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, and are often different from those in the United States: many consist of spare rooms in someone's home, where breakfasts are cooked in the host's kitchen and served at the dining or kitchen table. Proprietors keep costs down, and guests get a more personal, if less private, Scottish touch. Recent economic stagnation and political uncertainty in the United Kingdom mean there are special deals if you look. For example, some lodgings offer discounted rates for stays of two nights or longer.
If you haven't booked ahead, you're not likely to be stranded. Even in the height of the season—July and August—hotel occupancy runs at about 80%. However, your choice of accommodations will be extremely limited if you show up somewhere during a festival or golf tournament. Your best bet will be to try for a room in a nearby village.
To secure your first choice, reserve in advance. One option is to reserve through local tourist information centers, making use of their "book-a-bed-ahead" services. Telephone bookings made from home should be confirmed by email or fax. Country hotels expect you to check in by about 6 pm.
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.
Smoking is banned in all indoor public spaces in Scotland, and this includes hotel rooms. 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.
VisitScotland classifies and grades accommodations using a simple star system. The greater the number of stars, the greater the number of facilities and the more luxurious they are.
The lodgings we list are the cream of the crop in each price category. When pricing accommodations, always ask what's included. Many hotels and most guesthouses and B&Bs include a breakfast with the basic room rate. Meal-plan information appears at the end of a review.
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 be cheaper than a hotel (though perhaps not less than a bed-and-breakfast), and the space and comfort are much better than what you'd find in a typical hotel.
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. Citybase Apartments is a handy resource for finding an apartment, from single studios to large apartments suitable for families and groups. Dreamhouse Apartments has swanky, serviced flats in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Aberdeen. The National Trust for Scotland has many unique properties, from island cottages to castles, for rent. Knight Residence has 19 well-appointed, modern apartments in the heart of the Old Town, Edinburgh; it has 16 similarly smart apartments in Inverness, many with spectacular terrace views.
Citybase Apartments. 01524/544244; www.citybaseapartments.com.
Dreamhouse Apartments. 4 Woodside Pl., Glasgow, Glasgow City, G3 7QF. 0845/226–0232; www.dreamhouseapartments.com.
Home Away. www.homeaway.com.
Knight Residence. 12 Lauriston St., Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH3 9DJ. 0800/304--7160; www.theknightresidence.co.uk.
Villas & Apartments Abroad. 212/213–6435; www.vaanyc.com.
Embrace Scotland. www.embracescotland.co.uk.
National Trust for Scotland. 0131/458–0305; www.nts.org.uk/Holidays/Advanced-Search/.
Common throughout Scotland, B&Bs are a special British tradition and the backbone of budget travel. Prices average about £50 to £120 per night, depending on the region and the time of year. They're usually in a family home, occasionally don't have private bathrooms, and usually offer only breakfast. 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. Guesthouses are a slightly larger, somewhat more luxurious version. All provide a glimpse of everyday life. Note that local tourist offices can book a B&B for you; there may be a small charge for this service.
Sawdays. 01172/047810; www.sawdays.co.uk.
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'll need a car if you're staying deep in the country, though. Information is available from VisitBritain or VisitScotland, and from the Farm Stay UK.
Farm Stay UK. 024/7669–6909; www.farmstayuk.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. There can be yearly fees for exchange services of around $100 a year, so check.
HomeExchange.com. 800/877–8723; 0203/608--9365; www.homeexchange.com.
HomeLink International. www.homelink.org.
Intervac U.S. www.intervac-homeexchange.com.
Large hotels vary in style and price. Many 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 country homes. These types of hotels are full of character and charm but can be very expensive, and they may not have elevators. 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 may be costly.
Some small regional chains operate in Scotland that are not internationally known. Apex (in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, and London) is modish and has Scandinavian-inspired bedrooms; Malmaison (in Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, and Glasgow) is luxury on a budget; Hotel du Vin (Glasgow, St. Andrews, and Edinburgh), with its chic bistros, sumptuous bedding, and original art, may blow the budget.
Apex Hotels. www.apexhotels.co.uk.
Hotel du Vin. www.hotelduvin.com.