Edinburgh: Music, Whisky & The Art of Glass

August 7 - 17, 2020

With the Edinburgh Festival, the Royal Military Tattoo, whisky tastings, glass art, historical touring, and a three‐night stay in Inverness. The Balmoral Edinburgh; Ness Walk Hotel Hotel Inverness.

“Edinburgh, a charismatic city full of staircases and hills festooned with Georgian and neo-Classical buildings, is well-versed in incorporating the modern into the old. While it has always been an arts center and a cosmopolitan capital, the city is now turning its vibrant energy toward creating a new Scottish cuisine, a nearly uncountable number of craft beers, and design-forward buildings like the Scottish Parliament, which stands as the symbol of the new Scotland.” – New York Times

The Edinburgh International Festival is an unparalleled celebration of the performing arts. Inaugurated in 1946 by Sir Rudolf Bing of Met and Glyndebourne fame, the festival presents some of the finest performers and ensembles from the worlds of dance, opera, music and theatre for three weeks in August. We will attend at least four performances at the Festival, as well as a performance at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo on the world-famous Edinburgh Castle Esplanade.

You will also have the opportunity to take in events at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which is the world’s largest arts festival (founded in 1947). We will include any events that we deem appropriate and that fit with our schedule.

Plenty of private local touring is included—the Royal Mile, High Street, Princes Street Gardens, Arthur’s Seat, St. Giles Kirk and Parliament House—as well as down time for exploring on your own. The main focus of our touring, however, will be focused on the art of glass. The history and many innovations associated with glass dates to Ancient Egypt. In Scottish history, glass has been treasured in many forms from church windows to jewellery. Scottish glass dates to the 7th century with a burgeoning industry beginning in 1610. Our tours will highlight this sparkling history of glass in the many breathtaking locations we will visit. Great care has been taken to preserve and restore Scottish glass windows and artifacts as highlighted on our Glasgow tour day. With world renowned glass schools at Edinburgh University and North Lands Creative, as well as organizations such as Craft Scotland and the Scottish Glass Society, Scotland produces exceptional contemporary art glass by high calibre artists. We will experience rare opportunities to view art installations and presentations by some of the world’s top glass artists. If you have an interest in art glass or have a curiosity for the science and history of the industry this series of tours will be a delight.

Of course, no trip to Scotland would be complete without a “wee dram”. We enjoy a whisky tasting and lunch at The Scotch Whisky Experience, a centre devoted to the history and development of the ambrosia, and we will also include whisky excursions for those wishing to partake. And for those wishing to golf on Scotland’s famous links courses, we will assist with making such arrangements.

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Friday, August 7
Independent departures from North America and elsewhere for overnight flights to Edinburgh.

Saturday, August 8
Arrival in Edinburgh. You are met at the airport and transferred to the 5-star, landmark Rocco Forte Balmoral Hotel on Princes Street, the main shopping street, in the heart of the Old City. Dinner is included this evening at the Hotel’s Michelin-starred Number 1.

Sunday, August 9
Following breakfast, we meet our guide in the hotel lobby and depart on a private tour of the Royal Mile, a stretch of road connecting Edinburgh Castle with Holyrood Palace—the Queen’s residence in Scotland—and beyond to Mary King’s Close, a warren of hidden streets dating back to the 16th century. Walking down Edinburgh’s High Street could well be the definitive tourist experience. People have been flocking to do just that for the last 700 years, and it might come as something of a surprise that this major visitor attraction is still very much the living heart of the city. The history of what was once the most populous street in Europe is written on its stone face, and as you walk along the street you can’t help but feel closer to what makes Edinburgh tick than anywhere else in the city. The walk takes you in a straight line from Edinburgh Castle all the way down the hill to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, passing the major sights of St. Giles Kirk and Parliament House, and on to Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park.  By special invitation, we will have access to the Edinburgh University Masters in Glass Program. Our private tour will explore the use of technology and design to production. We will go behind the scenes and view a wide range of techniques from blown glass to kiln formed sculptures.   We enjoy a private tasting at The Scotch Whisky Experience, followed by lunch in the Amber Restaurant, on-site. This evening we enjoy an operatic performance at the Edinburgh Festival (TBA).

