A Douglas Itinerary

See also an itinerary supplied by VisitScotland

and the one we followed for the 2014 Douglas Clan Gathering

Day 1 - Arrival Edinburgh

On arrival this morning at Edinburgh Airport you will be met by your Select Travel Service representative who will escort you to your waiting executive motorcoach.

As your rooms in your hotel will not be ready until the afternoon, you will proceed directly onto the National Archives of Scotland where a private talk has been arranged for you. Your talk will provide you with an overview of the role that the various branches of the Douglas Clan have played in Scotland’s turbulent history since the thirteenth century before you begin your tour of the Douglas sites across  Scotland. The talk will be illustrated by original documents relating to the family which are held in the National Archives, including charters which date back over eight hundred years to the twelfth century and were witnessed by William de Duglas, from whom Douglases around the world today trace their origins.

After your talk you will continue onto your hotel, and the remainder of the day will be free.

This evening you will enjoy a welcome drinks reception and dinner in your hotel during which you will get to know your fellow travelers.

Overnight in Edinburgh.

Day 2 -  Edinburgh

Edinburgh is one of the world's most attractive and spectacular cities.  Known as the 'Athens of the North' because of the ancient castle which dominates the city from high above, Edinburgh offers many spectacular views, the best of which is from the ramparts of the castle. Your tour will take you into the castle, thought to have been a stronghold since the 4th century and the location of the gruesome and politically motivated murder of the sixteen year old 6th Earl of Douglas and his brother in front of King James II in 1440.

Your tour will also give you the opportunity to stroll down the Royal Mile before continuing on to the Palace of Holyrood, the official residence of the Queen when she is in Edinburgh. (Note that interior visits are not permitted when the Queen is in residence).The tour will terminate in Princes Street, with its broad range of stores and boutiques which are bound to tempt even the most frugal visitor! 

The afternoon will be free for your own activities in Edinburgh.

Dinner is served in your hotel this evening. Also joining you for dinner will be Dr Michael Brown, author of The Black Douglases: War and Lordship in Medieval Scotland, 1300-1455, who will provide you with a short after dinner talk.

Overnight in Edinburgh

Day 3 - Stirling

After breakfast this morning you will wave goodbye to Edinburgh and drive the short distance to Linglithgow Palace where Mary Queen of Scots was born in 1542.

From Linglithlow you will continue on parallel with the Firth of Forth, passing Falkirk where the Scottish forces of William Wallace were defeated by King Edward III of England in July 1298, and onto the sight of the famous Battle of Bannockburn. Fought in June 1314, the battle was a huge victory for the Scottish army, one section of which was commanded by Sir James Douglas, and heralded the start of Scotland’s ascendancy under the leadership of Robert the Bruce.

After your tour of the Bannockburn you will proceed on into the town of Stirling, where admission is provided to Stirling Castle. The castle was once a favourite residence of the Stuart kings, and it was here in 1452 that William Douglas, 8th Earl of Douglas, was murdered and thrown out of a window by King James II. Today a window bearing the Douglas Coat of Arms overlooks Douglas Garden. You will also see the old towers built by King James IV, the fine 16th century hall, the Renaissance Palace of King James V and the Chapel Royal of 1594.

Dinner is served in your hotel this evening.

Overnight in Perth.

Day 4 - The Kingdom of Fife

Today your first stop will be at the rugged ruins of the fifteenth-century Loch Leven Castle, located on an island in Loch Leven. Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned here in 1567-8, but escaped with the assistance of Sir William Douglas.

From Loch Leven you will proceed onto Aberdour Castle which was the property of the Douglas Earls of Morton.

You will then drive north along the Fife coast to the charming seaside town of St Andrews. St Andrews is internationally renowned as the "home of golf" and possesses numerous golf courses, including the famous Old Course. However, the town has also long been known as a centre of learning and is home to the oldest of Scotland’s universities which was formerly founded in 1411. Amongst its’ former students is the famous Scottish prelate and poet Gavin Douglas, son of Archibald ‘Bell the Cat’ Douglas, 5th Earl of Angus, who studied here in the late fifteenth century. Over a hundred years and fifty years earlier, in 1302, the young James Douglas had also come to the town and lived for four years under the guidance of Bishop William Lamberton, before he left leaving in 1306 to support Robert the Bruce.

