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Architecture Themed Tour of Scotland

Saturday, September 30, 2006

DAY 1

Collect hotel 0915 for walking tour of Old Town:
Visit Edinburgh's Royal mile with catswhiskerstours.

We then drive to see the famous Forth Rail Bridge which was completed in 1890. Nearby is the sister Road Bridge which is much younger but currently suffering from corrosion problems.

After exploiting the many photo opportunities we enjoy a spot of lunch at the Hawes Inn which is a traditional type pub sitting under the arches of the rail bridge-so we are able to hear the trains trundling overhead!

Now relaxed and refreshed we drive back to Edinburgh and the famous Calton Hill skyline. However, en-route we stop to admire the Royal High School building which dates to 1825-29.

A study of the appropriateness of form to purpose demonstratwes the extent to which the choices on Calton Hill were made on architectural grounds all being individually subservient to the totality of the composite skyline which comprises:

Appreciate Calton Hill with catswhiskerstours

Drive on to Charlotte Square, which was designed by Robert Adam in 1791. This comprises individual terraced houses sublimated within monumental palace facades which had a strong influence on the later New Towns.

Then to the nearby Dome in George Street for some afternoon tea. This is a fascinating, former bank Head Office which was constructed in 1844 under architect David Rhind.A perfect setting to end the day.

This concludes our day in Edinburgh and we retire back to the hotel for the evening.

DAY 2

Collect 0930 then drive out of Edinburgh, across the Forth Road Bridge which affords good views of the nearby Rail Bridge as we pass over.

To Castle Campbell which sits in isolation on a narrow ridge overlooked by a crescent of the Ochills.The castle dates back to the 15th century and was under ownership of the Campbells of Argyll. Both John Knox and Mary, Queen of Scots visited the castle. The end of the castle as a residence came during the Civil War when it was attacked by General Monck in 1654. It is now a semi-ruin. Location affords outstanding views and superb photo opportunities.

Then we drive on to Perthshire and the country town of Crieff to the ruins of a Clearance Village set high upon a hill in a remote location. We try and empathise with the people who lived here prior to their enforced exit, possibly to other parts of Britain and North America in the early 1800s. We encounter plenty of sheep-and a pair of deer.

Back to Crieff for a light lunch at the famous Crieff Hydro, which proved most enjoyable.

On the way to Falkirk we stop and visit Ardoch Roman Fort.
This site is actually a candidate for categorisation as a World Heritage Site-in conjunction with other parts of the Roman Frontier in Britain and Germany.

Very close to Ardoch , but almost hidden away from the passing traveller, is a beautiful Pack Horse Bridge, which is interesting from both historic and architectural perspectives- and provides superb photo opportunities when the light is right.

On to the Falkirk Wheel, a magnificient piece of engineering which connects the Forth & Clyde (Glasgow) canal to Edinburgh's Union Canal. The Wheel replaced a series of 11 locks which fell into disrepair.

Because of time constraints we were, unfortunately, unable to make our appointment with the owner of a nearby Grade A listed 1820 house.So, back to Glasgow and the hotel. However, we do drive past parts of the Antonine Wall which was built by the Romans around AD 140.

Visit unusual parts of Scotland with catswhiskerstours

DAY 3

Collect at 0930.

Commence with a walking tour of historic Glasgow, centering first on Glasgow's historic links with the Tobacco industry and the Southern United States.

At no. 42 Miller Street is the last of the so-called Virginia tobacco merchants' houses to survive in Glasgow's Merchant City. We are unable to enter the property but take photos of the exterior.

Then, via Virginia Street, we move on to the Corinthian at 191 Ingram street. This was built by David Hamilton in 1842 on the site of the Virginia Mansion, and remodelled in in 1876 by James Burnett. The Corinthian is one of Glasgow's most stunning buildings, both internally and externally. The building impresses to the extent that a reservation for dinner that evening is made at the restaurant there.

Visit Glasgow architecture with catswhiskerstours

Now we indulge in the work of the famous architect/designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

First we visit the Lighthouse. This is a former newspaper building it is now home to Scotland's award winning Centre for Architecture and Design.

