From intimate cottages and self-contained apartments to elegant city hotels and grand country houses, Scotland has accommodations suitable for all your wishes. Want something unusual? Visit a treehouse hotel perched in an ancient forest on the west coast, stay in a historic loch-side castle or try a modern re-creation of a traditional broch (a prehistoric dwelling of thatch and stone, updated with the best modern amenities). Other quirky options include canal boats and Mongolian-style yurts.
Below are a few of your best lodging options in Scotland.
Scotland has many hotels in a vast range of budgets and styles. For those on a tight budget, chains such as Travelodge and Premier Inn have properties in Scotland's major cities, such as Glasgow and Edinburgh. Those looking for a higher-end room can visit international hotels such as the Hilton Caledonian Hotel in the vibrant heart of the capital or the Marriott hotel in Glasgow.
However, Scotland has a great array of more individual and iconic accommodations, which can offer you a quintessentially Scottish welcome. For example, the comforting and well-appointed Hotel du Vin in Glasgow, Scotland's cosmopolitan second city, is full of Gaelic charm and operated by a small but popular British chain. Alternatively, you could visit the Macdonald Pittodrie House in Inverness, a four-star property from an award-winning collection of fine British Hotels. Scotland also has a wide selection of independent and boutique hotels, from elegant Edinburgh townhouses to grand Highland castles.
Hotels in Scotland (and in the rest of the United Kingdom) are rated by the Automobile Association (AA) using a star rating, ranging from the lowest one-star rating to top-quality five-star establishments. The Scottish Tourist Board also offers a similar star rating for properties.
These independent ratings follow a simple formula. Single-star hotels offer a good overall standard quality and at least 75 percent of rooms will be ensuite (in the AA's rating scheme, all rooms must have private facilities). Two-star hotels are usually small family-owned houses, while a three-star rating is awarded to hotels with a higher level of service and more facilities. Four- and five-star hotels provide increasingly more formal service, more extensive public areas and finer dining options.
In order to fully enjoy the warmth of Scottish hospitality, visitors should consider staying in one of Scotland's numerous bed and breakfasts, or B&Bs. These establishments, which offer guests a comfortable room and a generous breakfast, are often family-run businesses, and so give visitors many opportunities to become acquainted with local news, culture and people. Many can be found in rural farmhouses or loch-side cottages, offering an authentic look at country life in Scotland.
Bed and breakfasts are often considerably cheaper than hotels, and offer an array of delicious breakfasts such as the "full Scottish," the local version of the famed full English: fried eggs, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, local black pudding and potato or "tattie" scones. For a lighter and more traditional option, try a bowl of thick, nutritious oat porridge.
B&Bs in Scotland are rated in a similar way to hotels, through an AA star rating or the independent rating of the Scottish Tourist Board. While the widely varying styles, qualities and locations of B&Bs are difficult to standardize, they are subject to the same level of rigorous scrutiny as hotels.
Renting a cottage or apartment is often cheap and convenient, and allows you the freedom of extra space and the convenience of a full kitchen. Budget-conscious travelers will appreciate the opportunity to make their own meals instead of spending money in pubs or restaurants every evening.
Self-catered properties are available from large letting agencies, individual landlords and larger bodies such as the National Trust for Scotland. These larger organizations and agencies will be rated by bodies such as the AA; for private landlords who are not, it is well worth doing some research to establish the quality of the properties.
The AA themselves offer a range of holiday accommodations across Scotland, as does the National Trust, often in idyllic settings. For example, you can rent an apartment in the Preston Tower of Fyvie Castle, set in the heart of landscaped park lands. Or maybe you would prefer to stay in beautiful and isolated Belmont House, an elegant Georgian manor located on the cinematic Isle of Unst in the North Sea.
Few images summon up the beauty and rugged nature of Scotland more than the sight of an imposing Highland castle. Fortunately for the avid traveler, many of these great buildings have been converted into comfortable hotels, allowing you to experience a slice of history and all the comforts of a clan chieftain. Consider Dornoch Castle, with its great cellars filled with fine malt whiskies, or beautiful, remote Ackergill Tower, perched on the edge of the sea in Wick. Culzean Castle makes for a decadent option in the Lowlands.
These castles are usually run as high-quality hotels, and as such are also regulated and rated by the Scottish Tourist Board and the AA.
Perhaps the best way to get close to Scotland's wild and rugged landscape is to pack your tent and sleeping bag and head out into the glens. Scotland has many campsites, most with facilities not only for tents but for campervans as well. Many have also constructed ready-made structures for you to stay in, ranging from modern "camping pods" to Mongolian-style yurts. The AA rates campsites as well as hotels, and so you will easily be able to research the standard of a site and its amenities, such as toilet blocks and shower facilities.
If you would like an experience even more out of the ordinary, companies such as Le Boat and Caley Cruisers offer you a chance to hire a boat and sail the length of Scotland's broad Caledonian Canal, a famed waterway that dissects the nation from east to west and flows through the Great Glen and Loch Ness.
You can go back to basics by spending a night in the leafy treehouse hotel at Fernie Castle, or in a modern interpretation of an Iron Age dwelling at the Brochs of Coigach. Or invoke the spirit of rail travel and stay at Sleeperzzz, a converted set of train carriages in Sutherland.
Achiltibuie.info (Brochs of Coigach)
--written by Josh Thomas