In Search of Ancient Scotland: A Guide for the Independent Traveler, by Gerald M. Ruzicki and Dorothy A. Ruzicki. Aspen Grove Publishing, Mead, Washington 99021, (509) 238-4566. 352 pages. $17.95, paperback.
Scotland’s ancient standing stones, cairns, henges, castles, and not-quite-so-ancient cathedrals fascinate the Ruzickis, and they share their love of the subject in a friendly and helpful way.
First they include information about the kinds of things likely to make first-time independent travellers a bit nervous–sources for low air fares (book all legs of a flight through one airline or company so you won’t wind up paying a fee to change reservations if a delay on one leg causes you to miss connections), the best times to go (spring and fall to avoid high-season prices and crowds and winter closings), weather (it’s sure to rain/be cold/hot/glorious), packing (one decent, sort of dressy outfit but a minimum of clothes so you’ll have room to stow your luggage out of sight in your rental car’s trunk or “boot”), lodging, the best maps, and what to do about exchanging money. They offer a whole chapter on driving in Scotland, including the rules for negotiating the country’s many traffic circles–something that has always made me uncomfortable.
Having allayed the prospective traveller’s misgivings, the Ruzickis then divide Scotland into sections and describe their experiences with many of the country’s heritage sites in each locale. They also include a discussion of the known history of each site and conclude with directions on how to get there. From Cairnpapple near Edinburgh to the Callanish Standing Stones in the Western Isles to Dunkeld Cathedral in Perthshire and many points beyond and in between, the Ruzickis are excellent guides.
The couple’s accounts of their own visits to the more than 200 prehistoric and historic destinations make what could have been a rather straightforward laundry list of a book a pleasure to read. Gerald’s undergraduate studies in archaeology ignited a passion that clearly shows in his writing, and Dorothy, an RN who manages a large hospital’s education department, has a gift for conveying information in a way that makes me feel like I’ve just gotten the inside scoop from well-travelled friends. And in fact, the Ruzickis are friends of BRITISH HERITAGE. In addition to being subscribers, for two years they also have served on our Readers’ Panel, which selects the nominees for our annual Travellers’ Choice Awards.
Judy P. Sopronyi