This holiday is the third 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 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 where he went, as well as taking a deviation from his itinerary, going to Holy Island (Lindisfarne), off the north east coast of England. We will stay for three 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 talks 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 Wednesday 20 September 2023 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 Tay 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 Saturday 30 September 2023.
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 the safety and well-being of our guests, we require testing for Covid the day before we begin, and again if you develop any symptoms during our trip. We will have test kits on hand. Depending on world circumstances and UK policies at the time, it may be a requirement to wear a mask on our bus voyages. We strongly urge you to obtain trip insurance to cover your expenses should you fall ill.
This is a draft itinerary at this stage and may change in some details, but the broad plans will remain the same:
Wednesday 20 September 2023 – Edinburgh. Independent arrival and check-in at the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel from 3.00pm. Welcome dinner at the Hotel at 7.00pm
Thursday 21 September – St Cecilia's Hall and National Museuem of Scotland. A visit 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. After lunch under your own arrangements Kayleen will lead a visit to the National Museum of Scotland to see several artefacts including works by the artist Phoebe Anna Traquair. Buffet dinner together at the hotel.
Friday 22 September – Holy Island and Abbotsford. Departing at 9.00am from the Hotel, we take the 90-minute journey to Holy Island (Lindisfarne), crossing over the tidal causeway and exploring the Castle and Priory, followed by lunch together. In the early afternoon, we go 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. We will have a private tour of the house, before returning to Edinburgh. 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.
Saturday 23 September – Mansfield Traquair and Botanic Gardens. 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 we will go to Edinburgh's Royal Botanic Gardens where you can have lunch under your own arrangements in the cafe after which Kayleen who will show us the many attractions of the Gardens including the land art installations of Andy Goldworthy. Dinner will be at the Patrick Geddes Centre on Edinburgh's Royal Mile which will be followed by some entertainment (including the opportunity to try some Scottish dancing) led by the tradiational Scottish ensemble, Flytt.
Sunday 24 September – Into the Highlands: Blair Castle and Dunkeld! Checking out of the hotel in Edinburgh, we journey into the Highlands, over the "Queensferry Crossing", with its breath-taking views of the Firth of Forth, through the "Kingdom of Fife" to Blair Castle where we will have a tour and lunch under your own arrangements in the cafe. In the early afternoon we check in for two nights at the Dunkeld House Hotel. 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 and a concert by the Resol String Quartet will follow in the hotel.
Monday 25 September – the Falls of Braan at the Hermitage, the Rumbling Bridge, Bruar Falls, and Killiecrankie. In the morning there will be the option of taking the 20 mile journey by coach to the House of Bruar Visitor Centre with its many shops selling clothing, tartan, and a myriad of Scottish produce. There will also be the chance to walk up to the Bruar Falls (sketched by Mendelssohn) before returning to Dunkeld. After lunch either at the hotel or in the town of Dunkeld, we will take the walk up to the Hermitage and the Falls of Braan (another Mendelssohn sketch!) 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 and on to the Corbennic Poetry Path before the coach picks us up to take us back to the hotel where we have dinner together.
Tuesday 26 September – Dunkeld to Oban, Mull and the Isle of Iona. Departing at 9.00am from the Dunkeld House Hotel, we head westwards through gorgeous scenery across the Highlands to Oban from where we will take the afternoon ferry across to the Island of Mull and, from there, to the Island of Iona where we check in to the St Columba Hotel for a three-night stay.
Wedneesday 27 September – Morning visit to Iona Abbey where we will share in a musical circle in the sanctuary. After this, there will be the option to explore the Island of Iona or, weather permitting, take the boat tour from Iona to the small unihabited Isle of Staffa where we will land for an hour and explore the island, including walking round to the mouth of Fingal's Cave.
Thursday 28 September – As 27 September - either exploring the Isle of Iona, or (if the weather was inclement on the previous day) taking the boat trip to Staffa and Fingal's Cave. Dinner together at the hotel.
Friday 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 for a cream tea at the Cameron House Hotel on the southern shore of the Loch, affording us the same views that Mendelssohn sketched in 1829. Then return to Edinburgh to the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel for one night, where we will have a farewell dinner together.
Saturday 30 September – Independent departure home.
Thursday 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 24 September
Performance either at the Dunkeld House Hotel or Dunkeld Cathedral by the Resol String Quartet.
Wednesday 27 September
Musical gathering in the ancient Iona Abbey
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 whilst you are actually on the trip. It is also a requirement of joining the Spirit of Scotland holiday that all travellers sign a liability waiver confirming that Carpenter Holidays and Mythica LLC shall not be held liable for theft, loss, injury, illness, or damage to person or property during the holiday. A copy of the liability waiver can be downloaded from the "Document(s)" section at the bottom of this page.
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 Wednesday 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 Saturday 30 September.
Price per person
Tour price: £3,500 per person based on sharing a double or twin room
Single supplement: £690
Deposit: £2,000 due on booking
Final instalment of £1,500 (plus £690 if you are a single traveller) due by 31 May 2023
Tour price includes: Accommodation, breakfast daily, nine dinners, three lunches, music recitals in Edinburgh, Dunkeld and on Iona, tours of the Castle and Priory on Holy Island, Abbotsford, 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, some lunches when you are free to make your own arrangements at the carefully selected stopping points, except in Edinburgh on 21 September, Holy Island on 24 September and Inveraray on 29 September when we will have lunch together. Drinks with meals. Also excluded is travel insurance which travellers will need to organise themselves.
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
Booking is through Stephen Carpenter, at Carpenter Holidays.
Please complete the Booking form which you can download from the "Document(s)" section below. Once completed, email it to stephen [at] carpenterholidays.com or send it by post to:
67 Stuart Road
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 “Spirit of 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.