the Royal Apartments are used regularly by The Queen for State ceremonies and official entertaining. They are decorated with magnificent works of art from the Royal Collection.

The Palace is perhaps best known as the home of Mary, Queen of Scots, and was the setting for many dramatic episodes in her short and turbulent reign. Mary, Queen of Scots’ Chambers are housed in the Palace’s west corner tower. The suite of rooms includes her bedchamber, described as the most famous room in Scotland.

The new Queen’s Gallery has been built in the shell of the former Holyrood Free Church and the Duchess of Gordon’s School at the entrance to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The building was constructed in the 1840s with funds from the Duchess of Gordon, but fell into disuse in the late 19th century. The scheme, designed by Edinburgh-based Benjamin Tindall Architects, has purpose-built facilities and state-of-the-art environmental controls, which enable the most delicate works of art to be shown. The Gallery will show a programme of changing exhibitions from the Royal Collection, focusing primarily on works from the Royal Library and Windsor Castle.

7.00 pm Dinner at Prestonfield House
Dress code: No dress code as such, but gentlemen usually wear collar and tie

Overnight: Prestonfield House
Priestfield Road
Edinburgh, EJ16 5UT
Tel: 0131 668 3346
Fax: 0131 668 3976
E-mail: info@prestonfieldhouse.com
Contact: Brenda Kirkland

Overnight: Turret Guest House
8 Kilmaurs Terrace
Edinburgh, EH16 5DR
Tel: 0131 667 6704
Fax 0131 668 1368
E-mail: contact@turretguesthouse.co.uk
Contact: Jimmy and Fiona Mackie

(Mileage/time from Lochleven Castle – 33 miles 1 hr)

13 acres of landscaped gardens and a challenging golf course encompass the grounds and parklands of this fine estate. Built in 1687 for the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, Prestonfield House is one of Scotland's finest historic mansions and part of its great architectural heritage. The interior has retained many of its original 17th and 18th century features and houses the family's collection of paintings and antique furniture. An ornate ceiling forms the centrepiece in the Tapestry Room whilst the room next door is entirely panelled in 17th century Spanish leather. The spacious bedrooms are beautifully appointed and are located in either the original house or in the new extension. Every room enjoys spectacular views across the surrounding landscape and gardens which makes it hard to believe that Prestonfield is a city centre hotel, only 5 minutes by taxi from the centre of Edinburgh. The Old Dining Room serves a mouth-watering a la carte menu comprising of traditional cuisine such as grilled turbot steak and fillet of guinea fowl.

Friday, 29th August

Tba Depart Prestonfield House for day tour

Things to see and do:

Stirling Castle Price: GBHP/HS/£7.50
Stirling Open: 9.30 am
Tel: 01786 450 000 Last admission: 5.00 pm
(Mileage/time from Prestonfield House – 41 miles 1 hr)

Stirling Castle has played a key role in Scottish history, dominating the north-south and east-west routes through Scotland known as the Ford of the Forth.

The castle has been called the ‘key to Scotland’. As a result its possession has been the focus of contention for many centuries, with the battles of Stirling Bridge (1297) and Bannockburn (1314) being fought in its shadow and Mary Queen of Scots lived here as a child. After his victory, Robert the Bruce dismantled the castle so that the English would not be able to exploit its possession again.

It is therefore difficult to ascertain the date of the earlier castle, though its chapel existed by 1124. The present castle dates primarily from the 15th and 16th centuries, when it was a principal royal residence. James III was born here in 1451, James V spent ;his childhood here and the infant Mary Queen of Scots was crowned here on 9th September 1543. Work in the 16th Century largely shaped the structure as it survives today. Its main features are the central turreted gatehouse with its flanking towers and curtain wall. The Great Hall, the Palace, which is one of the earliest Renaissance buildings in Scotland , and the Chapel Royal.

