Scotland Favorite Tips by scotlandscotour Top 5 Page for this destination
Scotland Favorites: 175 reviews and 216 photos
Favorite thing: There is much to celebrate about Scottish tourism - but alas it is often hard to find and is often only stumbled upon by chance, by lengthy trial and error - hence this website:
Both via these VT pages and this new website - Extra Mile Scotland - there is an attempt to raise the profile of those businesses that are trying to do more for you, the visitor. And best of all, the opinions are those of real visitors, not just self interested owners with time to dabble on the internet.
It may not be perfect - but it is a help!
Fondest memory: ahh, the rain :)
See http://www.extramilescotland.co.uk/index.asp for more information.
Red telephone box still in use - in rural location
Favorite thing: There seems to be a lot of uncertainty about dialling numbers, in the UK (ie Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland), both from other countries and within the UK.
The popularity of cell phones / mobile phones and all the various networks just seems to complicate matters!
So, what do I know?
UK numbers begin with a zero - 0 - which you dial. This is the area code. For example, my own area code is 01856. Another is 01745. If you are phoning from within the UK you dial this sequence of numbers first and follow with a (usually 6 digit) number. If you are using a mobile phone you need to always use the area code number. However, if calling a local number within your same area, on a landline (British Telecom / BT), you can omit to dial the area code. OK?
To phone a UK number from another country, the country code must be dialed first. For the UK this is 44. The zero - 0 - of the area code is then omited. Thus the sequence 441856, for above area code 01856. This is often written in brochures and websites thus: +44 (0)1856. What they are ttrying to convey here is dial 441856 if outside the UK and 01856 if within the UK. You of course have to put your own country's international dialing code zeros in - creating 00441856.
Note, you will get significantly cheaper international call rates if you dial via certain businesses. These can be found with a quick internet search. Numbers such as 0844 972 8900 I use from the UK.
Emergency calls!!! 999 or 112
Please note - it costs nothing to make an emergency call to the police or fire department or call an ambulance / doctor ... just dial 999. This calls an emergency switch board - but do so only in a real emergency!!! There are other numbers locally for hospitals, police stations and such. dialling 999 is for real "life and death" only. You can also dial 112 - the European emergency number.
Fondest memory: Payphones!!
The good old red telephone boxes remain in rural locations, where they are landmarks and well away from vandalism. However, in most cities they are replaced now by horrible perspex shelters - and gone are the good, old fashioned telephone directories.
Some payphones no longer accept coins. Grrrr. However, if arriving in the UK, try to get hold of 20p and 10p (20 pence and 10 pence) coins, the basic currency of payphones. 50p and £1 (one pound GBP) are also accepted by payphones. The minimum needed for a call is presently 30p, in 2007, payable before you dial. (However, in some remoter places and private locations like guesthouses, you may discover wierd phones where you dial the number first and must insert the coins only once the receiver answers! Much confusion! There are usually lots of written notes around these phones to warn you / advise. Don't worry!!!)
If you need coins but only have notes, many people will happily exchange for you ... just ask for "change for the telephone". 'Change' is the word used to describe a variety of coins. Some shops and kiosks beside payphones can be really miserable though and refuse to give change unless you buy something! Sigh, welcome to the real world.
Why not make a practice call? -use a payphone - this is all part of your immersion into life in a foreign country. Give it a go! It can only open your world to new experiences, accents and access information as yet not on the internet!!! (The best way to find out information is still to use the phone and speak .... sadly this will nearly always be in English ... so I understand the frustration for non English speakers - or indeed anyone with problems understanding accents and colloquealisms, or slang. Try phoning home!!!
Favorite thing: :)
If you have been to Scotland, or the UK, before, you know it is expensive. By that I don't mean "costly but who cares because it is so fantastic", I mean "ouch that is a lot to pay for average".
I personally put a lot of the blame for this overpricing, poor value for money directly in the hands of the tourism industry itself, obsessed with making maximum easy profit and thinking visitors are a money cow to be exploited. (This is going to get someone's back up!). One of the worst offenders is the tourist board itself, renamed VisitScotland. Their name reflects the narrow minded view of leisure activities and travel in Scotland - assuming it is all by non-residents.
To put it bluntly, there are too many people in the industry relying upon it for their income and not giving out of pride or genuine hospitality. Tourism is just part of the economy, like subsidies from Government, easy money.
Now, there are exceptions, and maybe you know of them. Thankfully, there are some amazing people out there in Scotland providing truelly wonderful service and facilities with passion and real tallent. A website has been started to try and promote some of these people:
These are businesses that put that extra effort in to make your time special. They care. And what's more, they are nominated by real guests, not by an inspector from the industry.
