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- 1.on your DOORSTEPSCOTLANDS CITIES I t was probably when I had been hugged by a stranger for around the 100th time, with my body warmed by whisky that made Edinburghs remarkable castle manage to shine even brighter in its snow-kissed beauty, that I decided there was no better place in the world to be for Hogmanay. As a native Scot, I have tried festive breaks in Australia, America and across on the continent, but nothing beats Scotlands cities for a break over the festive season andFor Scotsman Robin McKelvie, theres no place like backon into the New Year. Hogmanay for many Scots is even more home in Scotland to celebrate Hogmanay, but he says its important than Christmas. This New Years welcoming cities make a great escape any time in winter Eve fiesta swirls in pagan traditions. On the Isle of Skye the hide from a beast killed during the day used to be burned, with every guest having to sniff the smoke to ward off evil spirits. Young boys cov- ered themselves with the hide of the bull, with the horns and hoofs still attached. Less gruesome tradi-P.Tomkins/VisitScotland/Scottish Viewpoint tions continue to this day. It used to be consideredGlasgow City Marketing Bureau good luck for the first footer of the year to step into your house to be a dark-haired male stranger carrying a lump of coal, symbolising warmth and fuel. The Main pic: Glasgow on Ice St George Square. Inset: Ceilidh revellers November/December 2009The Travel & Leisure Magazine45
2. first foot spirit of friendliness is still alivein all of Scotlands cities with visitors fromall over the world welcome to join the party,a party that these days often starts in earlyDecember and runs right into the New Year. Plan earlyYou will need to plan early if you want toenjoy a festive break up north. Edinburghgets totally booked, while Glasgow can fol-low suit and Stirling, Dundee, Aberdeenand Inverness all get busy. The nationaltourist office, Visit Scotland, has a website von Essen Hotels(www.visitscotland.com) that has links toall sorts of accommodation and a handy tipis to look at the suburbs too. Dalhousie CastleEdinburgh is at the heart of the festiveaction. One of Europes most scenic cities, itBeyond Scotlands citiesis just made for strolling around. Myfavourite walk is starting at the landmarkThe countryside surrounding Scotlands cities offers plenty to see and do off-season. castle and then easing down the cobbles ofAn easy trip from Glasgow and Stirling lies The Trossachs, an area of gentle rolling hills, the Royal Mile (which Daniel Defoelofty mountains, forests, lochs and rivers I first discovered on a camping trip nearly 35 thought was the finest street in the world),years ago. In 2002, the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park became Scotlands taking in the swathes of history, not to men-first national park, encompassing 720 square miles. tion bars, cafes and restaurants, en route to There are many inns and guesthouses to escape the cities for a night or two, and the Queens base when she is in town, thewhen I returned in late March this year I chose the friendly Inn & Bistro at Strathyregrand Palace of Holyrood.(www.innatstrathyre.com), owned and run by Jill and Stephen Nixon. A tasty drop ofEdinburgh is a city that is constantly evolv-one of the local brews washed down my favourite Scottish fare haggis, neeps and ing and newer attractions include Our Dynamictatties left me refreshed after the long drive north from Essex and ready to explore. Earth, a hands-on multimedia trip through the Year-round activities include hill walking, horse riding, cycling (the Sustrans National earths history that is ideal for families. ForCycle Route Seven is on its doorstep) and golf, with great-value green fees at five grown-ups, Edinburgh now boasts fournearby courses through the National Park Golf Pass. Michelin star restaurants, with perhaps the The venerable Sir Walter Scott steam ship, which cruises Loch Katrine from early finest The Kitchin (www.thekitchin.com),spring, is named after the author who popularised the region with his poems and novel with award-winning TV chef Tom Kitchin atRob Roy 200 years ago.That romanticised the exploits of a local outlaw