Meet our Travelling National Sales Manager: Craig

Name: Craig Duguid

Job Title: National Sales Manager

Job Function: I am responsible for driving business into the apartments with the able assistance of my sales and reservations team.

Time with Company: 13 years this December

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

How many countries/continents/cities have you visited (rough estimates allowed!)?

Ok here goes: 19 (3 of which were purely for connecting flight purposes) countries, 31 international cities and too many in the UK to count, 4 continents – mainly all for work, but some leisure

What has been your favourite country and your favourite city?

I don’t think I can pick just one as every country is so different.  I always find something I like in each place.  There are countries I have visited which I wasn’t so sure about to start with but have grown to love e.g. India.  It was a real shock to my system the first time I visited as I had never been anywhere like that before.  My first visit was to Mumbai which is so busy and hectic and the mayhem starts the minute you step off the plane, however this is something I now find so exciting and to me what makes India the place I love.  There is always something going on in Mumbai and every one of your senses is kept busy constantly.  The people are so friendly and I have made some great friends over there.  I recently visited Australia for the first time this year.  It’s somewhere I have never been too bothered about going to mainly because of the distance and the time it takes to get there, but I have to say I was absolutely blown away by it.  It is such a fantastic place with so much to do, and it has such a great feeling.  I am also a huge fan of Kuwait and Kuwait City.  I have visited it several times and again have always been made to feel so welcome and have made some great friends.

What is your favourite thing about travelling?

I love going to new places and experiencing new things and meeting new people.  As I am usually there on business I don’t always get to see as much as I would like to.  I am also a bit of a transport geek so love travelling by aeroplane and train.  I love experiencing different airlines and travelling on different aeroplanes!  Favourites so far are the Dreamliner and A380!!  I also managed to travel by train on my recent trip to India.  I travelled from Chennai to Bangalore and I have to say it was amazing.  The train was old and rickety and there was so much chaos at the stations, but it is a system that seems to work and work well.  I booked a first class ticket which cost around £30 and included a 3 course meal.

If you had to travel with only one accessory/item, what would it be?

Hate to say it, but has to be my phone.

Do you have any funny travel stories or any travel disasters?

I have not had any disasters and have too many funny stories to pick just one, however I have had a few exciting things happen: An earthquake in LA, an earthquake in New Zealand, an hurricane in Maryland (US), getting hit 3 times by lighting on a flight into Heathrow (one hit was just outside the window from me and I felt the heat) and trying to land during Hurricane Bawbag in 2011 on a flight from Gatwick to Aberdeen which got a few metres above the tarmac before the pilot decided “maybe not” and we returned to Gatwick as all airports to the north were closed – it wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences!

Travel map or travel app?

Travel app every time.  I would be lost without Google Maps!

Do you have any travel tips for both corporate or leisure tourists e.g. how to pack?

Can give for both.

Corporate – make sure you have chargers and adapters!  Also if you are travelling with hold luggage make sure you have essentials in your hand luggage – spare clothes, toiletries, etc. in case your hold luggage doesn’t arrive!

Leisure – lay out everything you think you need, then only take a quarter of it!  Remember sun cream.

What countries are on your travel bucketlist?

Japan, Russia, Nepal, Poland – in fact too many to mention.

Which destination surprised you the most and you would recommend?

India

Selfie stick for travelling – yay or nay?

The selfie stick is so last year.  I now use my watch to take the best selfie!

What is your favourite accommodation type and why?

Apartments obviously for both business and leisure travel.  When travelling on business I do like my own space after a busy day.  Nothing better then stretching out on a comfortable sofa watching TV knowing I have refreshments in my fridge.  Can also eat what I want, when I want it and not be restricted by hotel restaurant opening times!  When I am travelling for leisure it is normally with my family so we much prefer the space and comfort an apartment offers rather than being crammed into a small “family room” which hotels offer.

Finally….post your favourite travel selfie

selfie

Advertisements

Food for All!

IMG_0965

How many people do you think suffer from coeliac disease, an autoimmune disease which results in gluten intolerance? Well, according to statistics by Coeliac UK, it is a figure that stands at one in 100; inferring that the condition is not as rare as one may think. However, it is not just coeliacs that have special dietary requirements; it can also be those suffering from allergies such as peanut or egg allergies, dairy intolerance, lactose intolerance or those who are vegetarians or vegans or those who abide by Halal food laws. Whether you elect to follow a special diet or your health mandates it, it is irrefutable that it makes travelling that bit more strenuous and stressful because you have to go through the arduous process of sourcing what hotels, restaurants or cafes can meet your special dietary requirements. However, this is where staying in serviced apartments can start to make a difference because as our apartments come with a fully-equipped kitchen containing modern appliances and utensils from an oven to a microwave, you can forget all the stress as you can dictate what you eat and it is just like being at home.

However, ultimately you are still away from home, and therefore you deserve to engage in a little bit of indulgence. Consequently, we thought we would provide you with a list of only a HANDFUL of the cafes, restaurants and chains that might be able to safely satisfy your palette when you stay in any of our city centre locations. If you have any recommendations, please let us know!

Aberdeen

341218-foodstory-aberdeen
   Foodstory 

Image: http://aberdeen.stv.tv/articles/316760-thistle-street-cafe-foodstory-expand-with-coffee-bar-and-live-music/ 

The Bay, Stonehaven – fish and chips are an iconic part of the British diet but just because you are a Coeliac does not mean you have to miss out as the award-winning The Bay in Stonehaven can griddle or bake their sustainably sourced fish.

http://thebayfishandchips.co.uk/

Soul Kitchen – some restaurants will offer a token ‘gluten-free’ dish to appease their diners, however Soul takes it to a whole new level and even offers a full ‘gluten-free’ menu including burgers and steaks.

http://www.pbdevco.com/soul.html

Las Iguanas – with restaurants in all of our major UK city destinations from Aberdeen to Edinburgh to Birmingham, Las Iguanas is perfect for any diner regardless of their dietary requirements. Embodying both a gluten-free menu as well as a dedicated one for vegetarians and vegans, it is clear that Las Iguanas aims to please all with its tantalising Latin food.