If you have been to Scotland or live here, and know of places which provide exceptional service then why not support them and add them to this site? It is only by us distinguishing between the poor, the good and the wonderful can "quality" be a way to measure standards and for you to get better "value for money".
Fondest memory: :)
Any system that ignores cost when assessing quality is going to fail to address the problems of overpricing in the British tourism sector. We need feedback, and the best need to be rewarded and shouted about!
(It is fair to say Britain is very costly for residents too, with fuel being one expensive item. But, in a world of scarce resources, global warming and eco-tourism, this should be seen as an opportunity to change behaviour rather than a reason to put up costs while standards stagnate).
Patterns on Stones - A Quiet Little Place Down by
Favorite thing: Problem: How to find the information you want on the internet?
Lets say you are coming to Britain / UK and maybe Scotland - but you want to research before setting off - you want to find out good honest information about the place, the people - and you don't want t ojust follow the crowd like a sheep - you want your own, special vacation -
So, you are wisely looking at virtualtourist - reading this.
Let me help you.
As a resident of Scotland, born in Wales, grown up in England, travelled places and married to an American - and been working in tourism related work for 20 years, I do know a fair bit. I also see how hard it is to find real, unbiased information - to get a 'complete picture' from far away. And how do you know even I am telling the truth? Well, you cannot be totally sure but you can read some of my tips, and if you like what I say there is a fair chance we will get on and see things a similar way.
See, thats the crux of it, isn't it? We all like different things! So doesn't it make sense to plan your own trip - for you - why follow the crowds who follow the guide books who are written by people following the crowds - and on it goes.
If you are still reading this you must be quite an independent thinker and someone who wants to research a place properly - and good for you. If you want, I would like to help you.
Fondest memory: My best moments come when I see something new, something beautiful, something wild.
A word of caution - the tourist websites are getting worse - the "official" sites are pretty poor and do not give you much information, other than nice pictures and feel good phrases - a lot of frothy marketing but little substance - because they are now privately run businesses and are just searching to make money - out of you and out of the tour operator or hotel owner - it is not a service. This leads to a lot of misinformation and makes it really hard for you to make a well-judged booking!
If you are having trouble finding what you want to know - or even what you only suspect you don't know (?) - write to me, and I will either pass it on to the relevent people or if I can I will answer it personally. I have had enough of this poor service to real, independent travellers - so I make this offer quite genuinely - if you want honest, up to date, clear advice - just ask.
Enjoy a slower pace of life - leave the car behind
Favorite thing: With oil prices around the world going sky high, travel has become expensive, especially in Britain.
But it should not be all doom and gloom - there are ways to make you dollar go further - and think of trying to reduce your impact on the planet too. Now, more than ever, is the time to plan and think smart about where you want to go, why and how!
VirtualTourist is a great resource therefore, putting you in touch with real quality advice and real experience about a place. For example:
Travel around Scotland can be made a whole lot more simple and cheaper by following local advice (see my transport tips). Maybe now, with Global Warming and Oil running out is a good time to reapraise your own responsibilities and choices, your own behaviour and this includes how you travel, with whom and how far you go!
Try reducing your itinery and spend more quality time in the best places - instead of trying to rush about and visit all major attractions. Pick your favourites (away from the crowds) and do these.
Save yourself the hassle of driving in crowded cities and on strange winding roads - use public transport or tours - it is cheaper and hey, who doesn't like having a chauffeur?
Walk a bit - get some exercise and fresh air, work off that breakfast, feel good and get to places you would otherwise just motor on past. Bike hire is popular and especially great for exploring around an area or an island - saves you a fortune!
Only rent a car for the days you really need to get out in remote places - spend some days on public transport, under your own "steam" - or just relax in a quiet museum, book store or cafe and read - spend evenings in the local bars with the locals, enjoy the music and the drink - you cannot drink and drive anyway, so miss out the car.
Fondest memory: Have the confidence (by asking experts on VT) to do your own thing, build your own holiday vacation - and don't get rushed into a "deal" renting a car from the airport. Keep it simple.
You will have a better time, relax more, return home happier and save lots of money!
9 dollars a gallon is not to be ignored. See my travel tips or feel free to write to me for better ways to get around Scotland - better because they are cheaper and more relaxing.
March - West Coast - All To Ourselves
Favorite thing: May & September
The best months to visit are either side of summer, as the tourists only flock in during July & August. June starts to see (feel) the midges on calm evenings in the west.
