What do whisky, warriors and waterfalls have in common? They’re all in Scotland, and you can see them with a Haggis Adventures tour!
It’s no secret that Scotland is my favorite country, and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of road trips and bus tours here, even to places I’ve already been. What really surprised me is that Haggis Adventures’ Whisky, Warriors and Waterfalls Tour took me to two places not far from Edinburgh I hadn’t been to before, including a waterfall close by that I didn’t even know existed!
Scotland Tours with Haggis Adventures
Haggis Adventures, named after Scotland’s most famous dish, is one of the many bus companies in Edinburgh, and also one of my favorites! They have over two dozen tours, from one-day trips to 10-day experiences traveling all the way to the Orkney Islands! A couple of years ago, I had the extreme pleasure of being on the Hebridean Hopper Tour, exploring the Isle of Lewis and Harris and the Isle of Skye with a group mostly composed of Australian university students.
The motto of Haggis Adventures is Wild and Sexy, but I’d say that applies more to their multi-day tours which tend to cater to a younger crowd. The one-day tours that leave and return to Edinburgh each day are more of a mixed bag. I just might have been the youngest person on my Whisky, Warriors and Waterfalls Tour. Not that your fellow passengers are necessarily a reason to choose a tour, but these tours never really turn into a party bus like you find in other European cities.
The Whisky, Warriors and Waterfalls Tour
As my dad was in town, he joined me on the tour. I was a little worried that there would be too much physical activity for him, but the only thing he had to skip was the walk to the waterfall (just because he was tired, not because it was difficult) and there was a nice cafe for him to wait at. Otherwise, I’d give the hiking difficulty level of the whole tour a 2 out of 10.
The tour left High Street at 8:30 a.m. … well, a couple minutes later but that was only because it was the first day of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and High Street was actually shut down. Somehow the bus made it up anyway. There were about 20 of us on the tour, which wasn’t bad for a bus with a capacity of (I think) 36. It took us a bit longer to get out of Edinburgh due to the ridiculous increase of traffic for the Fringe, but the whole tour ran according to schedule for the rest of the day.
The Wallace Monument
This wasn’t my first time at the Wallace Monument, or even my tenth, yet the experience was still new. Earlier this year, wooden sculptures were built along the hike from the parking lot up to the tower. The sculptures detail different facts from the region dating back to the first settlers four millennia ago. They also go into details on the construction of the tower, and include a scaled model of the tower – about the only way to fully appreciate the tower without climbing to the top or seeing some drone footage.
The tour dropped us off for an hour, which is enough time to climb the tower if we wanted to. I’ve done that a couple times before, and I’d say the value is questionable. Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing the massive Claymore sword attributed to William Wallace (though they know it’s not his) and the view from the top is spectacular. The last time I went up, it had just finished raining and there was a gorgeous rainbow. I’d say the entry fee of £10.50 ($12.75) for an adult is even steeper than the 246 stairs to the top.
With everything our Haggis tour guide Callum covered, there’s not a lot of reason to climb the tower either. I’d recommend just climbing the hill, seeing all the wooden sculptures, taking some photos of the tower and the surrounding countryside, and then perhaps grabbing a coffee or tea from the cafe before getting back on the bus.
It’s no secret that I don’t drink a lot of alcohol, and yet I’ve always wanted to visit the Famous Grouse Distillery. I’ve been to the Talisker Distillery on the Isle of Skye a couple times, and another one somewhere north of Inverness, but the Famous Grouse is the most sold whisky in Scotland and second in the whole UK.
The only problem is it’s not the Famous Grouse Distillery anymore.
In June 2018, the Famous Grouse pulled out of the Glenturret Distillery, transferring its operations to Glasgow. Glenturret was subsequently purchased by the Swiss wine company Lalique Crystal (but they’ll keep producing whisky). It’s not the first time that the Glenfinnan Distillery has changed hands, and the distillery still has the distinction of being the oldest in Scotland.