http://www.iguanas.co.uk/

Howies – If you are seeking authentic, local and seasonal Scottish cuisine delivered with a smile, look no further than Howies which also has a location in Edinburgh. With a detailed allergen sheet as well as a myriad of gluten-free; dairy-free and Vegetarian dishes, you will be equally spoilt for choice here!

http://www.howies.uk.com/chapel-street-aberdeen/

Fifi’s Café Bistro – those following a gluten-free diet could not have a better selection to choose from then at Fifi’s Café Bistro – Aberdeen’s very first gluten free eatery. Serving everything from cakes to sandwiches, you definitely will not have to worry about what is safe to eat here.

https://www.facebook.com/fifiscafebistro/

Foodstory Aberdeen– healthy, locally sourced and environmentally friendly; the food could not be more pure or natural than at Foodstory Aberdeen where there is a community focused environment. Having been listed as one Scotland’s top veggie cafes, the food provided is predominantly vegetarian, vegan and raw and unique artisan coffees are also offered.

http://foodstorycafe.co.uk/

Glasgow

14933965291_0d2a1d91f7_b
  Topolabamba

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/gertie_du/14933965291

Burger Meats Bun – pretty self-explanatory but if you are looking for somewhere that is able to offer gluten free and veggie burgers, you have found the perfect place and it has locations in both Glasgow and Edinburgh! Vibrant and busy, it is definitely one of the top spots in the city to grab yourself a decent satisfying burger.

http://www.burger-meats-bun.co.uk/

Café Andaluz – also with locations in Aberdeen and Edinburgh, tapas tend to be a good choice for those with dietary requirements but Café Andaluz takes it to new levels with a strong range of veggie and wheat free products that mean the menu is equally proportioned and balanced. Choice will not be an issue here!

http://www.cafeandaluz.com/

The 13th Note – are you looking for some musical harmony to accompany delicious food? Look no further than the independent music venue The 13th note which is a vegetarian and vegan café but which also offers a tempting array of gluten free options.

http://13thnote.co.uk/

Topolobamba – Fancying something spicy and hot? Look no further than the delicious Mexican restaurant Topolobamba which has such a rich array of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, it actually highlights on its menu those options which are NOT gluten free.

http://www.topolabamba.com/

Red Onion – when people think of eateries that accommodate special dietary requirements, they tend to think of quirky independent cafes or restaurants that are tucked away. However, Red Onion is an award-winning contemporary, modern restaurant that was started by the internationally renowned chef, John Quigley. Have no worries about only having a few token dishes as Red Onion has all its bases covered from a gluten-free a la carte menu to a vegan set menu to a dairy free menu.

http://www.red-onion.co.uk/

Ushas – we have had Mexican, Latin and Spanish, but how about Indian? Ushas is Glasgow’s only Indian dedicated vegetarian and vegan restaurant and it offers a tempting collection of authentic street food.

http://www.ushas.co.uk/

For more information, make sure to People Make Glasgow’s dedicated website which has pages dedicated to Glasgow’s plentiful supply of vegan and gluten free dining options:

https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/best-vegetarian-and-vegan-restaurants-in-glasgow

https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/things-to-do/food-drink/gluten-free-dining-in-glasgow

Edinburgh

41025_large
 Hula Juice Bar

Image: http://www.theskinny.co.uk/students/things-to-do/edinburgh-food-drink

Henderson’s of Edinburgh – if you are looking for a vegetarian option in Edinburgh, it is probably best to start at one of the city’s oldest established vegetarian locations – Henderson’s of Edinburgh. A family run business, the warm service that Henderson’s offers is incomparable and with a bakery, bistro and deli – you know you will find a vegetarian option across all the food groups.

http://www.hendersonsofedinburgh.co.uk/holding.php

The Baked Potato Shop – rather specialist, but if you are a fan of a vegan or vegetarian fresh hot tattie – look no further than The Baked Potato Shop which offers everyone’s favourite comfort food as well as some vegan cakes.

 https://www.facebook.com/thebakedpotatoshop

Loudons – everyone loves a homely bakery and there is nothing quite like this charming and welcoming spacious café which serves all manner of tempting goods from gluten free, dairy free, vegan and nut-free breakfasts and brunches.

http://www.loudons-cafe.co.uk/

Union of Genius – one of Scotland’s first soup cafes, this is the perfect place if you are looking for a homely cuppa of soup to warm the soul. Varying with the seasons and fresh off the hob, it offers an extensive selection of options to satisfy everyone from those who are gluten free to those who are dairy-free, even the accompanying breads, oatcakes and rice cakes are gluten free. Perfect for the winter season!

http://www.unionofgenius.com/

Sugar Daddy’s Bakery – keeping on with the bakery theme, Sugar Daddy’s bakery is a relatively new player on the gluten free block. Everyone fancies a good cupcake, brownie, cookies or traybake and you can eat these guilt-free as they are predominantly dairy free, egg free and vegan. Definitely the place if you fancy treating yourself!

http://www.sugardaddysedinburgh.com/

Hula Juice Bar – are you fancying a tempting cake, a revitalizing juice or a healthy fulfilling smoothie? Make sure to check out the award-winning Hula Juice Bar which caters to everyone from vegans, vegetarians and those on gluten-free diets. It is the perfect place for a pick-me-up and to find a natural cleanse for the soul.

http://www.hulajuicebar.co.uk/

For more information on the best gluten free eateries in Edinburgh, make sure to check out this dedicated blog: http://glutenfreeedinburgh.com/

Birmingham

1111_g
  Cosy Club Birmingham

Image: http://www.cosyclub.co.uk/birmingham 

The Warehouse Café

If you want to visit any Vegetarian restaurant in Birmingham, then of course you must want to visit the inaugural one which is widely renowned on the vegetarian scene! Birmingham’s original vegetarian restaurant which serves salivating British and contemporary international dishes as well as gluten-free options, is an award-winning restaurant that is tucked away next to the Bullring and occupies an illustrious spot in both new and old Birmingham.

http://www.thewarehousecafe.com/

Bella Italia

Everyone loves a good authentic Italian pizza or pasta, and whether you are vegetarian or have gluten intolerance, this popular chain can satisfy all requirements! With a clearly signposted menu, you do not have to eat in uncertainty of what you should and should not be eating.

