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For best enjoyment of the Scottish Highlands, get away from main roads that are cluttered with motor coaches and holiday traffic. Have faith in your car suspension, and sample the unsurfaced tracks that meander up glens and over heather-clad moors to some remoteEssential Scotland by Hugh Taylor and Moira McCrossan loch. 

Here is wildest Scotland. Picnic on a grassy bank and listen to the water rippling and murmuring at the edge. Everything smells good - trees, grass, air. In Scotland you can b-r-e-a-t-h-e! 

The M9 and A9 highway links the historic and scenic highlights of Scottish tourism: Edinburgh, Stirling, Pitlochry, Aviemore, Inverness and up the east coast to John o' Groats. Another major tourist route is A82, north from Glasgow beside Loch Lomond to Glencoe, Fort William and through Glenmore to Loch Ness and Inverness. 


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If you're not car-driving, consider buying the Freedom of Scotland Travelpass. It gives unlimited travel on all scheduled train services within Scotland and all Caledonian MacBrayne ferry services. Also included are a number of bus and coach services - from the Scottish Borders to Edinburgh, on the Isles of Skye and Mull, as far as John o' Groats and on Scottish Citylink services. 

Passes are valid for either any 4 out of 8 consecutive days for 105.

A similar Highland Rover ticket costs 68 for any 4 out of 8 consecutive days is available for points north of Glasgow.

Ask your travel agent about the wide choice of coach tours throughout scenic Scotland. 

For free entry to 74 top historic attractions buy the Scottish Explorer ticket 3 days 16; 7 days 22.80; 10 days 27.20 . Under-16s & Over-60s - 12.00, 17.20 and 20.40

More information: VisitScotland
Ocean Point One
94 Ocean Drive
National Booking and Information Line is 0845 22 55 121. Website: www.visitscot  

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Along both these well-travelled roads are hotels and guesthouses, camping and caravan sites. Branching off are the minor roads that give unlimited scope for your personal safari to the wilds. 

Vessels from Loch Ness approach the locks at Fort Augustus for entry into the Caledonian Canal en route to Glenmore. The finest and most dramatic scenery of all is along the lochs, firths and glens of the West Coast - untamed mountain landscape with grandiose views everywhere. 

Scotland is paradise for anyone who likes open-air pleasures and activities. Take binoculars to add interest to a Scottish holiday. Watch for hawk and golden eagle, or heron patiently waiting for fish. 

Want to see a Scottish salmon jumping? A famed viewpoint is at Shin Falls, near Lairg, where big salmon jump the falls and swim up the fast-moving rapids. 

Of good sightseeing interest is the Landmark Visitor Centre, 6 miles north of Aviemore, giving dramatic insight into the turbulent history of the Highlands. At Kingussie, the Highland Folk Museum displays old-time lifestyles. 

Most visitors on the West Coast stay in established centres like Oban, Ballachulish, Fort William and Ullapool, and radiate out in day tours. Accommodation has been greatly improved through a quality assurance scheme run by the VisitSCotland. Look out for the distinctive blue plaque. 

Grades go from one to five stars for hotels, B&Bs and self-catering accommodation. Likewise touring and camping parks are graded one to five, with a Scottish Thistle as the symbol for luxury caravan holiday homes. Even hostels are rated on a scale of one to three stars.

At the Glenfinnan Monument to Prince Charlie - on the Road to the Isles - visitors can climb to the top of the monument to take a closer look at Prince Charlie in his kilt.Before going to Scotland, it's worth reading up some history. A short refresher course pays off when you visit Scotland's monuments, castles and cities. The historical background then clicks into focus. A popular theme is to follow the route of Bonnie Prince Charlie - from Glenfinnan where he unfurled his banner in 1745, until his retreat to Skye after Culloden in 1746.

At the Pass of Killiecrankie, just north of Pitlochry, a Visitor Centre sets out maps and wall-charts to illustrate the battle of l689. With these details in mind, you can then stroll down to the narrow wooded gorge, imagining the clash of claymores and the roar of cannon as men fought for possession of the strategic pass. 

A date out of history springs to life!

Inspecting the thatch on the cottage used as the Glencoe Folk Museum.The National Trust for Scotland owns many of these sites of historic and scenic value, besides country houses and gardens, traditional cottages, and small folk-museums. Many private Stately Homes are open to the public. Another interest is to watch crofter weavers at work; or to see how whisky is made. 

Scotland's main malt whisky distillery belt stretches along the Spey Valley, north-east of Aviemore and in the neighbouring valleys, using the soft, peat-flavoured waters. Most distilleries have visitor centres and fascinating tours. Check details at the local Information Centre.

It's also worth checking if you want to include a Highland Games meeting in your holiday programmes. These local events are mostly held on Saturdays or Sundays in July and August, but some are scattered into May and early September. 

They are always worth a special journey, providing colourful memories and plentiful holiday snaps.

A Highland Games gathering is packed with non-stop interest: piping in one corner of the field, heavyweight contests and wrestling in the centre, a 200-metre race around the ring, a Highland fling on the dancing platform, and pole-vaulting in another corner - all simultaneously! 

To the visitor, the heavy events are the greatest attraction: throwing the hammer, putting the shot, throwing the 28-lb weight for distance, throwing a 56-lb weight over the bar (like l5 or l6 feet high), and tossing the caber (a tapered tree-trunk l8 feet long, weighing l50 pounds). 

Most popular are the strong-silent characters who battle for the Heavyweight Championship. They are the porridge-oat heroes of the Games. At the other extreme are the cute girl teams who Highland-fling and sword-dance through the afternoonTraditional hotel entertainment

Pipe bands are likewise sprinkled through the calendar, and many resorts list regular bagpipe music among their attractions. 

The Highlands and Islands are also making a determined attempt to overcome the former lack of tourist nightlife. Many communities offer performances of traditional ceilidh music, dance and stories - something for all tastes. 

For yet another acquired taste, try haggis. Best of all are the breakfasts - porridge with cream, haddock, kippers or eggs and bacon, bannocks and rich butter. 

Check out these other destinations in Scotland

EDINBURGH - Look ahead for the big dates

GLASGOW - See Glasgow in true style

HEBRIDES - Hopscotch to the Western Isles

SCOTLAND-NORTH - coach tour from Dornoch

"Books to read - click on cover pictures" or click on the links below

AA Essential Scotland  by Hugh Taylor and Moira McCrossan

Lonely Planet: Scotland  by Neil Wilson and Graeme Cornwallis - A newly revised edition, covering most holiday aspects of Scotland, from the Highlands to Hogmanay in Edinburgh. 

The Rough Guide to the Scottish Highlands and Islands  by Rob Humphreys and Donald Reid - a detailed guide to the wilder regions, essential for navigating the Islands and the more remote Highland areas. 

Scotland the Best by Peter Irvine - Even the local citizens of Edinburgh and Glasgow have a copy in the car when they head north.

The Highland Clearances  by Eric Richards - describing the evictions in the 18th century which changed the character of the region.

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