Just back from 2 weeks in Scotland, England and Paris. All of it great, but Scotland was hands down the absolute highlight. Had a 1st class reservation for the train from London up to Inverness - I could have watched out that window for days. Not like the US, where much of what you see is the not so nice part of cities and miles of trees and undergrowth; you got a wonderful look about the homes, castles, meadows, mountains, bit of seaside - wonderful!
Wish I'd known earlier - with my ticket came not only entrance to the first class lounge (very handy thru out the 2 weeks) but also internet access on the train - even riding thru the deserted landscape approaching Inverness. I had a map, and the attendant was most happy to circle for me places to watch for, which I was able to research and learn about on the internet as we approached them.
Prior research really is the best tip I could give; knowing the history of a place and how it relates to the overall history of Scotland makes those crumbling castle walls come alive, and allows you really appreciate what you're seeing. Speaking of best tips and thorough research, here's another "best tip" - "Mini Tours Scotland". Unable to coordinate a trip from one side - Balquidder to the other - Edinburgh - via public transportation in a timely fashion, I arranged with Craig of Mini Tours for a day of sightseeing, and the day he arranged was perfect. Some of you may have come across my post a few months ago searching for referrals; as a woman traveling alone, I was trying to be cautious.
Well, anyone looking for a referral - here it is - if he has a date open, grab it - if you value courteous, safe, efficient transportation; a guide who contacts you ahead of time to ascertain your interests, schedule, and preferences, then efficiently personalizes your tour, offering options along the way - it will be the best money you ever spent. Considering what I would have spent renting a car and possibly having to pay an extra night's lodging -with all that we covered in just 8 hours, what I thought was a splurge turned out to be a bargain, and a wonderful surprise. Well traveled, Craig obviously know his history and facts inside and out; he converses easily; not the canned, "laugh a minute" spiel that you get with so many tourguides. My 2 places of lodging - the Bunchrew House Hotel and the Borthwick Castle - yes castle - were so outstanding, I almost hate to review them, for fear they'll become so popular, they'll be booked should I ever go to Scotland again. Yes, they were that fantastic. See under hotel reviews soon.