NTS USA: Early Summer Gardens of Aberdeenshire

      Tarland, Aboyne AB34, UK

      Tour Advisor Meg MacDonald at Travel Muse
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      Jun 3 - 8, 2024
      Group size: 12 - 15
      NTS USA: Early Summer Gardens of Aberdeenshire
      Tarland, Aboyne AB34, UK

      Tour Advisor Meg MacDonald at Travel Muse
      • Email address verified
      • Facebook verified

      Jun 3 - 8, 2024
      Group size: 12 - 15

      About this trip

      You are invited to join The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA for a five-night tour of the magnificent gardens of northeast Scotland led by Paddy Scott, founder of Discover Scotland’s Gardens. 

      We will visit privately-owned gardens nurtured by the same families for centuries and will have special access to important houses, designed landscapes, and plant collections cared for by the National Trust for Scotland, Scotland’s largest conservation organization.

      Aberdeenshire is known for its fairytale castles and gently rolling countryside.  Located in the shadow of the Grampian Mountains, the region features a unique micro-climate that offers challenges and rewards alike for gardeners and garden lovers. 

      Our tour is scheduled for June, when the days are long and the gardens at their most vibrant and fragrant. While we can’t promise anything, Aberdeenshire is regularly named Scotland’s sunniest city! 

      Highlights of our visit include:

      · Pitmedden Garden, which contrasts a 17th-century design inspired by Le Notre’s Vaux-le-Vicomte with a contemporary reinterpretation of a parterre garden by British landscape architect Christopher Beardshaw

      · Haddo House, an elegant Georgian manor designed by William Adam featuring opulent Victorian interiors and a terraced garden

      · Castle Fraser and Crathes Castle, two of Scotland’s most evocative and enchanting tower houses, which date back more than five centuries 

      · Angus’s House of Pitmuies, considered to be among the best private gardens in Scotland

      · The acclaimed walled garden at Dunninald Castle, another private home, entered through the marvelous wrought-iron Union Gate with its design of roses, thistles, daffodils, and shamrocks

      Our tour features:

      · Accommodations at Douneside House, a four-star hotel located within seventeen acres of gardens dating from the early 20th century. The family’s story is one of self-made fortune followed by incredible tragedy and resilience during World War II

      · A welcome reception at The Georgian House, a Robert Adam-designed townhouse in Edinburgh’s iconic Charlotte Square, with a private after-hours tour

      · A celebratory last night at the five-star Waldorf Astoria – The Caledonian in Edinburgh, with a farewell dinner in the elegant Versailles Suite

      · Special access to the National Trust for Scotland’s landscape and curatorial team


      This trip Involves walking for extended periods, sometimes over uneven surfaces. 


      Paddy Scott followed a successful career in business and consulting by becoming chief executive of Scotland’s Gardens, a well-known charity that raises funds by opening private gardens to the public. He also was one of the founders of Discover Scotland’s Gardens, a business dedicated to marketing Scotland’s gardens to the world. For the last seven years, Paddy has been using his unparalleled knowledge of Scottish gardens to organize tours for garden enthusiasts from the United Kingdom, United States, and beyond. 


      Please see the separate attachment with the complete Itinerary.

      Although The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA (NTSUSA), and Travel Muse Inc. and its ground operators will make every effort to adhere to the itinerary, on rare occasions it may be necessary to adjust arrangements due to circumstances beyond our control. Should any activities not be available, substitution will be made to the best of our ability and no refund will be made. Any additional costs necessitated by such changes are the responsibility of the tour member. Please note there will be significant walking and standing.


      Prices are based on a minimum of 12 paying participants. Should the number of passengers fall below 12, certain program inclusions may be deleted.  All amounts quoted with respect to charges for the tour and travel services are based upon rates in effect as of July 21, 2023.  At the time of final payment, NTSUSA reserves the right to add any increased amounts arising from changes in taxes and from changes instituted by suppliers or caused by market conditions. All local/government taxes on hotels, meals, and services are included, in addition to normal gratuities to porters, waiters, and local guides. Rates are based on group participation, and there can be no refund for services or portions of the tour not taken. It is also understood and agreed that all excursions are optional, and refunds cannot be made to tour members who do not participate or complete the tour for any reason.  



