Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

Archaeological Tours

NEW FOR 2020

Scotland: Courts & Castles

Based out of Edinburgh, this tour explores the royal heartland of late medieval Scotland. Considered one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, Edinburgh’s winding cobblestone streets have many stories to tell, from the macabre tails of Burke and Hare, to lofty accounts of high culture, art, literature, and science. Here, the prominent castle, buildings and monuments that are perched atop crags and overshadowed by cliffs in Old Town Edinburgh, exist alongside a neat neoclassical respectability of buildings and gardens in the New Town, a city ripe for exploration.

Touring close to Edinburgh, we visit all the most important strongholds and pleasure palaces created in the 1500s for the ambitious Stewart kings and queens. This discovery will spotlight not just the stuff of legends and movie locations, but where the power politics of this small yet mighty kingdom were played out at this crucial time.

Our expert scholar has dedicated his life investigating these people and places. He will provide us with unique insights, enabling you to enjoy and further understand this key period in history.

What's included?

  •  Expert scholar & tour manager
  •  Accommodation
  •  A/C coach
  •  Entries & tips
  •  Meals - as per the itinerary
  •  Three lectures from your expert scholar
  •  A study guide, reading list, and other useful tour documentation compiled by your expert scholar and your Archaeological Tours team
  •  A name badge, luggage strap and bag tag

Led by...

Peter Yeoman

Peter Yeoman Expert Scholar

Peter Yeoman was, until recently, Head of Cultural Heritage at Historic Scotland, with responsibility for the archaeology and the knowledge base for the estate of 345 properties in their care.

Full Price
$4,880

Today's Price
$4,795

Saving
$85

Deposit: $1,250 Single supplement: $1,400

Tour highlights:

  • Discover the lost towers of Edinburgh Castle, home to kings, princes and tyrants, destroyed in the great siege in 1573
  • Enjoy the delights of the Renaissance architecture of Falkland Palace, created by James V to make his new French bride feel at home
  • Take the short boat trip across lovely Loch Leven, following the tragic route taken by Mary Queen of Scots to her island prison
  • Visit Dunfermline Abbey, the royal sepulchre of the medieval royals and stand at the grave of the great patriotic hero King Robert Bruce
  • Marvel at the interiors of the royal palace in Stirling Castle, where the Stewart kings achieved the height of their magnificence

Tour details

Dates May 30 2020 - June 8 2020
Duration 10 days
Methods of transport SCC
Cost
Full Price
$4,880
Today's Price
$4,795
Saving
$85
Deposit: $1,250 Single supplement: $1,400 Balance due by March 7 2020
Activity Level
Tour code A20SCC

Book Now or call 866-740-5130 if you have any questions

May 30 2020: Itinerary

Today, we arrive in Edinburgh and enjoy an introductory lecture from our expert scholar. A group dinner follows afterwards.

Meals include: Dinner

Hotel: The Principal, Edinburgh

One of the most ancient strongholds in Europe awaits our discovery this morning – Edinburgh Castle. Excavations led by our guide, Peter, have revealed origins that date back to the Bronze Age, around 1000 BCE. Its strategic importance made this the most besieged place in Britain – 26 known sieges and counting. Our tour will include the Honors of Scotland – amongst the oldest Crown Jewels in Europe – as well as St. Margaret’s Chapel, the tiny 12th century spiritual heart of the castle. We also see the Great Hall of James IV who died in 1513, and the Mary Queen of Scots Palace and birthing room, where Mary moved in especially for this event, up from Holyrood Abbey with her great bed. The 1566 birth of the future James VI – a healthy male heir – prompted celebrations by Catholics and Protestants alike, with a royal salute from the battlements and 500 bonfires lit around the hills outside Edinburgh. But within a year, baby James’ father was murdered and his mother imprisoned at Loch Leven Castle, which we also visit. From here, we enjoy spectacular views over the Georgian New Town and to the extinct volcanic peak of Arthur’s Seat, so-called because the legendary King Arthur sleeps under the mountain. Free time follows, but we are granted permission to explore other parts of the castle, including the National War Museum, as well as the prisons of 1780, which held captured American sailors from the War of Independence.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: The Principal, Edinburgh

Today, we make our way to Holyroodhouse. Standing at the opposite end of the Royal Mile from the castle, Holyrood stands today as the official residence of Her Majesty the Queen in Scotland. Having been at the center of royal government, with the Augustinian monastery providing educated clerks for the medieval government based in Edinburgh Castle, the old palace is now faced across the road by the new Scottish Parliament. The highlight of our time here is the visit to the preserved apartments of Mary Queen of Scots. Later, we take a walking tour of Edinburgh, which takes us to the hidden medieval closes of the Royal Mile, St. Giles’ Cathedral, and the Old Parliament Hall. After, there is a tour of the Museum of Scotland, where we view objects from the 16th century times of Stewart magnificence.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: The Principal, Edinburgh

The historic location of Falkland Palace is our first stop. James V visited France in 1536, drinking in not only the fine Bordeaux, but also French royal culture and architecture. He returned home with these ideas, which he immediately put into practice here, transforming his private hunting lodge into a home fit for a French queen, with determined efforts to bring Scots Court onto a level with the splendors he encountered in France. Next, we sail across Loch Leven to the island castle, which has been a defended home since prehistory. It has also been visited by key figures in Scottish history as well as a witness to great events – including one that altered the fate of Britain: Mary Queen of Scots’ descent into captivity, abdication and loss. Mary was held captive here for a year from 1568 and was forced to relinquish the crown to her infant son, James VI. Before our day ends, we stop by Lindores Abbey, a whisky distillery, where we can indulge in a dram of Scotland’s finest.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: The Principal, Edinburgh

A short drive north from Edinburgh will take us over the River Forth on the new Queensferry Bridge, the longest cable-stayed bridge in the world. Our first visit is to Dunfermline Abbey, an exquisite major 12th century church with the shrine of Scotland’s foremost female saint (and Queen) Margaret, who was canonized by the Pope in 1250. This was Scotland’s royal sepulcher with the tombs of many monarchs – including the great warrior King Robert the Bruce – interred here in 1329, victor against the English at the Battle of Bannockburn. So, it was fitting to use the abbey church as a filming location for “Outlaw King”. The monks’ accommodation was so grand that it was converted into a Stewart royal palace, where Charles I was born. Our afternoon is at leisure in Edinburgh.

