Highlights
  • Navigate to some of the most beautiful, isolated islands in the Atlantic including St. Kilda and the Faroe Islands.
  • Interact with the 60 or so residents of Fair Isle, the most remote inhabited island in the United Kingdom.
  • Discover Orkney’s remarkable prehistoric sites including two ceremonial stone circles and a well-preserved village.

This trip has been discontinued. Instead see

Hogmanay in Scotland

Journey to Ireland

Britain & Ireland



In prehistoric times, Celtic monks in search of the utmost solitude took to the sea, sailing from Great Britain to remote “stepping stone” islands: the Orkney Islands, Shetland Islands, Hebrides and Faroes. Embark on a voyage to these isolated isles and delve into their human history from ancient settlements to recent evacuations. Zodiac boats bring you close to dramatic coastlines. Look for whales and seals.

Travel Theme
Flights & Transport
  • Only ground transport

30
Road Scholar Travel Reviews & Ratings
Has very high quality customer experiences and demonstrated commitment to responsible travel practices. read more
87% Recommend

4.5 out of 5
Excellent 23 Great 3 Average 1 Disappointing 1 Terrible 2
Value
4.5 Guide
4.6 Activities
4.5 Lodging
4.3 Transportation
4.4 Meals
4.3
Stepping Stones in the Atlantic: The Hebrides, Faroes, Shetland & Orkney Islands

No reviews yet for this trip. Browse other reviews below for Road Scholar .

K

Does Not Recommend

Road Scholar Owes My Mom A Huge Apology and Refund. Highly advise AGAINST using them. May 2018

1.0
  • Value 1.0
  • Guide 1.0
  • Activities 1.0
  • Lodging 1.0
  • Transportation 1.0
  • Meals 1.0
Let me preface this story with some background about myself: I backpacked through most of Europe by myself when I was studying abroad in Ireland. I suffered through horrendous bus rides, getting kicked out of seats on trains, sleeping in questionable hostels, and going weeks without being able to really do laundry. I know how crappy it can be to actually get from one place to another, and how worth it is to suffer through all of that just to lay eyes on something magnificent.

And yet, Road Scholar has, without a doubt, managed to give me the single worst travel experience I've ever had in my entire life, and we didn't even make it off the ground. I would never, ever, EVER recommend them to anyone looking to go anywhere, and as far as I'm concerned, Road Scholar needs to seriously reconsider their travel-making procedures and give my mother a huge apology and refund. (Also, I'm only in my twenties, so I have a lot of years ahead of me to make referrals.)

It all started with Road Scholar not getting us flights. We claimed our spot on a trip to the Lake region in Northern Italy, but no one ever called us back about any travel arrangements. It appeared we were on the trip IN Italy, but no one had bothered to make any arrangements to get us there. My mother called and left messages, emailed people, and the only response we got was that our flight should be booked at some point in early May (when our trip was set to start on May 22). Road Scholar urges people to book their flights through their preferred travel agency, which is who didn't call us back. Road Scholar, to market themselves as educational tourism rather than shallow "I just want to see things" tourism, partners up with different educational institutions, and ours was through Trinity College. The director of the Italian programs called us asking for our travel information, since she didn't have it yet. Interesting news to us. We were then told that we could make travel arrangements of our own (even though we were paying Road Scholar to do it for us) and then inform the program of our travel plans and how we were getting to our hotel. So we started to investigate making our own plans, when someone finally called us back saying that they were taking care of our travel arrangements, and they "didn't know why we hadn't had them made for us already." The director of the program was happy to hear this, because the Lake region of Italy is not as easily accessible as other areas.

We asked for upgraded seats because my mom has had both of her knees replaced, and while that doesn't inhibit her in the slightest from being active, it limits where she can sit on planes. In a cramped regular economy seat with no leg room on an international flight that was going to last 8-10 hours, she wouldn't have been able to walk off the plane because of how her knees would cramp up. But they said they could make the arrangements (which is also advertised on their website) so that was that. We got our itinerary, accommodations, and were all set. We were booked through United and Lufthansa (neither of which either of us will EVER book through again), so I downloaded the United app onto my iPhone so I could check us in and make sure we had mobile copies of our boarding passes in addition to the paper ones my mom printed out. We were all set to fly from Cincinnati to Washington D.C., from D.C. to Frankfurt, and from Frankfurt down to Verona where we would be meeting up with the group -- which, by the way, we never received any information regarding where the group was meeting, the transportation to the lake resort, etc. Nothing. Just "after you get there" stuff.

