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RS Scotland Tours - 8-day vs. 13-day tours?

Any tips or wisdom to share on the choice between the two Scotland tours currently offered by Rick Steves – the "Best of Scotland" in 13 days vs. the "Heart of Scotland" in 8 days tours?
Why do people seem to avoid the June and July tour dates?
What travel or exploration would you recommend tacking on to the front or end of either Scotland tour? We usually like to travel for a week or so before or after a tour.

Posted by
247 posts

If it were me I would choose the 13 day tour because you see something of the dramatic scenery on the west coast of Scotland too and have the opportunity to visit Iona.

I don't know why people would avoid the June and July dates although the UK school holidays may have a bearing on people doing so? I can't speak for elsewhere in the UK but a quick internet search showed me Scottish schools begin their main summer holiday on 29 June this year.

Posted by
25613 posts

Avoiding June-July tours may well be an effort to avoid crowds. However, the only place I went in Scotland (July 2019) where crowds were an issue was Edinburgh. Finding lodging--even months in advance--is a challenge in many places in the islands (and possibly elsewhere), but if you're on an RS tour, lodging will have been arranged, so that will not be a worry for you.

Some folks might be worried about heat, but the risk of a significant heat wave is quite low. I checked the climate-summary chart in the Wikipedia entry for Oban, and it says the record high temperature in that town is only 81F. Although the record in Edinburgh is much higher, just under 90F, the monthly average high temperatures there do not even reach 67F!

It is true that the statistics say you're likely to have more rain in June or July than in April or May. The fact is, Scotland is rather wet no matter what month you go.

For me, a major plus of June/July trips is the length of the days. You'll have lots of daylight hours for sightseeing. And my view is that if I'm going to get wet in Scotland, I'd prefer that it happen on a warmer day. Even traveling in July, I had one rather chilly, wet day in addition to milder days when it rained.

Posted by
1133 posts

Could it be the prevalence of midges during June and July? I don’t know 🤷‍♂️. I was there end of August and September and only encountered midges (mosquitos) on one very short hike in Glen Afric.

Posted by
1597 posts

Definitely the 13 day tour - you get to see so much more of Scotland.

I'm surprised that people tend to avoid June and July. June is one of my favourite times to visit Scotland. Weather tends to be good, the wild flowers are in flower and you get very long days too.

Taking on extra time either before or after the tour - chose either Dumfries and Galloway OR Borders and Northumberland. These are areas not covered on the tour and are also places not on the usual tourist tick list BUT popular with 'those in the know'. You could easily spend a week in either of these places. Have a look at Undiscovered Scotland for ideas (and lots of pictures)

Dumfries and Galloway has some superb scenery, worthy of the Scottish Highlands around Glen Trool. It also has the Mull of Galloway with Logan Botanic Garden (one of the best gardens in Scotland) or the Logan fish pond (go and hand feed the fish!) There are the ruined abbeys of Glenluce, Sweatheart and Dundrennan. There are the ruined castles of Cardonness, Carsluith, MacClelland's Tower. There are the prehistoric Cairnholy Cairns. There is the early Christian heritage of Whithorn and Wigtown which markets itself as a Book Town. The Gem Rock Museum in Creetoiwn is wonderful and worth finding. There are small villages to explore - Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbright, Gatehouse of Fleet. ...

The Borders have the great ruined Abbeys of Melrose, Dryburgh and Jedburgh as well as some of the best stately homes in Scotland (Traquair House, Floors Castle, Manderston, Mellerstein ...) There are ruined castles at Dirleton and Tantallon. The coast is worth exploring too with places like Dunbar and North Berwick.

Northumberland has the coast, Cheviot and Hadrian's Wall. You can visit the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, reached by tidal causeway, or do a boat trip to the Farne Islands., There is Bamburgh Castle and also Alnwick Castle with its stunning modern garden. There are the ruined castles of Dunstanburgh or Warkworth. Alternatively there is Cragside, the C19th house of a Victorian industrialist and inventor and often described as the 'house where modern living began....'