From books and movies, I had always imagined what Scotland would look like and our “Country Roads of Scotland” escorted tour with Insight Vacations was the perfect way to experience the lush green heart of this magical land. Ten blissful days… and now Scotland feels like home.
After touring lively Edinburgh for two sunny days we headed north, away from the crowds and up into the Highlands. Going off the beaten track delivered us right into the Scotland of my dreams.
The rugged landscape, the “dragon’s breath” that draped the mountaintops just before a rain, the wilderness of green tufted vales, the glens and straths dotted with woolly sheep, the lochs and rivers on the way to the Isle of Skye…and all those waterfalls seeping out of every cranny in the hillsides and mountains! Here in California we are so parched by drought that I had forgotten how lush a land can be.
The Scottish people are so dear, so friendly, jovial and welcoming…and those accents, lilting and rugged like their country. Our Tour Director, Michael, was the perfect combination of doting shepherd and darling host. Meticulously detail oriented in his care for us, he was a font of encyclopedic knowledge of the Scots and their history and a very funny storyteller to boot. As he shared with us ancient Scottish history and stories of clan battles and royal intrigue, he would now and again slip seamlessly into a tall tale of his own escapades, catching us up in breathless attention until the punch line.
Michaels’s clear love of this country and its people shone through as he encouraged us to experience the enchantment and mythology of the Highlands at some very moving locations. Charming us with the lore of Loch Ness and its famed water horse, hearkening back to the heartbreak at Culloden Moor, sharing the mystical power of the Druid Temples, Michael often brought us to tears, especially those of us who have had a “bit of the sadness” come into our lives. And for anyone who is a fan of the “Outlander” time-travel books, this particular tour is a must, as we visited all things Clan Fraser. Many of us clung to the standing stones in hopes of being transported ourselves!
So much was included in our Insight Vacation: our accommodations, daily breakfasts and most dinners, tours each day, plus a few surprise “flourishes”– complimentary stops along the way for homemade shortbread, Orkney ice cream, tea and cakes and clotted cream.
One favorite afternoon included a slice-of-life moment when we visited a sheepdog trainer on his Highland farm. The proud sheep farmer whistled and whooped to his dogs who were eager to show off how they keep those woolly beasts in line.
After trying our hands at sheep shearing and feeding the lambs, we couldn’t resist cuddling a few puppies from a recent litter. Our visit felt like such a privilege as, sadly, this ancient way of life is disappearing in
In addition to the wild Scottish countryside and our very talented Tour Director, another highlight of this Insight Vacation was our fellow adventurers. We got to know everyone–their stories, their passions–over meals, while touring, and while exploring together in the evenings. Insight Vacations sets up so many meals together as well as the seating rotation on our coach so that we were always cozying up to someone new in those first early days. By the end of this adventure we had truly all become good friends and I look forward to traveling with many of them in the future.
For those travelers considering an escorted tour, an Insight Vacation offers the perfect balance of activities and free time…free time to explore tiny towns late into the long summer hours of daylight, to hike the castle-topped hills, to hunt down local pubs for whiskey and rousing music, to get up early (sometimes) for a quick walk-around in the bright, emerald dawn. From that dawn to late dusk, we were steeped every day in the Scotland I had hoped to see—dramatic, soulful, mystical. Slainte va!