Tim was just out of this world.  He quickly realized that we had to make stops every two hours or so to give the kids something to do.  He would give them 1/2 hour or so to explore a beach to find shells or rocks and get some fresh air.  He ate most of his meals with us, at our request, but his meal was never found on our bills.  Even at the tables in the pubs we stopped at, he would play little games with the kids to keep them distracted while waiting for our food.  I told him what price range I was considering for meals and he sure found some wonderful eateries for us.  I think that if we could have taken Tim home with us, it would have been a unanimous decision.  It got to be a joke when he would stop the vehicle to speak to someone on the street…mostly his relatives.  He knew everyone.  He took us on a tour of the Adare property so that I would know what I might book future clients into.  Oh, and Tim can speak to anyone about anything that they are interested in.  i.e. The van had 5 seats facing each other.  The 6th seat was next to the driver.  I didn’t want to miss the interaction with the family, so I asked the rest of the adults to switch off with me in that front seat.  It was amazing to listen to the different conversations that were going on between Tim and the designated front seat person.  Haha!

Tim told me that he could have put us in the Radisson in Dublin as it also had a pool and could have saved us a ton of money.  I wish I would have known that.  When I did a search for Dublin hotels with pools, I don’t recall the Radisson coming up.  However, the Merrion made a big hit with the family.   The farm house B&B was very homey and Breda and Mike were like our relatives before we left them.  Mike has a dairy herd of 100 head and Joel helped him milk the cows one night.  Very interesting operation.  We all watched, but Joel took part.  Mike also races greyhounds…not like in the USA, but it is a money-making enterprise for him.  My daughter was a foster home for greyhounds that could no longer race and were being adopted by families in Michigan. When she heard that Mike raced greyhounds, her heart sank but when she saw their demeanor, she could tell that they were well treated.  Anyway, Mike brought the dogs out and put leashes on them and let the kids play with them.  They treat racing greyhounds much more humanely in Ireland than they do here so they are pretty docile.  No growling or anything like that.  To race them, they take the dogs out to a large empty piece of land (no fences) along with a rabbit and let the rabbit loose.  Evidently, a rabbit will run in a straight line for a long time.  They let two dogs go to chase the rabbit and the first dog to veer off to the side is the loser.  Interesting, huh?  Mike had just bought two dogs the day before and we heard that he paid $600 for one of them and expected that the dog would pay for itself within a few months.    Inwardly, I was fighting going to Doolin and the Island of Inishere because I thought it was going to be boring.  Not so.  Joel that he  have discovered a new species on the beach of the island.  They did some experiments and took a gazillion photos of it for documentation purposes and now that they are home, they are diving into their research.  Tami and Violet found a playground that has some very different equipment, including a zip line.  Monique and I found a tea house were we had tea and a blueberry scone with home make blackberry jam and we sat in a little room next to a wood burning stove that smelled so good.  Something for everyone on the little island.  We didn’t go out for music because it started too late but we made sure we did in Scotland.   I struggled with determining the gratuity, hoping it was enough.  Your guidelines were very helpful.   We just loved sleeping with the windows wide open in Ireland – no screens – because of the lack of bugs!!  I don’t remember that from my last visit.    In Scotland, we also didn’t have bugs, well not many, and slept with the windows wide open both in the city and in the country.  I can’t imagine a licensed guide could have been any better than the two drivers we had.  We had Darren for the first portion and Gary for the last portion.   This is where we had the 16-passenger van.  We liked the van that Tim used better for the purpose of everyone being able to hear what the driver said, but the kids had more room to sleep in the larger one.   We learned so much history in the few days we were in Scotland.  We bought some history books and we took turns reading them during the trip and on the plane ride home.  The Scots are very proud of their heritage.  Gary took us to an out of the way place that helped us find out more about where the “Hastings” came from.  We found out that we were part of the Campbell clan and we even have our own tartan!!!  This gave us something to work with and she found out that the Hastings are actually from England and married into the Campbell clan.   The Harry Potter Castle was fantastic.  We all had a good time there and didn’t leave until they were ready to close.   The same with the Stirling Castle as it tied in with the history were learning from the drivers.  The rooms at the Glen Mohr in Inverness were just beautiful.  They look exactly like the website.  My son got the large room with the high ceilings and I think it is the honeymoon suite in the website.  At least it is pictured in a flyer that they have at the front desk.  Our room was right next door, so we propped the door open so the kids could run back and forth.  We had nice soft twin beds in our room.  As you know, we were right on the River Ness and the location and the city were very picturesque.  We were watching some men outfitted with their hip waders, etc. fly fishing for salmon right in front of the hotel.     When we arrived at the Airth Castle, we found out that there are two buildings.  One is the actual castle, which I thought had been changed into the hotel.  It is in the process of being renovated.  The stables that were a 2-minute walk from the castle were converted to reception, business center, the restaurant, pub, and rooms a few years ago.  We were told that our reservations were in the building that had been the stables. (That was the first close call.) When we objected, they gave us some options.  The rooms in the stables are larger than the rooms in the castle and since everything else is there, it is much more convenient to stay in that building.  OR, they could give us two small rooms that would hold a double bed and a camp cot (smaller than a twin bed, but sufficient) OR three rooms with a double bed in each and we would have to pay for the third room.  We took the two triples.  Late in the evening, my daugther-in-law came into our room and took her daughter and the camp cot into their room as she couldn’t sleep without her with them.  Before the kids went to bed, they went exploring with flashlights in the castle.  Since there were any staff in the castle, and only one other room was occupied, it really was a castle experience.  When we were outside exploring, a maid who had worked there for many years adopted us and gave us a tour of the dungeons and the moat, etc. and filled us in on the history of the castle.  Evidently William Wallace, Rob Roy, Robert the Bruce, etc. all stayed their at one time.  The face of the castle had been burned down 200 years ago when the governess fell asleep smoking and the two children died in the fire.  Our rooms were at the very top of the castle…no elevators due to the property being part of the Scotland Heritage…and we had to climb 6 half staircases…3 flights. Truthfully, I didn’t even think about it since my knee replacements are working just fine.  Oh, the bathrooms in the castle were recently totally rebuilt/redone so they were beautiful.  We had room service that night and the servers had to climb the stairs many times before the bill and the orders were right.  They said they didn’t mind because it was a diversion from their normal duties.  By the time they were done, we were like family.    We all agreed that we could live in Scotland and not look back.  It was that comfortable and the people, for the most part, were so nice.    Sophia, I have to say that planning this trip was so scary and I am very glad it’s over.  We determined that the trip was about a week too long for 5 and 6 yr olds as Joel wanted to go home after the second day.  Violet stuck it out a little further asking “Where are we going next?” but going through the immigration line in DTW upon our return, I overheard her to tell someone that we had to take three planes to spend a night in a castle.  As if that was all we did….  So funny.    Budget…all in all, I was only about $5000 over budget, and when we’re dealing with a trip of this magnitude with this many people, I’m not too unhappy about that.    Sophia, thank you so much for all of the work you did for us to make this a trip to remember.  I know I was a challenge.   Many thanks and hugs !

The H. Family, MI