After a short two nights in Edinburgh to help Jess adjust after flying from Australia, we gathered our belongs early on Monday morning and headed to the Haggis Bus Tours office on the Royal Mile, ready to begin our 5 day/4 night tour of Scotland.
Unfortunately Jess’ baggage, which had disappeared somewhere between Heathrow and Edinburgh still hadn’t turned up and the delivery company was being painful but it did eventually reach us on the third night.
I had been on a three day Haggis tour in 1999 on my first trip to Europe and I was interested to see what had changed. I remembered it being one of the highlights of my two month stay and was sure this would be another great experience – although I did wonder if I’d be the oldest person on the bus. Turned out that there was one guy older than me – Patrick – who was 45, but the age spread between 19 and 45 was pretty good.
There were 29 people on the bus and slightly more women than men. Our driver was a perky, blue-eyed young man named Callum who had a dry sense of humour and a decent knowledge of the places we visited. He encouraged us all, as we left Edinburgh, to move around the bus and chat to new people so by the first stop we all know at least six new names and were comfortable talking to each other.
I won’t write about everything we saw but I’ll cover my highlights (in no particular order).
Highlight 1: The Scenery.
The mountains of Scotland are very reminiscent of the Lake District in many way but there is an extra wildness to them (possibly due to the far lower numbers of people and sheep) and the autumn colours we experienced were perfect.
I love everything about it and it’s made me want to do the West Highland Way one day – or maybe even the much less popular East Highland Way. The weather is always a huge factor in any outdoor pursuits in Scotland and midges are more problematic too but I would love to see more of the wilder parts of the countryside.
Highlight 2: The Selkies.
Our first stop on day 1 was at the Selkies, a huge and fairly newish sculpture near Edinburgh that looks like two angry chess pieces. Marvellous!
Highlight 3. The Company.
While our bus group did somewhat separate into the ‘all night partiers’ and ‘the rest of us’, everyone got on and was good fun.
Isabel from Switzerland, Alice and Tim from Sydney (on their pre-wedding trip to Octoberfest) and Patrick from London were probably the people I spoke to most and were all particularly lovely. There was another (and more professional) travel blogger on the bus but she had to leave early. Her blog is http://www.broganabroad.com if you like reading travel blogs!
Highlight 4. The Ceilidh.
On our first night we stayed in Oban in a hostel that had been a church. We spent the evening at a local bar having a Ceilidh (traditional Scottish dance) with a band that had a bag piper. We dance many dances and nearly everyone got up at least a few times.
To finish, a few photos with captions rom throughout the week.