On arrival at Edinburgh Airport, a private transfer will take you to our overnight hotel, the Kimpton Charlotte Square in Edinburgh. In the evening, join the group for a welcome drink followed by dinner.
Wednesday: Dumfermline Abbey and Scone Palace
This morning we head to the ancient capital of Scotland, Dunfermline, to discover the city’s impressive abbey and monastic ruins. Dating back to the 11th century, it was once used as the burial site of Scottish monarchs and there are several reminders and relics of great past rulers to look out for, including the exquisite brass-covered tomb of King Robert the Bruce.
Our next stop is Scone Palace, the family home of the Earls of Mansfield and the crowning place of Scottish kings, from Robert the Bruce to Charles II. There are plenty of treasures enclosed within, with fine collections of furniture, porcelain, ivories, clocks, paintings and other objets d’art. Outside, there is a Victorian Pinetum, home to giant Hemlocks, Noble Firs and Sequoias, a specially designed maze, walled and kitchen gardens plus wonderful nature trails; look out for red squirrels, peacocks, roe deer and the rare hawfinch along the way.
Later we check into the Old Manse of Blair Hotel, an exquisite country house and our base for the next three nights.
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Thursday: Blair Castle and Blair Athol Distillery
Today we head to Perthshire’s Blair Castle. Home to the Atholl family for over seven centuries, the castle was sieged by Oliver Cromwell’s army in 1650 and was also used as an auxiliary hospital during World War I. Today, the opulent rooms boast collections of weapons, family souvenirs, paintings and furniture while in the grounds, you can find the second tallest tree in Britain, a Grand Fir measuring 206 ft.
For a true flavour of Scotland, we then visit Blair Athol Distillery in the picturesque town of Pitlochry. On our guided tour we see how the uisge beatha whisky is made from golden malted barley, water and yeast, distilled in traditional copper pot stills and matured in oak casks.
This evening we enjoy dinner together at a local restaurant.
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Friday: Braemar Castle, Balmoral Castle and Crathie Kirk
Our first visit is to Braemar Castle, which has recently undergone a restoration programme thanks to community fundraising efforts. There is so much history to discover here; the 2nd Earl of Mar built the fortress in 1628 as a hunting base, it was set alight in the first Jacobite Uprising and later seized by the Crown, Government troops were stationed here following the Battle of Culloden and after they left, local landowners began transforming the castle into a family home. There have been a host of famous visitors too, from Queen Victoria to the current Royal Family.
The Royal Family didn’t need to travel far from nearby Balmoral, a fine example of Scots Baronial architecture and the Scottish home of British monarchs since it was purchased for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert after they were both awestruck by the Highlands. The family have since enjoyed many happy summers here and it was particularly loved by Elizabeth II, who peacefully passed away here in 2022. We enjoy access to the grounds and gardens of the estate as well as the Castle Ballroom where fascinating displays of art, china and artifacts are exhibited, complete with an audio-guided tour.
Please note: the other rooms of Balmoral are closed to the public.
There is also time to take a peek at Crathie Kirk, the charming place of worship for the Royal Family when in residence at Balmoral. In 1893, Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone of the present church and contributed two beautiful stained glass windows, with her daughter Princess Beatrice donating four bells.
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Saturday: JM Barrie’s Birthplace and Glamis Castle
We pay a visit to the birthplace of JM Barrie, author and creator of the much-loved character, Peter Pan. The house is now a museum dedicated to telling his story, from growing up immersed in the traditions of a small weaving community to his route to success.
Next, we travel to the spectacular Glamis Castle, home to the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne. Childhood home of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and the birthplace of Princess Margaret, the original 14th-century castle was extensively restored in the 17th and 18th centuries in an elaborate French château style with turrets, towers and a crenelated roofline. The story of the evolution of the castle and its legendary tales are brought to life on our guided tour, and we also explore the gardens, home to yew hedges, wooden sculptures, herbaceous borders and the bubbling River Dean. The stunning Italian Garden was lovingly laid out by Elizabeth II’s grandmother, Countess Cecilia, and is a kaleidoscope of color during the warmer months.
Sunday: St Andrews and Highland Games
After checking out of the hotel, we follow in the footsteps of William and Kate, Prince and Princess of Wales with a guided coach and walking tour in St Andrews. The young royals met in this pretty town while studying art history at university here, living together as housemates before their relationship soon blossomed. This is also where Lady Louise, Queen Elizabeth II’s granddaughter, attends. As well as being a world-class golfing spot, there are plenty of other highlights, from stunning beaches and fascinating museums to a crumbling castle and an ancient cathedral.
We’re in for a real Scottish treat this afternoon; St Andrews Highland Games, a tradition beloved by the Royal Family. A unique part of Scotland’s heritage and a celebration of Celtic culture, the events range from running, cycling and weightlifting to tug-of-war, solo piping and traditional Highland dancing. You can expect plenty of kilts, bagpipes and whisky, all creating a distinct atmosphere and a highlight of the Fife calendar.
Later we check back into the Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel, our base for the remainder of our tour.