http://www.bellaitalia.co.uk/menu/main-menu/?location=Birmingham

Bistro 1847

A restaurant group to be on the lookout for, 1847 is rapidly expanding across the country and caters predominantly to vegetarians but also to vegans and to those with gluten-free requirements. Modern and creative; it is definitely one to watch and to dine at!

http://by1847.com/

Cosy Club

Cosy is the perfect word to describe this group of restaurants as are the words: vibrant, effervescent, unique and quirky. Comfortable and casual, you can really make yourself feel a part of the furniture in this homely environment that also has dedicated gluten-free and vegan menus which can also be viewed online.

http://www.cosyclub.co.uk/

Henry Wong Harborne

It can be rather a challenge finding a Chinese restaurant that accommodates those with gluten intolerance, however Henry Wong Harborne perfectly fills this gap. With a gluten-free menu that is available on request as well as a dedicated vegetarian one, this elegant and refined Cantonese restaurant will definitely hit the spot.

http://henrywongharborne.co.uk/

Christmas All Over the World

Here at The Spires, we are fortunate enough to have a rather global customer base and so we have the joy of welcoming guests from all walks of life and countries – we even have a rather international selection of staff to match! Obviously at this time we speak a lot about Christmas and the festive period, however not everyone spends it in the same way (and we do not just mean who opens their presents in the morning vs the afternoon!) and so we thought we would take a look at the unique ways in which Christmas is celebrated all around the world.

  1. Sweden – Goats play a major role in the Swedish Christmas festivities with a massive ‘Straw Goat’ being configured in Gavle; a major Swedish City. The ‘Straw Goat’ is so infamous because every year it has to fend itself from arsonists and vandals with it only having survived till Christmas Day 13 times since the tradition began in 1966.

Merry Christmas – God Jul

C5BGK2_2412500b

Image: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/topics/christmas/9708830/Christmas-2012-The-Swedish-goat-that-takes-Christmas-by-the-horns.html

  1. India – ever thought about decorating a mango or banana tree with tinsel and baubles? Well, instead of the usual fir tree, mango and banana trees (or any tree in reach) are used and mango leaves are even used as a festive form of decoration to spruce up the house.

Śubh krisamas – शुभ क्रिसमस

881f441ab4

Image: https://onmogul.com/articles/strange-and-unique-christmas-traditions-around-the-world

  1. Norway – in Norway, gift exchanges happen on the 24th of December and underneath your tree you may receive gifts from Santa Claus or even more unusually from small gift-bearing gnomes known as Nisse who are an integral part of festive Scandinavian folklore. One of the most renowned elements of a Norwegian Christmas is how every Christmas they donate a tree to the UK as an expression of gratitude to the support that the UK people showed the Norwegians during WW2. You can find the tree in Trafalgar Square, London. Another interesting fact is that a national Christmas tune that has all the Norwegians dancing is called Musevisa – a song about a family of mice welcoming in Christmas! Likewise, on Christmas Eve, all the brooms are locked away so the witch cannot come and steal them.

 

Merry Christmas = God Jul

 

  1. Australia – We traditionally associate Christmas with the winter season however in the land Down Under, this is totally flipped around because Australians actually celebrate Christmas in the midst of the summer holidays. Anyone fancy a barbecue as Christmas dinner or Santa in a pair of shorts? It does happen! Something unique about the Australian means of festive decoration is that their houses are adorned with “Christmas Bush” – a native Australian tree with small green leaves and cream flowers. There is even a famous Australian tune (“Six white boomers”) which details how Santa swaps his trusty team of reindeers for a rather unique assemble of kangaroos.
  1. Mexico – In Mexico, you can view the traditional nativity scene from a slightly different perspective on Noche de Los Rábanos in Oaxaca– the Night of the Radishes. On this special day on the 23rd, farmers carve special decorations out of radishes including nativity scenes and human figures with the aim of winning prizes.

 

8287112f4b11b0e91031c7f403c43321

Image: https://www.pinterest.com/pin/156007574563811575/

  1. Poland – An interesting fact about the Polish way of spending Christmas is that on Christmas Eve when the main dinner is eaten (Wigilia), tradition goes that you should not start digging in till the first star in the sky has been seen – you better be hoping for a rather starry night! Likewise, we hope you are hungry because there are traditionally 12 dishes served to represent the bringing of luck for the following 12 months of the New Year and to represent the 12 Apostles.

Merry Christmas – Wesołych Świąt

  1. Japan – only in recent decades has Christmas really taken off in Japan but as opposed to being a predominant religious holiday, it is more about joy and happiness. As a result, it is not such a family holiday but actually one more for the lovers out there. Christmas Eve is the highlight of the season and it is a day which is almost akin to Valentine’s Day due to the feeling of romance in the air with couples getting together to exchange presents. Therefore, have fun trying to book a restaurant on the 24th! Of course, what is a meal without dessert and while Christmas cake is an equally traditional dish in Japan, it has a slightly different flavour as it is a sponge cake predominantly decorated with whipped cream and strawberries. Likewise, KFC tends to be the family favourite with sales for the famous fried chicken brand going through the roof on Christmas Eve due to Western advertising!

Merry Christmas – Meri Kurisumasu

  1. Russia – It is not the 24th, 25th or even the 26th on which Christmas is celebrated, but actually the 7th of January. This is in keeping with the Orthodox Church which uses the old ‘Julian’ calendar.

Merry Christmas – С Рождество́м

  1. Czech Republic – The Czech Christmas is full of rather unusual superstitions. For instance, with their backs to a door, single ladies will throw a shoe over their shoulder and if the toe lands pointing towards the door, then this means they will be married within the year. Likewise, if you want to be doubly sure of your fate, on the 4th of December an unmarried lady will place a cherry tree twig in water and if it blooms before the 24th, this is another sign of a wedding on the horizon. There is also a superstition in regards to Christmas Dinner in that if someone manages to successfully fast the whole of the 24th, they will witness the “golden pig”.

Merry Christmas – Veselé Vánoce!