Then for some tea in the famous Willow Tea Rooms at 217 Sauchiehall Street. These rooms were owned by Catherine Cranston who more or less invented the Glasgow tea room phenomenon. Uniquely, ladies' rooms were offered where respectable women could go out to meet at a time when women without men in the urban scene were usually taken for servants or prostitutes. This was not a cafe but offered a range of provacies in the public world. We also visit the Billiard Room on the premises.

Next visit is the McLellan Galleries across the road to see the Glasgow Style Gallery but, unfortunately, the building is closed. So, we move on to the Glasgow School of Art at Renfrew Street. This is truly magnificient with the added dimension of the "buzz" of students. We spend considerable time here and avail of the photo opportunities.

Our next scheduled visit is the House for an Art Lover but, we are thwarted again as this is closed for a special occasion.

Visit Mackintosh properties with catswhiskerstours

Undaunted, we move to see the work of another famous architect, Alexander 'Greek' Thomson at Holmwood House, Cathcart.

Central in the design is the circular lantern over the staircase. Horizontality predominates and the wall which links house and stable lodge emphasises this. Many rooms are richly ornamented in wood, plaster and marble. Thanks to investigation by Historic Scotland, Thomson's original rich decoration, based on themes from the classical world, is beginning to emerge. Much of the original stencilled decoration has been found, and visitors may follow the progress of continuing conservation work. The small kitchen garden is planted with a range of Victorian herbs, fruit and vegetables.

This is quite an awesome property, both architecturally and from a social history perspective. We indulge in the atmosphere and avail of photo opportunities.

After a some afternoon refreshment and a short visist to a local synagogue for information purposes, we try again to visit the 1820 house near Falkirk but, sadly, heavy traffic militates against meeting our re-scheduled appointment so we elect to return to the hotel. and fond farewells.

Overall, a varied tour covering a wide range of architecture,engineering and social history.

Catswhiskerstours specialises in tailored tours of Scotland.





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Robert the Bruce

A Short History

  • Born 1276, a Norman descended noble who had paid homage to Edward I.
  • Began to grow restive and together with Red John Comyn and others began to plot resistance to the English.
  • Plotters met at a church in 1306, the Greyfriars Kirk at Dumfries. A quarrel ensued and Bruce stabbed Comyn to death.
  • Murder in a church amounted to sacrilege and he was excommunicated. Also the murder triggered a blood feud with the Comyns and their allies. Bruce’s position was precarious.
  • However, on 27/3/1306 Bruce went to Scone (near Perth) and had himself crowned King. Visit historic Scone with catswhiskerstours
  • Edward sent an army to Scotland which defeated Bruce at Methven on June 20th. Bruce’s troops were scattered and he became an outlaw. Bruce’s allies were hung drawn and quartered.
  • Bruce went into hiding on Arran and Rathlin Island and the Hebrides.
  • Bruce returned in Spring 1307. A successful guerrilla campaign and battle victories followed.
  • In June 1307, Edward I (now sick) sets off for Scotland as head of a great army. However, he dies on 7/7/1307 at Burgh-on-Sands.
  • Edward II was weak and left the English garrisons in Scotland to fend for themselves.
  • During 1309 Bruce controlled most of Scotland north of the Forth and Clyde.
  • Was secretly recognised as King by the king of France.
  • In 1310 the Church in Scotland endorsed him.
  • In 1311 he invaded and devastated northern England.
  • Edward II marched against Bruce and on June 24th 1314 met Bruce at Bannockburn where Bruce was outnumbered three to one. However, Bruce had chosen the better ground and won the day.
  • Henceforth, the English made little attempt to keep a hold on Scotland.
  • English try to have new Pope confirm excommunication but this provokes strong reaction from the Scottish establishment. They meet in Arbroath in April 1320 and comprised the famous declaration to Bruce and to liberty.
  • The Pope agrees to annul the excommunication.
  • In 1327 Edward III becomes King of England.
  • A Treaty of Peace between England and Scotland was signed in May 1328 recognising Scotland as an independent country and Robert the Bruce as King. Bruce’s baby son David was married to Edward III’s little sister, Joan.
  • Bruce dies 1329 at age 53 at Cardross, some say of leprosy.
Visit historic Scotland with catswhiskerstours