Then this morning, I woke up to a notification from United Airlines (and a text message alert that I had set up) saying that our flight to D.C. had been cancelled due to weather. Obviously I'm not blaming Road Scholar for that. What I am holding Road Scholar accountable for is what happened next: my mom called the Emergency Hotline (which is a recording -- and I HIGHLY recommend that they change this, because when I studied abroad, we had two emergency hotlines, both of which were always answered by real human beings, one for anything happening in the United States, and the other for the program, which was a different number for each location and a direct line to one of the program directors on the ground in the country you were actually in). We left a voicemail, someone named Mike called us back, and he was an absolute asshole. When you book your flight through a travel agency/group travel organization, if anything happens to your flight, it is the THEIR responsibility to take care of it. We were told by Road Scholar, and it's available on their website: "When you book your airfare through Road Scholar, we're there to help you in case of any emergencies." When Mike called us back and we told him that our flight to D.C. had been cancelled, he told us that he couldn't look up any other flights (on both United and any other airlines) for us to potentially get on to get to D.C for our transatlantic flight. Instead, he told us to call United ourselves and to go to the airport and talk to the desk agent. I then ended up on the phone (and on hold) the entire drive to the airport, which resulted in nothing because tons of flights had been cancelled due to airline politics and weather. We finally got to the desk agent at the airport, had a hell of a time getting rebooked on another flight, and weren't able to get the upgraded seats that we paid extra money for. When we called Road Scholar and Mike back to ask if during the course of our day when we would be traveling (and unable to make phone calls) he would call Lufthansa to at least make the airline aware of our need for better seating due to my mother's knee replacements, he was unhelpful and rude, at first attempting to refuse calling on our behalf and finally agreeing to, but only after repeatedly telling us "there's no guarantee of those seats" (something we definitely understood because we're not stupid).

Our rebooked flight wasn't set to leave until 7:45 PM tonight, putting us in Verona at 4:05 PM the next day (4 hours after the group transfer to the hotel), so we returned home instead of waiting around the airport for 12 hours. We got on both United and Lufthansa's websites and discovered that not only had our original itineraries not been removed, we had been double booked, one for a flight out of North Carolina to Munich through Delta, and another out of D.C. (the 7:45 PM flight) which had a 23 hour layover in Munich. A call to Road Scholar resulted in us being told that we had to contact the airlines. My mother was on the phone, talking to either United representatives or Lufthansa representatives, from about 9:30 AM to 2:00 PM. We were told we had reservations but no tickets, told we had tickets but couldn't see the numbers, told there were seats available for us to get upgraded to but we would have to try to get the desk agent in D.C. to arrange that for us, told that there was no guarantee we could get those seats, and more. It was incredible the amount of bureaucratic bullshit we had to put up with, especially since each airline wouldn't take any responsibility for us getting the seats we paid for and on a new flight, telling us "we'd have to talk to the other company about that." We finally called Road Scholar to see if there was anything more they could do, who encountered the same mess we already had, and all they did was eventually advise us to go back to the airport (a 45 minute drive) and talk to the desk agent to see IF they could put us in the upgraded seats -- ones we had already paid for and my mom couldn't make the trip without!

Then when asked how they would be getting us to our destination in the Lake region (which is not an easy place to get to, as I looked up the train and bus schedules myself, because - remember - I have tons of experience at this point traveling on the ground across Europe), they wouldn't outright say what our plans would be, which could've been anything from picking us up in the airport in a car, giving us a damn rental to drive ourselves, or simply paying for tickets and expecting us to haul all our luggage from the airport to the shuttle to the train station in Verona, take the 2+ hour train to a town an hour away from our destination, have to catch a bus to the actual town we were supposed to be in, and then walk the rest of the way there. Seeing what all happened, I would bet it would've been the latter, which isn't a problem for someone like me, but is an issue for someone like my mom.

