This holiday is the third collaboration between Carpenter Holidays and Kayleen Asbo. The "Romantic 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 exactly 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 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. We will stay for two 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 lectures 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 Tuesday 22 September 2019 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 Tummel (with its spectacular “Queen’s View”), Loch Tay, Glencoe and Fort William, then 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 Friday 2 October 2019.
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 Romantic Scotland pilgimage through some of the most beautiful scenery in Scotland, see details of how "To Book" below.
Tuesday 22 September 2020 – Edinburgh. Independent arrival and check-in at the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel from 3.00pm. Welcome dinner at the Hotel at 7.00pm
Wednesday 23 September – in the morning we will take the "Writers' Walk" seeing the sites and haunts of literary legends including Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle and J.M. Barrie. In the early afternoon we will go to the National Gallery of Scotland to view the extraordinary collection of paintings including those by Botticelli, Gaugin and Rembrandt. We we then have an early dinner at the hotel 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.
Thursday 24 September – 10.30am departure from the Hotel for the short walk to St Ceclia'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. In the afternoon, we will have tea and a tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia which is moored at Edinburgh's Leith Docks. Dinner under your own arrangements.
Friday 25 September – Rosslyn Chapel and Holy Island. Departing at 9.00am from the Hotel, we will travel by on our private bus to Rosslyn Chapel which is one of Scotland's most remarkable buildings and was the setting for the denouement of Dan Brown's novel, The Da Vinci Code. After Rosslyn we will take the 90-minute journey down to Holy Island (Lindisfarne), crossing over the tidal causeway and have lunch together at the Manor House, followed by visits to the Priory and Castle. On returning to Edinburgh we will have dinner together at the "Angels with Bagpipes" restaurant on Edinburgh's Royal Mile.
Saturday 26 September – Abbotsford, Melrose and Dunkeld. Departing at 9.00am from the Holyrood Hotel, we take the hour-long journey down 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, followed by lunch at the Ochiltree Restaurant.
After lunch we go to the beautiful town of Melrose. We will explore the Abbey where Robert the Bruce’s heart is buried, and where Mendelssohn found some solace on the day of his unsuccessful attempt to meet Sir Walter Scott. In the afternoon we will head for the Highlands! Our journey will take us back past Edinburgh, over the "Queensferry Crossing", the newly opened bridge over the Firth of Forth with its breath-taking views of the Frith, the old Forth Road Bridge, and the Forth Rail Bridge built in the 1880s, through the Kingdom of Fife, past Perth, arriving at the Dunkeld House Hotel in the late afternoon. Dinner will follow in the hotel.
Sunday 27 September – the Falls of Braan at the Hermitage, the Rumbling Bridge, Bruar Falls, and Killiecrankie. Our day begins at 9.30am when we take the walk up to the Hermitage and 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. For those looking for a longer walk, we will continue up the valley to the Rumbling Bridge which is another "Mendelssohn sketch". We then journey on the short distance to the House of Bruar Visitor Centre where there will be time to walk up to the Bruar Falls after taking your own lunch and a browse around the many gift shops at the Centre. In the afternoon we visit the Killiecrankie Visitor Centre where there is an exhibition giving details of the Battle of 1689 in which the Jacobites led by “Bonnie Dundee” defeated the government army of William of Orange. There will also be a chance to view the famous “Soldier’s Leap” where Donald MacBean, a government soldier, avoided certain capture or death by jumping 5.5m (18.5 feet) across the River Garry. Back to the Dunkeld House Hotel for dinner followed by a recital of music by Kayleen and musical guests.
Monday 28 September – Loch Tummel, Aberfeldy, Glencoe to Oban. Departing at 9.30am from the Dunkeld House Hotel, we head westwards across the Highlands past Loch Tummel (where will we pause to look at the fabulous “Queen’s View”) and Tummel Bridge where Mendelssohn spent a rain-soaked night on 3 August 1829, and over the hills to Aberfeldy where we will stop for lunch under your own arrangements and explore the Falls of Moness (sketched by Mendelssohn, and also made famous by Robert Burns in his poem, The Birks of Aberfeldy). In the afternoon we will drive on past Loch Tay and Glencoe where we will stop at the Glencoe Visitor Centre with its exhibition on the Massacre of 1692, arriving in Oban to check into the Oban Bay Hotel where we will have dinner together.
Tuesday 29 September – Staffa and Fingal’s Cave. We will take the 0950 ferry from Oban sailing past Dunollie Castle which lies just north of Oban, and which is unchanged since Mendelssohn sketched it on his Scottish journey, to Craignure on the Isle of Mull, arriving at 10.50. We will then cross the Isle of Mull to the western town of Fionnphort from where, weather permitting, we take the 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 check in to the St Columba Hotel for two nights. Dinner together at the hotel.
Wednesday 30 September – a morning visit to Iona Abbey including a musical performance in the Abbey buildings. Lunch under your own arrangements followed by a free afternoon to explore the island or to gather together for some singing in the Parish Church. Dinner together at the hotel.
Thursday 1 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 where we will have lunch together at the Inveraray Inn. 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 tea at the Boathouse Restaurant and then return to Edinburgh via Stirling, arriving at around 6.30pm and checking in to the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel for one night. Dinner followed by a farewell Ceilidh (pronounced "Kaylee") which will include music, dancing and poetry reading.
Friday 2 October – Independent departure home.
Thursday 24 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, Joseph Joachim and Franz Schubert.
Sunday 17 September
Recital Kayleen Asbo (piano) and musicals guests at the Dunkeld House Hotel. Programme to be confirmed.
Wednesday 30 September
Solo recital (details to be confirmed) 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.
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 £40, 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 Tuesday 22 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 Friday 2 October.
Price per person
Early Bird prices as follows (applicable until Saturday 29 February 2020). The basic tour price will increase by £200 on 1 March. The single supplement will remain the same.
Tour price: £3,300 per person based on sharing a double or twin room
Single supplement: £590
Deposit: £1,000 due on booking
2nd instalment of £1,000 due by 29 February 2020
3rd and final instalment of £1,300 (plus £590 if you are a single traveller) due by 31 May 2020
Tour price includes: Accommodation, breakfast daily, nine dinners, three lunches, recitals in Edinburgh and on Iona, private tours of Holyrood Palace and Abbotsford, and visits Lindisfarne Priory and Castle, Glencoe Visitor Centre 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, all lunches when you are free to make your own arrangements at the carefully selected stopping points, except on Holy Island on 25 September, Abbotsford on 26 September and Inveraray on 1 October when we will have lunch together. Drinks with meals.
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 email stephen [at] carpenterholidays.com for a booking form and, when complete, either email it to Stephen 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 - NB, we offer a £50 discount if you pay by bank transfer - or via PayPal:
If you have any questions about the “Romantic 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.