Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Scottish Dream Tours


It has been almost 9 years since I offered my first tour and many people want to know how and why I started offering tours. As I have posted earlier, my mother and I ran a wee Scottish Tearoom  for several years. We would always close in April and take 6 -7 weeks to go to Scotland each year. Upon our return we would have an armchair tour of Scotland at the tearoom and talk about our trip and our favorite places in Scotland. At one of our armchair tours I was asked why I didn't take an actual tour to Scotland and I thought, what a wonderful idea! As with everything I do, I immediately jumped in with both feet and was offering my first tour to Scotland just a few months later. I never intended to offer a full tour schedule at that time. I thought if I offered a tour in the fall, I could go to Scotland twice a year and would not have to wait a whole year to go again! In my family, I was a late comer to Scotland. I always new I would eventually go but it was never at the top of my list. My sister Pamela had been urging me to go for several years. When I finally arrived in Scotland I could not believe that I waited so long to go and knew that I never wanted to go anyplace else! Until I started doing tours it was very hard to give up any of my Scotland time. I eventually started taking in Ireland, Wales and areas of England as well.
Even prior to my first tour I had been thinking along those lines but had not really made a firm decision. There were many things that prompted this. I remember being in the Borders area of Scotland visiting one of my favorite abbeys and watching a tour bus pull in. Only about 15 of the 60 people on board got off the bus and took a picture. I asked one of the tourers why nobody else was getting off and he said that they only had a few minutes and it took too long to get on and off the bus. I know not all tour groups operate this way but I was so dismayed that this was how all of these people would see one of my favorite places! Another time, my family and I had just pulled into a hotel in the Highlands at about 10:30pm when a tour bus pulled in behind us. My brother Cameron and I ran into several bewildered ladies wandering about the hotel looking for their rooms. We spent about an hour helping people get to their rooms and helping them with their luggage. They also had an early start in the morning and would need to have their luggage outside their door at 6:30am with breakfast at 7:00! Once again I was so dismayed that people were experiencing my beloved Scotland this way. My first thought was...I could do this much better...and so I did.
I knew immediately that we would have no early mornings and no really long days. I also knew that I wanted to offer small, family accommodations and restaurants that would give the real flavor of the country. I also know that if I was going to put something into the itinerary, we were going to properly visit it! My only concern was how was I going to economically provide this with only 8 - 10 people on each tour. I did not want to use any chain hotels or large places that would offer price breaks nor did I want to limit people on their menu choices. I also wanted to make sure there was a very limited amount of extra costs but I knew there was no way I could offer all this at the prices that the major tour companies could. I am a firm believer that you get what you pay for! Our tours encompass places I like to go, things I like to do and what I would hope for in a tour and I think we have managed this very, very well. I think our large number of return customers is the best endorsement of this.

Shannon McDonald Tate
Scottish Dream Tours

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