9 Days / 7 Nights
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John Knox claimed in his will - None have I corrupted; none have I defrauded; merchandise have I not made - reminding us that like other selfless reformers, his courageous work had nothing to do with the things of this world. We are about to set forth on a life-changing adventure as we follow the footsteps of a man who contributed mightily to winning the struggle for human religious freedom and who is considered the founder of the Presbyterian denomination. From quaint and lovely villages to some of the most beautiful and influential cities of the world, we will journey through Scotland to retrace the remarkable life of reformer, John Knox. As we gain a deeper understanding and keener appreciation of his exemplary life, we might come away with a desire to live our own lives more courageously.

 
 

Tour Itinerary

Day 1: Departure from the USA Give me ae spark o’Nature’s fire, That’s a’ the learning I desire (Robert Burns, First Epistle to J. Lapraik, st. 13).

Our journey begins with an overnight flight to Glasgow, Scotland.

Day 2: Stirling Castle & Edinburgh [R]atifeit… as wholesome and sound doctrine grounded upon the infallible truth of God’s word (Introduction to Confession of Faith, attributed to John Knox).

Upon arrival in Glasgow, we’ll meet our Faith Journeys tour manager and transfer by motor coach to Edinburgh. En route we’ll visit one of the largest and most important castles in Scotland: Stirling Castle which sits atop Castle Hill and is surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs. The panoramic view of Stirling from this impregnable medieval fortress (although what we will see dates largely from the 15th and 16th centuries) is truly magnificent. It is also where several Scottish Kings and Queens have been crowned, including Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1543. John Knox preached in Stirling Castle and also in the parish church in Stirling, a town renowned for its unique cobblestoned roads and charming shops. We’ll continue on to Edinburgh affectionately nicknamed Auld Reekie (Middle Scots for Old Smoky) because in olden times its chimneys would spew thick columns of smoke into the air. Lovely Edinburgh, also called Athens of the North because of its striking mix of beauty, culture, and the arts, is where we’ll enjoy a welcome dinner and an overnight stay.

Day 3: Edinburgh Edinburgh is what Paris ought to be (Robert Louis Stevenson, son of the city).

Our half-day guided tour of Edinburgh will begin fittingly with what may be the most recognizable symbol of Scotland: Edinburgh Castle which sits atop the volcanic Castle Rock and not only dominates the skyline but also provides a great view of the city. The castle, dating back as far as the 9th century B.C. (although the nature of early settlement is unclear), was a royal residence from the 12th century until the Union of the Crowns in 1603. From the later 17th century, the castle became a military base with a large garrison; many of the buildings we’ll explore today are from its use as a military garrison. We’ll also see the Honours of Scotland, known as the Scottish regalia and the Scottish Crown Jewels which date from the 15th and 16th centuries and are the oldest set of crown jewels in the British Isles. Other landmarks on our tour include the Royal Scots Regimental Museum, Arthur’s Seat, Charlotte Square, the Royal Mile (approximately one Scots mile long and runs from Edinburgh Castle at the top down to Holyrood Abbey), Sir Walter Scott Monument, St. Andrew Square and St. Giles. John Knox preached his first sermon in Edinburgh’s St. Giles’ Cathedral, and a statue of him stands in the courtyard of the University of Edinburgh’s Faculty of Divinity. When Scotland formally ratified the reformed Protestant religion in 1560, Knox was appointed minister of the Church of St. Giles, and often preached from the pulpit in the cathedral’s Thistle Chapel, a small, but exquisite, chapel with carved and painted fittings of extraordinary detail. A high testimony was pronounced at Knox’s grave in the churchyard of St. Giles by the Earl of Mortoun: “Here lyeth a man who in his life never feared the face of man, who hath been often threatened with dagger, but yet hath ended his days in peace and honor.”

Day 4: Haddington & St. Andrew’s The will to do, the soul to dare (Sir Walter Scott; The Lady of the Lake, I, st. 21).

The morning finds us in Haddington, located on the north-east bank of the River Tyne. Once famous for its mills, Haddington is the birthplace and childhood home of John Knox. We’ll enjoy a visit to the Haddington House Gardens (which includes a wild meadow, sunken garden, and orchard) and St. Mary’s Church, which, according to the advice of John Knox, was restored “frae the tower to the West door”. Thus the nave became the church and the choir and transepts were left ruined until the whole church was restored in the 1970s (the Lammermuir pipe organ was built in 1990). We’ll travel on to St. Andrews to visit the remains of St. Andrews Castle and St. Andrew’s Cathedral, once the largest and most important church in Scotland, now in picturesque ruins overlooking the North Sea. The fate of St Andrew’s Cathedral was affected by the rising tide of the Scottish Reformation when a fiery sermon preached by John Knox in the parish church, inspired the people of St Andrews to “cleanse” the Cathedral of idolatry in 1559. Thus abandoned in 1561 in favor of the city’s parish church, the cathedral gradually fell into ruin. Time permitting we’ll see the famous St. Andrews Golf Course after which we’ll return to Edinburgh for dinner and another overnight stay.

Day 5: Perth & Ft. William My heart’s in the Highlands wherever I go (Robert Burns; “My Heart’s in the Highlands,” chorus).

