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Ireland, Over the Sea to Skye and London

I apologize in advance for the length. Take your time or save it for a rainy day.
Day 1 and 2
We started our trip on Thursday, September 5th at the airport in Austin, Texas. Actually, we started on July 4 of 2018. Our friends, Joe and Sharon came over for lunch on Independence Day and we started talking about going to Ireland. I pulled out some Rick Steves tour videos of Ireland and we watched them, talked about what was on the tour, got excited, but then fell asleep (after eating too much steak) and dreamed of our RS tour of Ireland. We set a date and signed up for the 4 of us and Sharon’s Aunt Donna. So then the planning starts. We always try to add on to the trip to maximize our airplane expense. My husband, David and I wanted to include Scotland since he has a family heritage of Scots/Irish. Then we threw in a few days in London just for good measure. So we had our dates set up and started looking for airfare, tours, hotels and the most important thing…what’s the best thing to buy in those countries.

The 4 of us flew from Austin to JFK where we met up with Aunt Donna (who was a delight) and then journeyed on to Dublin. We arrived in Dublin and I picked the wrong line to go through customs. Joe, Sharon and Donna whisked right through within 5 minutes. We had to wait while 2 different women tried using Google translator to answer questions in English because they didn’t speak the language. I always manage to pick the wrong line everywhere I go. I’m just not a good queue picker. Fifteen to twenty minutes later we emerge on the other side of customs where we can finally use the restroom. We get our Euros from the ATM and head outside to catch bus #700 Leopardstown route which is close to our hotel. I didn’t realize that there is luggage storage under the bus, so I lug my suitcase into the bus. There were men sitting close by that were speaking Gaelic. So we listened and tried to pick out a word here or there, but there was nothing recognizable. After leaving the bus it was a short 2 minute walk to our hotel Buswell’s.
Travel Advice Alert… When you initially sign up for a Rick Steves tour, they send you the names of your starting and ending hotel. When you get that information, immediately book at least 2 nights pre-tour at the hotel. I got information about the prices right away, but did not book. I waited until I had figured out all my plans for the entire trip and then booked. Big mistake. The price went up about 100 Euros. You can always cancel if it doesn’t fit your plans, but at least you’ve got it booked. Buswell’s is a very nice hotel. Our room and the bathroom were both large. Our room looked out on the street and it was a little noisy with the windows up, but we slept fine. A nice gesture was a complimentary cup of tea upon arrival.
After dropping our luggage off we walked around the city for a while, then stopped for lunch at a pub called J Sheehans. After lunch we went to the Archeology museum which is right across the street from our hotel. My brain was getting pretty fuzzy from jet lag by this time so I asked a docent where the brooch of Tara was. I was led through several rooms before getting to the room that contained the brooch. We also saw the Cross of Cong and several other beautiful pieces. The front area of the museum had some beautiful gold neck circlets and “bog bodies”. I would have to say that the dudes that were dug up and put in a museum could probably have been left in the bogs. No one wants to look at that. RIP little guy. After our visit to the museum. We were able to check in to our room. We took a nap, unpacked a little and settled in to our room. Supper was some cups of tea and packaged shortbread cookies that we found in our room. It hit the spot. We found a small oscillating fan and called it a day.

