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Issue 24 - A perfect ten

Scotland Magazine Issue 24
January 2006

 

This article is 11 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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A perfect ten

What are the best newer places to visit in 2006? Kate Patrick picks her favourites

World leaders may have thrown the spotlight on to Gleneagles in July, but for lesser mortals planning a visit to Scotland, here are some all-new ideas.

Flying visit

The commercial Concorde was too expensive for most travellers, but now for £8 you can look around Golf Bravo Oscar Alpha Alpha – the aircraft that retired to Scotland’s National Museum of Flight in East Lothian (tel: +44 (0)1620 880 308; www.nms.ac.uk).

Grounded after the Paris crash, it had to be transported by barge from the Thames, and overland to the East Fortune airfield. Thirty-minute pre-bookable onboard tours start every 15 minutes.

Open daily 10am-5pm. Adult £5 (£8 if you get the ‘boarding pass’ for the tour); concessions £4 (£6); 12 and under free (£2).

Golf home for girls

With women threatening to enter the draw for the Open, the oldest golf championship in the world, it may come as little surprise to hear that there’s a company now specialising in golf holidays for girls – either single or in groups, beginner or more experienced.

Golfgirl was set up by an Australian, Astrid Turner, right in the home of golf at St Andrews. Not all women whose partners play necessarily want to spend four hours languishing in a spa, she figured.

Lessons are with her female professionals, Kylie and Chris, both also from Australia; and, with a gentle approach, they’ll take you through the whole game, from etiquette to wardrobe to driving off the first tee and sinking that last putt.

The teaching is done at the Links Trust Driving Range and also the Balgove beginners course, one of six courses managed by the Links Trust. Many locals have signed up; visitors are accommodated either in super-comfortable b&bs or a very luxurious castle; interestingly, 30 per cent of customers are, in fact, men.

Golfgirl St Andrews,
tel: +44 (0)1334 473 262;
www.golf girl-standrews.com

Wild life boat

If Lord Nelson had weighed anchor in the Moray Firth 200 years ago on his way to Trafalgar, he might have been lost; but he’d also have seen bottlenose dolphin, porpoise, basking shark and minke whale up close.

Happily there’s now a refurbished ex-RNLI lifeboat, the Gemini Explorer, with updated gadgetry, to take up to 13 modern-day visitors from Buckie Harbour. Two or three two-and-a-half-hour sailings a day depending on the weather; adult £20, concs £15.

Call skipper David Smith to book
tel: +44 (0)7747 626 280;
www.geminiexplorer.co.uk

Good for the soul

The Ceilidh Place in Ullapool (tel: +44 (0)1854 612 103; www.theceilidhplace.com) has won an award naming it ‘good for the soul’: you’ll find live traditional music, cultural and political chat, and a stacked-to-the-ceiling bookshop – and that’s before a ‘Wee Fish Dish’ and a night in a room furnished with books chosen by Scottish literary types.

The indefatigable owner Jean Urquhart draws visitors in to the everyday life of this highland community all year round.

One of her recommendations is a weekend/ week course, from £80, at Bridgehouse Art (tel: +44 (0)1854 612 281): “run by a wonderful, born teacher, Eleanor White – everyone who does one of her courses becomes an artist.”

Island outpost

For lodgings in lighthouses, laird’s apartments or remote islands, look no further than the National Trust for Scotland’s holiday portfolio (tel: +44 (0)131 243 9331; www.nts.org.uk). Two new cottages, Lag nam Boitean and The Bothy, are near the harbour on Canna, the most westerly of the small isles.

Owned by the Trust, Canna is just five miles by one, mainly populated by seabirds, and has no cars.

The cottages sleep four each, from £350 a week, and come with Hebridean views but no victuals; check out Caledonian Connoisseur (tel: +44 (0)1750 505 100; www.caleyco.com), a new mail order food company that will deliver – even to Canna – some of the best Scottish produce you’ve ever had.

Biker grove

The Wolftrax Trails are 18km of new mountain bike trails at Strathmashie Forest in the Cairngorms National Park.

Developed by the Forestry Commission (tel: +44 (0)845 367 3787; www.forestry.gov.uk/scotland), the trails range from a ‘fun park’ blue route to a rocky ‘rib rattler’ to a ‘double diamond’ black run. Bikes can be hired at BaseCamp MTB outside Laggan (tel: +44 (0)7891 169817; www.basecampmtb.com), who also run a shuttle service if you want to start higher.

For non bikers, there’s a riding stable, or the Highland Folk Museum at Newtonmore (tel: +44 (0)1540 661 307; www.highlandfolk.com, whose activity programme includes ropemaking, buttermaking, rag rug-making, stonewalling etc.

See-it-all

All the local bus rides you can take, plus 27 top attractions, are included in Edinburgh’s new Citypass (one-day £26, two-day £34, three-day £40; www.edinburghpass.org).

Once you’ve been to the Royal Scottish Academy, head to The Gallery (tel: +44 (0)131 624 6580), a stylish new bar-café with vast windows onto Princes Street Gardens, which links the Academy with the National Gallery, for a strawberries-andmint punch, lunch, brunch or dinner.

Not included in the Citypass is a guided tour of the capricious new £430m Scottish Parliament building; adult £3.50, conc £1.75, daily after July 2 when the MSPs go into recess (tel: +44 (0)131 348 5000; www.scottish-parliament.uk)

The Rose Line

Spooky at the best of times, the medieval Rosslyn Chapel, six miles south of Edinburgh, has now become a must-see for ‘literary’ tourists and grailhunters, since its starring role in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code.

Visitors have been spotted using the final chapters as their guide to the stone carvings, medieval symbols and links to the Knights Templar; but it might be safer to check out www.rosslynchapel.org.uk or book a walking tour with Jackie Queally of Celtic Trails (tel: +44 (0)131 477 5419; www.celtictrails.co.uk)

Here we go again

The unbelievably successful, roistering and funny musical based on the hit songs of Abba, Mamma Mia, is returning to the Playhouse in Edinburgh, and will play from March 29 to May 20 2006. Edinburgh is the only UK venue outside London in which the show, as part of its world tour, will play.

It tells the fictional story of a girl living on a Greek island who invites three of her mother’s former lovers to stay, in a quest to find out the identity of her father.

Audiences generally find it’s useless to resist the urge to dance in the aisles. Performance times: Monday-Saturday 7.30pm; Wednesday and Saturday matinees 2.30pm; tickets from £12.50; bookings on tel: +44 (0)870 606 3424.

Culture vultures

If you’re the type who wants more than the basic facts and a photo opportunity when looking at important historic or contemporary buildings or works of art, consider spending a day, or series of days, in the company of learned art historian Ann Buchanan MA.

Her courses are not only fun and intelligent, but she can deliver juicy nuggets of insider information – not least because she’s often a personal friend of the owner.

Call Edinburgh Art Studies (tel: +44 (0)1875 341 326) for the full 2006 programme, or to book Ann for a private tour.