One question I am asked over and over again is about the best way to see a lot of Scotland in a short space of time. I always recommend small group tours as they are economical, take you to the most popular tourist sites and the guides keep you informed and entertained as you sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery.
Most people coming to Scotland want to visit the Highlands, even if they are on a city break. If you only have a day to spare then you are pretty restricted in where you can visit as transport in the Highlands is limited and being such a vast area means that unless you have a car seeing much of it in a day is impossible. This is where group tours come into their own as you can explore large parts of the country in hours rather than days.
Rabbie's is one of the most popular small group tour operators in Scotland and I really enjoyed taking a day tour with them last year to visit Stirling, Loch Lomond and Glengoyne whisky distillery. Deciding it was time to check out a different route, I opted for their longest day tour which takes you all the way from Glasgow to Loch Ness and back in 12 hours. This is the ultimate day tour if you want to go Nessie hunting or admire many of the mountain peaks and lochs of Scotland.
An early start in Glasgow and I was joined by a full bus of fellow tourists from countries as diverse as Brazil, China, India and the Netherlands. There were also a few tourists from closer to home including a couple of fellow Glaswegians. As we left the city behind and headed along the open road past Loch Lomond, I enjoyed watching the faces of my fellow passengers light up as they got their first glimpse of the mountain and loch scenery that Scotland is famous for. With the fitting soundtrack of Runrig and Loch Lomond being played as we rolled along, our driver/guide Tony regaled us with tales of Jacobites, Sir Walter Scott and some trivia about the many islands that are dotted around the loch itself.
Several suitably picturesque photo stops later and we were entering into the impressive landscape of Glencoe. This is the reason many people choose to take this particular trip and phones, cameras and tablets were being well utilised to capture the famous panorama. There was also much excitement among the group when we were able to get out of the bus and up close to a herd of red deer thanks to our knowledgeable driver.
With the weather haunting and gloomy we learned the history behind the notorious Glencoe massacre which had taken place that very same day in 1692 making our visit there all the more poignant.
After 4 hours and plenty of stunning views we arrived in Fort Augustus for lunch. This is a pretty town on the shores of Loch Ness with the Caledonian Canal slicing it down the middle. There are quite a few eating options and I chose to have lunch at the Bothy which looked nice from the outside and had a reasonably priced lunch menu. Unfortunately both the food and service were disappointing and going by recent TripAdvisor reviews I am not the only one to have had a sub standard Scottish experience.
After lunch there was plenty of time to stretch the legs and walk down to the shores of Loch Ness to do some monster spotting.
On leaving Fort Augustus we headed towards Drumnadrochit for an optional boat excursion on the loch and a quick photo stop with some Highland cows along the way.
I opted to go on the 1 hour boat trip with Jacobite Cruises which cost an additional £12.50, a slight discount on the normal price for those with Rabbie's. I was really impressed with the high standard of the boat and the facilities available including free WiFi and a Costa Coffee Bar. There was also plenty of room outside on both lower and upper decks to take in and photograph the spectacular Highland surroundings. The highlight of this trip is the close up view of Urquhart Castle which is best seen from the water.
For those not wanting to go on the boat trip there is a shop with a cafe and some walking trails, personally I would recommend that if you have traveled all this way to get to Loch Ness then the best way to enjoy it is by boat.
From Drumnadrochit the tour passes through Inverness before heading back south through the Cairngorms National park towards Glasgow with a short break for some refreshments during the journey.
With an eclectic Scottish soundtrack playing in the background and darkness descending around us I enjoyed the last few hours to Glasgow chilling out on my comfy seat and drifting in and out of nod land.
Be under no illusion this is a long day and you spend at least 7 hours on the bus so be prepared with snacks and any other travel comforts you might need for your trip.
This particular tour covers much of Scotland in a day, including the magnificent beauty of Rannoch Moor and the dramatic Glencoe. Guests are also taken to Fort Augustus, nestling on the banks of Loch Ness. Prices start from £39pp and the tour departs every day of the year from Glasgow. Alternative departures from Edinburgh are available. For more information, or to book, please see www.rabbies.com
To read my blog about their Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond and Whisky tour click here
I was a guest of Rabbie's on this tour, however as always all experiences and views are my own
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