      • First deposit of $1,000 per person 
      • Balance is due on or before April 5, 2024

      ACH payments incur no additional fee.  Payments by credit card will incur a processing fee of 2.9% for Visa and MasterCard, and 3.9% for American Express.  

      Please read the Terms and Conditions carefully.  By registering for this tour, you consent to the Terms and Conditions and the Release From Liability Agreement including the Supplemental Release Regarding COVID-19 Agreement.


      All cancellations must be made in writing to kbridier@ntsusa.org. The cancellation fee covers administrative and operational costs and any penalties assessed by suppliers.

      Cancellation fees are per person, as follows:

      • Cancellations received prior to March 8th, 2024:  $500
      •  After March 8th and up through April 4th, 2024:  Refund all but 30% of the Tour Costs (includes registration and planning fee)
      • Cancellations received on or after April 5th, 2023, and up until the day of departure:  Total tour cost

      The cancellation fee will be waived or refunded if we have met the tour minimum of 12 participants and we are able to fill your place on the tour.

      Travel insurance is the best way to protect your tour investment. Information will be sent to you upon receipt of your deposit.



      The tour cost excludes airfare.  Please arrange it on your own.  For questions, contact Meg MacDonald at 617-480-0250 or meg@travelmuse.net.


      The tour cost excludes trip insurance, which covers for trip cancellation and interruption, baggage delays, emergency medical expenses, and medical evacuation expenses. Upon receipt of your deposit, information about purchasing trip insurance will be sent to you.

      Please note that, in most situations, standard Medicare will not pay for healthcare or medical supplies outside the US. Please check with your health insurance provider should you wish to purchase health coverage outside the US through a Medigap plan or other supplemental health plan.


      The tour cost excludes transfers to the meet-up point at the Waldorf Astoria - Caledonian Hotel in Edinburgh and from the Caledonian Hotel in Edinburgh at the end of the tour.


      Douneside House is a four-star hotel; and the Waldorf Astoria-The Caledonian is a five-star hotel.  Rates are based on two persons sharing a room with one King or two Twin Beds with private bath and/or shower.  

      The right is reserved to substitute hotels when necessary.  Although Travel Muse will endeavor to arrange for congenial travel companions, this cannot be guaranteed, and a single supplement will be charged when necessary.




      Deluxe Room (subject to availability) with spectacular views to the front of the House and over the Howe of Cromar.  Generous in size, these rooms feature a Super King bed and antique furnishings, and come with a host of luxury amenities, including a flat-screen TV, hospitality tray, luxurious toiletries, a free-standing bath and walk-in shower. Add-on supplement: $800 total for 4 nights



      Premier Room, which offer a choice of one king (33 sq. m./360 sq. ft.) or two twin beds (26 sq. m./280 sq. ft.).  Add-on supplement:  $120 for 1 night

      Upgrades are subject to availability.


      For questions about the tour, please contact Kirstin Bridier, Executive Director, The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA, at 617-227-7500 / kbridier@ntsusa.org.

      For questions about registration and payments, please call Meg MacDonald, President, Travel Muse Inc., at 617-480-0250 / meg@travelmuse.net. 


      This Agreement is important. It includes terms and conditions and releases Travel Muse Inc. from liability.  By registering for this tour and securing your place with a deposit, you are consenting to this Release Agreement.

      Travel Muse Inc., its owners, directors, officers, employees and affiliates (collectively “Travel Muse”) does not own or operate any entity which is to or does provide goods or services for your trip including, for example, ownership or control over hotels or other lodging facilities, airline, vessel, bus, van or other transportation companies, local ground operators, providers or organizers of optional or included excursions or equipment used thereon, food service or entertainment providers, etc. All such persons and entities are independent contractors.

