Carpenter Holidays

Culture & Leisure
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20-30 September 2022 Spirit of Scotland

Tuesday 20 September 2022 to Friday 30 September 2022

This holiday is the second collaboration between Carpenter Holidays and Kayleen Asbo. The "Spirit of Scotland" experience will focus on great figures of the early 19th century including the Scottish novelist, Sir Walter Scott, who influenced many other writers, artists and composers, and our journey through the Highlands will follow exactly in the footsteps of German composer Felix Mendelssohn who visited Scotland in 1829. Mendelssohn's personality and music will come vividly to life during our travels together. We will learn, and experience for ourselves, exactly what inspired Mendelssohn to write his Hebrides Overture and Scottish Symphony and go to all of the places that he visited. We will stay for two nights on the magical and remote island of Iona where St Columba landed in 563 AD and began his mission to spread Christianity throughout the country. Iona is known as "The Cradle of Christianity" in Scotland, and is an important destination for many people each year who seek the time and space for reflection and inspiration, and an escape from the hurly-burly of modern life. Along the way there will be lectures and concerts of music by Kayleen and Stephen, and we will become closely acquainted with the extraordinary life of Mary Queen of Scots in the 16th century and the Jacobite up-risings of the late 17th and early 18th centuries which, as we know from his letters and music, so fascinated Mendelssohn.

The tour will start in Edinburgh on Tuesday 20 September 2022 and follow the "Mendelssohn trail" to Abbotsford (the home of Sir Walter Scott), the Hermitage at Dunkeld, the Pass of Killicrankie, Bruar Falls near Blair Atholl, Loch Tummel (with its spectacular “Queen’s View”), Loch Tay, Glencoe and Fort William, then to Oban, Mull and Iona from where (weather premitting) we will visit the Isle of Staffa and Fingal’s Cave. Our return journey will take us via Inveraray and Loch Lomond to Edinburgh where the holiday ends on the morning of Friday 30 September 2022.

We will take the same route as that followed by Mendelssohn and his travelling companion, Karl Klingemann, in 1829 (see map right). Our modes of transport will be more sophisticated than theirs – coach and modern ferries, rather than horse and cart or walking or travelling in smoky steam-ferries, and our accommodation will be more salubrious: three- and four-star hotels, rather than leaky cottages sharing rooms with hens and pigs! If you would like to join Kayleen and Stephen on this Spirit of Scotland pilgimage through some of the most beautiful scenery in Scotland, see details of how "To Book" below.

Please note: for your own safety and that of your fellow travellers, it is a condition of your participation in this holiday that you are fuly vaccinated with the latest booster jabs as recommended by the health authorities in your country of residence.


Tuesday 20 September 2022 – Edinburgh. Independent arrival and check-in at the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel from 3.00pm. Optional late afternoon walk at 4.00pm part way up Arthur's Seat to the ruined St Anthony's Chapel where Kayleen will lead a moment of reflection and (again, optional!) singing, followed by a welcome dinner at the Hotel at 7.00pm

Wednesday 21 September – St Cecilia's Hall and Rosslyn Chapel. 10.30am departure from the Hotel for the short walk to St Cecilia's Hall in Edinburgh where we will have a private guided tour of the instrument collection followed by a recital by Kayleen and musical guests. In the afternoon we will travel the short distance to Rosslyn Chapel which is one of Scotland's most remarkable buildings and was the setting for the denouement of Dan Brown's novel, The Da Vinci Code. Dinner under your own arrangements (we will provide a list of recommended restaurants in the city, or you can dine quietly in the hotel if you prefer).

Thursday 22 September – in the morning we will visit the extraordinary Mansfield Traquair which has been described as "Edinburgh's Sistine Chapel" where we can admire the grand neo-Romanesque architecture, and the truly exquisite murals of Phoebe Anna Traquair that adorn the interior walls. After Mansfield Traquair there will be the option of a bus tour or simply some time for you to explore the city on your own, or to rest back at the hotel. In the early afternoon we will go to the Queen's Gallery at Holyrood Palace to see the "Masterpieces from Buckingham Palace" exhibition which includes world-renowned paintings by Van Dyck, Rubens and Artemisia Gentileschi. We then have an early dinner at the hotel at 5.00pm followed by a short walk back to Holyrood Palace for our private guided tour (6.30pm to 8.30pm) of the Palace, learning about the history of Mary Queen of Scots and seeing the haunting Chapel ruins where Mendelssohn was inspired to write down the opening of his Scottish Symphony.