Although it’s no longer called the Famous Grouse Experience, you can still do a tour of the Glenfinnan Distillery, which was included as part of our Whisky, Warriors and Waterfalls tour. While the basic process of making whisky is the same across Scotland, each distillery has its own special characteristics which make its products unique.
One of the most unique features of the Glenfinnan Distillery isn’t its whisky, but cats. Towser has officially made it into the Guinness Book of World Records as the cat who caught (and ate) the most rats. When Towser passed away in March 1987 (just a month before his 24th birthday!) he had feasted on an estimated 28,899 mice and rats! The Guinness team observed him for several days. Each day, a pile of tails were left on the distillery floor, and they did the math with the cat’s staggeringly long life.
The distillery can always be visited on its own, but I was really happy to go with the Haggis tour. The distillery tour itself was easy enough for my dad to keep up with, although I’m always bummed that you can’t take photos in the distilleries (as one dropped phone or camera can cause a spark with catastrophic consequences).
After the tour, we had time to enjoy lunch at the distillery’s restaurant. Between us, my dad and I shared a large salmon fishcake and a bowl of homemade sweet potato and coconut soup. The quality was fantastic, far better than most of the lunch stops I’ve been to on various bus tours around Scotland.
The Hermitage Woodland Walk
I don’t know how I’d never heard of the Hermitage Walk. For that matter, I didn’t even know of any waterfalls near Edinburgh. Just a mile or so from the quintessential Scottish village of Dunkeld is a gorgeous woodland walk. Not ten minutes from the parking lot is an old stone bridge overlooking a rather large waterfall. Perhaps not large by international standards, but one of the bigger ones I’ve seen in Scotland.
The Hermitage Walk is surrounded by Douglas Firs, a common tree from my homeland of California and some of the tallest trees in the UK. The area was originally designed as a pleasure ground in the 18th century, with Black Linn Falls as the centerpiece. In 1757, a folly (the name of a random structure built on your land in Scotland) was erected overlooking the waterfalls. Known as Ossian’s Hall, it’s an absolutely stunning little building with mirrors and paintings inside, plus a balcony overlooking the waterfall. In fact, there had been a wedding in the small hall just before our tour arrived there. I can’t think of a better setting for such.
The path had another very curious feature. Money growing on trees! Well, not really, but it certainly appeared that way. I don’t know when the practice started, but several of the stumps and fallen tree trunks have hundreds of coins from all over the world hammered into the wood. I put one in myself, as did many of the other members of the tour.
Metting the Hairy Coos
No tour of Scotland would be complete without meeting the country’s most famous creature. As much as I’d love to see the national animal, unicorns are a rare species. Instead, our final stop on the tour was to see a group of Hairy Coos, the famous long-haired Scottish cattle. The tour took us to Taste Perthshire, a visitor center I’d never been to. They had a few cattle there, including a very cute calf. I didn’t know they would be part of the tour or I would have brought some bread with me. The center does sell feed for to the cows.
- Departure Location: 60 High St, Edinburgh EH1 1TB
- Departure Time: 8:30 a.m.
- Price: £42-£49 ($51-$59) depending on the month
- Tour days: Variable (August – Mon-Sat; Sept – Tues, Thurs, Sat; Oct – Thurs, Sat; Nov and onward – Sat)
- Website: Haggis Adventures Whisky, Warriors and Waterfalls
- What to bring: Walking shoes, a poncho if it’s raining, money for lunch and your camera.
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If you’re visiting Scotland and looking for more adventures, here are some other activities you might enjoy.
- A Day of Adventures with Nevis Range in Fort William, Scotland
- Edinburgh Excursions: Spending an Afternoon at Go Ape Peebles
- 10 Activities for The Perfect Day Trip from Edinburgh
- Explore the Isle of Lewis and Harris to See Scotland’s Best
- A Cruise is the Best Way to Explore Loch Ness
- My Amazing Week on the Hebridean Hopper with Haggis Adventures
Here’s some extra reading to save hundreds on your next vacation or stage of your journey.