 

  1. Venezuela – There is a rather odd custom in Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, whereby between December 16th and 24th, the roads are closed – in order to enable people to roller-skate to the daily mass.

Merry Christmas – Feliz Navidad

 

  1. Ukraine – fancy a Christmas tree with a Halloweeny twist? Well, in Ukraine, spider webs are used as a unique way of decorating the tree. Fear not, the webs are fake but the story behind the tradition is that it will help to garner good luck because there is the legend that a poor family went to bed full of sadness that they could not decorate the tree. However, the spiders in the household took pity on them by decorating the trees with their webs and so the next morning when the family woke up, the webs had turned into gold and silver – changing their fate forever.

Merry Christmas – z Rizdvom Khrystovym

9e6331adf3

Image: https://onmogul.com/articles/strange-and-unique-christmas-traditions-around-the-world

  1. The Netherlands – The most important day of the holiday season is on December 6th, when Sinterklaas comes to town with his servant “Black Peter”. They arrive in style on a steamboat (as Sinterklaas does not live in the North Pole, but oddly in Spain) and when they land ashore, bells ring out in celebration.

Merry Christmas – Prettig Kerstfeest

  1. Estonia – A very historic and important Estonian Christmas tradition is how on the 24th, the main celebration day at Christmas, people go to a sauna as a family before the festive activities.

Merry Christmas – Häid Jõule

  1. Italy –January 6th, on Epiphany Eve, is also a special festive day in Italy where there is a slightly different kind of gift-giver. It is not Santa arriving on his sleigh, but an old lady on a broomstick who is considered as a good witch and who goes by the name of ‘Befana’. Like Santa however, if you have been a good child then you will get your candy but if you have been naughty, expect that rather depressing lump of clay!

Merry Christmas – Buon Natale

NewYearWitch_oneillsdc5

 Image: http://www.quirkyguide.com/event/new-year-witch-italy

  1. Iceland – How many of us have asked for more than one Santa? Well, in Iceland, your hopes and wishes would be answered because they do not just have one Santa, but 13 and they go by the name of “Yule Lads”. However, there are still not 13 Santas roaming about the North Pole and flying in by sleigh, as the “Yule Lads” reside in the mountains and they traverse down the mountains one after the other to hand the children their gifts.

Merry Christmas – Gleðileg Jól

 

  1. Canada – What could be more magical than receiving a letter back from Santa once you send him that all-important list? Well, in Canada the magic comes true because if you write to SANTA CLAUS, NORTH POLE, H0H 0H0, CANADA, then you could receive a letter back! Santa can handwrite or type the letters in over 30 languages including braille.
  1. Greenland – Looking for an alternative Christmas dinner? Well Greenland has some rather unique culinary specialities including Kiviak, which is a small auk (a bird) which has been wrapped in a seal skin. It goes through a rather extensive preparation process with it being buried for approximately 7 months and it is then eaten once it has decomposed.

Merry Christmas – Juullimi Pilluarit

  1. Philippines – We have all said at some point that we wished Christmas was every day and while this is not a custom in any country, if you really want to make the most of the festive season, go to the Philippines. The Philippines are known as having the longest running Christmas celebration in the world with it not being uncommon for festive tunes and Christmas carols to have been heard since September and lasting till early January.

Merry Christmas – Maligayang Pasko

 

  1. Austria – Renowned as being a stunningly beautiful country, particularly in the winter season, Austria actually takes a rather scary turn in the Christmas season with men dressing up as “Krampus” – a devil/demon kind of creature who threatens to beat misbehaving children with branches. Their purpose? To scare poor unsuspecting kids and adults – it is Christmas with a dark side!

Merry Christmas – Frohe Weihnachten

krampus1

Image: http://checkhookboxing.com/showthread.php?28320-Happy-Krampus-Day-from-Austria!

  1. Portugal – The traditional Christmas feast in Portugal is known as “consoda” and what makes it so unique is that an extra place is set at the dinner table; normally to represent a deceased relative. This is seen as a way of generating good luck and fortune for the family in the following year.

Merry Christmas – Feliz Natal

Wherever you celebrate Christmas and however you celebrate it, we hope you have a magical one with friends and family.

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

The velvety warming taste of hot chocolate; the wondrous glow of streets bathed in an array of vibrant lights that sparkle in the dark and the snowflakes falling gracefully from the sky; it can only be winter. Factor in the cheerful buzz of everyone’s favourite Christmas tunes on repeat and the streets brimming  with people in varying levels of stress as they run manically from store to store and you know Christmas has arrived in full force. While we all know there is nothing quite as exciting as seeing our houses all decorated head-to-toe to match our fetching winter ensembles consisting predominantly of the uber-trendy Christmas jumpers, nothing beats the sight of a whole CITY ablaze with the festive spirit. It is irrefutable that you will never witness a city quite as stunning and as lit up as it is during Christmas and with locations in some of the UK’s most popular cities from Birmingham to Edinburgh, you know that when you stay with us you can witness some of the greatest shows and festivities put on at this time of year. Therefore, sit back with a mug of hot cocoa and discover all of the fun and cheer you can have when you visit some of our locations this December:

Aberdeen

Aberdeen-Christmas

Image Source: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/aberdeen-world-record-bid-people-2846533

It is known as the Silver City, but at this time of the year Aberdeen diversifies and allows all hues of effervescent greens, reds, golds, purples and more to colour the skyline. There could not be a better time to visit Aberdeen than this year as it is the inaugural year of its own largest Winter Festival. With an open-air ice rink; thrilling fairground rides; an entertainment marquee and the scintillating smells of fresh delicious food emanating from the German inspired stalls; it combines to create an idyllic scene which is not to be missed. While you are not busy stuffing your face with all the finest festive delicacies at the Christmas market, you can get further into the Christmas spirit by belting out all your favourite Christmas carols with full gusto at the traditional Christmas Carol Concert at Duthie Park or you can take a moment to reflect on what Christmas is all about by witnessing the Christmas nativity scene at the St. Nicholas Kirkyard right in the centre of the city. If you are still needing to engage in some Christmas present shopping while visiting, you are in the right place with the Trinity Centre, Bon Accord Centre and Union Square offering beloved brands to satisfy all kinds of wallets from designer to department stores. However, if you are looking for something a bit more authentic and unique, make sure not to miss “The Arts of Gifts” Christmas Market which is brimming with gorgeous handmade jewellery; ceramics; Christmas cards and artworks. Of course, while you are in town make sure not to miss Aberdeen’s pantomime extravaganza production of Peter Pan!

