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Best of Scotland Tour Aug. 7 - 16, 2019

First, I want to say that is was a great tour. Our tour guide Nigel, was the best. He was more of a well informed, helpful friend than a guide. The hotels, especially the Bonham in Edinburgh west end, were all top notch. We hit all of the high points. The tour is a good basis for another longer, self guided trip with more free time. I am not sure that I would go back to Scotland as it seems to rain everyday and it is always chilly. I like to vacation in warm sunny places.
I do have several ideas for improving the trip. First of all our hotel in Edinburgh, the very lovely Bonham, was 1.5 miles from and 260 feet above, the main attractions, Edinburgh Castle and High Street (the Royal Mile). After walking that distance and the elevation change, along with jet lag, my wife and I were exhausted. Not considering that it was raining, we were too tired to really enjoy the place. Wewere too tired to walk the additional mile (and back , uphill) to Holyrood castle and the Scottish parliament building. Later, we found that a cab ride up the hill from our hotel was 10 to 12 pounds.
SUGGESTION for Rick Steves Tours: First , instead of the early morning "death march" up the hill to High Street, arrange for a small bus or a group of cabs to shuttle the tour members and guide up the hill from the Bonham to High Street. This will cost less than 5 pounds per person; 4 to a cab. Then, give the tour up there. Point out where people can get a cab back to the hotel, if they like.. The tour will continue walking DOWN to the Scottish Museum and the Georgian House; then back to the hotel.
Second, skip Iona. Not enough time is spent there to really see and enjoy the place, considering the amount of time spent to get there. If you want to keep it, then add the option of some things to see in Oban. We did enjoy Markie Dans bar in Oban. It was only about 400 yards through the rain. The walk to the down town restaurants is 1.5 miles each way through the rain.
By the way, I did read that some of the walking would be strenuous. I didn't read that it would be exhausting. The climb up to the Royal Mile from the hotel, while "jet lagged", was not a good way to start. Otherwise, the walks into town at Inverness and Oban would have been pleasant had it not been for the rain. It's no fun to get drenched walking a mile in the rain to a restaurant, then have to walk back through the rain to your hotel.

Posted by
88 posts

I am sorry you didn’t enjoy Edinburgh more. We stayed at the Bonham both before the tour and as our first RS hotel and enjoyed the location in New Town. You will note that the walking is described as “Strenuous” for Day 2 of the tour described as “Conquering Edinburgh.” It is something you need to be prepared for, or talk to your guide and perhaps arrange to meet the guide in Old Town. There is a tram not far from the Bonham which will take you a few stops closer to Old Town, Just so everyone doesn’t think the walk is undoable, our group had no trouble with the Edinburgh walking tour and my husband and I walked to Old Town and Around New Town the day prior. We loved Edinburgh!

Posted by
1307 posts

It appears this was your first RS tour. I'm sorry you found Edinburgh physically exhausting, but looking at tour reviews I don't see others complaining about that.
I personally like all the walking, even when it sometimes pushes my limits. Rick Steves tours ARE active, and not for everyone.

Posted by
9716 posts

I, too, am glad you enjoyed the tour and also agree with the 2 others regarding the first day.

I think the days are fairly well represented as to the activity level. I did this tour last year and although we stayed in a different hotel (Brooks Guest House in the Fountainbridge area) I'd rate that day as strenuous. In general a morning walking tour of an arrival city is pretty strenuous on any RS tour. I also agree that if you feel tired then it's good to speak to the guide and they will help you get a cab back to your hotel.

It's also good to note that many of us who have done a number of RS tours always plan to arrive a day or two beforehand to get over jet lag and be able to hit the ground running when the tour starts. Hopefully for your next RS tour you will be able to do this!

Rain is always a consideration. After my first RS tour - Heart of Italy - when we did a walking tour in the drenching rain, I always have a waterproof rain jacket. On that one the guide tried to work it so we were under cover for any of the times when she was giving an explanation and also offered to show anyone who wanted where the restaurant was we were headed for if they didn't want to do the walking tour in the rain.

I will also admit that the Scotland tour was the only RS tour I've been on that I really wanted my waterproof pants! Totally got soaked on the Mull/Iona day when we walked back to the Oban lodging from the ferry port. Fortunately the hotel had those wonderful towel heaters and just setting my wet shoes on the floor under the rack dried them in a matter of hours.

I also do a lot of Road Scholar tours and they are sometimes not quite as active as Rick's tours.

Hope you enjoy your next trip!

Posted by
2018 posts

I was so glad to read you really enjoyed this tour and your guide. I took this tour last fall and really enjoyed it, too. Like Pam, I plan to arrive two and always at least one day before the tour starts to avoid that dreaded jet lag and I am sorry that so affected your first day of the tour. That can really set a tone. Rain is always a possibility on any tour so I try to be prepared for that. It poured on us in Oban, too, and it seemed like it took forever to walk back to our guest house! We were all soaked in spite of an assortment of umbrellas, rain jackets and hoods. Sometimes, " the best laid schemes o' mice and men gang oft awry......" by a famous local poet (😉) and even bringing rain gear and preparing for a downpour doesn't really help! I am glad you posted some ideas and suggestions here and hope you also added them all to your tour eval when you returned home. They really do pay attention to those and highly value input from their customers. Thanks for taking the time to post.