Amazing new tours ideas have become a reality!

Im so excited to announce we have put together yet another 2 new tours!!! This year its all about trying to make sure there is an amazing tour for everyone, we are really using this expansion to the fullest and making it the best we possibly can. Both tours are on the stunning Isle of Skye how ever they are completely different tours and like nothing we have done before.

Traditional Craft work shop tour

We have never done a tour like this and have had the privilege of working with an amazing person to make this happen. So like the other Isle of Skye tours we leave Inverness at 9am but unlike the other tours we don’t make all the other stops along the way, other than Eilean Donan Castle which lets face it if you go to the Isle of Skye you have to visit first! Having said that we might not be able to do all the stops but there is still so much to see along the way. Our amazingly talented tour guides know most to the places where they can slow down long enough for you to take a photo out the window and will tell you in plenty time to get your camera out so you don’t miss the perfect photo.

We arrive at the work shop around 12pm where you will have 4 amazing hours to try your hand at weaving or spinning or maybe even both! There is also Dying on request. If you don’t want to try your hand at it your more then welcome to come along and see how they do it. The weaving and spinning process really is fascinating to see. You are supplied with all the materials you will need to make a beautiful creation and a wonderfully talented teacher to show you how its all done. Once you are finished your creation you are able to take it away with you too show everyone back at home and makes a fabulous souvenir. Worried you might work up an appetite? You get a very tasty lunch included in the course.

We understand that not everyones interest lies in the traditional crafts so we have come up with an alternative for the ones that don’t wish to take part. While the others are at the works shop we can take you to the Tailsker Distillery for a tour and a dram. Unfortunately we can only offer this is they have availability.

We return in Inverness around 6pm after a full and interesting day of either creating crafts or seeing how the famous whiskey is made. Either way it will be a great day and we can’t wait to start take the bookings for these the back end of July. I know that my husband Mark is particularly looking forward to the distillery.

 

Kilt Rock and Fairy Pools Tour

We have given this so much thought over the past few months and have finally come up with a route that works. We can now finally do both in one very full and fun day!! The new tour will still have all the incredible stops that  the other tours have in when done separately but now you can see everything in one day!!

The stunning Isle of Skye has so much to offer and is truly magical. With this new tour you can go from having a dip in the cool mountain water that has formed in the amazing fairy pools to feeling like your on the edge of the world while standing on the side of the mysterious Kilt Rock. This really is an action packed day with so many stops along the way. We start by picking you up in inverness at 9am before traveling onto get the best photo of Loch Ness with the ruins of Urquhart castle in the back ground. From there we travel though to Kintail for a picture opportunity at Loch Cluanie. No trip to the Isle of Skye would be complete without stopping at the stunning Eilean Donan castle first. Here we have a 45 minute stop which is enough time for you to go explore the castle and grounds. Some of my most favourite photos have been taken here. After your stop at the castle we go on to the magical Island over the stunning and well known Skye bridge before heading onto the Fairy Pools though the heart of the Cuillins. At the Fairy Pools you will have the time to explore as much or as little as you like (within the hour). You can go on just a small hike to the bottom pool or you can explore even further up and go to the very top pool with its spectacular views. After you have gotten tired from exploring it time for a little relaxing drive to the other side of the island going through Portree with a fantastic photo opportunity of the Old Man Of Storr on the other side. The mysterious Kilt Rock is next on the agenda. Here you will have a 15 minute stop for you to see the beauty it holds as well as take breath taking photos of the kilt coloured rock side and lovely water fall running off the side. After an action packed day its time to head home via the Wester Ross coastal road. Don’t worry thought there are still a view more stops for photos along the way home. The first of these are the Five Sisters which have a different views every where you look. The last stop on our whirlwind tour is the lovely Loch Carron. This is the final photo stop but most defiantly not the least. Its breath taking and one of my all time favourites.  You will arrive back in Inverness around  8pm.

There are a few choices of places to stop to have the quality picnic lunch that we provide for you depending on weather, timings and personal preference.We have had to extend the tour from 9 hours to 11 hours just to make sure we can fit everything in and theres enough time to enjoy the stops without rushing. We are now takings for booking for this and have a feeling its going to be very popular so book your space now.

I hope you enjoyed reading about the new adventure we are creating, I will keep you updated with the progress along the way.

Thanks for reading.

