Tuesday, 23 June 2009

160 days and counting

Homecoming Scotland 2009 the Scottish Government initiative managed by EventScotland in partnership with VisitScotland has proved to be achieving its aims. A recent report shows that most European city destinations have registered a drop in occupancy rates, while Edinburgh has shown a rise.

This celebration of Scotland has attracted visitors from around the world, particularly from countries with large Scots diaspora populations, such as Canada, the USA, Australia and New Zealand and other parts of the UK. However, the continuing celebrations are not only for people with links to Scotland; they are for anyone who simply loves Scotland.

The overall objective of Homecoming is to deliver £40m of additional tourism revenue to the country, with just over 6 months to go it looks set to achieving this aim.

New for 2009 - Extremis: drop ride to doom

Feel the adrenaline pump and your heart pound as Edinburgh Dungeon unveils the city’s first ever drop ride - Extremis: Drop Ride to Doom

Based on the ghastly historic hangings that took place at Edinburgh’s Grassmarket during the 17th and 18th centuries, the three story ride will plunge visitors into oblivion within a second flat – in pitch darkness.

Plummeting down that fast in the dark leaves your stomach above your head, your heart pounding and your blood buzzing long after you’ve braved the drop.

With the Edinburgh Dungeon already host to a damp, chilling boat ride, the installation of Extremis signifies a major investment into the Dungeon, which now boasts two rides as part of its fearsome dark tour of Edinburgh’s darkest, most horrible history.

The investment sees the Edinburgh landmark cement its place as one of the most ambitious tourist attractions in the Scottish capital and a great addition to any city break or group touring programme.

Extremis will provide a perfectly horrific addition to the actor led shows and interactive features the Dungeon is infamous for.

Discounted rates are available for groups of 10+ along with the added benefits of priority entrance, a free place and free familiarisation visit for the group leader.

Adult (16yrs +) - £9.95
Child (6-15yrs) - £6.95
Concession - £8.95

To book your group visit please call 0871 663 1672 or visit www.groupfundays.co.uk for more information.

For details on preferred trade rates and terms please contact debbie.fisher@merlinentertainments.biz

2010 prices fixed at 2009 rates

The National Trust for Scotland has just announced that it is holding its advertised 2009 travel trade prices until 31 December 2010.

This means that the Trust’s already excellent value-for-money Group Rates and flexible, multi-day Discover Tickets and are now even more attractive, saving coach and tour operators, and their clients, up to 78%* on standard admission prices.

Their new 3-, 7- and 14-day Discover Tickets also offer greater opportunities to visit more National Trust for Scotland properties than ever before. With the addition of Burns National Heritage Park this means even better value-for-money at no extra cost!

Discover Tickets:
· attract a 20% commission on all sales
· are sold exclusively to the travel trade
· are issued on a sale or return basis
· allow unrestricted access to all National Trust for Scotland attractions
· retail from £20.00 per person

· 3-day tickets are valid 3 days out of 7 consecutive days
· 7-day tickets are valid 7 days out of 14 consecutive days
· 14-day tickets are valid 14 days out of 30 consecutive days

The National Trust for Scotland offers a wealth of 4 star and 5 star visitor attractions including world-famous gardens, battlefields, industrial heritage, castles, palaces, mansionhouses, collections and interiors. Many venues also offer excellent coach parking, catering facilities and exclusive gift shops.

For all bookings and enquiries, email the National Trust for Scotland at traveltrade@nts.org.uk, telephone 0844 493 2104 (+44 131 243 9304 from outside the UK), or visit www.nts.org.uk/TravelTrade

* 78% saving based on 14-day adult Discover Ticket.
The Loch Lomond Aquarium SEA LIFE centre is situated on the southern tip of Loch Lomond on the Loch Lomond Shores development, just 20 miles from Glasgow.

This magical attraction takes visitors on a journey from highland stream, via the depths of the loch, to the North Sea and onward to the Carribean. It houses a trio of otters, countless freshwater and native marine species and ends with a voyage under the sea through the ocean tank teeming with colourful reef and tropical sharks. The centre is in fact home to the largest selection of sharks in Scotland, with a new pair of Bonnethead sharks having arrived in 2009.

With breathtaking views from the Loch View coffee shop, discounted group rates from as little as £4.50*, discounted food and beverage deals, free leader places and free talks and demonstrations, the Loch Lomond Aquarium is a great place for groups to visit at any time of the year.
To book your group visit please call 0871 222 6935 or visit www.groupfundays.co.uk for more information.