The moral of the story here is that my mom and I shouldn't have had to be on the phone with anyone other than Road Scholar, PERIOD. Seeing as we paid well over $10,000 for this trip, the minute the flight was cancelled, Road Scholar should've called us to let us know that they would be making other arrangements for us to get to our trip in the Lake region of Italy. THEY should've been the ones on the phone, dealing with the airline bureaucrats, working their hardest to get us any combination of flights to get us to Italy in the seats that we paid for. Or, if it really came down to it, they should've made arrangements for us to be on this trip at another point in time, offered us another excursion in its place, or simply given us a refund. Instead, they didn't want to do the jobs that we paid them to do, and we were the ones that had to take time out of our day, which was already scheduled to be a hectic and stressful time because traveling is simply just that, to do Road Scholar's job. They didn't look out for us one single bit and completely and utterly RUINED what was supposed to have been a wonderful trip for me and my mom.

My mother has an adventurous and curious soul and hasn't gotten to go to Europe the way she always wanted to. Since I graduated college, my mother suggested taking a mother-daughter trip. This was supposed to be incredibly special for the both of us, getting to go somewhere new together (I hadn't explored Northern Italy much and that's where we decided to go), learning about the food and the culture, and bonding over all the amazing things we were going to be able to do. I think my mom was even more excited about this trip than I was, voraciously reading all the required/recommended reading, practicing Italian in her room so she could order correctly at restaurants, not giving up when we hit little bumps in the road along the way. Instead, we have been nothing but doubtful at best in the entire planning of this trip, and deeply disappointed and angered at worst. I will never again recommend Road Scholars to anyone looking to go on group trips. Instead, I will steer people away and recommend that they either find a better travel agency, book the trip themselves, or go through Rick Steve's program.

Road Scholar should issue my mother a refund and an apology or risk being sued.
Read more

Operator Road Scholar

S

Does Not Recommend

They take advantage of the elderly May 2018

1.0
  • Value 1.0
  • Guide 4.0
  • Activities 1.0
  • Lodging 1.0
  • Transportation 1.0
  • Meals 1.0
I had high hopes for Road scholar. However, when I was diagnosed with cancer I got no sympathy from Road Scholar. The agents and management kept saying you should have purchased insurance. But the insurance was extremely expensive and would not have covered the cancellation fee either. I ended up attending anyways because I didn't want to lose my money. I felt sick the entire time and could barely complete the activities. The group leader was wonderful. But the program was very strict and I felt that they over charged for everything. They demonstrated shocking behavior for a non profit that is supposed to be all about education and supporting the elderly. Yet they constantly are sending catalogs and pushing expensive programs. I highly recommend taking your money elsewhere. They do not respect their customers and only care about money. They took advantage of a cancer patient and according to the others on my trip this is common.
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Operator Road Scholar

S

Does Not Recommend

A BIG DISAPPOINTMENT August 2017

3.0
  • Value 3.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 3.0
  • Lodging 4.0
  • Transportation 2.0
  • Meals 3.0
I would have enjoyed this trip much more if I felt I was being treated as an adult, the educated, enthusiastic traveler that I am.
Unfortunately, I took a fall and broke my arm near the end of the trip. I was shocked at the very insolent, uncaring attitude of Road Scholar. I received two calls from the insurance program my husband was encouraged to pay for for the trip (we usually use Travel Guard who is great). Both calls were very negative. Neither expressed concern about my condition and both apparently had called to state that ROAD SCHOLAR
WOULD NOT PAY FOR ANYTHING! WOW! A WAKEUP CALL FROM HELL. I WILL BE SHOUTING THIS FROM THE ROOFTOPS SO NO ONE ELSE
HAS THIS EXPERIENCE. DO NOT PURCHASE ROAD SCHOLAR INSURANCE -- IT IS A BOONDOGGLE!
Read more

Operator Road Scholar

LG

Does Not Recommend

Don't go! March 2017

2.0
  • Guide 1.0
  • Activities 4.0
  • Lodging 1.0
  • Meals 1.0
  • Value 2.0
  • Transportation 2.0
I took a four day bridge class at Jekyll Island Club Hotel. The class was mediocre. And I came home with over 50 BED BUG BITES! Please beware.

