Kennetpans Distillery Having spent some time in the spring touring around underrated Clackmannanshire, one of the things that lingered on my to-do list was a deeper exploration of Kennetpans Distillery. Truly the stuff of historians’ dreams, this seemingly insignificant ruin by the River Forth is nothing of the sort and it can be looked upon…
It’s a month out from your trip and you are contemplating your very tight budget. Some of the considerations are that you really want to see a bunch of castles near where you are staying, but can’t do a hire car because of the cost. That will leave you with a tour option. However there are so many tours, how can you find one that fits your needs and well, isn’t too touristy?
Hint: For larger cities like London, you will always find a tour. But really good ones can fill up in advance. If a tour has really good ratings, also check for complaints against it in a search. You may want to book a few weeks out, especially in high summer, August.
I don’t know about you, but I really am not a fan of traditional tours. Tourists can be so distracting and well, in some cases, behave poorly when on a trip. When I am traveling, I usually avoid the traditional tourist traps if I can, or try to see them at off times, and visit spaces like someone who may live there might. However, if you really want to see a land feature or castle and it’s out of city limits, you may have to resort to a tour. Or do you?
Commercial Tours €£€£
If you really have limited time and want to pack in as much as you can, the commercial tour companies that depart from most city squares are your bet. You will pay between £30-50 for these tours on brightly colored buses from most metropolitan squares. Then you have to deal with densely packed buses. You can get to a great many sites in one day. I find if I do use these services, I will plan one day to be used up, and of course get back into town and head for a neighborhood I like, just to get some sense of people and community. They are noisy, smelly affairs.
Avoiding Commercial Tours: Compromise €£€£€
There are smaller, more intimate tours for the areas you may be visiting. These are usually smaller vans and smaller busses affairs. They will, however, cost more than the massive tour bus companies. You are paying for a smaller comfort and more intimate and personal tour. Sometimes these are run by smaller family businesses, groups of friends. You can even get specific tours that may follow a theme. Keep in mind that these can cost over €75-200 per person, but may be over several days. Also, check Twitter. Some smaller companies have accounts and you can check out their feed and see what tours are going on and what people are saying.
Walking Tours €0-10
Finding walking tours in cites whether guided or self guided means doing some research. If you check out a tour guide like Trip Advisor, you can get a good selection of these tours along with paying tours listed. There are tours operated by independents that may involve a small group that hires themselves out. These can be really entertaining as many of the guides are locals and you can contribute what you like and tip them. You may find that it is easier to meet groups of other travelers and then have a meal afterwards. Check for local online and hard copy community newspapers and magazines. They will have a good listing of these tours. Also, research alternative tours of the area.
Public Transport Tours – Self Guided £5-10
If you have a few days in an area, using public transit and getting around on your own tour can be done. Many local cities and towns even have tourist maps and bus route information on their city websites. There are also many touring apps that have city walking tours and tours that venture out. Now, these are free for the most part, and may not be up to date. There may also be roadworks and improvements going on that may delay you, you will need to check local information. I did quite a bit around Inverness last year via this route. You do not get as much packed in as an organized commercial tour, but it can be much easier on the budget.
There are many guided tours apps created by enterprising individuals or tourist boards. If you visit the App Store, you can find many of these. Also check online for local What’s On publications for the city. There may be an app they have created. And don’t forget local book stores. They carry these things called maps that fold out.
Trip Advisor/Viator are the same company, just different formats. One is the classic Trip Advisor green and the other is a bit more supped up and takes more bookings.
Articles and Resources
Finding The Devil’s Pulpit and More in the Trossachs As a Glasgow boy, vacating the city for the outdoors leaves numerous open roads, all incentivising and grappling for your attention in their own unique way. None are more convenient or more accessible though than the fabulous Trossachs. In addition to my top picks in the…
It’s another rainy April day here in Portland, and the petals are flying from the trees. A young hipster is wearing a Ramones tee, and I fondly remember my first tee back in the Uni Days. I am drinking coffee in the Hawthorne and planning my escape. Thinking about my travels in 2 months and reading a local digital paper for Glasgow, Scotland since I will be going back in July. I highly recommend you read the local rags online for what cities you will visit. It helps get you ready to plan on what you can do while there and it’s highly intertaining to see that your town is not the only weirdville around. Not to mention that things sell out like theatre and music shows, so visiting the local indie papers for What’s On is a good deal. get a feel for your adventure in urban exploration.
Planning out the visit, I had been thinking about where to eat. Being foodie is crucial on vacation as it is for the rest of the year. Glasgow has definitely got the eats. As in my previous article on socially conscious eating, I had mentioned finding cafes and restaurants that give back to the community. In reading Glasgowlive.com the last few months, I had been tracking a feature on a cat cafe opening to benefit cat rehoming schemes, The Purrple Cat will be at 2 Trongate this July. I’m there, love a good cat cafe. But not to leave out the dogs in this dog loving town, because I know I met quite a few last summer there. If you want to visit with dugs while visiting this town or others in Scotland, check out the dugswelcome.com page to find food, drink, and dug friendly spots. Even if you can’t bring Fido on your travels, you can meet other dug friends in these places. An hey, most of them still have their tails.