For preferential trade rates and terms please email: debbie.fisher@merlinentertainments.biz
*to qualify for group rates, a minimum of 10 people applies. Adults: £6.50. Seniors: £5.50, Children: £4.50

Address: Loch Lomond Shores, Ben Lomond Way, Balloch, G83 8QL
Website: www.sealife.co.uk
Site contact: Emma McDougal
Tel : 01389 721500
Email: emma.mcdougal@merlinentertainments.biz

2 great theatres, 2009 highlights

Summer and Autumn highlights at Glasgow’s King’ Theatre and the Theatre Royal

For anyone planning a holiday or a long weekend to the city a visit to Glasgow would not be complete without a trip to either The King’s or Theatre Royal.

King’s season highlights include the comedy Stepping Out (15-19 Sept), starring Jesse Wallace (Eastenders) and Brian Capron (Coronation Street). The comedy continues with Victoria Wood’s Dinnerladies (22 – 26 Sept). Reprising their roles from the original series are Shobna Gulati and Andrew Dunn. Richard O’Brien opens his brand new show, The Stripper (29 Sept – 3 Oct), a new musical brought to the stage by same team who created the Rocky Horror phenomenon. And the children’s classic Chitty Chitty Bang Bang glides in from 20 Oct – 14 Nov.

Over at the Theatre Royal we welcome for one night only Ms Elkie Brooks (13 Aug). For our younger audience we have the Tweenies Live (31 July - 2 Aug) and family favourite Annie (4 – 8 Aug) starring the irrepressible Su Pollard! Enjoy comedy? Why not pop along for night with Bill Bailey, one of the finest comedians the country has to offer (17 – 22 Aug). For dance check out Dorian Gray (29 Sep – 3 Oct) the massive sell out at the Edinburgh Festival in 2008. This sexy and slick production by choreographer Matthew Bourne is a truly seductive event.

This really is a taster of what’s on offer. To find out details of the entire season log on to www.ambassadortickets.som/glasgow

Scotland - golf heaven

There are more golf courses per head of population in Scotland than almost anywhere else on Earth.....featuring some of the world’s most famous golfing challenges, including the Old Course in St. Andrews, the Old Course at Royal Troon, the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers at Muirfield, the Championship Course at Carnoustie and the Ailsa Course at Turnberry, host to The Open Championship in 2009.

However, Scotland has much more to offer visiting golfers, with some of the finest hidden gems to meet your required course standard and budget, ranging from Southerness in the south to the amazing 9 hole course at Durness in the far north; from Machrihanish in the west to Montrose on the east coast. Experience the superb new course at Castle Stuart.

At Thistle Golf we pride ourselves in our knowledge of the finest golfing venues in Scotland, together with the best places to stay throughout our beautiful country.....the interesting places to visit, and the great restaurants and pubs to enjoy.

If you fancy a trip to Scotland to savour the delights of playing golf, as well as enjoying the magnificent scenery and perhaps partaking of a wee dram too.....we’ll be delighted to assist you in making all your arrangements, from your group’s arrival here until departure.

To request a free quotation, contact us on +44 (0)141 942 4043 or visit our website at www.thistlegolf.co.uk . Thistle Golf......large enough to cope, small enough to care!

Monks, Mines & Museums

The Scottish Mining Museum and Newbattle Abbey in Midlothian have joined forces to tailor a fantastic full day tour aimed specifically at the groups market. Your journey into the past begins with a visit to enigmatic Newbattle Abbey College where Cistercian monks mined possibly the first coal in Scotland in the 12th century. Here, visitors will learn about the Abbey’s many links to Scotland’s past including the Declaration of Arbroath, Mary Queen of Scots, the Knights Templar and how the development of this ancient house came to be responsible for the Lady Victoria pit which is now the Scottish Mining Museum.

Following lunch at the Abbey, the tour resumes at the Scottish Mining Museum, housed in the wonderfully restored Lady Victoria Colliery. Opened in the 1890s the “Lady Vic” became renowned as one of the first Scottish 'super pits' and a showpiece for the industry. Today the A-listed complex is recognised as one of the finest surviving examples of a Victorian colliery in Europe, and is home to the extensive collections of the Scottish Mining Museum. Now a five star visitor attraction, the museum tells the story of coal for Scotland through two floors of exhibitions - A Race Apart and The Story of Coal - Magic Helmet tour, recreated underground roadway and coalface, the largest winding engine in Scotland and the Big Stuff – Massive Mining Machinery tour.

For further information or to make a booking please contact Rae McGhee (Newbattle Abbey) on 0131 663 1921 or Gillian Rankin (Scottish Mining Museum) on 0131 663 7519.

When I’m 64...

Fitzcharles Coaches now in it’s 64th year, family owned, managed by the third /fourth generations of our family, which our grandparents started, still going strong, which is quite an achievement in this day and age.

