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Issue 55 - There's a Warm Welcome Awaiting

Scotland Magazine Issue 55
February 2011


This article is 7 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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There's a Warm Welcome Awaiting

Take the pain out of your holiday to Scotland with our guide to some of the best travel tour options

Renowned for its unspoilt beauty and wonderful hospitality, one of the many things Scotland can assure its visitors is a warm welcome at all of its four major airports and three ferry ports. With its developing international connections, the greatest ever choice of airlines and online booking, it has never been easier to enjoy the country’s breathtaking landscapes, world famous golf courses, whisky and the cheerful conviviality of its folk.

Situated in the central belt, Edinburgh is the country’s capital airport and is ideally placed for exploring the east coast, Fife, Tayside and Perthshire. More than 40 airlines including Continental Airlines and Icelandair serve more than a hundred destinations.

If you are visiting for the first time then booking a personalised tour with an experienced guide can ensure you explore as many sites of interest as possible during your stay.

Edinburgh with its history of body snatching, plague victims buried in Mary King’s close, gentleman thieves and literary figures is a good starting point for familiarising yourself with the country’s history and legends. Discover Europe Ltd. is offering a ‘Literary Adventures in Scotland’ tour from June 25th – July 2nd 2011. The tour includes Robert Burn’s native Ayrshire and explores the capital’s Old Town, Palace of Holyrood and Royal Mile before moving on to the border country of Sir Walter Scott, who drew many of the characters in his novels from real life.

Jeannie Deans in The Heart of Midlothianwas based on one of Edinburgh’s most famous characters, Half Hang-it Maggie. Maggie Dixon, was hanged at the Grassmarket, but survived the ordeal.

Discover Europe’s tour then heads up to the Highlands to experience the silence of the Great Glen where the Clan MacDonald extended its hospitality to the Campbells but was rewarded by their guests slaughtering every MacDonald under the age of 70.

It’s then on to the battlefield of Culloden, with its markers as to where each regiment stood.

Visitors today still experience feelings of futility and grief as they stand on the field more than 250 years after the Duke of Cumberland slaughtered Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Highland army.

Glasgow boasts two airports. Glasgow International is Scotland’s major long haul gateway. Thirty airlines serve around 90 destinations worldwide and American Airlines, US Airways and Air Canada are just a few of the lines offering year round flights to and from Canada and the United States. Prestwick is reputed to be the only British soil on which Elvis Presley ever stood.

On March 3rd, 1960 the United States Army transport plane carrying him home from Germany, stopped to refuel at the airport. A lounge was named after Presley and a plaque erected in 2006. Today, the busy hub’s biggest tenant is Ryan air selling value for money tickets to over 20 major European cities.

The river Clyde was once the centre of Glasgow’s great shipbuilding industry but the surrounding coastline of Argyll was also famous for its paddle steamers, carrying holiday makers down the water to Dunoon, in the 1950s and 60s.

For travellers who would rather make their way at the leisurely pace of a bygone age, The Majestic Line has converted two traditional wooden vessels, the Glen Massan and the Glen Tarsan and run 11 unique cruises from April to October. On board their April short breaks and ‘Taste of Autumn in Argyle’ cruise in October, there are two double cabins available for single passengers at no supplement. Passengers can soak in the scenery, wildlife and Scottish heritage whilst sampling gourmet meals made from Argyll speciality ingredients. It would seem though the unexpected can be expected on these relaxing breaks, in 2010 a red squirrel stowed away on board for the ‘Heritage and Wildlife of South Argyll’ trip. He socialised with the passengers and crew on deck from time to time, and by all accounts enjoyed his free cruise. All cruises depart from Holy Loch, near Dunoon in South Argyll and from Oban in North Argyll.

If time is tight but you would like to discover some of the spectacular islands of the inner and Outer Hebrides then Caledonian MacBrayne Ferries run combined bus and ferry day trips as well as non-landing cruises. Destinations include Arran in the firth of Clyde, and the breathtaking island of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Ferries depart from Oban, Kintyre, Isle of Skye and Fort William. Booking is recommended for those travelling by car. Foot passengers can buy tickets at the port on their first day of travel. Scotrail and Caledonian MacBrayne both offer rail and sail tickets, which are great value for money, prices start at just over £22, and allow flexibility when planning several journeys.

Aberdeen Airport is the gateway to Europe’s energy capital and also the world’s busiest commercial heliport. Flybe, British Airways, and Easyjet all have regular flights from London’s three airports, Gatwick, Heathrow and Luton respectively. The airport also supports six car-hire companies, Avis, Hertz, National, Europcar, Alamo and Enterprise. Hiring a car can be a great way of exploring the many attractions the Highlands have to offer at your own pace. Holders of an overseas driving licence may drive a motor vehicle in Britain for up to a year. Visitors bringing their own cars or motor homes require vehicle registration documents and green-card insurance.

