If you are intrigued by what you read about Mendelssohn’s Scottish journey and would like follow in his footsteps 193 years later, or if you love Mendelssohn’s music and particularly his Hebrides Overture or Scottish Symphony and want to learn more about what inspired him, or if you have a fascination with Scottish history including the life of Mary Queen of Scots in the 16th century or the Jacobite up-risings of the late 17th and early 18th centuries, or if you simply want to enjoy some of the UK’s most beautiful sights and scenery, then join the “Mendelssohn in Scotland” holiday in September 2022.
About the Holiday
The "Spirit of Scotland" holiday will take place from 20 to 30 September 2022. It will be led jointly by Stephen Carpenter and Kayleen Asbo. Stephen has had a career in managing orchestras in Scotland and England since the 1980s. He has undertaken a close study of Mendelssohn, in particular the sketches and letters that throw such a vivid light on the composer's Scottish journey in 1829, and which form the inspiration for this holiday which will start and end in Edinburgh, and visit Holyrood Palace, Abbotsford (the home of Sir Walter Scott), Melrose Abbey, Dunkeld, the Pass of Killiecrankie, Glencoe, Fort William, Oban, the island of Mull, and the extraordinary Fingal’s Cave on the island of Staffa. To express interest in joining the holidays, contact Stephen Carpenter. . Kayleen is a passionate scholar: a cultural historian, musician, writer and teacher who weaves myth, music, psychology, history and art with experiential learning.
A summary of the holiday is given below and further details can be found here.
Spiriti of Scotland
Tuesday 20 September 2022 – Edinburgh. Independent arrival and check-in at the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel from 3.00pm. Welcome dinner at the Hotel at 7.00pm
Wednesday 21 September – 10.30am departure from the Hotel for the short walk to St Ceclia's Hall in Edinburgh where we will have a private guided tour of the instrument collection followed by a recital by Kayleen and musical guests. In the afternoon, we will have Royal Afternoon Tea on the Fingal which is moored next to the Royal Yacht Britannia at Edinburgh's Leith Docks, followed by a private tour of Britannia showing the royal staterooms and apartments. Dinner under your own arrangements.
Thursday 22 September – in the morning we will take the "Writers' Walk" seeing the sites and haunts of literary legends including Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle and J.M. Barrie. In the early afternoon we will go to the National Gallery of Scotland to view the extraordinary collection of paintings including those by Botticelli, Gaugin and Rembrandt. We we then have an early dinner at the hotel at 5.00pm followed by a short walk to Holyrood Palace for our own private tour (6.30pm to 8.30pm) of the Palace and the ruined Chapel where Mendelssohn was inspired to write down the opening of his Scottish Symphony.
Friday 23 September – Rosslyn Chapel and Holy Island. Departing at 9.00am from the Hotel, we will travel by on our private bus to Rosslyn Chapel which is one of Scotland's most remarkable buildings and was the setting for the denouement of Dan Brown's novel, The Da Vinci Code. After Rosslyn we will take the 90-minute journey down to Holy Island (Lindisfarne), crossing over the tidal causeway and have lunch together at the Manor House, followed by visits to the Priory and Castle. On returning to Edinburgh we will have dinner together at the "Angels with Bagpipes" restaurant on Edinburgh's Royal Mile.
Saturday 24 September – Abbotsford, Melrose and Dunkeld. Departing at 9.00am from the Holyrood Hotel, we take the hour-long journey down to Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott whose novels inspired so many 19th-century composers and who was one of the main reasons why Mendelssohn visited Scotland in 1829. We will have a private tour around the house, followed by lunch at the Ochiltree Restaurant.
After lunch we go to the beautiful town of Melrose. We will explore the Abbey where Robert the Bruce’s heart is buried, and where Mendelssohn found some solace on the day of his unsuccessful attempt to meet Sir Walter Scott. In the afternoon we will head for the Highlands! Our journey will take us back past Edinburgh, over the "Queensferry Crossing", the newly opened bridge over the Firth of Forth with its breath-taking views of the Firth, the old Forth Road Bridge, and the Forth Rail Bridge built in the 1880s, through the Kingdom of Fife, past Perth, arriving at the Dunkeld House Hotel in the late afternoon. Dinner will follow in the hotel.
