Discover Scotland: a loch, a castle and a distillery

In August I did a tour to Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond National Park from Glasgow with Discover Scotland.

When I think of Scotland castles and lochs come to mind mind so visiting at least one of each seemed important. Neither Renee or I were prepared to take the responsibility of driving anywhere on our trip and chose this particular tour as it was varied, departed from just around the corner from our hotel and only cost around £40 per person.

The cost of the tour didn’t include entry into anything, just ‘transportation by air-conditioned mini-coach and services of a professional driver-guide’ but the vehicle was full – a sign this was a well reviewed, popular tour.

Tour Guides make or break the experiences guests have on their trips. In terms of driver engagement, I’ve done some GREAT tours in my time and this one was just flat. I’m used to enthusiastic, overexcited tour guides who encourage guest interaction and good times from the front of the vehicle while somehow driving sensibly.

On this particular Discover Scotland tour the guide simply played the role of ‘driver’ rather than that of ‘tour guide’. There was a lot of driving and he tackled the day without personality (despite the fact he was wearing a kilt), playing Scottish music almost constantly which was paused for interesting, yet obviously much repeated information about wherever we were.

It was such a shame, and actually something which made me decide quite early in the day that I wouldn’t write about it. But six months later I guess I changed my mind.

Loch Lomond National Park

After driving out of the city of Glasgow, the fist stop of the day was in Luss, a highland village on the banks of Loch Lomond. While busy with tourist buses it would be a cute place to stay and spend some actual time.

We stopped for less than an hour but was cold and just starting to rain so after taking pictures of the loch and the boats picturesquely floating on it we headed for the tearooms for tea, wifi and a slice of cake.

boats on loch scotland

Back in the van we headed through some beautiful Scottish landscapes into The Trossachs National Park.

Obviously on a day trip such as this one with a lot of distance to cover that not every stop is going to blow you away. The brief pause to see Hairy Coo’s, a breed of Scottish was really a toilet break. The Hairy Coo’s themselves were in quite a random fenced area rather than wild and free on a farm.

We kept driving and stopped for lunch in Callander, a busy tourist town with not much in the way of good food options. After hearing there would be a 40 minute wait for lunch at the over-priced pub we left and found a cafe serving pies instead. Eating something from the supermarket in the park might have been a better option.

Deanston Whisky Distillery

On this Discover Scotland tour you get the choice of either visiting Doune Castle (aka Winterfell in Game of Thrones) or taking a tour of the Deanston Whisky Distillery.

bottles of whisky and years made on shelf

For me the distillery ended up being my highlight of the tour, although I feel as though that shouldn’t have been the case.

It was in the middle of it’s summer shut down (due to water levels in the river it’s water is procured from) so the parts weren’t operating. It was still interesting to hear about the process and see some seriously aged barrels of whisky. The distillery tour cost £9 and included a dram of whisky at the end.

deanston whisky distillery equipment

aging barrels of whisky in deanston whisky distillery scotland

Renee on the other had is a massive Game of Thrones fan so loved seeing Doune Castle (£6 entry). It’s fair to say we were both happy with our decisions.

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle was home to Stuart Kings and Mary Queen of Scots and it looks out to where William Wallace famously defeated a much larger English Army in 1297 in the battle of Stirling bridge.

At £15 for entry Stirling Castle, was expensive however once inside I didn’t regret paying it. There was a huge variety of areas, different forms of information (quite a lot of it designed for school children) and amazing views from the beautiful gardens.

view of stirling castle scotland from carpark

entrance to stirling castle scotland

view from stirling castle on discover scotland tour

view of lawns stirling castle with discover scotland tours
Stirling Castle photos taken by Renee

Would I do another one of Discover Scotland tours?

In a recent TripAdvisor review someone stated this Discover Scotland tour of Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond National Park was the best tour they’ve done in the UK. But filtering the results on TripAdvisor to see reviews from more disappointed customers shows that I’m not first not to just deem it ‘fine’. The way the company has responded to some of the poorer reviews is slightly horrific.

If I was to do the day again I’d self-drive – hire a car, visit the loch, visit castles, spend time in the town of Stirling (which looked awesome when we drove through it!) and visit a whisky distillery. Skip the random tourist trap toilet stops in the middle of nowhere with tens of other tourist buses and I reckon you’d enjoy the experience much more.

Do you agree that tour guides make or break tours? Ever been disappointed by a tour experience?

10 Comments

  1. Nam
    March 17, 2018 / 11:39 pm

    Well I’m glad you still have a good enough experience! Tours can be a hit or miss but I like the fact that transport is taken care of!

  2. March 17, 2018 / 9:24 pm

    Very interesting post. I am going on a tour with Discover Scotland next month (not the same one) and I am super exited about it. Sorry to hear that your driver didn´t meet your expectations. So I hope we will have another one 😉 At least you could enjoy the great landscape, the beautiful castle and the Whisky Distillery.

    • sarahkennerley@gmail.com
      Author
      March 17, 2018 / 9:46 pm

      Oh cool Maike! Which tour are you doing? The others did seem to have better reviews on TripAdvisor when I looked! You’ll have a great time – Scotland is SO gorgeous.

  3. March 17, 2018 / 8:29 pm

    This looks like a great tour, just a shame that the
    Guide wasn’t so great. The stops on the tour do look really good. Distilleries make some of my favourite adventures!!

    • sarahkennerley@gmail.com
      Author
      March 17, 2018 / 9:48 pm

      Oh they sure do Suz! I’d done plenty of wineries in the past but have decided more distilleries need to be toured in the future.

  4. Josy A
    March 17, 2018 / 4:21 pm

    Oooh Loch Lomond is beautiful and I’d LOVE to visit Stirling castle. It’s a shame the tour didn’t really wow you. But at least you didn’t have to worry about driving after trying the whiskey!

  5. March 17, 2018 / 3:30 pm

    Lovely tour and sounds like a great day! I agree I would probably drive myself and do the same tour, but then I cant drink the whiskey… I’ll have to buy some to-go lol!

    • sarahkennerley@gmail.com
      Author
      March 17, 2018 / 5:26 pm

      That sounds like the perfect solution Gabby!

  6. February 9, 2018 / 4:56 am

    Aw that’s a nice wee tour! Deanston is such a great distillery to visit actually – especially how their products aren’t widely available! Also I love Stirling Castle, I think (controversial) that it’s better than Edinburgh Castle actually. And I live right at the corner of that king’s knot in the last photo 😀

    • sarahkennerley@gmail.com
      Author
      February 17, 2018 / 8:56 pm

      Cool to realise this tour goes through your ‘hood Camila and how close I was to your house! I hadn’t heard of Deanston before but will certainly keep an eye out for their whisky now. Very cool part of the world – I see why you choose to live there 😉