Why are we still going strong? Perhaps it’s because we give a personal service, lost by large companies. Perhaps it’s because when you travel on a Fitzcharles coach tour, it will be a Fitzcharles coach that will do the tour. Perhaps it’s because when you travel with us, one driver per tour, and he is your friend from start to finish. Perhaps it’s because most entrance fees to places of interest and travel insurance are included, which allows you to budget your spending money. Perhaps it’s because all our coaches are ours and are air conditioned with toilets. Perhaps it’s because we are fully bonded for your financial security.

Whatever your group interests, we will work hard to ensure we offer you new and exciting itineraries with great excursions included. We have worked with many individual hotels as well as hotel groups over the years and can offer very competitive prices as well as often added value items such as welcome drinks, speciality dinners, etc.

Ronnie, Olive, and all our experienced, professional staff look forward to assisting you in the near future.

To find out more please telephone ++44(0)1324 482093 or visit www.fitzcharles.co.uk.

30 years strong

Now in its 30th year, The Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary opens a window into a watery wonderland, teeming with amazing sea creatures of astonishing variety. Nestling amidst the pine trees on the shores of picturesque Loch Creran, the Centre combines a spectacular aquarium with a busy rescue and rehabilitation facility for both common and grey seal pups.

With breathtaking views, group rates from as little as £4.50*, discounted food & beverage deals, free leader places, free talks and feeding demonstrations throughout the day, the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary prides itself on its group offering.

Whether your group is passing through or staying locally we welcome you and invite you to share this real national treasure.

To book your group visit please call 0871 222 6941 or visit www.groupfundays.co.uk for more information.

For preferential trade rates and terms please email: debbie.fisher@merlinentertainments.biz
*to qualify for group rates, a minimum of 10 people applies. Adults: £6.50. Seniors: £5.50, Children: £4.50

Address: Barcaldine, Connel, Oban, Argyll PA37 1SE
Website: www.sealsanctuary.co.uk
Site contact: Alex Blackman, 01631 720386. alex.blackman@merlinentertainments.biz

SS Sir Walter Scott, back with style

The veteran steamship Sir Walter Scott, synonymous with Loch Katrine and The Trossachs since its launch in 1899, has returned to service on completion of a three-year restoration project.

Below decks, the ship’s original steam engine has been overhauled, whilst the passenger accommodation has been totally upgraded, with a new enclosed lounge area, fully accessible toilet accommodation, and a new servery for drinks and snacks. On the main deck all of the seating has been renewed, and a new raised area at the stern provides panoramic views of the Loch Katrine landscapes.

Completion of the project means that passengers can enjoy a really special experience - the magnificent scenery, excellent on-board amenities, and the timeless pleasure of sailing on a classic steamship.

The Sir Walter Scott operates a daily return journey to Stronachlachar (departing from Trossachs Pier at 10:30am) throughout the Summer, as well as shorter cruises during the afternoon. It sails alongside the modern cruiser ‘Lady of the Lake’, named after the epic poem by Sir Walter Scott, whose writings did so much to put The Trossachs on the map.

Each afternoon until September 2009 ‘Lady of the Lake’ also operates a special ‘MacGregor Homeland Cruise’, sailing past Factor’s Island to Glengyle, birthplace of the famous Highlander Rob Roy MacGregor.

Groups visiting Loch Katrine can take advantage of free coach parking, group discounts on all sailings, and excellent facilities at Trossachs Pier, including The Anchor’s Rest Bistro and Bar.

Further information is available from www.lochkatrine.com, or from (01877) 332000.

The Homecoming Scotland effect

When the Scotts were one of the most powerful reiving families in the Borders their call to battle could put 600 men in the saddle in less than an hour. The clash of fire and steel reverberated across the Borderland as men from all clans fought to protect hearth and home. Those days may be long gone, but as part of Homecoming 2009 the Duke of Buccleuch is putting out a call to all Border families, of all clans, families and allegiances, to attend ‘The Muster’ at Bowhill on Saturday 26th September.

This exciting event and indeed the year of Homecoming has made Bowhill staff concentrate on the roots of the Buccleuch family and how the collection is what it is today.

Bowhill houses one of the most impressive private art, furniture, silver and porcelain collections in Scotland.

The 5th Duke, Walter Francis, was responsible for much of the building and for collecting many of the breathtaking treasures. He was a passionate collector and had a great interest in miniatures and today the Buccleuch collection of miniatures is second only to the Royal collection.

The Buccleuch family name is Montagu Douglas Scott, inheritances from the various families are on display, and there are items from the Campbell’s of Argyll through an earlier marriage. A guided tour of Bowhill gives the visitor the story of the Buccleuch family and how the collection came together.

