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Issue 5 - In praise of quality

Scotland Magazine Issue 5
November 2002


This article is 16 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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In praise of quality

Editor MARCIN MILLER rejoices in the best of Scotland

The temptation is to always revel in the glorious history and heritage of Scotland. This, of course, can result in the contemporary not receiving the attention and the plaudits it deserves. For all of us to enjoy the history and heritage of Scotland, we need to embrace the contemporary. So before setting off to explore St Andrews and the East Neuk in early August, I spent some time looking at more modern aspects of Scotland. And where better to start than Glasgow? Langs Hotel is precisely what well-designed modern European, urban hotels should be about. From the light-filled foyer to the inviting bar area Langs makes you feel welcome. The level of service was also such that it puts many ‘fancier’ hotels to shame. I stayed but one night and was made to feel as if I were the most important guest the hotel had ever had.

Of course, hotels like Langs would probably seem a little out of place in St Andrews and the fishing villages of the East Neuk which belong to a simpler, more genteel age. I hope that all the young Americans studying at St Andrews make the most of their stay and visit the town’s mediæval ruins as well as heading for some of the stunning National Trust for Scotland properties in the area. Falkland Palace is the best-known Trust property in Fife, but the relatively new exhibition celebrating the life and sculpture of Hew Lorimer (second son of noted architect, Sir Robert Lorimer) at Kellie Castle in Pittenweem creates a fascinating, personal portrait of a truly devout man.

One attribute that I admire above all others is quality. Irrespective of the field, quality that comes from the passion of the artist, producer or manufacturer gives genuine pleasure. And that is where Scotland is a cut above. I spent two hours on a tour of the Linn factory and, whilst I accept that not everyone is obsessed by audio systems, it was amazing. The technology used at the factory, where you feel slightly uneasy as robots dance around, was, and remains, ahead of its time. Ivor Tiefenbrun, the man behind Linn, is fiercely proud of being Scottish as well as being obsessed with quality – at any price. He still manufactures in Scotland, despite the obvious commercial advantages of doing otherwise. Each piece of Linn kit bears the stamp ‘Clydebuilt’. It is strangely reassuring, if a little unexpected, that the finest audio systems in the world are built in Scotland. Of course, there are other, perhaps better-known areas of Scottish expertise and passion. This issue pays tribute to some of them.

The BBC needed to find a globe-conquering feel good comedy drama. So where did they look? Scotland, of course. Geraldine Coates wraps up in some luxurious Scottish knitwear and Charles Douglas attends the world’s finest spectacle, the Edinburgh Tattoo. Sue Lawrence turns her culinary attention to something else for which Scotland is justifiably acclaimed, the quality of its game. Tom Bruce-Gardyne tells us all about what we should be drinking this Christmas and Ian Buxton offers a selection of the best of Scotland’s distilleries to visit. Once again, the tasting panel have been selfless in their devotion to duty and sampled the top 10 best-selling single malt Scotch whiskies to bring you Scotland Magazine’s recommendations.

The regional focus this issue falls on Edinburgh. Naturally, with a city of that size and with all that diversity it is impossible to include everything. One hotel in Edinburgh that is particularly worthy of note is The Howard (+44 (0)131 557 3500). The word ‘discreet’ doesn’t quite go far enough. This place is so secret that the taxi driver passed it twice – despite me giving him the address. But if it is quiet, un-intrusive luxury you are after, The Howard is impossible to beat. There are countless thoughtful touches that combine to make a real difference: fresh flowers, an unsolicited slice of ginger cake to accompany the pot of Earl Grey I ordered, a little card giving the weather forecast for the day. Each room has a butler assigned to it and the service was prompt and efficient.

Pure, unadulterated, Scottish quality.