Argyll’s Lodging GBHP/HS/£3.30/Included in entrance fee to castle
Stirling Open: 9.30 am
Tel: 01786 450 000 Last admission: 5.00 pm
(Mileage/time from Castle – 5 minute walk)

Argyll's Lodging is a superb mansion, built around an earlier core in about 1630 and further extended by the Earl of Argyll in the 1670s, sitting at the foot of Stirling Castle.

It is the finest and most complete surviving example in Scotland of a 17th-century town residence. Built by Sir William Alexander, founder of Nova Scotia, it passed to the Argyll family on his death.

The principal rooms are decorated as they would have been during the 9th Earl of Argyll’s occupation around 1680, and include the laigh hall, drawing room and bedchamber.

The furniture and furnishings include beautifully carved and inlaid tables, elegantly uphosltered chairs and glorious tapestries and hangings. Based on detailed inventories, the interiors have been authentically recreated to the highest standards by skilled craftsmen.

William Wallace Monument Price: £5.00
Nr Stirling Open: 9.30am
Tel: 01786 472 140 Last admission: 5/30 pm
(Mileage/time from Stirling – 2 miles 10 mins)

Built in 1869 on the former site of an ancient Pictish hill fort 'The National Wallace Monument' stands high above the river on a rocky crag above Stirling to remind us all, no matter where we are, that indeed one man can make a difference.

Scotland has many heroes and each of them have their tribute here in what is known as 'The Hall of Hero's'.

You can't help but be overwhelmed by this fantastic building, it truly stands as a testament to William's individual feats of strength and determination - he rose to become the uncrowned leader of his people and installed upon us all - even today - wherever we may be around the world - a sense of national pride and patriotism that has endured the centuries.

The amazing craftsmanship and detailed stone work, which has gone in to making the tower, is second to none.
Over 250 stone steps take you to the top of the Victorian monument and it must have taken an army of stone masons to carve and place each and every one.

There is only one monument of this kind in Scotland. It is the only monument which pays tribute to all of Scotland's heroes and which gives William Wallace the tribute that he deserves.

Doune Castle Price: GBHP/HS/£2.80
Doune Open: 9.30 am
Tel: 01786 841 742 Last admission: 5.30 pm
(Mileage/time from William Wallace Monument – 8 miles 20 mins)

This formidable 14th century courtyard castle was built for Robert, Duke of Albany who died in 1420, and his son, Murdoch (who was executed in 1425 by King James I). It is one of the largest and best-preserved examples of 14th century military architecture in Scotland and is surrounded by a powerful curtain wall enclosing a large court dominated by the square gatehouse-tower. The striking keep-gatehouse combines domestic quarters, including the splendid Lord’s Hall with its carved oak screen, musicians’ gallery and double fireplace. It was built in a highly strategic position on an elevated promontory of land, commanding two major routes in mediaeval Scotland: From Edinburgh to Inverlochy and the west and from Glasgow to Inverness in the north. The triangular site is naturally well defended being protected on two sides by the Teith and Ardoch. On the third side is a deep ditch.

Doune is not dissimilar to contemporary castles in England like Bodiam, in having a gatehouse tower that formed a self-contained defensive residence. After Murdoch was executed the castle was forfeited to the crown and later James IV gave it to his queen, Margaret. Her third husband, was Lord Methven, a descendant of the Dukes of Albany, and the office of constable of the castle became hereditary in his family, the Earls of Moray.

St Giles Cathedral Price: £1.00
Royal Mile, Edinburgh Open: 9.00 am
Tel: 0131 225 9442 Last admission: 6.00 pm
(Mileage/time from Palace of Holyrood House – 1 mile 5 mins)

The Church of Scotland is now Presbyterian in administration, and St Giles' Cathedral is known as the Mother Church of world Presbyterianism. It uniquely reflects the life and religion of Scotland and incorporates the dynamic vision of the 16th century Reformation in the continuity of a developing and Catholic Church.

The original church of St Giles was built in the 12th century on the site of an earlier chapel, and it has been continually modified ever since.

The church underwent extensive restoration in the 19th century and unfortunately most of the original exterior can no longer be seen. The interior still contains some original features, but much of the inside of the church is also from the 19th century.

