How to spend a summer in Scotland

Q: Scotland has always been a place where I want to spend some time, and this coming summer I am going to do just that. I'm going to spend four weeks touring the Highlands, and I would like to have as much information as you can give me. Thank you very much.

A: My husband and I stayed in Evanton, Scotland, for a while and considered it an ideal spot from which to take day trips into the Highlands. I assume you'll have a car because if you don't, getting around would be most difficult.

For starters, there are three tourist information centers a short distance from Evanton: North Kessock, Dornich and Wick. These centers have a brochure titled "Follow the A9 Trail" that will direct you to the highlights in the area. A map and mileage charts are included.

There are two day trips we made that are not in the brochure. For the first, take one of the two-lane roads west over the Highland mountains. It's nearly deserted with no towns along the way, so make sure the petrol tank is full. The scenery is breathtaking. Lochs, craggy mountain tops, an occasional farm and wildlife - you won't know where to look first. We had the sensation of being on top of the world.

Your final destination will be Ullapool, a charming seaside fishing village, great for a walking tour and a lunch stop. You also can visit the island of Syke while on this eastern shore. Best to head back before dark, though, because there are no lights along the return trip.

One of the locals told us about Croick Church, 20 miles from Evanton, which is my second suggestion. It's a few miles off the main road, down what seemed to be no more than a cowpath through unfenced pastures.

A movie script could be written about the tragedy that took place at this little church and its tiny cemetery. Croick Church played a role in the infamous Highland Clearances in the 1800s, when landlords could not rely on rents due to hard times and realized that grazing sheep on the land would be more profitable than renting to people.

The tenant farmers were driven from the land and, with nowhere to go, they gathered in the Croick churchyard. They did not go inside, believing it would be regarded as desecration of a holy place. The minister allowed them to erect makeshift shelters in the churchyard and cemetery. As the people passed the long days among the tombstones, some scratched short, pathetic messages on the diamond-shaped panes of the east window, overlooking the cemetery.

The visitor can still read: "J. Chalmers," "John Ross, shepherd, parish of Ardgay,: "Ann McClister" and "Glen Calvig people was in the churchyard here May 24th, 1845." A pamphlet available at the church tells the story in depth.

Request the Scotland Vacation Planner from the British Tourist Authority at (800) 462-2748 or go to the web site and click on the Scotland link.

Send your questions at least sixweeks prior to travel to MadelynMerwin in care ofTravel,Daily Herald, P.O.Box 280, Arlington Heights, IL 60006, or

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