Your choices in Scotland range from small, local B&Bs to large, elegant hotels—some of the chain variety. Bed-and-breakfasts tend to be less expensive than large hotels because many are spare rooms in spacious homes. Proprietors keep costs down and guests get something with a more personal, Scottish touch. One note: there is a ban on smoking in all indoor public spaces in Scotland, and this includes hotel rooms.
Accommodation can seem expensive because the pound has been strong against the dollar, but the economic downturn in 2009 has brought some special deals.
VisitScotland classifies and grades accommodations using simple star system. The greater the number of stars, the greater the number of facilities and the more luxurious they are.
If you're touring around, you're not likely to be stranded: even in the height of the season—July and August—hotel occupancy runs at about 80%. On the other hand, if you arrive in Edinburgh at festival time or some place where a big Highland Gathering or golf tournament is in progress, you'll have an extremely limited choice of accommodations, and your best bet will be to try for a room in a nearby village.
To secure your first choice, reserve in advance, either directly with the facility, or through local tourist information centers, making use of their "book-a-bed-ahead" services. Telephone bookings made from home should be confirmed by e-mail, fax, or letter. Country hotels expect you to turn up by about 6 pm.
Some hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses offer discounted rates for stays of two nights or longer.
Be sure you understand the hotel's cancellation policy. Some places allow you to cancel without any kind of penalty; others, particularly B&Bs, require you to cancel a week in advance or penalize you.
Most hotels allow children under a certain age to stay in their parents' room at no extra charge, but others charge for them as extra adults; find out the cutoff age for discounts.
The lodgings we list are the cream of the crop in each price category. Properties are assigned price categories based on the price of a standard double room at high season (excluding holidays). Unless otherwise noted, all lodgings listed have a private bathroom, air-conditioning, a room phone, and a television.
We always list the facilities that are available, but we don't specify whether they cost extra; when pricing accommodations, always ask what's included. Many hotels and most guesthouses and B&Bs include a breakfast within the basic room rate. Meal-plan symbols appear at the end of a review.
Assume that hotels operate on the European Plan (EP, no meals) unless we specify that they use the Breakfast Plan (BP, with full breakfast), Continental Plan (CP, continental breakfast), or Modified American Plan (MAP, breakfast and dinner).
Apartment and House Rentals
Rental houses and flats (apartments) are becoming more popular lodging choices for travelers visiting Scotland, particularly for those staying in one place for more than a few days. Some places may rent only by the week. Prices can work out to be cheaper than a hotel (though perhaps not than a bed-and-breakfast; this will depend on the number in your group), and the space and comfort are much better than what you'd find in a hotel or B&B.
In the country, your chances of finding a small house to rent are good; in the city you're more likely to find a flat (apartment) to let (rent). Either way, your best bet for finding these rentals is online. Individuals and large consortiums can own these properties, so it just depends on what you're looking for. The White House is a good, central place for rentals in Glasgow, and Scottish Apartment is a good source for apartments in Edinburgh. The National Trust for Scotland has many unique properties, from island cottages to castles, for rent.
At Home Abroad (212/421-9165. www.athomeabroadinc.com.)
Barclay International Group (800/845-6636. www.barclayweb.com.)
Drawbridge to Europe (541/482-7778 or 888/268-1148. www.drawbridgetoeurope.com.)
Home Away (www.homeaway.com.)
Interhome (208/877 6370 in the U.S. www.interhome.us.)
Villas & Apartments Abroad (212/213-6435. www.vaanyc.com.)
National Trust for Scotland (0131/243-9331; 866/211-7573 in U.S. www.nts.org.uk.)
Scottish Apartment (0131/240-0080. www.scottishapartment.com.)
White House (0141/339-9375. www.whitehouse-apartments.com.)
