After my 3 day tour in Ireland with Rabbie’s, I decided to head to Scotland and take a 4 day tour to the Isle of Skye and the West highlands. I absolutely love Rabbies! The guides have the freedom to be able to customize tours, so it pretty much a guarantee that every tour is going to be slightly different. There is also a max of 16 people so its a small group tour, making it easier to get along with your fellow passengers as well as your driver guide.
Not only are the guides super duper friendly (and funny!), they will make sure to ask all of the passengers of the tour what they want to see and then they will try their best to show them as well as showing off the best of the area they are in. The guides pride themselves on trying to take you to places not everyone else goes to
This tour is a the best four day trip to see as much of Scotland as humanly possible in four days
The rules on this tour (not “official” Rabbies rules):
- Have fun!
- Be adventurous, Scotland rains a lot, so bring a raincoat and some decent waterproof boots – get out and explore, even if it’s raining a little – you are only on this trip once (well for most people anyway) so take advantage of every opportunity.
- Get to know your fellow passengers, take the time to chat to them.
- If there are solo travellers, try to make them feel a part of the group and help take photos of them, i’m sure they will return the favour for you too.
- Embrace Scotland during the tour, use all of your senses – touch, smell, sight, hearing and in some cases taste.. Put your phone down and look around (as said by Gavin our incredible guide!).
- Be on time – if you guide asks you to be back in 30 minutes, be back in 29 minutes. If you are constantly late, it puts a damper on other passengers trip having to wait around and also means that the constant delays may mean that you will miss out on stops later that day.
- Tip your driver guide at the end of your trip, they work hard to make sure you are looked after and have the best time.
Movies to watch before you start this trip:
- Flash Gordon
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Day 1 Rabbies Tour
Today you’ll drive from Edinburgh to Fort Williams , where you will be staying overnight.
As this is a four day tour, the bus doesn’t leave near the Rabbie’s office like most of th day trips, it leaves from gate J & Gate K at the Edinburgh Bus Station.
Stop that were made on day one:
The Kelpies are dogs, like they are in Australia, they is the largest horse statue in the world. The horses featured are named Duke and Barron and are a nod to the horses that used to help pull the barges in the industrial stage in this area of Scotland.
The mythology about the Kelpies is very interesting too, grandparents used to warn their kids about the kelpies. They are the whitest purest looking horse you have ever seen, they lure you to them and are usually standing next to water.
When you get close to them and make contact with the horse the texture changes and you’re stuck! It will then dive into the water to the bottom and it will drown and eat you leaving your heart to float to the top. So maybe stay away from pretty white horses near the water…..
Doune Castle is a quick 30 min photo stop, there is a charge to go into the castle but you can walk around the grounds and take photos for free.
While the inside is nice, due to the time constraint, 30 mins if not enough to take photos outside and do a tour inside.
Doune Castle was used in Game of Thrones pilot episode was Winterfell, it has also been used in Outlander as Castle Leoch.
Callander is a one hour lunch stop, I remember this little town from our Loch Ness day trip with Rabbie’s last year.
I’d recommend going for a little wander around, visit the Loch behind the row of shops and then grab some lunch at MHor Bakery – you can eat in or take away. Make sure to leave room for dessert at your next stop!
After lunch, you’ll be on your way and the next stop is just a quick photo stop at Louch Lubnaig, it’s a popular swimming spot for locals, even in winter!
Here you can also enjoy Scottish Flapjacks for dessert. These flapjacks are not like the ones we all know; pancakes. Scottish Flapjacks are more like a granola bar with oats, honey, sugar and some love (and a few other secret ingredients).
There are a number of different stopping spots in the Rannoch Moor, Glencoe, Highlands area including Black mountains and Loch Tulla, Pass of Glencoe, Kings House hotel (where you can meet some deer), Lairig Eilde Waterfall, the three sisters of Glencoe, Loch Achtriochtan and the Glencoe visitors centre.
Usually I’m not that big into visitors centres as they can be a little stuffy but the Glencoe visitors centre is brand new, it opened this year and does a short film about the area of Glencoe and the history, it’s extremely interesting to watch – it only runs for around 10 minutes but I would highly recommend watching it, it covers the history of Glencoe.