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Day 3
Today is my 66th Birthday. It is the 4th time that I’ve celebrated in Europe. We have an additional free day to get over jet lag before the tour starts tomorrow afternoon. I like mountains and gardens so I found a day tour out of Dublin that went to Powerscourt Gardens and Glendaloch. We ate breakfast and found the Molly Malone statue where our bus picked us up. We did the tour in reverse and headed to Glendloch first. There was a 700 year old stone tower in perfect condition. It was surrounded by a cemetery with beautiful Celtic headstones (no bog bodies here). There were several buildings to walk around, then our guide said there was a beautiful lake about 20-25 minutes down the path. Then he gave us an hour to walk to the lake and back and then get to the bus. It was a very fast walk to a non-descript lake and back, but we made it on time. I wish I had skipped the lake and walked around the beautiful, peaceful cemetery and buildings. I was hot and sweaty by the time I got on the bus. We had to wait for 1 couple who showed up 20 minutes late and showed no remorse. I’m sure they felt the daggers flying out of my eyes. We had a cafeteria style lunch in the town of Laragh. After lunch we took the scenic route (this means bumpy and windy) through the Wicklow mountains. We stopped at several scenic spots and places where movies had been made. Our guide was an extra in the tv drama “Vikings”. We stopped at the “P.S. I love you” bridge right after a young man had proposed to a young lady. We congratulated and hugged the cute couple. Then we visited Powerscourt. This is a beautiful formal garden. My favorite part was the Japanese gardens. They were laid out beautifully and the maples had some great color. Then it was back to Dublin for a quick nap. For dinner that evening we had wine and cheese at the bar of Buswell’s. It was 20 euros for 2 people and had a lovely selection of Irish cheeses, fruit and crackers. Travel Advice Alert… Irish cheese is fabulous, especially the Cashel Blue. It was a great way to spend a birthday!

Day 4
Our “Best of Ireland” tour starts this afternoon at 5:00 so we had a few hours to fill until then. What’s the best way to spend time in Dublin? Beer. My husband David and Joe like Guinness, so after a church service we head to the Storehouse. The tour here is very well done. There are lots of people touring at any one time, but they are spread out over 7 floors so it is manageable. There are signs to read or videos to watch and then you have a small taste of the brew. I always try the beer and I think that one day I might find one that I want to drink. Nope. Then you head up to the Gravity Bar for your included glass of Guiness. By now we were hungry, so we headed to one of the restaurants on site and had a delightful meal. Travel Advice Alert… if you don’t like beer try Cider. There were several I tried on this tour and they were all good.

Our group met in a room at the hotel. Our wonderful guide Joe Darcy had everyone stand up and introduce themselves. We had 27 tour mates + Joe. About half had previously been on a Rick Steves tour. As an ice breaker we had to get ourselves in line based on the first letter of our name. Then we did the “name game” by everyone saying everybody’s name. We also picked our buddy by choosing the person next to us in line. My buddy was Ingrid from Washington. David had Joe Darcy for a buddy. Then we walked a few blocks to Mulligan’s restaurant for dinner that included a glass of wine.

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Day 5
Today was a walking tour of Dublin. The highlight for me was the book of Kells. I can’t imagine the hours that monks would spend on artwork and writing all the words of scripture. And this was before “white-out”. If you make a mistake, you have to start from scratch on a new piece of vellum which is actually calfskin. You don’t just walk to the Staples store for another package. You walk out into a beautiful library where all the books are stacked with large books at the bottom and small ones on top. We also learned about the history of Dublin, Ireland and how they finally rid themselves of the Evil English. In 16 days of visiting Ireland I didn’t find a single person who had something nice to say about the English. I also learned that the Irish do not pronounce the “th” sound like we do. It is just a hard “T” sound. So our leader Joe asked if we knew who was king during the American Revolutiion. We all answered King George. Not quite, he says. It was George the Turd (third). We all got a chuckle out of that. Our Dublin walk ended at ChristChurch, so we visited it and then walked to lunch. My daughter visited Dublin 2 years ago and said we had to visit Bunsen Burgers, so that is where we headed for lunch. He had a very good burger with chips (fries). We walked a little more then headed to our hotel for a rest. Supper was wine and cheese at Buswell’s.

Day 6
We head to Kilmainham Gaol (jail) first on our way out of town. It is most famous for the executions of political prisoners after the Easter uprising. After the tour here we head to Cashel for lunch at a cafeteria. Then we walk up the hill to the Rock of Cashel. It is the ruins of a cathedral which was beautiful in its day. It still is striking, with lots of gorgeous architectural details. The vistas are filled with iconic fields delineated by rock walls. A few hours later we arrive in Kinsale. Our bus won’t fit on the streets so a hotel van takes our luggage and we walk for about 15 minutes to the Friar’s hotel. Luckily, our room is on the main floor just across from the lobby. Our room has a Queen bed and 2 singles. The bathroom is also good sized. We walk about 30 minutes that evening to dinner at Man Friday’s. Dinner was wonderful, but David slipped on the wet sidewalks on the way back to the hotel. Luckily, it wasn’t a serious fall.

