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Tours ~ Tour Details

Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Gardens of the Firth of Clyde

3 Nightsfrom £495.00 pp

A guided tour of the Glasgow School of Art, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s iconic masterpiece, is one of the highlights of this tour, particularly as it came so close to being lost forever in a recent fire.

Tour Overview


A guided tour of the Glasgow School of Art, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s iconic masterpiece, is one of the highlights of this tour, particularly as it came so close to being lost forever in a recent fire.

We visit another of his masterpieces, the House for an Art Lover, full of exquisite details, and his finest domestic creation at Hill House, which sits high above the River Clyde with commanding views of the Firth, its air of restrained elegance still appealing to modern tastes. At the Hunterian Museum we will see the Mackintosh Collection, over 1000 items including flower designs and watercolours, and of course no Mackintosh tour would be complete without a visit to the Willow Tea Rooms in Glasgow, where we will enjoy a traditional afternoon tea.

We will also explore the charming private gardens of Ross Priory by Loch Lomond and visit Glenarn with its superb collection of Asiatic shrubs. We sail across the Firth of Clyde for a visit to Mount Stuart, one of the largest High Gothic houses in Britain, which offers the perfect combination of architectural grandeur and captivating gardens, along with the unique Ascog Fernery, a tiny piece of sub-tropical jungle on the Isle of Bute.

Tour highlights
  • Views over the River Clyde from Hill House
  • The Gothic splendour of Mount Stuart
  • 1,000 year old King Fern at Ascog Hall
  • The Mackintosh Collection at the Hunterian Museum
  • Afternoon tea at the world-famous Willow Tea Room
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Tour Itinerary Back to top of page

Day 1
We depart by coach this morning from our pick-up points and head for Glasgow’s Bellahouston Park, where we will visit the House for an Art Lover. The origins of this unique building lie in drawings prepared by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1901 as his entry to a competition to design  a ‘Haus Eines Kunstfreundes’ or ‘Art Lovers House’ set by German design magazine ‘Zeitschrift Fur Innendekoration’. The entry, though highly commended, was unsuccessful and for more than 80 years Mackintosh’s concept remained an unrealised design on paper, until Graham Roxburgh, the Consulting Engineer responsible for restoring Mackintosh interiors in nearby Craigie Hall, had the idea finally to build the House for an Art Lover. After much detective work and various setbacks Roxburgh’s dream finally became a reality in 1996 when the house opened to the public and today it offers a remarkable insight into the work of an architect of extraordinary vision and imagination.

Later we continue to the 4-star Gleddoch House Hotel, situated within 360 acres of ground overlooking the River Clyde. The hotel has full leisure facilities including an indoor swimming pool, and an exclusive spa facility complete with an assortment of sauna, steam and massage treatments.

Dinner will be served in the evening.

Day 2
After breakfast this morning we cross the Erskine Bridge for a visit to Hill House, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s finest domestic creation which sits high above the River Clyde commanding fine views of the estuary. Commissioned in 1902 by the Glasgow publisher Walter Blackie, the house still makes a striking statement today. Blackie wanted an individual feel to his home and he asked Mackintosh to design not only the house and gardens, but much of the furniture and interiors too. Mackintosh’s wife, Margaret Macdonald, contributed fabric designs and a unique panel over the fireplace in the drawing room. The result is a daring design with an air of restrained elegance, which still appeals to modern-day tastes.   

Nearby are the gardens of Glenarn, reputedly one of the best woodland gardens in Scotland. Glenarn was originally planted by the Gibson brothers, and filled with rhododendrons and other plants collected by Kingdom-Ward, Ludlow and Sheriff on their expeditions to Tibet and China. The garden had been neglected for many years when Mike and Sue Thornley acquired it in 1983 and they have spent the last ten years or so gradually restoring it. The mild, damp location supports old plants of Rhododendron tanastyllum, arboreum var. nigagiricum and Magnolia rostrata to mention but a few, and all should be at their best at this time of year. Lunch is available here (not included).

In the afternoon we travel to the private gardens at Ross Priory. The gardens are set around a house of 1693, with an 1812 Gothic addition by James Gillespie Graham, overlooking Loch Lomond. There are splendid rhododendrons, azaleas, selected shrubs and trees, along with a walled garden with glasshouses, a pergola and ornamental plantings.

We return to our hotel, where dinner is served in the evening.