Monday: Falkland Palace and Hopetoun House
Falkland Palace is our first stop today, a fairytale fortress built in a beautiful French Renaissance style, inspired by the country’s grand châteaus. Our visit is a wonderful opportunity to tread the path of royalty and discover a true pleasure palace; Falkland was the Balmoral of its day and past monarchs were simply enchanted by the estate. It was commissioned in 1501 by James IV to create a base for their country pursuits and beloved by Mary, Queen of Scots as a hunting lodge, with the tennis court built for James V, who also died here at the young age of 30. Look out for the elaborate Falkland Bed, supposedly made for James VI, as well as the impressive panelling in the drawing room, the library’s intricately painted wall and the recreated royal apartments. There is so much history entwined in the Chapel Royal too; the 17th-century ceiling was pained for Charles I, kings and queens once gathered here, and this is where James V lied in state for a month. Outside, there is a pretty orchard and wildflower meadow plus formal gardens designed by celebrated horticultural designer Percy Cane. After falling into disrepair, the palace was revitalised by the 3rd Marquess of Bute in the 19th century, and his great-grandson is the proud Keeper of the Palace today.
In the afternoon we enjoy a guided tour of the imposing Hopetoun House, widely recognized as Scotland’s finest stately home and one of the finest examples of 18th-century architecture in Britain. Designed by William Bruce and then extended and changed by Scottish architect William Adam, the magnificent interiors reflect the elegance of the Georgian era and are decorated with lovely period furniture, paintings, tapestries and clocks, with beautifully crafted finishes of carving, gilding and plasterwork.
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Tuesday: Edinburgh and Underground Vaults
After breakfast there is some time for you to spend at leisure – you may wish to explore the city and its renowned attractions or engage in some retail therapy in Edinburgh’s stylish boutiques. We reconvene for famous smørrebrød open sandwiches at ‘the best pub in the world’ according to Rick Stein, Canny Man’s, which has stayed in the Kerr family since its humble beginnings in 1871.
We then take a trip beneath the bustle of Edinburgh’s Old Town, to the dark, damp and eerie Underground Vaults. Largely unchanged since the 18th century, we discover more about the city’s history on our tour as we explore a world of streets, tunnels and vaults that were once the main streets of Edinburgh until they were built on top of. But be warned, this tour is not for the faint hearted with tales of ghosts, body snatchers and supernatural happenings to be heard as we explore this fascinating subterranean part of the city.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Wednesday: Linlithgow Castle and Stirling Castle
We begin our day at the ruins of Linlithgow Palace. Built by successive Stuart kings, Linlithgow was a royal rest stop between Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle and a country retreat visited by Charles Edward Stuart during his march south in 1745. However, in 1746, Linlithgow was ravaged by fire after British troops ransacked the house searching for retreating Jacobites. Today, it is maintained by Historic Environment Scotland and is allegedly haunted by Mary of Guise, the mother of Mary, Queen of Scots.
For lunch we are treated to some Scottish tapas at Christie’s in Falkirk before a private guided tour of the impressive Stirling Castle. Originally built in the 12th century, with additions and renovations undertaken over the years, the castle has played a key role in Scottish history. Once home to the doomed Mary Queen of Scots, who is said to roam the castle to this day, it was also an important outpost during the Wars of Scottish Independence. The fortress looks as it might have done in the 1540s and features the Great Hall, lavish chambers, the Great Kitchens and the Chapel Royal, and there are also interactive exhibitions in the Palace Vaults.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Thursday: Royal Yacht Britannia and Palace of Holyroodhouse
Today we step aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, which was Elizabeth II’s floating Royal residence for over 44 years, used not only for state visits and official receptions but also for family holidays and honeymoons. Our fascinating private tour includes the Bridge, the State Apartments, Royal Bedrooms, Crew’s Quarters, the Engine Room and more.
This evening we enjoy a private guided tour of the Palace of Holyroodhouse, The King’s official residence in Scotland. It was also previously home to Mary, Queen of Scots and used during filming of the 2019 movie of the same name. We learn about the dramatic events which occurred during her reign here, admire the State Apartments and take a peek where Bonnie Prince Charlie once held a glittering ball. Our tour also offers a unique opportunity to go behind the ropes in selected rooms and into the West Drawing Room, used by members of the Royal Family as a private sitting room and not normally open to the public.
Friday: Edinburgh Castle and Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
We make our way to Edinburgh Castle, one of the most important strongholds in the Kingdom of Scotland, which has witnessed many of the defining events of Scottish history including the unsuccessful Jacobite blockades during the 1715 and 1745 risings. Highlights here include the Crown Jewels of Scotland, the Royal Palace and the 16th-century Great Hall, which we discover on our audio-guided tour.
There is then some time at leisure before our special Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo experience begins. We start with a three-course celebratory Scottish meal with wine and a wee dram of single malt whisky, featuring a map of Scotland highlighting where our food has been sourced, followed by tea or coffee and traditional fudge.
Afterwards we are escorted to the Castle Esplanade to take our seats in a prime location for the spectacular Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Hosted each year, the show brings together musicians and performers from every part of the world for a fabulous display of international culture. There is so much to marvel at, including the Massed Military Bands, the famous Lone Piper, daredevil displays, Highland dancers and a grand finale featuring fireworks and an emotive rendition of Auld Lang Syne. We also include an official souvenir programme as a memento of this wonderful event.
Please note: we advise you to be prepared with waterproofs etc. in case of inclement weather during the Tattoo. It will go ahead whatever the weather.
Meals: Breakfast, Pre-Show Meal
private transfer will take you back to Edinburgh Airport for your return flight home.
Please note: the order of excursions is subject to change and guided tours are subject to restrictions.
Email us today to reserve at BKennedy@Royal-oak.org or call 212-480-2889 ext. 203