by Cathi Burnett-Cosgrove, June 2014

Many people think of group tours as a ticket to sit on a coach and watch the sights go by.  In reality this could not be further from the truth.

They say, perception is stronger than reality and when it comes to group tours, I base my tours around what people would  anticipate in any given area.  I have been designing and escorting tours for many years and my goal is to bring these preconceived ideas and dreams to become their reality.

Having just returned from our Andrew Jones ‘The Celts and The Vikings’ tour I would love to share a few of the highlights with you.

Based on a small group, we had the privilege of staying in many privately owned hotels which included traditional pubs, magnificent hunting lodges,  Norse style accommodation along with the timeless elegance of one of the old grand hotels in Oslo.

We made a stop in one of the most scenically spectacular spots in Scotland known as the ‘Queen’s View’.  Whilst sipping a single malt whisky soaking up the view we heard the hauntingly beautiful sound of music and, in time, we witnessed a Lone Piper steadily making his way towards us.  This was for us and us alone.  It was unbelievable – it was unforgettable.

Few people decide to attempt to visit St Kilda and less than 50% of those that do,  ever manage to step foot on the island due to the unforgiving sea.  We became some of the fortunate few and actually hiked this remote and barren island. We also visited many other islands of the Inner and Outer Hebrides.

We travelled aboard the Jacobite train – a steam locomotive crossing  the West Highlands and described as one of the top rail journeys in the world.

Whilst onboard a luxury expedition ship, we ventured out in zodiacs each day.  We could not help but be convinced that it was the music of mermaids as we made our way through sea caves and witnessed the magic of light offering every imaginable hue of green and blue.

In Norway, we were dwarfed by majestic fjords with snow capped mountains.  We walked by waterfalls and rivers and watched the tumbling crystal clear water.

We tasted traditional foods.  Yes there was haggis and neeps but along with this we dined on the best cuisine both Scotland and Norway have on offer.

We experienced all this and more whilst on a private tour.  Travelling on a 25 seater luxury coach, we could venture into places that major companies simply cannot do.  The entire tour is designed for a unique experience.