To unearth all the Aberdonian Christmas magic, go to:

http://www.visitaberdeen.com/whats-on/calendar/

Birmingham

german-christmas-market-w5a0700.jpg

Image: http://www.edgemagazine.org/guide-christmas-markets.html

There is no image quite as synonymous with Birmingham and Christmas like its nationally renowned Frankfurt Christmas Market and Craft Fair. If you cannot make it to Germany this year than this festival is no poor man’s second as it is the second LARGEST German market outside of Germany and Austria and is just as authentic. With over 180 stalls selling everything from jewellery to gifts to the finest German cuisine specialities; it is almost like being in Germany but at a much lower cost! However, it is not just its German market that is the prime attraction, but its attached craft fair where you can buy all kinds of charming and beguiling crafted goods as designed by local artisans. However, there is a whole other host of ultra-festive activities to engage in from festive plays to Christmas carol concerts to Christmas markets to even candlelit tours happening all over the city. If you fancy a day trip, then make sure to consider Shakespeare’s Birthplace and Warwick Castle which are both getting into the spirit. At Shakespeare’s Birthplace, you can partake in more traditional festivities which are typical to the Tudor time period or alternatively you can meet with the Big Man himself (Santa, not Shakespeare!) at Warwick Castle.  If you have time for some giggles and cheesiness, make sure to swing by Birmingham’s 2015 pantomime of choice, Aladdin, or there is the equally enchanting production of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe to be seen at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre! Similarly, for something more historical but equally breath-taking, make sure to take in the majesty of the Royal Shakespeare’s Company production of Wendy and Peter Pan. Of course if you are in Birmingham then you are in prime position to complete that Christmas list because between the designer temptations of the Mailbox to the brand new shiny floors of Grand Central to the unique handcrafted works in the Jewellery Quarter, there are no shortages of places to find the perfect gift.

For full details of all the festive excitement and entertainment, go to:

http://visitbirmingham.com/christmas-in-birmingham/

Glasgow

GeorgeSquare.jpg

Image: http://getaroundglasgow.co.uk/photos/georgesquare/

There is no city that embodies the Christmas spirit quite like Glasgow with their self-proclaimed “Glasgow Loves Christmas” campaign. However, once you witness all that it has to offer, you will not be surprised why! Within the rustic wooden cabins that align St. Enoch Square, you will find all kinds of tempting festive goods from exquisite cuisines of all nationalities to intricate crafts and stunning decorations – perfect for a browse when armed with a succulent German Bratwurst and a warming mug of hot cocoa. Surrounded by the Buchanan Galleries, Ingram Street and Princes Square, it is the perfect place to visit when you are in the midst of a Christmas shopping break. However, if you want to get to the heart of the festive cheer that emanates from the city; then make sure to stop by George Square. With its iconic ice rink as well as the big wheel and the entertainment offered at the Winter Cabin, there will be no better place to celebrate this winter season. When in Glasgow, make sure to take the time to find gifts for yourself or for your significant others in some of Glasgow’s 1500 plus stores such as at the Argyll Arcade, Merchant City or the West End. Alternatively, make sure to sit back and enjoy a few laughs at Scotland’s biggest pantomime extravaganza of Peter Pan.

Discover all the festive cheer happening in the city at:

http://www.glasgowloveschristmas.com/Pages/Home.aspx

Edinburgh

market

Image: http://www.neweuropetours.eu/blog/edinburgh/51-edinburghs-christmas-markets-and-events

There is nowhere better to spend the most magical time of the year than in Edinburgh whose sparkling skyline is iconic when it comes to the festive period due to its adornment of lights. Not just in one area, Christmas spreads itself all around from The Royal Mile to St. Andrews Square to Princes Street Gardens. While there are the traditional star attractions of the Big Wheel, Star Flyer, Santa Land and the iconic ice rinks which never fail to thrill, extra magic is also brought in the form of the Virgin Money ‘Street of Lights’ which has transformed the Royal Mile into the most glittering, sparkling and animated sight ever as well as an abundance of all kinds of new exhilarating attractions. Therefore, even if you have experienced an Edinburgh Christmas once, there are still plenty of brand new reasons to do it again! There are a whole host of Christmas markets ranging from large European marketplace affairs to slightly more intimate and local gatherings. The two headlining festivals are undoubtedly the European Christmas Market and Scottish Market which can be found in Princes Street Gardens and St. Andrew’s Square respectively and offer tantalising foods; charming handcrafted goods; exquisite jewellery and stunning gifts that are steeped in both national and international culture – perfect for a wander on a cold winter’s day with a warming cup of mulled wine in your gloved hand. Alternatively, the Virgin Money Street of Light is definitely one not to be missed which illuminates the Royal Mile in full festive glow due to the magnificent line-up of 16 spell-binding lit up arches each reaching 19m high. It is a spectacular kaleidoscope production of colour and light like nothing else! Of course amongst all the markets and fairground rides, you cannot miss the entertainment central of Paradiso Spiegeltent which will play host to a vibrant array of fantastic shows to entertain all ages. Edinburgh’s chosen panto for the year is Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the King’s Theatre but if you are looking for something a bit more delicate and elegant, make sure to not miss out on the beauty of Cinderella as performed by the Scottish Ballet. If you are coming to Edinburgh, then there could not be a more opportune time to complete that Christmas list with a flourish. From the traditional treasures of the Royal Mile to the beloved brands of George Street and Princes Street and then the unique independents of the Grassmarket, you are guaranteed to find something for everyone.

To discover all the fantastic festive fun, make sure to check out: http://thisisedinburgh.com/things-to-do/christmas-in-edinburgh/

Therefore, you know where all the fun and festivities are to be had this season and so make sure to discover them all. Whether you come by yourself, with your friends or with your family, we have apartments to cater to all sizes and there could not be a better place to relax after all the magic and joy. Visit www.thespires.co.uk to book your visit to a Winter Wonderland.

