We are contemplating a Best of Scotland tour and would appreciate any ideas for pre or post extensions ... for say another 10 to 14 days...
A stretch of 10 to 14 days gives you plenty of options. Obviously you'll want to go somewhere the tour hasn't already covered. What are your interests? What time of year will it be? How many in your party and what's the age range (e.g., any kids? seniors? people with mobility limitations?)? Do you want to rent a car or use public transport?
I’d plan for a night or 2 in Edinburgh before and after .... then...
I, personally, would add in London for a week and 2 nights in York on the way to Edinburgh.
Since you don’t yet have a location listed I can’t guess as to what kind of air transport links you might have from your home. Do you have convenient flights to Edinburgh? I didn’t when I did the Best of Scotland so opted to fly in to London and out of Edinburgh putting the most connections at the end. If luggage goes astray on the way home it doesn’t mess up your trip - it just delays doing laundry, hahaha!!
If you have time and budget and haven’t been to London you could also consider doing the Rick Steves London tour back to back with the Scotland tour. I did the Villages of Southern England back to back and that combo was not a great choice for me. I was weary of castles by the time we ended the Scotland tour.
So, we are thinking Sept ... would love nice weather. We are active seniors. Would love to figure out a way to do at least a one day fishing adventure. We love nature and we love whiskey. Right now it is just the two of us ... celebrating 20 years married.
Pam, I haven't checked flights yet to know but we are in the US. We love small towns more then cities, but have done one other Rick Steves tour (Best of Italy) 15 years ago. We love that there is time to explore on your own and we loved being immersed in the culture. Hoping the Best of Scotland would give us that also. The villages of England sounds great (as I love castles) and was wondering if it would be a good add on ... I'm not very good at geography and haven't even looked at a map yet ... These are our very preliminary getting started on seeing what is available and would make the most sense. We love to fish, so adding a day out on the water would be wonderful. My husband is of Scottish heritage (the Campbell clan) so it is also cool that there is something with that clan in the trip Best of Scotland.
So what is it about Edinburgh that makes you say we should be there another couple of days?
Thank you so much for your input ... you sound very traveled.
I had a lot on my "list" to do in Edinburgh and didn't get to everything, lol! I wanted to see Rosslyn Chapel, the Botanical Gardens and Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia. I did get to spend more time in the National Museum of Scotland (quick visit at the end of our walking tour but it needed way more time, lol!) and in the area in and around Greyfriars Kirk and Kirkyard (JK Rowling got some of her character names from some of the headstones in this cemetery!). I would pick days afterward just because you've got a better idea of other things you might want to see after the tour.
I did not find there was very much independent time on the Best of Scotland. We had an afternoon in Edinburgh, a couple of hours in St Andrews (hint - get a quick lunch so you don't waste time getting fed and can spend time seeing the ruins, the town and the golf course if you are interested). Our tour stayed in Dunkeld on nights 3 and 4 and we had maybe a couple of hours between our daily agenda and dinner on day 4 for a quick walk along the river. Not much independent time on days 5, 6 or 7. Day 8 we had a truncated day in Iona due to weather. I suspect some get a couple hours free time here but we had to rush to catch the ferry back to Mull before it was halted due to high wind and surf - then back on the bus for the ride back to the Mull ferry dock. Day 9 there was time to see Stirling Castle on our own after an introduction by the guide but no time really to get down in to town.
The other tour was Villages of Southern England which starts in Canterbury (SE of London) and ends in Bath.
Again, not a tour with a lot of free time BUT the itinerary has changed a bit from last year so it looks like there is a bit more free time including an afternoon in Salisbury which I think would be great. I love Salisbury!
IF you are thinking September, I'd consider doing Scotland first while it is warmer and then heading south to the English southern Coast altho looking at the Villages of Southern England dates on the website, everything in September is filled. It looks like there might be some possibilities of match ups for back to back tours if you decide to do Best of Scotland and Best of England (which also has a lot of small villages). All of these tours are filling fast if you are considering Sept of this year.
Have a wonderful time figuring out what to do!
Clan Campbell? All right, I hope you will visit Inveraray Castle!
Inveraray is about 50 miles from Glasgow, so it makes a convenient day trip by bus or car. The current Duke of Argyll is Torquhil Ian Campbell. We actually met him in the castle's gift shop!
Rick does not get up to Orkney or Shetland. You can fly to either place from Edinburgh. They are really different from other parts of Scotland, but still very much Scotland. I've not been to Shetland, although it is on my list! I have been twice to Orkney and strongly recommend it. You could fly north, but then get back to Inverness and pick up a car and do the Scottish 500. This is a trip around the north of Scotland. I did it with my parents several years ago before it got a name. :) But there is spectacular scenery. And some interesting history around WWII and the Clearances.
