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Vow factor

Water wonder My winter

THEY THEE WED Don’t miss our expert guide to the most romantic Scottish wedding destinations

GREAT GLEN Spectacular scenery, excellent food and plenty of exercise makes the perfect Highland journey

GORDON BUCHANAN How a cold night in the Cairngorms can be as exciting as a day tracking tigers in the jungle

highlands & islands airports




Hoarding shoes, enjoying long walks with her dog and eating plenty of chocolate are Christina’s keys to happiness. Based in Dundee, she’s a freelance style writer and also editor of Scottish Wedding Directory magazine – so she’s ideally qualified, along with colleague Natasha Radmehr, to advise on how to make your Highland wedding as perfect as can be.

WELCOME … to the winter issue of aurora, the magazine for all customers of Highlands and Islands Airports. We work hard to provide the best possible service at our 11 airports – located at Barra,


A gamekeeper for nearly four decades, Alex chairs the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, which represents 5,300 gamekeepers, ghillies, stalkers, wildlife managers and rangers working on country estates and wild land across Scotland. For this issue of aurora he shares his views on how best to safeguard the future of threatened wading birds. JUDE SLANN

Having enjoyed success in Scotland’s publishing sector, Jude traded the windy streets of Edinburgh for the heat of Dubai, where she’s thriving in a media sales role and remotely following the fortunes of her beloved West Bromwich Albion FC. Dubai is easily reached from Inverness, so Jude offers her insider’s guide to what is perhaps the world’s most dynamic city. GORDON BUCHANAN

The wildlife on this hugely successful film-maker’s native Mull is pretty exciting – though he never had an encounter with a polar bear there, as he did in northern Norway. He’s known for his coverage of animals in far-flung countries such as Kenya, Burma and Papua New Guinea. But for aurora he recalls some magic moments in the Cairngorms.

Benbecula, Campbeltown, Dundee, Inverness, Islay, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Sumburgh, Tiree and Wick John O’Groats. Whether you’re arriving or departing, we aim to entertain you with a mix of articles on Scotland and beyond. Andrew Ross takes a fresh look at the Great Glen, where the landscape, wildlife and leisure options are superb, and he has found the perfect way to enjoy them – from the deck of a luxury barge. Dubai’s attractions are many – constant sun and blue sky, beaches, pools, luxury shops and restaurants aplenty. For the inside story, we turn to Jude Slann, who swapped Edinburgh for the Gulf seven years ago. Dubai is easily reached from Inverness, with KLM flights via Amsterdam taking 12 to 14 hours. Check-in luggage is booked through to the final destination – so as well as an easy transfer, KLM baggage allowances apply from Inverness. Tickets are from £350 return. Weddings require careful planning, but they also need imagination. Our Scottish wedding feature is full of information and ideas. Whichever of our airports you’re using today, have a good journey and enjoy your magazine. Inglis Lyon, Managing Director Highlands & Islands Airports Limited

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AWARD-WINNER Scottish Customer Magazine of the Year


Air travellers’ magazine winter 2014 Volume 5 number 4 Managing editor Editor Designer Advertising executive

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Neil Braidwood Don Currie Fiona Wilson Hayley Orr

0131 556 2220 CONTRIBUTORS Tom Bruce-Gardyne, Gordon Buchanan, Michael Gill, Jim Dunn, Alex Hogg, Marie-Helene Jeeves, Christina Lindsay-Miller, Natasha Radmehr, Rob Robertson, Lindsey Rogerson, Andrew Ross, Jude Slann

FOR HIGHLANDS & ISLANDS AIRPORTS LTD Megan Westmoreland 01667 464212

Dubai – with a twist


Aurora magazine (ISSN: 1759-9717) is published four times a year by CMYK Design. The magazine is free to airport users. Follow us on Twitter: @aurora_mag CMYK Design, 91 East London Street, Edinburgh EH7 4BQ. Tel: 0131 556 2220. Email: Web: © CMYK Design 2014 Please note that unsolicited manuscripts are not accepted. Material in this publication may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission. Editorial material and opinions expressed in aurora do not reflect the views of Highlands & Islands Airports Ltd or the publisher. Highlands & Islands Airports Ltd and the publisher do not accept responsibility for the advertising content. Products and services are subject to change without prior notice. Highlands & Islands Airports Ltd, Inverness Airport, Inverness IV2 7JB Printed in the UK by Pensord

See the Great Glen the active way highlands & islands airports

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Our cover



06 News

14 Winter thrills

Find out what’s happening in your region and beyond

Festivals, events and shows galore provide plenty of warmth through the chilly months to come

10 The big picture Dubai’s stunning skyline changes all the time – but the local fauna has thrived there for thousands of years.

Sheep tracks in the snow make a fine sight – when seen from above

13 Viewpoint Wild birds owe much to efforts of gamekeepers, Alex Hogg argues

Competition An overnight stay and dinner for two at The Bonham, a luxury boutique hotel in the heart of Edinburgh, page 37


34 Drink Sometimes, blended whisky is best, writes Tom Bruce-Gardyne

36 Sport

18 Well wed

Football a man’s game? Not any more, argues Rob Robertson

Scotland has some great wedding venues, write Christina LindsayMiller and Natasha Radmehr

38 Motoring

This Panda moves faster than you’d expect, Jim Dunn discovers

40 Money Commonwealth Games equals cash, says Lindsey Rogerson

43 Essentials All you need to know about wherever you’re flying today

50 My winter For Gordon Buchanan, no jungle beats a night in the Highlands

24 Gulf gem Its skyline is dazzling, its energy endless. But above all, Dubai is great fun, writes Jude Slann

29 Deck delight Barges are no byword for luxury – but that could change, thanks to superb tours in the Great Glen. Andrew Ross investigates




Cheese unique ORKNEY Scottish Island Cheddar has won recognition from the European Union – giving it the same protection against imitators that was lately extended to Stornoway black pudding. The popular cheese is renowned for its distinctive taste and unique “dry-stir” production methods. Tim Deakin, general manager at the creamery outside Kirkwall, said: “We are delighted to receive protected

geographical indication status, in recognition of the fact that Orkney Cheddar is produced with locally sourced milk following a traditional recipe and process.” The creamery was built after the Second World War on the site of an RAF base. The departure of 60,000 servicemen and women left a surplus of milk, so dairy farmers decided to join forces to produce the cheese.

Dutch delights WINTER is a great time for a mini-break – and if you’re keen on fashion, Amsterdam is a fine destination. Shopping for high-end clothes and jewellery on PC Hooftstraat – or even window-shopping – is excellent, and 2014 starts with two extra reasons for a visit. Amsterdam Fashion Week, from 1727 January, enlivens an already buzzing city, with catwalk shows and events galore. Just 30 miles down the road in The Hague, the Gemeentemuseum has an exhibition called The Chanel Legend until 2 February. It tells the story of how the most revered designer of them all – seen in this classic photograph (far right) by Man Ray – revolutionised the way 20th-century women dressed. Daily flights with flybe connect Inverness and Amsterdam. See

Lerwick Brewery, Shetland’s newest craft beer producer, is brewing two beers specially for top-flight football club St Mirren, in Paisley. Buddie Lager and Buddie Beer, so called because the club is nicknamed the Buddies, will be sold at the club’s bars, and 20p from every sale will go to club funds. The beers can also be bought as a 12box pack from Paisley company The Real Ale Warehouse, who will deliver free to addresses in Renfrewshire and Glasgow. The brewery has also signed a range of distribution deals to put its flagship beers, 60° North and Skipper’s Ticket, in shops all over the country.

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Rocky island MUSIC fans will be descending on the Isle of Eigg (population 83) in summer for a new festival, Howlin’ Fling. It’s happening over the weekend of 18-20 July, with the support of Homecoming Scotland. It’s organised by Lost Map Records, run by Eigg resident Johnny Lynch, who performs as the Pictish Trail – below. Ticket holders will be ferried across from the mainland, and immersed in what is predicted to be “a veritable cavalcade of sonic splendour”. Music will start on the Friday evening, continue all day Saturday, and into Sunday, after which there’ll be a bonfire and sing-a-long. Festival goers will be encouraged to explore the island, too, with beach trips and treks up the Sgurr.

Glasgow photographer Oscar Marzaroli was a genius whose pictures vividly document the city and its people. Waiting for the Magic is a sumptuous collection including some familiar images, such as the cover shot, and others never published before. His widow, Anne, has written a touching introduction. Birlinn, £25

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In the dark COLL has become Scotland’s second Dark Sky location following a decision by the International Dark Sky Association that should boost tourist numbers. The island has been named Scotland’s first Dark Sky Community, joining Galloway forest, which is a Dark Sky Park. Both are classed as excellent places to look at the night skies, because of their low levels of light pollution. The designation follows years of effort by the Coll Dark Skies Group, which carried out an audit of all outside lights on the island, and adjusted or refitted some in order to enhance the conditions for stargazers. There are only 22 Dark Sky destinations in the world, two of the others being in England, one in Wales and one in the Channel Islands. Tony Oliver, one of the island’s astronomy enthusiasts, said: “In my first winter on Coll I was in awe of the night sky – it’s on a par with many of the high Arctic regions I’d visited. Soon I discovered Coll had some real stargazers, which eventually led, over many pints, to where we are today. The island community is very nature-aware and needed little encouragement to offer support. Now we have the opportunity to share our darkness with others.”

Campbeltown Picture House, 100 years old last year, has won a £51,400 in Lottery cash for conservation work on its art nouveau interior. The Heritage Lottery Fund also awarded the renovation project a first-round pass for a further £804,900, which means outline proposals are being considered along with projects elsewhere.

Spirit of adventure SWEDISH whisky distiller Grythyttan plans to move production to Orkney during 2014 – and it has appointed former Highland Park distillery manager Jim Robertson as senior adviser for the proposed Longship distillery. The company said: “Jim’s long and fruitful experiences in combination with his excellent contacts in the whisky business will be of great value for the shareholders of both Grythyttan and Longship.” Mr Robertson spent 13 years at William Grant & Sons before his 10 years at Highland Park. Details of the plans remain incomplete, but it is hoped production will start in May, and a share issue has been announced.

SCOTTISH wildcats are becoming ever more scarce – but the Highland Wildlife Park, at Kincraig, is doing its best to help the species survive. It is hoped that two wildcat kittens born there will go on to play a part in the conservation breeding programme that is part of the new Scottish Wildcat Conservation Action Plan. Douglas Richardson, head of living collections at the park, said: “The plan is for an aggressively managed breeding programme, running alongside a wide range of other wildcat conservation initiatives that will eventually turn the

Harris Tweed Hebrides, the main manufacturer of the renowned cloth, achieved a 25 per cent increase in orders in 2013. Ian Angus MacKenzie, chief executive of the company, based at Shawbost, Lewis, said: “We saw a big surge in orders late in the year, which means we now have a very strong platform for 2014.”


Born to be wild

tide for the species.” Experts are divided on the number of animals left in the wild, but all agree they are under threat – not from habitat loss or persecution, but from hybridisation through mating with domestic cats. The two kittens were named Ness and Einich, in keeping with the park’s tradition of naming wildcats after lochs.

