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Traveling in Scotland
If you would like to go to Scotland, I will warn you that it is a bit expensive; itís a good idea to book all your rooms in advance so youíll know what you are going to spend. I found and booked everything over the Internet, and we were never disappointed.
Everywhere, service was excellent: prompt, honest, friendly and relaxed. Visitscotland.com (run by the Tourist Board) is a wonderful and highly reliable resource.
Driving is fun and easy, once you figure out how those roundabouts work (and provided that you can remember to stay on the lefthand side of the road). We bought a road atlas the first day, and it was invaluable.
The National Trust of Scotland and Historic Scotland are both organizations (one a non-profit, the other run by the government) offering passes that grant admission to all their sites, which include many if not most of the best ruins, castles, gardens and battlefields. The passes are for one year, but they pay for themselves in one week if itís the kind of thing you like to do.
From the properties owned by NTS and/or Historic Scotland, you could build an itinerary. As it turned out, our itinerary has more NTS sites, so we joined that one. The Abbey above was the only Historic Scotland site we visited.
The NTS is so well run. At most sites, you tour at your own pace. Volunteers in the rooms of the castles were friendly and very knowledgeable about the property. If you asked questions, you got information. If you didn't, you were left alone.
A nice touch: though you were not allowed to take photographs inside, you could take a shot out the window. I appreciated that. When I visit a castle, every time I enter a room I go straight to the window to look out. At left, this is what you see looking out a top-floor window at Crathes.
We ate mostly at our hotels, only occasionally stopping in the middle of the day for a snack or tea. And of course they all offered a nice big breakfast that was included in the cost of the room. I had the best yogurt ever at the Inver Hotel: rhubarb!
The few restaurants we visited were not as good for dinner as the hotels. Our best dinners were at the George Hotel and the Urr Valley Hotel.
Ferries ran between the islands. They were a bit expensive, but certainly easy to catch and ride. There are some multiple-trip deals, which we didn't look into. If you wanted to hop around, maybe it would be reasonable if you had some kind of pass.
The trip could not have been better, except by being longer. I hope to go back.
SEPTEMBER 2007: SCOTLAND
Dumfries & Galloway: