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Monday, September 18, 2006


Nothwithstanding airline industry delays due to stepped up security, flights arrive on time (midday) at Edinburgh Airport .

To Apex Hotel

Unwind and prepare for evening. Short stroll around Old Town including a visit to St.Giles Cathedral . Attend famous Military Tattoo in the evening. Excellent show benefiting from the superior East Stand seats. Good meal/accommodation at 4 star Apex which is conveniently situated close to the Castle (Grassmarket).
Visit Edinburgh with catswhiskerstours


Walking tour of Old Town including Edinburgh Castle where joined in local tour guide group. Down the Royal Mile to the Palace of Holyroodhouse ( a royal palace to this day). Then to Museum of Scotland
In the evening visited The Real Mary King's Close. This was "OK" but, overall, seemed to fall short of a what might be expected from a 5 star rated attraction.
Visit historic Edinburgh with catswhiskerstours.

Hint and Tip: When visiting Scottish historic sites invest in Explorer passes which provide savings of about 50pct on standard entrance fees.

Overnight at the conveniently situated Apex Hotel.

Day 3

Collect 0930 at hotel for short journey to Rosslyn Chapel. However, we go the "scenic route" by mistake via rural Lanarkshire because the Sat Nav/GPS was not working. After reverting to old style map reading we duly arrive at the Chapel which features in the Da Vinci Code book/film. However, it should also be remembered that here is the finest example of medieval stone carving in Scotland (if not Britain). The Chapel was founded in 1446 by William Sinclair.
Visit Rosslyn Chapel with catswhiskerstours

To Galashiels to research family history and location of ancestor's house.We find the road but not the house. Consensus view of the group that Galashiels is a far more pleasant town than we had been led to expect from commentary in guide books!! Note that more research is possible with help from the Borders Family History Society
Tel: 44 (0) 1361 882166.

Spot of lunch at a country pub en-route to Jedburgh. Pub frequented by a group of shepherds (involved in local sheep trials) with their distinctive crooks.

Drive on to Jedburgh (name means fortified village). After passing the impressive Abbey we arrive at our hotel, Allerton House, a superb 4 star establishment under management of Val and Brian Leask. There is internet access here, which is good news.

More good news in that after reference to on line help facility, the Sat Nav/GPS is fully functional again.

A relaxing afternoon. In the eveining we eat out at bistro/restaurant, the Nightjar in Jedburgh.

Enjoy the Scottish Borders with catswhiskerstours


In the morning visit Jedburgh Abbey, a maginificient ruin founded by David I in 1138. The rain arrives as predicted. We go on up the hill to Jedburgh Castle & Jail, a 19th century prison with displays interpreting the history of the locality. A well presented visitor attraction.

The rain intensifies to almost monsoon conditions. Nevertheless, we move on and visit Mary Queen of Scots House/Visitor Centre in Jedburgh. Here we learn the story of the life of the tragic Queen who visited Jedburgh in 1566.

Good lunch at the Glenbank House Hotel near the Castle. Excllent meal.

Drive on to Abbotsford, the magnificient house built by Sir Walter Scott, the 19th century novelist and author of such classics as Waverley, Rob Roy, Ivanhoe and the Lady of the Lake. Consensus view: a worthwhile visit nothwithstanding the torrential rain.

Visit the best of Jedburgh with catswhiskerstours.

In the evening, we dine out at the Caddy Mann Restaurant, Mounthooly (01835850787). Excllent food with an unusual ambience as surroundcded by antiques (for sale).

Overall, an excellent day.

Overnight at Allerton House.


After fond farewells to Val and Brian we depart Allerton House at 0930 and drive to Dirleton, which is alleged to be the prettiest village in Scotland.It would certianly be a strong candidate!
We visit the magnificient castle, which is open to the public.There are also colourful gardens with a wide variety of plants and shrubs.

A superb sunny day, what a contrast to Day 4 !!

Drive on, skirting Edinburgh across the famous Forth Bridge to the the Fife Coast and East Neuk. A short visit to Pittenweem. Lunch at the well regarded Craw's Nest Hotel, Anstruther. Then on to St. Andrews via Lower Largo where the role model for Robinson Crusoe, Andrew Selkirk was born.
At St. Andrews we sample the atmosphere of the famous Old Course (the Holy Grail for golfers) and then move on to the Carnoustie Links Hotel

Visit Fife and St. Andrews with catswhiskerstours


Collect Carnoustie 0930. (Hotel is OK)

To Castle Campbell. This was fine but views from the high elevation were, unfortunately, obscured by rain and clouds. Drive on to Dunning and the famous Dupplin Cross. At Dunning we notice a memorial dedicated by Alexander Martin of St.Johns, New Brunswick. Q: Who was Alexander Martin? Contact local historical society on 01764684497 (Gary or Paul). On to Braco with a stop at Allanbank Hotel, Greenloaning for lunch. A good meal served by Don Cameron dressed in a Cameron kilt. After lunch we drive on to the nearby Ardoch Roman Fort and its near neighbour, a partly obscured medieval bridge.

