How to 'do' Scotland if you are an American

My sister is visiting me in September. It's her first trip to Britain (she's an American), and during her visit she'd like to get up to Scotland, if possible. I can't spare the time to accompany her and I thought a coach trip would provide a bit of company for her journey. Ideally she'd like to travel from Bristol.

Eleanor Van Zandt


The travel editor replies: There are quite a few British coach tours although these tend to be aimed at the younger traveller on a budget. If you're not prepared to rough it a bit there are ways round this, but this will mean extra organisation on your part.

Slow Coach tours (Tel: 0171 373 7737) offers a six-day tour around Britain and parts of southern Scotland. Coaches start out from London, dropping you off at hostels for over-night stays. If you prefer something more luxurious you'll have to make the effort and book hotels independently.

Outback UK (Tel: 01327 704155) offer 14-day tours from London for pounds 455. Otherwise you could join the tour part-way through at Bath which is your nearest stop; the 10 days up to Edinburgh would cost pounds 350. Peter the driver and guide is also a qualified chef. He'll cook you two meals a day which, along with accommodation and entrance tickets, are included in the price. Activities include mountain biking and riding.

Because Scotland is well covered by home grown tour operators it might be a good idea to pick up with a Scottish tour company in Edinburgh (where most companies are based). The exotically named Go Blue Banana Company (Tel: 0131 556 2000) offers a comprehensive nine-day tour for pounds 199, but this doesn't include food or accommodation. Rabbies Trail Burners (Tel 0131 2263133) offers a three-day tour of the highlands and islands costing pounds 79 for three days, which includes a visit to the isle of Skye. They will help you arrange your own accommodation.

Bread-free pedal power for a coeliac sufferer on a cycling trip - go nuts but keep off the couscous

I have coeliac disease, requiring a gluten-free diet. I would like to spend a few days cycling and camping. I am fairly fit but as I can't load up on bread, could you suggest some ideas for light-weight, easily cooked or tinned foods?

Penny Glenday


Larry Goodyer replies: People with coeliac disease have a gut allergy to any foods containing gluten, which is found in certain cereals. Those with this problem should be aware of what foods to buy, and packaged or processed foods available in the UK will sometimes indicate whether or not they are gluten-free. The first question to ask is, where are you planning to take your cycling holiday? If you are going overseas then it may be harder to maintain a gluten-free diet in some countries than others. For instance, in the Middle East you would have to avoid the readily available meals with couscous. However, as a basic source of carbohydrate, potatoes and rice are easy to find in most parts of the world.

In terms of what to carry as a stand-by source of calories, then anything high in sugar would be suitable. You could certainly carry some packets of dextrose tablets for use if you have not had sufficient calories and are feeling a bit wobbly as you describe. Bars of gluten-free chocolate would provide an ideal source of nutrition on an active biking holiday for a short space of time. Nuts, which should not be dry-roasted, would also be useful for their high calorie content. Other nutritious ideas for prepared foods might be tins of sardines or anchovies in oil, and packets of rice noodles. If you have not already done so, it would be worth giving the Coeliac Society a ring if you are a member.

Dr Larry Goodyer is superintendent of the Nomad Pharmacy (3-4 Turnpike Lane, London N8; Tel: 0181-889 7014) which specialises in catering for travellers' medical needs.

Pregnant passengers

I plan to travel by ferry to northern Spain on 8 September and stay until the 11th. My second baby is due on 8 October and I am finding it difficult to arrange insurance cover. I wonder if you know of any specialist travel-insurance companies who deal with individuals who do not fit in to the usual categories.

Caroline Roberts

Llandysul, Carmarthenshire

The travel editor replies: The good news is that, as an EU citizen, all you need for free health care in case of an emergency in Spain is an E111 form.

Finding general travel cover is going to be practically impossible. Insurers are only prepared to risk their necks up to a certain time in the pregnancy: World Cover Direct, for example, covers for up to 28 weeks. Premier Direct offers a better deal, insuring for up to 32 weeks. (Both these companies specialise in medical problems.) You haven't mentioned which company you are hoping to travel with, but neither Brittany nor P&O Ferries will allow passengers in their last weeks of pregnancy to board. Consult your proposed company very carefully in advance of your trip.