What to do want from your Scottish holiday?
Consider this scenario. It used to happen most years when Johanna guided private clients, often from the USA. These lovely people had their trips all planned out by agencies - with bookings made in top class hotels every time. In short, they stayed in some very fine places, you can be sure. It was Johanna’s job to get them to their stopovers. Sometimes as she dropped them at reception, they expressed surprise that Johanna left them there to go to separate accommodation.
Sometimes I rendezvoused with her, so that we would find ourselves in a small B&B (booked in advance). We’d check in, then probably wander into the town/village to find somewhere to eat. Maybe have a drink in the local hotel. Sometimes we’d find somewhere that had folk music. Sometimes we fell into conversation with a local or two.
We would even more often end up chatting to our hosts at some point. I can recall on one occasion being invited to go along and see how they cut the peat. I remember in another place casually being offered a small bowl of squat lobsters as we sat in our host’s sun lounge (brilliant mountain views) with our own bottle of malt whisky. (Her husband knew a local fisherman and had plenty seafood to spare) Then there was that time we were asked if we wanted to see some baby lambs being fed. (The b & b host was fostering them!)
They key here was a sense of sharing and a glimpse into other lives, other ways of living here in Scotland.
(Pictured) The view from the patio door: very comfortable farmhouse bed and breakfast accommodation near Oban in Argyll. (The cat came to check us out while we enjoyed the evening sunshine on the patio. Now that I look at the picture again, I can't remember the key-ring and the cat being about the same size however. )
Next morning, Johanna would meet up with her clients again for another day’s touring. Inevitably, conversations would turn too how all spent their evening...basically, how luxurious was the clients’ food.
In turn Johanna would be asked how she spent the evening...and I think you can see where I am going with this. Relating some of the experiences we have had in good quality b & bs would often bring a kind of wistful look to clients’ faces. And a ‘Gee, I wish we had done that’ kind of response. (Often followed by the observation that they hadn’t even met anyone from Scotland amongst the staff, no matter how fabulous the food had been!)
And of course, it hardly needs to be pointed out that Johanna’s evening had cost, hmm, probably less than a quarter of what her clients were paying per head.
You can work out your own conclusions from this. Top end hotels are certainly fabulous, make no mistake, and everything is taken care of...except for that sense of being insulated, sealed in perhaps, and seeing Scotland only as a scenic backdrop.
Sometimes, what you remember best about a trip is the ‘engagement’ - the conversations, the insights that you can gain from the people who actually live in the place.
Staying in 4 or 5 star B&Bs would not suit everyone. (It certainly might not suit travel agents in your home country as they probably wouldn’t make enough of a cut to make it worthwhile recommending them.) But if you are looking at booking your own accommodations, give it some thought... you could manage without the turn-down service for just a night or two, surely?