See the best of Italy and Croatia in 2014, flying direct from Inverness, with Newmarket Holidays. In October the company is offering flights to the beautiful and energetic southern city of Naples, with a choice of tours taking in the stunning Amalfi coast and the treasures of Tuscany. Book now at

Famous firearm JRR TOLKIEN’S novels are full of conflict – but he was no stranger to the real thing. His First World War revolver, which he used at the Battle of the Somme, has gone on display in the Imperial War Museum North, in Manchester, ahead of its exhibition, ‘From Street to Trench – a War that Shaped a Region’, opening in April to mark the war’s centenary. Tolkien was a Second Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers, and spent three months in the front-line trenches at the Somme before becoming ill with trench fever and being sent home to recuperate. He went on to write The Hobbit, currently packing out cinemas with part two of Peter Jackson’s blockbuster trilogy. Entry to the museum, below, is free, and it’s one of many attractions in the city, which can be reached by frequent direct flights from Inverness.

Islay is to host a bizarre sporting challenge in April – one that combines a golf tournament and a marathon. The Lords of the Isles Challenge on 12-13 April involves playing a round of golf at the Machrie course and, next day, a 26.2-mile run round the island. See for details.





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SHEEP DROP A LOFTY viewpoint reveals patterns that would never be noticed at ground level – and these sheep tracks on a farm in Fife are a classic example. If you look closely you can spot the sheep that made them – any advance on 11? Michael Gill, a microlight user, took the wintry shot from an altitude of about 1,000 feet. He had taken off from East Fortune, in East Lothian, and crossed the Firth of Forth before turning west towards Kelty, near which this picture was taken. Then, having obtained permission from Edinburgh air traffic control, he flew back to his starting point, passing over Edinburgh Airport, the city centre and Musselburgh. It was a cold day, but as Michael says, quoting Billy Connolly: “There’s no such thing as bad weather – only the wrong clothes.” When not up in the sky taking pictures, Michael is a designer – see






HAVE been a gamekeeper in Scotland close to 40 years. I feel privileged to have played a role in managing the wildlife and the landscape that national tourism agency VisitScotland tells us international visitors associate so readily with Scotland. Part of the joy in being involved in gamekeeping, which is hard work in heat, hail or storm, is hearing the distinctive call of the curlew on the moorland as you go about your tasks. That is why in 2014, the Scottish Gamekeepers Association, which I chair, is dedicating the year to saving threatened wading birds such as the curlew, the lapwing, the golden plover and the oystercatcher. We are lucky when it comes to seeing and hearing these feathered visitors in spring. Our workplace is not concrete, steel or glass, it encompasses vast acres from the river to the high mountain tops. Because we legally control abundant predators such as foxes, carrion crows, stoats and weasels (which prey on lesser, more vulnerable ground-nesting birds), we still hear the call of the curlew loud and clear as we go about our chores. Other areas, where gamekeepers are not present, are not so fortunate. At certain times of the year, we burn strips of heather using controlled fire – a proven habitat management practice known as muirburn. When the heather grows back, it provides nutritional food for iconic sporting species such as red grouse. It nurtures the black grouse, which is recovering well on keepered ground. The cover provided by the older strips of managed heather is perfect for wading birds to raise their young, knowing their chicks are safer. I often refer to gamekeepers as the doctors and nurses of the countryside, giving the smaller and more vulnerable creatures a chance to thrive. Where I live, in the Scottish Borders, the dawn chorus

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around me in the early morning is amazing. First, you’ll hear the black grouse, then the skylarks and the oystercatchers and the rest join in. For an hour or so, it’s like a natural choir. As a gamekeeper, I carry the tools of my trade in my Land Rover. I am also a keen photographer, though, so I try to have a camera close at hand, when I can. One of the things I really enjoy is taking photographs of the curlew chicks and showing them. It means a lot to me. Part of the reason for that is that gamekeeping is not like being a builder or a manufacturer, where you can see the results of your efforts fairly quickly. What we do is for the long-haul so, when I see chicks being born on our ground, and surviving, I know I am succeeding. The latest BTO Breeding Bird Survey tells us, however, that both curlew and lapwing have declined 56 per cent in Scotland in only 17 years. Golden plover, also still present in good numbers on our keepered hills, have declined 18 per cent in the same period. That is why we feel, as gamekeepers, the time to act is now. The Scottish Gamekeepers Association has asked all Scottish moorland keepers to record their wading bird populations at two crucial points in 2014. This research will help us to identify the populations we have on keepered ground and show people how the management techniques we deploy can be rolled out to help wading birds elsewhere. A nine-year study by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust showed that wading birds breed three times more successfully on land with gamekeepers. Our moorlands are still havens for these birds and the call of the curlew still echoes here. We want to ensure that continues.





CELTIC C ONNECTIO NS Various ve nues, Glasg o 16 Janua ry-2 Febru w ary www.celti cconnecti

Amadou an d Mariam (pictured le have had ft) perhaps th e most dra rise to fam matic e of any A frican artist they’re an s, and undoubted highlight this year’s o n bill. Soul su perstar Bo Womack is bby among oth er big nam with other es, s to look o ut for incl glamtastic uding Irish singe r Imelda M Canadian ay, country ch anteuse Lin Ortega an di d lively Raj asthani percussion ist Bungar Manganiy plus homeg ar, rown favo urites such the Peatbo as g Faeries an d Salsa Cel (above). T ti ca he festival has a classi star in the ca l form of vi olinist Nic Benedetti, ola who team s up with giants of th three e acoustic scene, Juli Fowlis, Ph e il Cunningh am and Aly Bain, to un veil music from her forthcomin g Scottish-t hemed alb um.

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FOOD ON FILM Various venues, Kingussie 30 January-2 February The success of this unique festival never ceases to amaze. Kingussie is quite a lot smaller than Cannes, Venice or Toronto, yet it manages to host a film festival every bit as appealing in its way as those held in the above cities. And not just any old film festival – one that celebrates food, and culinary connections with cinema. Pennie Latin, BBC radio presenter and keen foodie (right), will be hosting proceedings in the Food Hall, where chef Lydie Bocquillon (left), of the Auld Alliance restaurant in Kingussie, will be demonstrating her techniques, honed in Burgundy. Duncan Chisholm, of La Tortilla Asesina in Inverness, will be revealing his tapas secrets, and films include Pedro Amodovar’s superbly quirky Volver, the Japanese comedy Tampopo and, from France, the distinctly dark Delicatessen.

FORT WILLIAM MOUNTAIN FESTIVAL The Nevis Centre 19-23 February Hill runners, climbers, walkers, photographers and anyone who likes to sit back and gaze upon awesome big-screen landscapes will find plenty to enjoy in this festival. There’s a ‘best of’ showcase of films from the renowned Banff festival in Canada, plus illustrated talks by photographer Nadir Khan and climbers Sandy Allen and Mick Fowler.




S GY INVERNES GLOBAL ENER ON H HALF-MARAT Inverness 9 March .uk www.invernessh y ons are relentlessl Some half-marath on t ou e entirely urban, others ar strikes a roads. This one l ra ru t ep windsw e going much of the rout happy medium, ty of en pl but including through the city ll we s ay ry, too. It’s alw riverside greene d an n ru n fu ere’s a 5k supported and th n’t do o wh e os th r o, fo 5k team event, to miles. 13 ng kli tac cy fan


WINTER WORDS Pitlochry Festival Theat re 14-23 February www.pitlochryfestivalthe


HANSEL & GRETEL Eden Court, Inverness 22-25 January The Grimm Brothers’ magical tale of children missing in an enchanted forest is brought to life in this magnificent Scottish Ballet production, directed and choreographed by Christopher Hampson, with gorgeous set and costumes by Gary Harris. Picture shows Eve Mutso, Sophie Martin and Constant vigier. Also at His Majesty’s, Aberdeen, 15-18 January.

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This very appealing fest ival, celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, has built up a loyal audience with its great mix of writers, from literary to comic, from adventurous to controversial. Some are household names, others are waiting to be discovered. This year’s crop includes broadcaste r Sally Magnusson (right) , mountaineer Chris Bonington, singer, photographer and Beatle’s brother Mike McCartney (above right), and bedsitland pop heroine Tracy Thorn (above left).





IRST THINGS FIRST: don’t rush into anything! Sit back and enjoy the excitement of being engaged for a few weeks, and, instead of diving into the world of wedding planning headfirst, start thinking about the type of wedding you want. Discuss options with your other half and agree on the size of the wedding and, of course, your budget. Knowing how many guests you have and how much money there is to spend will give you the best starting point possible. If an intimate affair is what you’re after, consider going al fresco. Small weddings lend themselves well to marquees and barns with beautiful gardens, which are popular just now thanks to the trend for all things vintage, while private dining also works really well for smaller numbers. Marquees are also great for larger weddings, and are often in the spacious grounds of a luxury hotel or country house. If your numbers are somewhere in the middle, country houses, such as Achnagairn House, near Inverness, can usually be hired exclusively for your wedding party, combining the privacy of a small wedding with the grandeur of a large one.

Flexible Whichever venue you go for, it will act as the backdrop to your theme or style so it’s important to choose your venue accordingly. For example, Innes House in Elgin is perfect for a large marquee wedding, perhaps with a whimsical theme (they have a garden inside their marquee), while Lodge on Loch Lomond is the perfect setting for small weddings beside the water. Or perhaps you’ve fallen in love with a venue already and plan to style your day • WINTER 2014

around it? If so, you might have to be flexible on dates – especially if your wedding is taking place within a year of your engagement – as popular venues can be booked as far as three years in advance. Don’t panic, though; if you have plenty of time before the big day it’s likely that the date you want will be available, or simply pick a Sunday or weekday, which allows more chance of securing your dream venue at the time of year you want, and is often more affordable, too. So, the basics are in place – you’ve secured the date and a venue to suit your wedding – but don’t feel pressured into booking other suppliers just yet. Take time to flick through bridal magazines, wedding blogs and pore over real life weddings, all of which will provide endless inspiration and ideas for your big day. Sign up to Pinterest, a free online social media tool which acts as a moodboard, letting you find and “pin” different images to your boards which you can later share with your chosen suppliers to help them understand what your vision is.

Vibe Once you feel confident in your ideas, it’s time to start thinking about the primary aspects of wedding planning. At this stage, think of it as an event you’re hosting rather than the most special day of your life, which can often leave brides feeling stressed. By treating the first few stages of wedding planning simply as an event to organise, you’ll find it easier to look at things objectively and plan ahead. For any important event, you’ll need two important things: catering and entertainment.




