Embark on an unforgettable odyssey to some of the most spectacular sacred sites across Scotland, including the megalithic wonders of Kilmartin Glen, the holy island of Iona, Skye and the secret placs of the Goddess in "The Long Crooked Glen of the Stones". We journey from the rich Lowlands of Rosslyn Chapel near Edinburgh to the rugged seascapes and islands of the west coast and back, covering four different regions of Scotland - two coastal, one islands, one remote Highlands.
Travel with a small group of six to eight like-minded people to the sacred places in a land of incomparable beauty and contrast. We will follow the ancient tellers of Scotland's unfolding story, those who have left their signatures on the land in the form of Neolithic stone circles and cairns, medieval abbeys, and imposing castles. You'll be guided by a Highland tradition keeper and storyteller (a Seanachaidh). Hearing the oral history of the inhabitants will add a diffferent facet to your understanding. Tale and landscape blend to reveal the sacred ways in which our ancestors revered the many and varied faces of Spirit. Our journey through sacred Scotland will truly be a pilgrimage of the soul.
We meet in Edinburgh and the journey begins! We visit the exquisite Rosslyn Chapel, steeped in stories of the Knights of the Crusade, starting with a walk in beautiful Rosslyn Glen. We journey into the west, stopping en route in a land painted by pre-Raphaelites to visit one of the few well documented fairy hills. We'll end the day on the west coast in the bustling fishing-and-ferries town of Òban.
Using Òban as our base we'll spend two days exploring this rich area, one of the densest archaeological landscapes in Scotland: Gleann Cille Mhàirtin, home to an astonishing array of stone circles, cairns, henge and forts covering 6000 years. We will also visit a hidden holy well and the biggest collection of Neolothic rock art in Celtdom. While it is theoretically possible there is guide on the planet that knows the Glen better than me, it is unlikely: I lived amongst these stones for five years.
The second day in this area has guest-options: you can take to the sea in a boat that we will charter to take us to an uninhabited island that was once very sacred. There you can visit the 9th century monks' dwellings. If you prefer to can use the day to solo-explore the town of Òban, or take a short ferry to the beautiful and sparsely populated island of Kerrera, close by the town. If weather prevents our sea-exploration, we will further explore the 450 historical sites in the Kilmartin Glen and hike through the North Atlantic Oak Woodlands, only recently understood to be of world importance, and stunningly beautiful. You will have time to solo wander amongst the sacred sites or take time to journal. Which day I choose (by sea or by land) depends on the interests of the guests expressed after booking, the weather etc.
You'll get some time in An t-Òban to stock up on items not available in the remoteness of the islands then we will take to the ferry across the beautiful Firth of Lorn to the wild and unspoilt Isle of Mull for a scenic drive through the mountains. We will visit the home of the Chief of Clan Maclean, Duart Castle, where I am clan bard. Another short ferry ride takes us over to the holy isle of Iona where we will stay for the next three nights. This evening we will stroll to the ruined nunnery with its sheela-na-gig.
Generally on Iona, the programmed activities are optional and have solo time built around them. Iona needs to be found at your pace. On our first morning we visit St Oran's chapel and the royal burial ground of Scotland's kings where we can pay our respects to the ancestors. Afterwards, we hike the pilrimage route to the "Bay of the Curragh" where Saint Columba first landed and where you might find beautiful Iona greenstones. You might choose to walk the labyrinth. After lunch there will be a free afternoon when you can visit the craft studios and bookshops in the village, or find a sandy beach on which to journal. There is the option to take to the sea by sail-boat in this sea-kingdom. This evening, there will be a formal Cèilidh of local Tales, with harp.
You will learn about Iona's connection with the goddess and saint, Brighid, Brigit or Bride, and gather reeds to weave her crosses. Then we'll take a walk up the holy hill of Dun Ì to Tobar an Aois the Well of Ages, to bless them in the holy waters. This afternoon you can take an optional-extra guided tour of Iona Abbey, founded by St. Columba and lovingly restored by the Iona Community. In the evening we'll walk to a known faery hill. There will be alone-time while on Iona for journaling, integration of the pilgrimage learnings, or meditation.
Today we head northwards through the dramatic sea-coast of Scotland's West Coast before coming to rest amidst the Viking terriroty of the Eilean a'Cheò, the Isle of Skye. Along the way you will hear one of The Three Great Irish Sorrows, a Tale so powerful, so old that it is found from India to Ireland, yet here it is played out upon the landscape, so we wil take to its stage and relive this great work of literature. The views today will be dramatic, fearsome, intimidating even, in contrast to the gentleness of Iona. Haing joureyed far, we once again sleep with our feet almost in the ocean in one of the most serene and hidden places on the west coast.
