Dennis and Myj are taking a Rick Steve's 10 Days in Scotland tour, then staying on to go "over the sea to Skye." Come along on our wee adventures!
  • Day17

    Thoughts on the RS Tour experience.

    September 1, 2018 in the Netherlands ⋅ ☀️ 64 °F

    Saturday morning, on our way to PDX from Edinburgh airport via Amsterdam. No flight delays, but lots of time to catch up the journal for the past few days and post some wrap up thoughts.

    When we decided to visit Scotland, Myj researched a number of tours, talked with friends who had "done it themselves" etc. Ultimately, the Rick Steves tours seemed to have a good combination of planned and free time, and an itinerary that covered most of what we wanted to see. We also liked his philosophy of trying to be as local to the culture as possible. Overall, our experience lived up to expectations.

    There is adequate warning that some hotels are quaint and quirky, and some were, but most were very comfortable. They also advise that it is an active tour, which it is. While we saw other tour buses offloading groups at the top of the hill for Edinburgh Castle, we walked the steep winding medieval streets on what one fellow traveler called the "castle death march." But, along the way, we were learning about the history and noticing the hidden wynds (alleys) that the big bus groups missed. We walked between three and eight miles daily, but kept up well (even our oldest tour member, at 76 with some heart and balance concerns). Castle day was the hardest, as well as the stormiest, everything seemed easy after that. We didn't have any problems sleeping!

    Our guide, Brian Haye, was wonderful, once you realized his droll and dry humor! He was a great source of information, as well as ideas and advice for exploring on our own. And our coach driver, Colin, was a master of the very quirky roads. He and Dennis quickly bonded over "driver stuff." Colin was a lot of fun as well. We did have an incident when an RV seemed to get worried about a narrow curve and came too far over, cracking the side mirror on our bus, and ripping the entire mirror off his RV. In addition to Brian and Colin, both Edinburgh natives, we sometimes had other local guides with even more expertise on the area or site we were visiting.

    As already mentioned, our fellow tour members were great. There really is a "no grumps" policy that RS Tours ask you to sign (you are allowed to lodge legitimate concerns directly with Brian). Some of these folks were on their first RS tour, like us, and some were Rick Steves cult members, having done as many as nine of them.

    The "pack light, carry your own bags" was a good thing too. We limited what we took and wore everything (did some sink laundry a few times, took a few things to an overnight launderette once). We even managed to fit all the stuff we bought into the suitcases without even expanding them! We really appreciated having less luggage to handle when we on our own and negotiating the trains, ferries and buses.

    Would we do it again? Myj says "yes!" We'll give Dennis (Mr. Homebody) some time and then start whispering ideas in his ear. Ireland? Slovenia and the Adriatic coast? Such a big world!
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  • Day16

    Farewell to Skye, farewell to Scotland.

    August 31, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☀️ 59 °F

    Friday morning dawned bright and beautiful, making it hard to leave. But, it's time to make our way back to Edinburgh and then home. We reversed our steps, taking the ferry back to the mainland, then boarding the train back to Glasgow. This time, our journey was in sunshine instead of rain. Overall, we've had more dry days than wet, so we've been lucky. Even more fortunate to have the clear days in some of the most beautiful places, Oban, Iona and Skye. However, Scotland is lovely almost everywhere.

    The people have also been very friendly, once we made the first move. Everywhere we went, we found the Scots very willing to offer help when we asked for directions or other information. We will have many great memories (and over 1200 photos!). We wouldn't hesitate to return, but Dennis would probably prefer to leave all of the driving to someone else!
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  • Day15

    Cows on the road, cows on the beach!

    August 30, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 54 °F

    Up bright and early for our drive to Elgol. Having read reviews, guide books and listened to advice from our hosts, we were somewhat prepared for the 15 miles of single-track road to the very tiny harbour of Elgol. However, the consensus was that the views of the Cullian mountain range, and the boat trip with the MacKinnons was worth it. The reality was hold-your-breath-there's-someone-coming! There really weren't that many cars, but there were a lot of cows and sheep next to or on the road, blind corners, narrow bridges and cattle guards, and a few locals and/or ignorant tourists who didn't know or didn't care.

    But that done, we arrived and boarded the boat to take us to Loch Coruisk. Finn was our first mate, and could not have been more enthusiastic. He entertained us with stories of his ancestor rescuing and hiding Bonnie Prince Charlie in a cave on the inlet. We hiked a bit along the loch, enjoying yet another beautiful day, then readied ourselves for the return drive.

    At lunchtime, we stopped for an excellent lunch at Creelers in Broadford. We noticed a baby being walked in a beautiful old-fashioned pram, and we were delighted when the baby spontaneously began to wave at us. Later, in a jewelry shop, we discovered that the baby was the owner's 16 month old daughter, being walked by Granny (young looking granny!).
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  • Day14

    Continuing around the Trotternish

    August 29, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 52 °F

    We continued our journey around the Trotternish Peninsula to the otherworldly Quiraing. This was our first experience on the two-way single-track roads. Not only is the road steep, with several very tight turns, but it is a popular destination, so there were frequent stops at the barely-wide-enough passing places. More breath-holding and clutching by Myj assured that we made it up to the top. The view is spectacular!

