"Mendelssohn in Scotland" Holidays

September 2020

If you are intrigued by what you read about Mendelssohn’s Scottish journey and would like follow in his footsteps 190 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 one the “Mendelssohn in Scotland” holidays in September/October 2020.

About the Holidays

Two holiday are planned in 2020: Lammermuir Festival and Mendelssohn in Scotland from 11 to 17 September 2020, and "Romantic Scotland" from 22 September to 2 October 2020. Both will be led by Stephen Carpenter who 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 these holidays 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

A summary of the holidays is given below and further details can be found here

Lammermuir Festival and Mendelssohn in Scotland

Friday 11 September 2020 – Edinburgh. Independent arrival and check-in at the Hilton Edinburgh Carlton Hotel from 3.00pm. Early dinner and welcome briefing 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.

Saturday 12 September – Rosslyn Chapel and the Lammermuir Festival. Departing from Edinburgh at 10.00 we make the short journey to Rosslyn to visit the beautiful chapel which is the supposed location of the Holy Grail. After lunch together, we attend a Lammermuir Festival concert followed by dinner and an evening concert before returning to Edinburgh.

Sunday 13 September – Abbotsford, Melrose and the Lammermuir Festival. Departing at 9.00am from the 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. Dinner together, followed by our final visit to a Lammermuir Festival concert.

Monday 14 September– into the Highlands!  Departing at 8.30am, we will travel over the newly opened Forth Road Bridge with its breath-taking views of the Firth of Forth, the old Forth Suspension Bridge, and the Forth Rail Bridge built in the 1880s, through the Kingdom of Fife, past Perth, and stop at the Falls of Braan at the Hermitage 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.  We then journey on the short distance to the House of Bruar Visitor Centre for lunch under your own arrangements before the option of a walk up to the Bruar Falls (sketched by Mendelssohn) or a browse around the many gift shops at the Centre. After lunch we journey on to Oban past Killiecrankie,  Loch Tummel (where will we pause to look at the fabulous “Queen’s View”) and Loch Tay. We then pass through the spectacular Glencoe, the scene of the Massacre of 1692, arriving at the Oban Bay Hotel in the early evening for dinner together.

Tuesday 15 September– the Isles of Mull, Staffa and Iona. An early start from the hotel for the ferry crossing from Oban to Mull and the hour-long coach journey to Fionnphort on Mull’s western tip. Weather permitting we will take the boat trip out to the Isle of Staffa and Fingal’s Cave. We will land on the Island for an hour and, as well as walking round to the mouth of Fingal’s Cave, we might be lucky in seeing seals basking sharks. After Fingal’s Cave, we will land on Iona and spend an hour or two exploring the island (including the ruined abbey) before travelling back to our hotel in Oban where we have dinner together. NB in case of inclement weather, we may not be able to sail to Staffa and Fingal’s Cave. In this eventuality, we will instead visit Duart Castle on the Isle of Mull and the attractive capital of the Island, Tobermory.

Wednesday 16 September – Oban to Edinburgh. We leave Oban for 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 which overlooks Loch Fyne. 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 lunch at the Boathouse Restaurant and then return to Edinburgh via Stirling, arriving at around 6.00pm. Dinner together at the hotel.

Thursday 17 September - Independent departure home.

Romantic Scotland

Tuesday 22 September 2020 – Edinburgh. Independent arrival and check-in at the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel from 3.00pm. Welcome dinner at the Hotel at 7.00pm

Wednesday 23 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.

Thursday 24 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 tea and a tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia which is moored at Edinburgh's Leith Docks. Dinner under your own arrangements.

Friday 25 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 26 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 Frith, 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 27 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 where there will be 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 28 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 29 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 30 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 1 October – 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 2 October – Independent departure home.

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