scotland highland tour

Apr 10th, 2010, 04:02 AM
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Join Date: Apr 2010
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scotland highland tour

Hi, my wife and I are going to be in Scotland next year (mid June) for about 1 week. Looking at three options;

1. Self drive...a little nervous
2. Viator 5 days Highland Explorer and Isle of Skye Small Group Tour from Edinburgh
3. Highland Explorer Tour 5 day Isle of Skye, Loch Ness & The West Coast

Has anyone got any advice on any of the above, I imagine most people will say drive which makes you more independent but some times a tour is less stressful and you actually see more. I don't mind min vans but larger buses can be painful. Viator has max 16 paxs not sure with the other.

Welcome any advice,
Thanks Bob
aussiebob is offline  
Apr 10th, 2010, 05:19 AM
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Are you only nervous about the driving or are you nervous about other things as well? The driving is pretty easy as there is little traffic (I do not recommend driving in cities) and you can stop when you want to explore towns/places that look interesting. Drivers in Scotland are courteous. You do have to be careful of the sheep but they stay in flocks so you spot them; you won't see individual sheep roaming around.

Do the tours take you where you want to go? And do you have enough time in each place (town, sight, pub, etc.).

I took a look at the itinerary for this tour and it doesn't seem like you'll be going inside the castles you pass (based on the wording in the itinerary) but maybe this is not important to you.

One of the things I did near Dunvegan was to go out in a small boat to see the seals. This was exciting for me as I had never seen seals in their natural habitat before. I also don't see any mention of Inverewe Gardens which are beautiful. You also spend 2 nights in Inverness rather than in the small towns.

Is 5 days enough for you in the highlands?

Decide on your sightseeing priorities, read the tour itinerary carefully, and then decide which is best for you. I wouldn't give up on an independent holiday if it's only because of the driving, especially as you're already used to the right hand drive.

Link to tour:
adrienne is offline  
Apr 10th, 2010, 07:34 AM
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LOL, you might not see individual sheep roaming about by themselves, but it is a little disconcerting to see one lying on the very edge of the roadway. (Don't worry, they seem perfectly content to stay there while you drive by!) And you probably won't see that on main roads anyway...

Personally, I would prefer a well-researched self drive tour, for the flexibility it offers. You can always base your trip on the itinerary that one of the package tours uses, so you will have an idea of where to go and how long it may take you. (On the other hand - this board has some absolutely fantastic posters who can really help you set up your own tour.) Adrienne already mentioned staying in Inverness -- if you read much on this board, that's generally not a recommendation.

Of the two tours you mentioned, I like the Highland Explorers itinerary a little better:
GoAway is offline  
Apr 10th, 2010, 08:11 AM
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I understand opting for a tour because it can be less stressful than driving and you do see more if traveling by yourself. I'm not familar with Viator, but it does sound like a pretty good tour. I especially like the smaller number of participants which usually means a better tour. Also the flexibility on Skye, depending on the weather, is a good idea.
historytraveler is online now  
Apr 10th, 2010, 08:29 AM
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Last June/July, I took my Mom on the 3 day Isle of Skye Small group tour that I booked through Viator. I can't say enough good things about it and highly recommend it. The tour was run through Rabbies tours, you can look them up on line. We chose the hotel option for our accommodations and what a surprise we got when we opened the door to our room. The view was out of this world. We didn't know ahead of time where we would be staying but I would definitely stay there again. It was right in Portree Harbour. Our driver Ross was not only friendly but he would stop anywhere for breaks within reason. We saw a lot and the scenery was spectacular. If you would like to see my pictures, I can try and post the link here.

I am a nervous driver as it is and when I've tried do yourself tours, they haven't always worked out for me. While I know other people wouldn't agree, this is just my opinion. We plan on returning next year and are looking at the Orkney and Far North 5 day tour.
sassy27 is offline  
Apr 10th, 2010, 09:02 AM
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Oh! I forgot to add, if you are booking through Viator check the location of where the departure point is. If it is 207 High St Edinburgh, it's a Rabbies tour. If it says the bus station platform, this is a different tour company. The name escapes me. The one I think you are looking at is Rabbies but didn't want to mislead you.
sassy27 is offline  
Apr 10th, 2010, 10:49 AM
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I can't really offer much w/o knowing why the thought of driving makes you nervous. Is it the actual driving itself -- or the having to do the planning on your own?

