The Man Behind The Watercolours

One of Bryan Evans' works in our Edinburgh apartments
                                                        One of Bryan Evans’ works in our Edinburgh apartments

With all of our apartments we like to bring a stylish touch to them and to make them feel like a home away from home; which is why we like to incorporate modern and striking art that complements the surroundings and catches the eye. With our brand new apartments being located in Scotland’s capital, of course it was irrefutable that we would bring that Scottish edge to them through the inclusion of tartan rugs and pillows embellished with natural imagery such as deers. However, the ultimate touch that pays homage to the historic yet beautiful city which The Spires is pleased to now call its fourth home, has to be the visually stunning works created by Bryan Evans which now adorn the walls of our Edinburgh apartments. Based in Glasgow and known for creating works which depict the atmosphere of the rainy Glasgow and Edinburgh streets, Bryan’s works could not have stronger ties to Scotland. Therefore, whether you have been fortunate enough to admire his talent in our apartments or at one of his exhibitions, we would like to take a moment to let you come become acquainted with the man behind the art.

Although initially hailing from Pembrokeshire, West Wales, Bryan Evans settled in Glasgow post-graduation due to the passion he found for the city when he engaged in a three-month exchange there while studying for his degree in Fine Art at the Loughborough College of Art. A full-time professional painter and printmaker, Bryan Evans’ work can be typified by a variety of factors. To begin with, although he does produce etchings and mezzotints, he favours the use of watercolours which makes sense when you consider how many of his paintings convey the wet streets of many a Scottish town and city caught in the rain; particularly those of Glasgow and Edinburgh. Although rain is undoubtedly a common feature of day-to-day Scottish life, what particularly enamours Bryan Evans with the Scottish drizzle is the array of colours it allows him to use due to the effect that rain has on light and the reflections it casts. As well as the rain, Bryan Evans is also a fan of the dusk and other favoured subject matters include reflecting people engaging in those ordinary moments of day-to-day life as well as capturing the gloomy atmosphere of dark tenement closes. See some examples of these stunning works here: http://bryanevans.com/reproduction-prints/.

It is quite likely that you will have already encountered Bryan Evan’s works because not only has he been exhibited across the UK, but he has also made it onto the international stage by exhibiting in locations as far away and as exotic as India and the USA. Moreover, while his works speak a thousand words about the strong talent and creativity he has to offer, the fact that the ‘Glasgow Herald’ even once proclaimed him as “The New Scottish Impressionist” just cements the fact. Therefore, we feel extremely grateful to have Bryan’s well-regarded works adorning our walls and I can honestly say here at the office we were all extremely excited when we first saw the prints due to the unique way they bring the Scottish streets and closes to life through their vibrant array of colours and beautiful technique.

Therefore, if you happen to have been fortunate enough to have admired Bryan’s work and want to see more, make sure to check out his dedicated website which includes everything from the exhibitions he is appearing at to his current works: http://bryanevans.com/ .  Alternatively, you can find his work and keep up-to-date with all his news on good old Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/BryanEvansArt. We hope you appreciate and admire his beautiful pieces as much we do.

Information Source: http://bryanevans.com/

Summer in the City: Aberdeen Summer Spotlight

If there is anything that differentiates our favourite Silver City from our other city destinations (apart from its glittering granite skyline!), it is most certainly its proximity to the beach. The city certainly meets the coast in Aberdeen and it therefore makes for the ultimate summer experience as what vacation is complete without the treading on warm sand, the collection of unique shells and the satisfying fulfilment of a seaside fish and chip run? You can do it all and more in Aberdeen as with its cinema complex, arcades, amusement fair and leisure centre, there is no end to all the fun that can be had! Similarly, factor in the plethora of lush golf courses and the picturesque parks that have enabled Aberdeen to win the accolade of Britain in Bloom a record-breaking number of times, and it is readily apparent how Aberdeen is certainly a city where you can bask in the summer joy. However, read on to find out all about the extra fun that is happening in the North-East this summer!

Aberdeen Beach
Aberdeen Beach

Image Source: http://www.visitscotland.com/about/nature-geography/beaches/aberdeen-city-and-shire/

RSPB Dolphin Watch (Thursday 16th April 2015-Thursday 16th August 2015)

Perhaps the biggest draw to Aberdeen this lovely sunny season are our favourite new residents: dolphins! Due to Aberdeen being one of the best places in Europe to watch these magnificent animals at home in the sea, it is no wonder it is fast becoming a prime dolphin watching spot. Often frolicking near the harbour, it is not uncommon to witness the dolphins feeding & playing-truly a sight not to be missed.

http://www.rspb.org.uk/discoverandenjoynature/seenature/datewithnature/details.aspx?id=340366

Netherlands National Circus (Thursday 23rd July 2015-Sunday 9th August 2015)

Tricks, flicks and magic, you will witness all kinds of unbelievable entertainment that will have you teetering on the edge of your seat. Complete with juggling and illusions, it is certainly a two-hour show that will keep your family entertained and gasping in wonder.