Catering is often taken care of by your venue, especially if it’s a hotel or country house, but more and more couples are choosing alternative venues that require external caterers to be brought in. Either way, think about the food you enjoy (your day should reflect you as a couple), so if you love BBQs, why not have steak, with veggie burgers for vegetarians? Hog roasts are excellent for marquee weddings and add to the outdoorsy vibe of garden weddings, with fresh salads, homemade coleslaw and rustic loaves of bread – just the ticket for festival lovers. As for your entertainment, anything goes – there really is something for every couple out there. A DJ provides endless options, genre-wise, and ensures that all eras can be covered, from the roaring Twenties to Nineties dance tunes. Live bands will cover both old and new music (think Ratpack and Michael Buble through to the Beatles and Kings of Leon), while a ceilidh band is guaranteed to get your guests up on the dancefloor. The fun doesn’t stop there – why not have a string quartet or harpist during your drinks reception, or even a giant game of Jenga or chess? Photobooths are also a popular and trendy way to entertain guests while you have your photos taken, and they provide great memories after the day.

Relax Now that your caterers and entertainment are booked, it’s time to start thinking of your day as a wedding again. You’ll need a great photographer to capture your special day, so it’s best to choose a professional wedding photographer who has experience in relaxing

stressed bridezillas and working smiles out of huffy flowergirls. Wedding photographers have very different styles, so make sure you do your research and choose a photographer whose work you like. Many photographers have websites and blogs where you can view their work and a good photographer will meet you before the wedding to discuss your thoughts and explain the process and what they can offer. On the day, your photographer will act as director and will guide you through your photographs, so you can relax in the knowledge that if you like their style and they’ve confirmed your date, all is well. From here on in is where the fun stuff starts. It’s time to start ordering those all-important extras, the bits that make your wedding individual. It might be that you’ve already chosen you and your bridesmaids’ dresses, but it is worthwhile making any spa appointments now and organising trial runs for hair and make-up. Meet with florists to find out what they can do for your bouquets and centrepieces (unless you fancy something different, such as indoor fireworks!) and look into hiring a wedding co-ordinator on the day, which will save you worrying about chair covers when you should be relaxing. Tiny details, such as wedding signage, favours and where to put your cards and gifts are worth considering, so that they catch the eye of your guests. It might be that you fancy a dozen white balloons for your photos, or an owl as your ring bearer – the options are endless. This stage of wedding planning is where your earlier research comes to life, so it’s worth keeping a scrapbook with all your ideas during the final weeks on the run-up to the big day. Having a summer wedding? Why not serve Pimms in mini bottles with fresh fruit and stripy straws? Or is it a winter wedding? Then give Christmas baubles as favours. There really is a wealth of opportunities when planning your big day and it’s the little things that make your wedding yours. The most important thing to remember when organising your wedding? Have fun! In association with Scottish Wedding Directory,





Eilean Donan Castle, Kintail 01599 555202 World-renowned Eilean Donan is one of the most visited castles in the Highlands; perfect for couples who want to marry in a spectacular, historic, setting. Standing resplendent on its own little island at the meeting point of three sea lochs, the castle – reached by a footbridge – overlooks the Isle of Skye and boasts magnificent views, making for incredible wedding photographs. Ceremonies can be held in the Banqueting Hall (capacity 90 people) or outside in the courtyard, but because the castle has no catering facilities, your evening reception would take place at a nearby hotel.

Achnagairn House, Inverness-shire 08450 574212 Fancy having the run of a lavish Edwardian mansion for your wedding day? Then five-star Achnagairn House will be right up your street. Couples can hire the venue for their exclusive use and it can play host to intimate weddings for 10 people as well as big celebrations with up to 260 guests, its 24 luxury bedrooms providing accommodation for up to 55 people. You’ll find yourself marvelling at the opulent interiors: from the oak-

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panelled walls and minstrels’ gallery in the vaulted ballroom to the sumptuous furnishings, which came from London’s Savoy hotel.

Bogbain Farm, Inverness 01463 772800 Cute and quirky Bogbain Farm comprises three areas: The Barn, an atmospheric space with stone walls and high timber beams, which is an ideal spot for ceremonies as well as dancing in the evening; The Byre, considered the hub of the venue with its Saloon bar and peat-fired stove; and The Bothy, a charming room with an accordion collection, cocktail bar and wine-crate-style floor, where evening meals can be served to up to 120 guests. Decorated with fairy lights and straw bales, this venue will appeal to stylish couples who like to do things a little differently.

Assynt House, Ross-shire 01349 832923 Planning an intimate wedding with only your nearest and dearest in attendance? Assynt House, at Evanton, is a family-owned Georgian property which can cater for up to 44 guests (though there is space in the garden for a marquee if you’d like to have a larger party), with a

beautiful location set amid rolling hills and verdant woodland. This venue only hosts a handful of weddings every year so you’ll get a highly personalised level of service from owners Graham and Elizabeth Waugh, who will even create a bespoke menu for you. Weddings are priced individually depending on your requirements.

Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness 01463 257102 If a luxurious hotel is more your bag, the Kingsmills is bound to impress: this four-star establishment comprises a restored 18th-century building set within four acres of landscaped grounds, and even boasts a spa. There are several wedding packages to suit different budgets, as well as rooms that can accommodate weddings large and small (from four up to 300 guests). All full-day wedding packages include red carpet arrival, champagne welcome for the bride and groom, personalised menus and table plan, master of ceremonies, linen, complimentary room hire for the wedding breakfast and evening reception, plus lots more.

Arta, Glasgow 0141 552 2101 Although it’s in the heart of Glasgow’s Merchant City, stepping inside Arta is like being transported to a sumptuous Spanish hacienda. From its sweeping staircase surrounded by vibrant flowers to the charming statues that feature throughout the venue’s three floors, the décor is truly breathtaking; both glamorous and tasteful. There are six function rooms to choose from, with a maximum capacity of 200 guests, and the wedding packages can be tailored to suit your requirements. You’ll also have your own dedicated wedding co-ordinator on hand to guide you through every step of the planning process, making it blissfully stress-free.

Cameron House on Loch Lomond 01389 755565 Luxurious and modern but with Scottish tradition at its heart, Cameron House (capacity 200 guests) is a fivestar resort by the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond. It’s 30 minutes’ drive from Glasgow but it feels worlds apart from the bustle of the city thanks to its peaceful waterside setting and gorgeous grounds, which incorporate an awardwinning golf course and spa. Following your ceremony in either the Lomond Suite or The Morning Room and Library, you could sneak off with your other half to enjoy the views from the venue’s fabulous seaplane before dining in the evening on the delicious locally sourced produce on which Cameron House prides itself.

The Signet Library, Edinburgh 0131 225 0651 The Signet Library, on Edinburgh’s Parliament Square, is a real hidden gem – many citizens of the capital have walked past it hundreds of times without realising. But it’s the kind of place you’ll never forget once you’ve been inside. The elegant Lower Library makes a stunning ceremony setting, with its long aisle and beautiful bookcases, and the grand staircase provides a wonderful backdrop for wedding photographs. The Upper Library is a breathtakingly grand space – King George IV called it “the finest drawing room in Europe” – and can hold up to 220 guests for your wedding meal and evening reception.

The Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh 0131 552 1974 One of the best things about getting married in Scotland is the fact that you can legally hold your ceremony outdoors, which isn’t possible in England and Wales. Where better to do it than the 70 acres of manicured lawns, landscaped grounds and gardens that make up the gorgeous RBGE? Exchange vows in the John Muir Grove (capacity 100 people) amidst the redwood trees and rhododendrons or, if it rains, in the Caledonian Hall (capacity 120 people); a beautifully fresh space that overlooks the famous rock garden and waterfalls. Then party the evening away in the John Hope Gateway, where you’ll find rooms to suit small and large weddings.

Prestonfield House, Edinburgh 0131 225 7800 This is a five-star boutique hotel with plush interiors; think Baroque-inspired designs, carefully selected antiques and lots of velvet, all conspiring to create a decadent, romantic ambience. Six function rooms ensure that all wedding types are catered for, from the Italian Room that seats 40 for a ceremony and 24 for dinner, to the Circular Stables where parties from 120 to 500 guests can be accommodated. Couples can hire the venue exclusively, and foodies will love the locally sourced fare served up in Prestonfield’s awardwinning restaurant, Rhubarb. Divine. 

Natasha Radmehr





an insider’s guide


Burj Khalifa. Facing page: Children’s City; entrance to the theatre at Madinat Souk; Dubai Airport

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UBAI has been my home for more than seven years, and I’ve got to know it well. I hope these 10 personal highlights will help you enjoy your trip to my adopted city of over 200 nationalities. For such a young city – it was a small port until the 1960s – it has much to offer. Now that it has won Expo 2020, Dubai will go into overdrive to prepare for the event, since it is estimated that 17.5 million people from all over the world – more than 300,000 a day – will visit.

Dubai Airport This is one busy airport, and queues on arrival can be long, so I suggest you book an escort with Marhaba Services. From as little as £17 you will be met and escorted through passport control, bypassing the queues. It’s an excellent option for disabled, elderly or nervous passengers as your escort will help at the baggage carousel, go with you through customs and even arrange a pick-up to avoid queuing for a taxi. Many visitors ask about drinking alcohol in Dubai. It’s available, but only in licensed bars and restaurants

in certain hotels, and can be very expensive. So I’d recommend a visit to one of the duty-free shops in the airport to use your allowance – 4 litres of still wine, a litre of spirits and 16 litres of beer. Double check your allowance in the duty-free shop. In the city, the only shops selling drink are governmentprovided stores to which tourists have no access.




Dubai Marina at dusk and, from left, Dubai Mall, a Metro station and a tour of the Creek

Dubai Marine Beach Resort While we’re on the subject of enjoying a tipple, this is one of the nicest places to do so. You are right by the beach, so you can have Sundowners and watch the waves before tucking into some splendid Italian fare at Capanna Nuova. At this relatively vintage resort – it dates way back to 1989 – you can also choose from Arabic, Cuban, Japanese and Thai fare. There are some clubs, including an Arabic fusion place called Serai and an ornate velvet-lined French lounge bar called Boudoir. For live music head to Malecon, a Cuban joint where the atmosphere is always buzzing. Then there’s the outdoor bar Sho Cho, where you can pose with the best of them and jig around the dancefloor while enjoying a magnificent view of Burj Khalifa.

Downtown Dubai No visit would be complete without a trip up the world’s tallest structure, Burj Khalifa. At 828 metres plus, the vista from the top is like a Google Earth picture. While you’re up there, you can buy some gold from the vending machine or enjoy the special telescopes providing virtual time-travel with sepia views from the days before Dubai became the metropolis it is now. My tip is to book online in advance to save money and guarantee a slot. If you just turn up it will set you back about £65 to go up, but if

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you book in advance it will only be about £22. In winter I’d recommend a 5pm visit as it gets dark from around 5.30pm and you can then appreciate both day and night views. From 6pm you can enjoy the world’s largest dancing fountain, about 900ft long with water jets that shoot up 500ft in the air. Do go down to see the fountain at ground level, too, and enjoy the amazing choreography of water and light synced with classical, Arabic and world music. For about £10, you can even ride around the fountain in a wooden boat called an abra, without getting wet. The biggest mall in the world, Dubai Mall, has a huge aquarium, ice rink and more designer shops than you can count. You can easily spend a day here, and for dinner I recommend you book a table at one of the restaurants in Souk Al Bahar, where you can sit and enjoy the fountain. If you like Thai cooking, try Mango Tree, or for British dishes try the Rivington View, both of which have fantastic views and food. If you fancy hip, try Cabana or Arabic NA3NA3, pronounced Na.Ah.Na.Ah, meaning mint in Arabic. A quick note on mall etiquette: you are expected to dress modestly, which means no skimpy outfits, bare shoulders, short skirts or shorts. Public displays of affection are a no-no even if you are married.

