Tour Date: September 16 – 24, 2023
Embark on a nine-day tour exploring John Ruskin’s Scottish roots and discover the rich heritage of one of the most influential thinkers of the Victorian era.
The tour begins in Cumbria on the Borders at Naworth Castle where we are joined by The Honourable Philip Howard and Alexandra Howard for an exclusive tour, followed by a fascinating discussion with Peter Burman about the significance of Naworth Castle in the Arts & Crafts Movement.
We enter into the heart of Ruskin Land on the second day as we drive through the stunning landscapes of the Lake District, visiting Dalemain, an 18th-century country house, and Blackwell, now the Arts and Crafts House, and designed by Mackay Hugh Baillie Scott, a British architect and artist. Then it is on to Brantwood, Ruskin’s home on Coniston Water where we enjoy lunch in The Terrace, formerly Ruskin’s stables and coach-house. Visit the Ruskin Museum, Coniston, and pay homage to John Ruskin’s grave in Coniston churchyard.
On the third day, we explore Lanercost Priory, an exquisitely designed monastic church and visit St Martin’s Church, Brampton, the only church Philip Webb designed. It has some of the most stunning stained-glass windows designed by Morris & Co. And then to St Mary & St Wilfrid Church, Warwick Bridge, a key work by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin. We head to St Mary’s Church, Wreay, a breathtaking example of Gothic Revival architecture designed by Sara Losh. At Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery in Carlisle, we’ll see drawings and paintings by George Howard, 9th Earl of Carlisle, and the large cartoons for Edward Burne-Jones’s stained-glass windows at Brampton Church. Then, visit Carlisle Cathedral, founded as an Augustinian Priory to conclude our visit to Wreay.
We next travel northwards towards Perth, with many close family connections to Ruskin. We’ll pause at Moffat, a charming country town in Dumfriesshire and Thomas Carlyle’s birthplace at Ecclefechan. Our visit to Kinnoull Parish Church, built on an ancient site, will be a highlight of the day. Here, we’ll see the superb east window designed by John Everett Millais, Effie Gray’s second husband, and enjoy lunch in the adjoining Church Hall.
Next, we’ll explore Bowerswell House in Perth, which was home to members of the Gray and Ruskin families at different times, and where John Ruskin and Effie Gray were married. We’ll travel to Callander, a charming resort town since the Victorian era nestled in the picturesque Scottish countryside. As we explore this Victorian-era town, we’ll be surrounded by stunning views of the surrounding hills and forests. Our day will be filled with inspiration and learning as we delve deeper into the influences that shaped John Ruskin’s thinking. We’ll be treated to a talk on the influence of Sir Walter Scott and Thomas Carlyle on Ruskin, highlighting how their ideas and works helped shape his philosophy. Finally, we will visit the historic burial ground nearby, where Effie Gray/Millais and members of her family are buried, although her husband, who became President of the Royal Academy, is buried in the crypt of St Paul’s Cathedral.
And we drive through the breathtaking Trossachs landscapes and a walk to Brig O’Turk to find the site of the young John Everett Millais’s portrait of Ruskin. We’ll enjoy a voyage by steamship on Loch Katrine, experiencing the landscape of Sir Walter Scott’s Lady of the Lake poem. We’ll finish the day with a talk on Ruskin and the Dunblane Cathedral controversy.
We’ll then travel from Dunblane Cathedral in Perthshire to Marchmont House, a great country mansion in the Borders Region. We’ll visit Dunblane Cathedral to see the beautiful work designed by Sir Robert Lorimer, followed by a drive to Rosslyn Chapel, famous throughout the world for its exquisite sculpture. We’ll enjoy a talk by Alex Kelly, the conservator responsible for the care of the Chapel, before a lecture by Professor Murdo Macdonald on Sir Patrick Geddes, Ruskin’s leading Scottish disciple. Finally, we’ll have dinner at Marchmont House.
After our talk about Sir Patrick Geddes, it is only appropriate that we take a walking tour of the Old Town of Edinburgh to experience the conservation and town planning work of which he was responsible, including the Lookout Tower and several of his most important initiatives nearby. We’ll then take a drive tour of the New Town to see the classical architecture deplored by Ruskin but prized today as a major element in the World Heritage Site.
After a stop at the Abbotsford Visitor Centre, we’ll head to Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott, with its astonishing furnishings, paintings, library, and other treasures. Take time to admire the charming walled garden and watch the mighty river Tweed flow past the house and through its designed landscape.
Our stay at Marchmont enables us to take advantage to explore the stunning countryside and rich heritage of the Scottish Borders region. Among the village is the estate of Ford & Etal, where the curator will give a talk on the conservation and development of the Estate in the Waterford Hall. We’ll be surrounded by large mural paintings by Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford, who was an artist-pupil of Ruskin.
Closer to Marchmont, we’ll enjoy a visit to the home, studios, and unforgettable garden of artists Charlie Poulsen (sculptor in lead and wood) and Pauline Burbidge (celebrated on both sides of the Atlantic for her quilts) at Allanbank Mill Steading. In the evening, we’ll be treated to a lecture by Hugo Burge on Reviving the Essence of the Arts & Crafts Movement, followed by a farewell dinner at the beautiful Marchmont House, surrounded by stunning views of the Scottish countryside. On the final day, we’ll have a country house breakfast before the tour group disperses.
I hope this nine-day tour has inspired you to delve deeper into the life and works of John Ruskin and explore the rich heritage of Scottish arts and crafts. Join us on this unforgettable journey and let yourself be inspired by the landscapes, architecture, and art that inspired Ruskin and his contemporaries. Don’t miss this opportunity to connect with history and explore the beauty of Scotland with like-minded enthusiasts. Book your place now and let’s begin our journey together!