https://www.netherlandscircus.com/

Zippos Circus (Friday 24th July 2015-Sunday 26th July 2015)

If you cannot get enough of the circus season, make sure to check out Zippos Circus in Stonehaven. Boasting awe-inspiring attractions like the motorcycle Globe of Terror alongside crazy balancing and juggling acts, it will be an absolutely captivating experience and certainly one to have the whole family entranced.

http://zippos.co.uk/wp/

Aberdeen International Youth Festival (Friday 24th July 2015-Saturday 1st August 2015)

An event that is always eagerly anticipated, there is no denying the fact that the Aberdeen International Youth Festival is the pinnacle of Aberdeen’s cultural scene. One of the world’s biggest youth festivals, there is nothing that can quite compare with the energy and vitality undulating throughout the city as all genres of performance arts from opera to dance to theatre occur in all manner of public spaces as performed by extremely talented youngsters who come from all corners of the world to attend this illustrious event. Prepare to be entertained and enlightened at this cultural extravaganza which is filled with all kinds of vibrant colours, sounds and talent!

http://www.aiyf.org/

Aberdeen International Youth Festival
Aberdeen International Youth Festival

Image Source: http://www.embracescotland.co.uk/2011/06/aberdeen-international-youth-festival-wednesday-july-27-to-saturday-august-6/

Aberdeen Country Fairs (Saturday 25th July 2015)

Celebrating local community and produce, the country fair is the perfect chance to engage with the producers themselves and to purchase from a wide array of unique arts, jewellery, crafts and foods. Running the length of Belmont Street, it is refreshing to have a country edge in the bustling city.

Celebrate Aberdeen (Saturday 22ndAugust 2015-Sunday 23rd August 2015)

Pride will not be any more evident than on this weekend which through a parade, live music acts and food, celebrates the best of the Silver City and its people. Lasting two days, the buzzing atmosphere and community love certainly lights up the city and makes the streets feel alive.

http://www.celebrateaberdeen.org/

Aberdeen International Street Market (Thursday 27th August 2015-Sunday 30th August 2015)

The highlight of Union Street, the International Street Market is always an event to look forward to as it welcomes over 70 stalls full of arts, crafts and cuisine from a whole spectrum of European countries. Truly an international event, it is undeniable the buzz and cultural spirt it generates across the city.

https://www.facebook.com/aberdeenmarket

Aberdeen International Street Market
Aberdeen International Street Market

Image Source: http://www.visitaberdeen.com/whats-on/calendar/aberdeens-international-street-market/?date=2013-05-31

Aberdeen Art Fair 2015 (Saturday 5thSeptember 2015-Sunday 6th September 2015) 

For those who are always seeking the perfect piece of art to complete that room, attending the fifth annual Aberdeen Art Fair is a definite must; particularly as it showcases some of the emerging names in the art world alongside established artists. Across the two days, you are able to both admire and purchase some of the most unique pieces that have been created by artistic masterminds from both Scotland and the UK. Therefore, whether you attend just to appreciate the talent and skill on offer or to make an investment and add to your collection, the fair welcomes all.

http://aberdeenartfair.co.uk/

To keep up with all the latest events occurring in Aberdeen over the summer, make sure to go to: http://www.visitaberdeen.com/whats-on/

Summer in the City: Glasgow Summer Spotlight

Glasgow is a city that is animated and effervescent at it is, however factor in the summer holidays, and the positive energy radiating from arguably Scotland’s most dynamic city and economic powerhouse is off the chart! While the Commonwealth Games were certainly the hallmark event of the year in 2014 and it was undeniable how ablaze with life and energy Glasgow was, if the events that are on this year are to give any indication; it is set to be another year of scorching summer fun.

Glasgow Wildlife Garden Festival (Wednesday 1st July 2015-Friday 31st July 2015)

It is the Year of Green in Glasgow and what better time to enjoy nature’s gifts than in the heat of summer? Lasting throughout the duration of July, there are all kinds of festivities that will allow you to get in touch with your green side including forest walks, workshops, talks, canoe trips and even fairs complete with music, food and art to celebrate local community gardens.

http://www.whatsonglasgow.co.uk/event/011001-rspb-glasgow-wildlife-garden-festival/

A Midsummer’s Night Dream (Friday 10th July 2015-Saturday 11th July 2015)

Love Labour’s Lost (Friday 10th July 2015-Saturday 11th July 2015)

The Merchant of Venice (Thursday 16th July 2015-Saturday 18th July 2015)

Set against the ethereal beauty and wonder of the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, there could be no place more fitting to watch the absolute magic of some of Shakespeare’s most renowned works as performed by the Bard in the Botanics.

http://bardinthebotanics.co.uk/

Glasgow Botanic Gardens
Glasgow Botanic Gardens

Image Source: http://www.glasgowbotanicgardens.com/

IPC Swimming World Championships (Monday 13th July 2015-Sunday 19th July 2015)

