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The Marmion Way

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Old School Tours extend a warm invitation to join us on the first of a series of short tours based on the old ballads, folk tales and historical events of the Northumberland and the Scottish Borders. In 1808 Sir Walter Scott completed a romantic ballad which became a classic piece of Scottish Literature. “Marmion” is a versed story that contains all the components of a very good novel; intrigue, treachery, romance deceit and retribution, all of which examine the concept of nobility. It is set at the time of one of the most important battles in British history the outcome of which would have a profound effect upon Scotland. The Battle of Flodden Field fought in 1513 was the most devastating defeat of the Scottish crown by the English army and resulted in the death of King James IV of Scotland and a great many of his noblemen. The ballad of Marmion was one of Scott’s most popular works and introduced a saying into the English language of “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when we practice to deceive”. The battle of Flodden was one of the most important in Scottish history and the scale of the defeat caused much lamentation in words and song for many years afterwards.

It is therefore most remarkable that Scott should chose to set his story around the battle and with it’s central character being an English not a Scottish Knight. But the reader is not invited to examine too closely the historical event but rather the more personal story of it’s central characters and its popularity in his home country of Scotland, shows the author’s literally skill in turning a story centred on national defeat into one in which a wrong doing English knight receives retribution.

This two day tour presents an excellent opportunity of visiting some little known historic castles in the Borders and Northumberland and viewing them from a unique literary perspective. We will visit a selection of locations referred to in Scott’s  Marmion, as well as those relating to the battle itself and also include the authors Scottish Border home of Abbotsford. Traveling from Edinburgh the tour takes in Crichton Castle, Tantallon Castle, the historic village of Gifford, Norham Castle on the banks of the River Tweed, Etal Castle, Holy Island on the Northumberland coastline, Chillingham Castle, Flodden Field, Dryburgh Abbey and finally Sir Walter Scott’s home of Abbotsford House near Melrose.

Throughout the tour extracts of the ballad will be recited and explanation given of the meanings behind some of the verses and their context. Those at the battlefield will be accompanied by a piped rendition of “Flowers of the Forest” a traditional song and pipe tune often played to commemorate the fallen in battle and composed in memory of the knights who fought at Flodden Field.  In addition to examining the ballad in the context of the places it is set, a full account will be given of the historical events at the time of the battle of Flodden using historical referencing material and discussion as well as a short demonstration of some of the weaponry used at the time and it’s role in the outcome of the battle.

Itinery (Click here for Full Itinerary Page of Days 1+2)

Day 1

Tour begins in Edinburgh outside the Palace of Holyrood House from where we travel to Crichton Castle to see the former home of a Lord Chancellor of Scotland and it’s associated Collegiate Church. The group goes onto visit the dramatically situated Tantallon Castle perched on the edge of the dramatic cliff scenery of the Lothian coastline. From Tantallon we follow the books storyline to take lunch at the local pub in the pretty village of Gifford before traveling over the picturesque Lammermuir Hills and over the Merse to Norham Castle situated on the majestic River Tweed on the English Border. From the impressive ruins of Norham Castle we travel into Northumberland to visit Holy Island across its ancient causeway.

Day 2

The tour resumes by a visits to the castles of Chillingham and Etal both of which featured significantly in the events leading up to and after the battle of Flodden Field. These events will be explained which include a visit to the actual battlefield site to recount the story of Marmion and pay our respects to the fallen by a piped tune of “Flowers of the Forest”  In the afternoon we will travel back across the border to Sir Walter Scott’s former home of Abbotsford and his last resting place at Dryburgh Abbey. The tour will stay overnight in a local hotel and return the next day to Edinburgh (optional for those wishing to stay in the Borders).

This tour is operated on the basis of demand and therefore you should contact Old School Tours as early as possible to reserve a place. A special tour is being planned for August to coincide with Coldstream Civic Week’s “Flodden Ride Out”, in which over 300 horses and riders take part in a cross country ride from Coldstream in Scotland to Flodden, Northumberland in an annual commemoration of the battle. Bookings are currently being taken for the run of this tour, to start May 1st 2011 which coincides with Berwick Upon Tweed’s “Riding of the Bounds ” and includes two nights hotel accommodation with an evening meal and all admission charges.

1. Crichton Castle, 2. Tantallon Castle,  3. Gifford, 4. Norham Castle,  5. Holy Island, 6. Chillingham Castle, 7. Etal Castle, 8. Flodden Field, 9, Dryburgh Abbey, 10. Abbotsford.

Don’t forget to visit the next page explaining the FULL ITINERARY of Days 1+2 with historical facts and links to the sites we’ll visit!

At Old School Tours we don’t believe in advertising what seems a ‘cheap price’ but doesn’t include many things we believe to be standard, such as entrance fees, dinners, breakfasts and quality hotels and B+B’s. Each day’s detail page shows the highlights of where we’ll be going and below you can find the price and what it includes. We look forward to having you on our adventure!

This Full 2 Day Luxury tour includes:

  • 2 full English Breakfasts.
  • 2 Hot Dinners either at a fine pub, Hotel or Restaurant.
  • 2 nights accommodations at hotels / B+B’s.
  • Entrance fees each day to listed attractions we visit.
  • Full 2 days fare on air conditioned/heated luxury coach.
  • Two personal, educated tour guides filled with enthusiasm and good spirit, ready to make sure you are taken care of and have a good time!

What it doesn’t include:

  • Lunches
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Personal spending, shopping, tipping
  • Fares before and after the tour, to get you from and back to home

*Go here to convert tour costs to your currency: XE The World’s Favorite Currency Converter Site

*Prices are at the time of publication and may vary slightly, just contact us to inquire!

*Prices are based on two people sharing (single rooms available at a supplement)

For more information see: “Making a Reservation” and “Terms and Conditions”.