From your screen name I'll assume you are in OZ. If so, the driving will be a piece of cake.

The Viator tour description shows mainly just riding on the coach, a couple of walks and lunch/refreshment stops. It is notable that there is no plan for the time on Skye -- It sounds like it depends on the whim of the driver/guide.

The Highland Explorer description shows an actual visit to Culloden (not just drive by), but just a stop in the coach park at Urquhart. Otherwise it mainly is coach time -- You go to Stirling but NOT to the castle for instance.
janisj is offline  
Apr 10th, 2010, 12:44 PM
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Much of mid-Scotland (Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stirling, St Andrews, Inverness) is easily done by train. You get to look at the scenery and drink beer or whisky at the same time.

Parts of the Highlands and Islands are best done by railway and ferry (West Highland Railway, Rannoch Moor, Ben Nevis, Arisaig and Mallaig). You can catch the ferry to Skye from Mallaig, there is a bus to Portree, and you can rent a car or join local tours there. If you want to see Glen Coe, you can take the train to Ft William and take a tour or rent a car from there.

From Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness is lovely mountain and loch scenery, and you can go from Inverness on to Aberdeen up in the REAL highlands.

BUT. If you want to go beyond there -- whisky country, across to Inverewe, Loch Torridon, etc. You need a car. The farther north you go, the more likely you are to run into single track roads with passing places, slightly daunting. You would not want to drive after dark owing to wild- (and barely tame) life. You will also meet a hell of a lot of Kiwi students working in hotels and restaurants. Sometimes you will think that there are no Scots in Scotland. However you go, it will be wonderful.
Ackislander is offline  
Apr 10th, 2010, 01:39 PM
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Most of Ackislander's info is really good (though I personally think Skye should be in the "better by car section". There are buses, but Skye is very large and there is so much to see/do that a car is a HUGE advantage IMO)

But the warning about " You would not want to drive after dark owing to wild- (and barely tame) life" isn't all that relevant since you are traveling in June. It would be pretty unusual to find yourself driving after dark - what w/ sundown at around 10:30 and it not fully dark until well after 11PM . . . .
janisj is offline  
Apr 10th, 2010, 01:48 PM
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The best way to get a more comprehensive idea of where you'll actually be stopping and what you will be viewing is to contact the tour company. Have them respond to any questions you might have.

In regard to a plan when on Skye, I've visited the isle enough to know that it would be a wasted effort to try and view the Quiraing, Old Man of Storr, Duntulm Castle and Kilt Rock if it's pouring down rain or everything is shrouded in dense fog. Having an alternative such as Dungven Castle, the Talisker Distillery or even a stop at Skye Silver makes perfect sense.

My suggestion would be to contact both companies to see what the actual stops are vs. a drive-by. In regard to driving , it will be easier for you coming from OZ as you won't have to adapt to driving on the wrong side. However there are differences other than which side of the road one is driving on. You are the only one who can determine which option ( driving or tour) is best for you.
historytraveler is online now  
Apr 10th, 2010, 02:08 PM
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Historytraveler: "My suggestion would be to contact both companies to see what the actual stops are vs. a drive-by."

The 'actual stops' are clearly described on the respective websites. One needs to know how to interpret "tour brochure speak". The only exception is Viator's day on Skye, where some of the possible options are mentioned but it will be up to the driver.

But whether a site is a "see" (from the coach), a "stop" (get off the coach and take a photo), or a "visit" (get off the coach and go inside) is definitely spelled out on both tour itinerary descriptions.
janisj is offline  
Apr 11th, 2010, 12:43 AM
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thanks very much every one, have sent off an e-mail to Highland Explorer asking for more info. This tour pretty much covers every thing we are looking at, especially the Jacobite train trip. Still looking at a possible self drive might even run an itinery through you guys.

Thanks once again

aussiebob is offline  
Apr 11th, 2010, 03:03 AM
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I took a Rabbies Tour: and was very pleased with it. The actual stops may sound a little vague, but a lot depends on the weather, the groups interests, the guides interests, etc.
SusieQQ is offline  
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