Groups can visit all year round by appointment
Contacts 0175022204, bht@buccleuch.com www.bowhill.org

Walter Francis, 5th Duke of Buccleuch by George Richmond, R.A. Courtesy of the Trustees of the Ninth Duke of Buccleuch’s Chattels Fund

Glasgow for Groups

Glasgow is an interesting and exciting city with much to offer visitors with exceptional shopping, restaurants, nightlife and it is also an ideal base for visiting some of the most stunning countryside in Britain.

Strathclyde University’s Campus Village is situated on an attractively landscaped site within walking distance of the city centre. 600 bedrooms are available from June to September, including 300 with en suite facilities, all built around the Lord Todd Restaurant and bar. Bed and Breakfast, half and full board are all available and there are also self catering flats available for weekly lets. It has been used as a base for many groups, who like its proximity to good transport links, making day trips to Loch Lomond, the Trossachs, Edinburgh and the Ayrshire coach all possible. Sporting groups are regular users due to the campus’s location close to Strathclyde Park, an international rowing venue, and to Tollcross Swimming Pool, one of only two 50 metre pools in Scotland.

Glasgow is an important cultural centre with stunning art galleries and museums. The Burrell, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and the Charles Rennie Mackintosh trail are just a few of the attractions which bring visitors to the city and Glasgow is also the home of Scottish Opera and the Scottish Ballet, shortly moving into an exciting new space at the Tramway on the south side of the city.

All of this, combined with the friendliness of the people and the accessibility of this vibrant city combine to make Glasgow an enticing location for groups.

Tel: 0141 553 4148. Fax: 0141 553 4149
rescat@strath.ac.uk www.rescat.strath.ac.uk

Come fly with us!

The Scottish Seabird Centre at North Berwick offers visitors a unique experience of becoming a wildlife cameraman for the day to watch amazing wildlife close up - thousands of nesting seabirds, including puffins and gannets in spring and summer and seals in winter with their fluffy white pups. Sightings of dolphins, porpoises or whales are on the increase, so you could be lucky!!

The multi award-winning five star visitor attraction is perched on the sea at North Berwick with a Discovery Centre, Gift Shop and Licensed Café for refreshments to full meals, cooked on the premises using fresh local produce. We can cater for large numbers with, for example, lunch or high teas, also offering complimentary lunch/refreshments for drivers and free off site coach parking. Dine on the deck overlooking the sea and stunning views. Full disabled and baby changing facilities. An all weather attraction, the Centre is open all year. Open all year. Easy access from the A1.

The exciting Discovery Centre features live remote control cameras with giant screens, wildlife cinema, daily fish feeding, wildlife talks and walks, events and exhibitions. Environment Zone and Migration Flyway. Kids’ Playzone and family events programme with something for everyone and children’s workshops at weekends and school holidays. New Seabird Seafari boat trips round the Bass Rock, home to 100,000 gannets and Craigleith Island to see the puffins.

North Berwick is just a short trip from the bright lights of Edinburgh, but it feels a million miles away. Stunning unspoilt coastline, blue flag beaches, dramatic panoramic landscapes, lovely individual shops, cafes and restaurants and officially the sunniest place in Scotland!

The Seabird Centre has a great website at www.seabird.org with nine live webcams and lots of information for planning your journey.

Scottish Seabird Centre
The Harbour
North Berwick
EH39 4SS

Tel: 01620 890202
Fax: 01620 890222
Email: info@seabird.org

Golf, malt whisky & hickory sticks...

Morton Golf Holidays received wonderful feedback from all clients who enjoyed a Links Golf coaching clinic from Jim Farmer who is the Captain of the British PGA and is recognised as one of the leading experts in links golf.

Our clients also enjoyed learning about Scotch Whisky in a fun and informative way whilst attending private whisky dinners hosted by Iain Stothard the world renown expert.

Iain matches a scotch malt whisky to each course of dinner which as our client Jesse Bean from California said this is a wonderful way to learn all about Scotland’s national drink.

Or why not try your hand at playing with hickory golf clubs – Dick Perkins from Boston attended a demonstration at Crail Golfing Society which was run by Head Professional and golf historian, Graeme Lennie – Dick and his group thought this was an extremely interesting way to learn more about the heritage of the game we all love so much.

Add all of these activities to the expert itineraries put together by Morton Golf Holidays owner Peter Craigon and you have a winning formula for your trip to the Home of Golf.

Peter has played over 250 of Scotland’s wonderful golf courses and would be delighted to share his experiences to help you and your groups enjoy the golfing experience of a lifetime by coming on a Morton Golf Holidays trip to Scotland. Contact Peter today on 00 44 1577 866716 or email : info@mortongolf.com or visit the website at www.mortongolf.com