I first saw the Scottish highlands in one of the travel magazines stacked in my mother’s office when I was in college. These travel magazines talked about different tours and itineraries around the world and would include photos of the highlight of the tours.
So when I heard we were going to see Edinburgh, I made sure to sign up for the Highlands tour one way or another. And it was with no regrets!
I read a lot of blogs and recommendations on which tour and agencies to take to see the Highlands and the first one that always came up was The Hairy Coo for their free Scottish Highlands tour. I tried to sign us up but due to the long weekend, they were already full and weren’t able to accommodate all six of us.
When we were in Edinburgh, the others backed out so I found myself weighing whether I should go alone or just stay and shop. But I’m not a big fan of shopping, truth to be told. I’d rather spend my money on tours or seeing new places rather than buy lots of clothes or pasalubongs since I could always find those in the Philippines. Keychains would do!
After dinner, I decided I needed to see the Highlands no matter what. I’ve been looking forward to it after all! I told my friend to go with me to sign up on a tour scheduled tomorrow. I read other recommendations and saw Timberbush Tours. The good thing about this tour agency was the location of their office, it was just in the entrance of the Edinburgh Castle which was a few walk away from where we had dinner (The Elephant House). And they’re probably the only tour which almost covered a lot of sights in the Scottish Highlands.
We walked as quickly as possible to their office because it was closing at 7PM and when we got there, they were already closed. I was devastated but told my friend to check the back door, maybe one of the employees haven’t gone home yet and they could still sign us up. But all doors were closed and no one was inside anymore. I was so disappointed that I just stood there and frowned.
Then there was this couple who passed by and asked what we were looking for. I told them we wanted to sign up for the Highlands tour in Timberbush but they’re already closed so I didn’t know what to do anymore. He then told us that we can sign up in another store that sold tour tickets a few tumbling away. We had a small chitchat and they dropped us at the store and I couldn’t be anymore thankful!
We bought the day-tour for the Highlands, Glencoe and Loch Ness for 46GBP. We then slept early and woke up around 6AM to grab breakfast and walked to the meeting point. I was at awe by how early everyone arrived, everyone was already in the bus and it wasn’t 8AM yet! Maybe I was used to Filipinos being late that we were surprised everyone was so punctual.
Loch Ness, Glencoe & The Highlands
And thus at 8AM, we were on our way to see the Scottish Highlands.
You have to know I hated myself for a good amount of three days after realizing that Snapchat photos only last 24-hours and most of my pictures were stored in the app and I failed to download those before it disappeared. God, I was such a noob. So forgive me for having limited snaps. I soooo badly wished I could go back!
We reached Fort William and had a quick lunch. We all had the famous fish and chips but we also wanted to give Haggis another try but decided not to, it was a risk we didn’t want to take. You can tell we didn’t have the best experience with Haggis – Scotland’s famous dish – bopis in the Philippines.
We drove through the Highlands passing over Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain and saw all these amazing views. It was so beautiful, I wanted to cry! I kept on thinking Mom would have liked this or I hoped she could see all this scenery!
Just imagine waking up everyday with such great views… the mountains, the waterfalls, the rivers, the greenery! I wonder if everything looks and feels so normal to the happy hiker who’s living here in the middle of the Highlands. I wonder if he still finds everything overwhelming?
Everyone was taking pictures in this area that two members of our group tour were almost left by the bus. The bus driver wasn’t kidding when he said, “30 minutes only”. We waited for another 10 minutes but these two guys were still taking photos so the driver decided to move the bus and these guys were running after it. When they got on the bus, the driver was moaning about how he wasn’t going to wait for one or two people and delay everyone in the tour. If you fail to show up in the bus at the given time, then for sure you’ll be joining a different one.
I was so excited to see a lot of sheeps (white and black), snow caps and people hiking to the mountains along the way. I couldn’t keep wondering how beautiful it would be to see the vastness of the area from the summit. To be humbled and overwhelmed by how God designed this world we live in. There’s so much more to see, so much more to experience, so much more to discover.
Also, we passed a good number of small towns, like really small towns with very few population and what keeps me wondering was the presence of so many inns, cottages, or hotels in these areas. Do people really drive to the North and spend time staying at those inns?
At around 3PM, we were driving at the side of Loch Ness and it started to get gloomy. Thankfully, the rain didn’t last long so we had a sunny weather when we took the Loch Ness boat ride in the Jacobite Cruise.
The Uruquhart Castle and the cruise were optional, you have to pay another 21GBP to get both. We decided not to get the ruined castle tour since we thought we were just going to see a bunch of stones scattered and it was really expensive! Really expensive! We signed up though for the Loch Ness cruise which was around 14GBP and it was such a downer, I felt like I was scammed! But for the sake of mema (memasabi lang), sige go na lang. After all, we grew up with the story of Nessie. Minsan lang naman! Baka di na maulit! So go, get the tour but don’t expect too much and don’t go moaning there wasn’t any Nessie in sight.
From Loch Ness, we passed through Inverness, Highland’s Capital, the city sounds like a game character or something.
We made the last stop in Pitlochry, a Victorian resort town, passing through Perthshire and the Forest of Atholl.
The Blair Castle, home of the Atholls could be seen from the Highlands motorway. So here’s a tip, whenever a flag is up on the castles or palaces, it means that the duke/queen/royalty is home. That’s what we saw in Blair Castle and it seemed they had some party going on with all the banderitas hanging. Again, I was so excited to see a castle with a living duke! I thought it would only be limited in books.
Pitlochry is such a beautiful little town. We made our last stop here and we walked around to see what we can buy as souvenirs or something. Most of the stores were selling cashmere scarves and Scottish kilt and hats. I liked the vibe of this Victorian town. It seemed so laid-back. Everyone was out drinking and eating al-fresco.
If I wanted to go TNT in this country, I could live in the Highlands. Hahaha!
From this lovely town, we enrouted back to Edinburgh and arrived around 8:30PM as per the schedule.
Would I recommend this tour to friends and family?
I honestly expected we would be experiencing the Highlands first-hand, like a bit of hiking or be given more free time and lots of stop-overs but the interaction was very limited. We only had 5 tops stopover (one for breakfast, one for lunch, one in Glencoe, one in the Highlands, one in Pitlochry). It was mostly driving through the Highlands and watching the scenery from the bus windows. And I’ve always hated bus tours but I guess this was the only way to see the Highlands.
Would I recomment it? Well, yeah (sans expectations). This is probably the only tour that covers most of the Highlands highlights and spots at only 44GBP and it was very educational as the driver/tour guide was a Scott and grew up in the Highlands himself.
But but but, if you could afford to rent a car, please do a roadtrip in the Highlands, or hike one of the mountains. It would be such a big awesome experience! One for the books, I’d say.
We’ve thought about that, but didn’t push through. Haha! You can also try that free Scottish Highlands tour from the Hairy Coo but be sure to book in advance.
- Duration: 12hrs 30 mins
- From: Edinburgh
- Departures: Mon-Sun
- Leaves at: 08:00
- Returns by: 20:30
- Knowledgeable Driver-Guide
- Luxury modern air-conditioned coach
- Written translations (on request)
- Entrance to attractions
- Food and drink
- Children under 5
Visit Timberbush Tours website or book by phone: Tel: +44 (0) 131 226 6066