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Best of Scotland Trip Report

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.

Good Stuff
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.

Other Commentary
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.

Posted by
1393 posts

Enjoyed the report. Maybe next time try a My Way Tour, get the best of both. Travel & lodging taken care of & you can pick what you want or not want to do and or see.

Posted by
3355 posts

Thanks for this report. We are heading to Scotland for the first time, next month. I can’t wait to see it for myself!
Just curious, what about this tour makes you think RS tour may not be right for you? It sounds like you weren’t too impressed with the guide.

Posted by
31 posts

Thanks for such an informative report! I'm signed up to take this tour in October, and I'm really looking forward to it. I had noticed in the itinerary that the day we go to Oban has four hours on the bus, so I appreciate the heads up to expect arriving in Oban after some things have closed. Hoping that traveling in the shoulder season means that Edinburgh Castle won't be quite as crowded.

Posted by
6 posts

@diveloonie - I'd very likely still recommend the tour to most people, don't get me wrong. And the guide was very knowledgeable; I was so impressed with the depth and breadth of history and cultural information they provided. I just didn't connect in the way I felt other people did but...maybe that was just my read.

For me, personally, I would have liked some more active/strenuous options, as I didn't find the moderate/strenuous labels on the days to fit my expectation of those labels. Also, and I sincerely hope this doesn't come out wrong, I'd like to be in a group closer to my age group and/or who might have more of my interests, which I think may just be a hard fit. I'm not a twenty-something that wants to paraglide and climb rock walls and such, but I found I also wanted to move more than I could do on some of the days. RS tours have a good reputation for people traveling solo, so I thought it would be a good first tour for me, and I think it was overall. Now I just know better what my likes/dislikes are.

The people I traveled with were really great - funny, kind and smart, all of them. I think one could easily find friends and fun on any tour, if the group is as friendly and outgoing as the one I was in.

It may be that the My Way tours are the right combo for me. I'll be planning next year's vacation over the next few months, I'm sure, and maybe I'll go that route!

Posted by
166 posts

My wife & I start the RS Scotland tour on 7/1, from your report I think we’re going to have a great time! This is our 5th RS tour and the reason we keep taking them is that I like the people I meet on every tour, they just seem to be folks who enjoy the more simple things in life. I have found that the more I try to learn my tour mates names and a little about their interests the more fun I have on the tour. Thanks for the tour report, next take the Greece tour, it is amazing!!!!

Posted by
14249 posts

Thanks for the Trip Report! I must have been right behind you tour-wise.

I loved the Crannog Center and wow, the Cawdor Castle gardens knocked my socks off. We walked a little out to the river and in the woodlands and wished we had had more time out there. I liked the Castle itself, but in retrospect, wish we had skipped that and headed straight for the gardens/woodlands. My forester brother was very happy with the huge sequoias back in there!

Posted by
788 posts

Thanks for posting this. We're not signed up yet, but we'll very likely take this tour next May. Our son plans a semester abroad in Edinburgh, so, being responsible parents, we'll have to visit. ;-)

We've taken two previous RS tours and enjoyed them very much. We've had two wonderful groups of fellow travelers, a number of whom we keep in touch with on Facebook. Traveling in early summer, our tours have had a pretty wide range of ages, all the way from young teens to late 70s-early 80s. On our VFR tour last May, the group seemed to bond with each other from the very first meeting and not a grump in the bunch. It was a special group and they made the trip even more special.

Our son, now 20, was on both tours. As a 19-year-old last year, he traveled with us as an adult. Rather than pay the single supplement, we told him he'd have to take potluck on roommates. As it turned out, the other single males either roomed with their family members or had paid the supplement, so our son ended up getting his own room, anyway. While no one complained at all, I did hear that the other singles seemed to have the smallest, simplest rooms. It sounded like our son scored better rooms, including a very cool, peaceful, solitary roost on the roof of the Hotel San Carlo in Rome. More stairs to reach it, of course, but he's young and strong! Just luck of the draw, I think, but he was happy with the arrangements.

Posted by
681 posts

Great report. I just went on my first tour to Greece with a different company. I felt the same way you did as I am usually an independent traveler. We saw many things, the group was nice but just something missing. The singles in our group complained about the rooms they were given and I found the food just so-so. Where are you going next and do you plan to go independently?

Posted by
6 posts

@Nancy - haven't picked out my next destination yet. I really want to do Sweden, Denmark and The Netherlands. But I also have a rough outline for 10 days or so mainly based in Strasbourg, day-tripping to places of interest from there via train. And, I've never done England, so would like to spend a few days in London and then maybe out in the Cotswolds. Those are my top three options right now.

I did a self-drive tour in Ireland, and liked that - the company arranged my rental car and lodging, and gave me like 60 pages of options for sites to see each day and between cities/stops. That way we could decide if it was a castle day, a garden day, a hike day, a pub day, or all of the above.

I would probably do a tour again, but not sure if my next trip will be one.