You don’t have to travel far north to the Highlands to explore grand historical castles, baronial mansions and escape to Hebridean-style islands of peace and tranquillity. Around south west Scotland, experience a wealth of architectural and aristocratic treasures and exhilarating outdoor adventures in the Firth of Clyde.

This region abounds with great castles and country houses, many in spectacular settings and surrounded by landscaped gardens and parkland, and some of Scotland’s most famous ancestral homes are here.

As we sail the estuary of the Clyde and around its lochs and isles, we are reminded of how rich this part of Scotland grew as a result of shipping and ship-building. The Clyde reached out to the continent and across the Atlantic, and France and America in turn reached out to Scotland via the Clyde. Already by the 18th century, the inhabitants of the castles and grand houses of the Clyde
were wearing French fashions and drinking French wines; the shipping and sea lochs gave access to a much wider horizon than enjoyed in most of England.

From the earliest times the sea provided the most convenient routes around the area, carrying people and trade to the islands and mainland settlements. Materials to construct the castles, churches, country houses and towns had to be transported by sea. 

This region of Scotland is a complex system of long sea lochs which, far from inhibiting travel, are frequently the alternative to long, arduous overland routes. In late October and November our series of three cruises will take us up Loch Fyne on one side of the Cowal peninsula.

Loch Fyne is renowned for its seafood, particularly oysters, and was once famed for its herrings. The fish appears in the coat of arms of the Royal Burgh of Inveraray whose motto is ‘May there always be herring in your net.’

At Inveraray, we will find one of Scotland’s first planned towns with distinct white buildings, built at the same time as the castle and gardens. The original Inveraray Castle was demolished to provide a site for the new town, allowing the Duke of Argyll to build his new home where the old town stood. A remarkable and unique piece of architecture in the Gothic style, the unmistakable Inveraray Castle was the first of its size and type to be built in Scotland.

In the heyday, from late 19th century to 1960s, families from Glasgow and Clydeside enjoyed day trips and summer holidays on the Isle of Bute, travelling by paddle steamer, ‘doon the watter’ to Rothesay. Today the cultural spirit of the old resort still lingers and, on the curving promenade lined with palm trees, the decorative Victorian Public Convenience is elegantly restored.

Bute’s great attraction is Mount Stuart house, an opulent Gothic Victorian stately home within 300 acres of parkland. Its extravagant design features stained glass, an ornate heraldic ceiling, horoscope room and the aesthetically-crafted white marble chapel, reflecting the 3rd Marquess of Bute’s passion for art, astrology, mysticism and religion. 

Now owned by the 7th Marquess, Johnny Dumfries, (former racing driver), the house has an exquisite collection of portraits, paintings and antiques. Stroll around the “Pleasure Grounds” with Pinetum, bluebell woods, wildflower meadows, exotic plants from Latin America, cascading pools and ponds.

Known as ‘Scotland in Miniature’, the island of Arran has a diverse geography, fascinating geology, Neolithic Standing Stones, fertile valleys, snow-dusted mountains peaks, glacial glens, golf courses and white sand beaches. Influenced by the North Atlantic Drift, the climate is mild and temperate year round.

Overlooking Brodick Bay, in the foothills of Goatfell, is Brodick Castle, initially a 15th century stronghold for James II, inherited by the Earls of Arran, later named the Dukes of Hamilton. The original towerhouse was gradually expanded into a Victorian baronial mansion and shooting estate. Since 1957 the castle and landscaped gardens have been beautifully maintained by the National Trust for Scotland.

The island is renowned for farmhouse cheese, Arran Aromatics soaps, and whisky. The Arran Distillery at Lochranza benefits from the climate and pure water to create a smooth, sweet, spicy single Malt, with a nose of vanilla, cinnamon and dried apples. Informative, entertaining distillery tours end with a wee dram.

The neighbouring holiday island of Great Cumbrae is tiny – about three miles by two – with the charming seaside town of Millport. here, the Cathedral of the Isles is the smallest in Britain, designed by the English architect William Butterfield in 1851. With its 1867 organ, harpsichord and Bosendorfer grand piano, music is a vital part of church life during worship, concerts and festivals. Tour the island by bicycle, leisurely and safely on quiet roads.

A cruise of the lower Clyde unites natural beauty and human history, giving the area some of the richest heritage in Scotland today.

5th to 12th November 2019
Prices from £3,030 per person based on 2 people sharing an outside double/twin cabin.

12th to 16th November 2019
Prices from £1,625 per person based on 2 people sharing an outside double/twin cabin.