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Old 08-29-2014, 09:32 PM   #1
DCPhotoGal
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Trip Report: Scotland, a Brave Adventure

I found the trip reports here on the DIS boards very helpful in preparing for my trip, so I thought I would take some time and add a report from our trip. I am writing from the perspective of a mom traveling with my husband and two daughters (age 9 and 10).

Day 1: Edinburgh

Our flight arrived and we were met as promised at the airport by a woman with an Adventures by Disney sign, who led us to our driver. I was surprised at how close he was able to park, but he took our luggage and drove us to the hotel, answering some questions about the local surroundings along the way. We arrived at the Balmoral, checked in at the front desk and at that time received a note from our adventure guides with a brief introduction. We arrived in the late afternoon and missed the information desk hours, so our first introduction to the group was when we met for the welcome dinner.

The welcome dinner was at the hotel and there we met the other families and our guides. Our guides were Michael and Lenora, who have been on the Scotland itineraries all summer. The families were a wide mixture--ranging from families with pre-teens like ours to adult couples with and without children. My children were excited to find out that there were 5 young girls on the trip (including themselves) ranging in age from 8-12.

The guides introduced the trip and we introduced ourselves to the group. We had just arrived that day so were pretty exhausted by dinnertime.

Day 2:

Our first day was in Edinburgh, and we seemed to have hit the city at the perfect time with the festivals in town. There was just so much going on! Our visit to Holyroodhouse was well-timed as to avoid the crowds. Halfway through our tour Lenora took the younger kids (the junior adventurers) and they did their own activity.



I have to admit I was skeptical about going to the Scottish National Museum with two young kids and almost opted to go explore the street festivals instead. However it turned out the that museum isn't at all stuffy, and there were a ton of hands-on activities for the kids. They enjoyed the period dress-up and activities in the historical side, and probably the technology exhibit even more, where they could learn to program robots and drive race cars. We had a nice lunch in a private room at the museum and got a great rooftop view of the city.



The next stop at Dovecot studios was also a pleasant surprise. It was hands-on for the kids and adults. By that point I had learned to trust in the Disney magic and their choices for activities.



That day we also got an overview of the city by bus, and went up to Edinburgh Castle. This was our first of two visits there with the trip. From what I understand, some other groups don't have the second stop there for the farewell dinner, so we were lucky to have that.





We had dinner in our own that night so I had booked tickets online for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo. I had read here on the boards that this was worthwhile, and it was wonderful! The only problem we had was that being our second night, my younger daughter kept falling asleep during the performance. It was late and dark, so hard to stay up with jet lag.



Day 3

This day is the cleverly disguised "we are going to be on the bus for a long drive to the Isle of Skye day". But they did a great job of breaking up there drive with nice stops along the way. We never drove too long in between "comfort stops". The first stop was at a roadside tourist trap, but we enjoyed the little shopping stop and meeting our first highland coo (cow).



Our lunch stop was at the small waterfront town of Fort William. This is when we realized that our kids (who were sitting in the back of the bus with the other little girls) had decided that "lunch on your own" really meant small group lunches with the other families with kids of similar ages. That was a nice surprise, and we enjoyed getting to know the other families. We had just about enough time to eat (and this is where I got my first haggis) and then had to get back on the bus. We drove past some highland sights, popped out for photos and the ire famous ones, and finally made it to the picturesque Eilean Donan late in the afternoon.







We toured the inside of the castle and took some photos around the beautiful surroundings, and then got back on the bus for the last part of the drive to the Isle of Skye. The Cullins Hill Hotel is the second hotel of the trip, and while smaller, they clearly went out of their way to make our group feel welcome. The view from the hotel is lovely.





The long day ended with the kids joining the adventure guides for a pajama party/movie while the adults had whisky tasting. The whisky-tasting took place in the hotel restaurant (which was just across the lobby from where adventure guides had the kids), and consisted of the restaurant manager giving a short talk about the whiskeys and then trying three different types.
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Old 08-29-2014, 09:36 PM   #2
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Ok, I think I managed to add in the photos... will add the rest of the days shortly...
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Old 08-30-2014, 10:33 AM   #3
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Great pictures! I am looking forward to reading the rest of your trip report. We fell in love with Scotland on our ABD last year. So much, that we are doing a pre trip stop in Scotland this year on our way to our London/Paris ABD. Seeing your pictures and reading your report is getting me even more excited to visit again!
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Old 08-30-2014, 02:12 PM   #4
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Day 4

We woke up to have breakfast at the Hotel--I had been waiting eagerly the night before to capture a rainbow over the water in front of the hotel and hadn't seen one. But when I came down to breakfast, some of our travel companions told me I had missed a rainbow earlier that morning. Bummer. So sorry, no beautiful rainbow photo here. But we did see several rainbows from the coach while driving around. That's the upside to the rain/sun/rain of everyday in Scotland. Lots of rainbows. And lots of green.

The itinerary mentioned that we would see the The Old Man of Storr. I have to mention this to help with expectations. We saw it.... while driving by on the bus. There was no stopping, getting too close, or taking photos. It was just in passing. But no worries, there was plenty of scenery to be seen and photographed later that day. Here's the closest I could grab a photo of it (it's that little spike on the left side of the mountain silhouette).



