Travel Jottings

Celebrating the best bits and bobs to be found while exploring Britain, Ireland and beyond. Much is inspired by real outings, whether they were walking, cycling or photographic in nature, while virtual blundering in the name of planning them has turned up some gems too. Regardless of how they were found, I hope that they keep coming so I can continue to share new things with you.

Starting Out Exploring

Beinn Bhreac-liath & Beinn Udlaidh with River Orchy, Bridge of Orchy, Argyll & Bute, Scotland

Towards the end of my time in Edinburgh, I decided to sample some parts of Scotland beyond the city's limits. Planning that took me out onto the web rather than into a book store and there were plenty of places to look for visitor information, a veritable cornucopia in fact. Some of these find their way into what I have here and predate travelogues like Scotland Travelholics. After all, it was a time when the term blogging hardly was known if it had been invented at all at that stage.

My Scottish explorations started off on a student budget so I was more likely to work off what was on the web in preference to the more expensive option of equipping myself with guidebooks. Thankfully, it felt that Scotland seemed well endowed with online visitor information websites so any limitations were less than obvious. Whether this was down to national pride or forward thinking remains an open question but there was plenty to get me going and some of those websites still are going today.

Naturally, things have changed a lot since those early days. For one thing, Scotland remains wonderful to me even if political travails soured things for a while. Thankfully, it again feels a haven for my spirit and I wonder how many more feel that way about the place. If you haven't been to Scotland, you may wonder why this is. Going there may answer that and I have to warn you that one visit might result in many a return; it certainly has for me.

Somewhere to Find Your Feet

The website of the Scottish tourist promotion agency is as good a source of visiting and accommodation ideas as any so it sounds like just the place to make a start when planning Scottish excursions, especially for the very first time. Their book-a-bed-ahead (BABA) service certainly has done the needful for me many a time over the years.

In spite of the name, this is another useful resource for those planning a visit. Accommodation seems to be the main focus but other subject areas are covered as well.

Welcome to Scotland

Cleverly designed site with links to other sites searchable using an interactive map. A few tweaks could make it more user friendly, though.

Undiscovered Scotland

When I first visited this site, its main focus is the Highlands and Islands but this has now extended to all of Scotland.

Professionally designed website containing much useful information on Scotland. Part of a much wider network of directories introducing different countries.

Gazetteer for Scotland

This is a useful site maintained by the Department of Geography at the University of Edinburgh. Donations are appreciated for its upkeep and expansion.

Rampant Scotland

Taking its name from one of insignia of Scotland, the Lion Rampant, this directory allows a rounded introduction to the country for someone who hasn't been there before.

Electric Scotland

This directory has genealogical basis but has branched into catering for those wanting tourism and historical information. Strangely, sections devoted to places in Ireland also feature!

Guided Excursions

Both of these companies offer small group tours of Scotland. The first of these is a company, based in Edinburgh, that I added following a recommendation by a colleague of mine, although I have never used their services because my preference is for independent or self-organised travel. Latterly, I spotted a company calling itself The English Bus offering something similar and they include Scotland as well in spite of their name.

Wild Scotland

Much of the focus of this website is on wildlife watching and other similar adventures. If you are going watching sea life, just make sure that your operator is part of the WiSe Scheme. It should go without saying that any wildlife watching should not stress out the creatures whose appearances are being sought.

History & Heritage

Historic Environment Scotland

Formerly known as Historic Scotland, this is the Scottish government agency that looks after around 300 historic sites such as Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Urquhart Castle and Jedburgh Abbey.

National Trust for Scotland

The website of a charity that conserves Scottish countryside, coastlines, monuments and buildings for the enjoyment of present and future generations.

Scottish Canals

Canals in Great Britain formerly came under the British Waterways banner but the 2010 to 2015 coalition government in London facilitated the transfer of its English and Welsh assets to a then new charity named the Canal & Rivers Trust. The Scottish ones remained in the hands of the British Waterways Board and that became a public body in Scotland alone. Its public name is Scottish Canals and it looks after four canals: Caledonian, Crinan, Forth & Clyde and Union. All of these offer recreation opportunities and there is the sight of the Falkirk Wheel to behold too as it transfers boats from one canal to another. The Crinan Canal is part of the Argyll Sea Kayak Trail between Helensburgh and Ganavan, near Oban.

Scottish Natural Heritage

While the name suggests that natural heritage is the main concern here, the Scottish Government agency's remit overlaps with that of the the National Trust for Scotland so it gets included here. After all, National Parks, Regional Parks and National Nature Reserves all get introduced as do aspects of exploring the outdoors. As you will find from the website, the agency covers more than this so you might find yourself lingering on there for a while.

Though it is not apparent from the name, this is all about Scottish castles and not those beyond those shores. Given that Scotland has so many, it probably is just as well that there is a single place to survey most if not all of them.