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Glasgow-Edinburgh Canal Link

Historic canal link between Glasgow and Edinburgh has been reopened to through water traffic after a gap of 50 years. Boats can now travel from close to Edinburgh Castle to just 10 mins walk from Glasgow's Queen Street station.Visit the canal and the famous Falkirk Wheel with catswhiskerstours

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Lunar Standstill at Callanish

September 29th 2006 witnessed a rare lunar standstill which occurs every 18.6 years. This arises when the Moon reaches its most extreme elevation; it is created as the Moon orbits the earth on a plane 5 degrees off from the Earth's orbit around the Sun.

The Callanish stones were constructed about 4000 years ago and appear to celebrate the lunar standstill with uncanny accuracy. On the 29th, the Moon rose at 5.10pm at its most southerly position on the horizon and then tracked along its lowest elevation in the skye before setting among the stones in the central circle of Callanish

An even more spectatcular standstill is projected to occur in June 2007 when the Moon will be nearly full.

For further information see website

Visit Callanish Stones with catswhiskerstours

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Scotland's Best Restaurants

Monday, September 25, 2006

It is interesting to note a concentration of top restaurants:

ISLE OF SKYE

PORT OF LEITH (NR EDINBURGH)

  • Martin Wishart, 54 The Shore
  • Kitchin on Commercial Quay
  • Tony Borthwick, Henderson Street, Leith.
GLENEAGLES
Enjoy the best of Scotland with catswhiskerstours

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Barra-the most Scottish part of Scotland

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A study has revealed that 85pct of the Barra populace have names that are historically Scottish, a statistic which ranks the Hebridean island as the most Scottish place in the country.

Barra is one of the beautiful Western Isles. It boasts Gaelic speakers, ancient history and stunning beaches.

Visit Barra with catswhiskerstours

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Celts descended from Iberian fishermen

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Professor Bryan Sykes of Oxford University has, according to press reports, produced a study which claims that it was the Spanish (who arrived in Britain about 4000BC) who were the predecessors to the Celts who in turn did not appear until 3500 years later.

DNA tests have determined that persons with Celtic ancestry in the British Isles have almost identical genetic 'fingerprints' to the inhabitants of Spanish coastal regions today.

Connect with your Scotttish Celtic ancestry with catswhiskerstours

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DNA TEST TO PROVE MEMBERSHIP OF HIGHLAND CLAN

The ancient Clan Donald is offering DNA tests to identify those who share the same genetic fingerprints as its current chiefs. If the tests prove positive then Americans and others around the world can claim their descent from Somerled of Argyll, the founder of the Clan and who died in battle in AD 1164.

DNA samples were provided by Ranald MacDonald, 24th chief of Clanranald, Godfrey MacDonald, high chief of Clan Donald, Sir Ian Macdonald, 24th chief of Sleat and Ranald MacDonell, 23rd chief of Glengarry. These samples were found to match a Y chromosome that tests had identified as beloging to Somerled.

The DNA service is provided through familytreedna.

It will be of interest to members of Clan Donald and Clan Currie.

Connect with your Scots ancestry with catshwiskerstours

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RELIGIOUS THEMED TOUR OF SCOTLAND

Thursday, September 21, 2006

RELIGIOUS THEMED SCOTLAND TOUR

Day 1-

Arrive Edinburgh


Overnight at the centrally situated Apex Hotel

www.apexhotels.co.uk/edinburgh_hotels_city/index.html

Explore Old Edinburgh with catswhiskerstours

Day 2- Monday, May 21st.

Collect 0915 then:

Enjoy Scotland's scenic heritage with catswhiskerstours

Overnight at

Day 3-Tuesday, May 22nd.

