Subject: Re: Scotland May 2003, places, midges, passes
Johannes wrote: we started to plan our next year's (and our first) Scotland trip.

Hello Johannes and Ziners,

We just returned from two weeks (August 15-29) in Scotland. Spent 4 days in Edinburgh and surrounds, 1 week in the Hebrides followed by 3 days of trying to see too much in the Highlands. Everything, including the weather, exceeded our expectations and we met only a few midges. We heeded everyone's advice to dress in layers, experienced short-sleeve weather (70's), clear, cool, wool-sweater days and nights, lots of sunshine and only one day of rain, a downpour to remind us that we were indeed in Scotland. For your info, May-June are suppose to be the dry, sunnier months hence less hospitable for the midges.

We tend to spend a long time visiting each historical site, so decided against buying the passes you asked about. Depending on the length of your trip and your interests, they can be a good value; visit their websites, check the places you want to visit and do the arithmetic, but factor in extra travel time. The scenery and surprises everywhere are too spectacular to rush through.

Edinburgh, Stirling, Dunfermline, Culross, Glencoe, Skye, the Outer Hebrides (from the Callanish Stones on Lewis, the moonscapes of Harris, to the beaches of Barra) Callander, Kingussie, Pitlochry, Elgin, Cawder, Culloden and the lovely, little village of Drymen, where we spent our last night before departing from Glasgow were the highlights of our trip. Nothing disappoints.

Except on the most beautiful island in Britain - Barra, from where my family emigrated 200 years ago. Kisimul Castle was closed. It sits about 200 yards off the pier, but the boat was out of service and some insurance problem prohibited Historic Scotland from operating another. The Barra folks were upset (as was this MacNeil.) The Castle is a major attraction and has been open each season since its restoration was completed in the early 1970's. Historic Scotland took over the castle management last year; they pay rent to the MacNeil clan chief of 1 Pound Sterling and a bottle of whiskey each year. I guess I'll just have to go back.

Like some other Ziners, Nick and I like to 'Sleep cheap and eat well.' Dinner at The Cross in Kingussie was a 3 hour performance piece with wonderful food. They also have rooms, expensive, so we stayed at the Osprey Hotel, a small, charming place opposite the village gardens. (For those around Boston, WGBH has just begun a new series, Monarch of the Glen filmed in this area of Scotland.)

I can offer other recommendations if your visiting any of the above; e-mail me if you'd like.

Before our trip, I read and read Scottish history, studied the maps and, like you, tried to learn the place names. The ghosts are everywhere and brought it all to life. It's a magical place.

Best regards, Charlotte in MA