Getting around To save money and enjoy elevated views take the Metro. It’s very easy to buy a ticket and find your way around the overground and underground network. Some carriages are for women and children only so pay attention to where you stand on the platform. On Fridays trains start at 1pm; Saturday-Wednesday it’s 6am-midnight and Thursday and Friday 6am-1am. The Road Transport Authority also operates water taxis, water buses and a huge boat that takes you right along the Palm Jumeirah from Dubai Marina and back – you can pick it up outside Marina Mall. Taxis in Dubai are very cheap, and can be hailed anywhere. To call one dial (971 4) 2080000.

Dubai Creek and Deira Take the Metro to Bur Juman and walk down to the creek to find the real Dubai, with lots of hustle and bustle in the winding alleyways. The Bastakiah area is where you will find the Dubai Museum, which is worth a look to understand the history of Dubai and you will find a rather quaint cafe, the Arabian Tea House Cafe, beside Al Fahidi roundabout. The creek separates the Bur Dubai and Deira districts, and you can take an abra from one side to the other. Check out the souks, or traditional markets, where you can try your hand at haggling for spices, textiles, gold and electrical goods. They are open 7amnoon and 5-7pm each day except Fridays, 5-7pm only. Walk along the creek on the Deira side and wonder what the huge dhows and ships are carrying. Take a cruise on a traditional dhow and have dinner on board, maybe with some live entertainment.

Sheikh Saeed’s House The official home of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai between 1912-1958, is one of the city’s oldest buildings, constructed in 1896. It is full of photographs, paintings and art objects. The house,

near Shingdagha Tunnel, has been restored to its full glory and you can really appreciate traditional Arabic architecture, featuring wind towers to cool the interior. From the balconies and bedrooms there’s a spectacular view of the creek. SaturdayThursday 8am-8.30pm, Friday 3.30-9.30pm.

Dubai Creek Park When the weather is pleasant, take a walk around one of Dubai’s many parks. At this one you can take a cable car and enjoy great views. Also here is the Dubai Dolphinarium, where young and old alike will enjoy the seal and dolphin shows, or you can even swim with the dolphins. At the weekend the park is busy with families having barbecues and picnics. Kids will enjoy the Children’s City where they can play and learn about the world at the same time. It includes a planetarium and nature centre.




Jumeirah Mosque If you’re interested in knowing more about the Muslim way of life then visit Jumeirah Mosque, near the Big Flag on Jumeirah Beach Road. The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding organises daily visits apart from Friday. You don’t need to book, just arrive at Jumeirah Mosque at 9.45am in modest dress – women should have a scarf for their head and shoulders and knees covered. Traditional attire can be borrowed from the mosque. Tours last approximately 75 minutes.

From top: Jumeirah Mosque, Dubai Mall, a bar at Madinat Souk and luxury yachts at anchor in Dubai Marina

Dubai Marina Dubai Marina is the world’s largest man-made marina and contains the tallest residential building in the world. With more than 330 restaurants, cafés, shops on the Walk and Marina Mall there’s plenty to do and see. The beach is pretty much obscured by the construction just now, but there are great views from the Pure Sky Lounge on the 35th floor of the Hilton, Jumeirah Beach Hotel. For a one-hour trip around the marina on a traditional dhow take a boat called Captain Jack’s. It’s worth a trip to the Walk on a Thursday or Friday night to people-watch, chill out and see the locals cruising around in their exotic cars. Cafés and restaurants here are unlicensed, but every type of cuisine is offered.

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Madinat Souk This souk, near the Marina in Al Soufah Road, has its own theatre, plus many restaurants and cafés, most of them licensed. You can buy souvenirs and have your photograph taken with a falcon. Go to the Mina Al Salam Hotel to see the enclosure where sick and injured hawksbill turtles are cared for. There are only 8,000 nesting female hawksbills left worldwide, and they are in danger of becoming instinct. Public feeding takes place at 11am on Wednesdays and 1pm on Fridays. There are also free talks on Wednesdays at 11am. Turtles are released from October-December and March-July.  More information to plan your trip:





NVITED to join a four-day Highland barge cruise with activities, I have my doubts – and begin looking for my thermals. But any reservations about the trip are dispelled when I arrive under sunny skies and in warm temperatures at the Banavie moorings, near Fort William, to find my home for the next three nights. Ros Crana is a 44-metre, 12-berth cruising barge with all the mod cons you’d expect from a decent hotel, or even a cruise liner. My voyage is to be fully catered, with three excellent meals a day eaten around a large communal dining table which, along with a comfortable lounge and bar area, forms the hub of the barge. Rob, our host and guide for the trip, explains that we’ll spend the next three days working our way along the picturesque Great Glen Way to Inverness following the Caledonian Canal and the lochs en route – Lochy, Oich and Ness – by mountain bike and canoe, returning to the barge for meals and to rest our weary limbs each night. Equally, guests wanting a rest day can stay on board the Ros Crana as it motors along, to relax and enjoy the cruise from the open-air deck. A feature of cruises run by Caledonian Discovery is

that all activities, equipment and instruction are included, whether you fancy mountain biking, canoeing, walking or even sailing – the Ros Crana has three sail boats on board, including a 16ft cruising dinghy and motorboat, that can be winched into the water along the route. You get an idea of the scale of the barges – the Ros Crana’s sister vessel is the 39-metre Fingal of Caledonia – when you learn that, when the Ros

Crana was sailed back to the UK from Holland to be refitted, the van that owner Martin Balcombe had driven over was simply winched on board the former commercial barge and transported back with him. After unpacking I’m introduced to my fellow guests. Barges can be booked for the exclusive use of groups or, as in the case of my cruise, individuals, couples and small groups can book and enjoy the opportunity to AURORA-MAG.COM • HIAL.CO.UK



Previous page: canoeing on Loch Lochy. These pages, from left: stretch of the Caledonian Canal known as Laggan Avenue; Ros Crana and Fingal of Caledonia move through Muirtown Locks, Inverness; cyclists at Foyers; view of Ben Nevis from the deck; guests go ashore in the rigid inflatable boat in order to walk a stretch of the route; walkers above Loch Ness (in panel)

meet some new people. The atmosphere on board is very sociable but, with surprisingly spacious en-suite cabins, lounge, dining area and also an outdoor deck with picnic benches and other seating, you never feel like you’re under anyone’s feet. As the barge sets off in mid-afternoon, motoring from Banavie towards Gairlochy leaving behind Neptune’s Staircase – a series of eight canal locks built by Thomas Telford that is one of the great engineering feats of the Victorian age – all guests head off along the Caledonian Canal on mountain bikes, with the snow-capped Ben Nevis and the Grey Corries mountain range towering over us. It is only then that the true star of this cruise is revealed – not our swanky barge but the rugged Highland landscape and impressive Great Glen Way. A fellow guest wryly observes that if the rest of the route lives up to the opening stretch VisitScotland should rebrand it the Totally Awesome Glen Way.

Display The sedate seven-mile cycle to Gairlochy is a great way to ease into things, and guests chat freely when they can drag their attention from the scenery. The leaves on the mature trees lining the route are on the • WINTER 2014

turn and a patchwork of orange, red and copper hues contrasts strikingly with a cobalt blue sky. There’s not a cloud in sight so many stops are made to photograph the spectacle. The rhythm of my mini-cruise is breakfast at 8am, followed by a choice of activity before an on-board lunch; more activities follow before we rejoin the barge; dinner, served at 7pm, is a relaxed affair – Black Watch tartan trousers, as sported by our guide, Rob, are not compulsory – and this is followed by the Skipper’s Talk to discuss the day just passed and options for the day to come. The rest of the evening, for me, at least, is typically spent up on deck drinking local ales and watching the Highlands pass by before attention turns to the incredible display of stars in the night sky. The second day sees us complete the western half of the Great Glen, passing through lochs Lochy and Oich before spending the night at Fort Augustus. With fine weather in prospect, guests are offered the chance to start the day with a wild swim in scenic Bunarkaig Bay on Loch Lochy. The water’s on the fresh side, but the experience proves to be a highlight of the cruise. Another highlight is the canoe trip from Laggan Locks to Loch Oich that follows. This stretch of the Caledonian Canal known as Laggan Avenue is

stunning. Tall trees line the canal, producing a mesmerising effect. They are so dense that you can’t see through them, so when you emerge into the expanse of Loch Oich, its mirror-like surface reflecting the peaks towering over you, the effect is breathtaking. I’ve rarely felt so humbled or lost in a landscape.

Promise The route down Loch Oich follows the Great Glen Canoe Trail and boasts views of Invergarry Castle. Overlooking the loch is an obelisk topped with a gory sculpture of seven heads and a hand clutching a dagger, known as the Well of the Seven Heads. It marks the spot where the severed heads of seven rival clansmen were washed before being presented to the chief of the Glengarry clan. Some guests trade the wonderful swim and paddle to cycle the 22.5 miles from Gairlochy to Fort Augustus via the locks at Cullochy or Kytra that mark the descent of the Caledonian Canal towards the Moray Firth. The cycle is a mix of quiet road, towpath and forest trails and itineraries can be tailored to suit individuals. The overnight in Fort Augustus offers the chance to visit a pub, but such is the atmosphere on board, where we dine on chorizo cassoulet or butternut squash and quinoa chilli and enjoy a few whiskies as we swap stories of the day, that no-one steps ashore. The last full day onboard sees us cruise from Fort Augustus into Loch Ness and down the south side of the loch before docking at Foyers. After lunch we can either walk to the 140-foot Falls of Foyers made famous by Rabbie Burns, canoe out into the middle of Loch Ness for fantastic views down the length of the loch and over to Urquhart Castle, or mountain-bike along the South Loch Ness Trail. I opt for the latter. Established in 2011, the 28-mile South Loch Ness Trail runs from Fort Augustus to Torbreck through deep forest and heather and peat moorland. We join it at Foyers where it climbs steeply – this stretch is not for the faint-hearted – toward Inverfarigaig and past the remains of an Iron Age fort and Boleskine House, the former home of Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page.

We reach the pinnacle of the trail at 1,300ft after ascending the Corkscrew Road, where we enjoy fine views of Loch Ness and across to Urquhart Castle and Drumnadrochit. An exhilarating descent follows, to Dores on the shores of Loch Ness and the beer garden of the excellent Dores Inn. A night of deep sleep ensues. The final morning is spent cycling on the towpath from Dochgarroch at the head of Loch Ness to the Muirtown Basin in Inverness. It’s with a heavy heart that I disembark. The Great Glen Way has proved to be a revelation. From Ben Nevis to the many Corbetts and Munros, some of which plunge directly to the shores of the lochs and sections of canal, the views on all sides are some of the finest I’ve seen. The route takes you through ancient forests, home to osprey, pine marten, deer and all manner of flora. There is no better way to see the Great Glen than from the water, or from a bicycle – as your personal chef and accommodation pootle along behind you. 

