This agency did an excellent job of working with me to plan and book our trip of a lifetime to Scotland and Ireland.
This was definitely a "luxury" trip and was probably out of our comfortable price range, but we are so glad we did it this way!! It was perfect in all ways, from a "doable" itinerary between lodgings, to the person arranged to be our personal drive and guide in Ireland. We could not be happier with our experience.
The most enjoyable and memorable part of our trip was our driver/guide. He was simply superb in all ways. He was truly professional, prompt, patient, perceptive and passionate! He was always exactly where he said he would be when he said he would be there and he was also appreciative of the fact that we, too, were prompt. He shared with us his passion for his country, and especially for the beauty of the countryside. He was able to accommodate our personal requests, and was not afraid to recommend one thing or to advise us to eliminate another thing. He provided excellent company and commentary and we are now privileged to call him a lifetime "friend"!!
Other than him, we really enjoyed almost every single lodging arranged for us by our travel agency. The castle on the Isle of Mull in Scotland was our first taste of castle living and as they say "you had us with Hello"! Absolutely loved the setting of that castle, out on the westernmost tip of Mull, and everything about it - especially the complimentary single malt scotches in the library (at least a dozen of them). The friendships and conversations made around the room the two nights that we were there, will be some of our fondest memories. Add to that the incredible restaurants in Tobermory (Cafe Fish and the Galleon Grill) and the trip was off to a very good start!
The rebooking of us to the inn in Ft. William was an excellent move on the part of of our travel agency. We may have had our best meal at their own restaurant, sea bass and scallops were out of this world!! The scenery along the road to Inverness and Loch Ness were lovely, in spite of a little mist which only added to the mood! Lodging in Inverness was great and dining in their restaurant was truly elegant! Lastly, the two nights in Edinburgh were also top rate. The concierge there recommended a restaurant for us our last night, Angel with Bagpipe, a lovely bistro restaurant right across the street from St. Giles Cathedral. A perfect location for us as we were doing the late night tour of the caverns of Edinburgh after dinner!
But, as stated above, the best part of the trip was meeting and being escorted throughout Ireland and Northern Ireland by our new best friend, our driver/guide! The second best part of the trip were the lodgings in the castles where one just seemed to be better than the last!! We loved the haunted castle tour and pictures one evening! One of the people in our group actually snapped a picture of her friend on her cell phone, weilding the big sword the facility uses for the first cut of the wedding cake. None of us could explain the bright light that appeared in her picture, because we all saw her friend posing, but there was definitely a bright light around the sword and it lit up her friend's face like a flashlight! She did not use flash! Of course, the piece de resistance was our stay at Ashford Castle!! It is beyond description, from the lodging, each room decorated in a different cloth wall covering and matching duvet and curtains, to the heated marble floors in the bathroom, to the top of the line electronics in the room that control the window shades, lights, etc. We loved our horseback ride at the Castle and wish we would have had time for the Hawk Walk. Maybe we'll come back again someday!
Although we specifically requested a stay in Northern Ireland in Derry/Londonderry to meet up with a friend, the only lodging that was not up to our agency's standards was the hotel in Derry. Actually, it wasn't even up to a Motel 6 standard. The Hotel Lobby, dining room and bar were all excellent, but the rooms left much to be desired. A B&B in Derry might have been a better choice.
Lastly, the final night outside of Dublin was the perfect bit of icing on the cake! Located in the middle of a residential neighborhood, the Castle was top notch in every way. We stayed in one of the recently renovated rooms with a 4 poster bed and the most lovely and restful wallpaper I have ever seen! Dinner in the dining room was superb and as we toasted our Scotland Ireland trip, we were definitely two happy travelers!
I would not change a thing about our itinerary. It was perfect to spend 7 nights in Scotland and even the self-driving was not all that difficult!! If we could have afforded it, it would be nice to have a driver/guide like we had in Ireland, but we were happy to explore on our own and the car's navigation system was very intuitive and accurate so we had no problems even being directed to the proper lane on a round about!
Of course, there was that little blip on the screen at the beginning of the trip when I discovered the traffic tie-up in Glasgow from the hotel website which would have been impossible to deal with after the long plane trip. And the length of the original car rental period that did not adequately cover the time needed to return the car the day we were to drive from Inverness to Edinburgh. However, both of these things were taken care of very graciously by the staff at our agency and we really enjoyed having the first day to head into the Scottish countryside and take in Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond, rather than spending that first night in Glasgow!!
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