When you’re visiting a special location, perhaps on a trip you’ve been planning for many months, a guided tour can be a great way to see the highlights, especially if your time is limited. However, the thought of spending the time on a large bus, with a big group of people can be off-putting. The answer is to opt for a small group tour from a five star tour company, and if you’re visiting a destination where Rabbie’s Trail Burners operate tours, you’re in luck, since the multi-award winning tours the company offers provide exactly the experience you are looking for.
Small groups mean you can discover the real country, get off the beaten track and onto the back roads where other tours cannot go. Touring with no more than 16 passengers gives you more. More personal attention, more time with the locals, more time off the bus, more time on the back-roads and just more of an all-round memorable experience. Rabbie’s promise to get you in touch with the people, places, history and legends of the country and deliver you a unique and memorable experience to last you a lifetime. Their local guides are your hosts, each hand-picked for their pride and passion for the areas they tour and dedicated to delivering outstanding travel experiences.
While in Edinburgh, Scotland this summer, we were lucky to have the opportunity of experiencing two of Rabbie’s Edinburgh based tours. Since our time in Scotland was limited, and we wanted to see as much as possible, we chose the “Loch Ness, Glencoe, and Highlands Day Tour”, which promised to show us “Scotland in a day”. It was a long day, meeting at 7.45am for an 8.00am departure, and returning to the city at 8.00pm, however the time flew by, narrated by our brilliant driver/guide Arron, who struck the perfect balance between keeping us informed and entertained, and giving us time to rest and relax while traveling.
Departing Edinburgh on a gorgeous sunny morning, we passed Linlithgow palace, birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, and Stirling Castle before stopping at Callander, the 'frontier town' on the edge of the Highlands. Crossing the Highland boundary fault line the scenery changes quickly and dramatically, the flat fertile plains of the lowlands giving way to shimmering lochs, rugged mountain tops and forest-filled glens. It's easy to forget that this was once thought of as a dangerous frontier, fought over by the fiercely territorial Highland clans such as the MacGregors, and made famous by highland folk hero, Rob Roy MacGregor.
We visited Rannoch Moor, at an altitude of over 1000ft, covered by heather and peat-bogs and dotted with dozens of lochs, and enjoyed the mountain scenery on the way to Glencoe. Stunningly beautiful, with its dramatic cliff faces and steep slopes, Glencoe is famous as the site of the Glencoe massacre in 1692. We passed through the town of Fort William, and continued past Britain's highest mountain, Ben Nevis before arriving at Fort Augustus on the southern shore of Loch Ness. During the stopover, we opted to take a cruise on the loch (not included in the price of the tour) to try our luck spotting the monster. While we were unfortunately not successful, the cruise was spectacular, giving us an up close and personal view of the banks of the loch.
From Loch Ness we headed south again, through the mountains of the Cairngorms National Park and alongside Loch Laggan, over the Drumochter Pass (1500ft above sea level) and past 13th century Blair Castle, ancestral home of the Duke of Atholl. On the way back into Edinburgh we crossed over the famous Forth Bridge.
The tour was conducted using a comfortable air-conditioned 16 seat Mercedes mini-coach.
A couple of days later, we were able to join a preview of the new Edinburgh City Tour, lasting approximately an hour and a half, in an open topped deluxe mini-coach (the roof is a glass sliding design, which means it can be kept closed on rainy days!) The tour boards at Waverley Bridge in central Edinburgh and travels along Princes Street, where you hear about the famous castle and gorgeous garden, before heading to the Grassmarket, one of the best places to visit in Edinburgh, and a place that functioned both as a lively market place and a notorious place of execution. You learn about Edinburgh’s most famous dog before driving around Edinburgh’s central university area. The buildings here are stunning and there’s the chance to spot some of the magical places that inspired the Harry Potter books.
After visiting Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile, the tour passes the National Gallery and continues into the new town. Here you learn about the Scottish pioneers who lived in the beautiful Georgian buildings before heading off the beaten track and into Edinburgh’s quaint Dean Village. This residential zone was once a separate village and is packed full of charming cobbled lanes. Proceeding back into the city centre, the tour travels along George Street and Queen Street and past Calton Hill, and then heads down to the foot of Arthur’s Seat, where the regal Holyrood Palace is located before going through the Canongate and back to Waverley Bridge.
Rabbie’s tours are available in Scotland with various departure points, England with departures from London, and Ireland with departures from Dublin, and encompass day tours as well as longer multi-day excursions. For full details of all the options, contact information and online booking, check the website at www.rabbies.com
While there's no doubt we were very lucky with the weather in Scotland, participating in these two tours operated by Rabbie's Trail Burners contributed hugely to our enjoyment of our visit, and we highly recommend their top quality excursions to anyone visiting the areas where they operate.
Stewart Mandy received complimentary tour tickets from Rabbie's for the purposes of this article. All opinions however are his own.
Article written: October 2016