Wednesday, May 24, 2006

More on Scotland

Just wanted to quickly add some information about Scotland - getting there and where to stay when you're there.

Getting there is most easily done by flying either direct to London or Glasgow. Glasgow flights tend to be cheaper for some reason, at least from where I'm at. I use Canadian Affair for flights out of Canada because their flights are WAY less costly than through Air Canada. Alternatively, I use www.flyzoom.com.

As an airport, Gatwick, is my preference due to the excellent connections to everywhere else in Britain and Europe.

At Glasgow, you have the option of taking the bus to Inverness, a lovely and a reasonably short trip.

If you do fly to Gatwick, as you will have just arrived from a 9 hour flight, stay over in Gatwick (the town) for a night at a B&B. More about B&Bs in a sec. If you're gung ho to get out of there, you can fly between certain points on various regional airlines or you can take the train. Sometimes there a big wait between. The trains in the UK are wonderful. Easy to navigate, comfortable and generally go from downtown to downtown. In other words, they get you right into the action, door to door.

Otherwise, If you like to see the countryside and don't mind driving, take the bus. From London to Inverness, the trip can be anywhere between 10 and 12 hours BUT it can be really cheap to travel that way. Look at MegaBus as a means of getting around. One can get trips - long trips - for as little as 1 pound Sterling by booking early.

Alternatively, you can fly EasyJet, which goes nearly everywhere in the UK and Europe. They have unbelievably great rates, again if you book early and can be flexible on your travel days. My return flight from London to Inverness was 73 pounds Sterling return, tax in. That's about $140 in Canadian/US money.

B&Bs are the best places to stay in smaller places like Inverness
(close to Loch ness) or Nairn . Even in the cities, B&B is always much less expensive than hotel , as for where to stay, you can choose a hotel, but why??? B&B is the way to go, especially in the far more personable and hospitable. As you're staying in someone's home, you can be sure that the hosts will be able to tell you all sorts of stories and stuff about the place you're visiting.

In Inverness, stay at Atholdene House on Southside Road. It is a 5 minute walk into the downtown and located on a lovely, tree-lined street. My friend, Penelope, and her husband, Fred, are WONDERFUL hosts. I cannot imagine staying anywhere else in Inverness. Perfect location and holy cow big breakfasts, all for the tiny price of 25 - 30 Sterling a night.

There are MANY B&Bs in Inverness as there are in all places in Britain. Check out the Scottish B&B Association for more. Most can be booked on line.

For stuff to do in Scotland, it is unlimited. In Inverness, for instance, there are great pubs and restaurants and wonderful places to walk to. You can walk a mile or 70 miles if you want a huge trip. There's a walk from Inverness to Fort William along the Great Glen.

You can go it on your own (you won't be alone; it is a very popular walk) or you can go on a guided tour with people to transport your gear. You stay in B&Bs along the way and eat in pubs at night. It is a totally great way to see the most prominent geographical features of the highlands.

Inverness and cities/towns of its size are really easy to get around. It is worth just setting out and seeing where you end up. You cannot become lost; there are too many people around to ask and most are more than happy to give you directions. Take advantage of Scottish hospitality as there will very probably be a great pint or a dram of "The water of life" involved.

Other stuff to do includes trips to Skye, which is an island off the coast, west of Fort William, or all the other islands to the north and north west. There are castles galore around, may within a short drive. If you're a fan of the Scottish Play (and if you are, you'll know why I just called it that), go to Cawdor Castle, which is on the way to Nairn, 9 miles along the A9 from Inverness.

I'm really big on travel anyway because no schooling or geography classes are ever going to be as real as the real thing, but also because, with Scotland anyway, it is just a great way to decompress and find some peace.