Kilt Rock provided the first beautiful scenery of the day. This was the waterfall that inspired the waterfall in Brave.







We took a hike near the Quiraing. It went from overcast to drizzly to downright rainy during the hike, but that didn't deter us, and it was fun nevertheless. I used a clear shower cap from the hotel to cover my camera, and that trick worked well.





View from the hike:



The heather was in full bloom this time of year.



Then we went back to the town of Portree for a little shopping. Here I picked up a beautiful Isle of Skye tartan blanket. I was told by the lady in the shop that the tartan was designed with the colors of the Isle, and I was amazed at how true it was. The greens, browns and purples were exactly like we had seen on our hike.

The day was rounded off with scone-making and highland dancing. The scone-making was a fun hands-on experience. And my younger daughter had an especially fun time because she made quick friends with the baker's daughter and they enjoyed playing while were were there. I thought this opportunity to spend some time with a local child her same age was fun for her. Likewise, later that evening we got to see some highland dancing from the children from a local dance school. It turned out that is was the first day of school on the island, so many of the parents wouldn't let their children come perform, and we had a small group. And some of the children were quite young. But they still put on a nice show, with some highland dancing, combined with other local children playing the bagpipes and even a college student who was a wonderful harp player. My girls enjoyed getting to come up and learn some moves with the dancers, who were about their same age. While this was not by any means a polished or professional performance, I think it was nice for my kids to see their counterparts from the island and what they are learning.





We had dinner on our own this evening, but it was raining and we decided we would rather not walk 15 minutes into town so we cancelled our reservation and ate at the hotel instead.
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ABD Scotland 8/14, Yacht Club 2/12, Disney Wonder 4/17/11, Grand Floridian 8/25/10-8/31/10, Disney Magic 11/7/09, Caribbean Beach 5/08, AKL 12/06, AKL 4/06
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Old 08-30-2014, 04:00 PM   #5
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Beautiful photos! Makes me want to check into 2015 dates for Scotland.
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Old 08-30-2014, 04:17 PM   #6
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Day 5

I have to admit, I was a little sad to leave the beautiful Isle of Skye, but in the morning we were on our way to Loch Ness.

We stopped at the Loch Ness Centre, which we were told was the less tacky of the visitor's centers in town. We got the regular tour of the center, and then had lunch with the head of the Loss Ness Project, Adrian Shine. He spoke about his project and answered questions for us.





Next stop was Loch Ness itself. We were wavering back and forth about whether we wanted to take the boat ride or do the canoeing. In the end, my younger daughter opted to canoe with Lenora, our adventure guide, and the other three family members wanted to go on the boat. My main reasoning for choosing the boat was that I wanted to be able to take photos, and it was cold and drizzly, so canoeing didn't seem terribly attractive. But I think everyone had fun with canoeing who went.

The boat was one of the Loch Ness Project's research vessels. They showed us how they used sonar to track the depth of the Loch, and my older daughter had the chance to steer the boat for a bit, which she enjoyed.











Then after the boat ride we explored the Urquhart Castle. There was a lone piper playing on the grounds, which was a nice soundtrack to the visit.








After the castle, we continued to Inverness and the Kingsmill Hotel. This was the first hotel that had a real family room, and the kids were SO excited about their bunk beds.

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Old 08-30-2014, 05:24 PM   #7
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Day 6

The was our day of pleasant surprises, and perhaps my favorite day of the trip. Although it's a tough call, since ever day was packed with gorgeous scenery and fun activities.

We started the morning with a surprise encounter with the Celtic Football Club players who were staying at our hotel. My soccer-playing daughter got a photo with the team manager (who is a former pro soccer player himself). Then we headed out to the airport for our flight on our private jet flight to the Isle of Lewis. This was my first time on a private jet, and that was a cool experience.

On the Isle of Lewis we had a wonderful local guide who explained to us about the Harris tweed that comes form the Island, and various other aspects about the island and the sites. Our first visit was the blackhouse. This was our first experience with a real peat fire. I won't forget that smell!







Next we drove to Dun Carloway Broch, which presented our best display yet of heather. I think any other time of year this might be a less amazing stop, but now with the heather, it was just stunning.







My daughter enjoyed learning about spinning wool here at the visitor's center as well.



And then we headed over to the Callandish Standing Stones. This was really cool, because unlike Stonehenge, you can walk up and touch these. The trick was trying to get the tourists (and our own group) to step away long enough to get a nice photo. But with a little patience we could. The kids enjoyed picking wildflowers and were making flower jewelry.







I kept hoping to have an Outlander moment, but no magic in the stones that day. Apparently they get quite popular during pagan holidays.

We then headed back to Stornaway for lunch and had some time to wander around the town. I got some Harris Tweed shopping done here. Then we went back you our jet and flew back to Inverness.

