We check in to the Macdonald Cardrona Hotel in the afternoon. Later, we enjoy a welcome drinks reception hosted by our tour manager followed by a three-course evening meal.
Monday: Hopetoun House & Edinburgh
We make our way to Hopetoun House, one of the finest examples of 18th-century architecture in Britain, where we enjoy morning coffee and shortbread on arrival. Designed by William Bruce and then extended and changed by Scottish architect William Adam, it is widely recognised as Scotland’s finest stately home. The magnificent interiors reflect the elegance of the Georgian era and are decorated with the best period furniture, paintings, tapestries and clocks, with beautifully crafted finishes of carving, gilding and plaster work, which we learn about on our guided tour.
Dominated by the iconic castle perched high above the city, we spend the afternoon in Scotland’s vibrant capital city Edinburgh, where we enjoy a guided walking tour. From the picturesque sights of the old town, the sprawl of attractions on the Royal Mile and the grandeur of George Street, with its many boutique shops, cafés and restaurants, there’s always a wealth of things to do.
In the evening we enjoy a three-course dinner and an interesting themed talk from a guest speaker.
Tuesday: Mellerstain House & Thirlestane Castle
Set in beautiful acres of parkland and formal gardens with outstanding views, one of Scotland’s great stately homes, Mellerstain House, is seen by many as Robert Adam’s finest work. Begun in 1725 by William Adam and completed by his more famous son, Robert, in 1778, the exterior of Mellerstain is a good example of Adam’s ‘castle style’. It is the interiors however that showcase Adam’s work at its masterful best. We are treated to a private guided tour of the house that displays exquisitely proportioned rooms embellished with classical plasterwork, all preserved in the original colours, some fine art as well as period furniture and embroidery collections. After our tour, we enjoy morning refreshments.
We continue on to Thirlestane Castle, nestled in the gentle Border Hills, where we enjoy a guided tour and afternoon tea. As the seat of the Earls and Duke of Lauderdale and the home of the Maitland family, one of the most reputable families in Scotland, this defensive fort with rose pink sandstone and fairy tale turrets, dates back to the 13th century. The interiors are a mix of 19th century and early Baroque and highlights include the Duke’s bedroom with its exquisite plasterwork ceilings, Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Room and the extensive family portraits and historic toy collections.
This evening, we enjoy an inclusive three-course dinner back at the hotel.
Wednesday: Rosslyn Chapel & Traquair House
This morning we head to mysterious Rosslyn Chapel, home to some of the most exquisite carvings and portrait scenes in the whole of Europe. Dating back to 1445, the chapel gained worldwide fame thanks to the increasing interest in Freemasonry and the Knights Templar (it was one of the filming locations for Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code). Watch out for the intricate “musical” boxes and green men carved throughout the chapel.
We continue on to Traquair House where the 21st Lady of Traquair will kindly show us around the house*. This 12th-century former hunting lodge which hosted 27 Scottish monarchs including Mary Queens of Scots, has a fascinating history spanning nearly a thousand years. Trace the footsteps of the Kings of Scotland as you climb the turnpike staircase and uncover how priests escaped in times of danger. We discover more of Traquair’s fascinating history as well as the wonderful collections of embroideries, letters and relics of former times.
In the evening we enjoy an inclusive three-course dinner back at the hotel.
After breakfast, we check out of the hotel for our journey home.
*Please note: The availability of Catherine Maxwell-Stuart at Traquair House may be subject to change at short notice and the tour may be led by one of her experienced guides.