Friday 23 September – Abbotsford and Melose. Departing from the hotel in the morning, we will journey to Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott whose novels inspired so many 19th-century composers and who was one of the main reasons why Mendelssohn visited Scotland in 1829. After a private guided tour around the house, we will have lunch together at the Ochiltree restaurant. From Abbotsford we go to the beautiful town of Melrose and explore the Abbey where Robert the Bruce’s heart is buried, and where Mendelssohn found some solace on the day of his unsuccessful attempt to meet Sir Walter Scott. From Melrose, we return to Edinburgh, where we will have dinner together at the Scottish Arts Club.

Saturday 24 September – Edinburgh Botanic Gardens and into the Highlands! In the morning, Kayleen will lead us around Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Gardens where we will see the land art installations of Andy Goldworthy before lunch under your own arrangements at the cafe in the Gardens. We then leave Edinburgh for the Highlands!

Our journey will take us over the "Queensferry Crossing", with its breath-taking views of the Firth of Forth, arriving at the Dunkeld House Hotel in the early afternoon. There will be time to relax in this idyllic setting either by enjoying the spa and pool facilities, or by taking a walk along the banks of the River Tay (the "Silver Tay") to the historic town of Dunkeld. Dinner will follow in the hotel.

Sunday 25 September – the Falls of Braan at the Hermitage, the Rumbling Bridge, Bruar Falls, and Killiecrankie. We will take the walk up to the Hermitage and the Falls of Braan near Dunkeld which were sketched by Mendelssohn and, a little further up the valley, there is Ossian’s Cave, the supposed dwelling place of the fictitious 3rd century Scottish bard. For those wanting a longer walk, we will continue up the valley to the Rumbling Bridge which is another "Mendelssohn sketch". We then journey on by coach the short distance to the House of Bruar Visitor Centre with time to walk up to the Bruar Falls after taking your own lunch and a browse around the many gift shops at the Centre. In the afternoon we return via the Pass of Killiekrankie to the hotel where you may rest, seek a spa treatment or join Sue Ellen Parkinson for an art journaling seesion. After our shared dinner in this elegant hotel, we will have a private performance by the Resol String Quartet who will play works by Felix Mendelssohn and his sister, Fanny Mendelssohn.

Monday 26 September – Loch Tummel, Aberfeldy, Glencoe to Oban. Departing at 9.30am from the Dunkeld House Hotel, we head westwards through gorgeous scenery across the Highlands past Loch Tummel (where will we pause to look at the fabulous “Queen’s View”) and Tummel Bridge where Mendelssohn spent a rain-soaked night on 3 August 1829, and over the hills to Aberfeldy where we will stop for lunch under your own arrangements and explore the Falls of Moness (sketched by Mendelssohn, and also made famous by Robert Burns in his poem, The Birks of Aberfeldy). In the afternoon we will drive on past Loch Tay and Crianlarich and through the breathtaking Glencoe before arriving at our hotel in the charming seaside town of Oban where we have dinner together.

Tuesday 27 September – Isle of Mull and Iona. From Oban we will take the 12.20 ferry sailing past Dunollie Castle which lies just north of Oban, and which is unchanged since Mendelssohn sketched it on his Scottish journey, to Craignure on the Isle of Mull, arriving at 13.10. We will then cross the Isle of Mull to the western point of Fionnphort and from there across to Iona where we will check in to the St Columba Hotel for two nights. Dinner together at the hotel.

Wednesday 28 September –  Iona Abbey, Staffa and Fingal's Cave. In the morning we will visit Iona Abbey, sharing a musical circle in the sanctuary. Following this, and weather permitting, there will be an optional boat tour from Iona to the small uninhabited Isle of Staffa where we will land for an hour and explore the island, including walking round to the mouth of Fingal's Cave. Otherwise, you may spend the rest of the day exploring the island of Iona, or spending time in contemplation and/or journaling. Lunch will be under your own arrangements (there are several options for a light lunch on Iona). Dinner together at the hotel. 