Keeping on with the athletic spirit and determination of the Commonwealth Games are the IPC Swimming World Championships. Welcoming over 600 athletes from over 50 countries, these Championships are para-swimming at its finest and best. With the Paralympics next year, this is a perfect time to be introduced to the up-and-coming athletes you will be cheering on in Brazil.

http://www.paralympic.org/glasgow-2015

Merchant City Festival (Saturday 25th July 2015-Sunday August 2nd 2015)

When the Commonwealth Games came to an end last year that did not mean the positive spirit and energy went with it; as can be reflected in this vivacious and colourful summer festival that is packed full of culture, fun and personality. Indeed there will be nowhere quite as alive as the Cultural Quarter during these nine days because with its abundance of cuisine, street art, music, comedy, fashion and so much more; the Cultural Quarter will truly be transformed into the beating heart of the city. With the streets ablaze with creativity and imagination, it is certainly an event not to be missed-particularly considering how it is free!

http://www.merchantcityfestival.com/Pages/default.aspx

Merchant City Festival
Merchant City Festival

Image Source: https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/whats-on/music/merchant-city-festival

Magners’ Summer Nights (Thursday 6th August 2015-Saturday 8th August 2015)

                                                        (Thursday 13th August 2015-Saturday 15th August 2015)

Running across certain city destinations, could there be a better way to spend a summer’s night then having a good time with friends munching on some street food; cooling out with the help of a refreshing cider and enjoying the fresh air and beautiful surroundings of Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Park as you listen to some of the newest names in music? Probably not!

http://magnerssummernights.com/

Piping Live! (Monday 10th August 2015-Sunday 16th August 2015), World Pipe Band Championships (Friday 14th August 2015-Saturday 15th August 2015)

A different kind of musical experience, this week-long festival dedicated to piping excellence and excitement means there is literally nowhere better to be in the world than Glasgow if you are a Piping enthusiast. Experience concerts, street performances and traditional ceilidhs from the edgiest up-and-coming piping stars to the Piping elite and then witness the pinnacle event of the Piping band calendar: The World Pipe Band Championships. The atmosphere is truly electric!

http://www.pipinglive.co.uk/

World Pipe Band Championships
World Pipe Band Championships

Image Source: http://www.visitscotland.com/see-do/events/arts-culture/glasgow-clyde-valley/

This is only a handful of the special events arriving in Glasgow this summer; however there are also a collection of staple favourites that are ALWAYS worth a visit. Whether it is getting in touch with your inner wacky scientist at Glasgow Science Centre; taking a journey to the past with an tour of the historically exquisite architecture as designed by the renowned Charles Rennie Macintosh or immersing yourself in an artist’s wonderland at one of Scotland’s most prestigious visitor attractions, The Kelvingrove Art Museum & Gallery, there will certainly be something to keep you entertained come rain or sun.

For more information, go to https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/whats-on 

Me, My Selfie & I

Of course no blog on selfies is complete without one or two illustrative examples and so all selfies used in this blog are courtesy of our globetrotting selfie-fanatic National Sales Manager 

Selfies at work and at play!
Selfies at work and at play!

It all started innocently enough. A few of them taken were here and there, then it began to spread and then it became a craze that took over the world. Now it is no longer a “trend” or a “fad”, it is simply a behavioural norm that we are so accustomed to we longer notice. Any guesses as to what I am referring to? The odds are you will shamelessly have taken one (or maybe an abundance) yourself and they will most likely be in your possession right now. They are the latest entry in the pop culture archive and they are commonly referred to by a mere sole word that is always rising in the ranks of power: “selfie”.

Yes, despite starting off as an innocuous niche twitter hash tag even as potentially far back as 2004, “selfies” have since risen to global dominance and are both a standard part of our vocabulary and behaviour. Nothing quite exemplifies the now new-found normality and acceptance of “selfies” quite like the fact that since 2013, “selfie” has cemented itself a position in the online Oxford Dictionary. Therefore, for those who are selfie ignorant,  a “selfie” can be defined as A photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and shared via social media”.

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Although I am not a personal avid fan of selfies (going through my phone’s gallery can play testament to this), I am particularly intrigued to see their impact on the travel industry and how they influence the way in which people travel. Indeed, it is undeniable the correlation between “selfies” and vacations because ultimately, social media has totally revolutionised how travel photos are taken. I am sure most of us still remember the days when the digital camera was the latest sought after technological development when it came to photography, however long gone are those days. Now, it is all the aforementioned selfies and Instagram filters so we can post and boast to the world right there and then the adventures we are engaging in. Nothing quite epitomises the social media revolution quite like the fact that apparently holidays are no longer the personal experience taken just for us, in helping us to explore and escape, but are in fact made for sharing. This trend has led to a whole new brand of travellers, now recognized by the Future Foundation report as “social-capital seekers”, who travel with the over-riding ambition of documenting their adventure and therefore designing it to be Facebook, Twitter, etc. post friendly. Even already the bond between holiday snaps and social media can be reflected in that a survey for Hotels.com revealed that twenty-five per cent of British travellers share a photo within an hour of arriving at their holiday haven, although the average time people wait is almost three hours.