B&Bs, common throughout Scotland, are a special British tradition and the backbone of budget travel, with an average price of £40 to £85 per night, depending on the region, time of year, and particular accommodation. They're usually in a family home, don't often have private bathrooms, and usually offer only breakfast. Guesthouses are a slightly larger, somewhat more luxurious version. More upscale B&Bs, along the line of American B&Bs or small inns, can be found in Edinburgh and Glasgow especially, but in other parts of Scotland as well. All provide a glimpse of everyday British life. Note that local tourist offices can book a B&B for you; there may be a small charge for this service.
BedandBreakfast.com (512/322-2710 or 800/462-2632. www.bedandbreakfast.com.)
UK Bed and Breakfast Accommodation (www.bedandbreakfasts.co.uk.)
Farmhouse and Crofting Holidays
A popular option for families with children is a farmhouse holiday, combining the freedom of B&B accommodations with the hospitality of Scottish family life. You need a car if you're deep in the country, though. Information is available from VisitBritain or VisitScotland, from Scottish Farmhouse Holidays, and from the Farm Stay UK.
Farm Stay UK (024/7669-6909. www.farmstayuk.co.uk.)
Scottish Farmhouse Holidays (01334/650233. www.scotfarmhols.co.uk.)
With a direct home exchange you stay in someone else's home while they stay in yours. Some outfits also deal with vacation homes, so you're not actually staying in someone's full-time residence, just their vacant weekend place.
HomeExchange.com. Home Exchange.com; $9.95 per month. 800/877-8723. www.homeexchange.com.
HomeLink International. HomeLink International; $119 for full membership for one year. 800/638-3841 in U.S.; 01962/886882 in U.K. www.homelink.org.
Intervac U.S. ; has various online packages ranging from $8.33 per month. 501/545-5737. www.intervacus.com.
Hostels offer bare-bones lodging at low, low prices—often in shared dorm rooms with shared baths—to people of all ages, though the primary market is young travelers, especially students. Most hostels serve breakfast; dinner and/or shared cooking facilities may also be available. In some hostels you aren't allowed to be in your room during the day, and there may be a curfew at night. Many hostels are affiliated with Hostelling International (HI), an umbrella group of hostel associations with some 4,000 member properties in more than 60 countries. Other hostels are completely independent and may be nothing more than a really cheap hotel.
Membership in any HI association, open to travelers of all ages, allows you to stay in HI-affiliated hostels at member rates. One-year membership is about $28 for adults. Rates in dorm-style rooms run about $15-$25 per bed per night; private rooms are more, but are still generally well under $100 a night. Members have priority if the hostel is full; they're also eligible for discounts around the world, even on rail and bus travel in some countries.
Most hostels in Scotland are very basic, but some, on the other hand, are stunning castles. Hostels in rural areas tend to fill up with older people, hill walkers, and nature lovers (a quieter bunch). Hostels are not good for people who want privacy or don't want to sit around a communal table to eat meals and talk to fellow travelers. Most hostels have very few rooms with double or triple accommodation, so book well in advance.
Hostelling International USA (301/495-1240. www.hiusa.org.)
Scottish Independent Hostels (www.hostel-scotland.co.uk.)
Scottish Youth Hostels (0845/293-7373. www.syha.org.uk.)
Large hotels vary in style and price. Most lean toward Scottish themes when it comes to decoration, but you can expect the same quality and service from a chain hotel wherever you are in the world. Keep in mind that hotel rooms in Scotland are smaller than what you'd find in the United States. Today hotels of all sizes are trying to be greener, and many newer chains are striving for government environmental awards. Discounted rooms are another trend, as are discounts for room upgrades.
In the countryside, some older hotels are former castles or converted, luxurious country homes. These types of hotels are full of character and charm but can be very expensive. Normally they have all the amenities, if not more, of their urban counterparts. Their locations may be so remote that you must eat on the premises, which limits your options when it comes to your wallet.
Apex Hotels (www.apexhotels.co.uk.)
Hotel du Vin (www.hotelduvin.com.)
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