now celebrated the helm. Anyone who harbours any anachro-as a Scottish folk hero.The Rob Roy & Trossachs Visitor Centre in Callander showcases nistic images of Scotland as all tartan andhis life and the region.shortbread will enjoy the branch of Harvey Among endearing local sights are shaggy-coated and long-horned Highland cattle, andNichols and central Edinburghs newest street,one has become a star.You can see Hamish in his pen at the Trossachs Woollen Mill inMultrees Walk, which is replete with Armani,Kilmahog. Firetrap and Louis Vuitton. Wildlife abounds here and in other areas near the cities.The Trossachs Bird of PreyAside from Hogmanay, EdinburghsTrail (www.birdofpreytrail.com) takes in buzzards, ospreys and Scotlands only redChristmas (www.edinburghschristmas.com)kite feeding station, at Argaty, which is open throughout the winter. from November 28 to January 4 makes the I watched nesting ospreys from a hide at the beautiful Loch of the Lowes reserve incapital surely the most festive city in the UK. APerthshire, where they visit from March or April until August. Cute red squirrels Ferris wheel burls visitors around the skyline,gallivanted just yards away. Pine martens and even otters can also be seen here.while below the bountiful stalls of a Christmas At the historic Dalhousie Castle hotel near Edinburgh, the Dalhousie Castle Falconry market and an ice rink in the shadow of the cas-(www.dalhousiecastle.co.uk/falconry.asp) offers first-hand experience of birds of tle help add to the seasonal mood.prey with a five-day falconry course as well as displaying hawks, falcons, eagles and owls.Peter EllegardStreet partyLess than an hour by train from Edinburghis Glasgow, Scotlands largest city and cur-rently one of Europes hippest city-breakdestinations. Their Hogmanay street party isa rival for Edinburgh these days and thecitys new image as Scotland with Style isPeter Ellegard Peter Ellegardnot just a tourist slogan. Glasgow 2009-stylehas reinvented its lavish Georgian centrewith myriad chic designer shops, slick bars The Inn & Bistro at Strathyre A red squirrel at the Loch of the Lowesand quality restaurants. The Glaswegian action flows around cen-46 The Travel & Leisure MagazineNovember/December 2009 3. VisitScotland/Scottish Viewpoint Stirling Castle after a snowfallP.Tomkins/VisitScotland/Scottish Viewpoint The Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow The GlasgowSchool of ArtVisitScotland/Scottish Viewpoint tral George Square, a plaza as impressiveout the tourists, especially at this time of as any in the UK, which is the centre- year, while most Scots prefer the castle piece in mid-November when the citys here to Edinburghs. The hallowed Christmas lights are switched on andnames of William Braveheart Winterfest follows suit.Wallace and Robert the Bruce echo From here, a flurry of world-class around the ramparts, while the striking galleries and museums are within easyWallace Monument strides out reach, including the Kelvingrove, theamongst a panorama of mighty moun- most-visited museum in the UK out-tains. Stirling also boasts a pedestri- side London, and the locals choice,anised shopping district and easy thethrillingly-unique Burrell access into the hilly Trossachs. Collection an eclectic art collection reclining in woodland in the citys leafyUnderrated suburbs. Europes oil capital, Aberdeen, is for me I reckon Glasgow also offers the best a criminally-underrated city, even shopping in the UK outside London. The amongst Scots. Its core is a riot of granite main thoroughfare of Buchanan Street is hence its nickname, the Granite City pedestrianised and there are covered malls for and the city has also won innumerable when the weather sweeps in, such as Buchanan awards for its famous flower displays, Galleries, with all the usual high street stores,which brighten up all that mighty grey gran- and Princes Square, an oasis of designer names ite. It boasts sweeping sandy beaches that that would not be out of place in Milan. Traditional Music in theare ideal for bracing winter strolls, a flurry Scotlands newest city, Stirling, is asRoyal Mile Tavern, Edinburghof museums and chic restaurants that are deeply historic as Edinburgh. The old town geared up to all that