May 5: Arrival
(depart U.S. on 5/4)
On arrival at Edinburgh airport, a private transfer will take you to our overnight hotel, the Norton House Hotel. In the evening you are invited to join the group for a welcome drink, followed by dinner.
May 6: Rosslyn Chapel and Abbotsford
This morning we head to Rosslyn Chapel, home to some of the most exquisite carvings and portrait scenes in Europe. Dating back to 1445, the chapel gained worldwide fame thanks to the increasing interest in Freemasonry and the Knights Templar (it was one of the filming locations for Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code). We continue to Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott, one of the great romanticists and the foremost literary figure of his day. Created by the writer himself in the Scottish Baronial style, the house contains an impressive collection of historic relics and an extensive library and we discover more on our guided tour. Later we check in to the Macdonald Linden Hall Hotel where we stay for the next five nights. Tonight we enjoy dinner at the hotel.
May 7: Newcastle, Newcastle
Cathedral and Durham Cathedral We enjoy a guided tour of Newcastle. In the historical centre of the city stands the Castle Keep, one of the finest Norman stone castle keeps surviving in Britain today. Although founded in 1091, Newcastle Cathedral is mainly 14th century and is notable for its unusual 15th-century lantern spire. Next is Durham Cathedral, a World Heritage Site, sitting on a rocky promontory high above the River Wear. Originally built in 1093 as a monastic cathedral for a community of Benedictine monks, the cathedral boasts some of the most intact surviving monastic buildings in England. We dine together at the hotel tonight.
May 8: Raby Castle and Rokeby Park
We make our way to Raby Castle. King Cnut owned the estate in the early 11th century but it was the Nevills who built the 14th-century castle we see today, now home to Lord Barnard, a direct descendant of the Nevills. The exterior of medieval towers and turrets contrasts with the sumptuous interiors which provide a magnificent backdrop for the stunning art collection. Afterwards, we head to Rokeby Park where we enjoy a guided tour. Completed in 1735 by its owner, Sir Thomas Robinson, this architectural treasure represents the heyday of the Palladianstyle country house. Much of the present interior was designed by John Carr and a unique collection of 18th-century needlework pictures by Anne Morritt are on display. Tonight, we enjoy dinner together back at the hotel.
May 9: Naworth Castle, Lanercost Priory and Hadrian’s Wall
This morning we visit Naworth Castle, the private ancestral home of the Howard family. We enjoy an exclusive private guided tour by the current owner, Philip Howard. A border stronghold dating back to 1335, the castle was almost destroyed by a devastating fire in 1844. Restoration began in 1850 but the interiors were the work of the 9th Earl of Carlisle who counted many of the eminent Pre-Raphaelites among his friends. Naworth is not usually open to the public and we will enjoy a special visit here. Close by stands the Augustinian Lanercost Priory, founded in 1166. The tranquil setting of the priory belies an often troubled history. Standing close to Hadrian’s Wall, it suffered frequent attacks during the long Anglo-Scottish wars. Although the chancel and transepts are in ruins, the cloisters are beautifully preserved and the 13th-century nave lives on as the parish church. The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall as a fortification across Britain some two thousand years ago. We’ll explore part of this fascinating archaeological site before visiting Housesteads Roman Fort, Britain’s most complete Roman fort. This evening, we enjoy dinner together at a local restaurant.
May 10: Alnwick Castle and Wallington
Alnwick Castle is still home to the Duke of Northumberland and his family. On our guided tour, we explore the history of the Percy family through the eclectic array of furniture and art they collected in the impressive State Rooms. Alnwick also featured in the popular TV series Downton Abbey. We also visit Alnwick Garden, set around a cascading fountain, and surrounding ‘Capability’ Brown landscape. We continue on to Wallington, the much-loved home to generations of the unconventional Trevelyan family. Fans of the Pre-Raphaelites will love Wallington’s Central Hall. Built towards the close of the 17th century, the rather plain Palladian exterior hides an interior brimming with wonderful collections of ceramics, paintings and needlework. After dinner back at the hotel, we are treated to a fascinating talk by a guest speaker.
May 11: Floors Castle and Mellerstain House
We return north, stopping first at Floors Castle, lying on the River Tweed. Scotland’s largest inhabited castle has been home to the Dukes of Roxburghe since it was built in 1721 to designs by William Adam. Here we can admire the collections of fine art, furniture, porcelain and tapestries on our guided tour. Mellerstain House is seen by many as Robert Adam’s finest work. Begun in 1725 by William Adam and completed by his more famous son, Robert, in 1778, the exterior of Mellerstain is a good example of Adam’s ‘castle style’. It is the interiors however that showcase Adam’s work at its best with exquisitely proportioned rooms embellished with classical plasterwork, some fine art as well as period furniture and embroidery collections. We then return to the Norton House Hotel, our base for the last four nights of our stay. We enjoy dinner together at the hotel tonight.
May 12: Edinburgh and Edinburgh Castle
This morning we enjoy a guided walking tour of Scotland’s capital city of Edinburgh. Most of the city’s sights can be found within the medieval Old Town and the elegant Georgian buildings of the New Town, all overlooked by the iconic castle perched high above the city. As one of the most important strongholds in the Kingdom of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle has witnessed many of the defining events of Scottish history. Highlights include the Crown Jewels of Scotland, the Royal Palace and the 16th-century Great Hall. We then enjoy a little free time to explore the city. Later, we dine together at a local restaurant.
May 13: Thirlestane Castle and Traquair House
We start the day at Thirlestane Castle where we enjoy a private guided tour. As the seat of the Earls and Duke of Lauderdale and the home of the Maitland family, this defensive fort with rose pink sandstone and fairy tale turrets, dates back to the 13th century. The interiors are a mix of 19th century and early Baroque and highlights include the Duke’s bedroom with its exquisite plasterwork ceilings and the extensive family portraits. Next is Traquair House where the 21st Lady of Traquair* will show us around the house. This 12th-century former hunting lodge, which hosted 27 Scottish monarchs, has a fascinating history spanning nearly a thousand years. Trace the footsteps of the Kings of Scotland as you climb the turnpike staircase and uncover how priests escaped in times of danger. We dine together back at the hotel this evening.
May 14: Royal Yacht Britannia
After enjoying a morning at leisure in Edinburgh, this afternoon we step aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, the Queen’s floating Royal residence for over 44 years, used not only for state visits and official receptions but also for family holidays. Our fascinating guided tour includes the Bridge, the State Apartments, Royal Bedrooms, Crew’s Quarters and the Engine Room. After our tour, we enjoy afternoon tea on board. Tonight, we enjoy a farewell dinner together at our hotel.
May 15: Departure
A private transfer will take you back to Edinburgh airport for your return flight home.