Hello all. I am considering either the 8 Day Heart of Ireland or 8 Day Heart of Scotland tour for next summer. I am wondering if anyone had done both, and if/how one was better than the other (I know that's just an opinion). Any feedback is appreciated. I am posting this in the Scotland Forum and on Rick Steves' Europe Facebook group, so if you read both, it's not a glitch in the Matrix or anything.
Good luck getting a meaningful reply. It's like asking a parent which of their children is their favorite. You might find some differences in weather once you pick a date range, or insects, political climate, or your ancestry.
I've done neither trip but I've spent three months over four trips to both countries, and all that did was whet my appetite for more of both.
Full disclosure: I have only done the 8 Days Heart of Ireland tour so I can’t compare the 2 tours.
I have always regretted not doing the full blown 14 Days Best of Ireland tour because I missed out on the Northern Ireland portion of the trip.
It could be you are constrained with a limited number of vacation days and that’s why you are considering the shorter 8 days itineraries. If that’s the case, you could pick either tour and be gloriously happy with your choice. I loved the Heart of Ireland tour but next time…
I’m now semi-retired so I have more flexibility with the timing of my travels. The full Scotland tour is on my list and somehow I will make it to Northern Ireland.
I have taken both tours and loved each of them. I just completed Ireland, touring with two of my college age granddaughters. The Scotland tour was about 2 years ago, just before the travel/tour meltdown and taken with my sister and two friends. While some things about the two tours were similar (music, pub scene, some history), both tours were guided by long time RS guides who were passionate about their native countries and eagerly shared their respective histories.. As posted above, I find it difficult to recommend one over the other as they are both wonderful but if you have the time, it’s very easy to get from Dublin to Edinburgh or vice versa to take both. I think there are enough subtle differences (their governments, geography, weather and landscape) to appreciate each tour individually.
I haven’t done either tour, but I have toured both countries on my own, and spent three weeks in each. In Ireland I didn’t have a car so had to rely on the bus and train system. This meant I missed some places, or I had to join a day tour to get to sights. It also meant I couldn’t stay in smaller, out of the way places. In Scotland I rented a car so went where I wanted, when I wanted. I looked at the itineraries for both of the tours, and I feel that if I were to do a short tour, I would take the Ireland trip. I feel the Scotland trip misses the mark a bit up in the highlands where some of the best scenery is over on the Isle of Skye and down to Oban, but with only eight days there is no time to do that.. It completely misses Sterling Castle and Glasgow. Obviously, with just eight days it can’t go everywhere, but I personally skipped Loch Ness, and even the company that did my driving route for me said it wasn’t worth a stop. I did drive by it, and wasn’t sad I didn’t stop. Im a little surprised that RS says Blarney castle in Ireland is a tourist trap, but then the Scotland tour stops at Loch Ness which many people describe the same way. I’m also surprised that it leaves you to go to Edinburgh castle on you own. I did go in on my own, but I had been there before. Now, the Ireland tour doesn’t include the popular Kilmainham Jail in Dublin, or Newgrange which is not far from Dublin, but I think it does a better job of getting to the more scenic parts of the country. For instance, I really wanted to spend a couple nights in Dingle, but getting there was too time consuming by bus. I did a day trip from Killarney. Rick Steve’s is not a fan of Killarney, but the nearby lake and park are well worth a visit. The tour skips it, but does go to Glendalough, which is a beautiful area. So, in my opinion, the Ireland tour does a better job of the more scenic parts of the country, than the Scotland tour. I would happily go back to either place