Scotland has so much to offer, it’s literally impossible to see it all – especially during a short stay. I was visiting Edinburgh for one week, house and pet sitting on the outskirts of the city centre, near Arthur’s Seat. Many days were spent exploring the city, the beautiful old buildings, the castle on Castle Rock, and even the city that lies beneath Edinburgh. There’s so much more to do though, both within and out of the city. I wanted to get as much in as possible, but I still needed to be home in the morning and the evenings to take the dogs out.
Searching through various options of what became “must-sees” and the tours available, there were seemingly endless options. While I did want to visit the highlands and Loch Ness those tours are either very long days or multi-day tours. Besides, what I really want to see at Loch Ness probably won’t be there anyways. And as for the highlands, I’d love to go during the highland games.
This led me to the 1-Day tour with Haggis Adventures to visit the Kelpies, Loch Lomond, and Stirling Castle.
Fast Facts About the Tour
- Runs on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays
- Check-in at 8:30 am, return around 5:30 pm to the city centre
- Roughly 3.5 hours of this time is spent on the bus
- Your tour guide tells stories and plays Scottish music during this time
- The Kelpies Statues
- Visit the biggest loch in Scotland
- Visit Stirling Castle
- Adult price is 50 to 55 euros or 39 to 44 pounds (depending on the season and student prices are available)
- Stirling Castle entrance is not included (can be added on when booking)
The first stop of the Haggis Adventures tour was the Kelpies statues. This was about an hour from Edinburgh city. On the way, our tour guide Caitlin told us some of the myths surrounding these creatures.
The Kelpies are mythical water creatures that based on the stories, are likened to mermaids or sirens, as they draw you in with their beauty and make you want to touch them. Once you do, their hair is like glue, and you’re stuck to them. They drag you into the water and “to your watery grave” where they then consume your soul.
The sculptures are the largest equine sculptures in the world standing at 30 metres tall. The sculptures were created by Andy Scott, they represent both the mythical creature and represent how horses were used in Scottish industry (pulling the wagons, ploughs, barges and coal ships) which shaped the geographical layout of the Falkirk area.
Around these sculptures you’ll find a small visitor centre with a shop. If you go through the center you’ll need to pay a 7.50 pound entrance fee. As the tour group was only stopped there for 20 minutes, it wasn’t worth the time or money to go through so quickly. There is also a little stand outside where you can get coffee and snacks.
I was surprised how isolated these sculptures are. They are in the middle of a park (Helix Hub) with nothing else around them but the highway and a small extension to a canal. While the 20 minute stop did seem a little short, there’s really not much to do there but take pictures.
Loch Lomond and Balmaha Village
Our next stop was to Loch Lomond. We stayed here for just under an hour. Loch Lomond is the largest loch in Britain by surface area at 23 miles long and 4 miles wide. On the way there, our Haggis Adventures tour guide discussed some of the importance and histories of this loch.
Loch Lomond has 38 islands on it that clans in Scotland used defensively. They had small bridges attached to them, that once the clans ran across them, they burned down so the enemy couldn’t reach them. Apparently, however, when the Vikings came to Scotland, they carried their longships over land and into this loch so they could still attack the people there.
Before arrival, we also listened to a song called “The Bonnie Banks O’ Loch Lomond” a short and traditional Scottish song that is often played as the last song at events.
Near the loch was the Balmaha Millenium trail. It is a short uphill walk that gives you beautiful views of the loch. The path is nicely defined and good for people of varying abilities and ages.
Stirling Castle was easily the highlight the trip. We spent 2 hours there, exploring the various halls, the castle grounds, the walls, and the museums there. There was lots of interesting information about the importance of the castle both described by our guide on the way there, and on informative boards throughout.
Stirling Castle was the most strategic castle to hold. It has a 360 view of the surrounding area and holds the route to the North – the Highlands. Also, the bridge over the river was controlled by Stirling Castle.
Our tour guide also discussed William Wallace and what Braveheart did and didn’t get right (like that based on where he was from, the lowlands, he wouldn’t have worn a kilt).The William Wallace memorial can be seen from Stirling Castle.
Haggis Adventures: Review
Overall the tour is a great “taste” of Scotland. It’s not too long, gives a mix of history and nature, and has some good stories along the way. I do feel the driver and the person speaking/telling the stories should be different people. There were three “guides” however only Caitlin was speaking and driving. I feel the storytelling would be better and flow more if the speaker and driver wasn’t the same person.
The timing at each place was done very well. You didn’t need more time at the Kelpies unless you REALLY wanted to do the visitor centre. The Loch Lomond stop would need to be longer if you wanted to do the hike, but if you’re just hanging out by the lake you have more than enough time, so it’s a good balance for both kinds of people.
The stories told on the bus give you a great insight into Scottish history, are interesting and make the bus ride more fun. If you do only have a short time in Edinburgh, I would suggest checking out Haggis Adventures, as they have a lot of options for whatever you’re looking for. I was highly considering the “Warriors, Whisky and Waterfalls” tour, but I only had time for one!