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North Hills Monthly

Motorcoach Tour Provides Easy, Comfortable Way to Explore Scotland

Dec 31, 2018 08:51PM ● By Vanessa Orr

St. Andrew's Castle

I’m a pretty independent traveler; my ideal trip is hopping in my Jeep, Lucille, and taking off on backroads to find somewhere I’ve never explored before. But when you’re going overseas to a country that you’ve never visited, and everyone drives on the opposite side of the road, and you don’t really have any idea of how to get to what you want to see…sometimes it’s best to turn the driving and the directions over to someone else.

This past September, I took a trip with CIE Tours International to explore parts of Scotland. Along with about 30 other people, we spent five days visiting the cities and the countryside of my ancestral home, including stops in Glasgow, Loch Lomond, St. Andrews, and Edinburgh. I wasn’t at all sure what to expect from a motorcoach tour, though I’d been told that the guides with their knowledge of the locations were one of the biggest draws to this type of tour. And while that was true, I was happily surprised to learn that they were just one of the reasons why these trips attract such a wide range of travelers.

Speaking of, I have to say that it was pretty fun to meet so many different people from all over the world from Ohio to Australia. And it was all ages, ranging from a 30s-ish couple enjoying a week away from work to a 20-year-old traveling with her grandmother, to a few middle-aged couples who were old hands at this types of travel. Many of the group had taken a motorcoach tour before—not just for the convenience, but for the curated experience that ensured that they would get a more in-depth look at the places we visited.

And the locations and activities were incredible. Despite the fact that it was torrentially raining the first day I joined the tour (one more reason to let someone else drive!), the ride alongside Loch Lomond and through Rannoch Moor and Glencoe was awe-inspiring; the storm even stopped long enough for us to get photos with a drop-dead gorgeous mountain backdrop. Being nestled in the warmth of the bus listening to Scottish folktales told by our guide with her charming Scottish brogue was a plus, as was the Scottish music that was piped through the speakers sharing tales of woe—alas, while haunting, most of the songs that revolve around the country’s history are not exactly happy-ending toe-tappers.

Our group got to take a Loch Ness cruise, and though no one spotted Nessie, the captain did share photos with me on his phone of some kind of large bodies on the sonar—while I’m not sure what I was looking at, I prefer to believe that the big old monster was just hunkered down until the weather got better.

The sun came out for the rest of our visit, which included a wonderful afternoon in St. Andrews, best known as the Home of Golf, where we got some time to explore the town on our own. Not only were there cathedral ruins to explore, but also a castle looking out across St. Andrews Bay. The easily walkable town was also a shopping mecca—only through immense self-control did I manage not to fill my luggage with custom-designed kilts.

I did, however, have to do a little shopping at another stop, Blair Athol Distillery in Pitlochry, where we got a tour of the wonderfully fragrant facility that was founded in 1798, as well as a tasting of their delicious 12-year-old single-malt whisky. They don’t ship to the U.S., unfortunately, so you have to take advantage of the chance to buy it when you can! 

I love how the Scottish appreciate good food as well as fine whisky. One of the highlights of the visit was the Spirit of Scotland dinner, where a bagpiper, dancers and a mesmerizing storyteller performed the Welcome of the Haggis, which is basically a salute to a rather, um, interesting food made out of animal entrails. Think hot dogs, but with a lot more pomp and circumstance.

I also enjoyed the day we spent in Edinburgh, a city steeped in history. From a tour of Edinburgh Castle, which towers above the city, to walks through the 200-year-old Georgian New Town, and the Royal Mile where medieval houses still stand, this bustling metropolis is already on my list for a return visit when I’ll have more time to explore.

While the Taste of Scotland tour was just that—a taste—it turned out to be a wonderful way to see a lot of the country in a short time, and to get ideas about where I want to return to in the future. While I wasn’t sure what to expect, it turned out to be a really easy, extremely informative way to explore a new place.

For more information, visit CIE Tours International at www.cietours.com. You can also get more information on places mentioned in this article below:

Scotland tourism:  www.visitScotland.com

Loch Lomond:  www.loch-lomond.net

Loch Ness cruise:  www.cruiselochness.com

St. Andrews:  www.standrews.com

Blair Athol Distillery:  https://www.malts.com/en-us/distilleries/blair-athol

Edinburgh:  www.Edinburgh.org

Glasgow:  www.peoplemakeglasgow.com

Suggestions for accommodations:

In Glasgow:  Doubletree by Hilton Glasgow Central   www.dtglasgowcentral.com

In Nairn:  Muthu Newton Hotel  www.muthuhotels.com

In Edinburgh:  Dalmahoy Hotel and Country Club  www.dalmahouhotelandcountryclub.co.uk