Nevertheless the stone buttresses that support the spire are original and the gold weathercock on top of the spire date from the 16th century.

Highlights of the interior include the organ, several monuments commemorating prominent Scottish figures, and some stunning stained glass windows including one that commemorates Scotland's most famous poet Robert Burns.

The Thistle Chapel, which serves “The Most Ancient and Noble Order of Thistle” (the Scottish equivalent of the Order of the Garter), is also well worth a visit for it is considered by some to be one of the finest pieces of architecture in Scotland. A distinction given by the Monarch, there are only ever 16 Knights of the Thistle in Scotland and so it is considered the highest honour to become one.

One of the most significant periods in the Kirk of St Giles' history was the 16th century when John Knox was minister here. Knox was a central figure in the Scottish Reformation and so this church can be regarded as a major player in the origins of Scottish Presbyterianism.

You may hear some people refer to St Giles as a Cathedral, however there have only been two bishops in the history of the church and these were both in the 17th century, and so technically it is a church. As the High Kirk of Edinburgh, St Giles' is the 'town church' and as such is host to services such as the annual 'Kirking' of the City Council. The church is also used for many important services for individuals, organisations and state occasions.

7.00 pm Dinner at The Witchery by the Castle
Reservation in the name of ‘Ryeland’
Dress code: Casual

This well-established gem of a restaurant continues to delight the eye and the palette. Lunch, dinner and theatre supper menus are available offering modern stylish dishes using quality Scottish produce. The award-winning wine list is amazing, offering wines from all over the world to suit all tastes. Modern Scottish cooking set amidst a charming mix of old and new style décor.

Overnight: Prestonfield House
Priestfield Road
Edinburgh, EJ16 5UT
Tel: 0131 668 3346
Fax: 0131 668 3976
E-mail: info@prestonfieldhouse.com
Contact: Brenda Kirkland

Overnight: Turret Guest House
8 Kilmaurs Terrace
Edinburgh, EH16 5DR
Tel: 0131 667 6704
Fax 0131 668 1368
E-mail: contact@turretguesthouse.co.uk
Contact: Jimmy and Fiona Mackie

(Mileage/time from St Giles Cathedral/Witchery by the Castle – 2 miles 6 mins)

 

Saturday, 30th August

Tba Depart Prestonfield House Luggage day

Things to see and do:

Threave Castle Price: GBHP/HS/NTS/£2.20
Castle Douglas Open: 9.30 am
Tel: 01831 168 512 Last admission: 5.30 pm
(Mileage/time from Prestonfield House – 100 miles 2¾ hrs)

Threave is the second castle built on this location. The first was destroyed by Edward Bruce in 1308. The standing structure was built by Archibald the Grim, in the middle of the 1300's. After much treachery during the 1400's, the castle went to the crown and the Maxwells were made hereditary keepers in 1525. The English obtained control in 1542 but the Earl of Arran retrieved it in 1545.

In 1640 the castle was surrendered to an army of Covenanters and they partially dismantled it. During the Napoleonic wars, Threave was used as a French prison. It was turned over to the National Trust of Scotland in 1948. Historic Scotland currently administers the property. It is reached by ferry.

Another option here would be to visit Threave NTS Garden which is nearby if you don’t want to go as far as the Cairns

Holy Chambered Cairns Price: Free
Ravenshall Point Open: Any reasonable time
Tel: N/A Last admission: N/A
(Mileage/time from Castle Douglas – 20 miles ½ hr)

Two remarkably complete Neolithic burial cairns, of a type characteristic of Galloway, situated on a hill giving good views over Wigtown Bay.

Caerlaverock Castle Price: GBHP/HS/£3.00
Glencaple Open: 9.30 am
Tel: 01387 770 244 Last admission: 5.30 pm
(Mileage/time from Ravenshall Point – 43 miles 1¼ hrs)

Caerlaverock is basically triangular in shape. The outer walls encircle a triangular courtyard. It is not known who built the castle but it is assumed to have been finished by 1290. In 1300, the castle held a Scottish garrison. The English besieged the castle and took control from the Scotsmen. In 1312, the commander went over to Robert the Bruce and the Scots had control again.

