How to holiday in Scotland
Forget ash clouds and airline strikes, there’s plenty of fun to be had on your doorstep, at a fraction of the cost.
If you’re itching to get out of Edinburgh or Glasgow, but want to leave the car at home, then look no further for some great deals, by bus and train, throughout Scotland. Look out for special bus offers from Citylink, whose £5 Super Single tickets can get you from Glasgow to Oban, Fort William or Campbeltown. For this summer only, Citylink are also offering £5 fares from Edinburgh to Fort William. Further afield, travelling to Skye from Glasgow can start from as little as £10 (see www.citylink.co.uk for full route and ticket detail). Megabus, too, are a great shout for no hassle low cost travel – check out their deals at www.megabus.com.
If train is your preferred mode of transport, then Scotrail (www.scotrail.co.uk) are offering combined day-trip tickets, which include return train fares and admission to select family attractions. Take a family excursion from Edinburgh to the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick for £11.70 for an adult and £7.05 for a child. A trip to Deep Sea World in North Queensferry starts from £14 for an adult and £9.10 for a child. Off-peak, same-day return tickets to many destinations are also available.
For those looking to have the hard work done for them, an organised day tour is an easy way to explore Scotland, with the pros taking the lead. Haggis Adventures (www.haggisadventures.com) run award-winning budget tours from Edinburgh, including the one-day Loch Ness Hunter Tour, passing Fort William and Ben Nevis, and gives you the option of a boat cruise on the Loch itself; for whisky and castles check out their Highlander day tour. Tours start from £28, with student and group discounts available. Rabbie’s Trailburners (www.rabbies.com) offer similar day trips leaving from Glasgow, to Oban, Glencoe and Loch Lomond.
While the Scottish weather doesn’t always afford reason to be cheerful, Scotland’s beaches can certainly put a smile on your face.
Just four miles outside the city centre is Cramond beach, complete with scenic walkways and colourful moored boats. There is also the mysterious Cramond Island about a mile out from shore and only reachable via a stone causeway when the tide is out. Getting there: Lothian bus number 41 goes from Princes Street directly to Cramond, with a journey time of around half an hour.
A little further out is Gullane, a petite village in East Lothian. A definite List favourite, expect a long, beautiful beach complete with big ol’ sand dunes. You won’t be disappointed. The village itself is worth a stroll, with its mix of shops, pubs and little restaurants, and a supper at The Gullane Super Fry comes highly recommended. Getting there: First bus numbers X5 and 124 go from Edinburgh Haymarket and stop at Gullane, with a journey time of around an hour.
With its golden sand, long grassland and dense surrounding forest, Yellowcraigs feels like a proper escape to the country. From the beach, look across to the island of Fidra, famous as the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. Getting there: First Bus numbers X5 and 124 go from Edinburgh to Dirleton – Yellowcraigs beach is a further one mile walk.
Less than three miles from the city centre, Portobello is a bit of a doorstep beach. The promenade is nice for a stroll and the little rock pools are perfect for poking around for sea creatures. Even better, it has puggies to be played in the amusement arcades and pints to be supped in the mighty Espy bar. Getting there: Lothian bus numbers 12, 19 and 42 will all take you from the city centre to Portobello in about half an hour.
Locals will know to head straight for St Andrews’ West Sands, one of the most picturesque beaches in the area and, incidentally, the place where they filmed the opening scenes of Chariots of Fire. Getting there: From Edinburgh: Cross the Forth road bridge (A90). Proceed north along M90 to Junction 2a (Dunfermline) onto A92, follow the A92 (through Glenrothes) until just before Cupar, and join the A91 and follow to St Andrews.
There’s much to be said for flinging a pack on your back and heading off for a few days. And fortunately, Scotland has just the people to help make your life just that little bit easier
MacBackpackers are one of the most popular providers of backpacker tours around Scotland, going to many Scottish destinations from Edinburgh. Check out their 5-day Skye & Highland Fling (£125), which serves as an introduction to Scotland beyond Glasgow and Edinburgh. Tour highlights include Glen Coe, Ben Nevis, Loch Ness and the Wallace Monument. Other tours include the 3-day Myths and Monsters tour (£79), which delves into the many legends surrounding Scotland’s history. They guarantee accommodation at hostels, which although not included in the tour price, shouldn’t cost you anymore than £13–£17 per person, per night. See www.macbackpackers.com for more.
Elsewhere, Wild in Scotland specialise in offering comprehensive tours of Scotland on a budget, with accommodation options which include a hostel set in a real Scottish castle. Alongside shorter tours, they operate a 9-day Island Hopper tour (£259), which introduces the islands of Skye, Harris and Lewis, Bernera and Orkney. All costs outside of the tour price come under their ‘kitty’ system, which is a flat sum paid at the start of the tour, covering accommodation, food and other costs. Meals are cooked and shared by the group. Check them out at www.wild-in-scotland.com
Haggis Adventures (see Winning Ticket panel) also operate their signature Hop-on Hop-off Scotland tour (£99), which allows you more flexibility than a regular guided group tour. If you want to go off and explore on your own, you can. Travel for as long as you like, and stop off as often as you want. Also worth a look is there 5-day Orkney Raider (£169) and 7-day Island Explorer (£269). See www.haggisadventures.com.
If camping is your bag, be prepared.
Scotland has a large number of campsites to choose from, with varying degrees of facilities, so there should be something for everyone. For more information, check out www.lovecamping.co.uk. Before you head off, make sure your rucksack’s big enough (recommended 65–75 litres) to accommodate your tent, sleeping bag, cooking utensils and food, as well as changes of clothing. Choose a rucksack with good support straps that ensure it can be fitted to you comfortably. A waterproof rucksack cover comes in handy too. Always carry a small first aid kit, and remember that if you drink water from streams, you should also pack some form of purification. A map is a must, and a detailed Ordnance Survey always preferable. If you fancy a more road-based approach, campervans are readily available; and you needn’t fork out a small fortune to hit the open road. For good hire providers try www.campers-scotland.com and www.wickedcampers.co.uk.