I also see that Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon album will be celebrated at the Glasgow Science Centre tonight, with tickets having sold out some time before. I remember my first planetarium experience with a light show and Floyd back in the early Uni days in California. I can tell you the technology has advanced greatly since then and this show looks really amazing. So popular that they had to extend showings until May and June. So if you are traveling to their city you may want to hook up at the tickets page if you can before they sell out. Sorry to go on, but this iconic album is always made spectacular by added show, so enjoy if you can. Here’s hoping they can add on July.
What city are you traveling to this month and what’s on there?
Photos by Lonni and Alastair McMillan
Ultimate guide for things to do in and around Glasgow city.
Yeah, traveling is very expensive. Get to the fair city of your choice and the € £ amounts just go up. So how do you budget to get the most out of your budget? Food is always going to get you if you do the restaurant thing, and well that’s why foodies travel, and high priced tours for cities and surrounding areas might get you empty pockets quick using all your daily spending cash in 2 hours. Not so good. So food and entertainment for next to nothing, that’s the ticket.
Walking and Transit
Walking every city you go to and/or using public transit will help keep the budget down. Visit travel websites and check out any free tours listed there, then maybe the ratings check out is good. Not everyone has your tastes. I try to find articles by locals who actually go on the tour, to get their feedback. I also find the hotel map approach works well. Take that free map and fold it in quarters. Find out what is free to do in each city and area and make a list. If there is an attraction that will suck up some money, pick one per day and the rest must be free. This way you don’t feel like you have paid huge sums for plan flight but can’t afford to do anything. Check for the local “mommie” lists online, the free things to take kids to. Some of these are just as fun for adults, we are all ages 10 to 13 really.
Tours, to Tour or Not to Tour
Some cities you tour may have people who give tours on a pay-what-you-like basis. This is usually someone who is local and may even donate some proceeds to charity. This also means it’s not a grand tour bus, public transit. But wouldn’t it be great to see how people there really enjoy their city? It may be a no frills tour, but think about how much you may really see. If you would like to travel outside of the city and can’t afford the high car rentals, a tour to castles and historical sites may be the best bargain, but again look for reviews. Remember, if you can find a smaller more personal tour situation, it may be worth the extra £ 20.00 as the larger tour companies are over crowded and well, there are a lot of people.
Now, I tend to be lone wolf on my travels. I really don’t like being glommed on as a tourist with it being quite obvious that I am one. Try as you might, locals will spot you for miles. I find locals won’t bother with you if you scream of tourist. But small, local tours are not huge, with like 50 people in tow where people can see you coming for a mile, and really you are out with people just hanging out. Also, if you like keeping up with being fit, try a bike tour.
Children in Tow, Make them Lead the Way
Got kids traveling with you? Teach them how to budget, put them in charge of researching all the free things they can do in the city you are visiting. Kids will fidget and complain or just plain sulk if they don’t have things to get them busy. Put them in charge. Of course this means monitoring and having final say, but challenging them to find out how much they can see in an area and things that would actually interest them can be a great activity and how cheap it is is a great life lesson. ,Are there any kid led tours? Hey, that’s better than a lemonade stand for fundraising.
Food will be everywhere. But how do you find something to make you happy. Check out the local vendors via Yelp or online foodie articles. But still, what may make someone else salivate may bore your taste buds. Street food is usually the best for variety, but not all travelers can stomach deep fried haggis. We may want to eat it but the body says “no”. So, what do you do? Some places you may stay, if you plan for a few days, may have kitchenette or at least a hot pot and microwave. You can fake a fridge with ice if you have to. The B&Bs however want you to eat with them, so if you have the huge full breakfast in the am, you can nosh the rest as street food. Ratings online are fairly good, some people give you real commentary that is more helpful than food critic columns. It’s spring, so check for food festivals as well.
Food tours will help you find good real food the locals eat, not the touristy pubs or traps. There are hidden gems and food cart setups in most well traveled cities, you just need to know where to look. You can also ask about other local things to do that won’t be on a brochure.
Yeah, you know the Meet Up app where you can find locals doing things that you may like to do? People all over the world join up. If you like table top gaming and want to meet locals in a fun and safe setting, and maybe experience the local cuisine at the same time, it may be a great treat for you.
Like being a con-ee? Like comics? There are comic conventions around the globe, there was one in Dubai this last week. Check out the county you plan to visit and see if they have a comic convention coming up and maybe book part of you stay around one. I did last year, went to Glasgow Comic Con and had a fabulous time, met the people behind the Scottish Saltire Comics, and many other great indie comic people. Great tips on local places to eat and see came from here. Also traveled back with a great many comics I lugged all over the place 😉
Here’s a list to start, these sites are about free or budget tours:
Edinburgh ( I went on the Ghost Tour, fun)
Glasgow ( I have been to these, worth the walk)