A number of ancient ruins survive in the town and your sightseeing tour will include St. Rule's Tower and the Cathedral, which dates from 1160, as well as St. Andrews Castle which was built around 1200.

Dinner is served in your hotel this evening.

Overnight in Perth.

Day 5 - The Grampian Mountains and Inverness

Today will commence with a visit to Scone Palace which is located on one of Scotland’s most historic sights. The Palace is built on the ruins of the old Abbey and Bishops’ Palace, the traditional location for the coronation of Scottish kings. Indeed it was here that Sir James Douglas first pledged his loyalty to Robert the Bruce in 1306; an oath that he was to fulfill for the rest of his life. The modern Palace was built following the destruction of the Abbey during the Reformation, and today is home to the Earl of Mansfield. On your tour you will see an impressive collection of Vernis Martin, French furniture, porcelain, clocks and sixteenth-century needlework, including pieces by Mary Queen of Scots.

Continuing north after your visit to Scone Palace, you will pass through Pitlochry and on into the Highlands. You will drive through Glen Garry and Glen Truim to Dalwhinnie, where you will stop for a tour of the Dalwhinnie Whisky Distillery and some free time for lunch.

In the afternoon you will proceed on north towards your overnight destination of Inverness. Before arriving in Inverness you will visit the site of the Battle of Culloden where the Jacobite forces were crushed in 1746

Dinner is served in your hotel this evening.

Overnight in Inverness.

Day 6 - Loch Ness and The Isle of Skye

The route south from Inverness takes you along the shores of Scotland's most famous Loch, Loch Ness, where for years the dark peaty waters have been home to the mythical Loch Ness monster.  Keep an eye out for 'Nessie' as you pass the eerie ruins of Urquhart Castle.

Continue on through the Western Highlands and along the shores of Loch Duich and Loch Alsh, passing en route the beautiful Eilean Donan Castle, sitting in splendid isolation on a small island on Loch Duich. Crossing the Kyle of Lochalsh you will arrive on the picturesque Isle of Skye, where you will enjoy some time sightseeing before taking the Mallaig ferry from Armadale, and driving onto your destination of Fort William.

Dinner is served in your hotel this evening.

Overnight in Fort William

Day 7 - Glencoe and Loch Lomond

Leaving behind Fort William and the great bulk of Ben Nevis, you will follow the shores of Loch Linnhe before heading east towards the pass of Glencoe. The pass carves a swathe through great butresses of rock, and the atmosphere of foreboding is heightened when one learns of the dark  secrets of its past, for it was here in 1692 that the infamous massacre of the MacDonald clan took place at the hands of the neighbouring Campbells. After enjoying several days and nights hospitality whilst sheltering from a storm, the Campbells, acting under orders from the king, slaughtered the MacDonalds as they slept.

After a long climb through Glencoe, you will proceed across desolate Rannoch Moor before heading south along the Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond. Here you will pass through Glen Douglas before enjoying an afternoon cruise on the scenic Loch. Afternoon tea will be served during your cruise.

Following your cruise, you will meet up with your tour motorcoach and continue south to your overnight destination.

Dinner is served in your hotel this evening.

Overnight in Peebles or Melrose.

Day 8 - North Berwick

Today you will enjoy a full day of sightseeing of the Douglas sites located around the town of North Berwick.

Dirleton Castle is today a ruined shell of its former glory. A castle has stood on the site since the late twelfth century, and was often fought over in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. In 1363 it fell to William Douglas, 1st Earl of Douglas, but by the fifteenth century has passed into the possession of the Halliburton family.

Tantallon Castle was the chief stronghold of the Red Douglas Earls of Angus in the middle ages. Perched high on a rocky eminence overlooking the Forth, the castle played a considerable part in the battles between the English and Scottish Crowns. Indeed as the Red Douglases were frequently in rebellion themselves, the castle was beseiged (unsuccessfully) by the Royal Scots army in 1491 and 1528. In 1651 however the castle was captured after the walls were battered by artillery. In 1699 the castle was finally sold by the Douglases, and it fell into decay.