Operator Road Scholar

TCtssvawmc

Recommends

Excellent coverage of major cities and Guizhou Province January 2017

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0
Road Scholar (also known as Elderhostel) offers hundreds of tours worldwide, using local tour companies, sometimes universities. I have taken RS tours to Africa, China, and France and look forward to more. This was my first "tour" of China, but my 20th visit, with the rest on business. Our guide, Mei Mei, was one of the finest I've seen on tours. We started with Beijing and continued to Xian and then to Guizhou Province for a week in this fascinating area, which was new to me. We were able to meet the people in the villages, thanks to our guide, and enjoyed the chance to see and photograph such a variety of places in China. Hotels were excellent and appropriate to this type of tour (usually centrally located and very fine). Meals were family style and always good. Road Scholar makes its tours educational and doesn't push shopping as so many commercial ones do. Touring in China is very safe. You do have a lot of walking and RS tells you this in the tour, but it seems that a great deal of the walking is in those huge airports! I recommend Road Scholar and always turn to their catalogs to choose my next trip.
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Operator Road Scholar

Itinerary

Day One: Flights Depart

Evening: Flights to Edinburgh, Scotland depart North America.

Day Two: Arrivals / Edinburgh, Scotland               

Meals: Dinner

Accommodation: Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor (or similar)

Arrive To: Flights arrive in Edinburgh, Scotland. Transfer to the program hotel. Check-in time at the hotel is at 3:00. Although we will try to secure an early check-in for participants arriving before 3:00, we cannot guarantee that there will be availability. Luggage storage will be available.

Afternoon: Gather for a warm welcome and introductions, followed by an orientation to the program. Review the schedule and any changes; discuss responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures and contact numbers for key staff; and answer any questions you may have.

Dinner: Welcome dinner at the hotel

Day Three: Edinburgh, Scotland - The Royal Mile             

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Accommodation: Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor (or similar)

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Depart the hotel this morning for an exploration of Edinburgh. Start the morning at Edinburgh Castle, perched above the city on Castle Rock. Continue exploring the sites along the Royal Mile ending at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Lunch: Lunch on your own to explore the local fare.

Afternoon: After lunch you will have some free time to independently explore the shops, restaurants, and sites of interest along the Royal Mile.

Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant.

Day Four: Edinburgh / Oban / Embark MV Sea Explorer

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Accommodation: Sea Explorer

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Transfer by coach from Edinburgh to Oban. The driving time is approximately 3 hours, but the views through the Scottish highlands will be well worth it. There will also be rest stops along the way. Upon arrival in Oban visit Oban Distillery, to learn how traditional Scotch whiskey is produced from one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland. Next, drive to the top of Battery Hill to McCraig's tower, with beautiful views of Oban Bay.

Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant.

Afternoon: Arrive at the MV Sea Explorer. Embarkation begins at 4:00 PM.

Dinner: Dinner on board the ship.

Day Five: Migulay & Pabbay, Outer Hebrides    

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Accommodation: Sea Explorer

Breakfast: Breakfast on board the ship

Morning: Explore the remote islands at the tip of the South Uist including Mingulay and Pabbay. Zodiacs will be used to explore and we hope to make some beach landings. Despite there being a continuous population on Mingulay for at least two thousand years, evacuation began in 1907 and the island was completely abandoned by its residents in 1912 and has remained abandoned ever since. The islands are also a nature reserve with important breeding populations of razorbills, guillemots, black guillemots, puffins, fulmars and shags.

Lunch: Lunch on board the ship.

Afternoon: Continue exploring Migulay and Pabbay.

Dinner: Dinner on board the ship.

