I did this tour in 2018 with a friend, and it was an experience. Timberbush Tours is a very well known and highly recommended Scottish bus tour company, with experiences from 1 Day Tours up to 5 Day Tours, and buses leaving from both Edinburgh and Glasgow.
This tour is a great way to hit the “start” of the Highlands. It does not go deep into the North. It stops at or passes by several scenic areas of the Highland region, including Glencoe, Ben Nevis, Loch Ness, and Urquhart Castle, Inverness, and Pitlochry.
I stress, this is an intense experience, totaling to a 12 hour tour.
🎶 A 12-hour tour
A 12-hour tour 🎶
The tour started for us in Glasgow and took off right at 8am. The bus was pretty comfortable for the experience (noted by the fact that both my friend and I were lulled to sleep a few times while traveling between destinations). The windows were perfect for viewing the scenery outside as we drove by. Note that this bus did not have a toilet, so all bathroom business needed to be done at stops.
Our first stop was in the Fort William area at a rest stop. Here, we were able to use a bathroom, and also grab a coffee or tea at the little cafe, and take some pictures of Loch Linnhe. While this was a quick stop to stretch our legs and do a bathroom run, it was a nice place to take pictures.
Our first “viewing” stop was Glencoe, and this was an absolutely wonderful stop for pictures. The history surrounding Glencoe isn’t a happy one, but the hills are beautiful and inspiring. The Highlands of Scotland are among the most beautiful places I’ve ever experienced.
The hills of the Highlands look beautiful no matter what the weather. Many tourists will praise their good fortune if they get bright, sunny skies, but the day we went was a bit drizzly all day, and this—THIS—provided a light mist that hung over the mountainous hills of Glencoe. It made the scene so much more mysterious and beautiful to behold. This is one of the reasons I love Scottish weather: the rain truly adds to the beauty.
After pictures, we all hopped back onto the bus for more driving and out-the-window viewing. The next stop was for lunch in Fort Augustus. There was a little shop with a restaurant connected, so you were able to buy both souvenirs and food if you were so inclined.
At this stop, we also had to decide how we wanted to spend our time in Loch Ness. There were three options:
- Stop at Urquhart Castle; explore the visitor centre and the ruins; and the take a Jacobite cruise boat to the Clansman, where the bus would be waiting for you
- Take the Jacobite boat ride along Loch Ness from the Clansman to Urquhart Castle; and then ride the boat from Urquhart Castle back to the Clansman — without getting off the boat to see the castle; this was just a boat ride on the loch to-and-from the castle without castle exploring
- Stay at the Clansman the entire time, where there’s a restaurant and gift shop available (side note: for anyone familiar with Still Game, this is not the same Clansman!)
The first two options did cost money to do; they were not included in the price of the tour. So if you decide you want to do either of those options, you will need to pay cash to your tour guide.
My friend and I did the Urquhart Castle and Jacobite Cruise tour, and I felt it was a good choice. I’ve been to Urquhart Castle before, so I didn’t feel the need to go through the Visitor Centre. There is a time limit here, as you have to catch the boat, or you miss the tour bus, so it was more important to explore the castle. It is always nice to walk through the ruins of the castle, see the views, and take the time to look at Loch Ness. The sights are always wonderful.
The Jacobite cruise boat ride was a short ride, but it was nice to take pictures on the water. I even recorded a video of the audio commentary over the intercom talking about the Loch Ness Monster, which I always love hearing and talking about.
Once we got off the boat, we had a few minutes to look around the gift shop and run to the bathroom—and get a picture with Nessie!—before hopping back onto the bus for more driving.
After Loch Ness, we drove up towards Inverness. We didn’t stop here. We simply drove through the city while our tour guide pointed out different sights for us to look at. From there, we started our trek back to Glasgow, stopping in Pitlochry for bathroom breaks and stretching our legs.
From this description, you might think that there was a lack of stops or that there wasn’t much to see. But the entire time you’re on the bus, you’re hearing stories from the tour guide; listening to Scottish music over the intercom; or having the history shared with you via recording. There’s a lot you’re getting out of the experience from just sitting on the bus and looking out the window. And you will take a lot of pictures from the window of the bus because the Highlands are a place where you can’t help but take pictures.
This tour was a little rough due to the time frame alone, but totally worth it for getting to see so many different sights and spots in the Highlands. The sights are unbelievable—and this is even noting that this wasn’t my first time seeing these sights. I’d been to Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle, Glencoe, Inverness; I’d seen all of these places, but it was STILL worth it to do this tour.
Why? Because you do get to see so much, both from the stops you do, and looking out the window. My first time touring the Highlands had been with my mom in 2013. It was nice and with a car, it meant we got to go at our own pace. But there are always concerns when you go on your own. With this bus tour, there was a benefit to having a guide that knows all the info; knows the length of time to drive and get to sites; and has it all mapped out to a T. So this was a good experience to see those sights again in a different medium for me.
The tour guide, Kenny, was also very lovely. He was very sweet, kind, and easy-going, but also cracked a lot of jokes. He was very enthusiastic about Scotland. I loved his firm dedication and belief in the Loch Ness Monster, though he admitted he’d never seen her himself. I do love my fellow Nessie believers. He was simply an enjoyable presence to guide the entire 12-hour tour. My friend and I praised him after the tour as well.
Overall, it is definitely a worthwhile experience if you’re looking to get a little taste of the Highlands, especially if you want the experience planned out for you. Traveling through the Highlands on your own can be a very rewarding experience, but it can sometimes be challenging to plan out, as often times driving can take up more time than one anticipates (I’ve learned this from experience). This Timberbush Tour was a great way to see some of those areas that everyone wants to see during a tour to the Highlands, and it was incredibly convenient that the only thing I had to worry about was a) getting to the bus on time, and b) enjoying myself.
Advice on Taking This Tour
Make sure if you go on this trip, you’re prepared for a few things.
- Try not to drink too much. Again, no toilet on the bus, so toilet stops are restricted to actual stops and the hope that the bathrooms will be easily and quickly accessible.
- Bring food, even if it’s just snacks. Yes, there are pit stops along the way, but you can’t always guarantee food. For example, my friend is lactose intolerant, so she has to be very careful about what she eats, thus she didn’t eat at any of the places we stopped at. The point here is, yes, there may be places to stop and eat, but they may not cater to all of your food needs/desires, or they may not be open. Just make sure you have some of your own snacks.
- Bring cash. You may want a coffee at one of the stops, or a random souvenir, but you will also need to pay in cash if you decide you want to do the Urquhart Castle/boat tour or the Jacobite boat tour. It would be beneficial to have cash in the event you decide you want to do one of those while you’re out.
- Be prepared for there not to be much open when you hit Pitlochry. Your results may vary on this, but we got to Pitlochry around 4/5pm, and at that point, most of the shops were getting ready to close, and the restaurants were all packed (plus, we didn’t have tons of time to sit down and wait for food). This might be due to the season or just that day but be prepared for it.