The Blessed Isles
A Journey of Exploration and Discovery through
the Ancient Sacred Lands of Bonnie Scotland
July 7 – 19, 2015
Tour operated in cooperation with Gothic Image Tours
In particular, we visit the enchanted islands of the West – the Hebrides – and the North – the Orkneys – and get a real live feel of their history, culture, myths and folklore.
We visit such treasures as the Gaelic Isles of Iona, Mull, Skye, Harris and Lewis, the formerly Viking Orkney Islands and the Templar Chapel of Roslin.
Each island has a unique quality all its own with sacred sites, histories and traditions that inspire the mind and delight the soul.
We shall visit holy wells, stone circles, hermit cells, Druid groves, enchanted woods, dramatic dolmens, sacred rivers, majestic glens and bonnie lochs, each with its own story to tell.
Along the way, authors, historians, musicians and storytellers will help enhance our experience of this wonderful land. The tour leader, Jamie George, is himself a Scot, and he loves to share his home country with you.
We are delighted to welcome Philip Carr-Gomm on our Sacred Scotland tour. He and his partner Stephanie will join us in the Orkney Islands. Philip is the leader of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids – the largest Druid teaching in the world. He has organised the order’s teachings into a distance learning course which has been described as “representing one of the major documents of British spirituality from the late twentieth century.” Philip and Stephanie are the authors of many books including The Druid Animal Oracle, The Druid Craft Tarot and The Druid Plant Oracle. See more details about the tour leaders.
Our journey begins at Glasgow airport. From there we travel to the little village of Roslin where lies the exquisite Roslin (Rosslyn) Chapel – a ‘book in stone’ that is festooned with arcane symbols and steeped in Knights Templar associations. Here we meet Knights Templar Chevalier Robert Brydon who will guide us through the mysteries of this wonderful place. Later, an optional visit to Edinburgh Castle and Scotland’s capital city.
Onward and north through the bonnie Highlands – Rob Roy country and the Trossachs – to Aberfoyle, where we meet the Druid Fiona Davidson. She will guide us to Fairy Knowe Hill where the mystic Rev Robert Kirk was stolen away by the Fairy Queen. By the shores of the Lake of Menteith, Fiona will sing Scottish ballads and give us a harp recital. From there we travel to Dingwall, overlooking the Moray Firth.
As we travel along the rugged east coast of Scotland with its Pictish Brochs and spectacular views across the North Sea, we come to Thurso where we take a ferry to the Orkney Islands.
Here are some of the most evocative sacred sites in Europe – the ancient village of Skara Brae, the Ring of Brodgar stone circle, the Stones of Stennes and the rune-decorated mound Maes Howe. We visit the charming towns of Kirkwall and Stromness and the enchanted gardens and falls of Woodwick House.
On leaving the Orkneys we traverse the Highlands, visiting for lunch the impressive 12th Century Tulloch Castle – the oldest inhabited castle in Scotland – where its owner will take us on a tour of the dungeons and the beautiful oak panelled rooms. Onwards to the fishing port of Ullapool on the west coast. En route we visit the Fairy Glen at Rosemarkie on the Black Isle.
Our journey takes us by ferry to the island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Here we meet Margaret and Ron Curtis who guide us through the sacred landscape of Callanish – ‘Scotland’s Stonehenge’. We learn of the many astronomical alignments of this site and the extraordinary precision that the ancients used in their construction. We also visit the beautiful neighbouring island of Harris, with its lochans, beaches and standing stones.
Then, over the sea to Skye where we visit Dunvegan Castle and gardens and view the famous fairy flag that has figured so importantly in battle. On Skye we get a sense of the timeless nature of an ancient landscape, with the Cullin Hills and the Isle of Oronsay, and much interesting flora and fauna.
Our ferry back to the mainland takes us to Mallaig, then we move on to Glenfinnan Monument and Fort William to the gateway to the Highlands – Oban. A ferry takes us to the island of Mull, which we cross, to take another ferry on to the sacred island of Iona. Here we stay and visit the Abbey, Nunnery, Hermit’s Cell and St Columba’s Bay. We delight in the beauty and power of this magical place and take time to receive its healing energies.
On leaving Iona and Mull, we travel southwards via Oban to visit Kilmartin Valley, a landscape temple with the neolithic monuments of Temple Wood and Nether Largie. We stop for tea at the little village of Inverary, overlooking the tranquil Loch Fyne, and then on to stay our last night on the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. Here, after a farewell dinner, we return to Glasgow airport.
Day One – Tuesday, July 7: We rendezvous at Starbucks on the ground floor of the St Andrews Arrival Building, Glasgow Airport at NOON. From there we proceed to the village of Rosslyn near Edinburgh. Lunch en route. Overnight at Rosslyn.
Day Two – Wednesday, July 8: Today we visit the beautiful Roslin (Rosslyn) Chapel, made famous in the book The Da Vinci Code. The chapel is a 15th Century ‘book in stone’ festooned with all manner of arcane carvings, including many depictions of the pagan Green Man. We are accompanied by Chevalier Robert Brydon, grand master of the Knights Templars, who will describe to us the many Templar associations, the links with the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant. Dinner with Chevalier Robert Brydon. Overnight at Rosslyn.
Day Three – Thursday, July 9: Onwards to Aberfoyle in the Trossachs, where we are met by the Druid Priestess Fiona Davidson, who leads us to the Fairy Knowe Hill. Here legend recalls the Scottish mystic the Rev. Robert Kirk was stolen away by the Fairy Queen. We visit the graveyard of his reputed burial and have lunch on the banks of the lovely Lake of Menteith, where Fiona will give us a talk and harp recital. We journey on to Dingwall via Rob Roy country and the enchanted Fairy Glen at Rosemarkie on the Black Isle. Overnight at Dingwall.
