We woke up early on our first morning in Glasgow so we could get down to the bus station to meet up with our group for Discover Scotland's Loch Lomond/Stirling Castle/Doune Castle tour. The one we took is here if you'd like to check it out. We boarded the bus in Glasgow and were brought first to an adorable little village on Loch Lomond called Luss. You have time to hike around, shop, or do both! We really enjoyed hiking and shopping and bought the cutest Christmas ornaments and a wallet at a little shop there. At another shop we purchased the cutest little Scotland tea towels. You're given a time to meet back at the bus and then you're taken up the Duke's Pass into the Trossachs. We stopped to take pictures at a beautiful viewpoint before heading to the cute little town of Callander for lunch.
In Callander be sure to pick your lunch place quickly, this stop is quite quick! We stopped at Mhor Bread and had some delicious sandwiches quickly which gave us the time to stop by a store nearby and buy some souvenir scarves! After that we had to hustle back to the bus for our trip to Doune Castle. Our bus tour guide stopped on our way to Doune at a little farm store where we could go inside and purchase sundries if we wanted, but instead we decided to stay outside and feed the Highland Cows on the lot!! They were the CUTEST things ever and our guide provided apples and carrots so we could feed them. I was one happy lady. After that quick stop we hopped back on the bus for a very quick drive to Doune Castle.
Doune was the inspiration for Winterfell in Game of Thrones so I was very excited to see this particular castle. It's a small castle and I really enjoyed walking around it. It's definitely worth getting the audio guide there, it's narrated by Terry Jones since the castle was also used as a location for Monty Python and the Holy Grail. The guide is very informative so while your're walking through the castle you really get a feel for what daily life was like for the people who lived there and you get a great history lesson as well. If you're a fan of Outlander this castle was used as Castle Leoch in the series. The tour spends about an hour at this castle, and it's the perfect amount of time. We had time to finish the tour and then also walk around the outside of the building and take some great photos at the entrance. If you don't want to tour Doune Castle, the driver will drop you off to spend your hour at Deanston Whisky Distillery instead. I'm not sure how that is, but every whisky distillery I visited in Scotland was really great! At the end of the hour we all piled back on the bus and we headed off to Stirling Castle.
The Stirling Castle stop is why I think this particular tour tries to fit too much into one day. We had about 1.5 hours at Stirling Castle and within that time you have to stand in line to buy a £15 ticket to this very popular castle and tour the humongous castle and grounds. If you just want a peek at the castle, great! If you'd like to see more of it and really learn the history then definitely see this castle some other way. I think, conservatively, it would take about 3 hours to really explore the castle and a full day to see all it has to offer. If you do decide to take this tour, Stirling Castle's website does have a suggested one hour itinerary that you can find here. Our top take aways from Stirling were the views from outside and the kitchens, so make sure you catch those! After Stirling we had a long drive back to Glasgow. We were supposed to arrive back around 5PM, but it was more like 6:30 because of traffic so make sure that you don't have anything lined up too early that night if you do decide to take this tour (or any tour) in case you do end up in traffic getting back into the city. The tour company was great, and our guide was charismatic and very knowledgeable about the Scottish countryside and Scottish history. We were lucky enough to get a great group of fellow tourists as well, so no complaints there. The bus is small (more like a van) and comfortable and I never felt unsafe. Honestly everything was great, the only downside is that we felt that they tried to squeeze too much into one day. If you don't mind getting an over-view of Stirling Castle though, this tour is a great option for you. Frankly, if you have the time, you could spend a whole week in a rental car exploring the area around Loch Lomond.