oil wealth. reminds me of Edinburghs Royal Mile with-P.Tomkins/VisitScotland/Scottish Viewpoint Scotlands other two cities also tempt atNovember/December 2009 The Travel & Leisure Magazine47 4. this time of year. Dundee has bracing beach- View of Edinburghes of its own, a pedestrianised shopping from Carlton Hillprecinct, the striking RRS Discovery (the P.Tomkins/VisitScotland/Scottish Viewpointship that once took Captain Scott to theAntarctic) and the scenic Angus Glens on itsdoorstep. Inverness, meanwhile, is theCapital of the Highlands with a goodchance of snow. Its famous monster-hauntedloch lies nearby and its namesake River Nessalso eases through the city, adding charm,with a fairytale castle nestling high aboveand some impressively-stylish restaurants onIn Scotland these days, though, there areRobin McKelvie is a travel writer basedhand in Scotlands fastest growing city.another five buzzing cities that all make seri- in his native Scotland who has had his fair As a native of Edinburgh I have to stand ous efforts to conjure up the festive spirit, share of rather merry whisky-fuelledby my city as being number one for a festivehold wildly-fun Hogmanay parties and make New Year parties around the world, butwho knows that there is only onebreak, home to the worlds finest New Yearfor an ideal city break over the festive period Hogmanay.party and the nations number one city break. and in to the cosy winter months beyond. TLHogmanay eventsScotlands cities factsEdinburgh: Edinburghs Hogmanay 2010Getting thereAction-packed 5 day programme withNumerous airlines fly to Scottish cities including British AirwaysMadness and the Noisettes performing at (www.ba.com), Flybe (www.flybe.com), Ryanair (www.Ryanair.com) andthe Concert in the Gardens on Hogmanay. Easyjet (www.easyjet.com).The fastest way of getting towww.edinburghshogmanay.orgthe Scottish cities by train is usually with National EdinburghP.Tomkins/VisitScotland/Scottish ViewpointExpress East CoastGlasgow: Glasgow Hogmanay (www.nationalexpresseastcoast.com).CelebrationsEnjoy Scotlands hottest acts, includingAccommodationTommy Reilly, on the Big Stage and then Hotels span a wide range of price brackets. Heremarvel at the impressive fireworks display on are some options, from luxury to more affordable:George Square.Edinburgh:The Howardwww.winterfestglasgow.com (www.townhousecompany.com/the_howard), MercurePoint Hotel (www.mercure.com).Stirling: Stirlings Hogmanay: Party at the Glasgow: The newly-opened, luxury Blythswood SquareCastle(www.blythswoodsquare.com), Malmaison (www.malmaison-glasgow.com).Massed pipes and drums, Sandi Thom, Stirling: Adamo Hotel (www.adamohotels.com), Park Lodge HotelX Factor stars the Macdonald Brothers, and(www.parklodge.net).Stars in their Eyes winner for his FreddieAberdeen: Marcliffe (www.marcliffe.com), SimpsonsMercury impersonation, Gary Mullen, plus(www.simpsonshotel.co.uk).fireworks.Dundee: Apex Hotel (www.apexhotels.co.uk), Queens Hotelwww.stirlinghogmanay.co.uk(www.queenshotel-dundee.com)Inverness: Rocpool (www.rocpool.com), Heath Mountain HotelAberdeen: Aberdeens Winter Festival(www.heathmounthotel.com).HogmanayFinal details still to be announced.Top attractionswww.aberdeencity.gov.uk/hogmanayEdinburgh: Edinburgh Castle (www.edinburghcastle.gov.uk), NationalMuseum (www.nms.ac.uk).Inverness: Inverness Hogmanay Red Glasgow: Kelvingrove Gallery (www.glasgowmuseums.com), BurrellHot Highland FlingCollection (www.glasgowmuseums.com).Bringing the Inverness Winter Festival to a Stirling: Stirling Castle (www.historic-scotland.gov.uk), Old Town Jailclose in Northern Meeting Park Arena with (www.oldtownjail.com).the effervescent Red Hot Chilli Pipers, the Aberdeen: Aberdeen Art Gallery (www.aagm.co.uk), Aberdeen MaritimeBlazin Fiddles and the Peatbog Faeries.Museum (www.aagm.co.uk).www.invernessfestivals.comDundee: Discovery Point (www.rrsdiscovery.com), Dundee ContemporaryArts (www.dca.org.uk).Dundee: Inverness: Inverness Castle (www.castleuk.net), Culloden BattlefieldNo official events yet announced, but always(www.nts.org.uk/culloden).a party night in a city dense with bars andclubs.More informationVisit Scotland: www.visitscotland.com/whiteinvite 48 The Travel & Leisure MagazineNovember/December 2009