Mary 🙂

 

 

 

Everyday is a different adventure

The last couple of weeks have been an adventure!

We have officially started the season and have been out with 2 vans nearly every day which is fantastic, whoop whoop!! most of the tours have been to the Isle of Skye even though we did get an interesting one to Oben the other day. The family had gone on tour with Mark the day before to the magical Fairy Pools which had been a dream of their daughters and they had a great time exploring. Unfortunately they had been having a little bit of trouble with their hire car and it made them little skittish to drive over here on our roads. Their plan had been to drive to Oben and spend a few days there before flying to there next destination to begin another adventure but they where not very comfortable driving that far anymore. When mark heard this he spoke with Wendy and between them both they managed to get the hire car back to the company and took the family to Oben as well as doing a tour of Glenco on the way. They where a lovely family and we didn’t mind going out of our way to help them. We are so fortune that we meet such a vary of people with in our work. We learn so many different stories and cultures.

The other exciting news that has happened is that we have finally gone live with the visitors centre in Inverness. We got our first tour from them on the 14th of June and have been getting booking from them most days ever since. They have just moved to a new more central position in town so we are hoping that means good things for us.

 

A mad dash to Wales

My mother (Wendy) and I are very spontaneous people. Last Tuesday we only had 1 van booked for a tour so Wendy was suppose to be taking the day off. The only problem with that is that unless she’s not in Inverness she will carry on working as she also has a guest house to run. So I get a phone call about 8.30am and get asked if the kids and I fancy going to see my big brother for a few hours. Now you would think that is a nice way to spend the day and something that most families do. What a lot of families don’t do is travel 8 hours to see family for just for 2 hours before setting off home again. My brother lives in north Wales! So of course I agreed and we aimed to leave town within the hour. Unfortunately with 3 children and 2 dogs that did not happen. By the time we had all packed up and got on the road it was nearly 10.30 then we had to go get fuel and snacks so didn’t leave Inverness till 11. We played a lot of car games and learned that the puppy is actually a good traveler as long as you are ready to catch her when you open the door. She was so eager to see everything going on that she would jump out as soon as the door was open but she would happily wait with her tail wagging once she was out and could see.

We arrived in north Wales about 8pm and thankfully they where having a heat wave and it was still lovely and bright out so we decided to meet my brother, his wife and my lovely 3 year old nephew on the beach when the kids and dogs got to run off most of their energy. All 4 kids (and my big brother) ended up in the sea and had the best 2 hours of their lives Im sure. The only problem was that my middle and youngest had managed to go through both sets of clothes I had brought them. We decided at this point to book a hotel and stay the night son I could wash there clothes and we could set off the next morning again. We found a hotel that allowed dogs in the next town so said our good byes and went on our way. Now as I had already said we where having heat wave which the hotel seemed unaware of. The temperature in that room was stifling! especially when you add 2 adults 3 kids and 2 dogs. The puppy had the time of her life jumping all over the place and giving everyone good night kisses. So after a very uncomfortable nights sleep and having to go to the shop to buy more clothes, sand is not easy to get out of jeans, we set back off up the road and arrived back just in time for dinner 🙂

Since we have been back we have not had a chance to stop with having both vans out every day and still having the guest house to run so i am very glad that we took the mad dash brake when we got the chance and I’m also very thankful that Mark was here to hold down the fort and carry on with the tours while we went on a mad adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An eventful week for our work Vehicles

We have had an eventful week with the vans..

It started so well with the sign writing on the first van being completed. We used the new picture of Eilean Donan castle that we have changed all the stationary too and it looks really good on the dark van. We changed the lettering and words to “Tours with a difference” which was not on the old Sangyong that we had before upgrading when we expanded. The symbols for the social media that we use and the wifi symbol have also seen added to the van. All in all it looks amazing and we are very pleased with the results. I can’t wait to take it to the middle of the isle of Skye and get some proper marketing shots of it. I’m even more excited to get them both finished.  Unfortunately since we have had the van done we have not had very good weather to get the photos that I would of liked but I have a few that show it off.

