Scotland's Iconic Castles & Gardens


Queen Elizabeth II dearly loved her home at Balmoral Castle (pictured above) within Scotland's Cairngorms National Park, and you too can visit here on this dreamy itinerary by Adams & Butler United Kingdom. Its fantastic nine days are filled with a variety of castles, gardens, history, and more. I can help you curate your own specialized Scottish itinerary with all kinds of other themes too like Harry Potter, Outlander, whisky routes - and even gin experiences. (I'm a big fan of Gin Bothy in Scotland, especially their infused Gunshot Gin.) Keep calm, carry on, and come to Scotland!

The tour description below is excerpted from Adams & Butler's Virtuoso tour site, found HERE.

Scotland is a country of dramatic landscapes, sublime beauty and haunting history. Endeavour on an adventure through this marvelous country, exploring the northern nation’s rich heritage and culture, from castles to farmsteads, small loch-side houses and gardens at their summer best. You will commence your journey in the vibrant city of Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital and center of arts and entertainment, and continue into the wild and magnificent Highlands, before surveying the castles of Inverness. Visits to the great lochs, the picturesque Isle of Skye and Pitlochry’s Balmoral Castle complete this spectacular journey.

DAY ONE

Today, explore Edinburgh, Scotland’s historic capital. Commence your day with a guided tour of the Royal Botanic Garden. Relocated in the 1820s at the time of the creation of the city’s New Town, ‘The Botanics’ was originally founded in 1670 as a physic garden. As such, it is, after Oxford, the second oldest botanic garden in Britain. Its Palm House, built in 1858, is the tallest in Britain. Continue your exploration of Edinburgh with a walking tour of the Royal Mile before arriving at Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. Rebuilt following the restoration of Charles II in 1660, the Palace incorporates a 16th-century tower associated with Mary Queen of Scots. You will discover the fascinating history of the gardens from the 14th century to the present day, including the site of the ancient menagerie, the rare Wentworth elm trees, the 17th-century sundial and the Jubilee Border. You will also see how the grounds are used today for the Queen’s annual Garden Party.

DAY TWO Today, head south into the rich countryside of the Scottish Borders and to the banks of the beautiful River Tweed. First stop is Floors Castle, the largest inhabited ‘castle’ in Scotland and home to the Dukes of Roxburgh since the 1720s. After a tour of the Castle, walk through the grounds to the large and colourful Victorian walled garden – part potager, part herbaceous borders – beautifully complimented by the new Millennium Garden with its intricate parterre and architectural fruit trees. In the afternoon, travel to Abbotsford, the iconic Scottish Baronial-style house created by Sir Walter Scott in the 1820s. Together with his near contemporary Robert Burns, Scott is the most famous of all Scottish writers, and Abbotsford, still furnished exactly as he left it, is a testament to his creation of our romantic notion of Scottish identity. You will take a guided tour of the house, before exploring the formal garden designed by Scott as a series of three interlocking ‘rooms’. Return to Edinburgh in the evening.

DAY THREE

An exciting day of contemporary, and very idiosyncratic, private gardens awaits you. First port of call, an hour east of Edinburgh, is Broadwoodside. This elegant garden has been created from scratch in 2000, in and around a once derelict 17th-century farmhouse by its owners Robert and Anna Dalrymple, who will welcome you. Broadwoodside is an eye-catching, heady mix of classic herbaceous and landscape planting intermixed with the most whimsical of contemporary and classical art. Continue onto the contemporary sculpture garden, Jupiter Artland. Founded in 2009 by philanthropist art collectors Robert and Nicky Wilson, Jupiter Artland has grown into one of Scotland’s most significant arts organisations. The award-winning gardens and galleries, set in 100 acres of meadow and woodlands, are home to 35 site-specific sculptures from artists including Anish Kapoor, Phyllida Barlow, Charles Jencks and Antony Gormley. Return to Edinburgh for the evening.

DAY FOUR

Bid farewell to Edinburgh and head to Drummond Castle, home to one of the finest formal gardens in Europe. Parts of the castle, which was sacked by Oliver Cromwell in 1653, date back to the 15th century. Today however is not about a castle, but about its garden. First laid out in the 1630s, the gardens, of which you will have a private guided tour were redesigned and terraced in the 1830s, before being given their final shape in the 1950s by Nancy Astor, Britain’s first female MP. The result seen today is a courtly 17th-century Scottish Renaissance garden. Continue on to Inverness.

DAY FIVE

Experience Cawdor Castle and Culloden Battlefield today. Cawdor Castle is the most whimsical of castles and gardens, a reflection of its chatelaine, the Dowager Countess of Cawdor. From her delightfully quirky room details to the modern sculpture throughout the beautifully planted and kept gardens, there is a surprise around every corner. You will then drive to the Culloden Battlefield to visit the site of the last bloody battle of the Jacobite Rising in 1746.

DAY SIX

Depart Inverness for the Isle of Skye. The Isle of Skye is a truly magical place. The largest of the Inner Hebrides, it is home to some of Scotland’s most iconic landscapes. The island has countless ways to enchant you, with its mountain ranges, miles of dramatic coastline and captivating history. Along the way, visit one of the most stunning locations in Scotland, the tiny castle of Eilean Donan perched on its rocky island outcrop. Rich in history, it can even boast a Spanish garrison (of forty) during the Jacobite uprising of 1719.

DAY SEVEN Visit Dunvegan Castle, seat of the chief of Clan MacLeod whose family have occupied the castle for over 800 years. Its 5 acres of formal gardens, first created in the 18th century, are, in stark contrast to the barren moors and mountains of Skye, a hidden oasis of eclectic plants, woodland glades, waterfalls and streams flowing out into the sea.

DAY EIGHT

Venture to Pitlochry after enjoying a journey on the Jacobite Steam Train. Regarded as one of the greatest railway journeys in the world, it runs through an area of natural and dramatic beauty along the route immortalised in the Harry Potter films as the journey to Hogwarts. It is a journey of extremes, starting near the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis, and finishing by the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis. From Fort William, visit Glencoe en route to Pitlochry.

DAY NINE

Commence the day at Blair Castle, seat of the Atholl family for over seven centuries. Home to politicians, soldiers, agriculturalists and entrepreneurs, the family history is brought to life against a backdrop of fine 18th-century interiors and Scottish baronial architecture. Following a private tour, head outside to explore the gardens and woods which include some of Scotland’s finest specimen trees. The highlight is the now fully restored 18th-century Hercules Walled Garden, so called for the copy of the Farnese Hercules that stands guard over it. Then, drive into the Cairngorms for a fitting finale to your tour of Scotland. Balmoral Castle, on the banks of the River Dee, has been the Scottish home of the Royal Family since it was purchased for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1852. The castle as you see it today was rebuilt from new in the 1850s, and while it remains largely the same as it was in Queen Victoria’s reign, The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh and The Prince of Wales have followed the initiative of Prince Albert in making improvements to the estate. You will tour the grounds and gardens and access the Castle’s largest room, the ballroom.

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