      Travel Muse is not liable for any negligent or willful act or failure to act of any such person or entity, or that of any other third party. Without limitation, Travel Muse is not responsible for any injury, loss, or damage to person or property, death, delay or inconvenience in connection with the provision of any goods or services occasioned by or resulting from, but not limited to, acts of God, acts of government, force majeure, acts of war or civil unrest, insurrection or revolt, strikes or other labor activities, criminal or terrorist activities of any kind, or the threat thereof; overbooking or downgrading of accommodations; structural or other defective conditions in hotels or other lodging facilities; financial failure or other defaults by suppliers; mechanical or other failure of airplanes or other means of transportation or for any failure of any transportation mechanism to arrive or depart timely or safely; dangers associated with or bites from animals, pests or insects, marine life or vegetation of any sort; dangers incident to recreational activities such as swimming, kayaking, sailing, canoeing, rafting, hiking, bicycling, etc.; sanitation problems; food poisoning; lack of access to or quality of medical care; difficulty in evacuation in case of a medical or other emergency; illness, epidemics or the threat thereof or for any other cause beyond the direct control of Travel Muse. In addition, I release Travel Muse from its own negligence and assume all risk thereof. All such losses or expenses will have to be borne by the passenger, as tour rates provide for arrangements only for the time stated.

      Travel Muse may take photographs or video of its trips, and participants grant Travel Muse permission to do so and for it to use same for promotional or commercial use without payment of any compensation to participant.

      Travel Muse reserves the right to change hotels or other features of the trip if it believes by doing so it will enhance the safety, comfort or enjoyment of the trip. Travel Muse reserves the right to cancel the tour prior to departure in which event the entire payment to it will be refunded with no further obligation or liability on its part. Travel Muse reserves the right to substitute accommodations, tour features, carriers or qualified tour staff; or to alter the itinerary of the program at any time when deemed appropriate or advisable without penalty or liability. Travel Muse, in its sole discretion, reserves the right to decline to accept or retain any participant whose health or actions, in Travel Muse’s sole judgment, impede the operation of the tour or the welfare or enjoyment of fellow participants.

      We strongly recommend that tour participants review the destination country’s specific information at https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/ and https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list, both of which contain important information.

      Travel Muse is not responsible or liable for loss, damage or theft of personal baggage and belongings, nor is it liable for personal injury, accident, or illness, however caused. We strongly suggest you purchase trip cancellation insurance to guard against various contingencies.

      ASSUMPTION OF RISK. I am aware that travel such as I am undertaking involves activities, some in remote areas, with a risk of illness, injury or death which may be caused by forces of nature, animals, insects or flora, the negligence of Travel Muse or other persons and/or by entities either known or unknown, or of willful or criminal conduct of third parties. I am aware that medical services or facilities may not be readily available or accessible or consistent with standards in the United States during some or all of the time during which I am participating on the trip and that, when available, may not be of the quality which exists in the United States. In order to partake of the enjoyment and excitement of this trip, I am willing to accept the risks and uncertainty involved as being an integral part of my adventure. I hereby accept and assume full responsibility for any and all risks of illness, injury or death.

      VOLUNTARY PARTICIPATION. I acknowledge that I have voluntarily applied to participate on the trip designated on this application and that I have read the description of the trip as it appears in the promotional material relating to the trip, together with all information contained in this application. I am voluntarily participating in this trip with knowledge of the risks and hazards involved.

      BINDING ARBITRATION. I agree that any dispute concerning, relating or referring to this Agreement, the brochure or any other literature concerning my trip, or the trip itself, shall be resolved exclusively by binding arbitration pursuant to the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. §§1-16, according to the Comprehensive Arbitration Rules & Procedures of the Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services, Inc. (JAMS). Such proceedings will be governed by substantive (but not procedural) New Mexico law and will take place in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The arbitrator and not any federal, state, or local court or agency shall have exclusive authority to resolve any dispute relating to the interpretation, applicability, enforceability, conscionability, or formation of this contract, including but not limited to any claim that all or any part of this contract is void or voidable.