The other van 

While we have been getting the first van sign written unfortunately the other van got side swiped.. It was parked up for the night after it been cleaned and made ready for the tour the next day when one of the cars, parked up the hill hand brake had failed and came crashing down the hill going over a kerb, swiping another car and finally ending in the side of our van. We are very fortunate that the person that owned the car thats brake had failed came to find out the owner of the van. He was very apologetic and even though its only a 3 week old vehicle we are very understanding that these things happen and just grateful that he didn’t just drive away like so many other people would of done. Thankfully the damage is not too bad and we can hopefully get it repaired quickly and looking back to perfect again. Soon enough we will be out with 2 vehicles both looking amazing under the Iona highland tours banners and the vans first crash will soon be just a funny story that happened along the way of the first year of the new business.

Thank you for reading. Catch up with you next week when I’m sure we will have many more adventures to share.

Mary Craven

                                                       

Even more tours to explore

Once again it is update time. I have tried not to leave it so long this time but we have been equally as busy. This last couple of weeks we have done a little rebranding and changed the picture on all the stationary. We have also added a few new exciting tours to our range as we have learnt more about our guests.

Stationary 

So lets start with talking about the new stationary. Trying to get the new leaflets right has probably been the toughest challenge I have had to date while I have been part of the company. I very quickly did some about a month ago using the old leaflets as a template and just changing the bits that needed doing before sending them to be printed. I was quite proud of this until they arrived a week later. The first thing we noticed was that the computer had change the world Beauly to beauty. Then we noticed that all the Eilean Donan castles where spelt incorrect due to my dyslexic brain telling me that the one that was wrong on the original leaflets was correct so I changed all the others to match… opps  so all in all we had 5000 leaflets that were rendered useless and  £300 down the drain that we would never see again. Needless to say I spent a good few hours on the next lot.

On the new leaflets we added a picture that I took of Eilean Donan castle (photography is a passion of mine) while I joined the team on tour last month. That wasn’t the only change that we made. We added a whole new evening tour in as well as changing the text to a more readable and modern style. We added little more about us and injected the teams personalty into them. The most important thing was the fact we got 3 people to proof read them before sending off for a measly 2500 but now they have arrived and look amazing!! we will be ordering some more very soon.

While we changed the picture on the leaflets we decided to order some more business cards at the same time. So I also changed the picture on them and moved the text a bit so again they look clearer and more modern. I am most defiantly very proud of the way they have turned out and hand them out any chance that I get. I’m thinking of getting some made with my name and role on them just so I can hand them out at meetings and look important hehe.

I am very excited to inform you that the first of our two vans will be getting sign written this Thursday. I can’t wait to see how the new design turns out. Once again we have decided on a modern look with the new picture we have changes the rest of the stationary to. We have also included the symbols for all the social media platforms that we use, Facebook, Instagram (my favourite) and Twitter. We have also started a new website which is tourhighlands.co.uk that one Is marks baby that he has built from the blank screen up. I have to admit he has done a cracking job, that reminds me I need to add a blog on there too….

 

New Tours

We started the expansion with the plan of making things simple and only use the tours that have proven to be popular in the past 4 years that Wendy has run the company and tours her self. However as, many businesses do we have changed our plans and business model as we go along. We now have a total of 5 tours and have 2 more in development. We started with just the 2 Isle of Skye tours which have been popular for many years. However we have discovered that more companies have now cottoned on to this and have set them as their main tours. So even though we offer extras that they don’t, the picnic lunch for instance, we don’t like to be the same as others. Which means we have expanded even further and added tours that suite different people. At the end of the day its our guests holiday and we want to be the highlight that they remember when they go home.

So our tours we now offer;

  • Isle of Skye, Kilt Rock – 9 hours and lunch included
  • Isle of Skye, Fairy Pools – 9 hours and lunch included
  • Local evening Tour – 3 hours
  • Ship Excursion – 6 hours
  • Walking/Hikeing – 6 hours and lunch included

We have tried to accommodate for everyones individual tastes so now we have tours that involve a lot of walking and ones that focus more on the history of the highlands. Mark has taken on the walking tours as he loves to be in the outdoors. Wendy is a much better story teller when it comes to the history side of things. We do still have Eddie as part of the team but he has taken a little step back due to other commitments so he mainly takes on the role of the evening tours.

Mark and Wendy took Bella the company’s mascot and our middle child, Faye 6, to explore the walking tour of Plodda falls and Dog falls. They had such a good day discovering the paths with the waterfalls and steams. We always test our routes to make sure they are suitable for people of all ages and abilities and Bella always loves an adventure.