Going on holiday and the taking of photos are synonymous activities because photos are that way of documenting the happy memories and preserving them so you can look back at them and reminisce. However, the development of selfies is beginning to question whether this remains the true primary motive. More often than not, it is likely that on your social media you will spot someone posing with *insert iconic landmark”. From the Empire State Building to the Colosseum to the Eiffel Travel; they have all played the scenic backdrop for someone’s mobile phone selfie portrait. If anything, the development of the selfie stick has exacerbated this trend as it is now even easier to get the perfect angle and pose for that ultimate selfie which will trigger a plethora of likes and retweets. Therefore, narcissism and selfies are beginning to become quite inter-linked with people believing that all these self-portraits taken in cultural and heritage rich locations are more a means of boasting about the locations we have been. It can be debated how truly interested someone is in the attraction itself and the meaning and values it holds. Potentially, we are no longer living in the moment and taking in the time to truly bask in the beauty of attractions because we are all just superficially about taking the “ultimate selfie” to show the world that we were there.

Craig with the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah
With the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah

Linking on to this notion of cultural admiration, and just general health & safety, is that further debate is igniting in the travel industry when it comes to selfies, or at least selfie sticks, with increasing numbers of attractions banning the admittance of selfie sticks. For instance, Disney World has been the latest attraction to post physical signs forbidding the use of selfie sticks and therefore joins the ever growing list of anti-selfie stick locations which also includes the prestigious likes of the Colosseum, the Guggenheim Museum, The National Gallery in London as well as a variety of stadiums.

Craig with the Hollywood Hills
With the Hollywood Hills

Ultimately, selfies will remain a divisive topic. Potentially they are the epitome of the shallowness and narcissism of our generation in terms of how we feel our self-worth and popularity is all linked to the followers we have and the number of retweets. If it cannot be documented to the world on social media to be admired, then what is the point? Alternatively, selfies are just a fun way of us leaving our mark on the world and showing that we were here on this Earth at one point and as a reminder of the magnificent sights and wonders we have witnessed.  As I have been told, anyone can go on Google and get a photo of Big Ben or the Grand Canyon, but you will never be able to find one that was clearly yours if you are not starring in it also. Likewise, they also are just fundamentally practical, particularly for solo travellers, because they prevent you from having to awkwardly walk up to someone red-faced and embarrassed asking them to take your photo for you (and then again, if you invariably do not like it). Personally, I think there is nothing wrong with a good selfie or two but the most critical thing is that if we are taking them with, or in, cultural attractions like museums or historical landmarks, yes it is good to take a moment to document our time there, but also to take a minute to fully understand the true value of the attraction and what it stands for and represents.

P.S. The Spires is not on the anti-Selfie Stick list and so we fully embrace and enjoy seeing selfies or just old-school photos of our guests in our apartments. Post to our Instagram using #TheSpiresApts or simply tweet us @TheSpiresSuites so we can see how you are enjoying your stay 🙂

Sources

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-24992393

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews/10465199/Forget-the-selfie-holidaymakers-go-for-braggie-photos.html

http://skift.com/2015/04/24/selfies-are-changing-the-fundamental-reasons-why-we-travel/

The City Built on More than Just Oil

Source: www.offshorewind.biz
Aberdeen

If I were to ask you for the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Aberdeen, odds are on that “oil” would be your headlining answer. It would not be at all surprising because even as a born and bred Aberdonian, whenever someone asks me to describe my home town, the oil industry tends to be my instant characterisation of the city I call home. It is not possible to separate Aberdeen from the oil industry because the North Sea and its oil supplies are what has put Aberdeen on the national, and indeed the international stages. Nothing epitomises this quite like the fact that Aberdeen is known as the “Oil/Energy Capital of Europe”. Due to the strong inter-relation between Aberdeen and oil, it is undeniable that the predominance of tourism is in relation to business as reflected by the fact that over half of the visits to Aberdeen are linked to business matters.

Consequently, I can fully understand why one may not consider engaging in a leisure trip to Aberdeen. With the strong association of energy corporations and professional services, it is easy to comprehend why someone may think Aberdeen is all work and no play. HOWEVER, there is so much more to Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. It may be best known for its oil supplies, but there are so many other achievements and accolades that Aberdeen should be on the map for; none of which have anything to do with business but all to do with fun. From the luscious supply of lush green spaces; an abundance of breathtaking castles and all the fun and frolics to be had at the seaside, it is clear that Aberdeen is equally capable of delivering glowing holiday memories and experiences that will last a lifetime.

The Silver City

Practical, easy to maintain and stunning to look at, the eye-catching glistening of the granite walls of Aberdeen are certain to capture your attention and your camera’s lens. Known as the Granity City and the Silver City, Aberdeen’s greyness can easily be attributed to its architecture that was built in the granite days of the Victorian era. Due to the mica that sparkles beautifully in the sun, it is no wonder that Aberdeen’s resplendent architecture is one that you have to stop to admire.

