Perhaps it's because the west coast of Scotland sits on the second oldest rocks on Earth that mystical groups have been attracted to its energy for thousands of years. There are Celtic legends of beings moving from distant lands on to the islands, bringing with them knowledge of the stars, agriculture, mathematics and the arts. They also created some of the most evocative stone circles, chambers and ceremonial sites. Later, with the rise of the Celtic church, mystical groups such as the elusive Culdees continued these spiritual practices; even as late as the 14th century the fleeing Templars found refuge here and protected the teachings which were incorporated into Scottish Rite Freemasonry.
This remote corner of the world, it seems, is at the same time a place for the spiritual seeker, the wild of spirit, the introspective, the hermit, the poet, the mystic, the naturalist, and the lover.
We will follow in this spirit by experiencing the ancient sacred places, often set in geology so dramatic it cannot but stir the imagination.
We begin with a brief flight from Glasgow to the Isle of Lewis, where we stay for two days in the middle of nowhere and visit the impressive stone circles of Cnoc Ceann a’Gharraidh, Cnoc Fillibhir Bheag, Ceann Hulavig, and the jewel of the crown, the near-intact Callanais. If you ever doubted that stone can live and speak, you will be surprised. With its four stone avenues, Callanais is one of the most majestic monuments of the megalithic age. We will also visit the round tower of Dun Carloway, with its ceremonial courtyard and solar alignments; plus a walk along the deserted beach of Bostadh, with its sweeping vistas of the Outer Hebrides resembling a land forgotten by time, and an Iron Age thatched cottage, a reminder of the civilization that once flourished here.
We return to the mainland, taking a ferry across Loch Linnhe and its dramatic scenery to the rugged isle of Mull. Threading mountains and lochs we visit and meditate at a humble, yet most potent stone circle at Loch Buie, followed by a long, late afternoon walk to a square tower and deserted chapel, which may have originally have been the secret homestead of the Knights Templar.
Next day is devoted to personal contemplation on the sacred isle of Iona. After visiting the Abbey and the ancient Culdee chapel ruin, the rest of the day is given to personal time to wander over the island, be it the empty beaches or looking for the fabled Hill of Angels.
The full drama of Mull is unleashed next, starting with a fishing boat ride to the isle of Staffa (weather permitting), with its precarious sea walk, and colossal hexagonal basalt columns rising vertically out of the Atlantic to form the cave of Fingal, protector of the Gaelic Otherworld. In the afternoon, only the very fit will descend the steep volcanic cliff of Creag a' Ghaill and thread treacherous boulders to reach the tidal cave of MacKinnon. An experience in total sensory deprivation, this cave was once used as part of the resurrection ritual of the Mysteries schools. Its narrow entrance expands to the size of a cathedral dome before a tunnel threads under and through to the other side of Mull. Initiates emerged the following day to be declared risen. Thankfully only the first 100 yards are now accessible due to debris, but we can still experience what it feels like inside the womb of mother Earth.
If you complete this, you will have experienced the secret initiation triangle of Mull recently discovered by my research.
Another day, another adventure. Back on a ferry, and a drive to the Kilmartin valley, ancient sacred site since c.6000 BC. We'll explore the standing stones and cairns of Stockavulin, the lunar stones of Ballymeanoch, wander Temple Wood stone circle, and hopefully, meditate inside the Nether Largie ceremonial chamber.
Finally, we round off the trip via the giant’s grave of Kintraw, the Ballymeanen stone rows, Dunchraigaig birthing chamber, and conclude with a climb of Dunadd Hill, for centuries the consecrating ground for kings and queens of the divine bloodline of the Pict-Sidhe (the origin of pixies) and the mysterious Tuadhe d'Anu. After taking a break along Loch Awe, one of the world's longest, we finish off in style in Luss, sacred ground of Vikings, where we'll eat like kings and queens at a fine establishment beside Loch Lomond.
A tour of rugged scenery and rugged weather for the plucky and the inteprid.
PROPOSED MENU OF EVENTS
Western Scotland's weather is as warped as its geology, and although April and September tend to be calmer, fine days give way to sudden storms, cancelling ferries and air travel. So this trip requires patience and fortitude. Not to mention a proficiency in Scottish and an empathy for cattle all by the name of Angus.
Overnight, Glasgow Airport Holiday Inn. Free day. Group dinner in Glasgow.
Fly to Stornoway, Isle of Lewis. Quick, informal lunch in Stornoway. Visit stone circles Cnoc Ceann a’Gharraidh, Cnoc Fillibhir Bheag, and Callanais. Overnight Doune Braes Hotel. Night visit to Callanais (weather permitting)
Visit Dun Carloway broch, Bostadh beach and Iron Age house, and Bernera and Ceann Hulavig stone circles. Fly to Glasgow. Overnight Holiday Inn.
Early depart to catch Oban-Mull ferry. Pub lunch in Craignure. Afternoon at Loch Buie stone circle, Moy Castle Templar tower, and beach walk to Chapel Kenneth. Dinner at B&B, Ardachy House Hotel, Uisken.
Ferry to Iona. Visit Abbey and Culdee chapel. Lunch on island. Free time to explore Druid Hill and rest of island. Last ferry back to Mull and dinner at B&B.
Fishing boat ride to Staffa island and Fingal's cave. Lunch Fionnphort pub. Hike down cliff into McKinnon’s Cave for meditation. Dinner at B&B.
Ferry to Oban. Late lunch in Kilmelford. On to Kilmartin to explore Nether Largie standing stones and cairns, Temple Wood stone circle. Dinner and overnight at Galley of Lorne Inn, Ardmore.
Visit Kintraw giant's grave, Ballymeanen stones and Dunchraigaig cairn. Lunch in Kilmartin. Afternoon on sacred Dunadd Hill. Free time in Luss and farewell dinner in Loch Lomond Arms Hotel. Late return Glasgow airport Holiday Inn.
Return home, contented.
Many of the locations are remote, with no ATMs or shops, no phone signal or wifi, and few creature comforts. But then if you wanted to be a tourist you wouldn't be here.
THIS TOUR IS LIMITED TO JUST SIX PEOPLE.
What is included:
Single occupancy hotels/B&Bs in Glasgow, Callanais, Mull and Kilmartin.
Inclusive ground transportation.
Ferries to Mull, Iona and Oban.
Boat trip to Staffa.
Entry fees to all sites listed.
Return air fare from Glasgow to Isle of Lewis.
Your esteemed guide.
a piddly $3550 per person.
What is not included: Air fare to/from Glasgow; lunches and dinners.
This tour prohibits the use of cellphones, iPads, Blackberries, Raspberries, etc in the van and at the sites. Please note that elements of this tour require agile walking, short cliff descent and ascent, extremely slippery boulders, a dark cave, and the potential for turbulent ocean travel. Oh, and did I mention miles of twisty roads? You must have an above average level of fitness and not suffer from motion sickness.
HOW TO REGISTER. AND HOW SOON.
This tour is strictly for 6 people. Places go quickly, very quickly. Contact me and your name will be placed on a first-come basis. I will send you the itinerary and the Terms of Agreement. If you like what you see, you have seven working days to mail a personal check for $500. This non-refundable deposit guarantees your place. The remaining balance will be paid in two installments six- and three-months prior to departure. Simple.