Collect 0915 then:

Overnight at Letter Farm B&B www.letterfarm.co.uk

Visit Dunkeld with catswhiskerstours

Day 4- Wednesday, May 23rd

Collect 0915

Overnight at Castle Stuart www.castlestuart.com

Comnect with Scotland's military past with catswhiskerstours

(N.B. Castle Stuart is a genuine castle which has seen military action in the past. The hotel/castle does not have lifts/elevators and may not be suitable for patrons with mobility difficulties.)

Day 5- Thursday, May 24th.

Collect 0915 then:

Overnight at Airds Hotel and Restaurant www.airds-hotel.com

Enjoy Scotland in luxury with catswhiskerstours

Day 6- Friday, May 25th.

Collect at 0915 then:

Overnight Glasgow at

Visist fascinating Glasgow with catswhiskerstours

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WHISKEY THEMED TOUR OF SCOTLAND

CATSWHISKERSTOURS WHISKY THEMED TOUR OF SCOTLAND

Day 1

Arrive Glasgow (0930?)

After the tiring flight this will be a relatively quiet day visiting interesting sites in and around Glasgow including:

In the evening a special, whisky themed dinner overseen by a whisky industry expert.

Overnight at the five star, One Devonshire Gardens www.onedevonshiregardens.com

Day 2

  • Collect at 0915 for drive to Ardrossan (approx. 45 mins)
  • Ferry to Isle of Arran www.arran.uk.com

  • Ferry to Claonaig then short 5 mile drive to
  • Kennacraig and ferry to
  • Port Askaig, Islay www.islay.co.uk

Overnight on Islay at the four star Port Charlotte Hotel

www.milford.co.uk/scotland/accom/h-a-1729.html

Visit Scotland's islands with catswhiskerstours

Day 3

Visit selected Islay distilleries, i.e.

Overnight on Islay at the four star, Port Charlotte Hotel www.milford.co.uk/scotland/accom/h-a-1729.html

Enjoy Scotland's whiskey with catswhiskerstours

Day 4

Ferry to Kennacraig

Then scenic drive to Mallaig via:

· Glencoe www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/glencoe/glencoe

· Glenfinnan www.road-to-the-isles.org.uk/glenfinnan.html

Overnight at the four star, Cnoc-Na-Faire Hotel www.cnoc-na-faire.co.uk

Day 5

Ferry to Ardvasar, Isle of Skye and

· Clan Donald Centre www.Clandonald.com

· Dunvegan Castle www.dunvegancastle.com

· Talisker Distillery www.scotlandwhisky.com/distilleries/highlands/Talisker

Overnight at the three star Eilean-Iarmain Hotel www.eileaniarmain.com

Enjoy Isle of Skye with catswhiskerstours

Day 6

To Inverness via

· Eilean Donan Castle www.eileandonancastle.com

· Castle Urquhart www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/drumnadrochit/urquhart

· Loch Ness www.lochness.co.uk

· Moniak Winery www.moniackcastle.co.uk/

Overnight at Glenmoriston Town House www.glenmoriston.com

Enjoy Inverness with catswhiskerstours

Day 7

To Pitlochry www.scottish-towns.co.uk/perthshire/pitlochry

via

· Culloden Battlefield www.highlanderweb.co.uk/culloden/home.htm

· Macallan Distillery www.scotlandwhisky.com/distilleries/speyside/Macallan

· Balvinie Distillery - See extract below from previous catswhiskerstours tour Blog


“During the day we try to locate the distillery which produces Balvinie whisky. We track it down to Dufftown in Banffshire but, incredibly, it is not in the phone book! Following further research we ascertain that it is connected to Glenfiddich www.glenfiddich.com on 0134082000. Tours of Balvinie last 3 hours (max 8 persons) and occur at 1000 and 1400 daily Monday-Thurs and Friday at 1000. Cost is GBP20 per person.”

Overnight at the four star Atholl Palace Hotel www.athollpalace.co.uk

Visit Pitlochry with catswhiskerstours

Day 8

· Edradour Distillery (Scotland’s smallest) www.edradour.co.uk/index2.html

· Dunkeld and environs www.scottish-towns.co.uk/perthshire/dunkeld

· Castle Campbell www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/dollar/castlecampbell

Overnight at the five star, Fairmont www.hotelreviewscotland.com/hotel.asp?id=107 in the ancient medieval city of St. Andrews www.saint-andrews.co.uk/staindex.html which sits at the heart of world golfing.

