I hope you are well and this letter finds you in good spirits.
I wanted to take a moment and provide you with some feedback from our holiday. During the planning process, you and your team were extremely helpful. Knowing what I wanted to do in advance and dumping that on you to work out the details alleviated a lot of stress on my part had I tried to make reservations myself. You were flexible and and allowed me an opportunity to make changes as we went along. Trust me… I have recommended Tenon Tours to all who ask and you rightfully deserve your share of the praise. We visited Glendalough on our way to Waterford. This was an area I drove past in 1996 but did not know enough to stop. After I got home I looked into it and always wanted to visit so this time it was a must. My daughter, Alina, is in love with nature’s beauty and this stop didn’t disappoint. It was so great that the three of us took off our shoes and waded into the water.
We were so excited to see and spend a night in Waterford Castle . It was everything we could have imagined and more. We booked a reservation at the Castle’s restaurant which allowed us to fully enjoy the experience. If we are ever in that area again, this will be on the schedule. I taught my daughter to be a traveler and not a tourist although some things are designed strictly with the tourist in mind. That being said, Leap “Lep” Castle was a traveler’s destination. We had a private audience with Sean Ryan and were permitted unescorted access throughout his castle. There were no tourists and I had the chance to speak with someone on any subject concerning Ireland and not just his home. A hidden gem. Belfast highlight – Alina singing “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling” during a live show and her knowing every word. She was soooo happy and my heart was filled with joy. Her mother and I went to Ireland in 1996 (months after Alina was born) where we found a little Irish Lamb that played that tune and placed it in the crib with her. Every night when we would put her to bed, we had it play for her.
After arriving in Scotland, we headed North through the Highlands to Fort William which we intended to use solely to get to Inverness which I had wanted to see since I was a child, along with Loch Ness. The view of the Highlands as we traveled through Glencoe was breathtaking and any description of the Highlands without actually seeing them would do them an injustice. We will be taking this scenic tour again. Fort William was a welcome surprise, it had the comfortable small town appeal that we love without the large influx of tourists. Our cab driver recommended two things: the Grog and Gruel and a trip to Eileen Donan. The Grog and Gruel had a lot of local ales on tap. The next day we traveled well out of our way to Eileen Donan Castle . The view was just a spectacular on the way there through Glen Shiel. Eileen Donan was a site to behold on its own little island sitting at the intersection of three lochs. It was worth the detour.
Tulloch Castle, Dingwall… Perfect! Thank you, thank you, thank you. This is the castle I was looking for and glad we stayed two nights. Upon arrival, we were treated very well. The Waterford was grand and felt a bit upscale where this one felt just about right for a blue collar gent like myself. The old time charm was immediately appealing and the labyrinth like passages were a bit fun. Everyone was so helpful and courteous that they made you feel at home. Truly I can’t say enough. Upon checking in, they informed us of a ghost story tour of the castle later that evening which was a pleasant surprise and right up our alley. After dinner and a few pints in their pub, we were ready. My mother, daughter and I love hearing the tales and everyone was a bit creeped out in a good, scary, kind of way by the end of it. Tulloch Castle will be on our schedule for our next trip to Scotland especially the Highlands. (Don’t tell too many people about Tulloch Castle so when I go back I am unable to get a room!) Loch Ness was well worth the wait. Where Inverness was a dud, Loch Ness impressed. I booked a tour with Jacobite Tours who had a wide range of options. We took the lengthy “Passion” tour which included everything they had to offer culminating with a cruise on the Loch. Who wouldn’t want to do that?
Hadrian’s Wall is not as magnificent as it once was but when I was driving and caught my first glimpse, I was like a child on Christmas wanting to tear open his gifts. I couldn’t park the car fast enough just to touch the stone and stand where one of history’s greatest empires and its Emperor Hadrian decided they had gone far enough. Unfortunately, my mother and I toured the area without Alina who departed for college. I swore we would return and she’d see it for herself. After seeing the Roman Forts, Roman Museum and stretches of the wall, we knew we had only seen a fraction… we will return.
The only thing I knew of Bath was the Roman Baths which gave it its name. You can tell I love history. Upon arriving, my mother and I fell in love with the white Bath stone used in the construction of the majority of the buildings. The Georgian style also gave it the atmosphere we were looking for. The Roman Baths were exactly what I imagined and I was so happy to see it myself and to feel how warm the waters still are to this day. We had dinner and drinks at the Salamander which produces its own Bath Ales. The Bath Ales Gem was my favorite and lived up to its name. We were the only travelers in the pub with the exception of a couple from Australia. We drank our pints and shared stories.
Stonehenge is Stonehenge. I saw it once in 1988 and the tourist trap it has become was a little underwhelming. It was my mother’s first chance to see it and a lifelong dream so it was worth it. My mother wanted to see Highclere Castle which is the setting for one of her favorite shows. We arrived early of course which almost guaranteed our entry. My mother was delighted and overjoyed by the entire experience. Stonehenge and Highclere were the two locals in England she absolutely had to see (now you know why I had so much driving to do). Mission accomplished.
I have to say that I didn’t enjoy London as a whole. Unfortunately it is full of tourists, immigrants, and traffic. Did I mention traffic? It is a large city and felt like a large city so I am glad we didn’t linger there too long. We of course stopped at the one must-see attraction: The Tower of London. Be prepared to spend several hours there, which we did. The history, the murder, the crown jewels, and the avarice. We also took an open bus tour because that is the only way to see everything. You can jump off and on where you like so you could spend all day. Recap: Glendalough – beautiful, Waterford Castle – elegant, Loch Ness- must-see, Tulloch Castle – perfect, Hadrian’s Wall – must see more, Bath – history, Stonehenge – Stonehenge, London – big city, you and your team – wonderful!
To you, Stephanie… Slainte!