Fondest memory: Someone should tell the visitors that May and September have the best weather and few midges!!! Weather during mid summer tends to be warmer but also less stable, I think due to the extra humidity from the warm waters around - the good ol' Atlantic Ocean.
So, change your time off work or your itinery to suit you and your destination. Let the crowds fill the roads, moan about unpredictable weather and if there is no wind - scratch with midge bites - in July & August.
The wise traveller will pick April, May, September & October.
And you'll LOVE it! Scotland is magical - it's more than words or pictures can convey - it's how you FEEL.
Winter Wonderland - Perth, Scotland
Favorite thing: Believe it or not - it is not always sunny in Scotland.
You might also be surprised to learn that it does not rain that often either, on the East Coast.
However, yes, it does sometimes rain, even in bonnie Perth, here beside the River Tay - the largest river system in Scotland.
Today, it snowed - only the second time this winter (today is mid January).
The temperature today is plus 6 degrees celsius, so well above freezing - which is typical this time of year.
Snow does not lie long on the ground, not low down here. On the mountains, where it is colder, the snow lingers - hence some rather pathetic skiing and associated tourist stuff.
But - in general - it is Cloudy and mild, often wet and sometimes sunny. If the sun is shining, you'd do well to make the most of it. We get plenty of North Atlantic Cyclones bringing thick cloud (hence it raining more on the west of Scotland).
So, here is a picture from today, mid- January, 2005.
Fondest memory: Warm fires, whisky and laughter ... steaming haggis, outdoor wilderness and indoor dancing.
Not every day - but often enough :-)
Hogwarts' Express Harry Potter - Glenfinnan
Favorite thing: Have a look at this great website for the definative information on all films made in Scotland ... see the maps for locations ... then head off and explore ...
See this News Story (Aug 2004) about the new Loch Ness Monster Film Incident at Loch Ness
Anyone interested in potential new film or still photography locations may want to check out Location Works website - it has some great pictures! http://www.locationworks.com/index.html
Fondest memory: Braveheart
Brigadoon (made in USA !)
Chariot's Of Fire
Monty Python & the Holy Grail
The Magdalene Sisters
The Thirty Nine Steps
The Wicker Man
Women Talking Dirty
And many many more!!!
I have seen them all, repeatedly.
The Edinburgh Film Festival gives a rare opportunity to see International Films - August 18th - 29th 2004
Funny to think that the makers of Brigadoon couldn't (or wouldn't) find Scottish-enough scenery in Scotland, so manufactured it in a studio in USA.. Not quite the same!!!
Mind you, I have just seen an American tv show where the kilts and bagpipes at a wedding were said to be Irish. Wrong! (What are kilts doing at a wedding where folk don't even know their history?) Now I know kilts and bagpipes can be found in Irish history too, but come on, not the modern dress and pipebands - that is as Scottish as Ewan McGregor, Sean Connery and Haggis. Oh dear.
Vikings at Doune Castle
Favorite thing: All these castles, distilleries, ancient monuments and .... it's all "don't touch, no photos, stay behind the line, private and no entry".
Time to let your hair down then!
Head to Doune Castle, north of Stirling, and PLAY. This is where Monty Python filmed much of the HOLY GRAIL and many visit because of this connection.
The end result of this seems that the owners are much more relaxed, and so you get to EXPLORE, pretend and imagine. I was free to climb all over the place, like a child, as well as dress up like a Viking, and mimic famous scenes from the film.
All in all, I have the best memories of that day.
Its a damned fine castle too, for the connoisseurs, with many rooms and a fine spiral staircase to the rooftop battlements.
Fondest memory: I was smiling a lot the week this picture was taken ... we got married that week.
The picture shows me, in red, with Sally - a friend of my wife. We all had a great time at Doune.
Scotland is great for places where you can still explore and enjoy being there - it's not all "dry, sterile and academic". It really makes a world of difference being free to touch and "be part of" these old places.
Look Out For 4 Star Tours - Scotland
Favorite thing: You have a choice of many good Tour Operators, depending upon your budget, friends and drinking habits.
This Tip is to give you the main Tours ... let you choose. I know everyone is different, so what I think of them does not matter.
If you want to see Scotland with a group of other people, by bus - saving effort and time on your part ... and joining a party along the way ... have a look at these, the best of the bunch:
Fondest memory: .
Heart Of Scotland
Tours usually start from Edinburgh and are highly competetive, so shop around and find what suits you.
Check out the types of people and the accommodation - it varies a lot!
For the more independent minded of you ... there is cheap public transport and car hire.
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