My mom and I took the first tour of the 2018 season in June, and it was the perfect time of the year with temperatures in the 60’s during the day. We flew from Louisville, KY to Detroit, then on to Amsterdam to our final destination of Edinburgh.
We arrived the day before our tour and after landing in Edinburgh, we were met by one of our guides Jennie and our personal driver to take us to the hotel. The Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh is beautiful and the perfect place to start our adventure. Concierge gave us some locations to explore, so we toured Princess Street with its variety of department stores, including the 180-year-old Jenner’s Department Store. We also walked along Rose Street with its, café’s, pubs and small shops. But seeing Old Town in the distance, we knew that we had to take the trek up the hill to see what Old Town had to offer. In Old Town, the Royal Mile is simply charming with its picturesque side streets, shops, restaurants, churches and so much more. All of this is within walking distance of the hotel. After dinner, we headed back to the hotel to relax.
The next day, we took the opportunity to catch up on a little sleep then walked to the National Museum. The museum is free and offers a multi-floor wing with exhibits all about Scotland and its rich history, plus science exhibits, natural history and much more.
That evening, back at the hotel, we met our fellow adventurers in the lobby and were escorted upstairs by a bagpiper for drinks and hors-d’oeuvres. Our guides Michael and Claire welcomed everyone and gave us information about our tour and then had us introduce ourselves to the group. Several of the adventurers had been on many other Adventures by Disney® trips, and two couples knew each other from another trip. We enjoyed our welcome dinner and we received our first pin of the trip that we placed on our lanyard.
The next morning, after our buffet breakfast at the hotel, we did a walking tour of the area, then boarded the motor coach and made the short drive to Leith where the Royal Yacht Britannia is docked. Now, most visitors enter through the shopping mecca, but not if you are on the Adventures by Disney® tour. We arrived before it opened to the general public and the coach pulled right up next to the ship with a red carpet welcome. The group was split into two groups and toured the ship. They even dropped the ropes in the living room and allowed us to sit on the furniture that was used by the Royal Family. So exciting! Tea and scones were served to us on the ship as well. We then headed to Holyrood Palace, which is the Queen’s summer palace. Our guide Jennie provided some great commentary as we toured the rooms. The room where Mary Queen of Scots once lived was fascinating. After a short walking tour highlighting where J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series that was written in Edinburgh, we were off to the Grassmarket area of Old Town for lunch on our own. As a group, we then walked up the Royal Mile and into Edinburgh Castle for a tour, with Jennie providing great information along the way. After the tour we had an evening on our own, so Claire made us a reservation to tour Mary King’s Close. For about £15, this tour was amazing as we saw how the residents in Old Town lived. I highly recommend it to anyone!
After another good Scottish breakfast, we went to Floors Castle. Not only is this a beautiful estate, but Adventures by Disney® is the only tour that goes there. Floors Castle is still occupied by the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe and was built in 1721. After a tea reception in the castle, we enjoyed a lovely day touring the gardens, the castle, we visited the gift shop and had a private lunch. Then we made shortbread with the private chef of the Duke and Duchess, which they baked and packaged for us to take with us. On the backside of the castle, we gathered for a falconry experience. An owl named Bandit and a hawk named Iona were the stars and they would fly from a tree to a thick glove on our hand. It was quite an experience! Back in Edinburgh, we had an evening on our own so we ate dinner at the Rose Street café, while others ate at the Witchery, went on ghost tours, etc.
The next morning, our suitcases were picked up and we boarded the coach to begin our trip to Inverness in the Highlands. We stopped at Glenturret Distillery where they gave us a tour showing us how their Whiskey is made. We also had a whiskey tasting and I decided that Scottish whiskey is not for me – although most everyone else enjoyed the whiskey. We were treated to lunch at the distillery, then headed to our next stop, Blair Castle. The first part of the castle was built in 1269 and its white color makes it stand out in the landscape. After a tour and a trip through the gift shop, we made our way through the changing landscape to the mountains of the Highlands and checked into the Kingsmill Hotel. We had some time to relax at the hotel then met for a pre-dinner whiskey tasting and a delicious meal. After dinner, a local Highlander and Jacobite, Ian showed us how the Jacobite’s used their weapons and how to put on a traditional kilt. He even used a few of our fellow adventurers to demonstrate the skills.
Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of going to Loch Ness, and after breakfast and a drive through Inverness, my dream came true! We toured the visitor center, where they provide facts about the loch and the many Nessie sightings to help us make up our own minds about the Loch Ness monster. We enjoyed lunch at the center while a local resident provided stories of the legend of monster. After a quick trip through the gift shop, where I picked up several essential Nessie items, we split into two groups and either headed out to the canoe launch or to the small motor boats. We chose the motor boat and had a cruise on the Loch with magnificent views of the mountains and the ruins of Urquhart Castle. I really looked closely at the water, but never did spot Nessie. For those who chose canoeing, they launched from the base of Urquhart Castle. Interestingly, Adventures by Disney® is the only company that is allowed to launch canoes from this location. We were then taken to Urquhart Castle, where we watched a video about the history of the castle, visited the gift shop and toured the ruins. Built in the 13th century, this castle had its share of struggles and its owners blew it up in the 1600’s before abandoning it. The remains are absolutely stunning and definitely a highlight of the trip. Along with several other adventurers, we chose to be dropped off in the city center of Inverness for some sightseeing and dinner. It was a lovely 25-minute walk back to the hotel, where we saw some cute traditional Scottish homes along the way. I topped the evening off with a glass of wine from the bar.
For the Outlander fans, our next day was all about Culloden and our favorite resident Highlander, Ian joined us on the motor coach to give us some background on the Highlands culture. Once at Culloden, Ian did a fantastic job showing us around the battlefield and painting a picture of the events that took place there. He told us about the Redcoats and the Jacobite’s and why the Jacobite’s really didn’t have a chance to win the battle. We had some time in the visitor’s center to see and hear more about the site, battle and Jacobite culture, and of course, visit the gift shop. We went back to Inverness for lunch in the city center. The scheduled activity that afternoon was a four-mile bike ride, but several of us chose to go shopping in Inverness instead. So I picked up a few more things to take home, then we walked back to the hotel. We met in the lobby before heading to the golf club for dinner. The golf club was located on the North Sea about 45 minutes away and we strolled on the beach, while others hit a few golf balls, then headed in for dinner.
The next morning, we traveled to the Rothiemurchus Estate, where we did archery and participated in some highland games. My group split into two clans, the Fraser clan, and the Irn Bru clan. I was pretty darn good at the hammer throw, but didn’t fare as well in tug-o-war and hence our clan’s loss to the Fraser clan. We fueled up with a picnic lunch topped off with Claire’s favorite brownies. Our amazing bus driver, Willie drove expertly on the dirt roads so we could see some Red Tailed Deer and Hairy Coo. We also took a short hike to see a beautiful lake with a small castle in ruins. We returned to the hotel to relax and have our farewell dinner. We met in the lobby and were escorted to the dining room by a bagpiper. As expected, dinner was delicious and we enjoyed music, Scottish dancers and even haggis for those who wanted to try it. Michael and Claire were such wonderful guides and presented us with a slideshow of our trip. It was the perfect end to a perfect trip!
All good things must come to an end, and the next morning, it was time to say goodbye to our new friends. As Michael and Claire saw us off, I was sad to leave but knew that we made wonderful memories to last a lifetime. It was truly an amazing tour!
We tacked on a few days in London so we took the train from Inverness to London Kings Cross and spent two days exploring. Our hotel was a quick 10-minute walk to Buckingham Palace and we saw the changing of the guard and took a hop-on-hop-off bus tour and saw sites such as the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, London Bridge, Parliament, Big Ben and Kensington Palace. On our last night, we saw Wicked at the Apollo Theater. It was a whirlwind few days, but I enjoyed it. The next morning, we took a traditional black cab to the airport for the flight home.
Our trip was absolutely amazing and would not have changed a thing. Our Adventures by Disney® group was such an amazing group of people and I am glad that we had the chance to experience this with them.
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