September 17, 2003 -- For two countries with so much of a shared history (Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Carnegie, and Thomas Edison were all Scottish-American), Scotland and the US have never had great air links. American Airlines and Continental serve Glasgow with one daily flight each from Chicago and New York, respectively, and that's about it. The American flight isn't even year-round.
That's about to change, hopefully, with Continental's new flight direct from Newark to Edinburgh. Glasgow is bustling and Victorian and all, but Edinburgh is where most people really want to go, with its medieval Old Town, famed arts festival, gorgeous castle, and beautiful hilly vistas.
Edinburgh and Glasgow are only an hour apart, anyway, so the real effect of this new flight is to increase Americans' access to all of Scotland.
The new flight will start next June 10 (yes, that's in 2004), with an overnight run to Scotland and a morning flight back. Both flights are timed to allow connections to and from all over the US. Flights will take about 6-1/2 hours eastbound, and 7-1/2 hours westbound. Continental's not saying anything about fares yet, but we'd imagine the prices will be similar to their nonstop rates to Glasgow.
Taking the Southern Route
Continental's flight to Glasgow is the most direct way to get to Scotland, and the flights are quite reasonably priced. When we checked random October dates for a trip from New York to Glasgow, Continental's nonstop flights, at $431 including taxes, came within $25 of the lowest fare.
Potential travelers to Scotland should stay aware of some other frequent deals, though. Icelandair (www.icelandair.com) flies to Glasgow from Reykjavik very cheaply during the fall and winter. For September and October flights, they're advertising $248 from New York, $286 from Baltimore and Boston and $433 from Orlando. Even with the presumed $100 in taxes, that's pretty tasty for a flight with only one connection. November and December fares are even lower. For more on these fares (including how to get them) see last week's column.
With frequent sales dropping airfares to London down as far as $200, it may be worth your while to fly into London and find your own way to Scotland. Budget airline EasyJet (www.easyjet.com) flies from London's Gatwick airports and from Amsterdam to Edinburgh. (Many international flights come into Gatwick, so you won't have to change airports.) We found October flights from Gatwick to Edinburgh for as little as $71 roundtrip, though the flight times you actually want will inevitably be more expensive.
Trains also leave every half hour from London's King's Cross station for the scenic, four-and-a-half-hour journey to Edinburgh, passing historic towns like Durham and York. Train tickets are available for as little as $57.26 roundtrip, as long as you're willing to book well in advance (usually two months or so) and put up with a non-refundable, non-changeable ticket. Check prices and book online at www.scotrail.co.uk.