Day 7
Irish breakfasts are like the ones in England and Scotland. If you want the whole breakfast it will feed an army. It includes cereal, eggs, toast, bacon (think Canadian bacon) sausage, beans, grilled tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, toast, jam and black pudding which looks like a hockey puck. I usually just asked for eggs and bacon to go with my tea. The tea which could probably float a battleship is usually black tea. It’s just a lot stronger than I make my tea at home. It’s a good excuse to add some delicious cream. This type of breakfast is available every day of the tour. So, you will not go hungry unless you sleep in.

We started our walking tour of Kinsale. It was cloudy with an occasional light sprinkle all morning, but the afternoon was glorious sunshine. Today was 9/11 and we visited the 9/11 Garden of Remembrance outside of Kinsale. A nurse from this area worked in NYC and rendered aid to people on that terrible day. She came home and planted 1 tree for every fireman who lost their life that day (over 300) It was a very moving tribute to our American heroes. One of our tour members started us in singing the National Anthem. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one with tears that morning. It was comforting to know that people all over the world cried with us on that awful day 18 years ago. The great thing about RS tours is that the guides can customize the tours somewhat. Thank you to local guide Barry for taking us

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Our Kinsale tour continued at Charles Fort. It was an interesting star-shaped 17th century fort. After our tour we had the afternoon free. Barry, our city guide had a unique hat that was called a skipper hat. David and our friend Joe just had to have one like it. We spent the rest of the tour going in to every type of shop looking for a skipper hat. Now, I’ll add a mystery to this story. . . Do David and Joe find the elusive Skipper hat? Keep reading for the answer.

Our afternoon was spent wandering the very colorful town of Kinsale. I would love to have the Paint shop in town. Every business tried to out-do each other with bright paint. Today, the sun brought out all the delicious colors. After a forgettable meal at the White House we met most of our tour mates at a Pub and enjoyed some local musicians.

Day 8
Dingle, here we come. Today we had 4-5 hours on the bus. Everywhere we went we saw green and yellow flags flying. Our leader Joe Darcy tells us that this part of Ireland is Kerry country. We were previously in Dublin country. These 2 teams would be meeting in 2 days for the Finals in Gaelic Football. These are non-professional regional teams that play each other throughout the year. On the previous Saturday these 2 teams played the Championship game and it ended in a tie, so the game coming up is Championship #2. Joe is a Dublin fan, so it is killing him to see all the Kerry paraphernalia in his face. It was most peculiar that additional Kerry fan objects mysteriously showed up on the coach. Which evil tour member/s brought this aboard? No one ‘fessed up. Who won the Gaelic Football Championship? We’ll find out in a few days.
Kenmare was our lunch stop. David and I found a French bakery shop called Maison Gourmet. We had a fabulous ham a cheese croissant. Then David finished it off with his favorite pastry, chocolate éclair. He smiled the rest of the day. Next stop was the Kissane Sheep Farm. We watched as the sheep dog responded to whistles and literally flew across the hills and valleys rounding up the sheep. She was amazing. Then we took a short hike to Torc waterfall which was beautiful. We then headed to beautiful Dingle Bay. We stayed at Milltown House which is fabulous. We lucked out and had a great view of the bay. The downside to the great view is that this hotel is not in the center of town. Our guide compensated by hiring cars/taxi’s to get us to and fro. Our group dinner was stew, potatoes and salad at the hotel. Normally a musical group entertains at the hotel this night, but they had a problem and couldn’t make it. So, Joe paid for transportation for everyone to head to a pub for some music.

