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08 April 2022
Dear Educational Traveller,  

If you have not contemplated visiting one of the most beautiful countries in the world, Scotland with its mind-blowing beauty could be for you with the gentle exploration of the Scottish Islands on our unique Scottish Island Hopping program.


Skye

We are only a few places away from guaranteeing this tour and it is worth remembering, as autumn arrives in the southern hemisphere, that our Scottish Island Hopping program takes place in July and August, at the height of the British summer, when the days in Scotland are at their longest and the temperature is at its warmest.

Our program commences in Glasgow on 17 July and concludes in Edinburgh on 05 August 2022.

For those who have not yet had the chance to experience the exhilarating Edinburgh Tattoo, we can arrange a short post-tour extension to your Scottish Island Hopping program to stay a while longer in the Scottish capital and to spend an evening at the castle, viewing swirling kilts and listening to haunting bagpipes.

Finally, we are delighted Peter Burns has again raised his hand to lead our Scottish Island Hopping program. We hope you enjoy reading Peter’s short article below about this tour. Places are strictly limited – so, if you are interested in joining Peter to hop from one stunning Scottish island to the other in 2022, please contact us as soon as possible to reserve your place.


Scottish Island Hopping - with Peter Burns

I look forward immensely to taking my ninth program to Scotland and in particular to the Scottish Islands in July and August this year.


Culzean Castle

Some years ago, I was very fortunate to work in Scotland for 12 months as the manager of Loch Lomond National Nature Reserve. Since that time I have been smitten with the country and returned on many occasions.

I would like to think that I am related to Robert Burns, the great Scottish Bard. Who knows? My grandfather, and namesake, Peter, was an orphan from Northern Ireland and little is known of his family, except that they were weavers and originally from Ayrshire, where ‘Rabbie’ himself was born.

En route to our first island, Arran, we will visit the birthplace of Scotland’s favourite son and the magnificent ‘Burns’ museum and marvel at how a ploughman could become one of Scotland’s most influential people.

Scotland has over 700 islands. Arran is often described as ‘mini Scotland’, as it has both highlands and lowlands and the highland boundary fault running through the island. Our guest house overlooks the bay, where otters are often seen frolicking in the early hours.

Brodick Castle and country park, once home to the powerful Duke of Hamilton, is now managed by the National Trust, and it is a magnificent place to visit. The Arran skyline is dominated by the rugged ridges of Goatfell. James Hutton, a leading light in the Scottish Enlightenment and the ‘father of modern geology’, formed his theories here on Arran.


Brodick Castle

On the other side of the island, a short walk across Machrie Moor, through the old Moss Farm, reveals the remains of several stone circles thought to have been associated with the religious and ceremonial activities of the Neolithic and early Bronze Age farmers.

Another ferry trip takes us over to Kintyre peninsular. One can lose track whether we are on the Scottish mainland or another island! We travel along the scenic west coast to Oban, and then another short ferry trip to the Isle of Mull. Our small coach will be able to take us on some of the scenic back roads, as we visit the mausoleum of Lachlan Macquarie and explore the island, staying in the picture perfect historic fishing village of Tobermory.

Off the south western tip of Mull lies the holy island of Iona. Here, in the 6th century, Saint Columba brought Christianity across the sea from Ireland and spread the gospels throughout Scotland and northern England. For the adventurous, the island of Staffa and the legendary ‘Fingal’s Cave’ is an optional 45 minute ferry trip over the seas which inspired Mendelssohn’s Hebridean Overture.

Back on the mainland we will take a short detour to Glencoe to experience the splendour of Scotland’s most famous glen, and learn about the troubles between the Campbells and the McDonalds and the start of the Jacobite uprisings.


Iona Abbey

The ‘Road to the Isles’ will take us on through Fort William, past Thomas Telford’s Caledonian Canal, and via Glenfinnan. This is where Bonnie Prince Charlie gathered his clans together in 1745 in order to take on the Hanoverian Government in the name of his father, whom the Jacobites believed should have been their rightful King James III of England and as James VIII of Scotland.

The jagged peaks of the Cuillin Range dominate the skyline as our ferry approaches the shoreline of Skye and the words of the famous song play in your mind:

“Speed, bonnie boat, like a bird on the wing,
Onward! the sailors cry;
Carry the lad that's born to be King
Over the sea to Skye.”