Day 3
After breakfast we head for Wemyss Bay where we will catch the morning ferry to Rothesay on the Isle of Bute. Our first visit will be to the spectacular house and gardens of Mount Stuart, which is one of the largest, most spectacular High Victorian Gothic houses in Britain and yet one of the least known. The gardens were only opened to the general public for the first time in June 1995. These 300 acres of stunning woodlands and gardens are a real treasure trove for the garden enthusiast. The temperate effect of the Gulf Stream on Bute ensures that there are always many exotic plants, palm trees and Mediterranean blooms to be seen here. There is a pavilion glasshouse in the grounds which nurtures rare species from the tropical rain forests of south-east Asia while native British plants thrive in the fertile soils and mild climate. Lunch is available here (not included).

Thereafter we will visit Ascog Hall Fernery. In the secluded and long neglected gardens of Ascog Hall a sunken fernery with beautiful rock work and water pools was found. Even in its dilapidated state the potential was spotted and it has now been carefully refurbished with an impressive collection of ferns researched by the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. Open to the public only recently for the first time this unique fern house is a joy to behold.  It offers a rare opportunity to glimpse a bygone era and is a tribute to the imagination and ingenuity of Alexander Bannatyne Stuart, a former owner of Ascog Hall in Victorian times, whose passion for collecting exotic ferns inspired him in his endeavour to replicate a tiny fragment of sub-tropical jungle on a small Scottish island.

We then catch an afternoon ferry and return to the hotel. Dinner is served in the evening.

Day 4
This morning, after breakfast, we will check out of the hotel and travel into Glasgow for a visit to the Glasgow School of Art, considered to be Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece. Completed in 1909 the building heralded a new style in 20th century architecture, while fulfilling its original purpose as a working art school, housing the fine art students and staff, at the heart of GSA's campus on Garnethill. On 23 May 2014 a fire damaged the west wing of the Mackintosh building including some studios, the Library and some archival stores and as a result there will be no visitor access to the interiors of the Mackintosh building whilst restoration gets underway. However, we will enjoy an hour-long external guided tour in which we will discover Mackintosh’s ideas, inspirations, education and relationships by exploring the Mackintosh Building façade along with a number of hidden architectural gems in the local area with a special connection to this celebrated architect. There will also be time to look around the 'Window on Mackintosh' Visitor Centre to discover more about the School’s rich history and browse designs by students, staff and alumni in the GSA Shop.

We continue to the Hunterian Museum, part of the University of Glasgow, which was founded in 1807, making it Scotland's oldest public museum, and is home to one of the largest collections outside the National Museums. Of particular interest will be the Mackintosh Collection, numbering around 1000 items, including architectural, furniture and interior designs, textile designs, flower drawings and watercolours.

Following our visit here we will transfer to the Willow Tea Room in Buchanan Street, which was the only tea room building where Mackintosh had complete control over every aspect of the design. He modelled the exterior as well as the interior of the building and even designed the cutlery and waitresses' dresses. The Willow name comes from Sauchiehall, the street where it is situated, which in Scottish Gaelic means alley of the willows and the theme of willows is featured throughout the building. Afternoon tea is included here – a traditional selection of sandwiches, scone with strawberry jam & clotted cream, delicious shortbread and choice of cake, accompanied by your choice of loose leaf tea or freshly ground coffee.

Following this we will return to our original departure points.

What's Included Back to top of page

  • 3 nights’ dinner, bed and full breakfast at the 4-star Gleddoch House Hotel. All rooms have private facilities
  • Comfortable coaching throughout  
  • Visits to Hill House, Glenarn, Ross Priory, Mount Stuart, Ascog Fernery, the Hunterian Museum and House for an Art Lover; guided exterior tour of Glasgow School of Art; afternoon tea at the Willow Tea Rooms
  • Services of a Brightwater holidays tour manager

Supplements Per Person Back to top of page

  • Single room supplement     £90.00
  • Insurance                           £21.00 (under 65); £42.00 (65-74); £63.00 (75-90)

Departure Points Back to top of page




Aberdeen (Skene Street)



Montrose (Outside railway station)



Arbroath (Railway station)



Dundee (Outside Discovery Point)                        



Perth (Canal Street)



Kinross (Moto Services, M90)



Dunfermline (Outside Carnegie College)



Edinburgh (Edinburgh Marriott Hotel)



Glasgow (Millennium Hotel)



Please note pick-up points are subject to minimum numbers and 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.
The same 3-night package by air from London (and other airports on request) is also available from £595.00 (single supplement from £90.00)

Click here to print a brochure
Click here to make an online reservation

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