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RS Scotland tour - a couple questions

I have started planning what to see in Edinburgh before our tour begins. I am assuming the guided Royal Mile walk that is part of the RS tour is an overview with no stops along the way. Am I correct? I have Gladstone’s Land on my “pre-tour” list and didn’t want to duplicate anything. On my list, too, are a walk through New Town with a stop at Georgian House. I notice the first night of the tour lists a “tour of Georgian Edinburgh.” Is that a walk through New Town?

Second question: I’m not a shopper but must come home with a few gifts. Anyone have a favorite place along the tour to buy some Scottish mementos that are useful (as opposed to tourist kitsch) and fairly priced? Or should I wait until I get back to the airport, assuming there is a duty free shop there?

Thanks!

Posted by
64 posts

I just found Martha’s scrapbook and she mentions a tour of New Town after the welcome meeting. One questioned answered. Thanks, Martha! 😉

Posted by
7736 posts

The Royal Mile walk was actually much more than that and included a visit to the Castle and ended at the National Museum of Scotland with the guide taking us to a few exhibits to continue to discuss Scottish history.

Our tour stayed at Brooks Hotel in the Fountainbridge area. Some of the tours stay in the New Town area so I assume their tours see some different things. Our guide walked us thru the Toll Cross area then by the George Heriot school to the Grassmarket area. Up some steps to the Royal Mile and in to the Castle. After our time there, we walked down the Royal Mile to about the St Giles Cathedral area, zigzagged around a bit, came across George IV Bridge past Elephant House (where J.K.Rowling did some of her writing) and ended at the National Museum going up in the new area with the Scottish History collection. This was by far our longest walking day.

We did go over to "tour" New Town before dinner but really it was just walking down Rose St with the guide pointing out places for coffee and lunch which didn't seem helpful based on where our hotel was located. In my eval I suggested that for future tours staying at Brooks perhaps they might have a better "neighborhood" orientation walk. IF your tour is staying in one of the hotels near or in New Town the walk would be perfect.

I traveled with my brother and SIL and we were in Edinburgh several days ahead and a couple of days after the tour. On our first pre-tour day we walked the Royal Mile and my brother spotted a shop with Harris Tweed. He tried on a vest liked it but decided to look at other places along the tour. He is NOT a shopper so I was surprised he was considering it. He did not find better prices or a nicer vest so came back to purchase it in the end and yes, he has worn it all winter. Frankly I was worried because we were pretty much tourist central but the items were all gen-u-ine Harris Tweed and the staff in the shop was very nice. This might be more expensive than you want though.

Altho I also am not much of a shopper there were cute shops all along the tour. St Andrews is filled with them and you have a couple of hours there to see the sights. On that day you'll stop at Culross House (very cool) and there are some neat shops nearby. There are shops at nearly every major site including the Crannog! There was a very cute shop at one of our rest stops that had funny Highland Cows on items. My SIL got a cute shopping bag but neither of us can remember where exactly that was. Don't worry. There are neat places all along and I'd pick things up as you go. You'll have plenty and not have to get stuff at the airport. Oh!!! I am NOT a whisky drinker but I tasted some whisky with honey at one of the shops at Stirling Castle and wow! I bought a bottle of that to bring home and it's still as good as on that chilly, rainy day!

Have you read any of the Alexander McCall Smith 44 Scotland Street series? It's so funny to visit Edinburgh and walk by locations he mentions.

Posted by
741 posts

Kathy: What date is your tour? My wife and I are on the April 29-May 8 tour, as are a couple of other people on the forum.

Posted by
22 posts

Kathy,
My wife and I are on the April 24-May 3 Best of Scotland tour. I don't know if the following information will impact your visit, but I noticed that the wording for visiting Edinburgh Castle had changed slightly for this year. It sounded like we would be visiting the castle on our own, and not with the tour, so I emailed the RS office in December and got this reply:

"Thank you for your email. In the past, we have entered the castle as a group, but this year it may end up being something tour members do at their leisure, after our morning walking tour of the Old Town. Tickets for the castle will still be included with the tour price if we do stop visiting as a group.
Going as a group has its advantages, but the tickets don't allow for re-entry, so people who want stay longer have to opt out of the rest of the walking tour, or else buy themselves a new ticket. There are also those who find that the amount of time given to explore is more than enough, so simply providing tickets for people to visit at their leisure solves both issues. There are other considerations as well, but in short, we want to offer the best experience and make the best use of your limited time in Edinburgh. Again, a ticket to Edinburgh Castle would be included for you either way, and if it does end up being "at your leisure", you will still have a walking tour of Edinburgh's Old Town and the guide will orient the group for visiting the castle on their own."

As you can see, it was still up in the air at the time, and I haven't done a follow-up since then.

