Archive for category Scotland

Try the Inner Hebrides for Whisky, Wildlife and Wandering

the-skye-bridgeClose to the west coast of Scotland, the Inner Hebrides include Skye, Mull Jura and Islay, along with a number of smaller islands. They present an ideal opportunity for exploration by island hopping, in order to experience a whole range of things to see and do.

Across these island, there is a good range of self-catering, holiday cottage accommodation to choose from, but you don’t need to be restricted by where you base yourself. The best thing to do is to get out and about, exploring the islands.

Exploring on Skye

At the northern end of the Inner Hebrides, Skye is the largest of the islands. It has miles of coastline, mountain ranges and towns and villages bursting with character.

It’s an ideal destination if you want to pull on your walking boots and really get involved in exploring the landscape. While you wouldn’t necessarily come to Skye for a traditional beach holiday, it does have beautiful beaches, such as Claigan Coral beach, actually made of algae fossilised and bleached by the sun. Nearby is the island of Lampay, which you can cross the bay to in low tide. Also close by is the historic Dunvegan Castle, which is well worth a visit to see both the interior with its highland artefacts and treasures, and its beautifully tended, formal gardens.

By way of contrast, the Cuillin is a rocky mountain range that is the dominating feature on Skye, approachable by boat or on foot. You can walk the popular Glen Sligachan route, which runs between the granite Red Hills and the Cuillin to the west.

If you want to experience wild swimming, or just take in some natural beauty, you must visit the Fairy Pools on the island, at the foot of the Black Cuillins. On the River Brittle, these are beautifully clear, tranquil blue pools.

Tobermory and Mull

On the island of Mull, Tobermory is the main town, originally built as a fishing port in the late 18th century. This charming location has a good collection of independent artisan shops, pubs and eateries.

Mull is also hugely important for wildlife. Its woodland is home to a variety of Warblers and Songbirds in the summer months, while pine forests to the north of the island are where you may find the Crossbill, a bright red, parrot-like bird, whose rareness makes spotting it all the more rewarding.

The island is also the best place in the UK to see eagles, including the Golden Eagle and the White Tailed Sea Eagle.

Other wildlife on Mull includes otters, whales and dolphins – all of which you can arrange guided tours to see in their natural habitat.

Islay and Jura Distilled

Islay and Jura are walkers’ paradises, as well as being centres of notable whisky distilleries. Jura has over 5,000 deer, while Islay is home to the RSPB Loch Gruinart reserve, where you can observe a wide variety of bird species.

On Islay there is an annual Festival of Malt and Music held every May, and you take guided tours at its various distilleries at Port Ellen, Bowmore and Port Askaig throughout the year.

Jura is really quite an untamed location, but this long, narrow island is worth a visit to experience its wildness and natural beauty. It has its own distillery, producing whisky with a distinct, smoky flavour, which you can visit by appointment.

The Inner Hebrides offer plenty of choice when it comes to scenery, activities and accommodation, and a real opportunity to experience a different kind of Scotland.

Unlock the Immense Beauty of Loch Lomond

loch-lomond-1458598669opdAt the heart of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park is the loch itself, an immense area of water, 24.5 miles long. Loch Lomond is the largest freshwater loch in Scotland and a fantastic destination for stunning scenery, and plenty of outdoor activities and interests.

There is a good choice of self-catering holiday cottages and apartments available, including lodges on the shore of the loch, giving you the freedom to explore the area at your leisure

 

Walking and Cycling

This really is great walking country. With a choice of short to moderate and long distance walking routes, there’s something to suit your ability or your mood.

For short walks, try the Millennium Forest Trail at Balmaha, following the shoreline of the loch then climbing up to Craigie Fort; or the West Highland and Rob Roy Circular, through the forest and along a quiet country road

For long distance routes, six of Scotland’s Great Trails connect in and around the Trossachs National Park. Each of these is at least 25 miles long. The Great Trossachs Forest Path takes you from Callander in the east to Inversnaid in the west, and you’ll see plenty of scenery and wildlife along the way.

The West Highland Way was Scotland’s first official long distance route, connecting Milngavie to Fort William. You might not want to walk its total 96 mile length, but you certainly can experience part of it.

The Loch Lomond area is also ideal for hillwalking, including the popular route to Ben Lomond, Scotland’s most southerly munro (mountain).

For cyclists, there are family-friendly routes or tougher mountain bike trails with a rougher terrain to challenge you. The West Loch Lomond Cycle Path is graded as easy but takes in some spectacular views of the Loch and its islands.

Taking the Banks of Loch Eck Loop route provides more tranquil scenery, including beaches and forests.