As I said we have 2 new tour routes in development at the moment so make sure you stay tuned to find out what the exciting new routes area and what adventures we go on along the way.

Thank You as always for reading

Mary Craven  

Full Steam Ahead

So its update time again..

Since the new vans arrived early its been interesting trying to get everything in place that should only just be falling into place now, like marketing and who’s selling what tickets and how many seats. We still had bookings for the old car and had to transfer everything across but as usual we strived under the pressure and I’m convinced that things have actually turned out better then we had previously planned. Not only have I been busy sorting all the bookings, marketing and admin work.. trust me theres more then you would think! But the vans have also been really busy and I think we can safely say the Tourist season has officially started!! Wahoo!!

Ealier in the week we had our biggest group booking to date of 7 passengers to the Isle of Skye, that was until today that is when we broke that record and for the first time this season we have both vans out in convoy to the stunning Kilt Rock with a awesome group of 11 people 🙂 Hopefully this is just the start for big bookings and we will have both vans out to the same place more often. The biggest thing we have discovered this last 2 weeks, other then how handy mark is with a mop and vacuum, is that more often then not it will end up with them going in oppose directions which is great for me as I get plenty more photos to work with.

The biggest news I would love to share though is that we have another new member, Eddie, that has joined our team. He and his wife came Inverness for an adventure and little did anyone know that it would land them on our door step and that he would become our newest driver, plus we discovered that as he’s such a happy positive person he is really good at selling the tours in town, bonus! and fits in with the team perfectly.

Well thats this update done theres plenty more I could tell you but I will leave that for another day as this is already quite long.. oops!

Thanks for reading 🙂

I think Its time for a update

Hi im Mary, Wendy’s daughter, I have taken over the role of admin and marketing for Iona highland tours. Its definitely more time consuming then I first thought but I’m not sure what is worse the constant Facebook, Twitter and Instagram updates or the 4 month old puppy I am also training and walking,shes doing really well though.

I thought it was time we update you on the exciting things that are currently going on and the troubles we have over come along the way. Lets start with the new vans that are arriving, we finally have a date for them which is very exciting as they arrive in only a few days which now means we have a lot of work to do in a short space of time but atleast we now have the full time help of my husband, Mark, who gave up his career In retail to come on board the family business (brave man). Thats not the only change that has happened recently, the vans that are arriving are not the ones we previously ordered. We had ordered the brand new Citroen Space tourers but unfortunately Citroen have decided to only use one factory to build all the orders for the uk and Europe!! So as you can imagine that wasn’t going to work for us as the new delivery date wasn’t going to be till October which is after the season had ended! we got the email sent to us only 3 weeks before the vans where set to be delivered so of course we got into a bit of panic that we wouldn’t get anything in time but at least one good thing came out of it all, meant I got to go shopping which I love and car shopping is most defiantly one of my favourites unfortunately my mother does not enjoy it quite as much. Thankfully after a few days of stress and a lot of numbers being thrown at us we decided on 2 VW Transporters which are perfect for what we need and should, arrive on Wednesday 🙂 There is plenty of room inside and so much glass that you can take the perfect photo from any angle and it doesn’t even look like you are in a vehicle. We did have to make some compromises and one of them is there is no longer a glass roof which is one of thing we where most excited about In the Citroens, but at least they are still top of the line with all the modern features you would expect in a 2017 tour vehicle.

Now the stress of the van dilemma is over we are looking to the future and I’m sitting here with a list of jobs I need to do before they arrive but we are most definitely well and truly on our way to a successful company expansion, its been a busy few months but worth every second of it.

Thank you for reading my update and I will try to be on again soon and let you know how mark is getting on with his new role and most importantly how he is dealing with getting his orders from both her wife and mother in law!!

See you soon
Mary Craven

New Vans Mean New Adventures!

We have been quiet online for a year but have been far from doing nothing! for the past few years I have been a lone driver with one 6 seater car, what fun and games. But everything is about to change. We are starting on a new adventure starting with expanding which means new vans and new employees! Thankfully both are working out well. We have 2 brand new fantastic vans arriving the end of next month and I’m so excited to get out and see the beauties of the Highlands in them. They have full panoramic views including a glass roof, which would be amazing to view the aurora borealis while in the warmth and comfort of the climate controlled vans. No more cups of hot chocolate while freezing stood out in the middle of nowhere for me!

