Being in Scotland, I couldn't imagine not taking a tour of the Highlands and making a stop by the Loch Ness. It might seem a bit cliché but this place used to hold such mysteries for me as a kid that I had to see it for myself...And maybe meet Nessie :D
On the second day of my stay in Edinburgh, my mom and I woke up at 6 AM, took a quick breakfast and walked to Waterloo Place. There is an agency called Rabbie's Tours selling a bunch of trips and we choose them for our tour to the Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands. The meeting was at 8 AM sharp, no delays!, in front of the cafe before being dispatched in vehicles. The principle is the same as with GetyourGuide.
Our driver, James, welcomed us on his mini van together with 14 others folks and by 8:30 we hit the road to Stirling! We got to meet people from lots of nationalities, starting with Japaneses women, 2 girls traveling from L.A., Germans... A funny bunch!
After passing Stirling, we drove further away from Edinburgh and straight to the Highlands, making one stop in Callander. I recommend to visit Mhor Bread & Tearoom and to get one of their Haggis Pie for 2£...So delicious and warm before getting into the "colder and windier" part of Scotland where you will discover:
Boat Cruise on Loch Ness
Highlights of such a trip:
In one day, you can see one of the best part of Scotland and all its majesty. We saw stunning scenery, inhabited landscapes, Lochs, montains, snow...We were lucky it was a sunny day...
Nature Nature Nature...If you love to see nature then Highlands are the place you must visit. Trees, lakes, sheeps and ginger cows for kilometers...And sometimes a house lost in the middle of all this.
You will see a different kind of life. Cities are small and villages even smaller and it takes hours sometimes to go from one to the other. There are no banks around, post services or hospitals so how do they live? On your trip you might see a bank truck driving through the highlands to provide services to inhabitants. Post is managed by ferry as for hospitals...I suppose you would either drive long distances or rely on the doctor next door? This life is so far away from ours, people take the time to live a little...
Hear about Scotland's history! And a lot more depending on who your guide is. James from Rabbie's is a walking encyclopedia, he knows a loooooooooooooot from kilt stories to clans but also sheep demographics :p and every corner of the Highlands.
Lowlights of the trip
Distances. To reach Loch Ness it will take you (from Edinburgh) between 5 and 6 hours in a minibus. So yes the trip is very long so you better like nature and hearing about Scotland and Celtic music.
Weather. We were very lucky to have the sun with us throughout the day but you may not be this lucky. In the Highlands, the weather is cold and windy even on a sunny day so I let you imagine what it might be like with rain...Although it must be stunning!!
Loch Ness is crowded. It is a touristic place so expect the boats to be full. The rest of the highlands are quite calm in comparison.
Stops. We don't make that many stops for pictures so ask for them and repeat if needed, you don't want to miss great shots because your driver won't stop! Plus try and pack a lunch because you don't know what you will find on the road ;)
I would definitely go back and this time trek through the Highlands to really enjoy the beauty around me. I think being alone in the wilderness could be a great experience if we prepare it well! So for me that would be the next step :)