I recently took a trip to Scotland for two weeks and it was fabulous! Part of what made it so great, aside from the fact that this was the first time I was able to be away from work that long, was I went on the trip using a tour bus company. I have never considered doing this previously, but one of the people in our group suggested a particular tour company and simply raved about how good they are. Another person in our party has MS (Multiple Sclerosis) so my family thought doing a tour would make the walking or physical exertion of traveling easier. So off we all went.
But first, let me advise that you should schedule plenty of time in between connecting flights on your way to Europe. It’s no fun running from one end of an airport terminal to the other, and barely making the flight. Or not making it at all. Just give yourself plenty of time and consider visiting one of those airport spa’s, if you have the time. Sage advice, as I’ve learned the hard way…more than once.
Usually there’s limited time and you want to see as much as possible while on vacation, right? Tour bus travel will definitely get you to many places each and every day. As an overview, we started in Edinburgh, went north up the east coast all the way to the Orkney Isles, then across to the west side to the Isle of Skye, and ended the tour in Glasgow. Regardless of how large a geographic area you are trying to cover, the bus stops every hour and a half, if for anything, bathroom breaks. So sometimes this meant road stops with a café and tourist shops, but most of the time this was a chance to visit some incredible castle or take a scenic photo. Examples of quick stops were St. Andrews, Glames Castle, Melrose Abbey, a ride on the “Hogwarts Express”, and so much more.
And just think, you don’t have to worry about driving in a foreign country yourself, figuring out that country’s train system, or paying a lot of money for taxis. You are chauffeured around in the comfort of a large and, typically, luxurious bus, with comfy seats and a toilet on board. While I’ve always enjoyed using mass transportation in other country’s, the “when in Rome” attitude, I have to say, I didn’t waste any of that “which rail line do we take” map reading time while on a tour bus. You simply jump on and away you go. No dilly-dallying. The only thing you figure out is where your assigned seat is on the bus each day. And according to others on the tour who were more seasoned than I, the times we left each morning were good (in other words, not real early). We typically had a hotel buffet breakfast each morning (included in the tour price) at 7:00 or 7:30 am and left the hotel by 8:00 or 8:30 am.
Some additional perks of using a tour were, since I was traveling in a party of five, they always made sure to sit my group together on the bus, or at functions we went to. In addition, the main tour guide was very knowledgeable about the country, each place we visited, and handled any special requests, such as arranging ahead of time for dietary restrictions. Also, some city’s we visited they brought in a tour specialist to give us even more detailed information about where we were visiting. And lastly, the tour I used, Trafalgar, delivered and picked up one piece of luggage for each person from our room. We changed hotels at least five times, so you don’t realize how helpful this is until you see how small and slow European elevators are.
I have to mention a few miss-steps too, right? One was we went at peak season, on probably the two busiest tourist weeks of the year in Scotland. This meant the group was VERY large (52 people). And that meant it took a while to do anything. A bit of herding cats for our tour guide. On the flip side though, we met a lot of wonderful people from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. But, overall, I highly advise you NOT to go during peak season; May and September are usually good times for most European trips.
I found a great article on comparing bus tours on Rick Steves’ Europe site. Check it out if you want a great trip. While Trafalgar was listed as low-end cheap, it was great, well organized, and we saw more sites than we would have seen if we had done this trip on our own.
Click on the hyperlink for a few more good tips from Rick Steves’ Europe site.
As for what jewelry did I take? I typically like to take basic pieces such as the Tubular Pendant Necklace or the Chandler Necklace. They go with just about anything. I also took the Trim and Proper Bangle, one of my favorite pieces, our new Medora Spiral Ring and the Henley Cuff Ring.
Oh, and as for the physical exertion concern, our family member with MS enjoyed the trip tremendously. The tour company is always amenable to anyone who does not want to get off the bus or see a specific site. In other words, you still do a bit of walking. And while tired at the end of the day, we were still able to make it to the hotel bar for a libation, including some great scotch. 🙂