Today you'll see some of the Isle of Skye's most hidden and special sacred sites. If you're looking for the Fairy Pools, Fairy Glen or Neist Point, then this is not the tour for you: join the huge crowds on the many tourist busses for which Skye is now known! For today we go to hidden and largely unknown parts of the island, ones that I don't name for good reason. We will begin by hiking into a remote glen to visit a ruined Iron Age dwelling called Castle of the Little Lock of Hair, where you will get a sense of our daily life two thousand yeas ago. We'll cross the sea by boat to arrive on Eilean a'Cheò, that being the most dramatic and appropriate way to reach this Isle. Here we'll find amidst a distractingly beautiful landscape sites of ancient and early Christian pilgrimage - a Warrior Goddess, neolithic solar observation, early Celtic Christian holy wells...
We leave the West Coast today to journey into the very heart of the Highlands. Along the way we'll find time to hike into the home of the Goddess of the Storms where you can contemplate one of the oldest dieties in Europe, and perhaps meet her goats! (See the short video to the left). We'll visit a clann burial island, replete with a strange prophecy that came true. Tonight we come to rest in a pretty town named for an uruisg or water diety, Aberfeldy. We sleep in the heart of Perthshire, known as Big Tree Country.
Today, after our longer travel day yesterday, there will the option to recover with either a gorge hike amidst the beauty of the falls upon which you well hear of the local water dieties via a Gàidhlig poem, or you can take a more leisurely morning around a pretty wee Highland town. In the afternoon we will visit an abandoned village where a famous seeress once lived and hear some of her prophetic words, translated into English.
We get remote today as we journey into a place known in Gàidlig as The Long Crooked Glen of the Stones, one of Scotland's hidden gems (which is why I don't give it its map-name here) with a dense collection of sites spanning several thousand year along the glen's thirty mile length, including one of the world's great, ancient trees. We'll visit standing stones with stories around them; we'll hear Tales of the hero warriors Fionn MacCumhal, Ossian and their magical hunting hounds; we'll hike up into an unmarked site of great power, hearing of David Cowan's work on ley lines and telluric energy; we'll translate local place names to uncover the early Celtic Christian settlements in the Glen.
Before leaving on our return to Edniburgh, we will head to the ancient medieval bishopric of Dunkeld to take an easy walk into an 18th Century woodland homage to Gàidhlig poetry and visit the ancient tree beneath which Scotland's most famous fiddle player would compose music for the Duke of Atholl, two artforms so imporant to the spirit of the Celt. It will make a fine place to hold our closing circle. Perhaps this will buffer us a little as we return to "civilisation" and to our Edinburgh start-point for fond farewells.Note: We may rearrange the order of the itinerary, usually due to ferry times and Sunday closing of certain sites on the islands.
"...the choice I made to go with you and to wait two years to do so WAS one of the best choices I have ever made. Thank you for showing me a Scotland that is rugged and soft and bold and quiet and haunting and welcoming. Thank you for taking us/me to heart and soul places by using our soles to get there. Thank you for your depth, your perception, your humor and your tolerance. Scotland without Scot would have been so very different. It is through your eyes that it/we/I came alive again, am refreshed again, am emblazoned to seek the passion of living again." Christine Yanitelli 2022.
|Tour Price 2024|
£2700 per person, sharing twin or double room,
£3200 solo traveller, single room
(Early bird until January 2024, £2900 and £3500 from February.)
(XE.com currency converter) (Tell me about deposits and balances)
FYI: Tour booking opens around September in the year before the tour. Places are filled and booking usually closes by about January in the tour year.
What's included in the tour price:
Not included in the above price:
| *Everything you need to know about accommodation, deposits and payments is on the TnC pagewhich you should read before booking, while questions about almost everything else tour-related are answered in the FAQ sectionof the TnC page.
** I like to give guests the choice of where, when and how much to eat in the evening, if possible, hence leaving evening meals out of the tour price. In some remote locations, where choice is limited to one hostelry, I book a group dinner reservation. Guests pay for their own meals. See Meals on the FAQ page
Can't make it this year? You can be kept informed of next year's tour date and opening by joinging the notification list (via Mailchimp) and selecting "Mara's Spirit of Scotland Tour". Click the button below.
As with all our tours, they are active tours, by which I mean you'll be walking on average three miles a day, with more "hike" and less "walk". We spend most of the day on our feet (rather than in a vehicle) with the activity level ranging from strolling through towns to hiking at a good pace into remote glens or climbing rough-pathed, steep hills. A good yardstick to check whether the walking and hiking on the tour will be comfortable for you is the time of your one minute mile walk on the flat: test yourself. If you can walk a mile in 17-20 minutes, you will find the tour about right; if you take the stairs at the office in preference to the lift, then this tour is for you; if you always use the elevator in preference to stairs, then this is not the tour for you. Seek elsewhere for a more vehicle-based tour.
Other physical requirements: Guests will carry their own luggage between vehicle and accommodation and for Iona guests will move their own luggage from the vehicle onto the ferry and off the other side (no vehicles on Iona). In some remote places, the next toilet break might be two hours away, with only Nature's Bathroom as your fallback. When you apply for a place on the tour, you will be asked for some health and medical details. This is used confidentially by the guides to assess whether you will be comfortable on the tour.