The specific promotions described in this article have now passed, but it remains online so that the resources named will be of future use to travelers.
For most Americans, Scotland, like Wales, seems to fly way below the radar when compared to the 40 shades of green that draw people to Ireland and the cosmopolitan, culturally rich London. Lately, though, the rest of the world has started to catch on to the natural beauty of Edinburgh and Glasgow. Edinburgh (www.edinburgh.org) has a lot going for it: it's a great walking city, it's replete with festivals (www.edinburghfestivals.co.uk), and its pubs stay open into the wee hours of the morning. It's also the home of the country's first parliament in nearly 300 years. Referred to as Â¿the Athens of the North,Â¿ Edinburgh is the gateway city to the coastline and the Scottish Highlands. Edinburgh also holds a historic role in the development of modern cities: its Â¿old townÂ¿ is where urban planner Sir Patrick Geddes pioneered much of his groundbreaking work -- don't miss a visit to his Outlook Tower. Among other ideas, Geddes was an early proponent of creating green spaces in cities and had a profound influence on American urban thinker Lewis Mumford.
Glasgow (www.seeglasgow.com), which has given us the bands Franz Ferdinand and Teenage Fanclub and the influential architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, is developing quite a reputation for its club scene. Like Edinburgh, Glasgow's known for its architectural gems and lately has emerged as a cultural stronghold with opera, museums, galleries and top-notch theaters. Moreover, the two cities are fewer than 50 miles apart, so it's possible to fly to one, hang out, and then take First Scotrail (www.firstgroup.com/scotrail/index.php) back and forth.
As far as European cities go, these two tend to not be as popular, so there isn't exactly an abundance of flight deals. Creative booking is probably worth investigating -- deals to England (London, Manchester) are far more prevalent, and from there you can easily take a regional flight using, say, British Midland (tel. 800/788-0555; www.flybmi.com), for example, runs fares from London to Edinburgh from £8 one-way -- see the box on the bottom right hand of the page, after you click on United States as your start point. BMI is having a sale on summer fares to Edinburgh and Glasgow from London-Heathrow.
Or you can try Ryan Air (tel. 353/1-249-7791; www.ryanair.com), the low-fare carrier in Europe that runs many flights from London-Stansted to Glasgow. They also offer some unbeatably low prices; in a sale that expired a few days ago, for example, you could fly to London Stansted from Glasgow for as little as ten pence! It's worth keeping tabs on their fares.
Finally, Scotland's Loganair (tel. 44/0870-850-9850; www.loganair.co.uk), which partners with British Airways to coordinate flights within the U.K., is running a Scottish Airpass from 169€ -- click on special offers on the left-hand side. You can choose your own itinerary, fly at your own pace and take five flights around the British Airways Scottish network. The price does not include taxes or surcharges. You must reserve through British Airways or your local travel agent, and use the reference code GGAIRBAGROV.
On this side of the pond, Go-Today (tel. 800/ 227-3235; www.go-today.com) is a consistent source of low-cost travel options that typically cover airfare, hotel, transfers, and give you plenty of free time. Their "Edinburgh Escape," a four-night stay, is priced from $499 plus tax for the most budget-oriented accommodations, good for travel from New York/Newark, through March 25. The purchase deadline for the aforementioned trips is February 16. The base price climbs to $599 for travel April 1-26.
You can add on an excursion to Glasgow if you're reserving a trip to Edinburgh, for example, or you've figured out a way to get to Scotland cheaply that doesn't entail an all-inclusive package. Go-Today's "Glasgow Break," priced at $159 for travel up to March 26, includes a two-night stay at the Ramada Glasgow; Jurys Inn is priced at $199. The break includes city sightseeing tour, daily continental breakfast and hotel service charges and taxes. The purchase deadline is February 23.
Gate 1 Travel (tel. 800/682-3333; www.gate1travel.com) has a five-day Edinburgh vacation priced from $799 for the April 6 and 20 departures; prices rise accordingly as high season approaches. The price includes airfare from New York, accommodations at Jurys Inn, airline fuel charges, daily breakfast. The quoted price is a cash discount rate.
Cosmos Vacation (tel. 800/276-1241; www.cosmosvacations.com) is running a fairly inclusive "Scottish Highlights" seven-night, trip priced at $1,000 for the May 13, 20, 27 departures -- others are also scheduled throughout the summer for a higher price. The itinerary includes a flight from New York (other cities are available for an additional fee) to Glasgow. You'll spend a day there on your own, head to Oban and Inverness and, finally, to Edinburgh for two days. Sightseeing visits, guides, and airport transfers and airfare are included, along with seven Scottish breakfasts and five dinners.