Great Gardens of Scotland
Join garden writer and broadcaster Genevieve Jacobs as she traverses the romantic heartland of Caledonia at the peak of the summer bloom, exploring the gardens of castles and manor houses as well as private and botanical gardens.
Scotland has long drawn travellers from across the world for its natural beauty and valiant history, and nowhere more so than the heart-lifting Highlands, the rugged Hebrides of the west coast and the windswept Orkney Islands reaching out from Scotland’s north-eastern tip. Benefitting from ample rainfall for most of the year, in the summer Scotland’s gardens put on a show second to none for their verdancy and their magnificent castle and highland backdrops.
Depart Australia or New Zealand on suggested Qantas/Emirates flights to Glasgow. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.
Arrive in Glasgow in the early afternoon and check in to your hotel. This evening, join Genevieve and your fellow travellers for a welcome dinner.
Begin the day with an orientation tour of Glasgow, taking in the city’s beautiful Victorian and Art Nouveau architecture including Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s House for an Art Lover and the adjacent Walled Garden.
After lunch at a local restaurant, explore the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, containing artwork ranging from Rembrandt to Monet, van Gogh and Dalí, as well as the Scottish Colourists and exponents of the Glasgow School.
After breakfast, depart for Dumfries House in Ayrshire, the former residence of the Marquess of Bute. Enjoy a guided tour of the Palladian manor house, containing fine works of 18th century furniture by the likes of Thomas Chippendale, and stroll through its walled garden. After lunch, explore the grounds of the estate and the recently-created arboretum, containing more than 500 specimens of trees, shrubs and woodland flowers, as well as two lochans (small lochs).
Return to Glasgow and enjoy an evening at leisure.
Check out from your hotel and travel to Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute, taking the ferry across the Firth of Clyde. After lunch at Mount Stuart, enjoy a guided tour of the manor and gardens. Built in the Gothic Revival style of the late 19th century, Mount Stuart House was the first home in Scotland fitted with electricity, and its beautiful gardens include a rock garden, kitchen garden and a quaint, secluded ‘Wee Garden’.
In the afternoon, continue to Loch Lomond, including a ferry crossing of the East Kyle of Bute to return to mainland Argyll. A picturesque freshwater loch bestriding the Highland Boundary Fault, Loch Lomond is the largest stretch of fresh water in Great Britain.
After breakfast, travel to Inveraray Castle, the seat of the Dukes of Argyll, and wander through its gardens and ‘policies’ (improved lands). The magnificent 18th century castle overlooks gardens abounding with white, pink and red rhododendrons and azaleas, and containing trees planted by distinguished 19th century visitors such as Queen Victoria, Prime Minister William Gladstone and explorer David Livingstone.
Spend some free time in Inveraray for lunch before visiting Crarae Garden, an exotic garden imitating the style of a remote gorge in the Himalayas. Return to Loch Lomond for dinner.
Check out from your hotel and travel to Arduaine Garden, on a rocky promontory at the confluence of the Sound of Jura and Loch Melfort, where the North Atlantic Drift warms the coastal climate. Begun in 1898 at the height of Scotland’s enthusiasm for exotic flowers, Arduaine Garden contains a wealth of flora from around the world, with a particular emphasis on East Asian and South American plants.
After lunch at a nearby restaurant, continue to Taychreggan for the remainder of the afternoon at leisure before dinner in the evening.
After breakfast, check out from your hotel and drive to Fort William at the southern end of the Great Glen, the 100 km-fault line that cuts through the Scottish Highlands. Enjoy lunch at leisure in Fort William before you travel ‘over the sea to Skye’, the romantic Hebridean isle which has called out to travellers and members of the Scottish diaspora for centuries.
Check in to the hotel on the Isle of Skye, followed by dinner.
After breakfast, explore Dunvegan Castle on the northwest coast of Skye, the stout holdfast that has been the seat of Clan MacLeod of MacLeod for some 700 years. Since the 13th century, successive clan chiefs have embellished the site with towers, battlements and apartments as well as walled, round and water gardens.
After free time for lunch at Dunvegan Castle, drive to Armadale Castle on the southeast coast, a ruined 19th castle once inhabited by the MacDonalds and graced with 16 hectares of beautiful gardens and a Museum of the Isles.
Check out from your hotel and cross back to the mainland to Attadale Gardens in Wester Ross. Established in the Victorian era, Attadale now contains a Japanese garden, kitchen garden, water gardens, a sunken garden and a geodesic dome filled with ferns. Scattered throughout the gardens is an impressive collection of sculptures.
