Our family of four will be in Edinburgh in mid-August. I'd like to receive some recommendations regarding a 1-day (can be a long day) guided tour of the countryside of Scotland. We'd like a small group with an engaging leader and we'd like to get out of the bus every once in a while to walk. We'd like to see lochs, fine villages, maybe some castles, moors, and I, for one, would like to see some heather! (Always wanted to genuinely see some heather on the hill!). What does the wisdom of this fine group suggest? Thanks!
I went on the Rabbies tour to the highlands. It was a long but fun day. I would recommend looking at their tour options (rabbies.com).
I want to second the Rabbie's tours. We enjoyed two of these. Everything you described - small group (under 16), lots of time "off the bus " for walking around and visiting, multiple sites in a day. Rabbie's does not herd you around. Rather, Rabbie's takes you to sites and you roam at your own pace once there. Friendly drivers talk with you while en route, providing humourous stories and helpful information. They like talking with travelers.
The last time we were in Edinburgh we used Highland Experience for 2 different day trips (Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond and Glengoyne Distillery was one, and Rosslyn, Melrose Abbey and Alnwick Castle was the other). Our group was small as was the bus, the guides were very knowledgeable and entertaining, and we had plenty of time to explore the sights on our own.
Too bad the heather won't be blooming when you're there, but you'll have a great time nonetheless. We'll be there ourselves in September.
I've seen many gorgeous heather stands in August. I doubt you'll have any problem finding any!
August is when the heather blooms so you should be good. It is absolutely gorgeous.
Guess I was just unlucky in 2005 when I was there the beginning of August - the locals told me I had missed the peak blooming time around Edinburgh by about a month, and that trip we didn't get up into the Highlands. Of course it's probably like trying to time peak Cherry Blossoms where I am near Washington, DC - weather can make a big difference. All our subsequent trips to Scotland have been mid to late September and early October, so I've still managed to miss the most vivid heather stands. But to console myself (that's the excuse I gave to my husband) I bought a couple of pieces of Heather Gems jewelry with the "stones" made of actual heather that has been dyed, pressed, and polished.
But blooming heather or not, I can't wait to get back there.
Hmmm, Mary, I don't think that the locals who you spoke were very knowledgable botanists. :) There are many, many varieties of heather, and indeed it will vary from Edinburgh to the north, but in general, the boom starts in July and goes through August. By the beginning of September, it's not always as spectacular, but still good. Somewhere in September it starts to fade. Here's what Visit Loch Ness has to say.
Pamela, maybe due to weather the heather bloomed earlier than normal around Edinburgh in 2005, and the locals meant I had missed it for that year. Your right though, whenever we've been in the Highlands in late September it's mostly faded out.
I know that there are a lot of different varieties of heather. When my daughter got married last Fall, the florist was able to get some to include in her bouquet. In fact I noticed a local supplier selling Italian Heather plants that are supposed to do well in Virginia. Think I'll have to get one or two.
I purchased one of the Heather Gem necklaces too! A lovely little souvenir of Scotland. Sorry you missed out on the heather that year.