On to the Famous Grouse Distillery where we pay "homage" to the favourite tipple of a group member.

Then into the countryside to visit a remote and ruined Highland Clearance Village. These ruins remain politically sensitive to this day.

On to Kenmore via the scenic Glen Quaich. Queen Victoria took her honeymoon at Taymouth Castle, Kenmore in 1842.

Drive on to Dunkeld via Aberfeldy and Dalguise (fishing beat).

Overnight at Royal Hotel, Dunkeld

A varied but satisfying day.

Enjoy touring Scotland with catswhiskerstours


A short walk from the hotel to the stunning, part ruin/part living church which is Dunkeld Cathedral. This sits on the banks of the River Tay and dates back to 570AD. It is a mixture of Celtic and norman styles built betwen 1260 AD and 1501 AD. The Cathedral is dedicated to St.Columbia. There was widesparead destruction in 1560 but the building was partly re-roofed in in 1600.

Close to the Cathedral is no. 9 Cathedral St., where the first Liberal Prime Minister of Canada, Alexander Mackenzie spent his early life.

To the Birnam Oak, with its Macbeth connections.The tree is about 400 years old.

Visit Dunkeld and Birnam with catswhiskerstours.

On to the nearby and very scenic Hermitage. In the river we notice a small shoal of salmon waiting to leap up the falls. We have a debate as to whether they will make it up the rocks with such low water levels.

On up the A9 to the busy tourist town of Pitlochry. The ladies enjoy some shopping whilst husbands sample the delights of Edradour Distillery. This is Scotland's smallest distillery and offers an excellent free tour lasting about 45 mins-depending on the enthusiasm of the tour guide! We benefited from an excellent guide, Peter.

As lunch time has arrived we elect to sample the delights of the Moulin Hotel which provides excellent food.

On to nearby Killiecrankie a beautiful gorge which was the site of battle in 1689.

Then to Blair Castle, a part medieval, part Victorian home of the Duke of Atholl.

Visit Perthshire with catswhiskerstours
Then on to the north and the Capital of the Highlands, Inverness.

Overnight at the Marriott Hotel.


Collect at 0930.

To nearby Culloden Battlefield, site of the last battle on British soil. The personal tour is highly recommended in order to gain maximum benefit from the visit.

Then to the nearby prehistoric Clava Stones.

Long drive to Bettyhill which is a pleasant village with a Church that has been converted to a museum.The graveyard is heavily populated with Mackay tombstones, there is even a special Mackay room in the museum.

Visit historic Scotland with catswhiskerstours

Drive on to Durness tracking the coast. Aa slow drive due to narrowness of the roads, a feature which is more than compensated by the stunning scenery aided by sunny weather.

The route takes us through Strathnaver which appears wild, empty and remote. However behind the facade are features from all periods of history. Strathnaver was the land of the Mackays which lay on the trade route between Scandinavia and Ireland.In the 19th century, the area suffered heavily from the infamous Highland Clearances when a large contingent of, mainly Gaelic speaking,people were thrown out of their traditional tennat farms to make way for commercial sheep farming.This was the catalyst for emigration to other parts of the U.K., North America, Australia and New Zealand. The Clearances in this locality were publicised through the writings of Donald MacLeod. Visit Mackay Country with catswhiskerstours.

Overnight at Mackays Hotel and Restaurant.


Collect 0930 at Durness, the most north westerly village in Britain. Tthe rain eases off and we cross the Kyle of Tongue. On through stunning scenery to Tongue. This is a pleasant village with views of Castle Varich. We visit the Church with burial sites of of some of the principal members of Clan Mackay (Reay Vault).

On via single track roads, enjoying the magnificient scenery. Down to Inverness and a visit to Fort George, a fascinating 18th century fort which remains an army base to this day. Well worth a visit, particularly for those with an interest in the military.

Overnight at the Inverness Marriott.

DAY 10

Collect 0900. A promising sunny day.

Our quest for Mackay tartan takes us to Holm Mills Shopping Village, Inverness. We were "entertained" by tartan expert Peter Callander. Overall, this "Village" is aimed at the mass tourist market and is best avoided by the discerning visitor. We move on to the more "upmarket" Highland House of Fraser in the centre of Inverness , which is better suited to our needs.

Drive down the Great Glen to Castle Urquhart which is superbly located on a promontary into Loch Ness. Excellent photo opps.

The Great Glen is a valley eroded along a fault which is about 400m years old. The dominant rock is metamorphic, being roots of ancient mountain systems eroded by later events.The metamorphis took place 2600-1600m years ago. Gniess (quartz feldspar) was formed from igneous and sedimentary rocks.

The Caledonian Canal, which stretches the length of the Glen, was built in 1822 and is still in use today.

After Castle Urquhart, we drive on towards Skye pausing for lunch at Cluanie Inn.

