Bus Tours on Bus Tours: A Comparison

By: Bridget Bartos

On our first day of the four-day vacation, a group of us decided to stay another day in Scotland. We took a Highlander Bus Tour through the Scottish Highlands. This immediately reminded me of the Shamrocker Tour that we took through Northern Ireland, as they both involve long hours sitting on a bus and seeing beautiful mountains and castles.

Although similar by definition, the tours had their own distinctions and came with different experiences.

On the Shamrocker tour, we visited more places in a longer period of time. Over the course of three days, we visited multiple castles and landmarks. These included Trim Castle, Ballintoy Harbor, Giants Causeway, the city of Derry, The Black Hedges, and much more. We were allowed ample time to experience and explore the different areas that visited. The trip also involved the perfect amount of tour guide involvement. Our guide, Darren, told us old Irish history and tales along with letting us soak in the beauty.

The Highlands tour was only one day so it ran a little different. We were able to ride along a majority of the highlands in only 12 hours. We visited multiple Loch’s (including Loch Ness), Glencoe, and Stirling Castle. Instead of stopping at every single place for at least an hour, we either drove by the attraction or only stopped for 15-30 minutes. The tour guide, Jess, had to cram a lot of history in a small amount of time, so she spoke much more than Darren did. This made it more difficult to absorb our surroundings than it was in Ireland.

The amount of tour guide involvement impacted my experience more than I imagined it would. On the Shamrocker with Darren, I was able to enjoy his speeches and stories. They were always less than twenty minutes so they did not consume a large amount of time. Usually, they involved humor as well, so this lightened the brutality of some of this history. Darren also gave us an inside of what to expect in each city. This prepared us to communicate with every culture that we jumped into, no matter how big or small. This was both helpful and fun. For example, the world “crack” is used in a totally different matter in Ireland than back at home. In the Irish dialect crack means a good time or experience. In the states, crack is a slang word for a seriously addictive drug. These are obviously different, so it was nice to have an insider consider the Irish language.

On the Highlander tour, the tour guide involvement was much greater, but also less informational. Although we did get a thorough history of Scotland as well as the highlands, it was nothing compared to the tales of Darren. Sarah spent a lot of the tour telling “personal stories” that had little or no relation to what was outside the bus window. Not only were these slightly annoying, but they began to take away from our bus experience. It became obvious that our guide was not experienced in public speaking, and even put herself down saying she was an idiot every other word. Her saying this so much made it easily believable, and we started to lose concentration on the important stops. This was somewhat disappointing for us, as we spent a decent amount of money on the tour, but we did come out with some great stories.

Despite all the crazy, The Highlander Tour Day just may be my favorite in Scotland. The day began in a rush, as Rohan was running late per usual. We all waited for about 4 minutes too long for him to walk with us, and then ended up speed walking through pouring rain to the touring office. Eventually, we made it there in one piece (besides a missing Rohan). After all piling onto the bus, we ended up waiting about 20 minutes for the tour to leave anyways, and Rohan did eventually make it.

As soon as the tour began we knew we were in for a treat. The older ladies in front of us instantly began complaining about how “cold”the bus was. I will admit, the bus was colder at the start, but as the day went on the bus got hotter and hotter, and the ladies were STILL cold.

We got to stop in a lot of cute little towns, and see plenty of Lochs and Mountains, and even got the bonus of seeing a full rainbow and highland cows! Although the tour was not perfect, the memories were.


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