Sunday 25 September – the Falls of Braan at the Hermitage, the Rumbling Bridge, Bruar Falls, and Killiecrankie. Our day begins at 9.30am when we take the walk up to the Hermitage and the Falls of Braan near Dunkeld which were sketched by Mendelssohn and, a little further up the valley, there is Ossian’s Cave, the supposed dwelling place of the fictitious 3rd century Scottish bard. For those looking for a longer walk, we will continue up the valley to the Rumbling Bridge which is another "Mendelssohn sketch". We then journey on the short distance to the House of Bruar Visitor Centre with time to walk up to the Bruar Falls after taking your own lunch and a browse around the many gift shops at the Centre. In the afternoon we visit the Killiecrankie Visitor Centre where there is an exhibition giving details of the Battle of 1689 in which the Jacobites led by “Bonnie Dundee” defeated the government army of William of Orange. There will also be a chance to view the famous “Soldier’s Leap” where Donald MacBean, a government soldier, avoided certain capture or death by jumping 5.5m (18.5 feet) across the River Garry. Back to the Dunkeld House Hotel for dinner followed by a recital of music by Kayleen and musical guests.
Monday 26 September – Loch Tummel, Aberfeldy, Glencoe to Oban. Departing at 9.30am from the Dunkeld House Hotel, we head westwards across the Highlands past Loch Tummel (where will we pause to look at the fabulous “Queen’s View”) and Tummel Bridge where Mendelssohn spent a rain-soaked night on 3 August 1829, and over the hills to Aberfeldy where we will stop for lunch under your own arrangements and explore the Falls of Moness (sketched by Mendelssohn, and also made famous by Robert Burns in his poem, The Birks of Aberfeldy). In the afternoon we will drive on past Loch Tay and Glencoe where we will stop at the Glencoe Visitor Centre with its exhibition on the Massacre of 1692, arriving in Oban to check into the Oban Bay Hotel where we will have dinner together.
Tuesday 27 September – Staffa and Fingal’s Cave. We will take the 0950 ferry from Oban sailing past Dunollie Castle which lies just north of Oban, and which is unchanged since Mendelssohn sketched it on his Scottish journey, to Craignure on the Isle of Mull, arriving at 10.50. We will then cross the Isle of Mull to the western town of Fionnphort from where, weather permitting, we take the boat from Iona to the small uninhabited Isle of Staffa where we will land for an hour and explore the island, including walking round to the mouth of Fingal's Cave. Returning to Iona for lunch under your own arrangements, we will check in to the St Columba Hotel for two nights. Dinner together at the hotel.
Wednesday 28 September – a morning visit to Iona Abbey including a musical performance in the Abbey buildings. Lunch under your own arrangements followed by a free afternoon to explore the island or to gather together for some singing in the Parish Church. Dinner together at the hotel.
Thursday 29 September – Return to Edinburgh. Up early to travel from Iona back across the Isle of Mull to catch the ferry back to Oban and from there continue on the final leg of our journey back to Edinburgh through passes and glens, and along the shores of beautiful lochs. We travel via Taynuilt and along the Pass of Brander which hugs the northern shore of Loch Awe, to Inveraray where we will have lunch together at the Inveraray Inn. Skirting Loch Fyne, we then head down the beautiful western shore of the Bonny, Bonny Banks of Loch Lomond, stopping at the Cameron House Hotel on the southern shore of the Loch, affording us the same views that Mendelssohn sketched in 1829. We will have tea at the Boathouse Restaurant and then return to Edinburgh via Stirling, arriving at around 6.30pm and checking in to the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel for one night. Dinner followed by a farewell Ceilidh (pronounced "Kaylee") which will include music, dancing and poetry reading.
Friday 30 September – Independent departure home.