Day Six: St. Kilda, Outer Hebrides           

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Accommodation: Sea Explorer

Breakfast: Breakfast on board the ship

Morning: Arrive at first light in St. Kilda, a remarkable uninhabited archipelago some fifty miles beyond the Outer Hebrides. The largest island, Hirta, once supported a population of over 200, but the last islanders left in the 1930s. The Medieval village has been restored by the National Trust for Scotland and offers a marvellous link with the past.

Lunch: Lunch on board the ship.

Afternoon: Cruise past two of the largest gannetries in the world at Borecay and Stac Lee as you sail to North Rona.

Dinner: Dinner on board the ship.

Day Seven: North Rona, Outer Hebrides              

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Accommodation: Sea Explorer

Breakfast: Breakfast on board the ship

Morning: Spend the day around North Rona, an isolated island some fifty miles north of Cape Wrath. The last islanders left North Rona in 1844 and today it is home to thirteen species of breeding seabirds including large colonies of great black-backed gulls, great skuas and puffins. There is also a large population of grey seals which we hope to observe during a Zodiac cruise.

Lunch: Lunch on board the ship.

Afternoon: Continue exploring North Rona.

Dinner: Dinner on board the ship.

Day Eight: Torshavn, Faroe Islands          

Meals: Breakfast, Brunch, Dinner

Accommodation: Sea Explorer

Breakfast: Breakfast on board the ship

Morning: Enjoy a morning at sea before we arrive in the Faroe Islands at lunch time.

Brunch: Lunch on board the ship

Afternoon: From the berth in Torshavn, join a guided exploration over the hills to Kirkjubour the islands oldest cultural center where you will see the ruins of the 13th century St Magnus Cathedral and the 11th century church, still in use. Also visit the 900-year old "Roykstovan", the old bishopric, considered to be the oldest wooden house in Europe.

Dinner: Dinner on board the ship

Day Nine: Mykines, Faroe Islands           

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Accommodation: Sea Explorer

Breakfast: Breakfast on board the ship

Morning: Today we will use the Zodacis to explore the westernmost islands of the Faroes. One of the loveliest of the archipelago, Mykines is wonderfully green and its single village with bright turf roofed houses and turf streets is a delight. One of the best walks in the Faroes can be found here at "Lundaland" (land of the puffin) on the islet of Mtkinesholmur, which is connected to Mykines by a small bridge.

Lunch: Lunch on board the ship.

Afternoon: This afternoon we hope to explore the huge caves of Vagar that have been created by the Atlantic Ocean as you sail back to Scotland.

Dinner: Dinner on board the ship

Day Ten: Papa Stour & Foula, Scotland 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Accommodation: Sea Explorer

Breakfast: Breakfast on board the ship

Morning: This morning you will board Zodiacs to explore the stunning cliff scenery, sea stacks, arches, blowholes, and coastal cavers of Papa Stour.

Lunch: Lunch on board the ship as you sail to Foula, one of Britain's most remote inhabited islands.

Afternoon: Apart from a narrow coastal strip of more fertile croftland, Foula is an expanse of peat and moorland rising steeply to five dramatic peaks. In the long midsummer days, Foula's wildflowers provide a glorious burst of color. The world's largest colony of Great Skuas compete fiercely with many Parasitic Jaegers for breeding territories.

Dinner: Dinner on board the ship.

Day Eleven: Lerwick & Mousa, Shetland Islands               

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Accommodation: Sea Explorer

Breakfast: Breakfast on board the ship.

Morning: After breakfast discover the Shetland capital and begin your exploration of this historic port. Wander through the narrow stone lanes, and visit the excellent Shetland Museum, containing artifacts from shipwrecks and the whaling era.

Lunch: Lunch on board the ship.

Afternoon: Explore Mousa to see the forty-foot defensive tower built by the Picts more than 2000 years ago, and the tallest, best preserved example of an Iron Age broch (tower) in Britain.

Dinner: Dinner on board the ship.

Day Twelve: Fair Isle & North Ronaldsay, Orkney Islands             

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Accommodation: Sea Explorer

Breakfast: Breakfast on board the ship

Morning: This morning Sea Explorer will call at Fair Isle where you will be met with a warm welcome by the tiny population of sixty or so islanders. Enjoy a walk across the island, perhaps visiting the Bird Observatory, searching out the puffin slopes.