For mountain biking there is the Old Military Road that includes the three Lochs of Lomond, Arklet and Katrine. And you’ll have a pretty wild experience on The Three Glens circuit, where you climb to the upper part of Glen Kendrum, then dramatically descend at Glean Dubh into Glen Dochart.

On the Water

When you’re here, you really shouldn’t miss the opportunity to experience the water up close on a loch cruise.

On a loch cruise you’ll get unique views of the mountains and countryside and the various loch islands. Cruises on Loch Lomond run from Balloch and all along the western shore, from Luss, Tarbet and Inveruglas.

There are also cruises on Loch Katrine departing from Trossachs Pier.

Other water activities on Loch Lomond include canoeing and kayaking, sailing and windsurfing. You can also enjoy a bit of swimming, if you feel up to the challenge of the loch’s water temperature – plenty of people enjoy it.

Unmissable Views

Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park is abundantly blessed with places where enjoying the view is its own reward. There are almost too many locations to choose from but there are some key ones not to miss.

The mirrored lookout cabin at Loch Voil offers spectacular views of the landscape while the mirrored stainless steel of its outer surfaces reflects the surroundings to mesmerising effect.

Also to the north of the Trossachs are the Falls of Falloch. The Woven Sound shelter space here is a long trellis of woven steel rods overlooking the waterfalls. It offers the opportunity for a close up view without being overly intrusive on the encompassing landscape.

Finally, the An Ceann Mòr viewpoint at Inveruglas, on the shores of Loch Lomond, is an architecturally intriguing wooden structure, pyramid shaped, where viewers can climb to its apex to experience superlative views of the loch and surrounding mountains.

 

Flybe’s hop-on hop-off service connecting UK

Making it easier to fly to various points across the country, Flybe is to launch a new hop-on or hop-off service between Aberdeen and Jersey in October.

Designed to be used as a ‘shuttle bus service in the sky’, Flyshuttle, will fly between Aberdeen and Jersey, stopping off en route in Leeds and Southampton to pick up or drop off passengers. For those that stop on, the total journey time will be just over four hours.

A spokesperson for the airline said the new service would make the route more viable, and will be reinstating Flybe’s links between Leeds and Southampton. It is also creating a new link between Aberdeen and the cruise port, opening up the cruise market to more customers.

“Rather than offering lots of different routes with low load factors, we are offering one hop-on, hop-off service, similar to the way domestic airlines operate in the US,” said the spokesman.

Paul Simmons, Flybe’s chief commercial officer said: “FlyShuttle is a convenient and affordable concept for the regional marketplace that gives customers extra choice and additional connectivity for everyday air travel.

“Today’s announcement is another significant landmark in the re-birth of Flybe. Designed to be used as a ‘shuttle bus service in the sky’ all the way between Jersey in the south and Aberdeen in the north, we are again showing that we are ‘the fastest way from A to Flybe’, faster than road or rail – and certainly more affordable.

“By enhancing the number of routes, connections and frequencies we already operate,FlyShuttle is the perfect progression. It’s a product that sets us apart and we are genuinely excited to be shaping the future of regional air travel.”

The service could also mean it will be possible to go for a holiday cottage break in Yorkshire, Scotland, the South coast of England and across to Jersey in much quicker and more convenient time than other forms of transport.

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Cornwall most family-friendly destination in the world

Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall picture by Flickr user Fraser Reid

Porthcurno Beach, Cornwall picture by Flickr user Fraser Reid

That’s right, our beloved Cornwall has been voted the most child-friendly holiday destination in the whole world, with Devon, Somerset, Dorset and the Isle of Wight also appearing in the top ten.

The results are from a recent poll of 2,000 parents by an international lettings agency, with Cornwall recommended as the best place for family-friendly holidays. The news comes shortly after Cornwall was granted national minority status within the UK, officially recognising it’s distinct culture and heritage.

Top priorities to ensure the best child-friendly holiday included nearby play areas, a good choice of food to cater for fussy eaters, and a shallow sea. Half of the parents polled said the ideal holiday destination must have nice beaches, and 28% said kids’ swimming pools are essential.

Cornwall pipped Orlando in Florida to the top spot because even though Orlando boasts vast theme parks and near-perfect sunny weather, it was marked down for the long flying time of around nine hours.

The study also found that the ideal length of time for a family holiday would be around 10 days, and travelling time to the destination would be under five hours.

Other UK destinations to feature in the top 50 include West Wales, the Yorkshire Dales, Peak District and the Scottish Highlands.

The results are unsurprising to us at Holiday Cottages, where we have holiday accommodation at all of the high-ranking areas voted on in the poll.

