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Sights and pipes of Scotland beckon; trek through Bible lands

Published: Sunday, April 9 2000 12:00 a.m. MDT

SCOTLAND VACATION PLANNER. For a free copy of the planner, call the British Tourist Authority at 1-800-462-2748, weekdays between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Eastern daylight time. The 70-page color booklet includes a map and sample itineraries for each region of the country as well a practical information. Among the special events that will take place this year is the Cowal Highland Gathering, the largest Highland games in Scotland, Aug. 25 and 26 in Dunoon.

Another highlight will be the world's largest gathering of pipes and drums marching through Edinburgh in a competition that is part of the Millennium Piping Festival. The event will take place in early August, followed closely by the World Pipe Band championships in Glasgow. And the Gordon clan will gather at Huntly in northeast Scotland from Aug. 4-6.

BED AND BREAKFAST IN GREAT BRITAIN. Bed & Breakfast (GB), www.bedbreak.com (1-800-454-8704), is offering accommodations in London starting at $28 per person per night (based on a seven-night stay). Accommodations outside London are even cheaper, starting at $25 per person per night (also based on a seven-night stay). Rooms with private baths are more, from around $48 per person.

HONG KONG VISITORS CENTER. The Hong Kong Tourist Association formally opened its Visitor Information & Services Center on Hong Kong Island at the Center at 99 Queen's Road, Central. The association's other information centers are on the Star Ferry concourse in Tsim Sha Tsui and at the airport. The visitors center in Central and in the airport have a wide range of literature as well as interactive kiosks and displays. The Central center is new public transport services including the Airport Express station and is an ideal starting point for walking tours on Hong Kong Island. It is close to the Heritage Trail.

ISRAEL'S ROADS LESS TRAVELED. You can drive Highway 1, a 40-mile expressway linking Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, in 45 minutes. Or, you can venture along the roads less traveled by taking one of the exits to see what lies beyond. For example, if you exit Highway 1 at Shaar hagai and follow Route 38 south, you'll come to Kibbutz Tzora, founded in the 1940s. It sells excellent fruits and vegetables, breads and cheese. You can also tour the flower-filled village.

Continue south on 38 to Bet Guvrin where you'll see caves that were built for storage some 1,500 years ago. Some of the caves are 4 feet high. Some are 50 feet high. Nearby, the city of Maresha, which was a major city 2,500 years ago, and the excavations of today's Tel Maresha reveal ruins of Israelite, Greek and Romand cities. An enormous underground chamber called the Columbarium is particularly impressive. The vast vault is in the shape of two crosses.

Route 375 off 38 swings east to the Valley of Elah, where young David slew the giant Goliath in a battle between the Israelites and the Philistines.

Before returning to Highway 1, make a right turn to Sorek Stalactite cave, one of the country's natural wonders. The cave, discovered in 1967 during blasting at a nearby quarry, has every known stalactite and stalagmite formation.

Back on Highway 1, 20 miles from Tel Aviv, an elegant building appears to the north. It's the Trappist monastery of Latrun. Tour the monastery as well as the nearby remnants of the Crusader castle of Le Toron des Chevaliers.

Back on Highway 1, going toward Jerusalem, the village of Abu Ghost is north of the expressway. The church, built in 1142, is one of the most beautiful Crusader buildings in Israel. The village's Monastery of the Ark recalls the site where the Ark of the Covenant rested for 20 years before being brought by King David to Jerusalem.

SO YOU WANT TO BE A DUDE. A new Web site www.ranchweb.com tells it all. Based on the book "Gene Kilgore's Ranch Vacations," it gives you the lowdown on dude/guest ranches, fly-fishing ranches, luxury ranches, spa ranches, children's ranches, cattle ranches, resort ranches and cross-country skiing ranches. If you prefer your information in hard copy, the book, with a suggested retail of $22.95, is available at bookstores near you.

WANT TO KNOW WHERE YOU ARE? JUST READ YOUR PALM. Lonely Planet has teamed up with Concept Kitchen, a leading provider of software and accessories for mobile computing, to launch city travel guides for handheld devices of Palm Computing. It works on the Handspring or the Palm OS Connected Organizer. The guide series is called CitySync. You can search and sort popular attractions and hotels, shops and restaurants. If you're looking for a moderately priced hotel in downtown San Francisco or a three-star restaurant on the Left Bank in Paris. Scrollable maps are integrated with the text. Each site is highlighted within the text. Download the CitySync cities via www.citysync.com, a joint site created by Lonely Planet and Concept Kitchen. The price is $19.99 per city. Cities that are available now are Chicago, Hong Kong, Las Vegas, Paris, San Francisco, Sydney, Los Angeles, New York, Bangkok, London, Miami and New Orleans. You'll need a PalmOS 3.0 or higher; Mac or WIndows desktop or laptop with sync cradle; Palm Desktop software 2.0 or later; 400-600k available device memory per city.

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