      Please understand that by agreeing to these terms and conditions, you (and we) are waiving our right to a trial by jury.

      KNOWING AND VOLUNTARY EXECUTION. I have carefully read this Agreement and fully understand its contents. I am aware that this is a release of liability and a contract between myself and Travel Muse and/or its affiliated organizations and agree to it of my own free will.

      Supplemental Release Regarding COVID-19

       By registering for this tour and securing your place with a deposit, you are consenting to this Release Agreement. 

      This Release is supplemental to the Booking Conditions, Release of Liability, Assumption of All Risk and Binding Arbitration (Agreement) which I previously executed for the tour organized by Travel Muse Inc. and client. In the event of a conflict between that Agreement and this Supplemental Release, the terms of this Supplemental Release shall prevail. In all other cases, the Agreement remains in full effect. In addition, both the Agreement and this Supplemental Release relate to any postponed or replacement trip.

      I am aware that while on or traveling to or from my trip, I might be exposed to COVID- 19 from other people, animals or objects. I assume all risk of any such contacts, including sickness, incapacity or death and agree to hold harmless Travel Muse Inc. from any such developments. In addition, I recognize that the U.S. Department of State as well as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may have warnings concerning same. See

      https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/traveladvisories.html/ and https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/list/

      I also accept the following risks of participating on this trip including, without limitation:

      1. All other risks associated with coronavirus (COVID-19) including preclusion from public or private buildings, land or areas, inconvenience, limitations and closures, etc.;
      2. Risk of my travel insurance not covering COVID-19 related claims;
      3. All risks regarding transportation problems including, without limitation, entry into or exit from any country and/or entry into the United States and/or difficulties with or closure of transportation systems or the unavailability of other features or attractions within the country where my trip takes place;
      4. The likelihood that at some or all destinations or facilities and/or on cruises, motor coaches or at hotels or restaurants I may be required to undergo a temperature check, wear a mask while in public and observe social distancing requirements and/or produce evidence of a vaccination against COVID-19;
      5. The potential for being quarantined, even if I am not symptomatic and/or do not have COVID-19 and/or the possible requirement that I have a negative COVID- 19 test immediately before or on or after arrival at my destination;
      6. Any expenses incurred, including but not limited to medical expenses, testing fees, quarantine and evacuation expenses as a result thereof are to be borne by the participant.

      What’s included

      • Accommodations
        5 nights in hotels and rooms as indicated in the program: four nights at the four-star Douneside House in Aberdeenshire, and one night at the five-star Waldorf Astoria – Caledonian Hotel
      • Meals
        Scottish breakfast daily, tea / coffee breaks throughout, five lunches, one pre-dinner drink reception, and five dinners
      • WiFi
        WiFi is included at all hotels
      • Land transportation
        Transportation by private coach throughout
      • Group activities
        Entrance fees and donations for all sites featured in the itinerary
      • Gratuities
        For included group meals and for guides
      • Membership
        A year’s membership of The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA
      • Tour leadership
        Accompanied throughout by Paddy Scott, co-founder of Discover Scotland’s Gardens; and Kirstin Bridier, Executive Director of The National Trust for Scotland Foundation USA

      What’s not included

      • International travel
        Airfare and/or train fare to and from Scotland
      • Airport transfers
        For both your arrival and departure
      • Accommodations on June 2
        Please book on your own
      • Other
        Any non-group meals, beverages, and activities
      • Alcoholic drinks
        Including wine with dinners (to be charged to each guest when ordered each evening)
      • Gratuities
        Drivers, housekeeping and other hotel staff who may provide extra services
      • Personal items
        Items or services such as telephone calls, room service, valet service, a-la-carte orders, specialty wines and liquors, laundry service, travel extensions, or tour deviations
      • Entry or departure fees
        Passport and visa fees, and fees levied by local governments
      • Insurance
        Personal coverage for health, baggage and tour cancellation/interruption
      • Credit card fees
        2.9% for Visa and MasterCard; and 3.9% for American Express for tour payments