 

Top Ten Child-Friendly Holiday Destinations

1. Cornwall, UK

2. Orlando, USA

3. Devon, UK

4. Majorca

5. Costa Del Sol, Spain

6. Isle of Wight

7. Menorca

8. Dorset, UK

9. Somerset, UK

10. Tenerife

 

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Flybe launches new domestic flights from London City

Flybe is to launch new domestic and international flights from London City Airport in October. 

Flights are on sale now to Edinburgh, Dublin, Belfast, Exeter and Inverness with departures launching on 27th October. The airline is also planning to offer off-peak leisure flights to selected ski, regional French and Northern Spanish destinations.

Flybe will base three aircraft at regional airports and two at London City, where it expects to carry around 500,000 passengers a year.

Flybe’s chief executive officer Saad Hammad said: “Today’s announcement is a significant landmark in the re-birth of Flybe. We are delighted to re-enter the London market at London’s most convenient airport following a rigorous profitability analysis utilising our strict route assessment model.

“Dedicating five growth aircraft initially to these new routes is a major statement of intent and we look forward to building a successful and growing presence there over the coming years.

“Flybe is today already connecting over seven million passengers a year across the UK and Europe. With a major London connection, we reaffirm our place as the UK’s largest regional airline.”

Initially there will be four daily flights to and from Edinburgh and Dublin, three flights a day to and from Belfast and Exeter, and twice daily flights to and from Inverness.

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‘Sounds’ of Britain to encourage visitors

Big Ben picture by Flickr user tjuel

Big Ben picture by Flickr user tjuel

Sounds can evoke strong memories or associations, and VisitBritain is hoping to harness this power with it’s new sound-based ad campaign.

The £2.5 million TV and online ad campaign features the ‘sounds’ of Britain. These will include the pouring of a cup of tea, a black cap beeping and, of course, the chimes of Big Ben.

It’s been launched across key tourism markets: USA, Brazil, China, India, Gulf states, and throughout Europe.

The digital version will allow users to customise their own advert and itinerary set to the ‘sounds’ of Britain, and Rudimental’s song ‘Feel the Love’. They can also share the result with friends via Facebook and Twitter.

Joss Croft, marketing director at VisitBritain said: “We want to involve people in creating their own British experience – first online where they can become the director of their own bespoke tourism ad, and then in reality following their individual journey across Britain according to their own interests and inspirations.

“This ad is something a little bit different and we hope it conveys the humour and character of a modern, confident Britain.”

If you’re visiting the UK, make sure to include Holiday Cottages in your Great British holiday plan!

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Record number of visitors to UK in 2013

It’s official – the UK saw a record annual inbound spend and numbers of visitors during 2013.

The results from the Office of National Statistics show overseas visitors spent £21 billion in 2013, 13% more than the previous record breaking year of 2012 which saw £18.64 billion.

It was also a record number for tourists, with 32.89 million visits from overseas, exceeding the previous record set in 2007, which saw 32.78 million visits.

The increase is, in part, thanks to VisitBritain’s GREAT Britain campaign, said the tourist board.

Sandie Dawe, chief executive at VisitBritain said: “Not only have we managed to surpass the £20bn barrier for the very first time, but we’ve broken records for holidaymakers and visitors from key growth markets such as China and South Korea.

“Holiday figures are up across the whole of Britain with robust growth for Scotland, Wales, Rest of England and London.”

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Top events for 2014

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre timeline picture by Flickr user Dysanovic

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre timeline picture by Flickr user Dysanovic

We’re speeding through January now, so let’s have a quick look at some of the main events in the UK for 2014!

1. This year will be the 450th birthday of England’s greatest poet and playwright, Shakespeare. Celebrations have already kicked off this month at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London. Candlelit plays, operas and concerts will be performed in the new Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. On Shakespeare’s actual birthday, 23rd April, during ‘Shakespeare Week’ The Globe will stage its first performance of Hamlet to start a two-year world tour.

2. 5th July will see Stage 1 of the Tour de France Grand Départ get underway in Leeds, Yorkshire. It will continue on through some of the most stunning countryside in the Yorkshire Dales through to the spa town of Harrogate. Stage 2 starts in the medieval city of York, finishing in my home town, Sheffield! Stage 3 sets off from Cambridge, cycling through the Essex countryside to London, leading to a spectacular finish at The Mall. An exciting sporting event, and great to use the route to explore different areas of the country.

3. Scotland gears up for a summer of sport with the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in July, and the golf championship, the Ryder Cup, at Gleneagles in September.

4. This year marks the 175th anniversary of the Henley Royal Regatta. For five days from 1st July, teams from across the world will compete in this traditional rowing event across the River Thames. A great event to sit on the riverbank with a picnic in the sunshine.