Your last stop is Fort Williams, where you will be spending the night. I would recommend staying at the Myrtle Bank Guest House. When you’re ready for dinner head down to “The Grog & Gruel” restaurant along the main strip in Fort William, they have some really delicious food!
A few interesting things I learn on Day 1:
- Alleyways in Edinburgh are called closies due the close approximate to the buildings
- Football rugby and golf are 3 major sports in Scotland
- Scotland rarely wins games so they are used to celebrate loses
- There is the “Right to Roam” in Scotland, where anyone has the freedom to roam in Scotland. Being able to roam and camp where you want including farms and national parks.
- West Highway Walk is a very popular walk in Scotland, it covers 97 miles from Glasgow to Fort William and most people do this walk over 7 days, either camping or staying in local towns.
Day 2 Rabbies Tour
Today you will be going from Fort William to your overnight base in Kyleakin.
Stop that were made on day two:
Not only are the views here amazing over Loch Sheil and the Jacobite monument but you get to see the famous Harry Potter “Hogwarts Express” train go past, over the viaduct.
The train goes past around 10:45am. There are a few different viewpoints, one of which is a 45-60min walk away so you can either watch the train from the car park or head up on the right side of the car park to a small look out – get up there early to get a good spot.
Camsdarach beach is one of Gav’s favourite spots. Here you will be able to take our shoes off and put our feet in the water, enjoyed the icy icy cold sea water lapping up against our legs.
In the distance you can also see the Isle of Skye, where you will be spending the next few days.
Mallaig is a quick lunch stop and where you will catch the 30 minute ferry over the Isle of Skye. Make sure to be back on the bus on time as the ferry waits for no man!
Your first stop on the Isle of Skye might be Talisker Distillery where you will get to taste the Isle of Skye – Whisky made here.
The whisky is very smokey and phety Scottish whisky. If Whisky isn’t your thing, you can grab a coffee from a local cafe down the road.
Rather than going to the overcrowded fairy ponds that takes too long to get to and from, you’ll head to one of Gav’s secret spots that are almost the same as the Fairy ponds, but a little smaller and less of a walk to get to.
The great thing about this spot is that there is no one else here! It’s not overly crowded, just you and your new friends.
A few interesting things I learn on Day 2:
- IKEA has a deal in place with the Scottish authority. They purchase their wood from Scotland as it’s better quality than what they get in Sweden.
- There is approx 32,000 lochs in Scotland
- The Unicorn is the national animal in Scotland (seriously), it’s on the Royal Coat of Arms. The only thing that can defeat a lion (England) is a Unicorn.
- A quirky myth about rainbows in Scotland, unlike their neighbours in Ireland, rainbows are made by unicorns farting and instead of a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, it will in fact be a pile of rainbow poop in Scotland….
Day 3 Rabbies Tour
Day three will consist of exploring the Isle of Skye, strap in for a long and fun day!
Stop that were made on day three:
Island at the edge
Island at the edge is a small island farm run by a local couple, you’ll meet the lovely Jasmine. She has a number of sheep as well as two Hairy coos (not cows – coos, are Scottish highland cows).
Jasmine and he husband breed sheep for the fleece. The sheep are shaved once a year, where they bring in New Zealand shears, who are able to get the fleece off the sheep in 45 seconds. She will take you out to meet the sheep and the Hairy coos where you can feed and pat them.
You’ll get a 1 hour stop over in Portree for lunch, it’s likely going to be a slightly early lunch but make sure you get something decent as you’re afternoon is going to be very active.
Portree is also a cute little town, the harbour is very photogenic and the local shops are cool to wander through and pick up a few goodies to take home.
Be adventurous and try some Haggis however if you’re too put off of the idea of Haggis, then try another Scottish dish called cullen skink soup, which is similar to a chowder – it’s very filing.
The Fairy Glen
The Fairy Glen, was only of my personal favourite places and it’s a very magical place, from the moment you step off the bus you’ll feel something magical. In this particular place, there are a lot of doorways to the fairy world from here. Not all of the fairies are very nice, they can be deceiving.
If you make a lot of noise in the glen and annoy the fairies, they will come out of their fairy mounds and lure you in. Keep in mind that one day in fairy is = 100 days in the real world so make sure you behave! Also be careful standing in fairy circles….
