Scotlands Cities Feature The Travel & Leisure Magazine November 09


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Scotlands Cities Feature The Travel & Leisure Magazine November 09

  1. 1. on your DOORSTEP SCOTLAND’S CITIES I t was probably when I had been hugged by a stranger for around the 100th time, with my body warmed by whisky that made Edinburgh’s remarkable castle manage to shine even brighter in its snow-kissed beauty, that I decided there was no better place in the world to be for Hogmanay. As a native Scot, I have tried festive breaks in Australia, America and across on the continent, but nothing beats Scotland’s cities for a break over the festive season and For Scotsman Robin McKelvie, there’s no place like back on into the New Year. Hogmanay for many Scots is even more home in Scotland to celebrate Hogmanay, but he says its important than Christmas. This New Year’s welcoming cities make a great escape any time in winter Eve fiesta swirls in pagan traditions. On the Isle of Skye the hide from a beast killed during the day used to be burned, with every guest having to sniff the smoke to ward off evil spirits. Young boys cov- ered themselves with the hide of the bull, with the horns and hoofs still attached. Less gruesome tradi- P.Tomkins/VisitScotland/Scottish Viewpoint tions continue to this day. It used to be considered Glasgow City Marketing Bureau good luck for the “first footer” of the year to step into your house to be a dark-haired male stranger carrying a lump of coal, symbolising warmth and fuel. The ■ Main pic: Glasgow on Ice – St George Square. Inset: Ceilidh revellers November/December 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine 45
  2. 2. “first foot” spirit of friendliness is still alive in all of Scotland’s cities with visitors from all over the world welcome to join the party, a party that these days often starts in early December and runs right into the New Year. Plan early You will need to plan early if you want to enjoy a festive break up north. Edinburgh gets totally booked, while Glasgow can fol- low suit and Stirling, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness all get busy. The national tourist office, Visit Scotland, has a website von Essen Hotels ( that has links to all sorts of accommodation and a handy tip is to look at the suburbs too. ■ Dalhousie Castle Edinburgh is at the heart of the festive action. One of Europe’s most scenic cities, it Beyond Scotland’s cities is just made for strolling around. My favourite walk is starting at the landmark The countryside surrounding Scotland’s cities offers plenty to see and do off-season. castle and then easing down the cobbles of An easy trip from Glasgow and Stirling lies The Trossachs, an area of gentle rolling hills, the Royal Mile (which Daniel Defoe lofty mountains, forests, lochs and rivers I first discovered on a camping trip nearly 35 thought was the “finest street in the world”), years ago. In 2002, the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park became Scotland’s taking in the swathes of history, not to men- first national park, encompassing 720 square miles. tion bars, cafes and restaurants, en route to There are many inns and guesthouses to escape the cities for a night or two, and the Queen’s base when she is in town, the when I returned in late March this year I chose the friendly Inn & Bistro at Strathyre grand Palace of Holyrood. (, owned and run by Jill and Stephen Nixon. A tasty drop of Edinburgh is a city that is constantly evolv- one of the local brews washed down my favourite Scottish fare – haggis, neeps and ing and newer attractions include Our Dynamic tatties – left me refreshed after the long drive north from Essex and ready to explore. Earth, a hands-on multimedia trip through the Year-round activities include hill walking, horse riding, cycling (the Sustrans National earth’s history that is ideal for families. For Cycle Route Seven is on its doorstep) and golf, with great-value green fees at five grown-ups, Edinburgh now boasts four nearby courses through the National Park Golf Pass. Michelin star restaurants, with perhaps the The venerable Sir Walter Scott steam ship, which cruises Loch Katrine from early finest The Kitchin (, spring, is named after the author who popularised the region with his poems and novel with award-winning TV chef Tom Kitchin at Rob Roy 200 years ago.That romanticised the exploits of a local outlaw now celebrated the helm. Anyone who harbours any anachro- as a Scottish folk hero.The Rob Roy & Trossachs Visitor Centre in Callander showcases nistic images of Scotland as all tartan and his life and the region. shortbread will enjoy the branch of Harvey Among endearing local sights are shaggy-coated and long-horned Highland cattle, and Nichols and central Edinburgh’s newest street, one has become a star.You can see Hamish in his pen at the Trossachs Woollen Mill in Multrees Walk, which is replete with Armani, Kilmahog. Firetrap and Louis Vuitton. Wildlife abounds here and in other areas near the cities.The Trossachs Bird of Prey Aside from Hogmanay, Edinburgh’s Trail ( takes in buzzards, ospreys and Scotland’s only red Christmas ( kite feeding station, at Argaty, which is open throughout the winter. from November 28 to January 4 makes the I watched nesting ospreys from a hide at the beautiful Loch of the Lowes reserve in capital surely the most festive city in the UK. A Perthshire, where they visit from March or April until August. Cute red squirrels Ferris wheel burls visitors around the skyline, gallivanted just yards away. Pine martens and even otters can also be seen here. while below the bountiful stalls of a Christmas At the historic Dalhousie Castle hotel near Edinburgh, the Dalhousie Castle Falconry market and an ice rink in the shadow of the cas- ( offers first-hand experience of birds of tle help add to the seasonal mood. prey with a five-day falconry course as well as displaying hawks, falcons, eagles and owls. Peter Ellegard Street party Less than an hour by train from Edinburgh is Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city and cur- rently one of Europe’s hippest city-break destinations. Their Hogmanay street party is a rival for Edinburgh these days and the city’s new image as “Scotland with Style” is Peter Ellegard Peter Ellegard not just a tourist slogan. Glasgow 2009-style has reinvented its lavish Georgian centre with myriad chic designer shops, slick bars ■ The Inn & Bistro at Strathyre ■ A red squirrel at the Loch of the Lowes and quality restaurants. The Glaswegian action flows around cen- 46 The Travel & Leisure Magazine November/December 2009
