Scotland – Small Group Tour – Day 1

Highlands & Rainy Hikes

The Forth Bridge
The Forth Bridge completed in 1890
A big tree

More sights, more rest, and no stress

Up until this point we had never vacationed on a group tour. We usually engage in completely independent travel, but we made the decision to go to Scotland with only about three weeks until departure. Because of this I had limited time to do extensive research. After reading reviews, I decided to sign up for an overnight tour to see the Highlands.

After the experience we had, I was very happy with the choice.  I know many people who enjoy the reliability and low stress of group tour. A set itinerary maps everything out, and the down sides are not a major inhibitors. But for us, the biggest down side is usually the include predetermined schedule. As well as limited free time to explore, and a pace set by the groups slowest members are unappealing. 

On this trip, I found a compromise, the small group tour. This allowed us to see highlights of the Highlands on a short two day, one night small group tour. We had a great experience with a local guide, on a small comfortable bus that had a max capacity of 18 passengers. Because shoulder season we only had two families, two couples, and one single women.  The size of the group allowed our guide more time to interact with us.  Also, made it easier to stick to a schedule and not to be waiting while stragglers held up the bus. Since Scotland was a short trip, I knew and we wouldn’t adjust to the time change. It was an unexpected to take short naps; and let someone else do the driving and navigating. The small group size also allowed for a bit of socializing, without it being overwhelming. In the future  I would absolutely recommend, and even sign up for a small group tour. They are an an option to always consider.  Especially, if you’re not comfortable navigating roads in a foreign country. And in this case, while driving on the “other” side of the road.

Day one had us head north out of Edinburgh headed toward the city of Inverness. We started with a short hike to a lovely waterfall with a viewing platform overlooking the falls. Next stop was another short hike along a beautiful river bank. We stopped at a historic church in a small village; the Main Street had a few shops with ceramics and artwork. A cheese and specialty snack shop for foodies was a favorite of our family. We then continued and allotted two hours to have lunch and walk in Pitlochry.  We  chose McKays Pub because they had a good selection of food. We had a fabulous lunch with breaded Camembert appetizers. Followed by steak pie with puff pastry, and highland burgers with haggis. After lunch, heading north, we enjoyed the amazing scenery of Cairngorms National Park.

That’s a lot of whiskey
Thick chocolate sans whiskey still hits hard

Whiskey tours are very popular in the Highlands but our group didn’t consist of whisky lovers. Our guide opted to take us to only one distillery, to sample some whisky. To everyones surprise, they serve the whisky with a very thick hot chocolate. Our guide told us you’re supposed to drink the chocolate between whisky tastings. The kids were very happy that they could imbibe sans the whiskey. 

Good thing I’m not driving
Cozy sleeping arrangements

Our last stop as the sun began to set was a delight to anyone who’s watched the Scottish period drama Outlander. Our guide brought us at sunset to visit some of the stone circles depicted in the show. Everyone recreated the scene from the show where the lovers are on opposite sides, but in the same year. 

Finally we ended the evening in Inverness. For our overnight accommodation this tour company offered two options. Select our own accommodations within the city center, or they would book for us. We opted to choose a small bed and breakfast a few blocs from the center of town.  The B & B was in a traditional Scottish row home. The next morning before setting out we enjoyed a home cooked full Scottish breakfast. The dining room was perfect picture of what you would imagine in an old english parlor. 

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