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Day 9
This was my favorite day of the tour. Mother Nature outdid herself. First stop was Dingle Crystal and the amazing talent of Sean Daly. I will be shopping later! Next we head to the Slea Head Drive. Words can’t describe how beautiful the scenery was. We stopped several times to get out and take pictures and experience the moment. Lunch was at the Great Blasket Island Museum. We had some time to check out the museum and learn about the resilient people that inhabited these islands. Down the road we visit the Gallarus Oratory. This building has no mortar and is water-tight after 1300 years. The hike to the building is lined with beautiful blooming fuschia which we saw all over Ireland. Then we had some free time in Dingle followed by a concert at St. James church. This was amazing. We heard elbow pipes, and a guitar first, then an accordion and a concertina. Wow, they were all extremely talented. A funny moment happened when the musician was singing in Gaelic and forgot the words. He continued to sing, but the lyrics were “I don’t remember the rest, but I’ll keep on singing.” Joe Darcy understood him and laughed and told us what he was saying. Travel Advice Alert… Do research about what special souvenirs you want to buy before you leave on your trip. Then you’ll be prepared to shop quickly and make educated decisions about buying. Yes, I did buy my Dingle Crystal and had it shipped. It is Stunning!

Day 10
This morning started with a walking tour of Dingle. The highlights were seeing the Harry Clark stained glass windows which were Beautiful. Then we had a full afternoon off. We looked in quite a few stores for the ever elusive Skipper hat. Did some shopping, then rested before going to Nelligan’s pub to watch the Gaelic Football championship with Joe and about 10 other tour members. Joe told us the basics of the game and the rest we sort of figured out. We were the only people yelling for Dublin in a room full of Kerry fans. Smoking is not allowed in the pubs, but there were several people that that stood in the doorway and watched. So there was smoke that was blown into the pub. By half-time the room was full of smoke so we left and went to eat pizza. Dublin ended up winning the game, so Joe Darcy was very happy. Go Dubs!

Day 11
The Cliffs of Moher were high on my list of highlights of Ireland. Unfortunately our great weather didn’t hold and the Cliffs were bathed in fog when we got there. We couldn’t see more than a few feet. So sad. But it has happened to us before at the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley. We moved on down the road to the Burren, which was really cool. What appears to be areas of solid rock will have little cracks that support an entire eco-system of plant life. Then we head down the road to Galway and the Eyre Square Hotel. We took a food tour for our group dinner tonight. We walked in the rain from amazing appetizers to a fabulous main course to a very creative fruit and cheese platter. The wine and food pairings were wonderful.

Day 12
The Aran Islands are calling our names today. We ride the ferry over to Inishmore Island which is the largest of the Aran Islands. This is one rough, stone-filled island. I think that there is more rock here than any other place we’ve seen. We were dropped off at a spot and we walked up a hill of rock to Dun Aengus Fort. It is a difficult hike uphill. There was a chain link fence on the left side of the walk. I held on to that on the way up and down to make sure I didn’t fall. The view from the top was outstanding. I’m not keen on heights so I didn’t get close to the edge. No guts, no glory. After descending we shopped for an Aran Island sweater for David. The skipper hat was nowhere to be found. We toured some additional areas on the island before heading back to Galway, an early dinner and bed.

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Day 13
I was so excited to see the sun today. We are visiting Cong, the site of one of my favorite movies, The Quiet Man. This is a charming town with Ashford Castle in the background. The castle grounds are beautiful and we all had a Harris Hawk land on our arm. How cool is that? We had a little time afterwards, so we went to Pat Cohan’s pub for a Guinness and a coke for me. We arrived in Westport around 3:00 so we had time to walk around before supper. We dropped in a shop called the “Tweed and Knitwear Store” and guess what? Mystery solved. David found his Skipper hat. We quickly returned to our hotel to inform our travel mate Joe about the hat store and he bought one also. There were 2 very happy men at our group dinner tonight.

Day 14
We are leaving the Republic of Ireland today and will visit Derry and end up in Portrush. We had a bathroom/coffee stop at St. Columba Cathedral. Father Malcolm welcomed us and told us the story of St. Columba, then gave us all an Irish blessing. In Derry we had lunch and a tour of the city. On the way to Portrush we stopped at the Coffin Ship Memorial. We can understand the ill will that the Irish feel about the English. The potato famine was a terrible page in their history. We had a good group dinner tonight at 55North.