Much of the castle was destroyed in an attempt to keep the English from using it as a stronghold. The Maxwells rebuilt the castle in the 1330's then turned it over to the Edward III in 1347. Roger Kilpatrick took it back in 1357 for the Scottish Crown. Roger was murdered in Caerlaverock and the castle was dismantled again.

Sometime before 1370, it was repaired. The Duke of Albany was held in the south-west tower for treason. Alterations were occurring between 1452 and 1488, more defensive attributes were added to the walls and gatehouse along with a range of guest rooms.

Once again the castle was surrendered to the English in 1545, recaptured, and destroyed again by an English force in 1572. The Lord Maxwell made more changes in the towers to include gun ports and a bigger housing range. The old range became the kitchens and garrison housing.

In September 1640, Caerlaverock was turned over to Covenanters after a thirteen-week siege. It was dismantled and unroofed as a result. The Maxwells moved their clan seat to Terregles, then to Traquair House. The castle was left to ruin. The Duke of Norfolk transferred ownership to the Ministry of Works for preservation in 1946.

7.00 pm Drinks in drawing room

7.30 pm Dinner at Holgate Head
Dress code: Smart casual

Overnight: Holgate Head
Kirby Malham
Nr Skipton
Yorks, BD23 4BJ
Tel: 01729 830 376
Fax: 01729 830 576
E-mail: holgate@nildram.co.uk
Hosts: John and Christine Medlicott

Overnight: Moorside Farm House
Flasby Moorside
Nr Skipton
Yorks, BD23
Tel: 01729 830 376 Tel: 01756 700 585
Fax: 01729 830 576 Fax: 01756 700 585
E-mail: holgate@nildram.co.uk E-mail: farm.manager@btopenworld.com
Hosts: John and Christine Medlicott Host: Jonathan Wilton

(Mileage/time from Caerlaverock Castle – 116 miles 2½ hrs)

This fine old house retains many interesting features although alterations have been made over the years. The splendid 17th century oak panelling in the hall-sitting room makes a perfect backdrop for the stone fireplace with open log fire, the gleaming brass fire irons, rugs and comfortable chairs.

In three acres of quiet garden and woodland with pretty views over Malhamdale, a walkers’ paradise in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Ideally situated for the magnificent Settle-Carlisle railway. The market towns of Skipton and Settle are close by. Bronte Country, York and the Lake District are within easy driving distance. John is a wine importer and Christine is a trained caterer and an excellent cook.

Sunday, 31st August

Tba Depart Holgate Head Luggage day

Things to see and do:

The Yorkshire Dales

The Yorkshire Dales is an area of great natural beauty in northern England, a large part of which has been designated as one of England and Wales' protected national parks.

Much of the landscape here is limestone country, lush green valleys (known locally as "dales") crested with white limestone cliffs ("scars") cutting through wilder uplands beneath towering peaks ("fells") of dark millstone grit. Throughout the dales, fields and pastures are bounded by distinctive white drystone walls which criss-cross the hillsides in elaborate patterns; set against the limestone cliffs and escarpments these walls (which were originally built by sheep farmers in days gone by) look almost a natural part of the limestone scenery as viewed today.

Ripley Castle Price: GBHP/£6.00
Harrogate Open: 10.30 am
Tel: 01423 770 152 Last admission to castle: 2.00 pm
(Mileage/time from Holgate Head – 32 miles 1 hr) Last admission to gardens: 4.00 pm

Ripley Castle, has been home to the Ingilby family for the last seven hundred years. The history of this castle is one of political, military, religious and social turbulence, of plague and persecution, of renaissance, enlightenment and industrial revolution. It is a tale of romance, courage, loyalty and recklessness. There is no final chapter because it is still lived in and Sir Thomas is still enjoying the adventure.