**Personally, I think I saw a fairy, or my mind was playing tricks with me. I was climbing up high where there weren’t many people. I was watching my steps as it was slippery and close to a cliff face…. When I looked up, I saw a man, I looked back down to make sure my footing was secure before I said hello, when I looked up again, the man wasn’t anywhere to be seen and I didn’t see him again until later in the day in another location, where I blinked and he was gone again. Creeeeeepy!
The name of this waterfall isn’t secret falls, however, it was my guide (Gav) secret spot. Depending on your guide, you might visit this waterfall or they will take you to their own little secret spot.
Isle of Skye Brewery
The Isle of Skye Brewery will be a short 20 minute stop to try some local beer, even if you don’t like beer, just give it a try as some of the brews don’t even really take like typical beer. The little store is pretty cool with a few bits and pieces.
You’ll stop off at the world famous Quiraing and while you won’t have time to walk up (3-4 hour walk away) and take a look at it up close, there are two different spots that you can view the Quiraing.
The first stop is on the left where most people go and by all means head up and take a photo and checkout the view, but personally I think the second viewpoint on the right is better and less people head up there as it requires some climbing and rock hopping but it’s totally worth it.
Staffin bay is a nice stop off to relax by the beach for a few minutes and take in the views of the Quiraing from another angle.
There is also a dinosaur footprint on one of the rocks that you can check out up close and personal, however, it is located along a stretch of rocks that is super duper slippery so its not recommended to head over and have a look and if you do, it’s at your own risk.
My favorite thing about this beach when i visited was that the black sand beach that has white sections – makes it look like rays of sun on the beach but it’s white sand
Kilt Rock & Mealt Falls
Your guide will set the scene, a story of a 60 foot tall giant called Ewan McCloud who was involved in a fight with another giant that challenged him for his territory (the islands he protected). Both of the giants were Scottish and of course they wore kilts.
Ewan was hit and thrown into the coast line which left a dent, however, at the end of the fight, Ewan was victorious and was rewarded by the lady giants – more to come on this below.
This area is called Kilt Rock because the coast line looks like the pleats on the back of Scottish kilts. Mealt Falls can also be seen from the viewpoint, it feeds right into the ocean.
Old man Storr
Continuing the story of Ewan McCloud, once he won his battle with the other giant, all the ladies were very pleased with him and a lot of noise was created (wink wink…) and as a result this really annoyed the fairies.
The fairies cast a spell on Ewan and when he reclined back on the rocks to relax from all this time with the ladies, the fairy spell came over him, he became a part of the landscape. The only thing really visible of Ewan was his “old man” (manhood). It’s called “Old Man of Storr” as Storr is where Ewan came from.
Most photos of the Old Man Storr that you will see on Instagram or online are up close, this requires walking/hiking to get up this close and it takes around 2 hours to get this close. It’s still a great view from the bottom.
Depending on your guide, you might enjoy a group dinner with all your fellow passengers and your guide on your last night in Skye. Seamus bar is a great stop for dinner as they have delicious and affordable food as well as over 400 whiskies as well as some locals ales as well.
Either before or after dinner (although i think after is better), head down to the Sligachan river where you get down on your hands and knees and submerge your face in the river for a min of 7 seconds…. But why you ask?!
The Scottish fairies blessed the water further up the river, if you submerge your face you will be blessed with eternal beauty. It’s also a great group activity to bring you all together to do something a little silly and crazy!
Head back to your b&b or hotel for the night and get ready for your last day in the Isle of Skye.
A few interesting things I learn on Day 3:
- Skye was created 65,000,000 years ago from volcanic activity under the sea
- Happy cow is an app used in Scotland for people who are vegan and veggie to check out restaurants and reviews
- There is more to Scottish food than Haggis:
Fisherman’s plate – a buffet of seafood caught locally
Salmon is also big in Scotland
Steak pie – chucks of meat in a pie
Chippie tea – fish and chips – it’s a treat meal for most people
- Iron brew is a Scottish soft drink, it’s considered the national drink and drink of choice when you have a hangover. It tastes like cream soda or bubble gum. Fun fact: It’s banned in the USA, one of the “E” processing numbers is banned in the USA.
Day 4 Rabbies Tour
Day four is your last day (I know it’s sad!) you’ll be heading back to Edinburgh so there won’t be as many stops so enjoy the ones you get as there will be a lot of driving.
