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So many choices, so little advice

Recently I have been searching for accommodation for myself which would enable me to take a short break in the Highlands of Scotland. During this search I have become increasingly aware of some of the little vagaries and nuances which visitors to this country may be perplexed by. The purpose of this short article therefore is to assist those visitors who are looking to book accommodation.

The first recommendation I can make is to use the official Scottish Tourist Board site or one of the regional tourist boards the addresses of which can be found below.

The Scottish Tourist Board is a quasi-governmental organisation, which is recognised by statute. Its official role is to promote tourism and is regarded as a direct marketing organisation. The Board however also awards grading standards and in that respect it should be easier to compare like with like. Note however the emphasis on the word should. The board in the past graded accommodation in respect of facilities e.g. en suite bathrooms, elevators, night porter etc. However now instead of having grading inspectors it has quality assurance advisors. The board will still examine facilities but it will grade on the much more highly subjective criteria of quality. In its favour as a broad generalisation 5 stars/rosettes SHOULD still be better than 4 etc. The different types of accommodation are set out on page two.

In the interests of fairness and balance you should also consider the following. If someone is a member of the local Tourist Association it does not necessarily mean that you will find everything to your satisfaction as there will always be "one that slips the net". In addition just because a business is not a member of the Tourist Board it does not suggest that it will be bad. The reasons for non-membership are varied. The company could quite simply be successful enough without membership of the Tourist Board. Some businesses will not join the local Tourist Board because they have lost faith in its marketing abilities (the figures for incoming Tourists this year are shocking) and this is especially true in the Highlands. Again this doesn't necessarily mean that the accommodation will be bad

In addition to the Tourist Board there are other organisations (most noticeably the Automobile Association and The Royal Automobile Club) that will rate accommodation providers. Again you should take a broad view of the actual star given i.e. 4 is better than 3 and so on.

When booking accommodation be sensible. What do you want to do on holiday ? What do you want to see ? Book accommodation that will fit in with all your other plans. If in doubt ask the owner what is there to do nearby for an X year old boy or an Y year old girl. If the owner/manager wants your business they will be more than helpful. If not take your money elsewhere.

Wondering what the Scots think the difference is between a hotel or a guest house, pub or an inn (we are a strange lot !) have a look at page two.

Page 2