  3. 3. VisitScotland/Scottish Viewpoint ■ Stirling Castle after a snowfall P.Tomkins/VisitScotland/Scottish Viewpoint ■ The Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow ■ The Glasgow School of Art VisitScotland/Scottish Viewpoint tral George Square, a plaza as impressive out the tourists, especially at this time of as any in the UK, which is the centre- year, while most Scots prefer the castle piece in mid-November when the city’s here to Edinburgh’s. The hallowed Christmas lights are switched on and names of William “Braveheart” Winterfest follows suit. Wallace and Robert the Bruce echo From here, a flurry of world-class around the ramparts, while the striking galleries and museums are within easy Wallace Monument strides out reach, including the Kelvingrove, the amongst a panorama of mighty moun- most-visited museum in the UK out- tains. Stirling also boasts a pedestri- side London, and the locals’ choice, anised shopping district and easy the thrillingly-unique Burrell access into the hilly Trossachs. Collection – an eclectic art collection reclining in woodland in the city’s leafy Underrated suburbs. Europe’s oil capital, Aberdeen, is for me I reckon Glasgow also offers the best a criminally-underrated city, even shopping in the UK outside London. The amongst Scots. Its core is a riot of granite main thoroughfare of Buchanan Street is – hence its nickname, the “Granite City” – pedestrianised and there are covered malls for and the city has also won innumerable when the weather sweeps in, such as Buchanan awards for its famous flower displays, Galleries, with all the usual high street stores, which brighten up all that mighty grey gran- and Princes Square, an oasis of designer names ite. It boasts sweeping sandy beaches that that would not be out of place in Milan. ■ Traditional Music in the are ideal for bracing winter strolls, a flurry Scotland’s newest city, Stirling, is as Royal Mile Tavern, Edinburgh of museums and chic restaurants that are deeply historic as Edinburgh. The old town geared up to all that oil wealth. reminds me of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile with- P.Tomkins/VisitScotland/Scottish Viewpoint Scotland’s other two cities also tempt at November/December 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine 47
  4. 4. this time of year. Dundee has bracing beach- ■ View of Edinburgh es of its own, a pedestrianised shopping from Carlton Hill precinct, the striking RRS Discovery (the P.Tomkins/VisitScotland/Scottish Viewpoint ship that once took Captain Scott to the Antarctic) and the scenic Angus Glens on its doorstep. Inverness, meanwhile, is the “Capital of the Highlands” with a good chance of snow. Its famous monster-haunted loch lies nearby and its namesake River Ness also eases through the city, adding charm, with a fairytale castle nestling high above and some impressively-stylish restaurants on In Scotland these days, though, there are Robin McKelvie is a travel writer based hand in Scotland’s fastest growing city. another five buzzing cities that all make seri- in his native Scotland who has had his fair As a native of Edinburgh I have to stand ous efforts to conjure up the festive spirit, share of rather merry whisky-fuelled by my city as being number one for a festive hold wildly-fun Hogmanay parties and make New Year parties around the world, but who knows that there is only one break, home to the world’s finest New Year for an ideal city break over the festive period Hogmanay. party and the nation’s number one city break. and in to the cosy winter months beyond. TL Hogmanay events Scotland’s cities facts Edinburgh: Edinburgh’s Hogmanay 2010 Getting there Action-packed 5 day programme with Numerous airlines fly to Scottish cities including British Airways Madness and the Noisettes performing at (, Flybe (, Ryanair ( and the Concert in the Gardens on Hogmanay. Easyjet ( fastest way of getting to the Scottish cities by train is usually with National ■ Edinburgh P.Tomkins/VisitScotland/Scottish Viewpoint Express East Coast Glasgow: Glasgow Hogmanay ( Celebrations Enjoy Scotland’s hottest acts, including Accommodation Tommy Reilly, on the Big Stage and then Hotels span a wide range of price brackets. Here marvel at the impressive fireworks display on are some options, from luxury to more affordable: George Square. Edinburgh:The Howard (, Mercure Point Hotel ( Stirling: Stirling’s Hogmanay: Party at the Glasgow: The newly-opened, luxury Blythswood Square Castle (, Malmaison ( Massed pipes and drums, Sandi Thom, Stirling: Adamo Hotel (, Park Lodge Hotel X Factor stars the Macdonald Brothers, and ( Stars in their Eyes winner for his Freddie Aberdeen: Marcliffe (, Simpson’s Mercury impersonation, Gary Mullen, plus ( fireworks. Dundee: Apex Hotel (, Queen’s Hotel ( Inverness: Rocpool (, Heath Mountain Hotel Aberdeen: Aberdeen’s Winter Festival ( Hogmanay Final details still to be announced. Top attractions Edinburgh: Edinburgh Castle (, National Museum ( Inverness: Inverness Hogmanay – Red Glasgow: Kelvingrove Gallery (, Burrell Hot Highland Fling Collection ( Bringing the Inverness Winter Festival to a Stirling: Stirling Castle (, Old Town Jail close in Northern Meeting Park Arena with ( the effervescent Red Hot Chilli Pipers, the Aberdeen: Aberdeen Art Gallery (, Aberdeen Maritime Blazin’ Fiddles and the Peatbog Faeries. Museum ( Dundee: Discovery Point (, Dundee Contemporary Arts ( Dundee: Inverness: Inverness Castle (, Culloden Battlefield No official events yet announced, but always ( a party night in a city dense with bars and clubs. More information Visit Scotland: 48 The Travel & Leisure Magazine November/December 2009