Lunch: Lunch on board the ship

Afternoon: North Ronaldsay supports a rich and diverse population of wild flowers, mammals and birds. It lies on the migration crossroads with birds heading north towards Iceland, Greenland and Scandinavia whilst common and grey seals are numerous. Join the naturalists for guided walks cross the island including the lighthouse.

Dinner: Dinner on board the ship.

Day Thirteen: Kirkwall, Orkney Islands 

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Accommodation: Sea Explorer

Breakfast: Breakfast on board the ship

Morning: This morning, head into the west of Mainland, Orkney's largest island. Pass through the gentle rolling landscape and into the Neolithic Heartland of Orkney; an area designated as a World Heritage Site due to its wealth of pre-historic archaeology. See the Standing Stones of Stenness, the Ring of Brodgar; a huge ceremonial circle of stones dating back almost 5000 years. Continue to the 5000-year-old village of Skara Brae and see the remarkable dwellings revealed from beneath the sand dunes by storms only 150 years ago.

Lunch: Lunch on board the ship.

Afternoon: Continue exploring Kirkwall.

Dinner: Dinner on board the ship.

Day Fourteen: Aberdeen, Scotland / Disembark              

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Accommodation: Hilton Garden Inn Aberdeen City Centre (or similar)

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Disembark the ship this morning. Enjoy a morning exploration of Aberdeen

Lunch: Lunch on your own to explore the local fare.

Afternoon: Enjoy some free time to explore Aberdeen.

Dinner: Farewell dinner at the hotel.

Day Fifteen: Departures              

Meals: Breakfast

Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel.

Morning: Transfer to the airport for flights returning to North America.

Dates & Pricing
Checking price

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Prices may vary due to local taxes and trip seasonality. Click "Request Info" to inquire directly with the tour operator for the final trip price.
Details
Trip Includes
  • 13 nights of accommodations
  • 36 meals: 13 breakfasts, 1 brunch, 9 lunches, 13 dinners
  • 11 Field trips
  • Free round-trip airfare from JFK is included in the program price
  • Learning led by expert instructors who are authorities in the field of study.
  • An experienced Group Leader attuned to the needs of Road Scholar participants.
  • Customary gratuities throughout the program that you would normally pay yourself.
  • The Road Scholar Travel Assistance Plan, which is purchased on behalf of every participant and provides 24-hour-a-day emergency assistance services coverage.
  • Taxes
  • State-of-the-art QUIETVOX listening devices
Trip Excludes
  • Passport charges
  • Any kind of insurance
  • Personal Expenses
Meals Included:

13 Breakfasts, 10 Lunches and 13 Dinners

Flights & Transport
Only ground transport
Group Size:
Standard Group
Accomodations

Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor (or similar)

2 nights  Edinburgh

Located in the stylish West End of Edinburgh’s city center, the Hilton Edinburgh Grosvenor hotel combines a historical 1860s listed building with a chic and modern interior. Housed over two buildings – the main building and the Townhouse annex - the hotel boasts modern decor, yet retains stunning traditional features such as beautiful coving, ceilings and ornate staircases. Situated only 200 meters from Haymarket train station and a short walk from popular attractions including Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street and the Royal Mile, this unique Edinburgh hotel is the perfect base to explore Scotland’s capital.          

Sea Explorer

10 nights  Belgravia, London

The deluxe Sea Explorer is an all-suite yacht accommodating up to 114 guests. Built in 1992 and refurbished and redecorated in 2005, it has 57 suites. This small ship offers several advantages that mass cruiseliners cannot match. It can dock or anchor almost anywhere and are not limited to large commercial ports. The Sea Explorer can slip into small towns and tiny fishing villages. The ship's 70 officers and crew ensure personalized service.             

DoubleTree Hotel Aberdeen City Centre

1 night  Aberdeen

Start City
Edinburgh
End City
Aberdeen

Trip ID#: SteStoRoa

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