Henry Ingilby collected taxes for Edward III and helped the king to finance the construction of Windsor Castle. His brother Thomas saved the king’s life and was knighted for his courage. Sir William held high office and served Henry VIII, Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I through some of their darkest days. Two of his sons toured the countryside inspiring rebellion: they were ‘the most dangerous papists in the North of England’. The Blessed Francis Ingilby paid the ultimate price and was executed in 1586.

James I stayed at the castle in 1603, but by 1605 the Ingilbys were plotting to kill him. Interestingly, nine of the eleven known conspirators of the Gunpowder Plot were close relations or associates of the Ingilby family.

‘Trooper’ Jane Ingilby held Oliver Cromwell prisoner overnight in the castle’s Library. Sir John Ingilby rebuilt the castle but lost his wife. His son, a notable and colourful eccentric, rebuilt Ripley and endowed it with a huge Hotel de Ville.

No visit to Ripley Castle would be complete without a stroll around the walled gardens, park and grounds.

As you walk along the castle terrace you get fantastic views over the lakes and deer park beyond. The lakeside path takes you to the walled gardens and the ha-ha. The two huge herbaceous borders create such a riot of colour between June and October each year, and the huge range of hot houses contain a highly impressive collection of tropical plants, ferns and cacti. Ancient wisteria and clematis thrive on the high south-facing walls.

The walled kitchen garden contains an extensive herb bed and an extraordinary collection of rare vegetables, grown in co-operation with the Henry Doubleday Research Association.

The park walk takes you round the castle’s large ornamental lake, across the waterfall and into the deer park itself. Here herds of fallow deer and cattle graze under the boughs of ancient beech and oak trees, some of which are over one thousand years old, and still look magnificent with their impressive girth and gnarled branches.

You will see plenty of wildlife on your way round the park: fallow deer, rabbits, squirrels, heron, canada and greylag geese, mallard, teal and wigeon, pheasants, woodpeckers and, if you are very lucky, even kingfishers.

Bolton Abbey and Barden Tower Price: £4.00 for all car parks for the day
Bolton Abbey Open: 9.00 am
Tel: 01756 718 009 Last admission: 8.00 pm
(Mileage/time from Ripley Castle – 17 miles ½ hr)

Bolton Abbey in the Yorkshire Dales has been a distinct estate for about 1, 000 years and today extends along a 6 mile stretch of the River Wharfe between Bolton and Barden bridges.

This renowned beauty spot forms part of the Duke of Devonshire's country estate, which also includes the riverside walk through the woods to the Strid, a notorious stretch of water where the River Wharfe is forced into a deep thundering channel. At its narrowest point the Strid is only about two metres wide, and foolhardy visitors have in the past tried to jump across the roaring chasm. Failure is invariably fatal, however, as there is no recorded incidence of anyone having survived a fall into the boiling waters of the Strid - which easily sucks its victims into the underwater caves and eroded tunnels which lie hidden underneath each side of the rocky channel. Needless to say, the Strid is an extremely dangerous place, and visitors should take care to keep a safe distance from the edge, with children and animals being kept firmly under control.

Much of this area is bracken moorland much famed for grouse shooting and hunting on the Duke of Devonshire's country estate. Also worth a visit is Barden Bridge and Barden Tower an ancient ruin a few miles upstream of Bolton Abbey and the Strid.

Wordsworth, Turner and Landseer were inspired by this romantic and varied landscape. The Estate, which has been in the Cavendish family since the 1750's, provides over 80 miles of footpaths through some of the most spectacular scenery in England. One can wander beside the river Wharfe, cross the exposed purple heights of heather moorland, explore the medieval buildings or simply relax and enjoy being here.

The history of Bolton Priory, stems back to the 12th century. The Black Canons of the Order of St. Augustine sheltered here at this lovely site in Bolton, where they pursued a life of service and worship. Today, the Priory Church still serves the local community as a place of worship.

