My husband and I are planning to travel to Scotland at the end of June. We are wanting to start booking hotels. Is it better to book directly with the hotels and B&Bs in Scotland or book through Expedia? We are wanting to stay in Stirling and Inverness a couple nights each. Any recommendations on places to stay?
All else being equal it is always better to book directly with the hotel or B&B. Online Travel Agents are fine unless you have a problem. Personally I never pay in advance. I consider the small increase in price for a refundable booking as part of my travel insurance. Now, that being said, last year I booked a B&B in Wales via hotels.com because the B&B did not have a way to book directly. I think that the owner just wanted to avoid the hassle of managing bookings. The B&B was very nice and every think worked out OK.
In my experience, Scotland is the land of the nonrefundable deposit (first night). Not every place has this policy, but it seems many do.
I've also had B&Bs in Scotland charge a small amount, like 1 pound, to my credit card at the time of booking as a way of making sure it's a valid credit card number. Which is fine, unless your credit card fraud dept. calls you and you don't recognize the name of the merchant making the charge.
As for places to stay, I can recommend the Tali Ayer B&B in Nairn, a pretty town on the Moray Firth just east of Culloden battlefield and Cawdor Castle.
We loved our stay in Inverness at the Strathness House. I booked it directly with the owners by email. No advance deposit was required. It is in a beautiful location next to the river promenade. There are a few restaurants just steps away and many others right across the bridge in the main town area. The rate included an excellent cooked to order breakfast. They have a lovely lounge area to sit and relax.
http://www.strathnesshouse.com/. Check out Tripadvisor to see the traveler photos. They are very accurate in showing what the inn is like.
There are many who will swear by using booking sites and that is certainly their right. But we always book directly with the hotel / B&B. The reason is very simple. If there is a problem, of any type, we firmly believe we'll be much better off dealing directly with the establishment rather than getting mired down dealing with a third party and run the risk of miscommunications.
We email a request for rates and availability and then follow up with an acceptance email. If a credit card number is required to insure the booking, we simply pick up the phone and call them -- it's really not that expensive. We've never had anyone refuse to do it this way and just believe this is the best way to handle booking. Just our opinion.