Marischal College  Source: www.canon-fodder-forums.com
Marischal College
Source: http://www.canon-fodder-forums.com

Do I Spot A Castle?

Aberdeen may have alter-egos in the form of the “Silver City” and the “Oil Capital of Europe”, but it also has a rather unknown secret identity that goes by the code name of “Castle Country”. With a collection of over 300 castles and more castles per acre than anywhere else in the UK, there is almost a castle to visit every day of the year meaning more than one trip to Aberdeen is not a choice, but an necessity. Due to the wealth of castles to explore, there is a castle to suit everyone’s tastes. There is the breathtaking dramatics of the haunting cliff-side ruins of Dunnotar Castle or for an idyllic family day, there are also the enchanting gardens that surround the splendour of Crathes Castle. For a more majestic experience, a trip to Balmoral Castle cannot go amiss for it is a favourite with the Royal Family and even is the grand holiday abode of Her Majesty the Queen. Similarly, Craigievar is an almost iconic image for Scotland as due to its ethereal fairy-tale like appearance, adorned with turrets; it is also supposedly responsible for inspiring Walt Disney. An exploration of castles could be your sole reason to visit Aberdeen if you embark on Scotland’s only Castle Trail which will take you through 17 of Aberdeen’s most renowned castles. You could visit all the castles and still desire more because ultimately, there is always a fascinating story to be learnt about Scotland’s captivating history.

Dunnottar Castle  Source: : http://www.uk-pictures.com/dunnottar_castle.html
Dunnottar Castle
Source: : http://www.uk-pictures.com/dunnottar_castle.html

The Grass is Always Greener…

To balance out the stunning (if a little gray) architecture; over a quarter of Aberdeen is actually open space. The fact that Aberdeen has won the Britain in Bloom competition for a record-smashing ten times is only testament to its abundance of sweet-smelling, picturesque parks. Whether you are looking for a tranquil walk in nature or a heart-pumping workout, there is a park to accommodate anyone and each will provide a scenic backdrop to all the action. Each park has its own unique attractions providing the perfect location for a family day trip. If you are looking for rose gardens to admire; a play park to keep the little ones out of trouble or a maze to get them lost in, look no further than Hazlehead Park which also comes armed with a petting corner full of furry friends. Duthie Park and Seaton Park also present the perfect setting for a moment to engage with nature and Duthie Park even has its own winter gardens which is resident to the UK’s largest supply of cacti (a little bit of trivia for you all!). However, if you stay at The Spires and are happening to be looking for a park closer to home, the ethereal Johnston Gardens is also a gorgeous spot for a bit of nature loving as due to its hidden waterfalls and ponds, it is no wonder that it is a favourite for wedding photos.

Johnston Gardens  Source: Wikipedia
Johnston Gardens
Source: Wikipedia

Nature Watch: Aberdeen Style

Parks are not the only natural wonders in Aberdeen. Perhaps the biggest draw to Aberdeen this lovely sunny season are our favourite new residents: dolphins! Due to Aberdeen being one of the best places in Europe to watch these magnificent animals at home in the sea, it is no wonder it is fast becoming a prime dolphin watching spot. Often frolicking near the harbour, it is not uncommon to witness the dolphins feeding & playing. It is truly a beautiful sight and reflects how there is more to the North Sea than just oil. RSPB Scotland’s DolphinWatch team will be there till mid-August and with dolphins appearing on 90% of 2014’s DolphinWatch days, you cannot miss an opportunity to see such playful fun.

Dolphins in Aberdeen Harbour  Source: www.rspb.org.uk
Dolphins in Aberdeen Harbour
Source: http://www.rspb.org.uk

Golf Anyone?

Golf is a sport synonymous with Aberdeenshire due to its plethora of courses to play on. Residence to over 50 courses, there are courses only a quarter of a mile away from Aberdeen and even more courses located just an hour’s drive away. Therefore, you are certain to find a course you like. Most famous is the Hazlehead No 1 which is rumoured to be one of the best in the North-East and whose claim to fame is that it was designed by Dr Alistair MacKenzie; the man who was responsible for creating the Augusta National course home of the US Masters. It is no surprise that Hazlehead No 1 is a thorough test for those golfing skills! Similarly, history meets golf with The Royal Aberdeen Golf Club being the sixth oldest course in the world and if it was not enough that the course allows for some superior golf playing, it also allows you to play among stunning panoramic views.  Another golf course that is commonly associated with Aberdeen is the splendour of The Trump International Golf Links which has only helped to consolidate Aberdeen as a golf paradise.

Royal Aberdeen Golf Course Source: www.dailyrecord.co.uk
Royal Aberdeen Golf Course
Source: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk

Those Summer Days Spent by the Seaside…..

