Thursday, February 4, 2010

Reflection on the coming year

As I am getting ready to start our ninth season of tours I have to reflect on how far we have come. My first foray into tours was to allow me to spend more time in Scotland and I really never expected it to grow into the full time business that it has. I was so nervous with my first tour but when I saw others fall in love with Scotland and find the magic and beauty in all the places that were so special to me, I knew that I wanted to do this for as long as possible. I designed tours to just reflect the places I loved to go to and doing the things that I found exciting so I was thrilled that others loved this as well.
From the very first tour, we have used small locally owned restaurants and accommodations. We have visited historic sites that meant something to me and places that stirred my emotions. We have found that others love this as well and made us promise not to change. I am very proud to say that we have people this year who are on their second, third, fourth, fifth and even 6th tour with us! I had no idea we would have so much repeat business. I would like to think that I can take the credit for this but I know it is the countries, people and places that we visit that are responsible.
We generally do not use accommodations that have more than 8 - 12 rooms and try to use only family owned establishments. We occasionally use a castle if it fits our criteria but we want you to experience the real people of Scotland, Ireland and Wales and they generally don't live in castles or mansions. We want you to feel like part of the family and experience how people actually live and this is best done in small, intimate places. We try to use as many different kinds of accomodations as possible so we mix things up with coaching inns, guest houses, country house hotels and farmhouses all in the same tour. One of my favorite places to stay in Wales is in a 400 year old farmhouse! We never use large hotels or chain accommodations where you become just another number and the only people you come into contact with is other tourists.
We love to use unique tearooms and small cozy pubs and restaurants. Our favorite place to eat in Glasgow only has 26 seats! Again we try to use family owned and operated establishments so that you are meeting the real people and eating where the locals eat. We quite often eat out in 400 and 500 year old pubs that are mostly local haunts. We find people love to eat dinner in the homes that we are saying in where the owners are preparing our meal in their kitchen and serving us like guests in their home. We love this too of course.
We try never to have any early morning starts or any late nights. Occasionlly we are on the ferry operators schedule and can't control this. If we put something into an itinerary it will be an actual stop. There are some places that you will have wanted to linger longer but we give enough time to get the full experience. We try as much as possible to make our tours feel like a family outing. We know this is not everybodys preference but that is why there are other tour operators out there offering different experiences. We find that when we love what we do, that others love it too.

Shannon McDonald Tate

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