Vintage Pages from early 1996
In memory of Boswell.
Th originals, with similar layout, were written in early HTML and HTML 2.0
Pages still have up-to-date and useful information!
Advice: Planning your trip
You may already have a good idea about where you want to go and what you want to do...
Even if you do I would like to recommend that you buy "Scotland, The Rough Guide" distributed by Penguin Books in the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand and by Canada Ltd in Canada. This paperback is amazingly comprehensive both for an overall picture of Scotland, and for its detail.
If you get a good map as well you'll have no trouble in working out what you can do in the time you have.
Most visitors choose July and August, the height of Summer. In August and September the heather blooms on the hills, and even in October its often still flowering. October ranges from cool and wet to warm and dry, there's no way of telling which its going to be . . . but the colours of the leaves on the trees is worth seeing, especially beech trees which become golden bronze. By November the frosts have arrived, and winter's on its way.
My favourite month in Scotland is June. The days are long; on midsummer's night I've seen people reading by natural light at 10.30 p.m. The landscape has a fresh green quality in June. May can be good too; that's when most of the trees get their leaves. In March the earth is warming and by April you feel nature beginning to stir again. Thats when I go and bark at the foxes in the woods.
If you want to visit in the winter months you will see another side of Scotland. Sometimes roads get blocked by snow, but mostly the weather is cool and wet. It can get very cold, but the warm Gulf Stream from across the Atlantic keeps Scotland from consistently low temperatures. Daylight hours are shorter. But while in summer all is generous and verdant abundance, in winter there's a stark beauty to the landscape. Nature doesn't so much sleep as wait...
What clothes to take with you
Here are very approximate average temperatures in Fahrenheit (Celsius in brackets) in Scotland
- Jan 42 (6)
- Feb 42 (6)
- Mar 47 (8)
- Apr 52 (11)
- May 58 (14)
- Jun 61 (16)
- Jul 68 (18)
- Aug 68 (18)
- Sep 61 (16)
- Oct 54 (12)
- Nov 49 (9)
- Dec 45 (7)
The coldest I experienced was minus 11 C (about 12 degrees F) for a few days in January 2002, the hottest, up in the 80's one August.
The BBC seems to have increasingly reliable weather prediction:
Scotland is renowned for woollen (including cashmere) knitwear at reasonable prices, so dont bring too many jumpers with you, just enough to keep warm on your way to a shop.
(There's one thing I should mention:
These tiny things bite.
For some reason in 1996 and 1999 there didn't seem to be so many around. In 2000 and 2001 there were lots. In 2008, not so many an again. In 2014 not many except in the wettest parts of the Highlands. They usually start getting active in June and then disappear by October.
They don't like bright light so when the sun is shining they go and hide under leaves. But in the evening or at night or on dull days they come out looking for a meal. It's only the females who bite. They need blood as nourishment in order to reproduce, so if you're bitten you know you have probably contributed to the existence of another few hundred more. Here is an actual size picture of a midge (dancing a reel):
They only irritate, no worse. But you can repel them completely with insect repellent. Personally I never bother, but people I know who do, use Autan made by Bayer AG which works well, or else preparations based on oil of citronella or other natural ingredients. You can easily get these from a pharmacy.
European citizens can enter Britain with a passport, without a visa for 3 months. Citizens of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States can enter on a passport as well and stay for up to 6 months. Citizens of other countries require a Visa which they can get from the British Consulate in their country.
No special vaccinations are needed to enter Britain
Planning Health Care
If you are from the European Union all health care in Britain is free; you do have to pay but you can claim it back later. Whatever your nationality accident and emergency treatment not involving a stay in hospital is free. However all citizens from outside the EU should take out Medical Insurance. Australians should check that Medicare has an arrangement with the British National Health Service.
It's always possible just to arrive and go looking for somewhere to stay. But its wiser book ahead, at least for some of your stay. The best places (not necessarily the most expensive, but the ones with most character) tend to get booked in advance, sometimes by many weeks. This especially so for June, July and August, Christmas and New year and for local events such as the Edinburgh Festival
It's a very good idea to take out your own Cancellation Insurance when booking accommodation. This saves a lot of bother if you have to stay home or cancell your reservation for one reason or another.