We all look fondly back with nostalgia on those good ole days spent on holiday by the sea, splashing about in the sea and munching ravenously on delectable fish & chips. Well, due to Aberdeen’s Fun Beach, you can relive those memories and bring them into the 21st century. Many a day can be spent at the beach between the arcades; mini-golf; tempting restaurants; the amusement park; the leisure pool filled with watery thrills & spills; the ice-rink, the cinema….All this before you even consider the simplicity of just walking along the coast line to bask in the fresh sea air and to feel the warm sand between the toes. It is truly an entertainment hotspot and is certainly one to keep the whole family occupied and the cameras snapping.

Aberdeen Beach Source: VisitScotland
Aberdeen Beach
Source: VisitScotland

Journey to the Past

The beach borders on another prime Aberdonian attraction: Footdee (or fondly known as Fittie by Aberdonians). The words charming, quaint and idyllic certainly come to mind but how could they not considering Footdee is a well-conserved fishing village where you are free to walk around and bask in the tranquility of life by the seaside. It is truly a walk back to the past and is in stark contrast to the modernity of the city centre that is only minutes away. Similarly, due to Aberdeen’s strong maritime links, of course there has to be a museum to document the bond between Aberdeen & the Sea; something which The Maritime Museum spectacularly manages to convey in its award-winning displays.

 

Footdee  Source: TripAdvisor
Footdee
Source: TripAdvisor

History in the Walls

History could not be any more present in the city than in Old Aberdeen where you are able to find a 15th century college and a medieval bridge and cathedral. Aberdeen was once its own independent town between 1489 and 1891, however to this day its historical beauty still remains and you can feel the rich heritage emanating through the walls. Popular sites on the two-hour journey to the past include the King’s College (which is now a part of the University of Aberdeen) as well as St. Machar’s Cathderal and the Brig o’ Balgownie. Traverse the cobbled streets and breathe in the smell of the past, it is truly a unique and beautiful trail to follow which shows how there is more to Aberdeen’s history than just the sea.

St. Machar's Cathedral Source: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2636881
St. Machar’s Cathedral
Source: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/2636881

The Water of Life

It goes without saying that a visit to Aberdeenshire is not complete without a visit to a distillery. Scotland is home to the only whisky trail in the world, in Speyside, where you will be able to find more than half of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries each possessing their own unique recipes and history. From Glenfiddich to Glenlivet to Cardhu, these are the famous whiskies we all know, and can be found on this illustrious trail.

However, you do not have to look as far as Speyside to find a fully-functioning distillery; reminding you how Aberdeen is in a prime location to engage in all aspects of Scottish culture. There are eight distilleries only an hour from Aberdeen which may be smaller in scale, but still have their own exciting story to tell and unique whisky recipe to taste. Fettercairn, Knockdhu and Glen Garioch are some of the names featured and of the eight overall distilleries; at least half of them do have visitor centres making for a perfect day-trip from Aberdeen.

City Life

Aberdeen may have 8,000 years of stories to tell, but that does not stop it from being a bustling modern 21st century city. There is always a whole host of the biggest names gracing the stages of the AECC, the Music Hall, the Lemon Tree and His Majesty’s Theatre. However, if it is Hollywood calling you, then there are three major cinemas to keep you up-to-date as well as the artsy Belmont Cinema which shows a more international & indie selection of films. With all the latest brands in the shopping and food plaza hotspots of Union Square, Bon Accord Centre, Trinity Centre, St. Nicholas Centre and The Academy, your wallet will not be short of exercise and that is before you even consider the retail parks. However, if it is the mind you want to exercise, then the likes of the Tolbooth Museum & the Aberdeen Art Gallery should be enough to engage the brain. Other cultural activities include the plentiful supply of festivals that take place, including the Aberdeen Festival Collective which features prime events such as the Aberdeen Jazz Festival, Techfest & Aberdeen International Youth Festival among other.

His Majesty's Theatre Source: www.rosemountaberdeen.co.uk
His Majesty’s Theatre
Source: http://www.rosemountaberdeen.co.uk

If you have managed to reach the end of this rather extensive city guide to Aberdeen, then I hope that you are in no doubt that it is a lie to say Aberdeen is for business tourists only. Aberdeen opens its arms to everyone, as does The Spires, and so whether you do come for business or leisure, we look forward to giving you a warm Aberdonian welcome.