Day 15
Our day was filled with 4 different destinations all within a few miles of each other. The first stop was Giant’s Causeway. This was also very high on my list of Ireland’s Highlights. When we arrived it was foggy. Oh no, not again. We all put a smile on our face and hoped for the best. The fog was light and it lifted as we walked around and on the formations. We didn’t climb them very much as they were slick, but the clouds gave a neat look to our pictures. Next adventure – Dun Luce castle. This was at one time a beautiful castle. Now it is hanging on to the side of a hill. The views of the ocean here are incredible. There is even a sea arch. Third adventure was a tour of the Bushmills distillery where we had a tasting and lunch. I don’t like Whiskey either, I could have used more time at our next hike to Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. It was a long up and down walk, but we made it across the bridge and back. I even have the certificate to prove it. Dinner tonight was on our own, but several of us ended up at Bistro which was good.

Day 16
This is our last full day of the tour. We drove in to Belfast and toured the Titanic museum. This is a very well done museum. The displays are arranged well and are easy to read and didn’t feel claustrophobic. After eating lunch we had a walking tour of Belfast that ended at the Ulster-Scots Institute. Along the way we learned that Belfast had a lot of bombs dropped on it by the Germans in World War II. Tonight was our final dinner. It is always bittersweet. We loved all of our new friends who had become family. It is hard to say goodbye. This group was a lot of fun. Everyone spent time with each other. Our coach driver Pamela was lots of fun and very sweet. Our guide Joe had a gift for everyone. He had made prints of all our group pictures as well as individual pictures of the hawk on our arm and our crossing at Carrick-A-Rede. He also gave out awards for the best limericks. There were lots of toasts and hugs tonight.

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Day 17 and 18
We had an early flight from Belfast to Edinburgh. We arrived midmorning and took a taxi to our Hilton Hotel in the middle of all the best sights in town. We got a new credit card to pay for our Rick Steves tour and got enough points to have 2 free nights at this hotel. We wandered around town, purchased tickets for the hop-on, hop-off bus and headed to Edinburgh castle. This place is perched on the top of a hill, so there is lots of walking up and down. I’m so glad I got a new Knee 8 months ago. I would have been miserable on this trip without it. The streets of Edinburgh are filled with Kilt stores and lots of Cashmere stores. We hear bagpipes playing occasionally and know that we’re not in Ireland anymore. The next day we take our bus to Holyrood Castle. What a beautiful place. The rooms that we visited were stately and uncrowded. The grounds are lovely. We got back on the bus, but because there was a bicycle race in the downtown area, the bus is driving down back streets and waiting forever at lights. We got close to our hotel and got off because it was a waste of time. We eat lunch, walk around and head back to our hotel. A nap and some hot tea finished the evening.

Day 19
I couldn’t afford another RS tour back to back, so I found a small tour company that Rick recommends in his Scotland book. We signed up for a 5 day, 4 night tour of Scotland with the “Wee Red Bus” tour. This tour is very different from Rick’s. You do a lot of driving and stop a lot, but don’t have a lot of time in any one place. We stopped in Dunkeld for about 45 minutes for bathrooms and a quick look at the Cathedral. This church is supported by the family of the Earl of Atholl which is part of the Murray clan. These are David’s ancestors. He was so happy to find his “people”. We later drove by Blair castle which is also part of the Murray clan. After Dunkeld we stopped for a hike to a waterfall at the Hermitage. Next stop was a Highlander Outdoor Museum. It had original buildings from all over the Highlands. We saw a Hairy Coo here. I was so excited. Cross that off the list. Next stop is the Culloden Battlefield. We had limited time here. We attended an exhibition on how to make a kilt without sewing during the 1700’s, how the kilt is worn and how utilitarian it is. It was very informative. We walked quickly around the battlefield and then headed to our last stop Clava Cairns. We stayed in Inverness for 2 nights at a very nice B&B. We tried several restaurants but didn’t have reservations, so we took the first restaurant we could find. We then got reservations for tomorrow night.

