Whats The Deal With Guided Tours?
Guided tours are a controversial topic in the travel blog world because “if someone just shows you around, r u even travelling?!”. But screw convention, I’m going to talk about one particular tour company here, because they definitely deserve some recognition & I’m a massive fan of a guided tours!
I’m especially a huge fan of free walking tours, I find that they are the perfect way to orientate yourself when arriving in a new city. You get to know your way around, learn some history about the city, hear some interesting stories and best of all, if the tour guide was a bit pants, you aren’t obliged to pay a penny! Having said that, I have never not tipped a guide!
Another tour style that I’m a big fan of is a well structured day trip. As I have to plan my travels around work and study commitments, recently I have been going on a lot of city breaks rather than extended travels. Sometimes it’s great to escape the city and take a day trip to somewhere new.
You can read about a few of my guided day tours here:
- Alpine Fairytale – Slovenia – Roundabout Travel
- Karst And Coast – Slovenia – Roundabout Travel
- Countryside & Windmills – Netherlands – Tours & Tickets
So Who Are The Hairy Coo?
The Hairy Coo are a tour company operating from Edinburgh who take tourists around the Scottish Highlands in a manner that combines my two favourite tour structures. Yes, that’s right, they offer whole day tours including transportation for FREE.
Our tour guide stressed the fact that The Hairy Coo company was set up to provide anyone, of any budget range, the opportunity to explore the beautiful Scottish Highlands. Something that I very much agree with – everyone should visit!
Is It Really Free?
You enter the coach without having paid a single penny. Of course, a tip to the tour guide is expected at the end of your tour, however, you are free to pay the amount that you believe the tour is worth.
I would highly recommend that you book your tour online in advance. When I booked our tour, we only had the choice of one day during our stay in Edinburgh as the others had all sold out. There were only 2 spare seats on our coach once all of the pre-booked passengers were on board, these were swiftly taken by two girls who had turned up hoping there would be spare spaces.
On booking, you are sent an email stating that your card will be charged £17 per person if you fail to turn up or cancel your place less than 48 hours before the tour is to take place. This is quoted as being the “cost” per person. Further to this, the website claims that the tour has a market value of £37, so bare these figures in mind when you determine your tip!
So What Was Our Day Like?
We were only in Edinburgh for 4 days and were dying to get a glimpse of the Scottish Highlands, so this seemed like the perfect way to do it. Ideally, of course we would have road-tripped the area over a few days, but time was not on our side!
We met at Deacon’s House Cafe at 8.30am. We actually ate in this cafe twice during our stay in Edinburgh (once for lunch and one for breakfast) and would highly recommend it – great food in a cosy setting!
After being greeted by our tour guide Don (one of the founders of The Hairy Coo), we knew that we were in for a great day! Don was hilarious, well-informed and you could tell that he had a real love for Scotland. He wasn’t afraid to give his stance on current affairs and since he grew up in the areas that we were visiting, his anecdotes were funny and a great addition to an already great factual & beautiful tour!
You can view the entire itinerary for the trip on their website here. But I’ll talk just explain the two highlights for me and let the photos do the talking for the rest of the trip (because those Highlands are blimmin’ beautiful)!
Highlight #1) BABY HIGHLAND COWS
Yes, you read that right. You get to meet baby highland cows. The Hairy Coo have a “top secret” spot where you can feed a small herd (3 adults & 3 calves) and learn more about these gorgeous creatures.
Even the bus used by The Hairy coo is disguised to look like a Highland cow – it’s orange and has a little fringe across the top of the windscreen – adorable!
Highlight #2) Loch Katrine
Many of the larger tour companies will take you straight to hunt for the Loch Ness Monster. Loch Katrine is lesser known, but it is beautiful and definitely shouldn’t be missed! Enjoy a leisurely walk around the beautiful loch and spend lots of time taking photos!
Would I Recommend?
Without a doubt, yes. This tour was well constructed and I can’t sing Don’s praises enough – one of the best tour guides I’ve ever experienced! I’ve paid around £50 for similar style tours in other countries, and if the tour/guide was rubbish, that’s £50 down the drain!
They also offer a paid tour (£45) which visits the Loch Ness, Glencoe and a Whisky Distillery. If I had longer in Edinburgh, I would have most definitely paid to take this trip too! After taking the free tour, I know I would have been in good hands!
The Hairy Coo are a small business and many of the larger companies would like to see them shut down as they are rightfully gaining more custom. When you book your tickets, you have to provide your debit/credit card details to ensure that you are a real person as other tours have been known to fill the seats with fake customers – it breaks my little heart!
So, if you’re in Edinburgh any time soon and want to explore the Highlands (duh, who doesn’t), give these guys a shout!
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. I rightfully paid the tip that I felt appropriate for my tour like all other customers.
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