Our 21 day trip to Scotland was one of the most exceptional international journeys that my wife and I have had. We saw as much of Scotland as possible for the time we spent in that beautiful country.
The planning for our 2021 trip began in 2019 with a reach out to Zicasso, who we used on a previous trip a few years back with great results. At first, we only received interest from one tour company, stateside, to help us plan our trip. However, I went back out to Zicasso to try and get an agent in Scotland, and Jeff called me from Edinburgh and the planning began in August of 2019.
My wife was intent on me not driving while in Scotland, so, that meant that we would need a driver for most of the time. I'm glad we did, as it would not have been safe for me to drive on the roads we were on. I found driving in New Zealand to be a challenge, but I'm convinced that driving in Scotland would have been worse, at least 3X with all of the narrow one-way roads with no shoulders, limited turnouts, rock walls and hedges.
The initial timing for our trip was supposed to go off in April 2020. However, due to Covid lock-downs, we had to postpone our trip twice. First to April 2021 and then to September 2021. So, Jeff essentially had to book, cancel, rebook all of our lodgings, ferries, trains and other excursions three times! We indeed got to know each other, albeit long distance, in the 2 years that he and I had in planning.
It's not as easy for anyone to do foreign travel these days as it once was with all of the different Covid protocols depending on where you start and where you are going. For our September 2021 trip to Scotland, we had to show we had the Covid vaccinations, a Covid test 72 hours prior to our flight, complete a locator form for the UK that covered our complete trip, and then another test in Edinburgh on day 2. While we were in Scotland, we were on a barge in the Caledonian Canal for a week, and we had to do a quick test mid-way through that excursion. Then, before returning home, we had to do another Covid test within 72 hours of departing which meant that Jeff had to tweak our itinerary that allowed a day to go to a pharmacy in Aberdeen to take the tests. Had just one of our tests come back positive for Covid which does happen, and I'm not sure what we would have done. But, luck was on our side and it all went well, and really there wasn't much stress regarding test results, because we did have Jeff there to help us in the case we were positive.
Jeff and Linda did a great job with all of the logistics, and once we finally arrived in Scotland, our trip was stress free! I didn't have to pour through maps and travel brochures, or make phone calls to B&Bs or anything. Jeff did all of that, plus the driving and tour guiding! It was about as turn-key of a trip as I've had. Jeff also made most of our lunch and dinner reservations for us, picking restaurants that were very exceptional!
Jeff is a very seasoned tour guide who has worked all through Europe, but he is an expert on all things Scotland. Growing up in Edinburgh, he knows the history and significance of places of interest, etc., and he is very proud of his beautiful country which we really enjoyed!
The most enjoyable things about our trip were the diversity of the countryside and towns, the warm and friendly reception we got from everyone and the different things we did, including rail, barge and ferry travel, distillery tours, reindeer feeding, hikes, shopping, etc.
I think our week-long side-excursion down the Caledonian Canal and the reindeer feeding will be amongst the most memorable parts of the trip. But, again, there are also all of the castles, dining experiences, and of course riding with Jeff that will also be in our memories.
This was our first Scotland trip. So, Jeff and I had planned it as a 'survey' holiday. Meaning, we might not drill down very deep in any one location, or activity, but, we would see a lot of Scotland. And we did! For a first trip to Scotland, I'm not sure that I would change much. But, if we come back to Scotland in the future, and I hope we do, I'm sure we will have a different trip.
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