The temperature drops in the Scottish Highlands come winter, but it's a region that embraces the cold with fashion, food and drink. What better place to be a little chilly than Scotland? Cashmere scarves and thick wool handmade sweaters come in handy for the walk between the pub and the inn. Thick soups and lamb stews -- already perfectly toasty -- warm even more thoroughly with a finger or three of your favorite single malt scotch. Lucky for travelers, fall and winter mean reduced prices to youthful Glasgow, classy Edinburgh and the myth-filled countrysides and lochs.
For starters, Collette Vacations (tel. 800/340-5158; www.collettevacations.com) has a ten-day "Discover Scotland" package with airfare starting at $1,767. The trip visits Glasgow, Edinburgh, the royal ancient clubhouse at the famous St. Andrews, the Dunrobin Castle, Gill's Bay (for an up-close look at seabirds), the Isle of Skye, and Loch Ness. Fortunately, this particular tour departs in March and April of 2007, so some of that cold will already have melted away. All accommodations, motor coach travel, and some extras like meals and cultural excursions are included in the package price. Departure fees and security taxes are not.
To take advantage of those low winter rates, Go-Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.go-today.com) has city trips to Scotland with booking deadlines extended till November 16, 2006. Plenty of time to book a trip means you have plenty of time to choose from Go-Today's many Scotland offerings. If you travel between November 2 and December 7, 2006, a three-night quick trip to Glasgow or Edinburgh starts at just $499 per person for people traveling in pairs. Air taxes and security fees are additional. The trip includes round-trip airfare from the United States, specifically New York, all lodging at the centrally located tourist-class Clarendon Hotel close to Edinburgh Castle, and daily breakfast. This trip is an independent travel package, giving you the choice to decide what you do and when to do it. A similar six-night independent trip that splits time between Glasgow and Edinburgh with three nights in each city starts at just $729 for travel good from January 1 to February 28, 2007.
Once in Scotland, you can take day trips to the Scottish Highlands by arranging excursions through local tour providers that specialize in taking travelers into the highlands of the Scottish clans. Highland Experience Tours (tel. +44 (0) 131 226 1414; www.highlandexperience.com), departing from Parliament Square in Edinburgh, has a "Castles, Lochs and Whisky" day trip which visits Sterling Castle, Loch Lomond, and the Glengoyne Distillery. Costing $48 per person, this guided tour departs Edinburgh at 9 a.m. and returns at 6 p.m. in time for a pre-dinner nap. On this day trip, you'll pass the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots, tour Stirling Castle, and visit the lands of the Clans MacFarlane and MacGregor. You'll also lunch on the shores of Loch Lomond. An overnight to the Highlands is available as well as one with one night in Drumnadrachit after a day spent trying to spot Nessie in Loch Ness. The second day of this overnight visits Ben Nevis (the highest mountain in Scotland) before descending into "Braveheart Country" and a stop at the Wallace Monument. This trip costs approximately $125 and departs every Wednesday and Saturday.
For an air-inclusive tour that combines Scotland and Ireland, CIE Tours (tel. 800/243-8687; www.cietours.com) has a "2007 Taste of Scotland and Ireland" trip that costs $1,912 with airfare and $1,536 for the land-only portion. Accommodations are at superior and first-class hotels. The 11-day fully-guided motor coach tour does a loop each in Scotland and Ireland with highlights such as Scottish Cabaret and dinner, a medieval banquet, a Loch Ness cruise, and a tour of the Blair Atholl Distillery. Departures for this trip begin in March 2007 and continue on through early November of that same year.
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