Scotland Trip Overview
Update January 2018: This trip is now FULL. We'll keep these travel pages up though just in case anyone wants to look at them.
Fat Hill Brewing is going on a field trip in October 2018! We've teamed up with Jay Allen Travel of Clear Lake, Rabbies Tours International, and Scottish Beer Tours of Edinburgh to design a once-in-a-lifetime beer-themed vacation to Scotland. Our 16-person group, which will be lead by a Scottish tour guide and FHB owners Jake and Molly, has the chance to tour several breweries, including Scotland's oldest working brewery. For a detailed itinerary, click here, or continue on this page to read the general overview of the trip.
Beer, history, hiking, eating, art, music, golf, monster hunting -- whatever you're in to, Scotland probably has it! Scotland is an awesome place to travel to. It's super clean, very safe, most people speak English, and airline connections to the United States are efficient and frequent. It's the dramatic scenery that will stay with you though -- it was recently voted the most beautiful country in the world by Rough Guides.
Why October 2018?
October is the 'shoulder' tourist season in Scotland so flights/hotels are cheaper, there's fewer crowds, and the midges (a ravenously hungry biting insect that goes crazy in summer) are in hibernation. Our travel dates are Thursday, October 4 through Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018. (We will likely leave Mason City mid afternoon on the 4th and be back early in the evening of the 14th.) For those regular Monday - Friday job-havers, this means you get to have a big international adventure but only take 6.5 days off work (and still have an evening to recover before work on Monday).
Why Jay Allen Tours/Rabbies/Scottish Beer Tours/FHB?
We can't say enough about this dream team. By working with these companies together, FHB was able to build a custom trip built for beer fans but one that is flexible enough to be enjoyable for anyone. Our trip is limited to 16 people (including FHB owners Jake and Molly) and designed for travelers who like a structured tour AND for those who want to be more independent. Want to do your own thing sometimes? Go for it! Want to do the scheduled group activity almost every day? Fine by us! A mix of the two? Great! Keeping the trip to 16 people means you don't feel like you're traveling in a mob, and there's no long lines when you get on and off the bus, a common hazard on packaged vacations (which sometimes cram 50 people on a bus). A small bus also means we can go places the big buses can't, like remote highland roads and into historic downtowns with narrow streets. Small bus tours are great because you get the best of both worlds - you're not in a huge crowd but you can see a lot more in a day that way than you could see efficiently on your own, especially in Scotland where a lot of great attractions are far away from public transportation. As far as what we bring to the mix, Brewer Jake is excited to try all the beers in Scotland and will be very happy to share his beer knowledge with you along the way. He is like a walking/talking/bearded beer Google. Also a beer nerd, Molly is good at beer questions and is a hardcore British Isles history and literature buff. She's a frequent international traveler, so has lots of practical tips and tricks she can help the group with. This will be her 5th trip to Scotland. Dream team!
Why this itinerary? Edinburgh > Mull > Inverness
A sophisticated international city, an island village, a Highland adventure destination - all of them together in one trip means you get a great overview of this diverse place. From those three bases we'll take day trips to see even more of Scotland (St. Andrews, the Borders, Dunbar, Glen Coe, Oban, Staffa, Iona, Fort William, Loch Ness, etc.).
Most importantly, what will I be drinking?
Scotland has a rich beer history and gloriously baffling variety due to easy access to good water, grain, and hops, and the historic practice of large estates and pubs making their own beer, often in casks (real ale). At some points in the 5,000-year beer history in Scotland, it was common to name beer based on the cost in shillings (the currency at the time), the lightest beer being the cheapest. Exact shilling prices obviously varied a lot depending on location, date, and beer quality, but in general these are the names that have stuck through the years: gradually the lower prices (60 shilling) became synonymous with light/low alcohol beer, the medium prices with heavy (medium alcohol) beer (70 shilling), the expensive with export-level (higher alcohol) (80 shilling). Wee heavy, also called Scotch Ale (90 shilling) would have been one been one of the boozier traditional beers (over 6%). A quick style note here - Wee heavy/Scotch Ale and ScottISH Ale are two distinct styles. They are both deep copper to brown and malt-forward and lightly hopped, but the Scotch ale will be boozier, sweeter, and probably a bit more roasty/carmely.
Traditional beer is still flourishing in Scotland but there's also a trend for American-influenced craft breweries like BrewDog, which largely reject the real ale format (and are into things like high-booze beers, lots of new world hops, barrel aging, serving it at colder temperatures, etc.). So variety is the name of the game here…you'll always find a new one to try, whether it's a traditional or modern style.
The beer you can drink and breweries you can visit in Edinburgh are too many to name but the ones outside of the city we'll visit include Belhaven Brewery (tour), Black Isle Brewery (tour), and Eden Mill Brewing/Distilling (tour), Fyne Ales Brewery (pint stop), and Born in the Borders Brewery (lunch/pint stop).
We picked Scotland as our first trip destination in part because our Scottish Ale and Wee Heavy were both important parts of our first year of business. The Scottish Ale in particular wasn't even intended to be a year-round beer but our customers really responded to it and made it one of the tent poles of our brand. Our wee heavy was the first-ever beer we brewed at our brewery, so we think it's kind of lucky!
How much is this going to cost me?
We have done a lot of hustling to try to add as much value to this trip as possible while keeping the costs down for you, but any international adventure is going to be a considerable investment. The total cost per person (double occupancy), which includes all flights (including 1 checked bag), all hotels, brewery tours, transportation within Scotland done with the group (airport transfers, buses between cities, ferry rides, etc.), most entrances to group attractions/tours, and our trip-long private tour guide is $3,450. This price also includes a chartered bus from Mason City to the Minneapolis airport and back, which is fabulous because this means you avoid a $250+ parking fee at the airport. Not included in the price are most meals, beer, and tips. If you're traveling alone and want to have a hotel room by yourself, add $780. (Or find a roomie to go with.) Since there are only 14 spots available, we expect this trip to sell out. A $600 non-refundable deposit will secure your spot on the trip (we prefer payment to be a check made out to Fat Hill Brewing). The full balance is due within four months of departure. (If you would like to pay by credit card, that's cool, but we will add 3% to cover processing fees.)
BOOK EARLY: If you book before January 1, 2018, we will knock $100 off your total price AND give you a $100 FHB gift card.
Travel insurance is an additional $130. Please ask about this when you book if you're interested.
Any restrictions, etc.?
You must be 21+ and have a current passport. Some historical attractions/sites may be unavailable for people with limited mobility.
Have questions? Want to learn more? READY TO BOOK?
Please click here to fill out an indication of interest form and to ask any questions.
Want to come have a wee chat?
There also will be an informal Q&A info session on Thursday, Dec. 21. Click here for more info on that.