For a small country, the Scots have plenty to be proud out -- from the finest malted whiskys to their most famous export -- the grand game of golf. A visually stunning destination, Scotland is also renowned for its historic castles, rugged coastline and mysterious lakes. Many organized tours of the region tend to slow down by the end of October as the weather turns less hospitable, but there's still plenty of time to plan a quick Scottish fling or a longer stay.
Affordable Tours (tel. 800/935-2620; www.affordabletours.com) offer discounted Scotland tours from a number of suppliers including Globus, Contiki, Cosmos, Brennan and Trafalgar, just to name a few.
Their nine-day "Bonnie Scotland" tour gives travelers seven full days discovering Scotland beginning in Glasgow. The tour is priced at $1151 for departures in September and early October 2006 or $1124 for the final tour of the season departing October 11, 2006 (a 10% savings over regular prices). Included in this price are airport transfers (when airfare is booked through them), seven-nights' accommodations (one-night each at the Novotel in Glasgow, the Dunollie on the Isle of Skye, The Thistle Hotel in Inverness, the Hilton in Dundee, and the Radisson in Glasgow and two at the Carlton or Menzies Belford in Edinburgh), a ferry ride across the Sound of Sleat to the Isle of Skye, seven full Scottish breakfasts, five three-course dinners and the services of a professional tour leader. Highlights include a guided tour of a whisky distillery at Highlands, a guided tour of the World Heritage Site at New Lanark, Edinburgh Castle, Loch Lomond, the Scottish Highlands, Braemar, Rannoch Moor and Glen Coe, the "Road to the Isles," Scone Palace, Isle of Skye, Loch Maree, Corrieshalloch Gorge, Loch Glascarnoch, Loch Ness, Grampian Mountains and the Highland resort of Pitlochry.
Affordable also has a budget six-day Contiki trip (geared specifically for people aged18 to 35) which features round-trip airfare from New York or Newark, four-nights' accommodations in superior tourist class hotels, four breakfasts, two dinners, professional tour manager and driverÂ Â· modern air-conditioned coach and train ticket from Glasgow to Edinburgh. Visit Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, the Scottish Highlands including Royal Deeside, Loch Ness, Loch Lomond and Glencoe and a whisky distiller. The price for this tour for departures on September 15 and 22, 2006 is $1,148 or $634 land-only.
If you are after a quick getaway on a budget, Gate1 Travel (tel. 800/682-3333; www.gate1travel.com) has a five-day Edinburgh vacation priced from $929. The trip includes round-trip airfare from New York, three-nights' accommodations at the three-star Jury's Inn in Edinburgh, up to $180 in fuel surcharges and breakfast daily. The price is valid for Thursday departures throughout September and October this year, but the price comes down significantly to $799 for the October 26 departure. The same price is valid for departures on certain airlines from Boston or Chicago.
For the independent traveler, the best way to make the most of your visit is to take it at your own pace with a car, being able to stop where ever you please and stay in local inns around the country. Go-Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.go-today.com) offers a few Scotland deals including the seven-day "Scotland Fly and Drive" package. Starting from a low $549 per person based on double occupancy, the trip includes round-trip airfare from New York to Edinburgh, seven-day Hertz car rental, local taxes, unlimited mileage and airline fuel surcharges. This package must be purchased by September 21, 2006, and is valid for departures from November 1 to December 14, 2006. Add $30 from Boston; $70 from Washington, D.C.; $110 from Chicago; and $140 from Dallas.
Their "Edinburgh and Scottish Castle Special" is priced from $1,069 for departures from November 1 to December 14, 2006 or $1,319 for trips between now and October 31, 2006. It includes round-trip airfare from New York to Edinburgh, three-nights' accommodations at the Ramada Mount Royal Hotel in Edinburgh, three-nights' accommodations at the 15th century Culcreuch Castle in South Stirling, three-day Hertz car rental, local taxes, unlimited mileage, continental breakfast daily, hotel taxes and service charges and airline fuel surcharges. This package must be purchased by September 21, 2006, with the same add-on from other departure cities prices as those listed above.
Airfares to Scotland during the fall are generally inexpensive. I found a fare from New York to Edinburgh for $338 plus taxes flying with KLM via Amsterdam through Airfare.com (tel. 800/886-4988; www.airfare.com) over the Thanksgiving 2006 week and only $10 more for Glasgow. From Boston the fare to Edinburgh was $4,368, and from Los Angeles, $479. Flying via London is another option which allows travelers to take advantage of super cheap fares on discount carriers like RyanAir (www.ryanair.com). There current midweek round- trip airfare from London to Glasgow during the month of November is less than $2 (seriously), but with taxes and fees, the real price is closer to $60, but still that is incredibly cheap. Just beware of the new luggage allowance about to be implemented (November 1, 2006) which allows a maximum of 33 pounds and charges approximately $5 for every pound over that.
Talk with about Scotland fellow travelers on our Great Britain Message Boards today.