This walking tour takes you to two very distinct parts of Scotland with different landscapes and historical links. The holiday is a mixture of easy walks together with visits to places of interest. This is your chance to get to know two Scotlands in just one week.
We start the holiday in southern Scotland - in Galloway, a tranquil countryside of serene hills and moors, tall woods, and long rivers. Galloway Forest Park is Britain's largest and covers an area of almost 800 square kilometres. There is also a spectacular coast of estuaries, rocky headlands, sandy beaches and cliffs with caves along the Solway Firth.
Inveraray and Loch Fyne, from Dun na Cuaiche
Celts, Britons, Romans, Angles, Vikings and Normans have all left their marks on the landscape, customs and traditions. Robert the Bruce began his campaign to free Scotland from English rule in Galloway. His first victory over the English was by the shores of Loch Trool in 1307. We will explore both countryside and coast and delve into the long history of this region.
The second half of the holiday will be spend in Argyll in the west Highlands. Argyll has a long and broken coast line next to rugged and rocky hills. Its deep glens are threaded by rapid rivers, and scattered with many lochs, both large and small.
The very name 'Argyll' - translated from the Gaelic as 'Heartland of the Gael' - tells of a unique cultural tradition. The names of places, hills and glens - even of people - continue to express the uniqueness of Argyll.
The programme will be subject to variables such as weather and the abilities of the group and changes may also be made to take account of lambing, deer stalking, etc. Any such alterations will always take into account the need to maintain the overall character of the holiday.
Saturday: Glasgow - Galloway
We will meet you in the city centre or at Glasgow International Airport in the afternoon. We will travel by minibus to Newton Stewart, our base for the first half of the week.
Sunday: Galloway Forest Park
We will explore Galloway Forest Park, the largest forest park in Britain. But before we go into the park we will have a short walk in the Wood of Cree, the largest remaining native woodland in southern Scotland. It is thought to date back over 5000 years to the last ice age.
After this first introduction, we will travel into the heart of the forest park where we will walk around Loch Trool, the site where Robert the Bruce won the first battle over the English in 1307. Loch Trool is surrounded by the highest peaks of the Galloway Hills.
6 miles/9.5 km and 935ft/285m of ascent
Monday: Cairnholy cairns, Threave Castle and coastal walk
We will start in the Neolithic period by visiting the superb Clyde-type chambered cairns at Cairnholy. There are a substantial number of cup and ring marked rocks around the cairn.
From there, we continue to the River Dee to visit the ruins of Threave Castle which is on an island in the river. This is a massive 14th century tower built by Archibald the Grim, Lord of Galloway. To get to the island, we must ring the bell at the jetty and the boatman will come across from the island to ferry us to the castle.
Our afternoon walk will be a coastal walk along the Solway Firth which will take us onto high cliffs. In May and June these cliff areas are alive with nesting sea birds jostling and noisily contesting for prime sites. There are colonies of kittiwakes, fulmars and herring gulls and on the lower slopes the guillemots and razorbills make their homes. Further round there are many cormorants nesting. There will also be an abundance of wild flowers clinging to the cliffs. And if you are bored with all this natural beauty, you can gaze across the Solway Firth towards England, the Isle of Man and Ireland.
Up to 6 miles/9 km, limited ascent.
Tuesday: Journey to Argyll, Benmore Gardens and Puck's Glen
Today we leave Galloway and travel to the Scottish Highlands, taking the ferry across the Clyde.
We will visit Benmore Botanic Garden for a guided tour of the garden. The garden lies in a magnificent mountainside setting on the Cowal Peninsula. Benmore’s 120 acres boast over 300 species of rhododendron; Bhutanese and Chilean plantings and a spectacular avenue of Giant Redwoods.
Today's walk will include Puck's Glen. This is one of the hidden gems of Cowal. After a ascent through an ancient pine forest, we will descent through this magical glen, which is actually a gorge filled with gushing waterfalls and enchanting rock pools. It brings you into a different world hidden in the deep, rainforest-like depths of the glen, and there is the chance to see a wealth of wildlife, including dipper and red squirrel.
Up to 4 miles/6 km and up to 720ft/220m of ascent.
We will start the day with a visit to Auchindrain. Once, Scotland had thousands of "townships", small farming communities where groups of families worked together. Auchindrain was the last to survive, until 1963. Today it is far and away the best remaining example of a type of settlement that was once typical and common.
We will continue to Crinan for our walk. The Crinan Canal, which was built around 1800 and connects Loch Fyne with the Atlantic. Near Crinan we will walk in ancient woods that are home to a wide variety of ferns and lichens. Climb high above the sea, enjoying stunning views of the Isles of Jura, Scarba, Mull, and the Argyll coastline. En route, we visit an Iron Age Dun and a deserted village.
Up to 4.5 miles/7 km and up tp 835ft/255m of ascent.
Thursday: Ardkinglas House and Inveraray
In the morning, we will have a tour of Ardkinglas House, designed and built in 1907 by Robert Lorimer one of Scotland's leading architects. Lorimer was allowed a free hand and the result is a large neo-baronial style mansion of over 80 rooms set in its own gardens with some of the tallest trees of Scotland.
Inveraray Castle is set in elegant planned grounds and, beside the equally planned and equally elegant white-painted 18th century town, has excellent walks in the estate. Perhaps the best of these - all on path and track - takes in the riverside and some varied woodland on its way to the 700 feet / 220m high top of Dun na Cuaiche. The view from the watchtower here is the very best there is of Inveraray, the castle and Loch Fyne.
Up to 6 miles/9 km and up to 1150ft/350m of ascent.
Friday: West Highland Way: Inversnaid to Ardleish
We will take the passenger ferry across Loch Lomond to Inversnaid and walk one of the best sections of the West Highland Way. Leaving Inversnaid we pass through ancient oak woodland and walk past Rob Roy's Cave. The path is rough with numerous ups and downs but we will be rewarded with superb views. In Ardleish a boat will ferry us back to the west shore of the loch.
5 miles/8 km and 650ft/200m of ascent
Saturday: Argyll - Glasgow
We drive across the 'Rest & Be Thankful' pass to Loch Long and along Loch Lomond back to Glasgow, where we will arrive in the late morning.