Lennoxlove House is currently the home of the Duke of Hamilton. The House contains memorabilia of Mary Queen of Scots, including her death mask, as well as a collection of art, furniture and porcelain. When the Douglas line died out the 7th Duke of Hamilton inherited the titles of earl of Morton and Douglas, whilst the Douglas estates passed to the Douglas-Hume family.

You will return to your hotel in the late afternoon.

Dinner is served in your hotel this evening.

Overnight in Peebles or Melrose.

Day 9 - Berwick upon Tweed

After breakfast this morning you will head east for a day of sightseeing around the border between Scotland and England.

Your first stop will be for a visit to ruins of Roxburgh Castle which was captured by Sir James Douglas in 1314, before continuing on to the sites of two important battlefields. You will first visit Flodden Field, near Coldstream, where the Scottish army under King James IV was destroyed by the English in September 1513. In the battle the English lost about 1,500 men, whilst over 10,000 Scots died, including King James, twelve earls, fourteen lords, and a member from almost every leading family in the land, including the two sons of Archibald ‘Bell the Cat’ Douglas, 6th Earl of Angus.

From Flodden you will continue south to the site of the battle of Homildon Hill where Archibald Douglas, 4th Earl of Douglas, a man renowned for being on the losing side in almost all the battles in which he fought, led 10,000 men against Sir Henry Percy, Earl of Northumberland, in September 1402. However the troops of Douglas were decimated by Percy’s archers, and they disintegrated into flight, leaving seven prominent nobles killed, and over eighty barons and knights captured. Douglas himself, bearing the marks of five arrow wounds beneath his coat of chain mail, was also captured.

From Homildon Hill you will continue into Berwick-upon-Tweed where you will have some free time for lunch and to explore the town. The history of Berwick is inextricably tied into that of Anglo-Scottish border warfare, and that of the Douglas family. In 1297 William Douglas, father of Sir James Douglas, was constable of Berwick Castle when it was captured by the English. William Douglas died five years later in an English prison, but in 1318 Sir James Douglas recaptured Berwick town and starved the castle into surrender.

Outside Berwick you will also visit the site of the battle of Halidon Hill, where, in 1333, both Sir James Douglas’s brother and son died fighting against King Edward III in a doomed attempt to prevent Berwick falling back into English hands.

You will return to your hotel in the late afternoon.

Dinner is served in your hotel this evening.

Overnight in Peebles or Melrose.

Day 10 - The Borders

The first destination today is the remains of Blackhouse Tower near Selkirk. This was once a stronghold of Sir James Douglas in the early fourteenth century.

You will continue onto Melrose Abbey which was founded by King David I as a Cistercian Abbey in 1136, and at one time was probably the richest in Scotland. The abbey was destroyed by Richard II’s invading English army in the late fourteenth century, but it was subsequently rebuilt. Today it once more lies in ruins, a testament to the ferocity of King Henry VIII’s suppression of the monasteries in the sixteenth century. Buried within the abbey are a number of the Douglas Clan, including James Douglas, 2nd Earl of Douglas, who was buried beneath the High Altar in 1388.

Of particular interest to your group will be the small plaque which marks the place where the heart of Robert the Bruce is buried. On his deathbed in 1329 Bruce asked his loyal friend Sir James Douglas to take his heart on a Crusade to the Holy Land. Faithfully Douglas undertook this dying request from his king, and with Bruce’s heart in a casket around his neck, he set out with a force for Jerusalem. Douglas however only got as far as Spain. Having given his help to the King of Spain in 1330 in a battle at Grenada, Douglas suddenly found himself cut off and surrounded. Knowing that death was inevitable he threw the heart of Bruce into the ranks of his enemies, and charged after it, following his king into one final battle. The casket was found the following day next to Douglas’s body and returned to Melrose, whilst Douglas’s body was boiled, and his skeleton returned for burial at St Bride’s Church in Douglas. The emblem of a heart was subsequently added to the Douglas arms in memory of the deeds of Sir James.