Find out more GREAT GLEN ADVENTURES Caledonian Discovery offers a range of cruises on its two staffed barges. Each has en-suite cabins and all the equipment required for active breaks on the Caledonian Canal, Loch Ness and Great Glen Way. Catering for families, groups or individuals, cruises travel in either direction. The most popular include: Canoe the Great Glen – a seven-day cruise on which guests paddle 12 miles a day through unforgettable scenery with a qualified instructor; Walk the Great Glen – a 78-mile coast-to-coast walk with a toe dipping ceremony at either end; and Classic Cruise – a six-night journey along the entire length of the Caledonian Canal with opportunities to try several activities or just sit back and watch the world go by. Cruises range from four to seven days, costing from £425 to £865 per person, all-inclusive. For more information see






TO THE VICTORIANS, whisky was the romantic spirit of the Highlands. By this they meant malt whisky, distilled at a gentle pace in a small pot still and mellowed in an oak cask, which tasted all the sweeter if it came from an illicit still. In truth, whisky was rarely aged, and its quality would have been hit and miss. Without maturation, this rough moonshine would often have needed wild herbs and heather to soften the blow. Less romantic and more recent is the history of blended Scotch, which evolved from the invention of the patent still in the 1820s that allowed grain whisky to be produced on an industrial scale. Later that century, people began to combine grains and single malts to create prototype blends. Pioneers were often grocers, like the Chivas Brothers in Aberdeen, or the Walkers of Kilmarnock, who knew how to blend tea and applied the same principles to whisky.

Affordable Blends conquered the world and became synonymous with Scotch, with brands like Johnnie Walker available in over 100 markets before Coca Cola had left America. Malts disappeared and the distilleries responsible were known only to the blenders and those who worked in them or lived nearby. If malts were • WINTER 2014

mentioned, they were invariably compared to musical instruments which, when played together created the orchestra, or the blend. Just like sexual intercourse, if you believe the poet Philip Larkin, single malts were born in the Sixties, starting with Glenfiddich and slowly followed by others. Today almost every malt distillery has its own single malt, whether released by its owner or an independent bottler. While blends still account for 90 per cent of all Scotch whisky sold, they

have been overshadowed by single malts in terms of prestige and status. The idea that malts are innately superior to blends comes across in almost every book on the subject, where readers are taken on a trawl through Scotland’s malt distilleries from Aberfeldy to Tullibardine, with barely a nod to blends. This notion is reinforced by the prices. “If you look back to the rise of the supermarkets in the 1980s and 90s,” says Richard Patterson, master blender at Whyte & Mackay, “that’s

when prices dropped dramatically, while single malts started to rise.” The supermarkets were offered cheap stock in a bid to drain the whisky loch, and they responded by unleashing lots of wonderfully affordable own-label blends.

Complex There are blends as beguiling and complex as you could wish for, and malts that should never have left the distillery. Dr Nick Morgan, of the drinks giant, Diageo, dates malt whisky’s coming of age to when the blenders took control of the industry in the 19th century, first by demanding and getting consistent quality from the distillers, and then by taking over the distilleries themselves. “Companies like Diageo seek to make the very best single malt whisky, be it Talisker or Lagavulin, to produce blends,” says Morgan. “Everything we do as a company is about blends, and remember even single malts are about blends.” Richard Patterson nods vigorously. “Yes, blending’s what it’s all about. With the Dalmore King Alexander 1263, I had to blend six different woods together,” he says, of a recent special release of the famous Highland malt that was aged in a variety of casks. He insists the process is the same whether it’s Dalmore or the Whyte & Mackay blend. As with all blending the aim is to create something greater than the sum of its parts. Having worked for Glenmorangie, Annabel Meikle has always generally preferred single malts. Now as a freelance whisky educator – see – she’s having second thoughts. “The ones I’ve really loved recently have all been blends.” Given the diversity of whiskies available, to try to impose

some rigid demarcation between malts and blends doesn’t work. “You can’t use that blunt stick to school them,” says Meikle. The proportion of malt to grain whisky in a blend supposedly defines its quality, but again that’s too simplistic. Grain distilleries may lack the charm of malt distilleries, but the spirit produced is aged in the same way. In the end it’s the quality of the wood, the length of maturation and the skill of the blender whether blending grains or malts, that really matters.  Words: Tom Bruce-Gardyne

Right blend THREE TO TRY Black Bottle The Whisky Shop, Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s, from £17.49 Once said to contain malt from every distillery on Islay, the newly enriched Black Bottle blend is less smoky and dangerously smooth. Teacher’s Highland Cream Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, from £12 Teacher’s puts most mainstream blends to shame with its heavy cereal notes, salty maritime note and faint whiff of smoke. Monkey Shoulder Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, from £27 This beguiling blend of malts from three neighbouring distilleries on Speyside – Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie – has a heathery, vanillascented sweetness. AURORA-MAG.COM • HIAL.CO.UK




WHEN I WAS growing up, in the 1970s, girls from my school formed their own football team. Jacqueline Thomson and her third-year pals played a few games but because there were no other female teams locally they had to either play us boys or take part in mixed matches. We had no problem with that and some were pretty good players – not that I told them that at the time, as I was too shy to speak much to the opposite sex. I didn’t know then that those young ladies, who will all be in their 50s now, were trail-blazers. If it hadn’t been for the likes of them trying to break down the barriers that were in place – and yes, there were many in the East Lothian • WINTER 2014

mining town where I grew up, and where football was looked on as a man’s game – maybe there wouldn’t be the same recognition of women’s football in Scotland today.

Changing It has been a long journey towards acceptance for women’s football in Scotland and although they are not totally there yet, slowly but surely the ball is heading in the right direction. Attitudes are changing and there are more women than ever playing the game worldwide – 29 million at the last estimate – while in Scotland the figures also continue to rise. In 2010 there were 2,632 players registered with the Scottish Women’s Football Association. In 2011 there were 2,668 and in 2012 that had gone up to 3,969. Sixtythree per cent of registered players

are aged under 16 and 90 per cent are under 25 so it is a young person’s game with lots of potential. There are 60 women’s clubs in Scotland fielding 227 teams at different age grades and standards. Every year more teams are emerging, with Motherwell the latest Premiership club to incorporate a women’s team. It will share the training facilities at Fir Park. What will boost the women’s game even more would be an appearance at a major championship, which could happen at the 2015 World Cup in Canada. Scotland have never reached a major tournament, having missed out on the last two European Championship finals at the play-off stage. They currently top their group, with four wins out of four, and some more good results in the next round of qualification matches against


Kim Little on the ball against Spain, left, and receiving some encouragement from national coach Anna Signeul, right

Poland and Bosnia-Herzegovina in April could see them go through. That would raise the profile of the game even more and make stars out of their top players who have already been at the centre of major transfers. Kim Little has gone from Hibs to Arsenal and in November moved to Seattle Reign in the USA, where the women’s game is huge.

Impact Glasgow City winger Lisa Evans was snapped up by Turbine Potsdam in the Frauen Bundesliga in Germany – another country where women’s football has a big following – after the sides met in the European Cup. And there is also Jenny Beattie, who has moved from Arsenal to play for Montpellier, just like her rugby playing brother, Johnnie. Part of the problem holding back the women’s game in Scotland has been that until now it has been strictly amateur, but international team manager Anna Signeul believes a new funding agreement is a “game-changer”. A Scottish Government initiative will provide £200,000 to cover the qualifying period for the 2015 World Cup, which will allow the top players to put football first and work less. That is going to have a big impact on their day-to-day lives. They are already training 15 to 20 hours a week, which is hard to do when

you’re working five days a week and, in some cases, helping to bring up a family. This financial support will allow individual squad members more recovery time as well as more strength and conditioning sessions. You can see the difference funding has made to the England team, who are in the top four in Europe and whose players are virtually full-time. Scotland are not at that level yet but are getting there and young girls could soon be buying replica shirts with the names of Little, Beattie and Evans on the back, especially if Scotland makes it to the next World Cup. Certainly Jacqueline Thomson, who started the first girls’ team at Ross High School, Tranent, more than 40 years ago, will be delighted if that happens. Words: Rob Robertson

In action

WORLD CUP DREAM The Scotland women’s team is looking well placed in its bid to qualify for the 2015 World Cup. It has three home games left, all to be played at Fir Park, Motherwell. These are: v Poland, 5 April v Sweden, 14 June v Faroe Islands, 13 September





THE VERY BEST kind of car, according to the American humorist PJ O’Rourke, is a hire car – and after living with one for a week I can confirm that he is absolutely right. I paid just under fifty quid for the use of a new Fiat Panda for a whole week and had an absolute hoot of a time with it. Granted it’s not a looker, but what can you expect from the company that gave us the Multipla in 1998? That was a car so ugly the rear end should have carried the legend “If you think this is bad, wait till you see the front”. But what the Panda lacks in looks it more than makes up for in practicality and Fiat has crammed a lot into the relatively short package. There are five doors, four good seats • WINTER 2014


:) un

and a decent amount of boot space. Some may find the seating position a bit too upright but I had a full complement of adults aboard for a number of journeys and no one complained of discomfort. Fold the rear seat flat and it’ll take the biggest of household appliances loaded through the large rear door or will double up as a seriously commodious van.

Spirit Standard in the entry-level model is a 1.2 litre petrol engine driving through a five-speed manual gearbox. Though this may sound pretty puny, it is good enough to give 100mph top speed with better than 50 miles from every gallon. The newer, bigger and more sophisticated engines available in the range will dramatically improve the glacial acceleration, which takes it to a mile a minute pace in just under 15 seconds. Fiat has always been good at building small engines with big

spirit and the respectable performance is also helped by the lightweight build. It feels and sounds tinny to the point of being fragile but so long as rust isn’t an issue, which it shouldn’t be on a modern car, that shouldn’t really matter. The interior trim maintains the same low standard as the exterior panels, with several different types of plastic – at its best on the dashboard and at its worst on the seat facings. The look and feel of these reminded me of some of the tackier stuff fitted to British Leyland products in the early Eighties. The gearshift sprouts out of the dashboard, which works just fine but I’m not sure why Fiat has cordoned off the area below it to separate the driver and passenger footwells, unless it’s to add structural strength. And the central structure certainly came in handy to brace myself when chucking the car around, which is, of course, compulsory

Go figure FIAT PANDA 1.2 POP Price as tested: £8,440 Engine: 1.2 litre, 4 cylinder petrol Top speed: 105mph 0-60mph: 14.4 seconds Gearbox: Five-speed manual Boot: 225 litres

behaviour when driving a hire car. Because it’s a Fiat, it’s built primarily for Italians so it will take enthusiastic use all day without complaint. Indeed, there is a school of thought that the cars which suffer the hardest use are the ones which give least trouble. Though the Panda will cling on to the tarmac long after the tyres start squealing, the natural limit to cornering capability seems to be set by body roll rather than tyre grip. The suspension needs to be on the soft side for comfort and the relatively upright body style also adds to the feeling of roll.

