SCOTTISH DEPARTURES

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The Independent Travel
If you have not travelled by coach for some time, you may have the impression that National Express buses (0990 808080) between Scotland and England are cheap but slow. Cheap they definitely are, with a no-restrictions ticket from main cities in southern Scotland to London for only pounds 25 return. Slow they are not, with the fastest journey under eight hours.

Rail Direct (0800 450450) is selling Apex tickets between Glasgow and London on either the East Coast or West Coast main lines for pounds 46 return if you book a week in advance. The centre-to-centre trip is slightly faster along the East Coast from King's Cross via Edinburgh, but more scenic from Euston.

No flights will operate between Scotland and England on Christmas Day, and some services will be cut for the last week in December and the first week of January. British Airways (0345 222111) will be reducing Super Shuttle services linking Heathrow with Glasgow and Edinburgh. The last northbound flight on Christmas Eve is at 5pm to Edinburgh and 6.15pm to Glasgow. Southbound, the latest services are at 7pm from Edinburgh and 7.15pm from Glasgow. Air UK (0345 666777) is rearranging its schedules from Scotland's two biggest cities to Stansted, cutting some services but adding others between 23 and 29 December.

Ski clinics are scheduled every weekend for a month from 10 February at Cairngorm. For pounds 130, you get two days of skiing, accommodation and full board, plus the chance to watch all your mistakes on video. The courses are organised by John Arnold Skiing of Edinburgh (0131-555 2182).

For anyone with an aversion to prolonged daylight, winter mountaineering courses in Scotland are organised by Himalayan Kingdoms (0114-276 3322). The company runs trips to other non-Himalayan places, such as North America's highest mountain Denali (formerly Mount McKinley) in the state of Alaska. It one of the most dangerous peaks in the world because of the low temperatures and often severe weather. Participants in the expedition organised next May can expect constant daylight. The cost of the ascent to 20,321 feet is pounds 2,750.

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