Visit the famous Old Course. www.standrews.org.uk/golf/the_courses/old_course.html

Visit the Old Course with catswhiskerstours

Day 9

Scenic drive through Fife Coast/ East Neuk www.visitscotland.com/library/eastneuk to :

· Rosslyn Chapel (Da Vinci Code) www.rosslynchapel.org.uk

· Edinburgh, including the famous:

· Castle www.aboutbritain.com/EdinburghCastle.htm

· Royal Mile www.edinburgholdtown.org.uk

· Holyrood House. www.royal.gov.uk/output/page559.asp

Overnight at Sheraton Grand www.luxuryscotland.co.uk/directory_members/sheraton/index.html

Visit Edinburgh in style with catswhsikerstours

Day 10

Return flight to

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Glasgow's New 'Squinty Bridge'

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

On Sept. 18th 2006 Glasgow's first new river crossing in 30 years was opened. The Clyde Arc, which links the north bank of the Clyde to the Pacific Quay media quarter cost GBP20M ($38M) to build and has acquired the sobriquet Squinty Bridge because of its unusual architecture and diagonal span.

Visit Glasgow's architecture with catswhiskerstours

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14 DAY SCOTLAND TOUR

Monday, September 18, 2006

DAY 1

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

DAY 2

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

DAY 4

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.

DAY 5

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

DAY 6

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

DAY 7

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
Inve
Then on to the north and the Capital of the Highlands, Inverness.

Overnight at the Marriott Hotel.

DAY 8

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.

DAY 9

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.

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Boom in Religious Tourism to Scotland

A boom in religious tourism to Scotland is expected over the next decade driven by ageing, well-travelled tourists who who increasingly demand authenticity and a desire to explore spirituality and culture.

This trend was first identified by a surge in visitors to the Rosslyn Chapel

Other sites of potential interst include:

Visit these sites and more (including meeting with church ministers) with catswhiskerstours

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4000 YEAR OLD BRONZE AGE TOMB FOUND

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A bronze age Cairn was discovered near Linlithgow, West Lothian, Scotland when a forestry stumbled and fell into what appeared to be an old well.

Archaeologists believe it marks the grave of a cremated royal warrior whose remains were laid to rest with great ceremony is a stone tomb built by his subjects on a prominent hilltop.

The 30ft wide cairn tomb cairn at Raven Craig has been taken under the protection of Historic Scotland. It is less than a mile from the famous burial site at Cairnpapple.

It is believed that the cairn originally had a covered top but was plundered by robbers.

Visit ancient Scotland with catswhiskerstours

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Rothesay Castle, Isle of Bute

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Here is a brief history of the (now ruined) medieval castle.
  • Bute was first settled by the Vikings in the 9th century and became part of the Norse Kingdom of Man and the Isles.
  • By end of the 12th century the island stood at the westward boundary of the expanding kingdom of the Scots.
  • During end of 12th century the High Steward seized control of Bute and the other islands on the Firth (estuary) of Clyde.
  • Around AD 1200 Alan, High Steward, constructed a huge circular curtain wall to provide a barrier to the Norse threat.
  • At the treaty of Perth in 1266 Bute was finally confirmed as belonging to Scotland. (The Norse had laid siege to Rothesay Castle in 1230 and 1263 as a consequence of which the four corner towers were added in the second half of the 13th century.)
  • The new towers were constructed with splayed bases and featured unusual, stirrup-shaped arrow slits.
  • Rothesay became a royal residence around 1371 when Robert II acceded to the throne.
  • During the reign of James IV, Rothesay was a strategically important base during the campaigns to extend royal control throughout the Western Highlands and Isles.
  • Between 1518 and 1520 an additional feature, known as 'le dungeoun' was added. This served as the private apartment of the keeper of the castle and as royal lodging for the Stewart kings during visits.
  • The additional features, including a Chapel Royal, were completed before the death of James V in 1542.
  • The castle was garrisoned by Cromwell's troops during the period 1650-`1659. At this time the outer works were reconstructed and outer gun platforms added.
  • It is believed that the castle's garrison demolished part of the castle prior to the return of Charles II to the throne.
  • In 1685 the last habitable remains were destroyed by fire, possibly by supporters of the Earl of Argyll during the rebellion following the death of Charles II.
  • Today, the castle remains present a romantic, ivy clad ruin.
  • For more information see Rothesay Castle
Visit Rothesay Castle and Isle of Bute with catswhiskerstours