Sources:

http://www.visitscotland.com/

http://www.visitaberdeen.com/

http://aberdeen.stv.tv/articles/317594-dolphinwatch-was-launched-at-aberdeens-torry-battery-on-friday-april-17/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/the-granite-city-thats-made-of-stronger-stuff-10264270.html

The Water of Life

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The amusing thing about life is that with each and every day, there is something being celebrated. For example, there is a designated national awareness food day for almost every food item imaginable (particularly in the USA). Recent illustrations of this is that on May 17th, we will be celebrating National Walnut Day (not one for those with peanut allergies!) and a few days ago unbeknown to me, on May 11th, the world was celebrating the ultimate foodie’s dream day: National Eat What you Want Day. Why am I lamenting on thoughts of days and food? Well, apart from it being the Year of Food & Drink as part of VisitScotland’s latest annual campaign, it is also Whisky Month and tomorrow (May 16th) is actually World Whisky Day. Not just National Whisky Day, but World Whisky Day meaning that a plethora of crystal tumblers around the world will be raised in salute to Scotland’s national drink. Therefore, being located in Scotland it would be almost criminal for us not to mark this special occasion, particularly with our headquarters being in Aberdeen, which is only an hour away from many a small and unique distillery. Therefore, in a land known for its tartan and haggis, we are taking a moment to focus on and appreciate the national drink of Scotland.

First things first, it is undeniable that we have to take a look back to when Scotland’s favourite export rose to prominence. With a history that dates back to the 15th century, the first known event involving whisky was all the way back in 1494 when Friar John Cor of Lindores Abbey in Fife gained the king’s permission to create acqua vitae. Unfamiliar with acque vitae? Well, once translated from Latin, it means “water of life” and this is where whisky’s name stems from; the Gaelic translation. It may sound ironic; however water from Scotland’s burns and streams is indeed a critical component of the whisky making process.

Back in the day, whisky was often associated with rebellion with much being done by Scottish distilleries to avoid the menacing English taxman. The epitome of this was that in the 18th century, there were only eight legal distilleries versus four hundred ILLEGAL ones. However, nowadays, whisky is held in much higher esteem because when we say whisky is one of Scotland’s biggest exports, it is not in jest because whisky actually accounts for more than 85 per cent of Scottish food and drinks exports and is worth a massive £4.3 billion.

It goes without saying that a visit to Aberdeenshire (and Scotland for that matter), is not complete without a visit to a distillery. Both highly educational and enlightening, the experience will differ per distillery from whether you get to witness the blending process or whether you can engage in a cheeky tasting, but it is always a certainty that you will be able to pick up your own bottle of the “water of life” to ensure that you have an authentic piece of Scotland with you. Scotland is home to the only whisky trail in the world, in Speyside, where you will be able to find more than half of Scotland’s malt whisky distilleries each possessing their own unique recipes and history. From Glenfiddich to Glenlivet to Cardhu, these are the famous whiskies we all know, and can be found on this illustrious trail.

However, you do not have to look as far as Speyside to find a fully-functioning distillery. If you are staying with us in Aberdeen and are in search of something to do, even with the family, there are eight distilleries only an hour from Aberdeen which may be smaller in scale, but still have their own exciting story to tell and unique whisky recipe to taste. Fettercairn, Knockdhu and Glen Garioch are some of the names featured and of the eight overall distilleries; at least half of them do have visitor centres making for a perfect day-trip from Aberdeen.

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Similarly, a whisky day-trip is also a possibility with a stay at The Spires in Glasgow due to its close proximity to two distilleries: Auchentoshan Distillery and Glengoyne Distillery. A visit to either or both is a good idea because Auchentoshan is only 20 minutes from Glasgow’s city centre and offers whisky masterclasses and at Glengoyne, you can even craft your own personal blended whisky! Even if you are just looking for a place to relax after a long day of business meetings or exploring the city, Glasgow is renowned for its plentiful supply of whisky bars such as the Bon Accord Ale House which offers a fairly large selection due to it being home to over 300 whiskies. Consequently, it is of no surprise that it is held in very high esteem in the nation.

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If you are thinking of staying with us in Birmingham, you will not miss out on any of the fun there either because Birmingham is certainly not immune from the whisky scene either with it having now hosted an annual Whisky Festival for the past three years. This is no small festival we are talking about either, as while the first festival was attended by an acceptable 200 fanatics, this figure doubled in 2014 to 400 and in 2015, 600 tickets were released as the figure was expected to jump yet again. As a result, it is no surprise that after London, Birmingham’s Whisky Festival is the largest in England. It is clear there is a passion for whisky amongst Birmingham’s residents due to the launching of whisky collections by venues like The Plough, as well as the opening of Hard to Find Whisky; a whisky store that specialises in the selling of rare bottles of whisky. Emphasis is on the word “rare” as some bottles can even be sold for significant sums of money; does anyone have £35,000 to spare?

With it being National Whisky Month, there is a whole host of events going on across Scotland and in particular, there is a wide range of whisky madness occurring all around the globe tomorrow due to it being World Whisky Day. Over 11, 000 people are expected to attend nearly 150 events registered around the globe and if you happen to be staying with us in any of our locations, it is clear that you will be not far from any of the festivities.