    After our hike, just missing a rain shower, we drove along the coast toward Uig for a lunch stop at the Uig Hotel. Along the way, Myj convinced Dennis to stop at a little cottage in the middle of almost nowhere with a sign for Trotternish Art Studio. This was the home and studio of sepia ink and pencil artist Bill Lawrence. Visiting with him was well worth the stop, and Myj bought a sketch as well. There is actually a thriving arts and crafts community on Skye. You can see why, as the scenery is inspiring and once the tourists leave in Fall, it would be very serene.

    We returned to Portree in time to investigate the shops. Dennis was lagging behind, so Myj had to run back to hurry him along when she discovered the Skye Youth Pipe Band performing in the town square. Ranging from maybe seven years to teens, it was fun to watch their concentration. They played very well also.

    To end the day, we enjoyed an excellent dinner at renowned Scorrybreac. We had made reservations months ago (thanks to Open Table), and we were glad we did. It was excellent, and thankfully just next door to our B&B. Scotland is definitely a place for foodies. In addition to traditional foods, there is an abundance of fresh local seafood. The Scottish beef is also very good, and lamb, when it is on the menu. Myj was surprised that lamb is not offered more, since there are definitely a lot of sheep. Our guide said it is actually expensive, however, so maybe that is why.
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  • Day14

    A bonnie bright day!

    August 29, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 50 °F

    Wednesday started with a delicious stuffed croissant and fruit breakfast served by Charlotte. Then we started our exploration around the Trotternish Peninsula. First stop was The Old Man of Storr, a natural monolith standing watch over the island. We opted to skip the two hour hike to the top. We did walk a bit and spend some time along the beautiful seaside cliffs near Kilt Rock, so named because it looks like the pleats in a kilt. The sun sparkling on the sea, the blooming heather and wildflowers was gorgeous.Read more

  • Day13

    Over the sea to Skye

    August 28, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 52 °F

    We enjoyed a wonderful 41st anniversary dinner Monday night at Two Fat Ladies in Glasgow. Up early Tuesday morning, we began our journey by train, ferry and automobile to the Isle of Skye. The West Highland train line is said to be one of the most scenic train journeys in the world, and it was beautiful, even in the rain. We passed along several lochs, quaint villages, and traveled briefly alongside the West Highland walking trail (100 miles). We felt sorry for the sodden backpackers. A highlight was passing over the Glenfinnan Viaduct, made famous in the Harry Potter movies. When we reached Mallaig, the "Harry Potter train" steam engine was parked on the tracks alongside, ready to make her return to Fort William.

    The ferry took us over the sea to Skye, where we were met by the gentleman from the motor booking agency with our little manual transmission diesel Ford Focus, with the steering wheel on the right. Dennis did great driving on the left. Myj helped by clutching the armrest, leaning side to side and gasping - and we weren't even on the single track roads yet!

    It was a very rainy drive, but the weather began to clear by the time we reached our adorable B&B in the colorful town of Portree. Our hosts, Charlotte and Bill welcomed us at the door and we felt like friends immediately.
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  • Day12

    A day on the yacht with the Royals

    August 27, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 57 °F

    Tour over, we joined up with the ladies from Bend for a visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia. The Queen no longer has a yacht, as travel is by air now, but the Yacht took her around the world many times.

    Later in the day, we took the train to Glasgow. Buying tickets was an adventure, as the credit card function was not working and exact change was required. It took Myj three tries to find the right combination of paper and coins. We were just staying the one night, so Myj had booked a Hampton near the train station, which looked pretty much like any Hampton anywhere!Read more

  • Day11

    Farewell to our tour buddies

    August 26, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ⛅ 52 °F

    Sunday evening was our last dinner with our fellow Rick Steves tour travelers. We had a wonderful dinner at The Bonham Hotel, where we started the tour just over a week ago. Our guide Brian started the farewell toasts off with a hilarious "prayer for Rick Steves tourists," and his was followed by many more.

    As we thought at the beginning, these are all fun and interesting people. Whether due to the RS "no grumps policy" (really, you have to sign when you book), or just the luck of the draw, there wasn't a single bad apple. As we often had free time or were on our own to explore, we ended up spending time individually (or in couples) with each of the others.
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  • Day11

    The Magical Kelpies

    August 26, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ ☁️ 52 °F

    Leaving the unicorns behind at Stirling, we headed back to Edinburgh on the final leg of our journey with the Rick Steves tour. As a special request "because we were good," guide Brian stopped in Falkirk to view more mythical beasts, The Kelpies. Made of stainless steel, these are the tallest equestrian sculptures in the world. They are very lifelike, being modeled on draft horses that were used to pull the loads along the canals where the Kelpies sit. Enchanting beasts they are!Read more

  • Day11

    Unicorns everywhere!

    August 26, 2018 in the United Kingdom ⋅ 🌧 54 °F

    Sunday already! We left Oban for the drive along the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomand to Stirling. Stirling Castle, royal residence of Scottish kings and queens, including Mary Queen of Scots, was built to rival the sumptuous castles of France in the fifteenth century. The recreations of the 16th century Unicorn Tapestries, and the carved wooden Stirling Heads on the ceiling are amazing.Read more