Day 20
Our bus holds 16 but we only had 13 on our tour. Our bus driver was also our guide. He was very knowledgeable. This day we headed up to the Northwest region of Scotland. We had a restroom stop midmorning where we also picked up food for lunch. We ended up at Achmelvich Beach. The sun came out and the water was a beautiful aqua blue. We ate our picnic lunch sitting on the rocks overlooking the beach. One daring soul even went in for a cold swim. Two other ladies on the tour and I hoped it was Jamie from the “Outlander” series, but it wasn’t. Oh well, a girl can dream. Our next stop was Ardvreck Castle ruins. It was a short walk from our bus, but you had to avoid lots of Sheep “land mines”. Then we moved on to a few more stops before a short hike to Corrieshallock Gorge. There were several beautiful cascading waterfalls. We enjoyed dinner that night at Kitchen. It was an easy walk from our B&B and the food was delicious.

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Day 21
Started the day with a boat ride on Loch Ness. Didn’t see Nessie, but we did see Urquhart Castle from below and later from above. We stopped at Fort Augustus for lunch. They have some locks on the river and they are really cool. Then we toured Eilean Donan castle. This is listed as the most photographed spot in Scotland. It is beautifully set on a lake. It is still in good shape and the owners still use it occasionally. We finished the day on the Isle of Skye at a B&B in Portree. It was a long walk into town so our guide dropped us in town to eat dinner and we took a taxi back to our B&B. Dinner was at Caroy House. Wow! The best meal I had in Scotland.

Day 22
The entire day was spent driving around Skye. We stopped first at a local farm that raises sheep, donkeys and coos (cows). They take the wool from the sheep, spin it, weave it or knit with it. They are working with breeders in Texas that have the original coos. Most of the coos in Scotland have been bred to be larger than the originals. They are hoping to get their coos a little smaller. We drove to some of the unusual land formations on the island. We saw the monolith called Father Storr and other formations of the Cuillen mountains. This area of Scotland is Gorgeous. There were several stops all day and after probably the 10th or 12th one in the rain, everyone on the bus said “Enough”. We headed back to town to dry off, warm up and eat dinner. Tonight we ate at the Rosedale Hotel. Their menu is basically tapas themed. You pick several small items and share. It was delicious. We had a new adventure in plumbing back at our B&B. I tried pushing the button on the Box to turn on the water for the shower and nothing happened. Finally David realized that you have to flip on a switch outside the bathroom door to turn on the water. Every hotel has a different way to take a shower. I think we’ve had at least 10 different ways to use the plumbing on this trip.

Day 23
The ferry was running at 8:20 so we had an early departure so we could drive to and get on this ferry. We stopped at Glenfinnan and saw the train viaduct that is featured in some of the Harry Potter films. We stayed long enough to watch the steam train go across. Very cool. Lunch was at Glen Coe. Their choice of sandwiches were a little strange to us, so we had hot tea with scones for lunch. There are some beautiful mountain ranges at Ballachulish that we stopped to photograph. Our final stop was at Doune Castle which was used as Castle Leoch in the Outlander series. We arrived back in Edinburgh around 4:30 and walked to our hotel, Premier Inn. All in all, I would say that the Wee Red Bus took us to a lot of places that I wanted to see. I much prefer the Rick Steves method of travel where you get to experience the heart of the places that you stay. We had no free time and spent a lot of time getting off and on the bus. For a short trip it was fine.

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Day 24
Took the train from Edinburgh to London. This took around 5-6 hours. We enjoyed not having to queue for airports and luggage etc. It was a nice way to see the countryside before hitting the hustle and bustle of London. We took a taxi to the Premier Inn in the business district. (It was clean, quiet, and very reasonably priced.) Unfortunately there were not many restaurants open on weekends in this area. I had researched and found a Pub called Black Friars, with a great menu that was a 10 minute walk from out hotel. Actually it was pretty much all pub and not much restaurant. It is in a very cool building with lots of mosaics on the ceilings. We finally got a table, a menu and a waiter. The food was ok.

Day 25
Took the tube to Grenwich to visit the Royal Observatory. Today was all about David. He loves science and as a pilot he was very interested in sextants, latitude, longitude, clocks and telescopes. He loved it! It is a pretty steep walk up to the observatory, so I was tired before starting the tour. A docent showed David how a sextant worked, so that was cool. I was trying hard to be patient, because tomorrow is my day.