Barden Tower Price: Car park included on Bolton Abbey parking ticket
(Mileage/time from Bolton Abbey – 3 miles 6 mins)

The Forest of Barden was granted in 1066 to Robert de Rumilly who built Skipton Castle. In 1311, when Robert Clifford became the Lord of Skipton, Barden was a hunting forest with 6 lodges. In the late 15th century, Henry Clifford, 'The Shepherd Lord', rebuilt the hunting lodge in stone and made it his principle residence. The area was liable to raids by the Scots so its defensive position, commanding the river crossing, was advantageous.

In 1515, he built the Priest's House next to the Chapel. In 1659, Lady Anne Clifford restored Barden Tower. Following her death it was taken over by its rightful owners the Earls of Cork, but sadly fell into decline in the late 18th century.

Skipton Castle Price: GBHP/£4.80
Skipton Open: 12.00 noon
Tel: 01756792442 Last admission: 6.00 pm
(Mileage/time from Barden - 10 miles 20 mins)

Soon after 1090 Robert de Romille, a Norman baron, built a primitive fort here but its timber ramparts did little to stop rampaging Scots during their frequent raids into northern England. It was replaced with a more formidable stone castle, which stood on top of a rocky bluff with rising ground to the front and a sheer precipice falling to the Eller Beck behind.

The history of the castle is inseparable from that of the Clifford family who were granted the property by Edward II in 1310, when Robert Clifford was appointed first Lord Clifford of Skipton and Guardian of Craven, the wide tract of countryside to the north and west of Skipton.

The Clifford's Norman forebears took the name from Clifford Castle in Herefordshire, which they also owned. Robert Clifford began heavily fortifying the castle, but he was killed at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 with his new stronghold barely completed.

After a three-year siege, a surrender was negotiated in 1645 and Oliver Cromwell ordered the removal of the Castle roofs. Skipton remained the Clifford's principal seat until 1676. Today, their banner flies over the castle with the approval of the present Lord Clifford of Chudleigh.

Tba Dinner at Radisson SAS Hotel (no reservation made)
Dress code: Comfortable

Overnight: Radisson SAS
Chicago Avenue
Manchester Airport
Manchester , M90 3RA
Tel: 0161 490 5000
Fax: 0161 490 5100
E-mail: Gareth.Evans@radissonsas.com
Contact: Gareth Evans

Overnight: Moorside Farm House
Flasby Moorside
Nr Skipton
Yorks, BD23
Tel: 01729 830 376 Tel: 01756 700 585
Fax: 01729 830 576 Fax: 01756 700 585
E-mail: holgate@nildram.co.uk E-mail: farm.manager@btopenworld.com
Hosts: John and Christine Medlicott Host: Jonathan Wilton

(Mileage/time from Skipton – 60 miles 1 ½ hrs)

Monday, 1st September

6.25 am Check-in at Manchester Airport (Terminal 1)

8.25 am Depart Manchester on NW 8736/KL 402
10.55 am Arrive Amsterdam

1.10 am Depart Amsterdam on NW 8625/KL 625
4.05 pm Arrive Memphis

Welcome Home!

I would like to re-stress that this proposed itinerary is totally flexible, depending on how you feel each day, and the attractions are purely suggestions. If any place of interest particularly appeals to you, then please let me know and we will make a point of getting there above all others, and if we are driving along and you think another road looks more interesting, then let's take it - I am all for discovering new places.

I would be most grateful if you could plan to arrive promptly at any pre-arranged meeting point particularly in towns or cities where it is often very difficult for me to park or wait for passengers and any assistance that you are able to give me in this respect will be very much appreciated.

All prices quoted for those places of interest, not included on the Great British Heritage Pass system, are for full 2003 adult entry rate and were understood to be correct at the time of writing. Please do not forget to ask for the discounted senior citizen rate, if appropriate.

KEY:

EH: English Heritage Property
GBHP: Great British Heritage Pass may be used at this property
HHA: Historic Houses Association
HS: Historic Scotland
NT/NTS: National Trust/Scotland Property
tbc/a: To be confirmed/advised


Home Page Our Services Port and Airport Transfers Testamonials Owners Biography Sample Itineraries