After some free time in Melrose you will drive south to Otterburn Battlefield. It was here that James Douglas, 2nd Earl Douglas, died in August 1388 fighting against the Percy Earls of Northumberland. Douglas had earlier captured the pennion from the lance of Henry Percy in a skirmish near Newcastle, and thus provided a mortifying blow to Percy’s honour. Rather than continue his march home to Scotland, Douglas positioned the pennion outside his own tent and chivalrously called on Percy to recapture the pennion in combat, and redeem his honour. On 19th August Percy launched his attack and in the ensuing battle Douglas himself was killed, but the Scots won the day and captured both Percy, and his brother Ralph.

Dinner is served in your hotel this evening.

Overnight in Peebles or Melrose.

Day 11 - Dumfries and Galloway

Checking out of your hotel after breakfast this morning, you will drive south to Hermitage Castle which was in the possession of the Douglases in the fourteenth century. The castle is rumoured to be haunted by the ghost of Alexander Ramsey of Dalhousie who was starved to death in the castle by Sir William Douglas of Liddesdale. Sir William himself was eventually murdered in 1453 by his godson – William Douglas, 1st Earl Douglas.

You will proceed on into Dumfries and Galloway where you will visit the town of Castle Douglas. Nearby is Threave Castle, located in the middle of the River Dee. Built by Archilbald ‘The Grim’ Douglas, 3rd Earl of Douglas, the castle remained in the possesison of the family until 1455 when it was beseiged by James II during his attempt to destroy the power of the Earls of Douglas.

In the afternoon a visit is arranged to Drumlanrig Castle. Built in the late seventeenth century  by William Douglas, 1st Duke of Queensbury, on the site of an earlier Douglas residence, the castle is one of the first and most important renaissance buildings in the grand manner in Scottish domestic architecture.

(Please note that the opening schedule for the castle is not yet known for 2002, but only the gardens may be accessible in September.)

You will continue onto your overnight destination of Ayr in the late afternoon.

Dinner is served in your hotel this evening.

Overnight in Ayr.

Day 12 - Burns Country

Ayrshire is known for its famous golf links such as Troon and Turnberry, as well as its associations with Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet.  The city of Ayr is a popular commercial and tourist city, and you will visit the single roomed thatched cottage in nearby Alloway where Burns was born in 1759.  The original version of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and many other Burns documents are on display in the adjacent museum.  You will also visit Auld Alloway church and the Burns Monument overlooking Brig o’Doon, both locations mentioned by Burns in his frightful but humorous poem Tam O’Shanter which describes the fate of those who have a ’wee dram too many.

You will also visit the nearby Tam O’Shanter Experience, an audio-visual experience dedicated to the life and times of Burns.

This evening, you will return to the Burns Museum for a traditional ‘Burns Supper’.  All over the world, Scots meet on 25th January each year to toast the birthday of their most famous poet and tonight a traditional Burns Supper will be recreated in your honour with the formal address to the Haggis and traditional Scottish dancing.

(Please note this dinner is only available for groups of over 30 persons.)

Overnight in Ayr.

Day 13 - Douglas Flower Show (? 1st Saturday in September ?)

Today is set aside for a visit to the place where the Douglas family began. In Douglas you will visit both St Brides Church, where Sir James Douglas was buried in 1330, as well as Douglas Castle. Captured by Sir James Douglas in the early fourteenth century when the area was under English control, the castle became famous as the location of the event known as ‘The Douglas Larder’ when Douglas beheaded the entire English garrison and left their bodies in the vaults, before dumping the limbs of the English horses into the castle well to ruin the water supply, and setting the whole castle alight.

During the remainder of the day you will be free to wander around the town and enjoy the Annual Douglas Flower Show (Check if event is happening next September)

Dinner is served in your hotel this evening.

Overnight in Ayr.

Day 14 - Departures

This morning you will meet with your guide in you hotel lobby prior to your departure transfer to Glasgow airport for your return flights. If time permits you may visit Bothwell Castle en route to the airport.

As arranged by Select Travel service

Scottish Clans and Castles offer personal driver-guided tours throughout Scotland and specialise in taking people to see their traditional clan lands and castles.

See also:

•  an itinerary supplied by VisitScotland
•  Map of Douglas locations (work in progress)



This page was last updated on 31 July 2023

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