Day Four – Friday, July 10: Today we travel north up the rugged north-east coast of Scotland, with its Pictish Iron Age Brochs and stunning scenery, to Thurso, overlooking the Pentland Firth. Here we take a boat to the Islands of Orkney. In this timeless place, where the quality of the light and the air are so special, we feel on the edge of the world. Here are some of the best-preserved ancient sites in Europe – stone circles, earth houses, round barrows and prehistoric villages that reveal to us a simple but noble way of life in ancient times. Overnight in Orkney.
Day Five – Saturday, July 11: We visit the neolithic stone circles of Stennes and the Ring of Brodgar, prehistoric sun and moon temples that are part of a sacred ritual landscape. We enter the great chamber of Maes Howe that receives the light of the setting sun at midsummer along its passsage. We marvel at the exquisite stonework within the mound and view the runic art etched into the pillars of the chamber. We visit the windswept prehistoric village of Skara Brae by the Bay of Skaill. Here we view the remains of a beautifully preserved 3000BC village with sophisticated architecture and built-in stone furniture. We visit the enchanted Woodwick House and gardens and take tea with the owners. We visit the capital town of Kirkwall with its ancient paved streets and interesting craft shops and galleries. Overnight in Orkney.
Day Six – Sunday, July 12: We journey south across the water to the mainland, to the 12th C Tulloch Castle in Dingwall, where we have lunch. Tulloch is the oldest inhabited castle in Scotland. We are given a tour of the dungeons, the great oak-panelled rooms and the tower, where we enjoy stunning views across the Moray Firth. Onwards to Ullapool on the Highland west coast for our overnight stay.
Day Seven – Monday, July 13: Today we take the ferry across to the Outer Hebrides, to the island of Lewis, where we meet Margaret and Ron Curtis. They are experts on the prehistory and folklore of the ancient sites of this region. With them we visit the Callanish complex of megalithic sites and learn of the astronomical alignments that feature so vividly in this sacred landscape. Overnight on Lewis.
Day Eight – Tuesday, July 14: Joined by an isthmus to Lewis is the island of Harris where lie some wonderfully sited monuments with heart-stopping views across the wild heather landscape and golden beaches to the sea. Free time in the afternoon to visit Stornoway, the capital of Lewis, or to rest at the hotel. Overnight on Lewis.
Day Nine – Wednesday, July 15: From Lewis we take the ferry to the romantic island of Skye. Here we travel through stunning mountain scenery to Dunvegan Castle with its famous Fairy Flag, clan antiquities, water gardens and commanding views. We visit the little island of Ornsay for lunch and watch the sunset over Loch Sligachan. Overnight on the Isle of Skye.
Day Ten – Thursday, July 16: We journey across the water to Mallaig on the mainland and travel via the Glenfinnan Monument and Fort William to Oban. Here we take the ferry to the island of Mull and thence to the sacred island of Iona. Here is an island of dreams – a place that, as Fiona Macleod described, “None can understand who do not see it through its pagan light, its Christian light, its singular blending of paganism and romance and spiritual beauty“. Here we shall feel refreshed and renewed as we walk this timeless land, enjoy the beautiful flora and fauna and perhaps swim in the aquamarine sea. Overnight on Iona.
Day Eleven – Friday, July 17: There are many sites to visit on Iona, mainly Christian, such as the 12th C Abbey, St Columba’s Chapel, Oran’s Chapel and the 12th C Nunnery. But the treasures of the island are to be found in the enchanted places where nature shows herself slowly and shyly to the curious pilgrim. Jamie will lead an optional walk to St Columba’s Bay via the Bay at the Back of the Ocean and the Machair, or you may wish to explore on your own or rest. Overnight on Iona.
Day Twelve – Saturday, July 18: We travel back through Mull to the mainland by ferry to Oban, where we have lunch and time for shopping for that special gift. As we journey southwards we stop at the beautiful valley of Kilmartin to visit one of Scotland’s most attractive megalithic sites – Temple Wood, with the nearby line of chambered cairns and standing stones. We stop for tea at the pretty village of Inverary on the shores of Loch Fyne, where we can see seals fishing in the still waters. We are soon at Loch Lomond where we stay a night and have our farewell dinner by the Loch. Overnight at Loch Lomond.
Final Day – Sunday, July 19: After breakfast we journey to Glasgow Airport for international flights and transfers, arriving by 10am. Please arrange onward flights from Glasgow from noon onwards to provide time for check in.
Please note: We reserve the right to vary the itinerary as necessary to provide the best possible experience under the circumstances prevailing at the time.
The price includes excellent quality accommodation and coach travel, full English breakfast and three course dinner, all inland transportation, entrance fees, presentations, guide fees, taxes and gratuities (excl. driver). The cost is based on double occupancy. All rooms have private facilities. Single rooms are few but may be available at an additional cost.
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PRICE PER PERSON (Land Only)
Double Occupancy: $3,769 by check or money order or $4,179 by credit card
Single Occupancy: $4,219 by check or money order or $4,449 by credit card (limited availability)
$300 ($315 by credit card) Non-Refundable deposit is required to hold space.
ROOMMATES: We will be happy to try to find a suitable roommate for those who are traveling alone and would like to share a room. Per our Terms and Conditions, registration for the tour will be held open until 30 days before the departure date in order to try to match everyone with a roommate. If by that date we have not been able to match you with a suitable roommate, you will be responsible to pay for the single supplement. An early registration will facilitate this process.
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