The plan for the evening in Inverness included a dinner with the group, but I had discovered that Diana Gabaldon (the author of the Outlander series) was in town and doing a talk and book signing about 2 blocks from where our dinner was. Two other couples from our group were interested in going, so one of our adventure guides and the others from the group joined me over at the book signing. I was truly like a kid in a candy store about this amazing coincidence. She spent about an hour talking about her start as a writer and inspiration for the books, and then answered questions about the series. It was interesting to see what questions Scottish people had about the books, which were written by an American about their country.

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Old 08-30-2014, 11:59 PM   #8
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OMG!!!! You got to see "HERSELF" at a book signing IN Scotland. That is way too cool!
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Old 08-31-2014, 12:36 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by calypso726 View Post
OMG!!!! You got to see "HERSELF" at a book signing IN Scotland. That is way too cool!
Yes!! I couldn't believe our luck with happening to be in Inverness while she was there. It was the last stop on her book tour
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Old 08-31-2014, 07:58 AM   #10
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OMG! I'm so jealous you got to meet Diana Gabaldon as well! Her books were my inspiration to go to Scotland last year, and I can't wait to go again and do an "Outlander" tour.
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Old 09-01-2014, 09:52 PM   #11
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Day 7

Our day at Rothiemurchus Estate was the day my kids had been looking forward to since we first talked to them about the trip. And I think from their perspective it delivered. However, this was the day I heard the most complaints from the adults. I think it's probably the day that the ABD folks still need to work out to match expectations with reality.

The kids' agenda for the day was 1) horseback riding, 2) lunch, 3) bike ride and 4) archery. Perfect and just what they had hoped.

For the adults: 2) bus ride with stops to feed the red deer that are being farmed on the grounds and a stop to see the highland cattle, 2) lunch, 3) archery 4) bike ride.















My first surprise was that the Rothiemurchus Estate wasn't like a Downton Abbey house that we were going to see with gardens around it. That's what I had imagined. In reality, we never saw the main house on the estate. We got to use the restrooms in one of the smaller houses, and lunch was in a tent outside that little house. In reality, the Estate is part of a park, and it's like going to a state park.

Feeding the deer and seeing the cattle was a nice experience, but I think the adults really would have liked to be able to do the riding with the kids. And the kids would have enjoyed the deer-feeding, too. I understand the weight limits, but it seems like there must be a way to find a horseback-riding experience that would allow for the whole group.

The cycling experience was was great fun but created a bit of an issue for some members of the group who weren't as able to ride. One couple opted out of the ride from the beginning. They were told that there was no alternate activity they could stay near the small house where we had lunch and wait. They ended up coming and watching the other group do archery.

All-in-all it was a fun day, though. It was nice to have an active, outdoorsy day.
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Old 09-01-2014, 10:21 PM   #12
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Day 8

We were sad to get to this, the last day of the trip. We had to pack up in Inverness and hit the road very early to get in our day of castle-stops before we made it back to the last night back at the Balmoral.

This was the bus ride where they finally played the movie Brave. Surprisingly almost half of our group had never seen it!

Our first "comfort stop" was at a Burger King on the North Sea. My daughter had left her iPad at the Kingsmill Hotel and Lenora spent some time on the phone during the bus ride sorting out what to do about it, and my daughter spent this whole stop crying about her missing prized device. I was a little bummed that she missed going down to the beach, but my other daughter and I managed to go there myself and catch a glimpse of the surfers, swimming labs (dogs), and the oil rigs.



Our first real stop of the day was at Dunnottar Castle. This was a very cool ruins of a castle on a cliff. It still has more of the structure of the all the buildings than Urquhart had, so this was a nice place to visit. And the views of the water from the cliffs were just stunning.





Our second castle stop of the day was Glamis Castle. This was unique in that is it still a family home and still lived-in rather that ruins. We had lunch in a cafe that was part of the castle, and then got a private tour. The most unique things was that we were told we could take photos, unlike the other visitors. So we took a ton! One of the girls was able to play the piano in the game room as well.





Then we continued on to Edinburgh and checked back into our hotel. We had a little time before dinner, so we took that opportunity to head over and see some of the street performances that were part of the Fringe Festival. Because the Tattoo was done before we got back in Edinburgh, our group was able to go to the Edinburgh Castle for dinner. We were escorted up the hill by a piper, and then got a private visit with the crown jewels. My daughters really enjoyed that. They asked a lot of questions to the docent. Then we were led across the courtyard with the piper to dinner. Our guides dressed up for the occasion, and we had a lovely farewell dinner with the group.



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Old 09-01-2014, 10:30 PM   #13
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And that's all! We had such a great trip that we left thinking we needed to book another ABD for next summer (we already have one booked for March 2016 but didn't want to have to wait that long!). My daughter is still in contact with the other girls she met on the trip, and we are looking forward to seeing the images from the ABD guides when they are posted. I'm happy to answer any questions anyone might have who is planning to take this trip, or thinking about picking up.
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Old 09-01-2014, 10:40 PM   #14
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Great trip report! DCPhotoGal. I loved the pictures. You got some really stunning shots! I could almost smell the peat fire
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Old 09-02-2014, 05:32 AM   #15
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Smile ** SCOTLAND ROCKs **

Glad to see you had fun.


Luved reading yer Tr & seeing all those great pics.







T.T.F.N.
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CHEERS Y'ALL
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