Meals include: Breakfast

Hotel: The Principal, Edinburgh

Our morning gets off to a royal start at Linlithgow Palace. Like Balmoral Castle is to the present Queen Elizabeth, Linlithgow was a pleasure palace and retreat for the Scottish monarchs, with hunting and fishing nearby. The birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots in 1542, had been constructed by James IV around 1500, with lovely views over the loch along with a splendid tiered fountain in the courtyard, created by James V in 1538 following his love mission to France to find a queen. Although now roofless, the palace remains awe-inspiring. Next, we visit St Michael’s Church. Consecrated in 1242 and dedicated to the archangel Michael, this impressive church stands cheek by jowl beside the fabulous Palace of Linlithgow, the town church also serving as a royal place of worship. The condition of the church deteriorated during the Civil War in 1646 when Oliver Cromwell’s roundheads stabled their horses here. We also go to Blackness Castle, an extraordinary medieval structure. The completeness of this castle is only matched by its brutal appearance, lending itself to feature in movies such as “Mary Queen of Scots”.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: The Principal, Edinburgh

The day begins with a short drive east of Edinburgh along the East Lothian coast, which brings us to Muirfield to a pair of astonishing castles – Dirleton and Tantallon. First, we visit the former. At the heart of the castle is the fine residence built in the 1400s for the Halyburton family, important lords and courtiers. Here, we’ll see the grim prisons, the pretty chapel and the cathedral-like kitchens below where sumptuous meals were prepared for royal visits. After, we make our way to Tantallon Castle, which occupies a spectacular clifftop location, looking out across the North Sea. Built by the mighty Earls of Douglas in the 1300s, we will see how even its state-of-the-art gun tower proved no defense against the royal artillery of James V when he fell out with Archibald Douglas.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: The Principal, Edinburgh

After driving for an hour this morning, we arrive at the edge of the Highlands and visit Doune Castle. Known as the most perfect Scottish medieval castle, it was a pleasant choice as the retreat for widowed foreign Queens of Scots, home to Mary of Gueldres (widow of James II), Margaret of Denmark (widow of James III), and Margaret Tudor (widow of James IV). The castle is popular with movie makers, and has doubled for Winterfell in “Game of Thrones”, as well as featuring in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” (coconuts are provided!), and “Outlander” (Castle Leoch). From here, we drive another 40 minutes west and arrive at Castle Campbell, also known as Castle Gloom due to its brooding setting above the ravines of Dollar Glen.

Meals include: Breakfast, Lunch

Hotel: The Principal, Edinburgh

We’ve saved the best for last on this tour as we end at the finest residence of Stewart magnificence – Stirling Castle. James V and his French queen, Mary of Guise, created the finest Renaissance palace in Britain here around 1540, but sadly, the king never lived to see it completed. Instead, the sumptuous spaces echoed to the cries and laughter of his heir – the infant Mary Queen of Scots. Here, we have a unique opportunity to tour the castle, and to get behind the scenes and learn the secrets of this stronghold of the royal Stewarts, all the while learning more about Mary Queen of Scots and her family. Our expert scholar will reveal how the Stewarts transformed Stirling Castle into an arena for their dazzling court during the first half of the 16th century, with insights only recently discovered by archaeological and historical research. We will see the full glory of James and Mary’s court in the recently recreated palace interior, which includes the Hunt of the Unicorn tapestry series, based on an original set that is now housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Our visits come to an end at the Church of Holy Rude Stirling. This splendid church has stood here for the people of Stirling since at least the 1100s and was largely rebuilt after a disastrous fire in 1405. This was the venue for the Coronation of the infant James VI in 1566, for which Queen Elizabeth I of England provided a gold font.

All meals included

Hotel: The Principal, Edinburgh

We transfer to the airport this morning for our individual flights home or onwards travel.

Meals include: Breakfast

May 30 2020: Additional Info

May 30 2020: Accommodation

Boasting an enviable location in the Edinburgh city center, the historic and chic The Principal Edinburgh George Street, formerly The George Hotel, is close to Edinburgh CastlePrinces Street Gardens and Holyrood Palace. It has elegant rooms, conference and meeting rooms and a gym. Free high-speed WiFi is available throughout the hotel.

This Grade II listed building with its distinctive facade was built in 1775 and has undergone a great refurbishment project transforming the majority of the bedrooms and public areas. The architecturally-designed interior has created a sense of restored grandeur with simple detailing and the use of natural materials.

Each room features a flat-screen TV, free WiFi, and an en suite bathroom.

The Printing Press Bar & Kitchen serves seasonal Scottish produce throughout the day and night. It is open 7 days a week offering breakfast, lunch and dinner, with a late-night bar until 01:00. Coffee, cakes, pastries, sandwiches and salads are available at Burr & Co, open 7 days a week. A full room service menu is also available.

May 30 2020: Enquiries

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