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Glasgow and Donald Cameron of Lochiel

September 16, 2006 marks the day when the City of Glasgow pays a tribute to an event more than 260 years ago when Donald Cameron of Lochiel intervened to prevent the destruction of the City by the Jacobite army in revenge for the City's hostility to the Jacobite cause. The Jacobites were successful in procuring supplies ( and imposing a severe fine) but were persuaded not to sack the City by 'Gentle Lochiel' under threat of the withdrawal of his Clan from the Jacobite cause.

In recognition of the City's appreciation the town magistrates decreed that each time Lochiel or his descendents entered the City, bells would be rung in their honour. Today (16th.) the current chief, Donald Cameron of Lochiel and senior members of the clan will pay their first official visit to Glasgow since the 1970s in recognition of which they will be greeted by the sound of bells peeling from Tron Steeple and St.George's Tron.

Sadly, Cameron of Lochiel was wounded at the battle of Culloden and was exiled to France where he died in 1748.

Visit historic Glasgow with catswhiskerstours

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ISLE OF SKYE ARTIST

From his early years Duncan Currie grew to love the spectacular maritime and mountain scenery of Skye and North West Scotland. He is inspired by many themes including fishing boats and unfamiliar views of the well known Skye hills and lochs.

There is a unique light about the landscape of the Skye which Duncan believes is caused by reflection and refraction of light from the sea water on the hills which rise steeply from the shores. This, together with the spectacular rock formations found in the Cuillins and the mountains and hills in the north of nthe island, form the basis of his work.

Duncan specialises in mixed media painting. He also produces traditional watercolour paintings and pen and ink illustrations of wild life.

See Duncan's work at his website

Visit Isle of Skye with catswhiskerstours

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New Clan Chief for MacDonalds of Keppoch

Friday, September 15, 2006

Ranald Alasdair MacDonald, a retired 75 year-old Edinburgh hearing aid specialist was installed as 22nd Chief of a branch of the MacDonalds on Sept. 13th 2006. This follows a 20 year legal battle culminating in the highest courts of Scotland. The new Chief acquires no castle or lands, just a coat of arms and the satisfaction of succeeding in his claim. The new Chief's title is Chief of the Honourable Clan Ranald of Lochaber Mac Mhic Raonuill; kinsmen may address him as "Ready Warrior". Visit Scotland's heritage with catswhiskerstours

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'Toil and Trouble' at Cawdor Castle

A bitter family feud has erupted within one of Scotland's oldest and most colouful aristocratic families which revolves around the will of then 6th Earl of Cawdor.The famous Highland Estate attracts about 100,000 visitors a year due mainly to its association with Shakespear's Macbeth, the most famous Thane of Cawdor. Visit Cawdor Castle with catswhiskerstours

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Scotland's Doors Open Day

Over 1000 Scottish buildings and archaelogical sites will be open during the month of September, all free of charge. Visit historic Scotland with catswhiskerstours

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Experimental Scotland Hovercraft Serrvice

Scotland based Stagecoach group plans to initiate an experimental hovercraft service between Kirkaldy and Portobello with a bus link to Edinburgh. This will operate for 3 weeks during Spring 2007 and will take up to 150 foot passengers at a time. Visit Edinburgh with catswhiskerstours

