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Issue 24 - No longer a a destination nightmare

Scotland Magazine Issue 24
January 2006


This article is 12 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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No longer a a destination nightmare

Scotland is benefiting from greatly improved transport facilities. Sally Toms looks at how to travel to, from and around Scotland

With four international airports and three major ferryports to choose from, getting to Scotland couldn’t be easier.

Scotland has excellent air links with a number of European hubs including London, Amsterdam, Paris, Reykjavik and Frankfurt. These hubs link to most of the world’s cities.

There are a number of direct flights from the United States and Canada to Scotland: Continental Airlines fly to Glasgow and Edinburgh daily; American airlines; US Airways; Air Canada; Air Transat; and Zoom making weekly or daily flights during the summer.

Zoom airlines has recently announced an additional service from Glasgow to Toronto for next summer, increasing the number of direct flights to Toronto to three a week.

Icelandair offers a good economy service from North America and most parts of Europe to Glasgow airport. Prices for return flights vary, but Icelandair offer a New York to Glasgow service from as little as $300.

Or if your flight takes you into London, instead of a connecting flight to Scotland you could choose to arrive refreshed in the morning on one of First ScotRail’s fleet of overnight trains. These trains have 900 berths and operate six nights a week between Fort William, Inverness, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and London Euston.

The Caledonian Sleepers save time when you need an early start. You can catch a budget flight to Heathrow from anywhere in the worldwide, hop on the night sleeper and arrive refreshed ready for the day ahead.

Single and return tickets are available and prices start at just £59 for a single,with the price including continental breakfast.

Alternatively, National Express offers a coach from London Victoria to all Scotland’s biggest cities. But the journey is 551 miles long and more than eight long hours from London to Aberdeen – not for the easily bored.

But once you do arrive in Scotland, getting out and about to explore is simple.

Thanks to an extensive road, rail and ferry network, there are a range of transport options to carry you to every corner of the country.

All airports have good onward connections from the cities and towns in Scotland, either by train, bus or airport taxis.

Car hire can be arranged by some carriers before your arrival or through the information desks in the terminal building. Trusted names are Hertz, Avis, Arnold Clark and Thrifty.

It is the easiest thing in the world to step off a plane, pick up a hire car at the airport then drive off into the sunset – and it is not as expensive as you might think. Thrifty, for example, will charge about £30 per day or £130 a week for a three door ‘economy’ car, but luxury options are available. This price includes 250 free miles per day, but additional miles are charged at a rate of about 0.15p per mile.

Most car hire companies require the driver to be between the ages of 25 and 70 years old, with a current driving licence having been held for at least one year. Many of the larger companies have multiple offices around the country, and it is simple enough to drop off your car in another city or town if you plan to continue your journey by boat or by train.

Scotland has an excellent road network with motorways and dual carriageway roads linking many of the main cities and towns. The primary road network extends over most of the country except for a few remote areas, where there are single track roads. It is part of the pleasurable experience in getting away from traffic jams to drive on the quiet roads in Scotland.

Driving is a great way to see Scotland’s dramatic countryside, you can travel at your own pace and stop where you like and explore. Brown signposts with white lettering provide information on castles and other attractions, accommodation, tourist information centres, scenic areas and picnic sites. Look out for the blue thistle for attractions and facilities inspected for quality by VisitScotland.

Rural roads and motorways are one thing, but the hustle and bustle of city traffic is another. By far the best way to make the most of Scotland’s cities is on one of the bright red open top sightseeing buses. You get a great view, and the strategically placed bus stops mean you can hop on and off all days as you wish.

The tour guides are entertaining and offer more information than you’ll find in any inanimate city guide. Amulti-lingual commentary is available for overseas visitors.

The city tours cost £8.50 and last between 60 and 80 minutes. They run throughout the year at 15 or 30 minute intervals. You can buy tickets on the website or from vendors at the pick-up points.

First Group and Citylink buses operate several hundred services a day, and trundle all over the country – rural and urban. Full timetables are available online allowing you to plan your journey and even book your ticket in advance.

This is a very sensible way to travel if you are on a budget, Scottish Citylink provides low-cost ‘Super Singles’ tickets to many popular destinations, including from Glasgow to Edinburgh, from as little as £1.

The Explorer Pass is excellent value for those who want to travel a little further; it allows unlimited travel on any service for three consecutive days and costs just £39.

There are also 787 islands in Scotland and wheels will only take you so far. NorthLink ferries cover Orkney and Shetland with mainland ports on the mainland at Scrabster and Aberdeen.

These beautiful and remote islands are a popular destination; in the height of summer there are in the region of 44,000 passengers on NorthLink Orkney and Shetland routes, but to reach the Western Isles, you’ll need Caledonian MacBrayne.

The CalMac ferries are a Scottish institution. They sail to 22 islands and four peninsulas on Scotland’s west coast, from Arran in the south to Lewis in the north.

The CalMac Island Hopscotch tickets are a great way to create your own island hopping adventure at your own pace, and at a reasonable price. Tickets are valid for one journey on each route and can be used in either direction for one month. What’s more, cyclists on Island Hopscotch tickets pay only for themselves – bikes travel free.

But if you prefer a hassle-free holiday, there are a multitude of tour companies willing to take the strain in exchange for your cash.

These vary greatly in price. Lindblad’s Heart of the Highlands sailing tour lasts about two weeks and costs between $5,390 and $7,490. Not exactly cheap, but for your money you get accommodation, meals, transfers to/from the ship, excursions and a day-to-day itinerary to completely take the stress out of your holiday.

The eight day Scottish Dream tour from travel company CIE is also recommended. This escorted coach tour includes nights at first class hotels and is centred around such activities as a Scottish cabaret and dinner; a whisky distillery tour; a few castles; a sightseeing tour of Glasgow and Edinburgh and the military tattoo.

If you come to Scotland mainly for the golf then Golf International is an award winning tour company that will tailor a holiday to suit you. It can cater for parties of as few as two people travelling together up to groups of 200 or more.

But you needn’t commit yourself to a tour for the entirety of your trip; Prestige Tours offers a choice of one, two, three or four day tours to suit your holiday and your pocket.

A guided tour, long or short, is a great way to experience the country’s intriguing mix of dramatic landscapes, lively towns and cities, history, attractions and events, absolutely trouble free. It’s also a great way to make friends.

For more information on tours and travel visit, where all kinds of information on getting around has been compiled in this easy to use website. Or if you prefer to talk to a real person, call +44 (0)870 608 2 608.

Travelling to, from and around Scotland has never been easier and there has never been a better time to visit this wonderful country.

+44 (0)870 608 2 608







All overseas nationals who wish to enter the United Kingdom must satisfy the immigration officer at the port of arrival that they meet the requirements of the UK immigration regulations.

Information on entry requirements can be obtained from any British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate or from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. The holder of an overseas driving licence may, for a period of up to one year, drive a motor vehicle in Britain. Visitors bringing their own cars from overseas require green-card insurance and the car registration documents

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