Effective But you don’t buy a car like this to go fast, you buy it to transport people and goods as economically as possible. This it does supremely well, considering the starting price of around eight and a half grand. Argue with the salesman or hang around for special offers and you might end up having to pay even

less than this modest amount. Another reason for the flimsyfeeling build quality may be Fiat’s need to save weight wherever possible, because for a budget model the Panda comes with a lot of kit as standard. There are plenty of airbags, plus anti-lock brakes, power steering, a decent stereo system, remote central locking and even electric front windows. Weight is one of the most important criteria in economy as it takes fuel to lug around all the equipment we demand these days, but power train efficiency, aerodynamics and even tyre design all play a part. Just how effective this has proved in the latest Panda is maybe best illustrated by comparing the current car to the original Panda of 30 years ago, which was smaller and had the bare minimum of equipment, yet was slower and thirstier than the modern car. ? Words: Jim Dunn





Uncommon wealth I’VE JUST ACQUIRED my first Commonwealth Games emblazoned bit of kit at a Grants Fair for my son’s school. I have to admit it is actually quite tasteful – silver with understated 2014 logo. It prompted me to think about all the commemorative memorabilia that will be created for summer’s extravaganza in Glasgow. I went on to wonder whether any of it will be worth putting away in the attic for the financial benefit of future Rogerson generations? Our collective family haul from the London Olympics – two of those hideous one-eyed mascots – firmly falls into the “tat” category and I am fairly confident it will never rise in value enough to pay for a grandchild or great grandchild’s education or first home. But what of the potential loot from Glasgow 2014?


Blazer Bonhams, the auction house, has three sports memorabilia events each year. As I write, the next one, scheduled for Edinburgh on 11 January, is more paintings of horses than posters from either of the previous Commonwealth Games held in the city, but all of the UK’s • WINTER 2014

auction houses have sold such memorabilia in the past. And a quick look at online auction site ebay reveals that a British Rail poster from the 1958 Cardiff games is for sale for £350. If that is not your cup of tea then what about a participant’s medal given to a competitor in the marathon at the 1934 games held in London, available for £450? Or if you fancy wearing your piece of sporting history, there is a partici-

pant’s blazer from the Edinburgh 1986 games for £50. For £90 you could have one from the Kingston games held 20 years earlier. These last two items aptly illustrate my first tip for those thinking ahead to Glasgow 2014: time will tend to make your items more valuable, which makes sense. Items get lost, damaged or even thrown away over time and so become rarer, and this boosts the value of those that remain. The sheer scale on which commemorative items are

produced these days may mean that it could take a very long time for the numbers of any particular items in circulation to dwindle down enough to boost their value. But don’t lose heart. If you turn your attention to the kit and items given out to the athletes and officials the rarity shoots right up. Combined, there will only be 8,000 of these at Glasgow 2014, from a Commonwealth population of some 2 billion people. Go further back, to the Edinburgh games of 1970 and there were even fewer – just 1,750 athletes and officials took part. Medals, of course, are valuable. But athletes do tend to hold on to them and who can blame them? However, according to those bods in the know again, when the Commonwealth Games come to a country items from previous games held in that country tend to rise in value. As it happens, Scotland came fourth in the medal table at the Edinburgh 1970 games so there should be at least some of these to be found. And it wasn’t just the top three in each event who got medals, of course. Officials and all those who took part got them: remember the 1934 marathon

medal mentioned above. If the London Olympics is anything to go by, then a lot of participants will seek to sell their kit as soon at the final ceremony is over. If this is repeated after Glasgow 2014 then experts have some tips for what to buy. Always ascertain whose kit you are buying. Put simply, the more famous or notorious the original owner of the item the better. If you can, get the item signed.

Quirky A signature will boost the value of most items, according to memorabilia experts. But here, too, they have some guidance. If an athlete has a reputation for signing anything put in front of them, then their items are likely to be worth less than those of a competitor of similar status who is more restrained with the pen. Authentication is also vital. If you can get a photo of the athlete with the item, so much the better. Indeed, it occurs to me that this signature and photo business could, in theory, be extended by the forward thinking into creating something unique next summer. Buy a T-shirt, get an athlete to sign it, photograph yourself with

said athlete and store for prosperity. And, yes, I did mean to type prosperity. Don’t overlook the quirky, either. The 100 torches used at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics are now each worth £5,540. After the Manchester games in 2002, the event organisers sold off virtually everything that was not nailed down from the athletes’ village. Computers, flags even the beds. I did ask the Glasgow 2014 organisers whether they planned a similar post-games sell-off, but they couldn’t give me an answer. Let’s hope they do. Then all I’d have to do is work out how I get my hands on the bed assigned to Usain Bolt. Get him to sign it and get a photograph of him in it. Kerching! Words: Lindsey Rogerson


WEALTH WARNING Lindsey Rogerson is an awardwinning investment journalist and a member of the Financial Services Consumer Panel. The views expressed are personal and do not constitute financial advice. Individuals should seek professional advice before taking financial decisions.




Kirkwall Stornoway Stornoway Benbecula Wick Wick John O’Groats


Inverness Inverness

Tiree Tiree Dundee Islay Islay Campbeltown

• WINTER 2014






Car hire: Call Barra Car Hire, 01871 890313, or MacMillan Self Drive, 01871 890366 before you arrive. Taxi: Book with Barra Island Taxis, 01871 810012, or J Campbell, 01871 810216. Bus: Runs between the airport and Castlebay. Details from R MacMillan, 01871 890366; H MacNeil, 01871 810262;


The CASTLEBAY HOTEL uses the best of Barra produce. Call 01871 810223 or see

SPOTLIGHT Dubai Airport Dubai International Airport is a global hub that has just displaced Heathrow as the world’s busiest in terms of international passenger traffic, and a second airport, Al Maktoum International, is being built to complement it. It is easily reached from Inverness via either Manchester or Amsterdam.


Car hire: Most of the main rental firms operate at Terminal 1, where you will arrive. They include Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Thifty and you can book your car online in advance. Taxi:

The city’s official, cream-coloured taxis are efficient and plentiful.


The metro rail system, opened in 2009, is cheap and frequent. The fare from the airport to, say, Dubai Mall is 4.5 dirhams (75p), or an all-day pass is 14 dirhams.


Terminal 1 is connected to likely destinations, including the main hotels, by buses number 4, 11, 15, 33 and 44, all leaving every 10 minutes.

NIGHTCAP McGettigan’s Irish Pub, near Gate C21, will cater for your needs, alcoholic and otherwise, 24 hours a day.

BON APPETIT French fine dining is the staple of Le Matin Francais. For something a little more middle Eastern, try the Lebanese fare at the Bistro.

PILLOW TALK Dubai International Hotel, at Concourse C, is shiny, large and comfy, with the obligatory gym and spa.


In numbers




26 3 58


The HEATHBANK BAR is in a former church whose thick walls enclose a bright bar with fine views. Northbay, 01871 890266,

PILLOW TALK Britain’s most westerly hotel, the ISLE OF BARRA BEACH HOTEL, looks over the sands of Tangasdale Beach, and makes the most of the island’s fine lamb and fish. 01871 810383,

BE A TOURIST Once you’ve landed, you’ve already seen the most famous sight – the beach landing strip. KISIMUL CASTLE is seat of the Clan MacNeil, and don’t miss the deserted village of BALNABODACH. The island is ideal for walking, cycling and wildlife watching.





Car hire: Try MacLennans Garage, 01870 602191; Ask Car Hire, 01870 602818 or Laing Motors, 01878 700267, Taxi: Book from Benbecula Taxis, 01870 602464, or MacVicar’s, 01870 603197. Bus: A regular service takes you to points all over Benbecula, North Uist and

South Uist. For details see


STEPPING STONE is popular for its delicious fare such as brochette of king scallops. Balivanich, 01870 603377.

NIGHTCAP Good selections of ales, wines and whiskies can be found at DARK ISLAND HOTEL, Liniclate, 01870 603030; ISLE OF BENBECULA HOUSE HOTEL, Creagorry, 01870 602024,


LIONACLEIT GUESTHOUSE is comfortable and set on a croft, with seven rooms for B&B guests and two selfcatering cottages. 01870 602176, At KYLES FLODDA, a modern B&B overlooking North Uist, you’re well placed to explore nature. See LANGASS LODGE at Loch Eport, North Uist, offers comfort and great cooking, using local game and seafood with garden herbs. 01876 580285, On South Uist, the 18thcentury POLOCHAR INN makes great use of local ingredients, and is in a great setting with an ancient standing stone. 01878


BE A TOURIST The scenery, flora and fauna are spectacular so bring boots, camera and binoculars. The white beaches, lochs and hills calm the most troubled souls. Causeways link the island to North and South Uist.

WHAT’S ON Dramatic photographs taken on Uist in 1959-60 by American visitor Neil Preissman are on display at TAIGH CHEARSABHAGH from 11 January to 28 February. Taigh Ciuil, an evening of live music is held there on 24 January. On 30 January, Donald S Murray, writer of The Guga Hunters, comes to the venue to talk about his work, and on 27 March it’s the turn of poet Dorothy Baird.

Campbeltown FROM THE AIRPORT Car hire: Call Burbank Garage, 01586 544480, or Campbeltown Motor Co, 01586 552030. Taxi: Call Fona Taxis, 01586 554001; Roy’s Taxis, 01586 554625; Tavi’s Taxis, 01586 551122; Kintyre Connect Minibus Service, 07825 091502 or 07984 634824. Bus: Book ring-and-ride bus

from airport by calling West Coast Motors, 01586 552319.


DALNASPIDAL is a great place to stay and serves a mix of Scottish and South African dishes. Dalnaspidal Guest House, Tangy, 01586 820466,


BURNSIDE BAR is friendly and traditional. Burnside Square, 01586 552306.


CRAIGARD HOUSE, an Italianate-style building, is a classy place to stay. Low Askomil, 01586 554242,

BE A TOURIST The Mull of Kintyre gave its name to the UK’s biggestselling single. The record, featuring Campbeltown Pipe Band, was Paul McCartney’s love song to the area, which has many attractions. Walkers will like the KINTYRE WAY, where the view changes with every step, taking in Ireland, Islay, Jura and Arran. The glorious CAMPBELTOWN PICTURE HOUSE is the oldest cinema in Scotland. MACHRIHANISH golf course is one of the country’s finest.



FROM THE AIRPORT Car hire: Avis, Arnold Clark, Alamo and Europcar all serve the airport – call 01382 662200. Taxi: Booking in advance is advised. Call Tele Taxis on 01382 669333 or 50 50 50 Taxis on 01382 505050. Bus: The 8X runs Monday to Saturday, 6.30am-10.30pm, every 30 minutes. Airport to city centre and railway station takes about five minutes. Train: For destinations and times call 08457 484950 or see

BON APPETIT Machrihanish, Kintyre

NUMBER 25 is popular for its friendliness and value. South Tay Street, 01382 200399.

