Themes

  • Royal Connections

  • Gardening

  • Film Locations

Edinburgh, Northumberland

& the Scottish Borders

Prices From $5,640p/p

The compelling and often turbulent history of the border country that separates Scotland and England has resulted in a region that is exceptionally rich in cultural heritage; with a host of defensive forts, ruined abbeys, ancient castles and picturesque stately homes scattered through the scenic and romantic landscape. On this engaging tour, we discover the fascinating stories behind some of these iconic places, from Hadrian’s Wall with its tales of Roman Britain to the lives of Christian Monks in the 14th century, with the area immortalised in the work of Sir Walter Scott, whose home we also visit.

Special extras included in your itinerary
• Guided tour of Abbotsford
• Guided tour of Newcastle
• Guided tour of Rokeby Park
• Private guided tour of Naworth Castle with the owner
• Guided tour of Alnwick Castle
• Guided tour of Floors Castle
• Guided walking tour of Edinburgh
• Private guided tour of Thirlestane Castle
• Private guided tour of Traquair House with the owner (subject to availability)
• Guided tour and afternoon tea aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia
• Themed evening talk by a guest speaker

Day 1
Sunday: Arrival

On arrival at Edinburgh airport, a private transfer will take you to our overnight hotel, the Norton House Hotel. In the evening you are invited to join the group for a welcome drink, followed by dinner.

Day 2
Monday: Rosslyn Chapel and Abbotsford

This morning we head to Rosslyn Chapel, home to some of the most exquisite carvings and portrait scenes in 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 to Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott, one of the great romanticists and the foremost literary figure of his day. Created by the writer himself in the Scottish Baronial style and set in beautiful formal gardens, the house contains an impressive collection of historic relics and an extensive library and we discover more on our guided tour.

Later we check in to the Macdonald Linden Hall Hotel where we stay for the next five nights. Tonight we enjoy dinner at the hotel. 

Day 3
Tuesday: Newcastle, Newcastle Cathedral and Durham Cathedral

We enjoy a guided tour of Newcastle, with its inspiring heritage and acclaimed architecture. In the historical centre of the city stands the Castle Keep, one of the finest Norman stone castle keeps surviving in Britain today. Although founded in 1091, Newcastle Cathedral is mainly 14th century and is notable for its unusual 15th-century lantern spire. The cathedral houses many medieval treasures and a fine collection of stained glass windows.

Next is Durham Cathedral, a World Heritage Site, sitting on a rocky promontory high above the River Wear. Originally built in 1093 as a monastic cathedral for a community of Benedictine monks, the cathedral boasts some of the most intact surviving monastic buildings in England and is home to the shrine of St Cuthbert.

We dine together at the hotel tonight.

Day 4
Wednesday: Raby Castle and Rokeby Park

We make our way to Raby Castle, set in a 200 acre deer park. King Cnut owned the estate in the early 11th century but it was the Nevills who built the 14th century castle we see today, now home to Lord Barnard, a direct descendant of the Nevills. The exterior of medieval towers, turrets and embattled walls contrasts with the sumptuous interiors which span Medieval, Regency and Victorian periods and provide a magnificent backdrop for the stunning art collection.

Afterwards, we head to Rokeby Park where we enjoy a guided tour. Completed in 1735 by its owner, Sir Thomas Robinson, this architectural treasure represents the heyday of the Palladian-style country house. Much of the present interior was designed by John Carr and a unique collection of 18th-century needlework pictures by Anne Morritt are on display as well as a very rare surviving print room.

Tonight, we enjoy dinner together back at the hotel.

Day 5
Thursday: Naworth Castle, Lanercost Priory and Hadrian’s Wall

This morning we visit Naworth Castle, the private ancestral home of the Howard family. We enjoy an exclusive private guided tour by the current owner, Philip Howard. A border stronghold dating back to 1335, the castle was remodelled in the 16th and 17th centuries. Almost destroyed by a devastating fire in 1844, restoration began in 1850 but the interiors were the work of the 9th Earl of Carlisle who counted many of the eminent Pre-Raphaelites, including William Morris, among his friends. Naworth is not usually open to the public and we will enjoy a special visit here.

Close by stands the Augustinian Lanercost Priory, founded in 1166. The tranquil setting of the priory belies an often troubled history. Standing close to Hadrian’s Wall, it suffered frequent attacks during the long Anglo-Scottish wars. Although the chancel and transepts are in ruins, the cloisters are beautifully preserved and the 13th-century nave lives on as the parish church.

The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall as a fortification across Britain some two thousand years ago. We’ll explore part of this fascinating archaeological site before visiting Housesteads Roman Fort, Britain’s most complete Roman fort. Wander through the ruins of this ancient hilltop fortress and visit the fascinating museum, which gives an insight into the life of a Roman soldier.

