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SCOTLAND TAKES CENTER STAGE AS VACATION SPOT

INTERNATIONALScotland's hot for travel. Just check out the heroic adventures of "Rob Roy" at your local movie house. The story and the spectacular scenery of the Scottish Highlands are enough to get you to want to pack your bags.

"Rob Roy" tells the story of Robert MacGregor, a Highlander who fought the English crown in the 18th century. The movie won two thumbs up from movie critics Siskel and Ebert, and Scottish Tourist Board chairman Ian Grant is sure Americans will get themselves up and over to Scotland upon seeing the film, which was filmed entirely there. "Rob Roy" features performances by award-winning actors Jessica Lange and Liam Neeson. The film is the first of four coming out that have Scotland as their setting. The others will be "Braveheart" with Mel Gibson as William Wallace, who ran the English out of Scotland in 1297; Julia Roberts as "Mary Reilly," a maid to Dr. Jekyll in Edinburgh; and Ted Danson in "Loch Ness" - we hope, however, that he is not playing the title role of Scotland's famed monster of the deep.Scotland, I can attest, is a superb place to visit. Edinburgh may be its best-known city with its celebrated summer International Festival of Arts, along with the Military Tattoo that takes place in the Edinburgh Castle overlooking the city. But Glasgow is fast emerging as the place to visit. Once a grimy industrial city, Glasgow today radiates its Victorian charm, all cleaned up and loaded with excellent museums (the Museum of Transport is outstanding) and activities. The Highlands, with its stark beauty and colorful lochs (lakes), is easy to explore. Scotch, Scotland's water of life, which marked its 500th year in 1994, can be traced along the Malt Whisky Trail. Scotland is an ideal destination for hikers, bikers, fishermen and, of course, golfers. There are 459 courses in the birthplace of the sport.

Making a visit to Scotland all the easier are travel agents throughout America who have been specially trained and have visited Scotland. Look for a S.C.O.T.S., for Specialist Counselor on Travel to Scotland, logo in their windows. They are also listed in a comprehensive guide, "Scotland - where to go and what to see," available free by calling (800) 925-1237. Everything you need to know is in the guide, from festivals (this is the 250th anniversary of Bonnie Prince Charlie's uprising against the British throne) to accommodations (all properties from inns to castles are rated 1 to 5 crowns by the Scottish Tourist Board). For additional information on Scotland, call the British Tourist Authority in New York at (800) 462-2748.

Among sites used for "Rob Roy" were Fort William; Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain; and Loch Morar, Scotland's deepest lake and the setting for Rob Roy's home. Town and castle scenes were filmed around St. Andrew's at Megginch and Drummond castles. The cast stayed at Perth's Stakus and Parkland hotels.

For travelers who want to stay at the No. 1 address on Princes Street in Edinburgh, the Balmoral - flagship of the Forte Grand hotels - offers a 30 percent discount to those booking 30 days in advance. For information, call (800) 225-5843.

Certainly a grand way to discover Scotland is with a two-night Rob Roy Adventure Package at the celebrated Gleneagles. The package includes accommodations, a sampling of Gleneagles activities from falconry to golf on one of three championship courses, meals and a tour to places where Rob Roy lived, loved, fought and died. For information, call the Leading Hotels of the World at (800) 223-6800.

Needless to say your dollar will go farther if you begin your British Isles vacation with the thrifty Scots.