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Issue 9 - Loveatfirstsight

Scotland Magazine Issue 9
July 2003

 

This article is 14 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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Loveatfirstsight

MADONNA'SWEDDINGINTHESCOTTISHHIGHLANDSBROUGHTTOAWORLDWIDEAUDIENCEWHATMANYOFUSHAVEKNOWNFORSOMETIME–SCOTLANDISAPRIMESPOTFORAROMANTICGETAWAY,BYDANNYBLYTH

It’snotjustthediscreetcastleslikethatchosenbyMadonnawhereshewassodesperatelyseekingseclusion,noreventhosesetbylochs,northosebythesea.RathermoreofScotland’sappealtoloversofallagescomesfromthelackofcastlesintheair.Whatthecountryoffersfirstandforemostisacertaindown-to-earthambiencethroughitspeople,who,beingromanticsoulsthemselvesatheart,areespeciallywelcomingtocouplesseekingsomequalitytimetogether.

Allythishumanfactortomuchdramaticaswellasgentlescenery,includingbreathtakinglybeautifulbeachesforlongwalkshand-in-hand,andyouhaveawinningcombinationbyanystandards.Thefactthatsomuchofthecountryisunspoiledandthatplacesofspecialinterestarefreefromblightslikeburgervansandtattysouvenirshopsmakesfortheperfectsettingforlovetoflourish.

AswithmanythingsScottish,there’salwaysanaddeddimensionfromhistory.StrollaroundfetchingoldEdinburghandyou’llbeseducedbyaromanticair,andalsobearinmindthattwoofhermorefamoussons,SirArthurConanDoyleandRobertLouisStevenson,bothleftthisplaceinordertorunoffscandalouslywitholder,previouslymarriedwomen.DropintoromanticpubsliketheLordDarnley(toberemindedoftheaffairsofMaryQueenofScots)orClarinda’s(toevokememoriesofjustoneofRobertBurns’manyaffairswiththeladies.

Oh,Burns!Nowtheretrulywasaromantic.ThoughnotquiteintheCasanovaleague,hewassaidtobeaprodigiousladiesman.Lesley,Anna,Mary,Nancy…thelistofthosewhotookhisfancyaboundsinhiswork.LamentedNancy–here’sasnatchfromAefondkiss:

Hadweneverlov’dsaekindly,
Hadweneverlov’dsaeblindly,
Nevermet–andneverparted–
Wehadne’erbeenbrokenhearted

ButperhapsthemostromantichistoricalassociationwithScotlandisGretna,thesmallbordertownwheresomanyyoungloversfledtobemarried.TheadvantageofGretna(nottobeconfusedwithnearbyGretnaGreen–that’sthetownwhichcarriesthepostmarkonlettershomebearingnewsofthenuptials)wasthatunderScotslaw,couplescouldbemarriedasyoungas16yearsofage–twoyearsyoungerthanwas,andremains,possibleintherestoftheUK.And,ofcourse,Scotslawdidnotrequiretheseunder-18stohaveparentalconsent.LittlewonderthenthatoverthecenturiessomanyofthoseinthefirstthrowsofpassionelopedtoGretna.

Intheearlydaysofthisuniquecross-borderhumantraffic,itwasGretna’sblacksmithswhoperformedmostoftheceremonies!Thefeelingwasthatifthesemencouldjointwopiecesofmetaltogethertoformone,they’dhaveawaywithpeopletoo(whichmighthavesomethingtodowithhorseshoesappearingamongbridalfavours).Itremainsunclearastohowtheygotinaheadoftheclergy,butthechancesarethatScotsblacksmithsofyorewouldhavebeenformidablybuiltfellowsandtherewereplentyofthemaroundasthetownwasakeystaging-postforhorse-drawncarriagesbetweenScotlandandLondon.

Today,however,ceremonieshavetobeperformedeitherbyqualifiedchurchpersonsorappointedcivicregistrars.ButScotlandremainsafavouritedestinationforweddingsaswellashoneymoonsandromanticweekends.

Churchceremoniesarebesttakenupthroughchurchcontacts,thoughmanyhotelierswithexperienceinhostingreceptionsoughttobeabletohelphere–astheywillwithregardstoothergoodoldScotstrappingslikeabagpiperandHighlanddresshire.

