We begin in edgy and contemporary Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, which has an infectious warmth and energy to it. Here we take in the imposing Gothic Glasgow Cathedral as well as a different sort of cathedral — the grand Victorian cathedral of culture otherwise known as Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in its magnificent stone building.
We then go north to Stirling Castle, admiring views across some ancient independence battlefields from this magnificent stronghold. “Hold Stirling and you control Scotland.” Its architecture, historical significance, and commanding views combine to make it a grand sight.
Then we head for the hills, first by way of the “bonnie, bonnie banks o’ Loch Lomond.” It is this gorgeous lake that features in a very moving song you no doubt will recognize . . . “ye’ll tak’ the high road, and I’ll tak’ the low road.” The West Highlands then beckon with its grand scenery of high, rocky mountains rising out of wild glens. Here we stop for an overnight and dinner at a charming country house in the wilds of Glen Coe.
We embark on one of the prettiest routes in Scotland – the Road to the Isles — a famously scenic 46 miles, passing birch and bracken-covered mountains, glassy lochs, the Caledonian Canal, and the 21-arch viaduct at Glenfinnan (where passengers get to live out Harry Potter fantasies).
The rugged beauty of the Isle of Skye has been proclaimed since the early 1800s when Sir Walter Scott visited. Mountains, sea, cliffs, lochs, glens, farming villages, castles, fine dining, arts and crafts – they’re all here on this remarkable island, which is also an important center of Gaelic culture and language. Our base is Portree, one of the most attractive ports in northwest Scotland with a cliff-edged harbor, fishing boats, and multicolored houses.
Skye has some extraordinary geological scenery to be seen on the Trotternish Peninsula. In a commanding position Dunvegan Castle has been the seat of the chiefs of Clan MacLeod for over 700 years. Of note here is the scrappy remnant of the Fairy Flag, said to have been a gift from a fairy to the clan and thought to have miraculous powers when unfurled in battle, and the castle’s gardens are attractive.
One of the most iconic images of Scotland, Eilean Donan Castle perches on an islet set against a backdrop of mountains and guards the confluence of three lochs. The unique beauty of the place has led it to appear in movies and television and is perhaps the most photographed sight in Scotland after Edinburgh’s castle.
Moving back through the Highlands we come to picturesque Perthshire – the epitome of well-groomed rural Scotland and the long-established domain of Scotland’s well-to-do country set with an overnight in charming Pitlochry. Also in this area is a single-malt whisky distillery – Scotland’s highest distillery and dating back to the late 1800s – where we learn about the making of Scotland’s signature drink and enjoy a “nosing” (tasting).
We conclude in beautiful Edinburgh — Scotland’s captivating capital — and see what makes this city so enticing: from its impressive, history-steeped medieval castle looking out over the city to Old Town and the Royal Mile; from lovely New Town (new meaning 1700s) to the ultramodern Scottish Parliament building; attractive Georgian- and Victorian-period architecture; the Princes Street Gardens; and the view from the volcanic crag that is Calton Hill.
The riotously ornate Rosslyn Chapel, not far out of Edinburgh, is revered for its sublime 15th-century stone carvings – some of the finest in the world – and its past is steeped in intrigue and great mystery, probably accounting for its connection to myths and legends and its appearance in The Da Vinci Code. Covering almost every square inch of stonework are human figures, animals, and plants.