Coronavirus has put countless travel dreams on hold. And until we overcome this crisis, many will stay on hold. But for those of us who are forever nursing travel bug bites, dreaming on and planning future travels is good medicine.
As a tour company (with about 20,000 travelers currently signed up on Rick Steves bus tours in 2020), we have a responsibility to look out for the health and safety of those traveling with us, our guiding staff, and those we work with in Europe. And that means continually assessing the situation each day — cancelling tour departures when it's prudent. (As of now, we've cancelled our departures through April 30 and are providing a 100 percent refund to affected tour members.) We are sorry for all the disappointment that comes with this unfortunate situation. And, as passionate travelers ourselves, we hate to miss a trip as much as you do.
One of the few things certain about this crisis is that it will pass — sooner or later — and we'll get back to normal. And when that day comes, all of us will eagerly turn those pent-up travel dreams into smooth and bursting-with-fun reality.
So, let's dream for a moment…in Scotland, a place that has become extremely popular in recent years. It's one of our bestselling tours and one of our bestselling guidebooks. After taking one of our Scotland tours, I was excited to share the fun with as many travelers as possible. The next season, I booked one of our Scotland guides, Colin Mairs, all to myself and spent a few weeks finalizing our Scotland guidebook. And the next year I returned with my TV crew (and Colin again) and captured all that kilt-and-whisky-powered buzz in three new Rick Steves' Europe episodes.
Colin knows our Scotland tour itinerary down to the minute, allowing us to ambush a big Rick Steves tour bus of travel joy just outside of Inverness. I got to pop into the bus and say to the happy gang, "Quality control!" And then, "Thanks for traveling with us."
Traveling through Scotland, I'm always impressed by the variety of sights…and by how close together things are. In the 10 days on our Best of Scotland tour, I can't remember a long, boring drive. There are the big iconic blockbuster sights, and there are the silly Loch Ness monster sights.
A surprise highlight on our tour was a clan gathering. One day a year, the Scottish village of Kenmore hosts its Highland Games — and our tour group was lucky enough to be there, mixing it up with the locals enjoying an amazing Scottish scene…perfectly through the Back Door. The open field (just a short walk from our hotel) was filled with families having a delightful day out watching tug-of-wars, little kids' sprints, gunnysack races, bands of marching pipers, and Highland dancing. While the girls impatiently and anxiously awaited their time with the bagpiper on stage, the big boys took turns tossing big things: stones, hammers, and the caber (a log the size of a small telephone pole), which was sent end-over-end to the delight of those gathered.
This month's Tour News brings you more of the best of Scotland (and its neighbor, Ireland). Get drawn in to the Emerald Isle with a slideshow preview of our Best of Ireland tour, hear from past tour members about our Scotland and Ireland itineraries, read our interview with Ireland guide (and bus driver) Pascal Fitzpatrick, and see why the Highlands are where dreams of Scotland are set in our video of the month.
Throughout this challenging time, remember that we're all in this together. While we wait and see how things progress over the next few weeks, stoke your travel dreams with a wee dram of bonnie Scotland and watch one, two, or three Scotland episodes of our TV show at ricksteves.com. And someday soon, we'll see you on tour.