Castles & Treasure Houses of Edinburgh and Northern Ireland

Book this tour

September 18  –  26, 2016 | $3,650 per person

Topiary Harp at Mount Stewart, Northern Ireland

Topiary Harp at Mount Stewart, Northern Ireland

We discover the history and hidden stories behind some of the iconic buildings of the capital cities of Edinburgh and Belfast; both cities with very different tales to tell. We also explore the rugged coastlines of Northern Ireland and Western Scotland with their wealth of breathtaking scenery plus fine country houses that give a fascinating glimpse of life from a bygone era.

Day 1: Arrival

On arrival at Edinburgh airport, a complimentary transfer will take you to
Norton House Hotel. In the evening you are invited to join the group for a welcome drink and canapés, followed by dinner.

Day 2: Edinburgh, Palace of Holyroodhouse and Georgian House
Edinburgh

Edinburgh

We start the day with a guided tour of Scotland’s vibrant 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.

We then visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland. Here we take a guided walk through the historic Palace gardens, followed by morning refreshments and a visit of the State Apartments with audio guides.

Finally, we enjoy a guided tour of The Georgian House, an atmospheric 18th century townhouse situated in New Town. The house is part of Charlotte Square, a vision of architectural symmetry designed by Robert Adam, offering the well-to-do of Edinburgh a means of escape from the overcrowded tenements of the Old Town.

Day 3: Royal Yacht Britannia and Edinburgh Castle

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 relaxing family holidays. Our fascinating tour with audio guides includes the Bridge, the State Apartments, Royal Bedrooms, Crew’s Quarters and the gleaming Engine Room.

In the afternoon, we visit Edinburgh Castle. As one of the most important strongholds in the Kingdom of Scotland, the castle has witnessed many of the defining events of Scottish history. Highlights include the Crown Jewels of Scotland, the Royal Palace, St Margaret’s Chapel and the 16th-century Great Hall.

Back at the hotel this evening, we enjoy an interesting lecture from a guest speaker.

Day 4: Pollok House and ferry to Northern Ireland

After breakfast we check out and travel to Glasgow to visit Pollok House. Set in the tranquil surroundings of Pollok Country Park, this grand country house gives a real flavour of the upstairs, downstairs life in the 1930s. The lavish family rooms house an outstanding collection of Spanish art while the vast servants’ quarters show the realities of running a country house.

We then head to Cairnryan to catch the ferry to Belfast. From here we travel to the Culloden Hotel, arriving in time to unpack and freshen up before dinner.

Day 5: Castle Ward, Strangford Lough and Mount Stewart
The iconic - and recently restored - Mount Stewart, Northern Ireland.

The iconic – and recently restored – Mount Stewart, Northern Ireland.

We head to Castle Ward, an eccentric 18th century house that features a curious mixture of architectural styles, set in 820 picturesque acres of demesne with superb views over Strangford Lough. We enjoy a late lunch and a guided tour that offers an insight into the Ward family life.

We also stop off at Strangford Lough, studded with islands, hidden coves, sandy beaches, rocky outcrops and sheltered inlets. The shores of the Lough have recently been used as a film location for the hit television series Game of Thrones.

In the afternoon, we visit the magnificent Mount Stewart House and Garden. This family home reopened its doors in 2015 following a three year, £7 million restoration programme with never before seen rooms accessible to the public. This funding has secured the important family library, which will remain in its historic home. We also enjoy a guided tour of the property’s wonderfully atmospheric garden, one of the most inspiring and unusual gardens in the National Trust’s ownership.

Day 6: Giant’s Causeway, Scenic North Coast and Portstewart Strand
Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland

Giants Causeway, Northern Ireland

We head to the Giant’s Causeway, so-named for the enormous basalt columns produced by volcanic eruptions some sixty million years ago. The state-of-the-art visitor centre unveils the stories and science that surround this natural phenomenon.

We then make our way along the beautifully scenic coastal route to Portstewart Strand, a two-mile stretch of golden sand that is one of Northern Ireland’s finest beaches. Owned and managed by the National Trust, its precious habitat is an important nature conservation site with the dunes behind the strand acting as a haven for wild flowers and butterflies. We also enjoy lunch at the award-winning beachside restaurant, Harry’s Shack, which serves fresh fish and delicious, simple food in a National Trust building.

Day 7: Belfast, Titanic Experience and Springhill

We enjoy a guided tour of Northern Ireland’s capital of Belfast. Now a thriving, modern metropolis, Belfast has a colourful history and, as a key player in the Industrial Revolution, was the centre for the Irish linen and tobacco industries.

The city is still home to Harland & Wolff, the shipbuilders that built the Titanic, so it’s fitting that we visit the fantastic Titanic Experience that opened in 2012 to mark the centenary of the liner’s doomed maiden voyage.

Heading out of the city we visit Springhill, a charming 17th-century plantation home surrounded by walled gardens and parkland. Here there are ten generations of Lenox-Conyngham family stories to discover as well as a celebrated costume collection which features some fine 18th to 20th-century pieces.

Day 8: Ferry to Cairnryan and Culzean Castle

After checking out of the hotel, we catch our return ferry to Cairnryan, then visitCulzean Castle for afternoon tea. The castle enjoys a dramatic clifftop setting overlooking the Firth of Clyde, surrounded by landscaped gardens and woodland.

We then travel back to Norton House Hotel in Edinburgh, where we enjoy dinner before departure the next day.

Day 9: Departure

A complimentary transfer will take you back to Edinburgh airport.

What’s Included

• Airport transfers
• 4 nights at Norton House Hotel
• 4 nights at Culloden Hotel
• Welcome drink and canapés
• Full English breakfast and 3-course table d’hôte dinner each day
• After dinner tea and coffee
• 2 lunches
• Services of a tour director throughout your stay
• Travel by comfortable motor coach
• All entrance costs
• Porterage

Special Extras included in your itinerary:

• Guided tour of Edinburgh
• Garden history tour, audio guides and refreshments at the Palace of Holyroodhouse
• Guided tour at the Georgian House
• Lunch and guided tour at Castle Ward
• Guided garden tour at Mount Stewart
• Lunch at Harry’s Shack, Portstewart
• Guided tour of Belfast
• Afternoon tea at Culzean Castle

Hotels:

Nights One to Three and Night Eight
Originally a traditional country retreat built in 1840, the Norton House Hotel is a fine country house hotel set in 55 acres of leafy grounds to the west of Edinburgh. This luxury hotel offers boutique rooms and a health club and spa with a swimming pool, sauna, steam room and hydrotherapy pool plus a fully equipped gym.

Nights Four to Seven
The Culloden Hotel is situated just a short drive from Belfast city centre, high in the Holywood hills overlooking Belfast Lough. Originally built as an official palace for the Bishops of Down and set in 12 acres of gardens and woodland, the hotel has many period features including antique furniture, paintings and chandeliers. Leisure facilities include a spa with steam room and hot tub, a pool and fitness suite.

Book this tour