So, the ghastly 2020 and the little-better 2021 is behind us and tourism and hospitality might return to a new normal. If so, then these thoughts from a year or two ago may still apply to a Scottish holiday.
Consider this scenario. It used to happen most years back then, when Johanna guided private clients, often from the USA. These lovely people had their Scottish vacations all planned out by agencies – with bookings made in top class hotels every time.
A source of Scottish information
In short, they stayed in some very fine places, you can be sure. It was Johanna’s job to get them to their plush stopovers as well as to be a source of information on Scotland during the day.
(Pictured here) Lovely farmhouse accommodation near Oban. I can’t remember the cat and the keyring being the same size though.
Sometimes, when she dropped them at reception, they expressed surprise that Johanna left them there to go to separate (much less expensive) accommodation.
I rendezvoused with her on occasion, 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 we’d have a drink in the local pub or hotel. Sometimes we’d find somewhere that had folk music. Sometimes we fell into conversation with a local or two.
A conversation with a local
In fact, I suppose you could say that just for an hour or two, we were on our own Scottish holiday.
We would even more often end up chatting to our B & B hosts at some point. I can recall on one occasion in the Outer Hebrides being invited to go along and see how they cut the peat.
(Pictured here) Luxury accommodation near Fort William.
A bowl of Squat lobster
I remember in another place in Wester Ross 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 on Orkney we were asked if we wanted to see some baby lambs being fed. (The b & b host was fostering them!)
The key here was a sense of sharing and a glimpse into other lives, other ways of living here in Scotland.
(Pictured here) A beautifully sited, peaceful B & B on Skye. We’ve been there twice now!
“I wish we’d stayed there!”
Next morning, Johanna would meet up with her clients again for another day’s touring, as planned out on the itinerary for their vacation in Scotland.
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!)
It also hardly needs to be pointed out that Johanna’s evening had cost 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 making your own arrangements, give it some thought… you could manage without the turn-down service for just a night or two, surely?