The excellent BON APPETIT brasserie offers tempting dishes such as grilled red mullet with fennel and orange dressing and beetroot puree. Exchange Street, 01382 809000,


The SPEEDWELL TAVERN, aka Mennie’s, has a fine Edwardian interior and many whiskies. Perth Road, 01382 667783,

PILLOW TALK Looking over the waterfront, the APEX is a modern comfort zone with a spa and a good restaurant. West Victoria Dock Road, 0845 365 0000, MALMAISON opens in Whitehall Crescent on 1 December.

BE A TOURIST Whether you want to shop, enjoy art, or go sightseeing, this city is for you. The OVERGATE SHOPPING CENTRE is a great place to browse, DCA (Dundee Contemporary Arts) has an ever-changing programme of exhibitions and a great café. For maritime history visit Captain Scott’s ship, the RRS DISCOVERY, or HM FRIGATE UNICORN, the oldest British-built ship still afloat. The SENSATION science centre, with its 60 handson exhibits, will excite youngsters’ curiosity.


VISIONS OF DISCOVERY, a collection of images illustrating the University of Dundee’s work in life sciences, is on show at the Dalhousie Building until 31 January. Writer and broadcaster TOM MORTON hosts his Malt and Barley



Revue, an evening of music, banter and whisky, at the Marryat Hall on 27 February. At the same venue the renowned BUSCH ENSEMBLE perform a programme of Beethoven and Bach on 12 March. Irish folk heroes the FUREYS come to the Caird Hall on 14 March, and Geordie comic SARAH MILLICAN brings her Home Bird show there on 9 April. Dundee Rep has the musical play SUNDAY MORNING ON DUNDEE LAW from 22-25 January, the ppring show by SCOTTISH DANCE THEATRE from 20-22 February and the Agatha Christie whodunit AND THEN THERE WERE NONE from 5-29 March.


Car hire: Options include Avis, 0844 544 6017, Europcar, 0871 384 1121, and Arnold Clark, 0845 607 4500. Taxi: Book with Inverness Taxis on 01463 222900. See Bus: Airport bus goes to the city centre for £3.75 single. or 01463 239292 for other routes. Train: Nearest stations are Inverness and Nairn. See for times.

deservedly popular. 15 Huntly Street, 01463 259119,


NUMBER 27 is a bright bar with arcane beers served by friendly staff. 27 Castle Street, 01463 241999, number27inverness. Folkies, ceilidh bands and comedy can all be enjoyed at HOOTANANNY’S, 61 Church Street, 01463 233651, By day the FOUNDRY is a relaxing café. After 8pm it does a brisk trade in beers, wines and cocktails. 28 Church Street, 01463 713005,

PILLOW TALK Luxury is the order of the day at ROCPOOL RESERVE, but it’s not beyond affordable. Culduthel Road, 01463 240089, The KINGSMILLS HOTEL, set elegantly in four acres of gardens, offers family rooms and two-bedroom, twobathroom apartments. Look out for a thank you letter from Robert Burns, who stayed here in 1787. The leisure club and spa will revitalise you. Culcabock Road, 01463 237166, The ROYAL HIGHLAND HOTEL has been much-loved for over a century and a half. In the middle of town, it’s Victorian splendour at its best. Station Square, 01463 251451,

TRAFFORD BANK GUEST HOUSE, once home to a bishop, is a delightful place to stay. Each bedroom has a mix of antique and modern furniture. Fairfield Road, 01463 241414, The luxurious CASTLE STUART, close to Inverness Airport, is a 17th-century tower in its own private grounds. 01463 790745,

BE A TOURIST This wonderful city offers delightful RIVERSIDE WALKS and is an enjoyable place to shop. The hinterland is studded with castles and distilleries, many of which offer whisky tastings. The FLORAL HALL is an oasis of peace. Take a boat trip on LOCH NESS to search for the monster, visit nearby BRODIE CASTLE or CAWDOR CASTLE, wander on CULLODEN MOOR, where the Jacobite Rising was crushed in 1746. Equally atmospheric are the prehistoric CLAVA CAIRNS, a group of burial mounds in unspoilt woodland.

WHAT’S ON The woods around Loch Morlich in the Cairngorms are the beautiful setting for the AVIEMORE SLED DOG RALLY on 25 and 26 January. The superb VATERSAY BOYS play the Ironworks on 24 and 25 January, with NEWTON FAULKNER on 26 January, the



Car hire: Booking in advance is advisable, with Islay Car Hire on 01496 810544 or D and N Mackenzie on 01496 302324. Taxi: Call Carol MacDonald Taxis on 01496 302155, Fiona’s Taxis on 01496 301622, Lamont’s Taxis on 01496 810449 or Rhinns Taxis on 01496 850170. Bus: Most places on the island are linked by B Mundell’s bus. Call 01496 840274 or ask at information desk.


The HARBOUR INN serves beef, lamb and seafood with style, in a scenic setting. Bowmore, 01496 810330,

NIGHTCAP There’s a superb choice of malt whiskies at the LOCHSIDE HOTEL. Bowmore, 01496 810244,

The MUSTARD SEED is rightly busy. 16 Fraser Street, 01463 220220, themustardseed CAFE1, despite its name, is very much a restaurant, emphasing seafood and quality cuts. 75 Castle Street, 01463 226200, RIVER HOUSE RESTAURANT, a bright restaurant overlooking the Ness, impresses by using resources of the region. 1 Greig Street, 01463 222033, THE KITCHEN, also with striking river views, is

Brodie Castle, Inverness

STRANGLERS on 27 February and DR FEELGOOD on 14 March. The BANFF MOUNTAIN FILM FESTIVAL WORLD TOUR comes to Eden Court on 30 January. LAUREL & HARDY, Tom McGrath’s play about the comedy heroes, is at the same venue on 20 February. ANDY KIRKPATRICK, who combines mountaineering and comedy, brings his show Inappropriate Climbing there on 9 March. ULLAPOOL DANCE FESTIVAL, in March, was in preparation as we went to press – see


The Italian Chapel, Orkney

be a

Charming rooms, great food and a beautiful location make the PORT CHARLOTTE HOTEL a great place to stay. 01496 850360, Friendly, historic, handy for all parts of the island, the BRIDGEND HOTEL is committed to local produce. 01496 810212,

LAIRD For more information call 0844 493 2108


Callanish Standing Stones, Lewis AN TAIGH-OSDA is a cool hotel in Bruichladdich, overlooking Loch Indaal. 01496 850587, KILMENY COUNTRY HOUSE is a small luxury hotel near Port Askaig. Occupying a great vantage point, it is set within woods and farmland. There are four colour-themed bedrooms and a suite. 01496 840668, COILLABUS ECO DWELLINGS are two luxury cottages on the wild Oa peninsula. Each sleeps four and has a hand-made hot tub. Built with reclaimed wood and stone, the cottages have turfed roofs. 01852 200565, The ISLAY HOTEL, in Port Ellen, has been rebuilt, and its pristine white walls shine out over the harbour, while the wood inside is warm and welcoming. Call 01496 300109. The OLD EXCISE HOUSE at Laphroaig is comfy, historic, welcoming – and walking distance from three distilleries. 01496 302567, The ISLAND BEAR, on the main street in Bowmore, is a recent, very tasteful addition to the island’s B&B options. 01496 810375, Nearby, THE BOWMORE HOUSE is a fine B&B with five spacious rooms. 01496 810324,

BE A TOURIST Islay is much less crowded and commercial than, say,

Skye or Mull, yet its attractions are just as powerful. Not least is its status as a stronghold of whisky making, and all eight DISTILLERIES are open to visitors at various times. The island is a superb destination for walkers, anglers and birdwatchers. Autumn is the time to see geese by their tens of thousands – barnacle, brent, white-fronted, greylag and others. For a historical day out, it’s hard to beat FINLAGGAN, the ancient seat of the Lords of the Isles, and though the buildings are ruins, the site, beside a beautiful loch, is atmospheric. The ISLAY WOOLLEN MILL, at Bridgend, made the Highland tweed gear sported by Mel Gibson and Liam Neeson in their historical epics. Its shop is well worth a visit. 01496 810563, The MUSEUM OF ISLAY LIFE, at Port Charlotte, has exhibits dating from 8000BC to the 20th century and countless books and pictures. 01496 850358,


Car hire: Call WR Tullock on 01856 875500. Taxi: Call Bob’s Taxis on 01856 876543, Craigies Taxis on 01856 878787, George’s Taxis on 07541 034830 or Stromness Taxis

on 01856 852852. Bus: The Jet bus operated by Stagecoach in Orkney runs all day – for times call the firm on 01856 870555 or the airport information desk on 01856 886210. See stagecoachbus. com for other Orkney routes.

BON APPETIT LUCANO is named after Lucania, southern Italy, where the owner hails from, and this bright restaurant sticks to its roots, with the emphasis on good, fresh ingredients. 31-33 Victoria Street, Kirkwall, 01856 875687,

NIGHTCAP HELGI’S is Viking-inspired and very tasteful, with its slate floor, wood panelling and cosy atmosphere. A great place to enjoy real ale, good coffee and home baking. Albert Street, 01856 879293.

PILLOW TALK At historic WOODWICK HOUSE if you want a walk in the woods or on the beach, both are yards away. Evie, 01856 751330,

BE A TOURIST Kirkwall is enjoyable to wander around, with a busy harbour, narrow streets, lively pubs and the stately ST MAGNUS CATHEDRAL. Further afield, renowned

for a weekend or visit

archaeological wonders vie for attention. Perhaps the best of all is the prehistoric village of SKARA BRAE, with its perfectly intact shelves and doorways. Also stunning is the chambered tomb of MAESHOWE, with its passage carefully aligned so that the winter solstice sun shines through it to illuminate the chamber. The RING OF BRODGAR is up there with Callanish and Stonehenge in the standing stones league table, and the BROUGH OF BIRSAY, a tidal island rich in Norse ruins and birdlife, is an unforgettable place. The Neolithic TOMB OF THE EAGLES on South Ronaldsay is also worth a visit – you slide in on a large homemade skateboard. Just as intriguing is the ornate ITALIAN CHAPEL, painted by Italian prisoners during the Second World War. ORKNEY BREWERY, where beers such as Dark Island and Skull Splitter are made for a growing tribe of fans, is well worth a visit, with tours of the brewhouse and fermentation rooms and an appealing café.

WHAT’S ON PAPAY GYRO NIGHTS art festival, on Papa Westray from 15-22 February, is unusual, not only for its location on a fairly remote island but for its bold programme of experimental film and video.



