I was only in Edinburgh for three days, I needed to see as much as I could in a very limited timeframe. I decided it would be best to spend the first day getting to know the city and the surrounding neighborhoods, the second day touring the city, and the third day venturing into the famous countryside that is the Scottish Highlands located only a few hours drive away from the city.
The first two days were fabulous. I was loving Edinburgh. The surrounding rolling green hills, the gothic-style architecture and the spooky history of Edinburgh made it a very interesting place to explore. On the second night, before our last full day our host we were staying with (through CouchSurfing) suggested we take the Free Hairy Coo- Scottish Highlands Tour. He explained it was free and took us all through the highlands from 8am-6pm! Our only obligation was to tip the driver at the end if we were satisfied with the tour. I looked it up and immediately decided I was going to book us seats. Then I was stopped in my tracks…it was sold out! After our host had gone on and on about how remarkable the tour was and seeing it was the #1 activity to do in Edinburgh on TripAdvisor, I was devastated. I felt defeated and somewhat dumb. Why hadn’t I booked this earlier? All other tours were so expensive! $60-100/person expensive.
I emailed the tour operator and asked if there was anyway to get two seats for the next day. He suggested we show up at 830am and see if there are any no-shows, the tour started at 845am. So, we woke up at 730am, got the tour start at 815am (30 minuted before the tour commenced) and asked it we could get on the waiting list. Then came the best news of the day! Three people had gotten there ten minutes earlier to get on the waiting list. #winning. I was so upset. We ended up not getting on the tour. The operator was very friendly and waited as long as he could. The three that were waiting before us did get on the tour, therefore, showing up early and seeing if there were any no-shows was a successful approach for some.
DOING OUR OWN MINI SCOTTISH HIGHLANDS TOUR
We knew there had to be a way to see at least a glimpse of the Scottish Highlands without spending an arm and a leg.
When the Free Hairy Coo Scottish Highlands Tour was sold out we were pretty bummed.
When we didn’t get on the Hairy Coo tour we immediately found an Internet café and started researching ways to get to the Scottish Highlands from Edinburgh. The bad news was that it looked almost impossible to go to the Highlands on our own without paying a hefty sum. At first all we found was useless information. Then we kept digging and digging and after a little bit of frustration soon realized we could look up places the Hairy Coo tour was stopping on their tour and see if any of those locations were reachable by public transportation. We looked up where the Hairy Coo was going for lunch, the small village of Aberfoyle! As soon as I saw it on the map I knew we could get there somehow.
1. Take a train to Stirling.
2. Walk around Stirling visiting the Stirling Castle and the graveyard.
3. Take a public bus to Aberfoyle.
4. Enjoy lunch in Aberfoyle and see the Highlands in the near distance.
We first ended up taking a 45-minute train ride for 8 pounds/person to Stirling. Stirling is kind of like a suburb of Edinburgh.
We wandered around Stirling for a few hours visiting the castle, the graveyard, and a few local attractions.
After a few hours we took the bus from Stirling to Aberfoyle for lunch. The bus was 8 Pounds/person from Stirling to Aberfoyle. After forty minutes into our bus ride we were in the small, quaint charming town at the base of the Highlands.
On the drive from Stirling to Aberfoyle we saw rolling green hills, sheep and thousands of newborn baby lamb-it was April.
In Aberfoyle there were numerous fish and chips joints, lunch spots, delis, and even a petting zoo with goats and owls!
This darling town was the perfect place to grab some fish and chips before heading back to Edinburgh.
Although we didn’t actually get to go into the Highlands it was still an adventurous day and we made the most of our unfavorable situation.