On arraival at Broadford, Skye we find the hotel (Swallow) and then drive to the north of the island to visit Dunvegan Castle, home of the Clan McLeod. This is worthy of a visit and there are gardens for those with interEst in horticulture.

Back to Broadford via different route.This takes us through diverse and stunning scenery with place names refelecting history and people migrations, Gaelic and Scandinavian. Many photo opps aided by sunny weather.

Visit Skye with catswhiskerstours

Back to the hotel about 6.00pm.

DAY 11

Collect 0915 at Broadford Swallow. This is a good hotel with rooms facing the sea.

Fisrt, we avail of some phot shoots around Broadford then drive down to the Clan Donald Centre which affords the visitor an excellent insight into the MacDonalds, emigration and Scottish history. A gentle walk in the delightful gardens to see the ruined castle and then connect with the ferry to the mainland at Mallaig.This takes about 20 mins and we avail of packed lunch on board. There was a cacophony of car alarms triggered by movement of the vessel. On arrival at Mallaig we drive down to Glenfinnan (about 1 hour) where we look in at the visitor centre dedicated to Bonnie Prince Charlie's landing in 1745. We climb the nearby hill to witness the steam train at 3.15pm as it hauls its coaches of holidaymakers across the nearby viaduct. Good photo opps.Drive on down to Glencoe but progress slowed by forestry work on road side and swing bridge over canal which was opened to let a commercial vessel through. Due to these delays we are unable to make the Glencoe visitor centre as planned but do visit the village and massacre memorial.

Drive on enjoying scenic route tracking coast to Oban where we stay overnight in readiness for early ferry crossing nect day to Mull and Iona. Overall, a good day aided by geneerrally sunny weather.

Overnight King's Knoll Hotel, Oban

Visit the scenic West of Scotland with catswhiskerstours

DAY 12

Collect 0830 after pleasant overnight at King's Knoll where "entertained" by genial host, Archie MacDonald. Catch the 0930 ferry to Craignure, Mull. Journey about 46 mins. Weather wet and overcast.

On arrival at Mull drive approx. 35 miles to Fionnphort for short, 5 min ferry crossing to Iona. Wonderful scenery but journey takes about 1 hour due to the slow, single track road.

On arraival at Iona, weather improves and we visit the ruined Nunnery and the famous Abbey. A wonderful experience. Spot of lunch at St. Columba Hotel then ferry back to Mull and scenic drive to Salen. This route proves most rewarding. The road is single track and slow going but this aspect is offset by the stunning scenery affording many photo opps. Sheep and cattle wandering on the roads. We also spotted 3 deer,a white tailed eagle and other birds of prey.

Back to Salen by early evening. Overnight at the Glenforsa Hotel

The Glenforsa has recently been refurbished and benefits from internet access and its own light aircraft landing strip. Overall, quite acceptable but food service is slow.

Visit Mull and the Western islands with catswhiskerstours

DAY 13

Collect 0915.

Drive to Tobermory, a very scenic fishing village which features on the BBC childrens' TV programme Balamory. Stops for some photo opps en-route including a fishing boat 'graveyard' and some seals.

Walk around photo-genic,Tobermory which means Mary's Well. This is the capital of Mull and benefits form colourful sea front houses.

On to Dervaig via an abandoned Clearance Village. which affords superb views and good photo opps. Then a visit to the Old Byre Heritage Centre which is good value and provides a 35 min video of Mull's history and is very well done. Stop for lunch at pleasant hotel and art gallery.

After lunch on to Calgary Bay (Kal's enclosure). Good views and phot opps at this location which has obvious connections with its Canadian namesake. Narrow roads with sheep everywhere.

Visit a spectacular waterfall which empties into Loch Tuath. Views of Ben More 966m. Then back to Salen and the hotel. We had the best of the day's weather with plenty of sunshine.

(With hindsight, perhaps one and a half days would have been sufficient for the Mull/Iona visit.)

Visit scenic Scotland with catswhiskerstours

DAY 14

Collect 0915 then short visits to Duart Castle, the home of Clan Maclean and Torosay Castle

Then ferry crossing to mainland at 1030.

Drive to Stirling with a lunch stop en-route at the aptly named Rod and Reel at Crainlarich.

Visit the famous castle and the nearby Wallace Monument, both of which afford valuable insights into Scotland's history. Good photo opps from the well elevated locations also.

Drive on to Glasgow and check in at the Kelvingrove Hotel.

Overall, a good and varied day.

Visit all of Scotland with catswhiskerstours

DAY 15

Collect at 0915 then to the Roman Baths at Bearsden. Provided with personal tour by local expert, Robin McSkimming.

More Roman history with a visit to Rough Castle at Bonnybridge.

We are then entaertained to a fantastic Roman meal by Fiona Briggs in her superb Grade A listed property which dastes back to 1820.

Back to Glasgow and visits to House for an Art Lover and the nearby, famous Burrell Collection.

Visit historic Glasgow with catswhiskerstours

Return to Edinburgh in readiness for return flight next morning.

posted by Catswhiskers @ 11:11 AM 


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