Stornoway FROM THE AIRPORT Car hire: Carhire Hebrides has its fleet based at the airport. Call 01851 706500 or see Taxi: Order from Castle Cabs, 01851 704636, before your arrival, pick one up at the terminal or call airport information, 01851 702256. Bus: Hourly service to town centre, Monday to Saturday. Visit

BON APPETIT At the elegant PARK RESTAURANT you might start with seafood filo baskets, moving on to Lewis lamb shank and spicy mint couscous. 30 James Street, 01851 702485, Booking is essential at DIGBY CHICK restaurant, which has two menus – one for early birds, and an à la carte from 7pm. Expect ultra-fresh ingredients, expertly prepared. 5 Bank Street, 01851 700026, AN LANNTAIR is a thriving arts centre with workshops, a cinema and gallery. The restaurant and bar overlooks the harbour, and serves food from 10am till late. Kenneth Street, 01851 703307,

NIGHTCAP MCNEILLS is a cosy bar with live music. 11 Cromwell Street, 01851 703330. The STAR INN is small but has a good selection of spirits. 13 South Beach, 01851 702289.

PILLOW TALK BROAD BAY HOUSE, a fine guesthouse, is at Back, on the coast seven miles north of Stornoway. Its spacious rooms, furnished in solid oak, each have their own have wi-fi and iPod docks. 01851 820990, The three-star CABARFEIDH

HOTEL, a mile from the town centre, scores highly for cuisine and service. Manor Park, Perceval Road South, 01851 702604, HOLM VIEW GUEST HOUSE is minutes from the airport. This four-star, five-bedroom house has splendid sea views and a host who goes out of his way to ensure that guests enjoy their stay. 18 Rathad na Bhraighe, 01851 706826. BRAIGHE HOUSE, overlooking the sea just a few minutes from the airport, has five immaculate bedrooms and serves a superb breakfast billed as the Stornoway Stack. 20 Braighe Road, 01851 705287, At Leverburgh, on Harris, AM BOTHAN is a new five-star bunkhouse with great views. BLUE REEF COTTAGES, at Scarista, on Harris, are two beautiful stone-built, turfroofed cottages, each sleeping two, in an unbeatably beautiful setting overlooking the Atlantic. Kite surfing, rock climbing and sea kayaking are just a few of the activities available close at hand. Owners will collect you from the airport.

BE A TOURIST Stornoway is a great place to relax and explore. Spend time at the harbour, watching the fishermen unload their catches – which you could be eating in a couple of hours. Be sure to see CALLANISH, one of Britain’s most magical places. No-one knows the exact purpose of these ancient standing stones, but their power is undeniable. If you have time, don’t just look at the main group, explore nearby stones, too. Also in the area, DUN CARLOWAY BROCH is a magnificent Iron Age tower you can explore.

WHAT’S ON An Lanntair hosts the WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ panto from 15-18 January, and singer NEWTON FAULKNER performs there on 28 January.

Blue Reef Cottages, Scarista, Harris

Sumburgh FROM THE AIRPORT Car hire: Call Star Rent-a-Car on 01950 460444. Taxi: Call Boddam Cabs on 01950 460111, J & I Taxis on 01950 422207 or Allied Taxis on 01595 690069. Bus: A regular airport bus takes you to Lerwick in about 40 minutes. Call John Leask & Sons on 01565 693162.

BON APPETIT BUSTA HOUSE deserves its reputation among foodies. Busta, 01806 522506, The SCALLOWAY HOTEL twins stunning waterfront views with a high-quality menu that makes a feature of Shetland’s excellent seafood. Main Street, Scalloway, 01595 880444,

NIGHTCAP THE LOUNGE is a busy pub in Lerwick, good for live music. Mounthooly Street, 01595 692231

PILLOW TALK The 32-room SUMBURGH HOTEL, very handy for the airport, is friendly and comfortable. 01950 460394,

BE A TOURIST Beside the airport is one of Shetland’s principal sights – JARLSHOF. It contains remains from 2,500BC up to the 17th century, making it a fascinating place to visit. MOUSA BROCH is the best preserved Pictish tower in the country. WILDLIFE is a

Shetland strong suit, with Arctic skuas, great northern divers and killer whales among species to spot. On Yell the SHETLAND GALLERY aims to showcase the islands’ best contemporary art.

WHAT’S ON SHETLAND WEDDING FAIR is at Mareel on 26 January. Viirtuoso Spanish guitarist EDUARDO NIEBLA plays Hillswick Hall on 4 February and Mareel the following night. UP HELLY AA, the islands’ unique Viking festival, is on 28 January.

Tiree FROM THE AIRPORT Car and bike hire: Call MacLennans, 01879 220555. Taxi: Order from John Kennedy Taxis, 01879 220419. Bus: The on-demand dial-abus is on 01879 220419.

BON APPETIT CEABAR is a guest house with a very popular restaurant commanding great sunset views. Booking advised. 01879 220684,

NIGHTCAP The TIREE LODGE HOTEL is a popular, often lively pub at Gott Bay, 01879 220368.

PILLOW TALK ROCKVALE GUEST HOUSE is a friendly, comfortable place to stay, with a lovely, bright lounge. 01879 220675, The charming SCARINISH HOTEL offers simple,


















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beautifully cooked food. After eating, relax in the Lean To bar. 01879 220308, KIRKAPOL HOUSE is a converted Victorian church beside the sea. The hosts are happy to collect guests from the airport and will supply packed lunches. 01879 220729,


AN IODHLANN is the island’s historical centre and the place to shed light on your Tiree ancestry. See or call 01879 220793. The RINGING STONE is a boulder, probably dumped by a glacier, which makes a metallic clang when hit with another stone. DUN MOR, at Vaul, is a broch, or place of refuge, built in about 60AD. Tiree is one of the UK’s windiest places, and also among the sunniest and most beautiful, with white, sandy beaches. See

Wick John O’Groats FROM THE AIRPORT Car hire: Book with Dunnetts Garage on 01955 602103, Richards Garage on 01955 604123, Europcar on 01667 462052 or National Car Hire on 01463 238084. Taxi: Call Jimmy’s Taxis on 01955 602727, Johnnie’s Taxis on 01955 605041 or Millers on 01955 606464. Bus: Stagecoach 82 and 182 buses stop at the airport, providing connections to Wick and Thurso. The 25X links Wick with Inverness. For times see or call 01463 239292. Train: Wick station is 1.5 miles from the airport, with trains to Thurso and Inverness and stations between.


The ALEXANDER BAIN, named after the Wick man who invented the electric clock, is a bright, roomy bar, serving a good choice of ales and bar meals. 01955 609920. The PORTLAND ARMS is an atmospheric and cosy former coaching inn in Lybster. 01593 721721,



The QUAYSIDE B&B is friendly and every room has a harbour view. Harbour Quay, Wick, 01955 603229, The INN AT JOHN O’GROATS is a spectacular place to stay, with its brilliantly coloured extension, superb coastal setting and café. 0844 384 3166,


WICK HERITAGE MUSEUM has won awards for its displays on the town’s history as a fishing port and centre for glass-making and distilling. CAITHNESS HORIZONS, in Thurso, is a must-visit museum with much to see. TIMESPAN, in Helmsdale, is loved by genealogists and casual visitors alike. JOHN O’ GROATS is the most northerly settlement in mainland Britain. A few miles west is the CASTLE OF MEY, with its ornate turrets and walled garden. The FLOW COUNTRY, Europe’s biggest blanket bog, has a wealth of birds. Ruined CASTLE SINCLAIR GIRNIGOE is a fine sight.


Fly-fishing guru RONALD SUTHERLAND brings his fishing stories and fly-tying wisdom to Timespan in Helmsdale on 14 January.

Need to get to Heathrow? It’s easily done from airports served by regular flights from Inverness and Dundee. Journey times and fares are intended as a guide.

 From Luton A pre-booked taxi from Prestige Airport Cars takes 50 minutes, from £55. A National Express coach takes 1 hour 5 minutes and costs £21.90.

 From Gatwick A pre-booked taxi from Prestige Airport Cars takes 45 minutes, from £45. A National Express coach takes 1 hour and costs £25.

 From London City A pre-booked taxi from Riverside Cars takes 1 hour 15 minutes, from £50. It costs £5.30 and takes 1 hour 40 minutes to transfer via Docklands Light Railway (DLR) to Canning Town, Jubilee line tube to Green Park and Piccadilly line tube to Heathrow. Or take the DLR to Canning Town, Jubilee line tube to Baker Street, Bakerloo line tube to Paddington (1 hour) then Heathrow Express, which leaves Paddington every 15 minutes and takes 15 minutes to reach Heathrow. This costs a total of £24.30. Transferring by National Express coach involves two changes and takes 3 hours plus, so is not the best option.

Contact Prestige Airport Cars: 03331 231818 or Riverside Cars: 020 7231 7766 or National Express: 08717 818181 or For train and tube information see


The CAPTAIN’S GALLEY, a superb seafood restaurant serves local produce in converted ice house and bothy. The Harbour, Scrabster, 01847 894999,

For flight and booking information visit highlands & islands airports

Local access, global outlook

Get in touch with Hayley for creative advertising ideas

0131 556 2220





T’S always winter somewhere. That’s the great thing about this job – in the depths of winter here you can go into the southern hemisphere and be in the summer. But the most vivid memories I have are always in the snow. I remember being up in Abernethy forest in an old patch of Caledonian pinewood, and these huge flakes of snow were falling and it was an ethereal moment. I had this out-ofbody experience. There was this herd of deer coming towards me. It was almost as if it was in slow motion – they were coming through the heather, kicking up snow, and the snow was falling. Winter hits the UK at different times, but the place that feels it first is the higher tops in the Cairngorms. Quite recently I wanted to see what it feels like there at that time of year, experiencing winter’s arrival. I pictured it being clear blue skies and a crisp chilly morning. It wasn’t like that at all. It wasn’t a bad day as I left Aviemore. I went up the ski road and started walking into the mist. I wasn’t expecting to be knee-deep in snow, having to set up camp in those conditions. The idea was to get up early next morning and go out looking for

• WINTER 2014

ptarmigan. We woke up and everything was soaking inside the tent. We had to put on wet clothes, unzip the tent, get out there and start working. I unzipped the tent and couldn’t see a thing. It was about half seven and it was still dark, and as it got lighter there was nothing to see. You could see your feet and that was about it. We went out looking and found nothing – but often when you stop looking that’s when you see things. I’d stopped looking, but way down in one of the corries I could hear some ptarmigan croaking away. If you just sit and wait things appear, and the ptarmigan did, so we spent a couple of hours among all these little coveys of ptarmigan walking about. We went back down and found the first place that had a roaring log fire and was serving hot coffee. I do love camping, and I do love roughing it, but only because I love the comfort and luxury that you get at the end of it. I put myself into uncomfortable situations, then make myself comfortable.  Gordon Buchanan has worked on Big Cat Diaries, Britain’s Big Wildlife Revival, Springwatch and Wild Burma. Our picture, by Mike Wilkinson, shows him on John Walker & Sons’ luxury Voyager yacht on a visit to Leith, when he hosted a ‘Game Changing Breakfast’ on behalf of the whisky brand.

Aurora winter 2014