5. Another anniversary this year, too; the centenary of Wales‘ greatest poet and writer, Dylan Thomas. The actual centenary is 27th October, but year-round events, exhibitions and festivals will celebrate Thomas and showcase Wales as an extraordinary land of artistic excellence.

 

Keep up to date with upcoming events around the UK featured on this blog, or search particular dates and places at the tourist board, VisitBritain.

 

 

 

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Homecoming Scotland 2014

Fort William photo by Flickr user Hotfield

Fort William photo by Flickr user Hotfield

Scotland is marketing itself to itself in a new £500,000 campaign, ‘Homecoming Scotland 2014’.

The campaign will encourage fellow Scots, northerners and the Northern Irish to visit the various events happening throughout the year, right on their doorsteps. There will be a 30-second TV advert, radio, digital, press and other promotional activity to highlight the 430 family-friendly Homecoming events. These include the Islay Festival of Music and Malt, Lochearnhead Highland Games, and the Wickerman Festival in Dumfries and Galloway.

Tourism minister Fergus Ewing said: “This year, Scotland will also play host to the Ryder Cup, Commonwealth Games and the MTV Europe Awards – which will broadcast to nearly 700 million households through MTV’s global network of channels.

“2014 will be an extraordinary year for Scotland and this advert, alongside the Homecoming app and enhanced information on the wider events programme which are also now available, will help us to share it with as many people as possible.”

So with all these brilliant events going on, what better time than to highlight the Scotland section of our Holiday Cottages!

We have lots to choose from, but to start, how about The Logs, a detached Norwegian-style log house (sleeps up to 10) 3 miles north of Fort William. It has panoramic views of Ben Nevis and the ski slopes of Aonach Mor.

The comfortable accommodation includes a spacious lounge with gallery sitting room, dining room, well-equipped breakfast kitchen, 6 bedrooms (2 en suite) and a bathroom. There is a wood-burning stove in the lounge, gas central heating, 2 TVs, DVD, video and CD player. The large garden and patio area is bordered by the remnants of the old Caledonian pine forest. Plus, there are over 70 events and activities listed on the Homecoming Scotland 2014 website including tours, cycling, fishing and lots more!

The Logs outside

The Logs outside

Cosy living room

Cosy living room

 

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2013 round up

Happy New Year from all of us at Holiday Cottages! Before we start on the news and reviews for 2014, here’s a some highlights of what we covered on the blog in 2013:

We started the year with a report that we Brits are creatures of habit with our holiday choices, often returning to a previous destination and holiday cottage when we’ve had one good holiday there before. Last year was the Year of Natural Scotland, and was launched with an advert featuring Shetland ponies wearing onesies!

In February we found that 50% of Londoners prefer holidays in the sunshine, with many also stating that their holidays in the UK were some of the happiest they have had. We also gave you a run down of some of our most splendid cottages with pools, which are all still available now and could be great for a summer holiday vibe in winter!

Flybe announced flights from Manchester to Scotland in March, making for a quick and relatively cost effective way of taking a short break in Scotland. The Easter holidays were blighted by bad weather sweeping across the country. It didn’t affect Cheshire, though, as I shared my photography adventure in Tatton Park over the Easter weekend.

Our friends at Helpful Holidays swept the board at the Which? Travel magazine member survey in April. Meanwhile, in May, Blackpool was named the most popular British seaside resort at the TripAdvisor Choice Awards.

In June, research by VisitBritain found that more overseas visitors to the UK prefer visiting open green spaces such as parks and gardens than they do museums and galleries.

July started with the news that a change in the law in 2015, which means schools will decide their own term dates, will very likely drive up the prices of holidays year round. There was a rise in visits to UK attractions, helping to bolster domestic tourism.

We gave our top tips for festivals and activities over the August Bank Holiday; we also reported on the large number of UK piers under threat of coming under a state of disrepair if funding isn’t found.

September was a time for activities such as the Devon Open Studios, Frome Cheese and Agricultural Show, and pickling at Powderham.

In October, inbound tourism was on the up, and also Yorkshire was voted one of the top 10 places to visit in the world!

In November we recommended the North Devon Clovelly Herring Festival and reviewed the light fantastic Lumiere Festival, Durham. There was good news for Hull, as it was named the next UK City of Culture 2017.

Finally, in December, we found that we Brits are flavour of the month with Americans, as tourists from across the Pond have been increasing in number year on year. Christmas was also a great time for UK tourism as the number of overnight stays and short trips increased substantially over the festive period.

So, that’s it for 2013! Keep up to date with news and reviews in 2014 by following the blog, or you can like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter

 

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