Carpenter Holidays

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29 September-7 October 2019 Mendelssohn in Scotland

Sunday 29 September 2019 to Monday 7 October 2019

This holiday is the first collaboration between Carpenter Holidays and Kayleen Asbo and will culminate in a two day stay on the magical island of Iona. Mendelssohn's 1829 visit to Scotland will be the framework for our journey, and the composer'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 visit 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. On Iona (which Mendelssohn set foot on briefly on the same day that he visited Staffa) there will be time to get to know this remote island 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 others, 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 Sunday 29 September 2019 and will take us to all the places visited by Mendelssohn and his travelling companion, Karl Klingemann, in 1829: 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 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 Monday 7 October 2019. There will also be a visit to Glenfinnan (not visited by Mendelssohn) where Bonnie Prince Charlie rallied his troops in 1745 before the ill-fated Jacobite uprising, and where we will have the chance to see the steam train crossing the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

We will take the same route as that followed by Mendelssohn and 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 Mendelssohn pilgimage through some of the most beautiful scenery in Scotland, see details of how "To Book" below. 


Sunday 29 September 2019 – Edinburgh. Independent arrival and check-in at the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel from 3.00pm. Welcome dinner at the Hotel at 7.00pm

Monday 30 September – Early dinner at 5.00pm followed by a short walk to Holyrood Palace for our own private tour (6.30pm to 8.30pm) of the Palace and the ruined Chapel where Mendelssohn was inspired to write down the opening of his Scottish Symphony.

Tuesday 1 October – 10.30am departure from the Hotel for the short walk to the Musical Instrument Collection at St Ceclia's Hall in Edinburgh where we will also have a lecture and recital from Kayleen and violinist Nigel Armstrong. Lunch under your own arrangements and in the afternoon there will be an optional walking tour of Edinburgh. Dinner under your own arrangements.

Wednesday 2 October – Holy Island and Abbotsford. Departing at 9.00am from the Hotel, we take the 90-minute journey down to Holy Island (Lindisfarne), crossing over the tidal causeway for a guided tour of the Island, followed by lunch together. In the early afternoon, we transfer 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 around the house, before returning to Edinburgh and dinner together at the Hotel.

Thursday 3 October – Into the Highlands! An early departure at 8.30am over the "Queensferry Crossing", the newly opened bridge over the Firth of Forth with its breath-taking views of the Firth, the old Forth Road Bridge, and the Forth Rail Bridge built in the 1880s, through the Kingdom of Fife, past Perth, and a stop to walk up to 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. We then journey on the short distance to the House of Bruar Visitor Centre for lunch under your own arrangements and time to walk up to the Bruar Falls and a browse around the many gift shops at the Centre. In the afternoon we drive across the central Highlands to Fort William, stopping on the way at the spectacular "Queen's View" on Loch Tummel and at Glecoe, the scene of the massacre of the MacDonald clan in 1692. After checking into the Alexandra Hotel in Fort William we will have dinner together at 8.00pm at the Crannog Restaurant on the shores of Loch Linnhe.

Friday 4 October – Glenfinnan, Oban, Mull and on to Iona. Departure after breakfast for the Glenfinnan Monument where Bonny Prince Charlie rallied his troops at the start of the ill-fated rising of 1745. We also get a superb view of the “Jacobite” steam train crossing the 21-arch Glenfinnan viaduct as it makes its way from Fort William to Mallaig on the west coast of Scotland. Lunch under your own arrangements at Glenfinnan followed by the journey south along the shores of Loch Linnhe to Oban from where we will catch the early afternoon ferry over to the Isle of Mull, sailing past Dunollie Castle which lies just north of Oban, and which is unchanged since Mendelssohn sketched it in 1829. We drive across the Isle of Mull and take the 5-minute ferry crossing to Iona where we check into the St Columba Hotel for a two night stay. Dinner at the Hotel.

Saturday 5 October – Staffa and Fingal’s Cave. Weather permitting, we take the morning boat 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. Returning to Iona for lunch under your own arrangements, we will have a guided tour of Iona Abbey in the afternoon. Dinner together at the hotel.

Sunday 6 October – Return to Edinburgh. Up early to 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 travel via Taynuilt and along the Pass of Brander which hugs the northern shore of Loch Awe, to Inveraray for lunch under your own arrangements. Skirting Loch Fyne, we 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 afternoon tea at the Boathouse Restaurant and then return to Edinburgh via Stirling, arriving at around 7.00pm. Dinner followed by a final concert of music by the award-winning Maxwell String Quartet and overnight at the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel.

Monday 7 October – Independent departure home.


Tuesday 1 October

Private recital to be given by Nigel Armstrong (violin) and Kayleen Asbo (piano) featuring music premiered in Scotland by Felix Mendelssohn and Clara Schumann, including Bach, Robert Schumann, Joseph Joachim and Franz Schubert as well as their own compositions

Sunday 6 October

Closing celebration concert at the MacDonald Holyrood Hotel

Travel Information

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

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 £30, or the airport shuttle bus to Waverley Station costs £3.50 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 Sunday 29 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 Monday 7 October.

Price per person

Tour price: £2,800
Friends of Mythica price: £2,575
Single room supplement: £450

Tour price includes: Accommodation, breakfast daily, seven dinners (one with wine), two lunches, private recitals in Edinburgh, private tours of Holyrood Palace, Abbotsford and Iona Abbey, visits to Glencoe Visitor Centre, coach transportation throughout, 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, all lunches (except on Holy Island on 2 October when we will have lunch together) when you are free to make your own arrangements for lunch which will be readily available at the carefully selected stopping points. Drinks with meals (except at the Crannog Restaurant on 3 October when wine/other drinks are included).

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 an invoice for 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 


Full payment for the holiday will be due on 1 July 2019.

If you have any questions about the “Mendelssohn in 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.