I just returned from my first ever RS tour, Best of Scotland. This was my first tour; I've done a few other European destinations on my own. This time, I was traveling alone and didn't want to tackle all the driving solo.
Edinburgh, in general - I loved this city. I went a couple days early, and stayed in a rental in Stockbridge Colonies, and would recommend this area for a stay; just know it's a bit of a hike to the Royal Mile and such. I wanted the walking, but it's not for everyone. This was a really lovely little neighborhood, right near the botanical gardens. If you like gardens, it's definitely worth a visit. In Stockbridge, I greatly enjoyed the Smith and Gertrude wine bar for dinner, and found pretty handmade jewelry as a souvenir at Annie Smith. Holyrood Palace was also worth a visit.
The walking tour of Edinburgh was good, as was the local guide. The Crannog visit in Kenmore was interesting and educational, better than I expected. Culloden has an excellent museum display, and it was very moving to wander the battlefield and reflect on the tragic history. Inverness was a fun little city, and tour friends and I really enjoyed a wee pub crawl, including great live music at The Gellions. The Loch Ness boat ride and Urquhart Castle were highlights; Urquhart is a beautiful site for photography. The Cawdor Castle stop was great for garden-lovers. Isles of Mull and Iona were also highlights for me - we had a great bus driver for the trip across Mull, very entertaining, and the scenery was beautiful. Iona was a great way to while away an afternoon, atmospheric and lovely. Stirling Castle was also a great stop, not over-crowded, good exhibits and well-preserved.
Not as Good Stuff
Edinburgh Castle was WAY too crowded with large tour groups to really enjoy. I also, personally, did not enjoy the sheepdog demo. The chairlift stop in Glencoe was just meh, I'd rather have had the opportunity to walk some of the many trails visible. At least the scenery was gorgeous overall, but this was a long bus day with little activity to enjoy. We ended up in Oban late enough that many things were closed, and with the next day fully consumed by the trip to Iona, we never really got to enjoy Oban itself.
Hotels and Food
The Bonham in Edinburgh was great, though a bit slow with breakfasts. The food was good though. The Kenmore is very old and a bit shabby. Clean, but limited amenities and my shower didn't work the whole time (the bath still worked, at least). Dinner was okay, but not enough food, and breakfast was not very good. Glenmoriston in Inverness was very good, and food was good. Glenburnie in Oban was also very nice, with excellent breakfasts. Ee Usk in Oban comes highly recommended for dinner, but it was just okay, IMO. Oban Fish and Chips was every bit as good as you'll hear though! Final night dinner was also excellent, great high-end food.
Besides a teenager, I was the youngest by a bit (mid-forties). Being younger and solo, it was pretty much a given my room would be smaller, and up the most stairs. I was prepared for that, but it was disappointing to be told that as a solo it was highly unlikely I'd ever get the "good" room. None of my rooms were too small to support a couple, after all. I also didn't feel like I had the same experience with my guide that others did, in that the guide did not seem very engaged in getting to know me as much as with some of the others.
Weather just can't be predicted in Scotland, I found. Just bring a waterproof jacket and shoes, and soldier on.
Having never been on a tour, I was a little apprehensive about traveling with strangers, but by and large, people were warm and friendly, and I'd happily travel with some of them again. I would also travel solo again on a tour, just not yet sure that RS is the right tour for me overall. TBD, I guess. Still a great experience overall, and I just LOVED Scotland. Loved it.