You could also go west. A trip to Skye and then on to the Outer Hebrides would be a marvelous trip. You could see if you could get on one of the trips to St. Kilda. I saw a presentation on St. Kilda on Harris that was incredible.
Rick also doesn't do Aberdeenshire. This is a lovely area that has lots of castles, lots of whisky and stone circles. Have you seen Local Hero? Part of it was filmed on the coast of the Moray Firth in northern Aberdeenshire.
There is so much more to see of Scotland. Rick's tour gives a good intro, but there is lots more to see and do.
Thank you, I am so enjoying these responses from you three so far ... We are planning to go in 2021 ... so, please keep the info coming, you are so helping me in my research, as I had no idea where to even start! This is going to be Fun. What would be the best time of year to go (March is when we celebrate our 20 year anniversary, but thought it may be too cold)?
Because of the Campbell Clan ... I see Inveraray Castle is a must (thank you Eltd).
Fishing in Scotland sometimes requires a license or permission from land holders or fishing clubs; your best bet is to employ a fishing guide who can handle the particulars. Some Hotels or lodges have a resident guide. Go Campbells!
As to time of year....I don't see a location on your profile yet. We're a small group but it helps to know where you are coming from for weather advice.
I went last year in May for the Southern England part and in June for the Scotland part. I thought weather was pleasant temp-wise in June altho many in my group had coats on the whole time. Living in North Idaho I'm pretty cold tolerant but March might be early. I DID go to Paris the end of March this year and altho it's a bit different climate it was cool to chilly. Again, I was comfortable in long sleeves and/or a puffy vest while my fellow riders on the Paris Metro were still bundled up in heavy jackets, wool coats and wintry scarves. If you are considering March, I'd put a weather app on my phone with Edinburgh as one of the locations and keep track of the temps next March so you'll know whether that is too early for your comfort.
Since you are thinking 2021 you've got a lot of time to plan and watch the weather for this year and next.
Here is my trip report from Best of Scotland, June 2018.
Villages of Southern England, May 2018
There have been a couple of trip reports from April for this tour (that may be the earliest anyway?) so take a look at those for an idea on weather as well.
Since you aren't going until 2021, why don't you get Rick Steves book on Scotland and read up on what there is to see in Edinburgh and see if any of it interests you? We are spending 5 days pre-tour in Edinburgh prior to our RS Scotland tour this August and we've filled it with lots of things to do that interest us. To name a few: Literary Pub tour, Free Walking Tour, Harry Potter walking tour, St. Giles, Writer's museum, Real Mary's Close, Scotch Whisky Experience, Dinner at the Tower Restaurant, A fringe festival show- The dark Room, HolyRood Castle and Garden, Tea at Clarinda's, Dinner and a pub quiz at a local pub, a restaurant to try Haggis, Ceilidhs (Scottish square dancing) at a dance hall, a day trip out to Rossyln and Hadrian's Wall, The Book festival at Charlotte Square, The Georgian house, Military Tattoo and dinner package, visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia and visiting Calton Hill during the day and watching the fireworks at night. plus unique restaurants that interest us on Tripadvisor. all before our Rick Steve's tour starts.
After the tour, we are taking the train to York for a three days there, then to Cambridge for 2, then to London for a 4 days (been to London Several times, so don't need to do the full tourist circuit) to catch some theatre and gardens and then fly back to the US. That totals 14 days.
Also, read up on Tripadvisor for things to do, places to stay and experiences to book.
When we are in a place over 3 days, we rent an AirBnB, so check those places out too and research what area you want to stay in Edinburgh.
Derek, you'll have several opportunities to try haggis on tour as well. I'm vegan but I remember the restaurant the first night offered it (and you might easily go to a different restaurant than our guide chose) and I think it was the restaurant in Inverness as well.
I actually did try vegan haggis (I'm sure that's a contradiction, lol!!) at a restaurant in Edinburgh. It was pretty good but I'm sure tasted nothing like the original!
You'll also do a 1/2 day walking tour (really, I think ours lasted until about 1PM) on your first tour morning which will include time at Edinburgh Castle. Just throwing that out there in case your free walking tour duplicates where the local tour guide will take you.
Thanks for the info. We're saving Edinburgh Castle for the RS tour, as the tour description says they'll give us a tour of that and since our starting hotel is the Parliament, I figure they'll walk through New Town, to get there, so I can wait for the tour to do that area. You are right about not duplicating tours and sites so I'll play it by ear to see if we have time to visit the National Museum, but we'll try for dinner at the tower restaurant one night. Because we are going in August during the Fringe Festival, Military Tattoo, Book Festival and International Festival, Edinburgh will be crowded, so I think its better to have reservations/advance tickets at some of the places, but that hampers the spontaneity . That's the ultimate traveler dilemma: spontaneity vs. confirmed reservations/tickets in advance.
I'm an over planner, but it's served me well during my travels. I'm counting down the days to our tour date.