Last week, I was planning to write about Dream Escape, an exclusive luxury travel outfit that organizes completely customized tours of Scotland. (Says David Tobin, owner: "many companies offer "bespoke" travel, but I've gone the route of "couture". We start from scratch around what our client's want, whether it's a two-day trip for two people, or a six day trip for 200.") Even if you're arriving in Scotland without Tobin's incredibly hands-on service, which includes a UK cellphone pre-programmed, and should you desire, a photographer, or even a genealogist among other essentials, I've long maintained that Scotland is one of the best destinations to truly feel like you're a Master of the Universe.
There's something about Scotland's mix of castles, golf, whiskey, landscape and royal history that feels to me like getting wrapped in a cloak of wealth, power and prestige. Just one example, Royal Yacht Britannia -- decommissioned from royal use since 1997, now a tourist attraction in Edinburgh. Everyone can visit it for a tour, but once can arrange private access to the state apartments for events and be served to exacting royal protocol, which includes measuring the distance between cutlery with a ruler, among other measures designed to make anyone of royal descent or aspiration feel comfy. (For instance, sailors were made to use hand signals rather than shouting, to preserve royal tranquility. Effectively, apparently, since Her Majesty stated: "Britannia is the one place where I can truly relax".)
Dream Escape can arrange access to the Royal Yacht -- and to an endless number of luxey Scottish attractions, see the gallery for more -- but as I sat down to write about it last week, Scotland, made international headlines for its release of the only man convicted of the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, who returned to Libya as a hero. I've heard talk of boycotting Scottish travel, and whiskey -- and it just felt strange to write enthusiastically about Scotland without addressing all this directly.
So yesterday, I chatted with David Tobin to see how it was affecting his business, considering that he brings anywhere between 100 and 300 visitors to Scotland each year. His answer, in a nutshell: not at all. "We haven't seen a downturn or have clients change their plans or anything like that," he says. "My clients want to go somewhere because they want to go, and they're suitably educated to understand that this is a murky area, surrounding [al-Megrahi's] release. This won't change my client's perception of Scotland, they love the country, but not necessarily the politicians." He doesn't expect any cancellations of bookings in the future.
Of course, Tobin's company is small, and very high end at that -- and it remains to be seen whether Scottish tourism as a whole will be affected by the bomber's release. Do you think luxury tourism to Scotland will be affected by current politics? Should it?
Gallery: Dream Escape Scotland