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New Ferry to Isle of Bute

A new GBP8M Caledonian MacBrayne ferry was launched Sept. 12 2006 at Gdansk, Poland. This will be known as the MV Argyle and will operate from 2007 on Scotland's busiest isalnd route between Wemyss Bay, Ayrshire and Rothesay on the Isle of Bute.The vessel is identical to sister ship, MV Bute and will be able to carry 450 passengers and 60 cars. Visit Isle of Bute with catswhiskerstours

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Seven Day Scotland Tour (Sept..2006)

Monday, September 11, 2006

DAY 1

Party of four due to arrive Glasgow 0915 but two clients delayed by 8 hours due to flight cancellation in the U.S. In the meantime we elect to visit Culzean Castle on the Ayrshire Coast but find ourselves hemmed in by a 10K road race around Glasgow. Afer a "magical mystery tour" around the architecturally interesting streets of Glasgow we invoke Plan B and drive north to the Trossachs and Loch Katrine stopping at Aberfoyle for a refreshment break en-route. Avail of a 105 min trip on steamship Sir Walter Scott which proves most enjoyable; good scenery aided by clement weather (most of the time!) and hence good photo opps. Back to Glasgow in the evening to collect the two late arrivals then try to adhere to most of the original itinerary, i.e. Loch Lomond/Luss Note that heritage village Luss was used the set for a Scottish TV soap for many years, 'Take the High Road'. Overnight at the well situated Loch Fyne Hotel at Inveraray which proved a good choice. A long day but we arrive in good spirit. Enjoy flexible tours of Scotland with catswhiskerstours

Day 2

We start with a quick tour/photo shoot of Inveraray and make contact wih some locals.Then head north to enjoy a scenic drive past Kilchurn Castle (photos) and then on up via winding, narrow roads of Glen Orchy (taking in waterfalls and rapids and hence more photo opps). After emerging on to the main road we move on to Glencoe

Glencoe is internationally renowned for its dramatic and extraordinary landscape, famous history (1692 massacre) and its important wildlife. All of these features are displayed at the well presented visitor centre. A quick drive through the actual village then on to
Fort William/Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis is Britain's highest mountain at 4406 ft (1344m) However, we don't have the energy to attempt an ascent!

On to Glenfinnan
It was here that Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard in 1745 with aim of re-taking the Crown for the Stewarts. Good views and photo opps. Drive on to Mallaig to connect with the ferry to Skye but we get caught up in a convoy of slow moving traffic along the narrow road and catch the ferry by the skin of out teeth!

After a 20 min ferry trip we arrive at Skye and then visit the Clan Donald Centre
This is a fascinating and well presented visitor centre with library for research purposes. Much information on Scotland, Skye, the MacDonalds and emigration to Canada, U.S., Australia and New Zealand in the 18th and 19th centuries. We then move on to the well maintained gardens and ruined castle. The gardens incorporate some fascinating shrubs and mature trees, many originating from North America. Visit Scotland's gardens with catswhiskerstours
Overnight at Eilean Iarmain Hotel
This hotel is wonderfully situated on a small peninsula and affords wonderful views and photo opps.

DAY 3
After an enjoyable overnight at the hotel (good food) we move on with our planned tour of Skye. Unfortunately this is a day of heavy rain-as predicted-but the only rainy day of the tour. We complete a loop of the main part of Skye taking in Portree and a visit to Dunvegan Castle
This is the home of Clan Macleod. Visit Scotland's castles with catswhiskerstours
We wish to purchase some tartan clothing so drive on, off the island, to Lochcarron Weavers
This is a fascinating mill, well off the main "tourist route." It is possible to see actual weaving in process. Aided by some very helpful staff we indulge in some purchases and then move to a local cafe (the Waterside) for some refreshment including some very tasty freshly cooked scones. After reflection at the cafe we elect to return to Lochcarron Weavers for some more purchases! After more photo opps we drive back to Skye, across the bridge Despite the weather, a very satisfying and productive day.

