We definitely busted some compasses on this trip!
After having been on a Shamrocker Adventures’ 7 Day All Ireland Rocker Tour, we had a bit of an idea of what to expect going into this trip. We knew it would be shared accommodations, there would be exploring and adventures (legs day! 🙄) and that there will probably be switches in tour guides and tour groups.
And we knew it was going to be epic – of course! It is Scotland, after all! From all that we have read, seen, heard and probably from our imaginations as well, we had built up an idea of what Scotland would be like and how amazing it would be! And sometimes… you end up disappointed because you had such high expectations to begin with.
But for us, we absolutely LOVED it – from the history and the standing stones, to castles, scenery, glens and lochs! 💙 We had an amazing time exploring Scotland!
We felt taking this tour was a good way to see this beautiful majestic country – with our limited budget and time. Sure, it would have been nicer if we could have done a road trip around Scotland ourselves and stopped wherever we wanted to (*ahem* Speyside Whisky Trail and Walkers Shortbread factory!) and spend more time in the places that we liked (The Hebrides and Isle of Skye!). But I don’t think we would have seen as much of Scotland in 10 days time, on our own.
Plus, then we wouldn’t have met our wonderful group mates and friends! 😊
I think we have said it before but we’ll say it again here – the people you’re with definitely make or break your trip! Especially on a group trip… Especially on a long 10-day group trip like this one! This trip, just like the Shamrocker’s trip we took earlier, also combined several different tours together – besides our 10-day group, there were people on 5-day, 7-day and 3-day tours all combined together as well. So… we did have people join and leave our original 10-day group and we may not have meshed well with the last group that joined us… But our original group of people? I would go on another trip with these guys in a heartbeat. Sure, introductions and group dynamics can be… interesting sometimes (like the Isle of Harris beach incident of 2015) but we are so lucky to have met these wonderful, kind and fun people!! I’m smiling like mad right now – reminiscing and looking at all of our photographs from this trip!
So, what did we think of the trip?
We loved that there was lots of exploring and adventures. To traverse a country as vast as Scotland, there was, of course, travel time spent on the bus. But even on long travel days, stops were scheduled quite frequently and we were able to at least get off for a quick ramble and stretch our legs. I think we went on a (long) walk pretty much every single day – even when it was blustery and pouring rain (We’re from Raincouver, so we enjoy a good walk in the rain!) The scenery and landscape was amazing – from the mountains to the waterfalls to the beaches – yup, I said beaches!
There were some things that could be improved upon – the route was a bit circuitous and there was some unnecessary (to us – but necessary for operations) doubling back. It seems like this was common feedback from previous groups. While we were on our trip, we were told that HAGGiS Adventures was planning to change the route for the 2016 year so that it would flow a bit better. So it’s nice to see that they take feedback from previous groups and are working to improve things for future guests!
Over the next couple of weeks, we will share our trip and experiences with you all. We hope that our posts and reviews will be helpful for independent travelers trying to decide where in Scotland to visit and what attractions to see, as well as for those considering taking a guided tour of Scotland – such as the HAGGiS Adventures trip that we went on.
We will make a note here that we paid for this trip ourselves and did not receive any compensation for writing about our experience. Our blog posts and reviews are of our own experience in October 2015 (better late than never?!) and are our honest opinions.
Here’s the Compass Buster tour description from the HAGGiS Adventures website:
“Think you can take 10 days of it? All the creepy castles, all the crazy history and all the eye bursting beauty? Yes? Then be brave and do the Compass Buster. It spans Scotland from pub to mountain, from beach to monster and all the best bits in-between. And if that wasn’t enough, you get to absorb a ton of knowledge from our legendary guides. So be bold, be smart and take our most complete tour of Scotland.”
The current trip route has changed from when we went but I think most of the locations and stops are still the same. One thing about this trip that was different from our All Ireland Rocker trip was the structure of the trip. The Ireland trip had more of a set itinerary for each day. This Compass Buster trip was less structured and depending on the driver/guide, the places you visit might be in a different order or you might visit a completely different place compared to the group going on the same trip a week after you!
This 10-day tour was a pretty complete tour of Scotland – taking us from Edinburgh out to the Hebrides, then up north to the Orkneys, back through Loch Ness, then out west to Oban and back to Edinburgh. Of course, there were some places that we didn’t stop at or didn’t spend a lot of time in, but at least now we know where we want to go when we plan our next trip to Scotland!
Here was the itinerary for our 10 day trip:
Day 2: Stornoway → The Butt of Lewis → Gearrannan Blackhouses → Dun Carloway Broch → Callanish Standing Stones → Stornoway (Overnight)
Day 3: Stornoway → Isle of Harris and Beaches! → Tarbert → Portree (Overnight)
Day 4: Portree → Fairy Pools → Eilean Donan Castle → Inverness (Overnight)
Day 5: Inverness → Duncansby Head → John O’Groats → Tomb of the Eagles → Italian Chapel → Kirkwall (Overnight)
Day 6: Kirkwall → Skara Brae → Ring of Brodgar Standing Stones → Yesnaby → Kirkwall (Overnight)
Day 7: Kirkwall → Invermoriston → Loch Ness → Fort Augustus (Overnight)
Day 8: Fort Augustus → Glenmoriston → Eilean Donan Castle (repeat) → Old Man of Storr → Portree (repeat) → Kyleakin (Overnight)
Day 9: Kyleakin → Armadale → Mallaig → HOGWARTS! → Glencoe → Oban (Overnight)
Day 10: Oban → Doune Castle → The Kelpies → Edinburgh
We can’t wait to share our stories and photographs with you all! Stay tuned for Day 1 of our Scotland adventures coming up soon!
From Vancouver with Love,
Ioana and Natalie
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