      Available Packages

      Tour Price, based on double occupancy
      only 2 left
      Deposit: $1,000
      Tour Price, based on single occupancy
      only 1 left
      Deposit: $1,000

      Available options


      Monday, June 3rd

      Our luxury coach collects participants at the Waldorf Astoria – The Caledonian in Edinburgh at 9:30AM for the journey north to House of Pitmuies, a lovely Georgian manor on land that has been home to generations of Ogilvies, Mudies, and Lyells since the late 1500s. 


      The gardens at Pitmuies are frequently considered to be among the best private gardens in Scotland. Set in a designed landscape of 40 acres, the property boasts a double walled garden – a kitchen garden and a formal flower garden – dating back to at least 1780. 

      Below the house, a series of three rose terraces are linked by stone steps to the central fountain and pond. The garden is known for its long delphinium borders, which stretch the length of the terraces and have been grown in the garden since the 1920s.


      The old grass tennis court is now planted with a central roundel sprouting stately spikes of Bear’s Breeks (Acanthus mollis), foxtail lilies, and galtonias around a modern slate sculpture by the celebrated Joe Smith and his daughter Jenny. Other highlights include a Pictish stone cross and cherry and beach trees.

      We will have lunch at Pitmuies, then travel about 20 minutes to Dunninald Castle, a family home with a castle and gardens designed by Scottish architect James Gillespie Graham in 1824. Dunninald features an acclaimed walled garden (pictured here) set in a planned landscape of woods and wild garden. The walled garden is located a short walk from the house, at the end of a beech avenue planted in 1670, and is accessed through the marvelous wrought-iron Union Gate. Its design of roses, thistles, daffodils, and shamrocks represents each of the four home nations. The wild garden features snowdrops, daffodils, and bluebells seasonally.


      Following tea at Dunninald, we continue on to Douneside House, the family home of the MacRobert family until Lady MacRobert’s death in 1954 and now a four-star country house hotel. After checking into our rooms for the next four nights, our group will meet at 7:15 pm for drinks in MacRobert’s Reply Bar followed by dinner in the Conservatory. Drinks and wine with dinner throughout your stay may be charged to your room account.

      ADDRESS: Douneside House & Health Club, Tarland, Aberdeenshire AB34 4UL

      TEL.: +44 (0) 13398 81230

      WEB: https://dounesidehouse.co.uk



      We have reserved Classic Rooms in the main house and two one-bedroom apartments a short walk from the main house in the Casa Memoria building. Classic Rooms offer views of the Aberdeenshire countryside and hotel's beautiful grounds. The Casa Memoria apartments have been transformed into contemporary guest apartments, each with its own patio and views across the lawn or onto a private garden. All rooms range in size and style and showcase an innovative classic-contemporary design that combine the property’s remarkable heritage with Scottish tradition and modern luxuries. All rooms have an en suite bathroom with a walk-in shower.


      Upgrade to a Deluxe Room (subject to availability) with spectacular views to the front of the house and over the Howe of Cromar.  Generous in size, these rooms feature a Super King bed and antique furnishings, and come with a host of luxury amenities, including a flat-screen TV, hospitality tray, luxurious toiletries, a free-standing bath and walk-in shower.

      Upgrade Supplement: $800 for 4 nights 

      Your Organizer

      Tour Advisor Meg MacDonald at Travel Muse
      Mūse, n. [L. musa; Gr. mousa] 1. In Greek mythology, any of the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne who presided over the fine arts and science. 2. The spirit regarded as inspiring a poet or other artist; source of genius or inspiration. Travel Muse has 30+ years' experience creating tours to inspire, including Director’s and President’s Circle Tours; Connoisseur Tours; and Study Tours. Tours of the highest standard are designed for fine and decorative art organizations, botanic gardens, historic societies, & culinary groups.