We depart in the morning from London’s Victoria Coach station and make our way north to Durham - one of the stopping places on Mendelssohn’s original itinerary. We have lunch on arrival, followed by a guided tour of Durham’s magnificent cathedral, renowned for being a masterpiece of Norman architecture and which Nikolaus Pevsner described as ‘one of the great architectural experiences of Europe’. After some time spent at leisure in the city, we journey on to Newcastle for an overnight stay at the 4* Copthorne Hotel Newcastle, located in the heart of the city. In the evening, we meet for dinner in the restaurant.
After checking out of our hotel, we walk to the Cathedral Church of St Nicholas, where the famous composer and writer, Charles Avison, had been organist in the 18th century. The coach will then take us north to the Scottish Borders for a visit to Abbotsford House, home and workplace of the novelist, Sir Walter Scott. This fantastical building started life as a modest farmhouse, which between 1811 and 1824 Scott steadily transformed into a mansion, through adding a library, a study, a large dining Room, an armoury, as well as turrets and battlements. In short, Scott created what he himself described as ‘a sort of romance in architecture’. After a guided tour, we have lunch in the restaurant, before paying a brief visit to nearby Melrose Abbey, which Mendelssohn sketched during his visit. We then make our way to the Ballathie Hotel, situated 25 miles north of Perth, which will be our base for the five nights that we spend in Scotland. In the early evening we have a lecture on Mendelssohn, which in turn is followed by a drinks reception and dinner.
The morning will be spent in Perth visiting the local Art Gallery and Museum, as well as the Fergusson Art Gallery - an old converted water tower and a fine piece of the city’s architecture. The gallery displays superb works by John Duncan Fergusson, the celebrated Scottish Colourist, and his wife, Margaret Morris, who was a ground-breaking modern dancer. A range of paintings and memorabilia illustrate the lives of these two remarkable artists. After lunch, we visit the picturesque village of Dunkeld, whose glory is the ruined medieval cathedral, situated on the banks of the River Tay. Part of the building has been converted into a place of worship, and here Peter will play a range of organ pieces connected with the Scottish theme of the week. We then take a walk through the nearby Perthshire Forest to visit the Hermitage, a picturesque folly built in 1757. Decorated with mirrors, sliding panels and paintings, it has recently been refurbished to re-create the illusions of shock, surprise and amazement that were the aims of the folly’s original concept. This too, was visited by Mendelssohn. We return to the hotel for relaxation and dinner.
The main focus of the day is a visit to Blair Atholl for a guided tour of the castle followed by lunch in its restaurant. However, en route, we make a stop at one of the finest vistas in the whole of Scotland, the so-called ‘Queen’s View’ located in Highland Perthshire, overlooking Loch Tummel. Whether the location is named after Queen Victoria, who visited in 1866, or after King Robert the Bruce’s wife, Queen Isabella of Scotland, some 550 years earlier, is unknown, but whichever it is, the magnificent view is second to none. By contrast to this peaceful setting, Blair Castle, seat of the Dukes of Atholl, has witnessed both tranquil and turbulent times, and over its 750 years has been enlarged and adapted to suit the needs of successive generations of the family. Here we enjoy a private tour of the many treasures, housed within its 18th century interiors. In the afternoon we make our way back to the hotel via Aberfeldy, where we walk – weather permitting – to view the Falls of Moness, a 150m high waterfall tucked away in the Birks of Aberfeldy. Again, this was also a stopping point for Mendelssohn on his journey. Dinner is at the hotel.
Today we journey to Edinburgh to spend the morning in the Scottish National Gallery, located on The Mound in the city centre, close to Princes Street. The gallery houses Scotland's national collection of fine art, spanning Scottish and international art from the beginning of the Renaissance up to the start of the 20th century. Highlights in the collection include works by Bernini, Titian, Vermeer, Ramsey, Monet and Gauguin. Following lunch, we spend the afternoon in the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. After Mendelssohn had stood in its ruined chapel on 30 July 1829, he wrote to his parents ‘everything around is broken and mouldering, and the bright sky shines in. I believe I found today in that old chapel the beginning of my Scottish Symphony’. We return to the hotel for relaxation and dinner.
Today we have an early start in order to catch the boat that will take us to view Fingal’s Cave on Staffa, one of the Western isles, and the inspiration for Mendelssohn’s overture ‘The Hebrides’. The famous cave is made up of basalt rock formations, including stepped columns causing Mendelssohn’s companion, Klingemann, to remark ‘its many pillars make it look like the inside of an immense organ, black and resounding’. The boat will then take us to the Isle of Iona where we have lunch and pay a visit to the Abbey, founded by Columba in 563 and renowned for its tranquillity and natural environment. In Mendelssohn’s day the Abbey was in ruins, but since then it – as well as its associated buildings - have been restored to their former glory. We then retrace our steps to the hotel for a late dinner.
As Mendelssohn did at the end of his Highlands tour, we make our way to Glasgow, but unlike him we spend the morning in the recently re-opened Burrell Collection, housed in an especially built structure, located to the south of the city. The international and eclectic artifacts were acquired over many years by Sir William Burrell, a wealthy Glasgow shipping magnate and art enthusiast. The collection contains impressive medieval art, including stained glass and tapestries, oak furniture, medieval weapons and armour. It also has Islamic art, items from ancient Egypt and China, Impressionist works by Degas and Cézanne, as well as modern sculpture. After lunch, we journey to Glasgow Central Station to travel first class back to London Euston, where we arrive in good time for people to make their homeward journeys. End of the tour.
NB: Please note we reserve the right to alter the above itinerary if required for operational reasons. Given the historic nature of the places visited, a certain degree of walking will be involved, and this holiday may not be suitable for those with mobility problems. Price based on twin share. Minimum numbers required. Normal booking conditions apply.
Tour limited to 24 passengers
Organ recital by Peter at Dunkeld Cathedral
All excursions, guided tours & entrance fees included
4* hotels in Perthshire & Newcastle
All meals included (breakfast, lunch & dinner)
Private drinks reception on Day 2
Professional local guide Days 3 to 6
Private executive coach
First Class train travel from Glasgow to London Euston
Durham Cathedral - guided tour
Cathedral Church of St Nicholas
Abbotsford House - guided tour
Perth Museum & Art Gallery
Fergusson Art Gallery
Dunkeld Cathedral with organ recital by Peter
The Hermitage, Perthshire Forest
‘Queen’s View’ overlooking Loch Tummel
Blair Castle - guided tour
Falls of Moness, Aberfeldy
Scottish National Gallery
Palace of Holyroodhouse
Fingal’s Cave on Staffa
The Burrell Collection
While in Scotland, we stay five nights at the 4* Ballathie House Hotel (www.ballathiehousehotel.com), a traditional 4* Scottish country house hotel located around 15 miles to the north of Perth on the banks of the River Tay. Facilities at the hotel include a two AA Rosettes restaurant and a bar. For the first night of our tour, en route to Scotland, we stay at the centrally located 4* Copthorne Hotel Newcastle (www.millenniumhotels.co.uk). At both hotels dinner is included each night and all rooms are en suite and feature television, telephone and hairdryer.
Insurance (including Covid cover) £34
Single room supplement £259
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