Thursday 29 September – Return to Edinburgh. Travel from Iona back across the Isle of Mull to catch the ferry back to Oban and from there continue on the final leg of our journey back to Edinburgh through passes and glens, and along the shores of beautiful lochs. We will have lunch together at the Inveraray Inn then head down the beautiful western shore of the Bonny, Bonny Banks of Loch Lomond, stopping at the Cameron House Hotel on the southern shore of the Loch, affording us the same views that Mendelssohn sketched in 1829. We will have tea at the Boathouse Restaurant and then return to Edinburgh to the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel for one night, where we will have a farewell dinner together.

Friday 30 September – Independent departure home.


Wednesday 21 September

Recital to be given by Kayleen Asbo (piano) and musical guests featuring music premiered in Scotland by Felix Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann, including Bach, Robert Schumann, and Franz Schubert.

Sunday 25 September

Private post-dinner performance at the Dunkeld House Hotel by the Resol String Quartet: Mendelssohn String Quartet No 2 in A minor, Op 13 and Fanny Mendelssohn String Quartet in E flat.

Wednesday 28 September

Musical gatherin led by Robin O'Brien in the ancient Iona Abbey

Travel Information

Whether you are coming from the UK, the USA or elsewhere, you will need to make your own travel arrangements to Edinburgh.

Please also note that you will need to arrange your own travel insurance. It is recommended that you obtain insurance that will cover you in the event of illness or accident before the holiday preventing you from being able to travel, as well as the more usual medical cover whislt you are actually on the trip.

Edinburgh is easily reached by train or air from all major UK cities. Regular services take around 4 1/2 hours from London King's Cross to Edinburgh Waverley, which is a 5-minute taxi ride from the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel. There are also regular flights from all London airports to Edinburgh which take around 1 hour. A taxi journey from the airport to the hotel will cost around £50, or the airport shuttle bus to Waverley Station costs £4.50 one way. In booking your train journey or flight, please bear in mind that there will be a welcome dinner in the hotel at 7.00pm on Tuesday 20 September. At the end of the holiday, we stay again at the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel and you will be able to plan your journey home for the morning of Friday 30 September.

Price per person

Tour price: £3,300 per person based on sharing a double or twin room
Single supplement: £590

Payment schedule:
First instalment: £2,000 due on booking
Final instalment of £1,300 (plus £590 if you are a single traveller) due by 31 May 2022

Tour price includes: Accommodation, breakfast daily, nine dinners, three lunches, recitals in Edinburgh and on Iona, private tours of Holyrood Palace and Abbotsford, and visits to Rosslyn Chapel and Iona Abbey, coach transportation throughout, all tips for guides and coach driver, ferry crossings to the Isles of Mull and Iona and boat trip to Staffa and Fingal's Cave, the services of Stephen Carpenter and Kayleen Asbo as tour managers.

Excluded is your travel to and from Edinburgh, lunches when you are free to make your own arrangements at the carefully selected stopping points, except in Edinburgh on 21 September, Abbotsford on 24 September and Inveraray on 29 September when we will have lunch together. Drinks with meals.

Cancellation Policy:

Cancellation costs up to 100 days before departure of the trip: deposit

Cancellation costs between 100 days up to 50 days before departure of the trip: 50% of the total invoice

Cancellation costs from 50 days up to the day of departure before departure of the trip: costs of the total invoice

To Book

Booking is through Stephen Carpenter, at Carpenter Holidays.

Please email stephen [at] for a booking form and, when complete, either email it to Stephen or send it by post to:

Stephen Carpenter
67 Stuart Road
SW19 8DJ

Once you have submitted the booking from, you will be sent details of how to pay the deposit for the holiday. This will be payable either by bank transfer, details of which will be given to you on completion of the form, or via PayPal. NB we offer a £50 discount if you pay via bank transfer. 


If you have any questions about the “Romantic Scotland” holiday, please do not hesitate to contact Stephen by email as above, or by phoning him on +44 (0)20 8946 6821 or +44 (0)7730 817891.