Now Iona Highland Tours has become a family run business! Which has long been a dream of mine. I am no longer a lone driver, My son in law, Mark, has decided to take on a new challenge and is now going to be driving one of the new vans when they arrive. I think his new challenge will be more likely to learn how to work with the stubborn women In the family, one of them being his wife and of course me also. So while Mark and I are out showing off the wonderful scenery we have chosen to live, my daughter, Mary, is working behind the scenes doing the admin and making sure we are where we need to be. I don’t think she realised how much work goes on behind the scenes but she is learning quickly and doing a grand job. Even if it does mean that she brings the zoo, I mean my beautiful granddaughters with her to work while they are on the school holidays and to add insult to injury I also added a new puppy to the family mix, which means she also has to walk a German Shepherd daily.

Well I am sad to say that it has been fun to share my adventures with you over the last few years but this is sadly my last post but don’t worry its not the last post from Iona Highland Tours. As I mentioned my daughter has taken over the admin which also means she has taken over the posts and blog so from now on it will be her posting.(Although I very well may sneak in an odd one myself from time to Time, but don’t tell her.)

Thank you for sharing this adventure with me and keep checking to see what happens next 🙂 as the story continues into hopefully many more chapters.

Wendy

Eilean Donan Castle

Eilean Donan Castle, is one of my favourite places to visit. The staff are always smiling and happy and of course it a favourite of my guests too, as my most popular tour as well of the Isle of Skye of course.

So to follow on from the last post, I have this wonderful machine called the IPAD Air2 and this past two weeks guests have been showing me how to use it for photo’s.  so I thought I would share with you my first two attempts at panorama shots.  But as usual I am using the Ipad instead of the PC and it doesnt let me post them to here lol.  So here are some I did take this week which are not panoramic but still good.

   
 

Isle of Skye

Day trip to Isle of Skye.  Ok so I finally thought I had cracked the problem, of how to keep up my blog while making time to drive, show off the Highlands, keep up with bookings, diary and the other hundred and one things that need to be done.  Yesterday I bought myself an Ipad air, my old Ipad just ran out of space!  I also bought the keyboard to make it into a small laptop, I have WIFI in the car so hey presto while waiting for guests at Eillean Donan castle I write the blog.  I told you all about the sights I was seeing, the flowers still in bloom, the air still and mild at around 18c and the wonderful smell of the salty sea air that cannot be replicated in any room deoderiser, (no matter what they promise).

I even took a picture lol.  So what could go wrong, a good use of the waiting time, a job well done……except I lost it, lol it said saved, but I lost it.  so here I am at home having wasted half an hour trying to find it again and decided to give it up as a bad job and just write something else.

So without further ado,  here are a few of todays pictures on our tour to the Isle of Skye taken with the new Ipad.

image image image Isle of Skye Guests Ionahighlandtours.com image image

ionahighlandtours.com 2015

Ionahighlandtours.com has already got off to a good start, bookings are coming in at a reasonable pace and already we have had three tours this past two months, snow has fallen and made the highlands beautiful but a few tours cancelled as they couldn’t get here.  The deer are down and yesterdays tour to the Isle of Skye and Eilean Donan castle was particularly good with around hundred deer spotted over the day.  The weather in Scotland is as always unpredictable, so yesterdays tour had a couple of very heavy showers and mostly sunshine, so much so we enjoyed an outdoors picnic in the sunshine.

There are new calves around of the Highland cattle and any day now we should have some new lambs, I cant wait to see them always a favourite of myself and guests.

These are the pictures I choose of yesterdays tour I do hope you enjoy them.

returning from Isle of Skye the deer were all enjoying their supper

returning from Isle of Skye
the deer were all enjoying their supper

This stag on the Loch Carron road was just beautiful to see

This stag on the Loch Carron road was just beautiful to see

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All you need is a camera and you can bag as many deer as you like, these were all having supper on our way back from isle of Skye

All you need is a camera and you can bag as many deer as you like, these were all having supper on our way back from isle of Skye

 

Towards the end of our day to the isle of Skye. The sun was shinning, and scenery was stunning

Towards the end of our day to the isle of Skye. The sun was shinning, and scenery was stunning

looking for more carrots at Invergordon

looking for more carrots at Invergordon

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