Scotland with Passports Educational Travel Institute

I took a group of my college students on the 9-day/7-night “Braveheart” tour of Scotland with Passports Educational Travel Institute (389 Main St., Spencer, MA 01562-1908; phone 508/885-4600), visiting Edinburgh, the Highlands and Glasgow. The $2,300 price (May ’04) included airfare on USAir from Denver, 3-star hotel accommodations, daily breakfast and dinner, transfers, tour and admission fees and travel insurance.

Although this company’s target market is student travelers, I feel that it is worth sharing our experiences with ITN readers who may be planning to conduct a student trip or may wish to take a continuing education class for credit.

Our trip’s focus was literary history. We started in Edinburgh and took in the castle, a guided city tour and a “ghost walk.” Free time was spent in pubs along the Royal Mile. Into the Highlands we then went, stopping at St. Andrews, Blair Castle, Culloden and lochs Ness and Loman.

We ended in Glasgow, where we revised the itinerary. We had planned on just visiting the Burrell Collection and the Glasgow Cathedral. As it turned out, we had plenty of time for the Gallery of Modern Art and shopping in the merchant city area. The phenomenal sunny and 70-degree weather made the trip even more enjoyable.

Our courier, George, and our driver, Barry, were great fun. On our way home from a disappointing Scottish ceili dinner (haggis, neeps and tatties), we cheered up by using the coach microphone for bus karaoke. On travel days we stopped hourly — for snacks, rest rooms or photographs. The coach was a means to an end to move us from town to town. The company understands that those with a younger mindset would rather be off the bus than on.

The only drawback to this fine trip is that Passports’ couriers are not tour guides, so they will not offer running commentary (i.e., “On your left you will see the ruins of Castle Leoch”). In some ways this is pleasant, as people can relax. However, there is a tremendous amount of history just outside the window, and if no one points it out, much will be overlooked. Thus, if the faculty member is not prepared to lecture, then travelers may be at a loss on travel days.

Boulder, CO