The song is written about the island hopping escape of Bonnie Prince Charlie after his attempts to seize the crown had failed. We pay respects to brave Flora McDonald who risked her life to smuggle the Prince throughout the Isles in 1746 and we visit her grave in the remote cemetery at Clachan. Whisky, of course, has to be sampled and there is none finer than that produced at the Talisker Distillery on Skye, followed by a grand visit to Dunvegan Castle, the proud ancestral home of the McLeods and the legendary ‘Fairy Flag’.


Callanish Stones

Our next Island Hopping leg takes us further out west to the Outer Hebrides and the island of Harris and Lewis. The island boasts some of the finest sandy beaches in the UK, along with many fine Neolithic sites including the standing stones at Callanish and the nearby Iron Age Broch at Dun Carloway. The remote northern end of Lewis contains some of the last of the ‘blackhouses’. The National Trust manages the Arnol blackhouse that was still inhabited up until the 1960s, and one can sit beside the peat fire and ponder the hard life that the Hebrideans endured.

The next ferry will take us from Stornoway across to Ullapool on the mainland and then we have a spectacular drive around the north-west tip of the Scottish mainland. At the remote Durness community garden we visit some modern standing stones, dedicated to John Lennon who spent several childhood holidays with his aunt in Durness and the Beatles’ song ‘In my Life’ was inspired by this experience.

Thurso is the stepping off point for our adventure to the Orkneys and the Northlink Ferry takes us past the ‘Old Man of Hoy”, a red sandstone outcrop and soon we are in the mediaeval town of Stromness. We explore the narrow streets taking in the museum and art gallery. This is the hometown of poet and writer George McKay Brown and the polar explorer John Rae.

Orkney’s main town Kirkwall is dominated by the impressive Cathedral of St Magnus, dating back to 12th century Viking days. Orkney and Shetland were under Danish rule until 1472 and one can hear differences in accents when compared to those of the mainland.


Puffin, Shetland Islands

Orkney has some of the most significant Neolithic sites in Europe and most of these are listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. We explore the village at Skara Brae, the burial chamber at Maeshowe and the Ring of Brodgar, which are all quite spectacular. Nearby, the ‘temple site’ that is currently being excavated at the Ness of Brodgar, is potentially the most important Neolithic site in the UK.

During the First and Second World Wars, Orkney was the main naval base for the allies. Scapa Flow contains the wrecks of the German fleet, that was scuttled at the end of WWI and tragically the war grave of the Royal Oak battleship that was sunk by a German submarine just two weeks after the start of WWII.

The overnight ferry trip to the Shetland Islands is in very comfortable en-suite cabins. We awake to look out our port holes to see the town of Lerwick looming in the distance. We are now the same distance to the coast of Norway as we are to Aberdeen.

There is much to see in the Shetlands. Sumburgh Head at southern tip of the main island has an 1821 Stevenson Lighthouse set amidst a RSPB bird reserve abounding in breeding colonies of seabirds, including puffins, guillemots, shags and fulmars.


Mousa Broch

Nearby is the historical site of Jarlshof, where over the centuries human settlements have left their marks on the site from hunter gatherers, Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Pictish era, Norse era and the Middle Ages.

Mousa Broch is on an island of its own and another adventure. The Iron Age tower is arguably the finest of its type in the world and the island’s RSPB bird reserve has key species such as Arctic skuas, Arctic terns, black guillemots (‘tysties’), Great skuas (‘Bonxies’) and storm petrels.

Our small coach enables us to explore some of the back roads of this fascinating island, meeting up with the famous Shetland ponies and sampling some of the local arts, crafts and foods and taking in some very spectacular scenery.

Alas all good things must pass and our final ferry trip takes us overnight from Lerwick to Aberdeen and then it is just a morning’s drive to the Scottish capital Edinburgh, with time in the afternoon to take in the key sites at Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace.

This is a must see trip of a life time. We promise you magnificent scenery, out of the way places, incredible history and plenty of fun throughout.


I do hope you will join me on this magical journey.


Peter Burns
(picture not taken in Scotland !!!)

Golden Compass Program Leader

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