Stop that were made on day four:
Eilean Donan Castle & Carr Brae viewpoint
Eilean Donan Castle has actually been rebuilt numerous times due to being destroyed or mismanaged.
The Macrae family own it and make sure to keep it maintained. Only family members can get married here with enough notice in advance.
While you won’t be stopping to go inside the castle, if you come back here, you can enter the castle for £14 however, you can’t take pictures inside. The outside is just as pretty as the inside!
The white horse on the hill looks like a unicorn from a far and the name of the road isn’t unicorn road, it’s another super secret Gav spot. The views from up here are pretty cool and you can go up and pat two horses that live along the road.
Clachan Duich Burial Grounds
Clachan Duich Burial Grounds is a religious site dating back to at least 1050 (graves dating back to this date). It’s the traditional burial place of the Macrae chiefs. Most of the graves are from the 1800s and the late 1900s.
The views over Loch Duich and surrounding mountains are pretty incredible too.
Fort Augustus & Loch Ness
Loch Ness is a freshwater loch which is a total of 23 miles from the top of the loch to the end of the loch and it’s said that the Loch is deeper in some areas than in the ocean.
The Loch Ness monster stories started in 560AD, when Saint Columba came across from Ireland, he stopped at Loch Ness with some of his followers, he was woken by someone screamed. He jumped up and in the water was a monster with a follower in his mouth.
He said to the monster “You will go no further, and won’t touch the man; go back at once” the monster fled. Over the years there have been many sightings and fishermen would go missing.
A local made a report to the national press about the “monster” to try to get more people to come to Fort Augustus and more people started the visit. Scientists visited the loch and used sonar, they picking up large readings, when they would move towards the large readings, it would move again, they would pick it up again – back and forth this game was played but nothing has been found or not found. There are million year old cave systems under Loch Ness so who knows for sure what’s really down there.
There is a three million pound reward if you see the Loch Ness monster and can prove it with photos or video – that are actually legit.
Commando Memorial in Spean
There memorial in Spean for the commandos that fought in World War II, it overlooks the training areas of the Commando Training Depot established in 1942 at Achnacarry Castle. Commandos still use this area of Scotland to complete their training.
On a clear day you can see Ben Nevis Mountain range. Fun fact: Australian are the ones that are most rescued by mountain rescue from Ben Nevis when hiking as we apparently tend to go hiking in flip flops, shorts and a t-shirt. Maybe they were just going for an afternoon stroll and go up the mountain a little too high. Sorry mountain rescue (from Australia).
Spean Bridge Mill
You’ll stop at Spean Bridge Mill for 30 minutes to grab a bite to eat and shop til you drop, they off some lovely items made from Wool to purchase here.
Dalwhinnie Distillery is a quick stop off to use the facilities and to try out some whisky which is different from day two at Talisker Distillery. This whisky is softer and not as smokey.
Dunkeld if your last stop before you arrive back into Edinburgh, here you can visit the 1300th century Dunkeld Cathedral which is located next to the fast moving River Tay. Construction on the cathedral started in 1260 and was then completed in 1501.
Dunkeld is a cute little town, it’s not a tourist town so all the stores are vintage and more aimed towards locals. It’s nice to walk around and check out what the locals are into.
A few interesting things I learn on Day 4:
- John muir who came from Dunbar, visited the USA in 1800s and wrote 33 articles highlighting preservation and looking after the world. President Roosevelt read the articles and agreed. National parks were created when these 2 men met.
- National parks weren’t a “thing” in Scotland since 17 years ago, there is now two national parks: Loch Lomond National Park and the second is Cairngorms National Park
- Scotland is trying to go green and their target is 2020, to have 100% renewable sources for electricity. Currently they are on track with Wind farms, which is great as Scotland is the windiest country in Europe.
- Hydro farms are also used in Scotland, they use fast flowing rivers and dams, water will build up and during certain times of day they will allow the water to flow through the Dan which turn turbines which creates electricity
I hope you enjoyed my overview of what you can see and learn during the “Isle of Skye & West Highlands” 4 day tour with Rabbies. They have in no way paid me to write this or promote their company, I think it’s a great company and I really enjoy their tours, this isn’t the first or last tour I will take with them.