Always remember to drink responsibly and with caution 

Sources: http://visitbirmingham.com/what-to-do/birmingyum/events/whisky-birmingham-2015/

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/foodanddrinkadvice/11099642/What-does-whisky-mean-to-Scotland.html

http://www.visitaberdeen.com/attractions-and-activities/whisky-distilleries-in-aberdeenshire

https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/whisky-distilleries-breweries

http://www.visitscotland.com/about/food-drink/whisky/

Images: VisitScotland, http://www.trossachs.co.uk, Telegraph

Coming down with a case of Wanderlust

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Every day is a beautiful one, but even more so when it is a well deserved day off. Yes, there is nothing quite like waking up despondently all warm in your bed with your mind consumed by the dreary thoughts of work and stress, only to remember that you can throw that infuriatingly cheerful ringing alarm clock against the wall in victory because you are free of your workplace shackles. It has to be said that nothing brings the nation’s mood and spirit up quite like a few days away from the workplace (for example, the best invention ever: Bank Holidays). Some of us like to laze about on our sofa in our pyjamas, zombified by the almighty power of Netflix whereas others prefer to engage in some rather enticing retail therapy. Do not get me wrong, both of these options are perfection; however in those free glorious days, I like nothing better than to put on my explorer’s hat and travel because I tend to suffer from a case of insatiable wanderlust.

Unfamiliar with this intriguing new word? Until this year, I too was not familiar with it but being a key travel bean, it was a term that my vocabulary welcomed with open arms. If we are to go by the ever reliable Wikipedia, Wanderlust translates as a “strong desire for or impulse to wander or travel and explore the world” (Oxford Dictionary will attest to this) and it stems from the German words of wandern (to hike) and lust (desire). I have also just discovered that the modern German phrase that has been coined to reflect the itching of the feet and mind to venture to far off places is “Fernweh” which translates as an “an ache for distant places; the craving for travel”. Even with its German origins, it is clear that this is a universal word we all understand because it is more than just a word; it is also a feeling, an emotional reaction and a compulsion.

In my mind, there is no better past-time or gift than to explore. There is so much to be seen; to be eaten and to experience, why would you not want to go out and bask in it? Obviously, there are the slight restrictions of time and money as well as work and family obligations. I am particularly guilty of neglecting these slight obstacles when I go into one of my impassioned speeches about how I aspire to go to Singapore, Malaysia, Beijing, New Zealand, Alaska, Hawaii, Dubai,x,y,z….

The thing is sometimes I think I can be a bit close-minded. Whenever I think of holidays and vacations, I always visualize tranquil untouched beaches; exuberant and vivid market stalls selling all kinds of authentic goods and trendy, hipster hidden cafes offering salivating local delicacies. Essentially, wherever I think of has to be out with the familiar borders of the UK and involve some extensive form of transport. However, as part of the launch of the “Apartment Collection-By The Spires” and its associated website, I have been researching all the serviced apartment locations across the UK and this has sparked within me a desire to see more of the UK. From Harrogate to Newbury, these are all locations I had never thought of before and which now have a solid position on my travel bucket list. I never knew about the true picturesque nature of Cambridge; St Alban’s Viking heritage or York being home to one of the best preserved streets in the UK, and between all these fascinating facts I uncovered, as well as stunning photos of the exquisite architecture, I definitely have a strong case of UK wanderlust.

Therefore, even if you are constricted by time and finance like so many of us are, I am sure there is an exciting place offering its own adventures and beauties potentially only a bus or car ride away from where you are. The definitions of words like “travel” and “wanderlust” have nothing to do with venturing to somewhere a set distance away, there is always something new to discover and there may be something just down the road to satisfy your thirst to explore and travel.  We are all guilty of ignoring our own country as a potential travel spot but every location, no matter how near or far from your home, has its own story to tell and its own sights to be seen. For instance, whenever I hear people say they want to come to Scotland, I am always bemused by what they find so enticing about it. However, then I find articles and photos like this, http://www.buzzfeed.com/hilarywardle/scotland-is-the-worst-aplm#.ka5DWRMRD and I too have to bow down to the greatness of Scotland. Perhaps looking at our home towns and countries through the eyes of a tourist could be the greatest thing we could do.

Ultimately, one of the greatest trends in the tourism industry is that nowadays we all have a desire for authentic experiences. Yes, a lot of us do still enjoy a nice, relaxing all-inclusive beach getaway, but equally so much of us want to venture out to all the hidden gems of the world and have a trip that encapsulates the local community and their local attractions. This is why I firmly believe that travel is one of the greatest gifts we have been bestowed with because it is infinite in its possibilities-there is always somewhere new to explore and something new to learn. Life is all about new experiences and challenging ourselves and what better facilitates that then travel? Travelling takes you to new destinations where undoubtedly you will learn something new about yourself, be it a new skill or an undiscovered inherent characteristic. We can travel to challenge ourselves, or simply to relax and escape the stressful monotony of day-to-day life. Whatever it is, this mammoth world exists to be explored and this is why I am confident that my serious case of wanderlust will never be cured and why I am happy it never will.

Do you suffer from wanderlust too or have any places that you are itching to go to? Let us know which locations have made it on your bucket list!

Image: http://healthfitnessrevolution.com/travel-keeps-heart-brain-healthy/

Sources: http://wikipedia.org