Whether you take the high road or low, Mary Fraser will be waiting for you in Scotland this summer. She wants to show off her tidy, shingled, bed-and-breakfast cottage which lies 300 yards from the "bonnie, bonnie banks" of Loch Lomond, and she also wants you to know a traveler can live for $20 or less a day in her corner of Scotland.
Mrs. Fraser brought that message to North America recently in the company of four other B&B proprietors who were dispatched by the British Tourist Authority to disquiet American fears that Great Britain has become impossibly expensive for touring. The mission was specifically organized to counteract a widely syndicated story in the Financial Times of London that rated London the costliest city in the world for first-class business travelers.
The five B&B ambassadors fanned out across the US and Canada, each one assigned to charm and inform the citizens of a different region. My question for each was: Besides the economy of B&B touring (about $10 a day for lodging and breakfast) why else should I visit your patch of Britain this year?
Scenery and sports, said Mary Fraser. She and her husband run a six-room B&B northwest of Glasgow only a short hike from a range of green and conquerable mountains. "It's an easy climb to the top," she said. "My husband was a head forester and he'll happily spend time with the guests, telling them where to hike and what to look out for. There is also pony trekking and boating and fishing on the lake -- I shouldn't say lake: it's a loch.m And a very big one -- 24 miles long.
Breakfast at the Fraser house called Arrochoile wouldn't be what it is without Mr. Fraser and the family hens. "My husband gets up to make the porridge," said Mrs. Fraser, "and our eggs are fresh and rich because we have our own hens and they're free to wander about the woods and scratch for grubs. I have just finished my own marmalade for the season, 150 pounds of it. It's my grandmother's recipe."
Mrs. Fraser serves up dinner for just under $5, and every night at 9:30 she lays out a tea spread with scones, pancakes, and short-bread. "That brings them all together to talk, which is the hidden bonus of a Scottish B&B. I wouldn't have a TV for them."
Eric Cornish is a Devonshire man with a farm very near the Cornish border. In addition to 150 beef cattle and 150 sheep he puts up 45 to 50 guests a night. "You should come over early in the season," said the ruddy-faced Mr. Cornish. "We're filled from mid-July to the end of August." One pays from $120 to $150 for a week's stay, breakfast and dinner included, or one-sixth of that for a single night.
Eric Cornish wouldn't let me get away without mentioning his friend Bobbie Fallowfield Cooper, a woman in Poughill just across the Cornish line who "does the most gorgeous cream teas in the world." He added, "She has a lovely old cottage just below the church. You get a bowl of clotted cream with homemade jam, cakes, scones (well, we call them splits) and for only $2.50."
Lady Hartley calls her Fulham lodging "London's most elegant B&B," and perhaps it is.I stayed in one of her two rooms at No. 10 Doneraile Street two years ago, and now we met again as an old-fashioned London peasouper wiped away the view from the RCA Building. She charges $:15 single and $:20 double, and if that sounds high for B&B, you get a smartly furnished room on a quiet, tree-lined street only a half-hour tube or bus ride from central London, overseen by a woman of title who doesn't at all mind being called Toni.
Over the phone I talked with Mrs. Dilys Lloyd who was in Toronto talking up her 400-year-old Welsh farmhouse near Llangollen. In July, Llangollen puts on the International Music Festival. Of course, you can hear music any time of year in Wales. "Many of the villages near us have a local choir or even two," said Mrs. Lloyd, "and you can go to the village hall in the evening and hear them practice." Visitors may also busy themselves with fishing, golf, pony trekking on narrow country lanes, hang gliding, and a riding school.
Mrs. Nan Smythe was the only one of the five I didn't track down, but I am told her B&B in Cranbrook, Kent, in the heart of Britain's "Garden" has all the advantages of country life within an easy commute of London. So eager is the British Tourist Authority to promote Mrs. smythe's and the other low-cost establishments throughout Britain that it has put out a new booklet, "Bed & Breakfast in Britain" and a 118-page book, "Great Value in Britain," as well as a guide to planning one's own budget vacation. All three publications can be had free from BTA offices in New York, Dallas, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
B&B isn't the only economical way to do Britain, but if Mary Fraser, Eric Cornish, Lady Hartley, Dilys Lloyd, and Nan Smythe are anything like the hundreds of other proprietors scattered across the realm, why should one want to travel any other way?