Here are some interesting facts to help you wrap your brain around Scotland. At its widest Scotland stretches for just 47 miles, and its total coastline comes to a whopping 6,200 miles of shore. Of the 790 islands off that long coastline only 130 have people living in them. Scotland's hanged and burned more people at the stake for witchcraft than any other country. Its Highlands are known for magic and mystery and the finest whisky distillers on Earth. It's lowlands for the game of golf, fine literature, and pubs filled of drinkers of the finest whisky on Earth. Scotland boasts the highest peak in the U.K. and what other country can match Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster. This summer and fall, take advantage of the topography, geography and enigma that is Scotland by grabbing a low-priced budget travel deal. Especially if you're young and single, we found some tour providers offering discounted tours to Scotland for the 17- to 35-year-old set.
Haggis Adventures (tel. + 44 0 131/557-9393; www.haggisadventures.com) offers several week-long trips and shorter for young backpackers between the age of 17 and 35 looking for a guided tour of Scotland. Haggis is known for its excellent, knowledgeable guides and for seeking out the more interesting and low-priced hostels around the entire country. Their motto, from "cottage to castle" means they find great-priced overnight stays in a variety of indigenous-style accommodations. As far as prices go, an eight-day "Island Explorer" tour that starts and ends in Edinburgh circling around the country stopping at all the major (and some very obscure) sites, starts at 249€ (approximately $302) for participation and guide and tour bus. Accommodations are slightly extra because Haggis lets you choose if you want a single, double or triple as the trip progresses. Expect to pay $10 to $15 per night for hostels, castles and inns selected by the Haggis experts. This trip includes one night in a haunted Highland castle and makes stops on the Isle of Skye, the deserted beaches and hills of the north and the Clava Cairns, a 4,000-year-old burial ground complete with standing stones. You'll also stop in Loch Ness as well as get a full service whisky tasting. The Haggis Website is a bonus -- they provide short little snippets when you hit on links to their sites and cities. They're concise and informative, giving the travel researcher a visual and text driven impression of the Scottish highlights.
Haggis also has a four-day "Eco-Explorer" tour that explores the wildlife, scenery, seashores and landscape of Mull and Iona. The tour makes a special stop in Glenfinnan, who some of you may know through an aged whisky of the same name. This trip starts from 139€ or $168. Scottish historical sites such as Glen Coe, an area known for its clan wars, are on the itinerary. Eagles flying high above the Highlands and the hilly shores are a highlight of this condensed but informative nature trip.
Also for the young adult budget traveling 18 to 35 year old set, several tours from Contiki (tel. 866-CONTIKI; www.contiki.com) are well-priced. A six-day Scotland tour starts at $679 for a land-only trip and goes up to $1,479 for the air/land version out of New York. Included in this trip are four nights in "superior tourist class" hotel, several breakfasts and dinners, hotel taxes and service charges. Your Contiki tour includes a professional tour guide, a modern air-conditioned touring bus with reclining seats, a free Contiki Travelers Guide, free document holder/wallet and a train ticket from Glasgow to Edinburgh. The trip leaves nine times each in July and August.
Scotland isn't only for the young. Cosmos (tel. 800/2761241; www.cosmos.com) has trips to Scotland for travelers of all ages. Their "Scotland Highlights" trip departing throughout July and August is a nine-day air inclusive tour that starts in Glasgow and ends in Edinburgh. Along the way you'll stop in Oban and the Highlands as well as visit Eileen Donan Castle, Inverness, Loch Ness and the most famous golf course in the world at St, Andrews close to the North Sea. Cost for the trip with accommodations at three-star hotels and airfare out of New York starts at $1,935. Seven breakfasts and five dinners are included on this Scottish tour as well. You'll tour Scotland in a private first-class motor coach with a seasoned guide and driver.
While you're in Scotland, grab yourself some Harris Tweed (www.harristweedshop.com), and try the curry shops on Sauchiehall Street (pronounced Socky Hall) in Glasgow. Pakistanis wearing turbans and quilts speaking in brogues serving some piping hot and spicy Scottish lamb curry. It's supposed to be a mélange of modern and ancient culture that defines today's Scotland. And of course, try the whisky. It's supposed to be pretty good.
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