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What to Take on Holiday to Scotland

03.08.2001 (04.08.2001)

Sunshine between showers .

Showers .

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I apologise for hi-jacking (yet again) a general category, but the simple fact is this. No two destinations are the same. So general lists, though helpful, do not adequately cover all eventualities.

So, if travelling to Scotland this summer, please remember it may be similar to winter in many other parts of this universe.

Here are a few suggestions.

1. Midgie Repellent.
Forget it, it doesn’t work. Scottish midgies are hardy b*ggers, and have become immune to all antidotes Mankind has ever invented. If you don’t smoke, start. Even temporarily. If you do smoke, start to chain-smoke. Regal is quite effective, but because of the midgie’s rapid ability to acclimatise, I suggest a selection of at least three brands. But not Silk Cut Ultra – you end up sooking midgies into your lungs. The occasional cigar helps, as a variation. And if all that fails, befriend a pipe smoker.

2. Thermal Underwear
Hopefully you won’t need it, and the Scottish Tourist Board will vehemently deny the necessity, at least in the month of July. But a ground frost in the Highland Glens, even in July, is not unknown. This applies especially if you are camping, but is also advisable if you’re doing B&B in some remote Highland parts. Central Heating may consist of a peat fire in the centre of the living room. And of course, it is only lit between the months of October and March. (We have to be environmentally responsible and protect our bogs.)

3. Loo Roll
Talking of bogs, Local Authority cut-backs in the last year have meant that vast numbers of public conveniences have been closed. But Scotland has lots of trees, and vast moors. In days gone by, crofters would say “I’m going to the moors”. This was a euphemism for, “I’m off to walk half a mile into the heather for a cr*p”. There is, of course, more inside plumbing these days, but if you find yourself somewhere without facilities, just take off into the moors. But DON’T follow any beaten tracks. Or if you do, mind your feet.

4. A Spade or Shovel
This is not essential, but common courtesy. Following on from three above, it is the decent thing to do. Dig a hole and bury it.

5. A Complete Set of Offshore-Quality Waterproofs
This is wise in any Scottish location, but especially so in Skye, and in Fort William, which has the highest rainfall in the UK. It is not necessary in Caithness, however, where the wind is so strong, the rain never actually hits the ground. Midgets never get wet. The taller of you may benefit from a waterproof hat.

6. Wellies.
Goes without saying, really. Even if the sun is shining, chances are the puddles are ankle deep. Also, wellies help you blend in with the locals. Only tourists wear trainers. And if you have a bovine bent – well we won’t go into that, but that’s the wonder of woollies.

7. Long Range Fuel Tanks
It will pay you to go to your local garage and get a safari tank fitted in the boot. Not only because in the more remote parts, filling stations are more than a tankful apart, nor because, in the Western Isles, you’ll be damned lucky to get a filling station open on a Sunday, but because by the time you reach Scourie or Durness, you’ll need to remortgage your house before you can buy even half a tank-full.

8. Jeans
Jeans? It is a common misconception that Scots wear kilts. Only Americans visiting Scotland to trace their ancestors wear kilts. And almost always of the wrong tartan. Scots wear jeans and wellies. You don’t want to look like an American tourist, now, do you?

9. Passport
No, of course you don’t need a passport. But bring it anyway. The tacky souvenir shops are full of spoof “Scottish” passports. It can be a very satisfying experience to flash a real one at some of these rip-off merchants. And at the same time, ask them for theirs. And their work permit.

10. Souvenirs from Taiwan.
Before you come to Scotland, you must first visit Taiwan and/or HongKong. And buy your tartan souvenirs cheap. Bring them to Scotland, Take them into the gift shops selling this tat, and tell them how much you paid for them. In a very loud voice. When the shop is full.

Like sunshine follows rain, Aspen follows a rare serious op with a p*ss-take.

Which, obviously, is exactly what this is.

Scotland is a beautiful country, full of beautiful people.

You will be welcome here, and you will love it.

And if you can't find anyone else to welcome you, though I'm sure you will, email Aspen.

I hope the Scottish Tourist Board has a sense of humour!

PS. I limited this to ten items, 'cos I thought it would get boring otherwise. But if you want an eleventh item to take, take me. I may be here already, but I'm always open to offers. (And, hey, I've got my sense of humour back! That must be worth a free holiday!)

PPS. Thanks to FTC for reminding me - item 12 is a bottle of Glen Ord. It's a damn site cheaper On_the_Continent than it is here!!

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Comments about this review »

spangle359 19.08.2001 18:50

Great Op...thoroughly enjoyed reading it and as I have lived in Scotland for much of my life, I can certainly relate to the midgies...or the 6p.m. invasion....hmmm maybe that's why we close all our shops at 5.30p.m. and don't bother to provide any entertainment in the evening...always wondered why a holiday-maker's day came to an end at 5.30 in Scotland...thanks, caroline:-)

oneshallstand 13.08.2001 02:53

That brought back some memories. You're right about the Midgies though, but there is one advantage though, once they've had a go at you it seems like no midge anywhere else will try to get you. It's been seven years since I last went to Scotland and I haven't had a bite since. Great piece though, thanks.

the_mad_cabbie 09.08.2001 23:18

Over next Tuesday, Mike (14th Aug).....Helensburgh, Edinburgh, Loch Lomond, up to Skye, then over to Lewis.....Looking forward to it....I'm immune to midgies!!!!.....EXCEPT the Lewis ones....But even THEY don't come out on a Sunday!!!!!......Ken

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This review of Member Advice on What to take on Holiday has been rated:

"very helpful" by (100%):

  1. bellpoole
  2. salem_witch

and 57 other members

The overall rating of a review is different from a simple average of all individual ratings.