To visit the Isle of Skye we have decided to go with the Rabbie’s. This tour company was recommended to us by a friend who has used their services a few years ago, and was very pleased with their tour organization, tourist guide and accommodation.
There was a wide range of tours available in the Rabbie’s offer, but we have decided to choose a 3-day trip to the Isle of Skye, with 2 nights in the town of Portree. We have booked our trip few weeks in advance. At the time the booking was done, we also had to decide what kind of accommodation we are interested in. We could choose from: the hostel, B&B or hotel. We have decided to choose B&B (en-suite room), hoping to stay 2 nights with a local host family. At the end of the reservation process, we needed to determinate how much money do we want to spent on accommodation. Till the final trip day, we did not know where we will stay and how much we will pay – which was very exciting. You can also choose to reserve your own accommodation in the overnight locations.
In Edinburgh, the meeting place was Rabbie’s Café Bar, at Waterloo Place, located right in city center. There are Rabbie’s employees working outside of the Café Bar, who does the first registration process, inform about name of the driver and place where the bus will be located. While waiting for the bus departure, we enjoyed a hot drink and a bite to eat in the café, which also has WiFi and toilet facilities.
Our tour was organized in a 16 passengers group, and we were traveling in a very comfortable Mercedes mini-coach equipped with charging stations we could use for our technology. Our driver was also our tourist guide and I need to admit that he made our tour extremely interesting, as he told us many amazing stories about Scotland, about heroes of Scotland, local history, legends and anecdotes – he was amusing, fun, informative and with a wonderful sense of humor. He has created nice atmosphere while talking and showing us beauty of the Isle of Skye, the Highlands and Lochs. He was attentive, filled the time with hilarious travel stories, folklore, adding the background history of the clans and battles. He also played beautiful Scottish music (or music connected to Scotland) with some comments added from his side, and gave us an overview of the historical significance of every place we visited, relative to its effect on Scotland today.
Our Tour Plan
Our trip plan was as follows:
– Glencoe – Gaelic meaning: “Valley of Tears.” This mountain valley is part of the west of Scotland, and there are such gems as: majestic peaks, clear lakes and colored expanses of moorland.
Valley Glencoe is located in the Highlands, near the west coast. It is a paradise for the climbers and hikers, lovers of peace, quiet and with beautiful views. This place has been especially bellowed by the filmmakers, as in this region they did shots for Highlander (Highlander, 1986) with Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery in the main role, or Braveheart – Braveheart (Braveheart 1995) directed by Mel Gibson, with that one in the lead role.
– Eilean Donan Castle – an iconic and gorgeous 13th century castle that once warded off Viking invasions. It is one of the most famous castles in Scotland, often called “an icon of the region”. The castle is situated near the city of Dornie in the western part of the Highland and its location on an island in the middle of Loch Duich, and connected to the mainland by a stone bridge, make it one of the most often photographed castle in the world.
– Quiring Mountain Pass – Skye’s outstanding geological stunner. These strange formations gave Skye its nickname, the “Winged Isle”. It is the northernmost tip of the Trotternish Ridge.
– Neist Point – great cliffs, rich of birds, lush green and foaming waters of the waves hitting the shore – all this makes it a very popular place among those who come to visit the Isle of Skye. On the peninsula, which is the westernmost point of the island there is a nice lighthouse and great place where – if you are lucky – you can spot dolphins, whales, porpoises and basking sharks.
– Five Sisters of Kintail – legend says a local wizard turned five sisters into these mountains, so they could preserve their beauty. This mountain range is one of the most popular hiking trails in Scotland. There are steep, rocky terrains and narrow ridges – that is why this place is frequently visited by more experienced hikers.
– Loch Ness – this loch holds more fresh water than all of the lakes in England and Wales combined. It is the second largest Scottish lake and has an area of 56.4 square kilometers, but has the largest volume thanks to its depth. Its length is about 37 km and it is the largest reservoir on the tectonic line known as the Great Glen, which runs north from Inverness to Fort William in the south. Caledonian Canal, which connects the sea on both sides of the Great Glen runs just thru this lake. Loch Ness owes its fame mainly thanks to the monster that supposedly lives of its depths.
Once we have reached the town of Portree, we have received address of our accommodation. As we expected, our accommodation was booked in at Host Family home, in The Kiltaraglen House.
This is one of the most interesting experiences we brought from our trip to Scotland. The hosts offered us not only a comfortable room with private bathroom and a delicious homemade breakfast, but created a place full of warmth, with a friendly atmosphere, beautiful surroundings areas, peace, comfort and relax. I have very nice memories of this experience and I sincerely recommend this place.
Portree is the main town on the Isle of Skye, is a bustling port and a thriving cultural centre. The town is a popular tourists’ holiday destination and the harbour continues to be used by fishing boats as well as pleasure craft. In the town you can find many place where you can book your accommodation, starting from upmarket hotels through guest houses, B&Bs, self-catering establishments and hostels. There is also a campsite nearby. It boasts excellent leisure facilities including a swimming pool, pony-trekking and boat cruises plus plenty of shopping opportunities, restaurants with local and international cuisine and cafes.
The town is a popular base for exploring the rest of the island. Many visitors are drawn to the spectacular scenery of the Trotternish Ridge to the north as this wild area is dominated by weird and wonderful at the same time rock formations such as the Old Man of Storr, Kilt Rock – with an amazing and breath taking falls named Mealt (55 m high) and the truly extraordinary pinnacles of the Quaraing.
The end of the trip and our final impressions
Our trip has ended in the evening, on the 3rd day. We have returned to Edinburgh just after the sunset, and we left the bus in the same place where we started our journey. In the evening, the city looked lovely, the streets and cafes were full of tourists and locals. In the background noises of the city we could hear sounds of Scottish music played on bagpipes. In the Balmoral hotel we saw a wedding guests dressed in traditional Scottish kilts.
The hotel itself is famous for its clock tower. In 1902 the clock has been set three minutes ahead, so that people running to the nearby railway station, always could arrived on time and catch their trains. Today the clock is still set to show 3 minutes ahead, and the correct time shows only once a year – at midnight of the New Year.
Our 3-days trip to the Isle of Skye: its organization, attractions, views and our professional guide I rate very high. The Rabbie’s services is set at very high level, and people who are working there – have a great passion to travel and love for their country. Everything we have learned about Scotland, its people, its heroes, legends and difficult history – made me thinking that I would like to come back one day to Scotland and see other regions of this great country.