As well a Loganair’s regular short flights to the Kirkwall in Orkney, North Link Ferries run an overnight car ferry service from Aberdeen to Lerwick in Shetland via Kirkwall. Prices start at £54.60 including car, low season, and cabins are available at an extra cost.

After arriving in Kirkwall, if you still have your sea legs, Orkney Ferries sail between Orkney’s mainland and 13 beautiful island destinations including Egilsay, Sharpinsay, Graemsay and Hoy.

The Old Man of Hoy, a sea stack of red sandstone close to Ratwick Bay on the west coast of Hoy, is a distinct landmark on the island and a favourite with rock climbers.

Although a car can be handy for travelling around Orkney’s many sites of archaeological and historical interest, there are several tours available.

Stagecoach buses organise coaches with professional drivers to guide you around the mainland, their commentary giving you an accurate insight into the Orcadian community. For those who prefer to discover the sights for themselves, Stagecoach also sell Mega-rider tickets starting at £19.

Professional guides can be hired on the island for around £100 per day. This may seem a lot but guides are invaluable if you want to get the most out of the islands historical buildings such as St.

Magnus Cathedral, Skara Brae, the Neolithic village on the edge of the bay of Skaill or the Ring of Brodga, a 4,000-year-old stone circle. There are also numerous guided tours by both land and sea, these include Five Senses, an Eco-tour of the Neolithic, Viking and natural sites that involves meeting craft folk, learning the art of fire-making and working with natural fibres and stone. Dragon History provides entertaining history tours and creepy walks around Kirkwall and Stromness.

Orkney is home to two distilleries, Scapa distillery, makers of Scapa 10 and 12 Years Old single malts and the larger Highland Park. A visit to the main island would not be complete without a distillery tour and a dram or five before you leave.

If whisky is your passion, British Holidays tailor an exclusive five-day whisky tour to Islay and Speyside. The tour costs £586 per person, cost of lunches, flights and transfers not included.

Leaving Glasgow at 9am on a Monday morning the tour heads for the Island of Islay and a visit to the Ardbeg and Bunnahabhain distilleries. During the next four days, participants will sample the malts of Aberlour in Speyside, Glenfarclas Distillery and Gordon & MacPhail’s Benromach distillery at Forres. The tour comes to a close the following Friday with a visit to Scotland’s smalled distillery, Edradour, in Pitlochry. British Holidays also arrange tours for Golfing enthusiasts.

Whether you choose, Glasgow, Prestwick, Edinburgh or Aberdeen as your point of entry into Scotland, it is wise to check that you meet all the immigration regulations. Information can be obtained from any British Embassy, High Commission, consulate or the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (

Of course you may choose instead to fly to Heathrow and start your tour of Scotland in leisurely style. Scotrail’s fleet of overnight trains departing from London Euston, ensure you arrive in Scotland rested and refreshed the following day.

The Caledonian sleepers have 900 berths and operate six nights a week between Fort William, Inverness, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and London Euston. If you are an early riser you can enjoy the wonderful views as the coaches passes through Scotland’s beautiful border country before you sit down to a continental breakfast. Prices start at £55 for a single to Edinburgh and the ticket includes breakfast.

Railway enthusiasts visiting during the summer months may like to continue their train journey by taking advantage of First Scotrail’s three daily return services between Glasgow Queen Street and Mallaig/Oban. During the summer season a steam locomotive-hauled daily return service runs between Fort William and Mallaig. Known as ‘The Jacobobite’ it is operated by West Coast Railways and passes through Arisaig with its views of the small isles of Rum, Eigg, Muck and Canna and the white sands of Morar.

Scotland has much to offer visitors and wherever your interests lie there are ready- made tours to take the stress out of planning and making the most of your stay.

Cats Whisker’s tours are a well established tour company and travel agent specialising in private tours of Scotland. All tours are designed to cover a range of themes.

Cie tours offer hard to come by seats for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo as well as sightseeing tours of Glasgow and Edinburgh and admissions to Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

If you require a totally unique holiday tailored to your own needs giving you the freedom to go where you want and see what you want to see then Bespoke tours of Scotland may be your answer.

Bespoke’s Escorted driver services allow you to spend your day, your way.

No matter which path your trip through Scotland will take, at the end of your holiday it’s certain you will have left a trail of new friends just waiting to welcome you back again.