This evening, we enjoy dinner together at a local restaurant.

Day 6
Friday: Alnwick Castle and Wallington

Still home to the Duke of Northumberland and his family, Alnwick Castle is the second largest inhabited castle in England. On our guided tour, we explore the history of the Percy family through the eclectic array of furniture and art they collected and displayed in the impressive State Rooms. Alnwick also featured in the popular TV series Downton Abbey. We also visit the superlative Alnwick Garden, set around a cascading fountain, and surrounding ‘Capability’ Brown landscape.

We continue on to Wallington, the much-loved home to generations of the unconventional Trevelyan family. Fans of the Pre-Raphaelites will love Wallington’s Central Hall, decorated to resemble an Italian courtyard. Built towards the close of the 17th century, the rather plain Palladian exterior hides an interior brimming with interest, including wonderful collections of ceramics, paintings and needlework.

After dinner back at the hotel, we are treated to a fascinating talk by a guest speaker.

Day 7
Saturday: Floors Castle and Mellerstain House

We return north, stopping first at Floors Castle, lying on the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders. Scotland’s largest inhabited castle has been home to the Dukes of Roxburghe since it was built in 1721 to designs by William Adam. Here we can admire the collections of fine art, furniture, porcelain and tapestries on our guided tour.

Set in beautiful acres of parkland and formal gardens, 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 with exquisitely proportioned rooms embellished with classical plasterwork, all preserved in the original colours, some fine art as well as period furniture and embroidery collections.

We then return to the Norton House Hotel, our base for the last four nights of our stay. We enjoy dinner together at the hotel tonight.

Day 8
Sunday: Edinburgh and Edinburgh Castle

This morning we enjoy a guided walking tour of Scotland’s vibrant capital city of Edinburgh. Most of the city’s sights can be found within the medieval Old Town and the elegant Georgian buildings of the New Town, all overlooked by the iconic castle perched high above the city.

As one of the most important strongholds in the Kingdom of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle has witnessed many of the defining events of Scottish history. Highlights include the Crown Jewels of Scotland, the Royal Palace and the 16th-century Great Hall. We then enjoy a little free time to explore the city.

Later, we dine together at a local restaurant.

Day 9
Monday: Thirlestane Castle and Traquair House

We start the day at Thirlestane Castle where we enjoy a private guided tour. 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.

Next is 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 dine together back at the hotel this evening.

*subject to availability

Day 10
Tuesday: Royal Yacht Britannia

After enjoying a morning at leisure in Edinburgh, this afternoon we step aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, the Queen's floating Royal residence for over 44 years, used not only for state visits and official receptions but also for family holidays. Our fascinating guided tour includes the Bridge, the State Apartments, Royal Bedrooms, Crew's Quarters and the Engine Room. After our tour, we enjoy afternoon tea on board.

Tonight, we enjoy a farewell dinner together at our hotel.

Day 11
Wednesday: Departure

A private transfer will take you back to Edinburgh airport for your return flight home.

What’s Included
• Airport transfers from Edinburgh*
• 5 nights at the Norton House Hotel
• 5 nights at the Macdonald Linden Hall Hotel
• Welcome drink and canapés
• Full English breakfast each day
• 3-course table d’hôte dinner on 8 nights at the hotels (with after dinner tea and coffee)
• 2 dinners at local restaurants
• Services of a tour director throughout your stay
• Travel to and from all excursions
• All entrance costs
• Porterage

*supplement applies for transfers from all other airports

Special extras included in your itinerary
• Guided tour of Abbotsford
• Guided tour of Newcastle
• Guided tour of Rokeby Park
• Private guided tour of Naworth Castle with the owner
• Guided tour of Alnwick Castle
• Guided tour of Floors Castle
• Guided walking tour of Edinburgh
• Private guided tour of Thirlestane Castle
• Private guided tour of Traquair House with the owner (subject to availability)
• Guided tour and afternoon tea aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia
• Themed evening talk by a guest speaker

Night One and Nights Seven to Ten – Norton House Hotel
Originally a traditional country retreat built in 1840, the Norton House Hotel is a fine country house hotel set in 55 acres of leafy grounds to the west of Edinburgh. This luxury hotel offers boutique rooms and a health club and spa with a swimming pool, sauna, steam room and hydrotherapy pool plus a fully equipped gym.

Nights Two to Six – Macdonald Linden Hall Hotel
Nestling in 450 acres of Northumberland parkland close to Newcastle, the Linden Hall Hotel is a beautiful 18th-century manor house. The hotel boasts classically furnished bedrooms, a luxury spa with indoor pool, sauna and gym plus a tennis court and golf course. A cosy pub, lounge bar and restaurant complete the amenities here.