Hope this helps.
Doug

Posted by
741 posts

Mr. Woods: Thanks for that information. I was unsure how the castle visit was handled and didn't know about the re-entry policy. Appreciate you posting this.

Posted by
710 posts

I found that the gift shop at the National Museum of Scotland had many unique, made-in Scotland gifts, [light-weight], at reasonable prices: wool and cashmere scarves, beautiful linen dish towels, small pottery dishes with scenes of Skye, water color notecards, etc.
At the duty-free airport shops: British-made Jo Malone cologne, which is SO much more expensive in the USA, and only sold in high-end stores here. Also, British-made Cadbury chocolates use a different recipe than they are allowed to sell in the USA, and taste so much better. And let's not forget UK tea!
Safe travels!

Posted by
7736 posts

Pat reminded me that the National Museum DOES have a lovely gift shop. If you use a credit card there you do need a picture ID. I did not have my passport with me as I had left it in the hotel room and didn't have my driver's license either as it was lodged with my passport. Dumb mistake on my part as I normally carry my passport with me at all times but that day I didn't! I'm also less prone to carrying it with me when I am on a city tour on an RS tour...so lesson learned.

I did have enough cash for a beautiful ceramic coaster made by a local artist. It also had the advantage that it was light and very packable, lol!!

Posted by
1086 posts

I love to buy linen kitchen towels as gifts as they are easy to pack. National Trust sites and museums have wonderful designs. My sister always requests a local newspaper from wherever I travel and these make unique gifts. Also, large department stores usually have a 'gifts for tourists' section with a very good quality selection.

Posted by
549 posts

When we walked the Royal Mile from the Castle down to the National Museum, I stopped at a few shops to look at scarves and a few other things. Towards the bottom, one shop had the same items at lower prices. I commented on this to the shop girl, who was an American studying in Edinburgh. She said basically, the further from the main action, the castle, the fewer tourists, and hence lower prices.

Posted by
64 posts

Thank you for all the useful information!

Pam, we are at The Bonham hotel, which seems to be right next to New Town.

Stoutfella, we are on the same tour! My husband and I look forward to meeting you.

Mr. Woods, interesting response from RS. I am not sure which option would be better - guided or unguided - but either will work.

Pam, Pat, Laurie and va - thank you for the shopping info. The Museum is on our list, so I will definitely stop in the gift shop (with passport 😉) and it sounds like I will be able to pick up fun things all along the way. I have a Harris Tweed flat cap, Pam, and look forward to seeing other merchandise. I recently watched a show about bespoke garments in London on Acorn TV and they visited a small weaver on who made the cloth.

Posted by
7736 posts

Oh yes, The Bonham will be much more convenient to New Town! I did not particularly like the location of the Brooks.

Posted by
10 posts

Kathy, thanks for the reference to my scrapbook. We also stayed at the Bonham and we had a nice walk about in New Town the first evening. I hope you have the good weather we did! It is a great tour.

Posted by
64 posts

I noticed that great sunshine in your photos, Martha. Fingers crossed 🤞 that we do as well with the weather.

Posted by
741 posts

Kathy: edgefield and terilowe60 are on the same tour and have posted here with questions and comments re: Scotland. I notice you’re in North Carolina. So are edgefield and her husband. Small world.

Our son has been in Edinburgh since early January, spending a semester at the University. We’ll see him for a bit before and after the tour. This will be our third RS tour and are very much looking forward to it.

Cheers!

Posted by
104 posts

The National Gallery Modern 1 and 2 are a short walk from the Bohnam, almost right around the corner. Also a short walk to Dean Village and then the Waters of Leith path. I took this tour a few years ago. No stop at Charlotte House or Gladstone on that tour.

Posted by
64 posts

Thanks! I will look up these sights near the Bronham.

Posted by
64 posts

We will have to use screen names in our introductions 😁

Posted by
25 posts

Pissarro, thank you for your note about the Path of Leigh being close. I thought about a walk there on one of my pre-tour days. I picked up a pocket book by Lonely Planet on Edinburgh that has so many ideas as well as small maps of each part of Edinburgh. Would also like to go to the Botanic Gardens.

Kathy, I’m also on the same tour as you. I liked the answers you got about shopping places along the tour.

Posted by
856 posts

The shops on Iona (there are two or three) near the ferry landing had some really lovely stuff.

Also, go into a supermarket and check out what they have in the way of reusable shopping bags. I got a couple of bags at the Tesco in Oban that are remarked on all the time at my local Safeway. Not only are they useful, I also get to remember Scotland every Saturday when we do our shopping!

Posted by
64 posts

Thanks for the tips, Teresa. Looking forward to meeting you, Terrilowe!