 

Easter Special Offer

Easter is a fantastic time to meet up with family and friends so why not book a weekend away in either Glasgow, Birmingham or Aberdeen?

Our mix of 1, 2 and 3 bedroom family friendly apartments are ideal for any family size.

Book 2 nights arriving on Friday 18th April 2014 and we will give your Sunday the 20th April 2014 free*.

Click on the city names below to book.

*To receive the free night, bookings must be for a minimum of 3 nights and must arrive on Friday 18th April 2014.  Offer is subject to availability.  Offer is based on the promotional rates below only.

                                                Birmingham           Glasgow            Aberdeen

   1 bed (sleeps 2)                     £ 97.50                 £112.50              £ 90.00
    2 bed (sleeps 4)                     £165.00                £180.00              £165.00
    2 bed deluxe (6)                     £210.00                £225.00              £180.00
    3 bed (sleeps 6)                           –                       £412.50                      –

Rates include VAT and are the per night rates for Friday 18th April and Saturday 19th April 2014.  Both nights are required to be booked to receive the free Sunday night offer.

Like us on Facebook to take advantage of some great discounted rates

Spotlight On Glasgow

Eating & drinking

Glasgow is packed full of excellent restaurants to suit every budget, and if you want to sample the very best, head to The Ubiquitous Chip – a multi award-winning restaurant with a menu inspired by Scotland’s natural larder.

And of course, you can’t visit Glasgow without a tour of a local distillery. At the Glengoyne Distillery, the whisky is distilled slower than any other single malt Scotch whisky, giving it a subtle, complex flavour. True whisky lovers will love The Masterclass – the most in depth and comprehensive distillery tour in Scotland.

Top attractions 

The trendy locals aren’t the only reason Glasgow is known as Scotland’s style capital. Even the buildings here are stylish, and they have Glasgow’s most famous son – architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh – to thank for that. A trip to the Glasgow School of Art for a glimpse of his famous Art Nouveau style is a must.

The city is also home to over 20 museums and art galleries, including the award-winning Burrell Collection, the huge Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery and the Riverside Museum, a radical space designed by Zaha Hadid for the city’s transport heritage.

Arts & culture 

Wherever you are, you won’t be far from the arts and culture highlights that earned Glasgow the European City of Culture title. You’ll find Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s work dotted all over the city, but architecture fans will also love The Lighthouse, Scotland’s national centre for design and architecture.

And if you’re looking for an unforgettable performance, you’re in luck. Glasgow is the home of both the Scottish Opera and the Scottish Ballet, so there really is no better place to indulge your inner culture vulture.

Music & nightlife 

The music scene in Glasgow is red hot, and if you want to spot the next big thing, get in line at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut. It’s here that Oasis were famously spotted and signed in 1993, and the venue supported the likes of Radiohead, Florence & The Machine, and Biffy Clyro from the start of their careers.

But if bonding with the locals over a pint is more your scene, head to Glasgow’s upmarket West End, where you’ll find everything from traditional pubs to clubs and bars.

For families 

It’s not just grown-ups who get to have all the fun in Glasgow, there’s plenty to keep the little ones happy too. If they’re into science, they’ll love the Glasgow Science Centre, home to hundreds of hands-on exhibits, interactive workshops, a Science Show Theatre and Scotland’s biggest IMAX cinema.

Sport 

Football is an important part of Glasgow’s history. The first ever international football match was held here, and it’s home to Scotland’s largest football stadiums: Hampden Park, Celtic Park and Ibrox Stadium. The Scottish Football Museum at Hampden Park is a must-see for any football fan. Discover the story of Scottish football and explore the 2,500 plus exhibits that make up the most impressive collection of football memorabilia in the world.

Shopping 

Shoppers beware: a shopping spree in Glasgow may lead to excess baggage on the return flight. Glasgow is second only to London as Britain’s most important shopping city, and the place to be if you want to shop till you drop is the Style Mile. There’s something to suit every budget here, from popular high street shops to fancy designer outlets and independent boutiques selling lesser-known labels.

Hidden Gems 

Take in some local culture over lunch at the Oran Mor pub in Glasgow’s West End. A Play, a Pie and a Pint is a ground-breaking theatre programme showing lunchtime plays by some of the UK’s best-known writers and new and exciting theatrical voices. As you may have guessed, you get a drink and a pie with your theatre ticket.

Glasgow Science Centre and IMAX 

Glasgow Science Centre is a visitor attraction located on the south bank of the River Clyde in Glasgow, Scotland. It is a purpose-built science centre composed of three principal buildings which are the Science Mall, an IMAX cinema and the Glasgow Tower. The Scottish tourist board, Visit Scotland, awarded Glasgow Science Centre, located in the Clyde Waterfront Regeneration area, a five star rating in the visitor attraction category. 

The Science Mall is a titanium-clad crescent shape structure. In architectural terms it represents the canted hull of a ship, a reference to the adjacent ‘canting basin’, where vessels were brought to have the marine growth removed from their hulls. The building houses three floors of over 250 science-learning exhibits, themed around three concepts, being ‘explore and discover’, ‘science in action’ and ‘science and you’. As is usual for science centres, the exhibits aim to encourage interaction, and can be used or played with as part of the informal learning experience the centre aims to deliver. Visitors can access a Science Show Theatre and the Glasgow Science Centre Planetarium. The planetarium contains a Zeiss optical-mechanical projector that projects images of the night sky onto a 15m diameter dome. 