However,mostvisitorsfromabroadheadingtoScotlandtotietheknotwillbeenjoyingacivilceremony.Andthegoodnewsisthatachangeinthelawmadein2002allowsweddingstotakeplaceatplacesotherthanregistrar’sofficesandplacesofworship.Alargenumberofromanticvenueslikecastleandcountryestateshavesuccessfullyappliedtobecome‘approvedvenues’formarriages.Foracompletelisting,includingbookingdetails,requirementsandpicturesvisittheGeneralRegisterOfficewebsite(seepage40).

Thelawalsomakes‘temporaryapprovals’ofvenuespossibleonapplication,soifthe17thholeatyourfavouritegolfcourseappeals,youmightjustbegrantedpermission.Again,seethewebsitefordetailsinthefirstinstance,thenfollowupbyenquiringattheregistrar’sofficenearesttoyouridealvenue.Edinburgh’sregistrar,KarenWatson,tellsusthisisfastbecomingapopularoption,saying:

“It’sdonebyahighamountofforeignnationals,especiallypeoplefromtheUnitedStates,wholiketohavearomanticweddinginScotlandbeforesettingoffonaEuropeantour.Here,we’veconductedmarriagesinstatelyhomesandatoffbeatplacesliketheDynamicEarthecologicaltouristattractionandeventhemembers’houseatEdinburghZoo!”

GivenallthisderegulationyoumightthinkthatgoodoldGretnawouldhavehadherday–butthinkagain.

“Gretnaisinfactmorepopularthaneverforweddings,”saystownregistrarJaneChandler.Lastyear,ithosted5,113marriages,that’s17percentofthetotalinScotland–andallinatownofjust7,000people.

You’vegottohandittothelittletown.Visititswebsite,andyou’llseejusthowmuchtheenterprisingGretnacontinuestomakeagoodbusinessfrommarriages.Thereareadvertsforeverythingyou’dneed,fromvenuesandhotelsrightthroughtokiltedpiperstoplayyoutunesandshopstorentyoutraditionalHighlanddress.Blacksmithsinfullcostumeareevenavailable!

Meanwhile,forthosealreadyhitchedorstillgettingtoknowoneanotherbetter,Scotlandcontinuestooffermuchforthatspecialromanticescapade(afterall,thatweddingcanalwaysbeputoffforthetimebeing!).

Theonethingyoureallydoneedforyourtripistofindthevenuethatisrightforyou.Choosingtheperfecthotelgetstheromancegoingstraightaway,andthankfully,Scotland’shotelsarewellawareoftheirromanticappealandmanymakethisapriorityinhowtheypresentthemselves.

HotelsintheHighlandshaveaspecialappealfortheirmountainviews,lochsideorbeachsidesettingsaswellastheirremoteness.AfineexampleistheClunyBankHotelnearForresinMoray.ThisconvertedHighlandmansionissetamongwoodlands,offersperfectseclusionandwildlifewalksandisrunbyaDutchcouple,RenéandPamelaLooper.

“Peopleenjoythelovelywoodlandandpeaceverymuch,”saysRené,“andwe’veanice,romanticatmosphereinthehotel.”

Whenheisn’tpointingourwalkingroutesalongthenearbybeachororganisingdolphincruises,he’sservingcandlelitdinnersforguestsintheirrooms.

“Peopleloveit–andIcangetquitejealous!”hesays.

AnotherHighlandvenuepopularwithloversistheOldPinesRestaurant&RoomsatSpeanBridge.ProprietorsSukieandBillBarberarebothfromsouth-eastEngland,butmet,fellinloveandmarriedinthearea,andnowrunamarvellouslyromanticrestaurantwitheightguestbedrooms.Visitorsoftenarrivebysleepertrain,whichhandilystopsatSpeanBridge.

TheOldPinesoffersplentyofseclusion,setasitisamongfiveacresofScotspinesthatliewithina30-acreHighlandestate.However,asSukiepointsout,mealtimesaremuchmoreconvivialthanusual:

“Weruntherestaurantalongthelinesofsomethingofadinnerparty.Therearelotsofcomfortablesoftfurnishingsforpeopletorelaxin.Weserveafive-coursesetmenueachnightinrelaxedstyle,withdisheslikecheesesimplylaidoutforpeopletohelpthemselveswhentheylike,justasinsomeone’shome.”

