Subject: Re: Scotland
I guarantee you that you won't see much more wide open country than when you visit the Orkneys. They're tough to get to, but well worth the extra time. Between bus and ferry travel, that can take up half a day so set aside at least two days on the islands proper to be able to see them. The only trasportation there is a rural bus system, I think.

While you're there, it might interest you to take a tour with a very small tour company (I can't remember the name of it, though). If you check in the tourist information center, they should be able to reserve places for you in this guy's nine person van.

The tour itself take about half a day and you travel by his comfy little van around the island, exploring sites like Skara Brae (très cool!), Maeshowe (where you can see ancient Viking Runes), and several magnificent standing stone rings. The tour isn't all that expensive and the guy who conducts them is a pagan who conducts rituals every so often at some the rings...needless to say, he knows all about the places he takes you to. The Orkneys are one of my favorite memories of Scotland --they were a lovely surprise.

Edinburgh should be a decent central location...I would suggest Inverness from that location. If you're going to be in Inverness, you might as well go to Loch Ness -- it really is quite beautiful. If you take a bus tour from the downtown area (sporting a Nessie mascot), you might get lucky and have and older Scottish driver who will tell you every little detail about the town and the surrounding area. At the end of our ride, he gave our bus a lively harmonica concert and we had a great time.

Glasgow might be another option, though I've heard many people claim that it is too industrial. But, it has trains going in and out to just about everywhere. If you're up for a pretty train ride, take a train from Glasgow to Fort William, and from Fort William to Mallaig.

Mallaig is a tiny port town that really doesn't have a whole lot going on. But, it does have the ferry to the Isle of Skye, which I think is a nice visit. Even if you don't want to do Skye, I would strongly suggest going to Inverness by way of Kyle of Lochalsh. Undoubtably one of the most beautiful train rides I've ever been on is that leg. Couple Glasgow --> Fort William and Kyle of Lochalsh --> Invernes are two of the most breathtakingly astounding train rides I've taken.

Hope you have a great trip! Take lots of pictures!

Mandy Huffman