updated 9/8/2005 8:59:07 PM ET 2005-09-09T00:59:07

For a country of its size and population, Scotland boasts a respectable number of high-class hotels. More than half of these, and almost all of the fine country hotels, owe their existence, unsurprisingly, to golf.

The geographical distribution is very uneven: Edinburgh has a half-dozen or more truly top-flight business hotels; Glasgow, one, maybe two; Aberdeen, one; St. Andrews, two; and the other towns and cities, none. Of the city hotels, the grandest are old railway establishments, though some impressive, ultra-modern hotels have been built in recent years.

In recent times most first-rate establishments have recognized the need to cater to the business traveler. As a result, business facilities in such places are generally good and frequently excellent. Unless otherwise indicated, all hotels below have full wireless Internet access.

Just about everyone knows that golf began in Scotland. What a lot of folk don't know is that, in its form, a golf course imitates the Scottish seashore.

"Links" is an old Scots word--originally "linkis"--which refers to the undulating, sandy turf found around the Scottish shores. Wind-blown sea sand creates steep-sided dunes, which cause the hill-and-valley form of the courses. On long-established dune land, various small plants ultimately overtake the marram grass, which holds the dunes together. These, grazed short by sheep and cattle, form the machair, or turf, on which the game is played. Where the turf breaks and the sand shows through bunkers appear.

Half a millennium ago, when Scots gentlemen sought to disport themselves, they found the links convenient for football, archery and the "Gouff." They still are, though, since archery practice ceased to be required by law, the sport has fallen somewhat out of fashion.

Of the 500 or so golf courses in Scotland, more than 150 are on natural seashore links land. Inland, there are a lot of places where the glaciers of the last ice age produced similar conditions, so golf course topography also comes naturally where the debris left by the glaciers of the last ice age produces similar conditions, so there, too, the conditions for golf courses naturally occur. If you add enough rainfall so that the greens rarely need watering, you could say that the designer of the universe had golf in mind when he made Scotland.

There are literally hundreds of perfectly blissful golf courses in Scotland, as well as a great tradition of public access, which means most welcome visitors and charge very modest fees.

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