DAY 4

0915 start. Weather much improved. We leave Skye for the last time and head towards the famous Loch Ness. First stop at the very photo-genic Eilean Donan Castle
After refreshment and photos we move on through the breathtaking and ever changing scenery to Castle Urquhart on Loch Ness
Apart from the fabled monster, Loch Ness has claim to fame in that it has the greatest mean depth of any Scottish Loch at 433 ft and the greatest volume of water measured at 263,162 million cubic feet. Visit Scottish Lochs with catswhiskerstours
We spend well over an hour at Castle Urquhart which affords superb photo opps. Incredibly, some youngsters were swimming in the Loch, which has a temperature of about 38F degrees!
On to Moniak winery via a back road taking us through countryside which is well endowed with heather in bloom. Scotland is renowned for its heather, an often underrated plant which grows profusely in the Highlands. The praises of heather have been heralded in Song and Legend since time immemorial, yet little is know about it. Visit Scotland's heather with catswhiskerstours
We drive on to Fort George
This is a fascinating 18th. century fort built to control the Highlands by the Government after the 1745-6 uprising and is still an army base today! After an hour or so at Fort George we move on to the hotel, Maple Court at Inverness which proves "OK".

DAY 5

Collect 0915 then on to the famous battlefield site at Culloden
It was here on 16 April 1746 that the last battle was fought on British soil and ended the House of Stuart's hopes of regaining the throne. Unfortunately, the special, guided tour was not available but we undertook our own tour with benefit of the guide books, etc.
After Culloden drive down to Highland Perthshire through ever changing scenery. At Pitlochry we visit the Edradour Distillery , which provides an excellent free tour lasting about 45 mins. Some of the group are converted to the merits of whisky and make selected purchases! Visit Scotland's distilleries with catswhiskerstours
We are running late but a call to our next scheduled stop, the Crannog Centre
ensures that we should just make the last tour of the day. This is the only reconstructed Crannog in the British Isles and well worth a visit. Crannogs are a type of ancient loch dwelling found throughout Scotland and Ireland.They were built out in the water as defensive homesteads from 5000 years ago and people continued to modify and re-occupy them periodically until the 17th century AD! Visit the Crannog Centre with catswhiskerstours
After a fascinating visit to the Crannog we briefly visit the Kenmore Hotel to see the authentic Robert Burns' poem written on the wall and then enjoy a scenic drive back to Dunkeld via Aberfeldy (where the famous Black Watch regiment was raised) and Dalguise (which has links with Beatrix Potter). Weather good/sunny. Overnight at the Royal Hotel, Dunkeld.

DAY 6

Start 0915 and all the portents of a good, sunny day. Drive to the village of Dunning where we visit the famous Dupplin Cross
This is housed in a fascinating, historic church which itself is a museum. After an excellent guided tour of the Cross we drive on to Stirling Castle via the roadside memorial to Maggie Wall who was burned as a witch in the 17th century. Stirling Castle is probably one of the best of Scotland's many castles and, ideally, we should have allowed more time to visit all the various facets of this famous building. Then to the Wallace Monument which is a tower on a very steep hill, thus affording excellent views and photo opps. Then we drive on , availing of a refreshment stop en-route, to St. Andrews
We pull in at the Old Course Hotel and simply sample the atmosphere at this Holy Grail of golfing. Spend about an hour on the Old Course, taking pics and a call back to the U.S.to make friends/relatives envious! Visit St.Andrews with catswhiskerstours
On to Edinburgh via the Fife Coast and a quick visit to Lower Largo where there is a statue to the role model for Robinson Crusoe, one Andrew Selkirk.
Overnight at the spendid Dalhousie Castle and Spa

DAY 7

Final day!!

Collect 0915 then on to the nearby, famous, Rosslyn Chapel
The Chapel has magnificent carvings and features in the Da Vinci Code. We wanted to visit the Edinburgh Crystal showrooms but, at last minute we learn the company is in bankruptcy! So, on to Edinburgh Castle
After a visit to this iconic site a gentle walk down the famous Royal Mile for refreshments at Holyrood House.Visit Edinburgh with Catswhiskerstours. Overall, a very satisfying day. Then back to Glasgow and the Ramada Airport Hotel in readiness for return flight the next morning. Fond farewells after an enjoybale Scotland tour.

NB-Pics to come.

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