The Castle of Mey sits high on a cliff, overlooking the turbulent waters of the Pentland Firth, and it is here that Queen Elizabeth, the late Queen Mother, had one of her favourite retreats, and where she created a homely garden which reflected her great love of flowers. We also visit the gardens of Cawdor Castle, immortalized by William Shakespeare in Macbeth, and Dunrobin Castle, the château-style ancestral home of the Dukes of Sutherland. Finally there is Inverewe, a truly wonderful garden, which involves a journey to the wild beauty of the west coast through some of the most spectacular scenery to be found anywhere in the world.
Our hotel: we are based at the Best Western Inverness Palace Hotel, centrally located on the banks of the River Ness. All rooms are en-suite with tv, hairdryer and tea/coffee-making facilities. The hotel’s facilities include a gymnasium, swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room.
- The desolate beauty of the Highland landscape
- Inverewe, widely regarded as one of Scotland’s greatest gardens
- The holly maze, styled on the Minotaur’s labyrinth, at Cawdor Castle
- The lovingly restored gardens of the Castle of Mey
A journey to the far north of Scotland brings many rewards, not least the sense of freedom and open space to be found in the thrilling seascapes of the coasts or the vast, empty expanse of mountain and moorland that separates east from west. Rewards also come in the shape of some enchanting castles and gardens, which we have threaded together to bring out the best of this remote and unspoilt region.
We depart from your local area and travel to the gardens of Cawdor Castle, near Nairn. William Shakespeare immortalised Cawdor in Macbeth as the scene of Duncan's murder, however, both the castle and its history are colourful enough without the aid of myth. A turreted 14th century tower, protected on one side by a gully and on the other by a dry moat, rises majestically from the woods of the Nairn Valley. The magnificent gardens include vast herbaceous borders, a rose garden, a peony walk and a kitchen garden - there is also a fascinating holly maze and a romantic bluebell woodland walk.
Later we will continue to Inverness to our accommodation at the Best Western Inverness Palace Hotel, centrally located on the banks of the River Ness. All rooms are en-suite with tv, hairdryer and tea/coffee-making facilities. The hotel’s facilities include a gymnasium, swimming pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room. Dinner will be served in the evening.
Enjoy your full Scottish breakfast. This morning we will visit Dunrobin Castle - the château-style ancestral home of the Dukes of Sutherland. The castle is a wonderful early 19th-century fantasy castle with a touch of the Loire and a dash of Bavaria. Below the castle is a magnificent example of a formal nineteenth century garden. The gardens are laid out on terraces which descend to the sea. We continue to John O'Groats before having an afternoon visit to the private gardens and former home of Her Majesty the Queen Mother, at the Castle of Mey. Dinner will be served on our return to the hotel.
After breakfast we have a long but most rewarding day as we drive across the north of Scotland to visit Dundonnell House Garden. The house was completed in 1769 by the Mackenzie’s of Dundonnell, who lived in it until the 1940s. Since then it has had a number of owners, including the late Alan Roger – rumoured to be in MI5, but known locally simply as a plantsman and bonsai expert. The current owner, Lady Rice, has added delightful new borders for year-round colour, centred on an enormous and ancient yew tree over 300 years old. The main part of the garden lies within very old walls and is divided into distinctive compartments, adding greatly to the interest here; other highlights include riverside walks in the fine arboretum and a restored Victorian glasshouse.
Our final visit of the day is to Inverewe gardens, unquestionably one of the most outstanding gardens in the country. The northern road into Inverewe is spectacular - towering mountains and breathtaking vistas. The view from above Gruinard Bay has to be seen to be believed.
Famous gardens do not always live up to their reputations but it would be hard to imagine anyone failing to be excited by Inverewe, when at this time of year it will be at its most colourful. The balmy Gulf Stream Drift Climate promotes luxuriant growth and today it is a jungle of mature exotic trees and shrubs laced with winding walks, rising and falling, giving sudden glimpses of shimmering water through the foliage. We will return to Inverness via Loch Maree and Achnasheen, another spectacularly scenic journey. Dinner will be served on our return to the hotel.
Enjoy your full Scottish breakfast. This morning en route home we have included a visit to Abriachan Gardens, near Drumnadrochit where you will have the added benefit of being able to purchase plants from the adjoining nursery. We expect to arrive at your original pick-up point during the evening.
- 3 nights’ dinner, bed and full breakfast at the Best Western Inverness Palace Hotel. All rooms have en-suite facilities
- Comfortable coaching throughout
- Visits to the gardens of Cawdor Castle, Dundonnell House, Inverewe, Dunrobin, the Castle of Mey and Abriachan
- Services of a Brightwater Holidays tour manager
- Single room supplement £180.00
- Insurance £21.00 (under 65); £42.00 (65-74); £63.00 (75-90)
- Rail/air travel and overnight accommodation in Glasgow, Edinburgh or Perth before or after the tour available on request
Glasgow (Millennium Hotel, George Sq) 0715 2045
Edinburgh (Marriott Hotel, Glasgow Rd) 0830 1930
Dunfermline (Carnegie College) 0900 1900
Kinross (Moto Services, M90) 0915 1845
Perth (Canal St) 0930 1830
Please note all timings are approximate and may be changed. They will be confirmed when the joining instructions are sent out, approximately ten days prior to departure.