After lunch, drive to Fort Augustus for a cruise on Loch Ness (weather and monsters permitting!). The largest lake by volume in the British Isles, the black waters of Loch Ness plumb depths as deep as 126 fathoms. Drive to Inverness, capital of the Highlands, for a stay of three nights.
In the morning, enjoy a guided tour of Cawdor Castle, which traces its origins back to a 15th century keep built by the 6th Thane of Calder. The castle is particularly well known for its gardens, including the 18th century walled garden, 19th century flower garden and 20th century wild garden – appropriately planted at the height of “Flower Power” in the 1960s.
After free time for lunch, spend the rest of the afternoon at leisure in Inverness.
Strike out for a day trip across Wester Ross, travelling first to Inverewe Gardens situated on the west coast of the Scottish mainland. Benefitting from the temperate influence of the North Atlantic Drift, Inverewe cultivates such diverse flora as New Zealand olearia, Himalayan blue poppies and even the northernmost planting of Australia’s own Wollemi pine.
Enjoy lunch at Inverewe before travelling to Brahan Estate in central Wester Ross. The 1,600-hectare Brahan Estate plays host to birdwatchers, golfers, trout fishers, Highland ramblers and deer stalkers. Return to Inverness and spend an evening at leisure.
Transfer to the airport for a flight across the Pentland Firth to Kirkwall, capital of the Orkney Islands. The Orkneys, an archipelago reaching out north east from the tip of the Scottish mainland, have a distinct culture of their own, embracing their Norse heritage and the windswept beauty of their island home.
On arrival in Kirkwall, visit a local workshop and gallery showcasing traditional Orcadian crafts and knitwear, and after free time for lunch, explore the history of the islands at the Orkney Museum. Check in to your hotel and enjoy dinner in a local restaurant, followed by a special guest talk from one of the Orkneys’ foremost gardeners.
Spend a day exploring private gardens around the Orkneys. Begin at Marengo Garden in St Margaret’s Hope on the island of South Ronaldsay, which was once the centre of the islands’ herring fishing industry.
After lunch in St Margaret’s Hope, return to the main island of the Orkneys for a guided tour of the Quoy of Houton, a historic walled garden which looks out over the point where the Scapa Flow meets the Bring Deeps. The Quoy of Houton is one of the Orkneys’ most elegant gardens, and in 2017 was awarded ‘Best Challenging Garden’ in the Gardeners’ World Garden of the Year competition.
In nearby Orphir, visit Quarry Fields, a hillside garden boasting a wonderful collection of hostas and spectacular views over to the island of Hoy.
In the morning, visit Sternwood Garden and the Finstown Community Garden, which display delightful candelabra primulas and roses protected by a shelter belt. After free time for lunch in the charming village of Finstown, continue to Birsay on the northwest coast of the main island for a guided tour of Annie’s Place. Annie’s Place is a tiny garden situated near the beach and the frigid Norwegian Sea, but through the clever use of annuals the owners manage to create a beautiful summer garden in an otherwise hostile environment.
This evening, enjoy a special farewell dinner in the capital, Kirkwall, with Genevieve and fellow travellers.
Transfer to Kirkwall airport for a morning flight to Glasgow.
Tour arrangements conclude on arrival in Glasgow airport.
For those returning to Australia or New Zealand, suggested Qantas/Emirates flights departing from 15:30. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.
*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Final payment due
02 April 2018
Please see booking conditions for fitness level definitions.
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require visas for the United Kingdom.
Tour prices includes
- Accommodation in centrally located 4 star superior hotels or best available, with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including wine with dinners
- Comprehensive sightseeing including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Economy Class flights to and from Kirkwall, Orkney Islands
- Transportation throughout on comfortable air-conditioned coaches, and ferries as per itinerary
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour prices does not include
- International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Airport/hotel transfers on tour arrival and departure
- Airport porterage
- Items of a personal nature, including telephone, laundry, taxis, minibar, room service etc.
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Glasgow – Grand Central Hotel ****+
Loch Lomond – The Inn on Loch Lomond ***+
Taychreggan – Taychreggan Hotel ***+
Isle of Skye – Cuillin Hills Hotel ****+
Inverness – Kingsmills Hotel ****
Orkney Islands – The Albert Hotel ***+
NB: Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.