Monday, August 10
Today we tour Edinburgh’s New Town, which dates to the late 1700s and is one of the finest concentrated areas of Georgian architecture in the UK. We begin with the Princes Street Gardens and then move on to George Street, with its myriad shops and stylish bars. We enjoy the views from Calton Hill and see the Water of Leith. After the tour, lunch is at leisure, and you will have the opportunity to explore the Dean Gallery, part of the capital National Galleries of Scotland. Catch the shuttle bus to any of the others, including the National Portrait Gallery or the main National Gallery of Scotland, back on Princes Street Gardens. Entrances are included. This evening we meet for a reception (hot/cold buffet) before a performance at the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Tuesday, August 11
Today we head to the sea, stopping along the way at the marvellous Royal Botanic Garden for a guided tour. Then it’s on to Leith, the original port of Edinburgh, once an independent town in its own right. Here we have lunch in one of the city’s finest pubs. After lunch, we return to central Edinburgh via the Meadows, seeing some of the upscale residential neighbourhoods, to get an idea of how Edinburghers live. This evening we enjoy an operatic performance at the Edinburgh Festival (TBA).

Wednesday, August 12
Today we tour to Glasgow, led by Stephen Richard, a professional glass artist, instructor, and author. We will visit Stephen’s studio where they created stained glass windows for the tv series Outlander. Stephen will also take us to St Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art. The museum is a celebration of many religions and cultures. Stephen will offer special insight into the glass artifacts on display. No trip to Glasgow would be complete without a visit to the “Cathedral”. Also known as the High Kirk of Glasgow, the Cathedral is the oldest church in Scotland and the oldest building in Glasgow. We will visit Strathclyde University to view interesting glass and architecture. Our day with Stephen will complete at a second glass studio for a first-hand look at glass restoration and contemporary glass production. Our private Glasgow tour will be in the comfort of a private coach and includes lunch. This evening we enjoy an operatic performance at the Edinburgh Festival (TBA).

Thursday, August 13
Today we transfer to Inverness by private coach and check in at the beautifully-situated 5-star Ness Walk Hotel. Once settled, and after a lunch at leisure, we tour the UK’s oldest post-Reformation Cathedral, and then Inverness Castle, which sits on a cliff overlooking the River Ness. The red sandstone structure evident today was built in 1836 by architect William Burn on the site of an 11th-century defensive structure. Today, it houses Inverness Sheriff Court. This evening we enjoy a special dinner.

Friday, August 14
Today we tour to Lybster, enjoying breathtaking views along our way through Caithness. The first stop is Dunrobin Castle and Gardens. We will take in a falconry show and tour the walled gardens. By mid-day we will arrive in Lybster for lunch and a private tour of North Lands Creative. “Located in the wild and dramatic landscape of Caithness on the North East Coast of Scotland, North Lands Creative is one of the world’s most prestigious centres for the study and development of glass as an art form, providing excellent facilities, opportunities and inspiration to artists working with glass from all over the world.” We will tour the gallery, makers space, and take in the picturesque setting. There will be opportunity for a hands-on experience for those who wish to feel the sensation of molten glass being formed. Following an included lunch, we enjoy an artist presentation and a private tour of the Byre Exhibit housed in historic stone barns and featuring a breathtaking display of contemporary art glass by multiple artists. The expansive views and hand built stone structures offer countless photo opportunities and lasting memories. We will make our way back to the hotel for dinner at leisure.

Saturday, August 15
Morning at leisure (independent visit of art museum or boat tour). This afternoon, we partake in a whisky tasting at Tomatin prior to dinner.

Sunday, August 16
Today we check out late morning and return to Edinburgh, stopping for tours in Dundee and Perth, with a hearty Farewell Lunch. Early evening we check in at the Moxy Hotel EDI for a convenient final sleep before morning departures.

Monday, August 17
Departure included for international flights.