Carolyn, Gary & Marilyn’s Ancestral Adventures

For nearly a year Borders Journeys worked with Carolyn, Gary & Marilyn from the USA planning their holiday of a lifetime to connect with their Scottish, Welsh and Irish ancestral roots.

We met Carolyn, Gary & Marilyn at Edinburgh Airport for the start of their 11 day adventure with us. Leaving Edinburgh our first stop was Peebles for morning coffee, it was in Peeblesshire that Gary’s ancestors originated. En-route to Cairnryan to catch the ferry to Belfast, we stopped at Dumfries House for lunch. We spent the night in Belfast.

Our day in Belfast was spent at PRONI (Public Records Office for Northern Ireland) researching Carolyn & Marilyn’s Johnston / Johnstone ancestors, they were delighted to find records associated with their family. Afterwards we visited the fantastic Titanic exhibition before travelling north to Ballycastle. Nearby we spent two wonderful nights at Kilbane Farm. The farm has amazing views to Rathlin Island, Mull of Kintyre, Sanda Island & Ailsa Craig.

North Antrim Coast

On a glorious day we spent time touring the North Antrim Coast, here we visited the Giant’s Causeway, Portrush and Ballintoy Harbour where Game of Thrones is filmed. Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede. The bridge spans 20 metres / 66 feet and is 30 metres / 98 feet above the rocks below, it was here that Marilyn conquered her fear of heights by crossing the bridge with Gary & Ian.

Leaving Ballycastle we travelled south to County Tyrone to visit Ballygawley, Carnteel, Fintona, Kilskeery & Trillick where Carolyn & Marilyn discovered more about their Johnston / Johnstone ancestral roots in Northern Ireland. After dinner at Carrickfergus we caught the ferry from Larne to Cairnryan then spent the night in Stranraer.

Johnston Day - 13th July 2014

From Stranraer we travelled to Dumfries  where we visited Dumfries & Galloway Family History Society and Ewart Library to learn more about the Johnston / Johnstone family. Afterwards we visited Lochmaben Castle before spending the night near Lockerbie. Next day was spent visiting places associated with the Johnston / Johnstone family at Lockerbie, Dryfesdale Lodge Visitors’ Centre, Johnstone Church & Churchyard, Lochwood Castle, Moffat and the Devils Beef Tub.

Monday was Gary’s birthday, therefore it was his day. The day was spent in Fife visiting places associated with his Kilgour family around Falkland and Dysart. In Falkland Carolyn, Gary & Marilyn enjoyed a visit to the historic palace. Leaving Scotland en-route to Wales, we spent the night in Penrith.

Falkland - 14th July 2014

Next day was an early start for our journey south to Carmarthen to research Carolyn & Marilyn’s Bowen ancestry. En-route we visited Llanfor Parish Church near Bala where some of their ancestors are interred. We had a lovely picnic lunch at Llyn Tegid at Bala before continuing our journey. Near Newport we visited Canolfan Pentre Ifan, the remains of a Neolithic Burial Chamber which is believed to be around 3500 years old.

Our day in Carmarthen was spent visiting Carmarthenshire County Museum at Abergwili, the town’s antique shops and St. Mallteg’s Church at Llanfallteg where some Bowen family members are interred.


On the penultimate day of the their tour, Carolyn, Gary & Marilyn visited their distant cousin Tim Bowen at his antique shop in Ferryside and enjoyed a tour of his shop. Afterwards we visited Kidwelly Castle which is a Norman castle on the banks of the River Gwendraeth.

Leaving Wales we travelled through Somerset and Wiltshire in glorious sunshine, the stunning villages that we passed through were quintessentially ‘chocolate box villages’ – thatched cottages with roses around the door. Our last dinner together was spent at the Bridge Inn by the River Avon at Upper Woodford near Salisbury; the setting and food were first class – especially the delicious deserts. One of the highlights of the tour was a beautiful sunset at Stonehenge.

Kidwelly Castle, Stonehenge & Windsor

Alas all holidays come to an end, however Borders Journeys had one final surprise for Carolyn, Gary & Marilyn. En-route to Heathrow Airport we took a detour and made a quick visit into Windsor. To add to Carolyn, Gary & Marilyn’s excitement about seeing Windsor Castle, we arrived in time to see the Changing of the Guards – the perfect ending to their holiday.

Goodbyes are never easy but after 11 days, four countries and 1700 miles we had to say goodbye to Carolyn, Gary & Marilyn as they headed home. Borders Journeys thoroughly enjoyed sharing the beauty, history and culture of Scotland, Northern Ireland, England and Wales with our guests and hope that they have a safe journey home to Iowa and Missouri.

More photographs of Carolyn, Gary & Marilyn’s Ancestral Adventure can be found on Borders Journeys’ Facebook.

On their return home Carolyn & Marilyn wrote to thank Borders Journeys for their tour:

Ian, it seemed every day was packed with highlights and memories we will always treasure. I can’t count the number of fences you climbed, walls you stood on, hikes you took with my camera to make sure I got the best shots. You went above and beyond our expectations and getting to see the changing of the guard at Windsor Castle just finished off our trip in grand style! You and Jeannie fearlessly drove roads that are scarcely wider than a bike path here at home. We would never have had the courage to do that on our own and we would have missed so much. It was a blessing to just enjoy the views and leave the driving to you! Thanks again! Gary, Marilyn and I had a fabulous time and thanks also to Louise for all the travel arrangements! Carolyn Rebel 

Wonderful vacation. Ian thank you for being everything a guide should be. Seeing Scotland, Ireland, Wales and England with your knowledge, skill, fun and adventurous spirit made our long-anticipated vacation perfect. Marilyn Hodge

If you would like us to create a private ancestral or sightseeing tour for you, we will be happy to offer you our advice and plan the tour around your requirements so that we can build the perfect tour for you. We recognise that for many of you this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity and our emphasis is upon making your time in Scotland an experience you’ll always remember.

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