Before reaching the day’s destination: Fort William, we’ll stop in Perth (known as The Fair City since the publication of the story, Fair Maid of Perth by the Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott in 1828) to visit St. John’s Presbyterian Church, which is, architecturally and historically, the most significant building in Perth. The majority of the present church was constructed between 1440 and 1500, and although much altered over its tumultuous history, its tower and lead-clad spire continue to dominate the Perth skyline. It was in 1559 at St. John’s that reformer John Knox launched his campaign against idolatry, leading to the “purging” of churches and the destruction of monasteries. Near Perth are Neolithic standing stones and circles dating from about 4,000 B.C. following the introduction of farming in the area. After a full, day, we’ll continue on to Fort William, the largest town in the highlands of Scotland and an ideal touring center (known for hill-walking and climbing) because it is located in the shadows of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, for dinner and an overnight stay.

Day 6: Isle of Skye & Oban He that wanders about these wilds, either procures recommendations to those whose habitations lie near his way, or, when night and weariness come upon him, takes the chance of general hospitality. If he finds only a cottage he can expect little more than shelter; for the cottagers have little more for themselves but if his good fortune brings him to the residence of a gentleman, he will be glad of a storm to prolong his stay (Dr. Samuel Johnson re the Isle of Skye).

We’ll enjoy an excursion to The Isle of Skye, the largest and most northerly island in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland, and renowned for its picturesque harbors and varied scenery. We’ll board a ferry to Armadale to visit the Armadale Castle, a ruined country house in a spectacular setting and former home of the MacDonalds Clan. Although the castle was abandoned by the Macdonald family in 1925 and has fallen into ruin, the gardens around the castle have been maintained, and are now home to the Clan Donald Centre, which operates the Museum of the Isles. We’ll ferry to Mallaig, the main commercial fishing port on the West Coast of Scotland, and once the busiest herring port in Europe, to see the Glenfinnan Monument erected in 1815 to mark the place where Prince Charles Edward Stuart (“Bonnie Prince Charlie”) raised his standard, at the beginning of the 1745 Jacobite Rising. Tonight we’ll dine and overnight in Oban, meaning The Little Bay. Despite its small size, Oban is one of Scotland’s most popular resorts and occupies a beautiful setting at the Firth of Lorn in a near perfect horseshoe bay, protected by the island of Kerrera. To the north is the long low island of Lismore, and the mountains of Morvern and Ardgour.

Day 7: Isles of Mull and Iona For who can denie but it repugneth to nature, that the blind shal be appointed to leade and conduct such as do see (John Knox; The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regimen of Women (referring to the ruling queens)).

Today’s excursion to the Isles of Mull and Iona begins with a ferry ride to Craignure on the Isle of Mull, island home to over 250 different bird species. Minke whales, porpoises and dolphins are among the sea life visible from boat tours off the coast of Mull. Another ferry (from Fiannphort) will take us to the Isle of Iona, centre of Irish monasticism for centuries and presently known for its tranquility and natural beauty. We will visit Iona Abbey, of particular historical and religious interest to pilgrims and visitors alike because it is the best-preserved ecclesiastical building surviving from the Middle Ages in the Western Isles of Scotland. Though modest in comparison to medieval abbeys elsewhere, it has a wealth of fine architectural detail and monuments of many periods. For example, in front of the Abbey stands the 9th century St Martin’s Cross, one of the best-preserved Celtic crosses in the British Isles. According to tradition, the monastery was founded in 563 by the monk Columba (also known as Colm Cille) and his twelve companions who went into exile on Iona and founded a monastery. Known as a great center of learning with a hugely successful scriptorium, the religious settlement of Iona played a crucial role in Scotland’s conversion to Christianity. The Iona Cathedral and the religious settlement are now under the administration of the National Trust for Scotland (1979). But long before St Columba landed here in 563, the island was a Druid shrine known originally as “Hy.” The abbey graveyard contains the graves of many early Scottish Kings (including Macbeth), as well as kings from Ireland, Norway and France. We’ll return via the same ferries to Oban for dinner and another overnight stay.

Day 8: Glasgow Here’s the bird that never flew. Here’s the tree that never grew. Here’s the bell that never rang. Here’s the fish that never swam (Traditional rhyme by Glasgow’s patron saint, Mungo, about the miracles he was purported to have performed).

We’ll make our way back to Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow, in the country’s west central lowlands, for an afternoon of sightseeing which will include a visit to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery. The museum’s collections came mainly from the McLellan Galleries and from the old Kelvingrove House Museum in Kelvingrove Park. It has one of the finest collections of arms and armour in the world and a vast natural history collection. The art collection includes many outstanding European artworks, including works by the Old Masters (Rembrandt van Rijn, Gerard de Lairesse, and Jozef Israel), French Impressionists (such as Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Camille Pissarro, Vincent van Gogh and Mary Cassatt), Dutch Renaissance, Scottish Colourists and exponents of the Glasgow School.. Tonight, after all we have experienced as we’ve followed in the footsteps of the great Reformer, John Knox, we’ll gather for a Farewell Dinner and last overnight stay in Scotland.

Day 9: Depart for Home With hearts full of gratitude and memories for a lifetime, we transfer to the Glasgow airport for the return flight home to the USA

© Faith Journeys LLC

A pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a rare and privileged event. Every person of faith should make such a trip a priority in one's life. However, great care is needed to make sure the experience reflects the intent of the traveler. Without careful planning, advanced preparation and attention to details while in the Holy Land, the pilgrimage can fall short of expectations. Faith Journey's is a trusted, experienced partner who can make sure your journey is a critical step towards a deeper communion with Our Savior and his people.
Deacon Bill Garrett, Archdiocese of Atlanta and President Cristo Rey Atlanta Jesuit High School