Day 26
Today we traveled on the train to Windsor. We arrived at Windsor Castle when the gates opened. I had pre-purchased my tickets, so we went straight to security. (Travel Advice Alert… buy tickets ahead of time and save a lot of time queueing.) The rooms of the castle and St George’s Cathedral are beautiful. There were very few people, so we enjoyed not being pushed around. We loved seeing the children who were taking a field day at the castle. They are all wearing uniforms and are adorable. We ate lunch in Windsor and returned to London. We finished the evening at Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was beautiful. There were probably 200-300 people in attendance.

Day 27 and 28
Originally we were going to visit Cambridge, but David wasn’t feeling very well so we visited the Tower of London instead. We had been here before on a Rick Steves tour, but didn’t have a lot of time here. We arrived at opening, bought tickets and went straight to see the crown jewels. Then we joined a beef-eater tour which was very informative and funny. Our beefeater told all the Americans in the crowd “When you look at the crown jewels, those could have all been yours if you’d only paid your taxes!” We spent several hours here looking at all the exhibits. We finished our shopping and came back to our room to repack. Tomorrow we fly home and we were checking all the luggage containing liquids and dirty clothes. The souvenirs went with us on the plane. The flight the next day was ok. We landed in Detroit and went back through security. I don’t think that the TSA agents had ever seen “tins of loose tea” from Fortnum and Mason. I’m sure they thought they were drugs or a bomb. After David was double scanned and checked for all types of substances we were allowed back in the terminal. We arrived back in Austin and headed straight for our favorite Mexican restaurant before heading home to Temple. These 2 Texans were having withdrawal from not having spicy food for 4 weeks.

I know this was long, but everyone on the Forum had encouraged me to write a trip report. I tend to ramble, so if anyone has gone to sleep I apologize. Thanks to all who helped with questions about weather, hotels, tours, sweaters and more. You are fabulous.

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Loved your report Janet! I am writing my own trip report on our recent RS tour to Greece, so I can appreciate the time and effort this took! Well done! This made me want to return to Ireland for a third visit...... my favorite country so far in Europe!

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It wasn’t too long, just a cupola tea length. It was a delight to read. Always fun to read about places you’ve been and places you want to see.

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I really "felt" your report! It was interesting comparing the two styles of group touring. We've been to Scotland a few times, but we drove. It was before "Outlander" so we didn't look for the ghost of "Jaime Fraser". My husband is a Campbell, so we did not say who we were in Glencoe. I've done my genealogy and I am a Fraser and Cameron...so we can be dead on both sides of Culloden. It is interesting that in Ireland there is still so much animosity against the English. I am 59% English; but most my peeps left for New England in the early 1600s...so we missed the Jacobite War in England but I guess it also had it's affect in Virginia and the Carolinas. That's what I love about travel and history...there are so many sides to look at. Again great report!

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Thanks Claudia, Tammy and Barbara for your kind remarks. Kathleen, your husband was very brave to drive on the left hand side of the road. I would be a nervous wreck. I would also say that being a Campbell in Glencoe could be detrimental to your health. I knew that the Wee Red Bus tour would be different that a RS tour, but didn't realize how tiring it would be gettting off and on the bus all day. It was also a pain to pay for each place we wanted to visit. It is so convenient to have that all included in your tour. Of course, if you weren't interested in a particular location, you could just pass on visiting it and wait for the others to look and then head to the next spot.

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Loved reading your report (not too long at all)! It brought back lots of happy memories of our time in Ireland and Edinburgh.

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I enjoyed reading your report also. That was quite a trip! And good to know that the brewery tours have cider (which I love), since I am like you and just don’t like beer. :)

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Travelmom, Sorry I didn't get back sooner. You commented that you were glad that cider was an option on the Guinness tour. I may have written it incorrectly in my report. I actually had cider in the RESTAURANT at the Guinness building. I paid for the cider, it was not a free option. The free drink that comes with the tour is Guinness beer. I think you could substitute a soft drink but not cider. I learned that there are lots of different ciders to try and the pub will pour it in a specific glass that has the company advertised on the outside.