The IMAX cinema was the first IMAX cinema to be built in Scotland. The single auditorium seats 370 in front of a rectangular screen measuring 82 feet by 62 feet (25 m by 18.9 m) and has the capability to show 3D films as well as standard 2D films in IMAX format. 

http://www.glasgowsciencecentre.org/ 

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum 

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum houses one of Europe’s great art collections. It is amongst the top three free-to-enter visitor attractions in Scotland and one of the most visited museums in the United Kingdom outside of London. 

http://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/kelvingrove/Pages/default.aspx 

Blair Drummond Safari Park 

Blair Drummond Safari & Adventure Park and experience one of the best value for money days out Scotland has to offer. From the Wildlife Animal Reserves to the Adventure Playground and many more attractions, there is plenty of fun and excitement for all the family. Wild Animal Reserves, Adventure Playground, Boat Trip around Chimp Island, Pets Farm, Lemur Land, Flying Fox, Giant Astraglide, Sea Lion Shows, Bird of Prey Centre & Displays & Pedal Boats. 

http://www.blairdrummond.com/ 

M&Ds – Scotlands Theme Park

Now recognised as Scotland’s Theme Park, M&D’s is unique in Scotland. With 5 terrifying white-knuckle rides, over 20 kids’ rides, 18 hole miniature golf, ‘glow in the dark’ indoor bowling, a massive indoor complex including a gigantic soft play area, bars and restaurants and My Pawfect Bear Factory. You can also discover AMAZONIA, Scotland’s only indoor tropical rainforest packed with exotic animals, birds and insects!

http://www.scotlandsthemepark.com/ 

Willow Tea Rooms

Designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh in 1904, the Willow Tea Rooms in Sauchiehall Street, remains one of the city’s major attractions for both local and overseas visitors. See the Room De Luxe and Gallery and marvel at the many original features still on show today. The Tea Rooms are centrally located on Glasgow’s Style Mile and provide a mouth-watering range of traditional food and drinks. They also serve a range of daily specials at both Sauchiehall Street and Buchanan Street. In Anne’s Kitchen you will find a selection of their most popular dishes, including our famous Willow Meringues. Visit the gift shops and choose from a wide selection of Mackintosh and Glasgow products, many of which are designed in-house. The range includes jewellery, tote bags, scarves, candles, glassware, household products, gift sets, pens, compacts, pill boxes, mugs, cards and books … just some of the many items they have on sale.

http://www.willowtearooms.co.uk/ 

House For An Art Lover 

The idea of House for an Art Lover was to create an elegant country retreat for a person of taste and culture. Mackintosh’s imaginary client was someone who enjoyed lavishly entertaining his guests in sophisticated surroundings and in great style. The exterior character of the building exhibits an absolutely original character unlike anything else known. In it we shall not find a trace of the conventional forms of architecture to which the artist, as far as his present intentions were concerned, was quite indifferent. These were the words with which the German Architect Hermann Muthesius hailed Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s competition entry to design a House for an Art Lover. The competition was run by the German Magazine “Zeitschrift Für Innendekoration” in the winter of 1900 and the brief was to design a grand house in a thoroughly modern style. The drawings which Mackintosh produced, although very detailed for a competition entry, were not intended as technical plans from which the house would be built. Work began on building the House in 1989. 

http://www.houseforanartlover.co.uk/ 

Botanic Gardens 

Glasgow Botanic Gardens, situated in the West End of the city, lies beside the River Kelvin. At any time of the year there are pleasant riverside walks, peaceful woodland copses and exotic tropical places to explore, just minutes from the heart of the city. Thomas Hopkirk, a distinguished Glasgow botanist, was the founder of the Botanic Gardens and with the support of a number of local dignitaries and the University of Glasgow the Gardens were set up in 1817. These days the gardens are maintained by The Friends of Glasgow Botanic Gardens. The Friends was established as a charitable organisation in the early 1990′s and formally their aim is
“the enhancement of education for the public benefit by supporting and furthering the activities of Glasgow Botanic Gardens as a centre for education, research and public amenity”. The Friends of Glasgow Botanic Gardens have a simple wish – that you enjoy the Gardens as much as they do. 

http://www.glasgowbotanicgardens.com/ 

Shopping 

Glasgow is the perfect place to shop – as the UK’s largest and most successful shopping location outside the London’s West End, Glasgow is home to every fashion thrill, from niche to mainstream, from unique designer show spaces to flagship stores for every major British retailer. The Style Mile refers to the square mile in the very centre of Glasgow which houses the most extraordinary concentration of shops. Over 200 stores, many exclusive to the Style Mile are now open until 7pm every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday (with most open until 8pm on a Thursday). 

http://www.glasgowstylemile.com/

http://www.buchanangalleries.co.uk/

http://www.princessquare.co.uk/

http://www.forgeshopping.com/

http://www.intu.co.uk/braehead 

University of Glasgow 

Discover Over 550 Years of History. Founded in 1451, the University of Glasgow is the fourth oldest university in the English-speaking world. Originally located on High Street in the city centre near Glasgow Cathedral, in 1870 it moved to the stunning collection of buildings perched upon Gilmorehill today, where it continues to watch over the bustling city and picturesque tenements of Glasgow’s West End. The second largest example of Gothic Revival architecture in Britain (after the palace of Westminster) today the University of Glasgow is renowned not only as a site of remarkable intellectual, scientific and medical achievements, but also as an international tourist attraction, due to its collection of over 100 listed buildings. The walking tours last approximately one hour and will take you on a fascinating journey around some of the University’s most significant spots – from philosopher Thomas Reid’s tombstone and the atmospheric cloisters, to the very same staircase Lord Kelvin would take from his house to his laboratory. Discover the connections between James Watt, Adam Smith and Isabella Elder, whose names are all inscribed on the University’s Memorial Gates. The University of Glasgow dominates the artistic, literary and student-centered West End of Glasgow. With stunning views overlooking Kelvingrove Museum and Kelvingrove Park, the tour is an essential part of any visitor’s experience of Glasgow. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/University_of_Glasgow

The Riverside Museum

Riverside is home to some of the world’s finest cars, bicycles, ship models, trams and locomotives. Interactive displays and the hugely popular historic Glasgow street scene bring the objects and stories to life. The multi-award winning Riverside Museum is home to over 3,000 objects that detail Glasgow’s rich past from its days as maritime powerhouse to a glimpse into daily Glasgow life in the early to mid 20th Century. ​Amongst the objects on display are everything from skateboards to locomotives, paintings to prams, velocipedes to voiturettes, vintage cars to a stormtrooper, there really is something to delight visitors of all ages.​ 

http://www.glasgowlife.org.uk/museums/riverside/Pages/default.aspx

Spotlight On Aberdeen

Aberdeen or the “Granite City” is located in the North East of Scotland.  It is the oil capital of Europe which is one of the main attractions for business travellers to the city however there is also loads to do for those looking for a weekend break or “staycation”.  The Spires offer a mix of one and two bedroom apartments with the largest able to sleep up to 6 people.  They are ideal for groups of friends or family looking for some time away together.  If you like us on Facebook you will get access to some great discounts.  If you are visiting Aberdeen here are some suggestions of things to see and do:

Codonas Amusement Park is packed with rides and fun activities for both young and old.  From the terrifying Looping Star to the more sedate Apple Coaster there is something for everyone.  For a great view of the city our out to sea why not try the Aberdeen Eye?  Either highlights include the dodgems, 2 mini golf courses (1 inside and 1 outside), waltzers, haunted house and the log flumes.  Click on the link above for more details.codonas_040__custom__161

Union Square is Aberdeen’s newest shopping mall.  Shops include Hollister, Super Dry, next, Apple and many, many more.  There is also a multiplex cinema and a huge selection of restaurants including TGI Fridays, Nando’s, Frankie and Bennys, Pizza Hut, Yo Sushi and more.  Click on the link for more details.

union-square_01

Aberdeen Maritime Museum The City’s award-winning Maritime Museum tells the captivating story of the North Sea. View exciting exhibitions and displays of the North Boats, the offshore oil industry, shipbuilding and clipper ships. The Museum also has a fascinating programme of exhibitions and displays. New exhibitions include the Aberdeen Harbour Gallery and computer interactives on Aberdeen – everything from fishing techniques to how to “park” your ship in the harbour. Admission is free.

maritime museum

Duthie Park is a park of 44 acres which was donated to the city by Miss Duthie in 1880 and opened to the public in 1883.  The park has many artefacts including a bandstand, fountains, ponds, and statues. Within the park is the Winter Gardens, which were rebuilt in 1970. These house many exotic plants including the largest collection of cacti in Britain. This is a park for all the family, with activities from boating in the ponds to cricket on the lawns.  The park has cricket on the lawns, bands in the park in summer, and the ponds are to be refurbished if the City receives heritage lottery funding.  There are two children’s play areas, a cafe with toilets and toilets within the Winter Gardens.  Duthie Park is also home to the David Welch Winter Gardens.

duthie park

Carthes Castle has fairytale-like turrets, gargoyles of fantastic design and the ancient Horn of Leys given in 1323 by Robert the Bruce are just a few of the features of this historic castle.  The Crathes gardens and estate are ideal for a family day out. A delight at any time of year, the famous gardens feature great yew hedges and colourful double herbaceous borders.  Further afield, the 595-acre estate offers six separate trails to enjoy.

crathes castle

Go Ape Crathes Castle, enjoy their Epic Skateboard Zip Wire and Some Stunning Scenery near Aberdeen.  A great day out if you’re looking for adventure activities near Aberdeen. Set in the grounds of historic Crathes Castle, they are proud to unveil their new skateboard zip wires.  The classic and original Go Ape adventure experience could be what your and you’re friends are after if you’re looking for things to do in Aberdeenshire. They’ll brief you for safety before you fly down zip wires, jump off Tarzan Swings and sample our fun high ropes crossings whilst enjoying some of Scotland’s most breathtaking woodland.  A stones throw from Aberdeen, live life more adventurously in beautiful surroundings.

Go ApeCrathesCastle

Deeside Activity Park is based on Royal Deeside in the historic county of Aberdeenshire.  They offer a range of outdoor and corporate team building activities and events. Only 45 minutes from the centre of Aberdeen they offer activities ranging from quad biking round their mud-splattered course and kart racing on their asphalt racing circuit, to hitting the bullseye on their fully automatic archery range and breaking a clay at their clay shooting facility. In addition, they also offer 4×4 offroad driving, paintball, and rifle target shooting amongst others. Check out their activities section for a full listing, they would advise giving them a call to double check availability for activities.

deeside-activity-park

Dunnottar Castle Visit Dunnottar Castle for an unforgettable experience. A dramatic and evocative ruined cliff top fortress in a truly stunning setting. As you wander around the extensive buildings – from the keep through the barracks, lodgings, stables and storehouses to the less-ruinous chapel and drawing room – you will discover the importance of Dunnottar, an impregnable Castle that holds many rich secrets of Scotland’s colourful past.  William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, the Marquis of Montrose and the future King Charles II, all graced the Castle with their presence. Most famously though, it was at Dunnottar Castle that a small garrison held out against the might of Cromwell’s army for eight months and saved the Scottish Crown Jewels, the ‘Honours of Scotland’, from destruction. Crown, sceptre and sword now take pride of place in Edinburgh Castle.  A darker chapter in the history of Dunnottar is that of the ‘Whig’s Vault’. The gruesome story of the imprisonment in 1685 of a group of Covenanters who refused to acknowledge the King’s supremacy in spiritual matters.  The Castle was the home of the Earls Marischal once one of the most powerful families in the land.  The last Earl was convicted of treason for his part in the Jacobite rising of 1715, and as a result his estates, including Dunnottar, were seized by the government.  The buildings were thereafter much neglected until 1925 when the 1st Viscountess Cowdray embarked on a systematic repair of the Castle.  The Castle was officially made open to visitors thereafter. Our facilities include a restaurant, a farm shop, corporate conference suite, huge indoor activities arena and 3 luxury holiday cottages.  We’re open 7 days a week from 9am to 5pm, all year round.  Come along to Deeside Activity Park and try the best activities that Scotland can offer and the warmest welcome in Aberdeen and the shire!

dunnottar

Slains Castle is found on the rocky Aberdeen coastline near the town of Cruden Bay.  This atmospheric ruined castle was originally built to replace Old Slains Castle, situated about six miles south-west of the present site, after it was destroyed in 1594. New Slains Castle was erected in 1597 on the site of the former Bowness Castle.  It is often said that the Slains gave Bram Stoker the inspiration for Count Dracula’s castle while staying at nearby Cruden Bay in 1895.

Ruined_Slains_Castle_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1461044