Andwhatfare,too.TheOldPineswonaprestigiousFlavourofScotlandawardforitsfoodlastyear.SukieandBill(aformertrout-smoker)sourcetheverybestHighlandseafood,game,cheesesandotherproduce,andtheygrowtheirownherbsandvegetables,reartheirownducksandsupplytheirowneggs.

However,ifyourpreferredlocationforaromanticgetawayismoremetropolitan,thenScotland’scitieshavesomecutting-edgeaccommodationtotemptyouwith.InGlasgowthereistheLangsHotel,withitsblossomingreputationforchic,modernstyle.Itoffersaking-sizebedineachroomandbathsdesignedtotaketwo–completewithtapsplacedawayfromtheendsofthebath.

Thisisamodern,design-ledvenuewherecontemporarymusicisapriority.EachroomhasaCDplayer,andthehotelhaswhatitdescribesasahugebankofCDsforyoutouse,includingawiderangeofmood-settingromanticfavourites.Tworestaurants,oneàlacartefinediningandtheother,Fusion,boastingafar-easternmenuofJapanese,ThaiandMalaysiandishesaswellasastrikingfiresculpture,willbesuretoprovidemorethanenoughtoplease.

Foratouchmoretraditionalluxurywithinacity,thenEdinburghoffersatruegeminChanningsHotel,withoutstandingviewsovertheNewTown.ChanningswasformerlytheEdinburghtownhouseofexplorerErnestShackleton,butthere’snothingatallfrostyaboutthehotelthesedays.

“Thecommonestcomplimentwereceive,”saysthehotel’sKayeClarke,“isthatwe’rethefriendliesthotelpeoplehaveeverstayedat.”

ClarkesumsupChanningsasoffering“country-styletranquillityinacitysetting.”Therearesuitesandfour-posterroomsavailable.In-roomdiningisofferedaswellastworestaurants,eachwithatop-classreputation.OnefollowsarelaxedMediterraneanstyleandmenu,whiletheotheroffersafinediningexperiencefeaturingamixofclassicFrenchandmodernBritishdishes.

There’salsomanyadreamromanticvenueontheislandstoo.Forajaw-droppingsettingthere’slittletomatchhotelsliketheFlodiggaryCountryHouseHotelnearStaffinontheIsleofSkye.Waterandmountaincombinetomakeabreathtakingscene.Flodiggaryissetwithinitsownfiveacresofgroundsandoffersviewsovertothemainland.Thehotelwillhappilyarrangecruisesaroundtheisland.Ashortwalktakesyoutotheshore,fromwhereyoucanfullyappreciateitsspectacularsetting.Again,youhavetheoptionofdininginyourroomorintherestaurant,wherefreshlocalseafoodfeaturesonadailychangingmenu.

Thesearejustasampleofthesortsofvenuetolookoutfor.Beawareofpromotionsintherun-uptoStValentine’sDayorganisedbythetouristauthority,VisitScotland.Earlierthisyear,theyteamedupwitharangeofhotelsandrestaurantsofferingromanticwinterbreaksand/ordinnersatspecialpricesina‘ScotlandwithLove’promotionwhichincludedafree‘SensualScotland’packageofScottishproducedaromatics,liqueursetal.Keepuptodatebyvisitingthewebsite.

VisitScotlandcanalsoadviseonthemostunusualandexclusiveofvenuesforyourromanticbreak,suchashowtostayonthesmall,privatelyownedIsleofEweintheInnerHebrides,orhowtosharearemotebeachwiththeloungingsealionsandhungryseaeaglesof
theislandofTaransay,alsothevenuefortheTVseriesCastaway.

Butwhateverandwhereveryoudecideupon,watchoutforthatromanticoldScotchmist.RememberthetroubleitbroughtGeneKellyandVanMorrisoninthefilmBrigadoon.But,dorememberthatromancesparkedinScotland:

“Anythingispossibleladdie.”