Welcome to a Winter Wonderland

Not long ago the displays in shop windows were adorned with pumpkins, ghosts and cobwebs galore, however as soon as midnight chimed to signal the close of the spookiest day of the year, Halloween, Santa Claus officially rode into town on his wondrous sleigh. Yes, much debate will be ignited as to whether his grand arrival is just a little too early, however there is no denying the infectious excitement and anticipation that is garnered with the first sightings of Christmas trees, twinkling fairy lights and the revealing of festive coffee cups. It truly is one of the most magical times of the year and you would be hard pushed to find a city that is not caught up in all the festival fun. With locations in major UK destinations such as Aberdeen, Glasgow, Birmingham and Edinburgh, The Spires Serviced Apartments are particularly fortunate to be surrounded by some of the most wonderful celebrations in the country and we are so excited to share all this cheer with our guests. Of course, alongside bedazzling Christmas lights illuminating the streets in a warm festive glow, the heart of any city Christmas celebration has to be the much anticipated annual Christmas market which brings together local residents and tourists alike. Fortunately, none of our locations are shrimping on this tradition and so we thought we would deliver to you today some of the excitement you can experience when you visit The Spires this wonderful winter season:

Aberdeen

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Image: http://www.dinnerstories.co.uk/2015_12_01_archive.html

Aberdeen Christmas Village, 25th November – 8th January, Union Terrace

Why have a market, when you can have a whole village ablaze with Christmas cheer and wonder?! Last year was the inaugural year for the Aberdeen Christmas Village and it went down such a storm, it has come back even bigger and grander this year. That is right, while the open-air ice rink and festoon of market stalls are all making their anticipated return; they are coming back plus-size edition meaning there is all the more fun to be had.  There are even some extra surprises with a Christmas Tree Maze being introduced in the Union Terrace Gardens – can you conquer the mischievous journey to the elves workshop? Complete with market stalls selling all kinds of treasures to fill Christmas stockings around the city; live entertainment and nostalgic fairground style attractions, there is certainly no doubt that Christmas has arrived to make the Silver City that extra bit more sparkly and glittery.

Honourable Festive Highlights:

*Christmas Tree Switch-On – Castlegate – 24th November, 7pm

*Twelve Days of Christmas Wooden Carvings Trail – throughout city – 24th November – throughout December

*Christmas Lights Switch-On Parade – Union Street – 27th November, 5.30pm

*Nativity Scene – St Nicholas Kirkyard – 28th November – 6th January

*Panto – Dick McWhittington – His Majesty’s Theatre – 3rd December – 8th January

Birmingham

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Image: http://www.germanchristmasmarketbirmingham.com/history/

Birmingham’s Frankfurt Christmas Market & Craft Fair, 17th November – 29th December, Victoria Square

Of course, there is no city that quite lays the ultimate Christmas Market gauntlet like Birmingham as its resident annual market is renowned all over the UK and is synonymous with the arrival of the festive period. The heart of Birmingham’s Christmas celebrations, the market is actually the largest German market outside of Germany and Austria and so there is no denying that a visit to this market is a definite must to really get in the Christmassy spirit. If you think you can attend this majestic city celebration without purchasing anything, then think again as with 180 stalls selling all kinds of tempting decorations, toys, jewellery and of course food (Bratwurst or mulled wine anyone?), you will be hard-pressed to keep your wallet ensconced in your bag. When you are finished having a magical ride on the carousel or joining in a carol or two, make sure to pop into the Craft Fair adjacent to the market where you can find even more unique and handcrafted Artisan pieces to complete any gift menagerie under the tree.

Honourable Festive Highlights:

The Jewellery Quarter Christmas Lights Switch-On – The Golden Square -18th November  – 5pm

Magical Lantern Festival – Birmingham Botanical Gardens – 23rd November – 2nd January –

*Panto – Dick Whittington – Birmingham Hippodrome- 19th December 2016 – 29th December 2017

Glasgow

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Image: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/local-news/glasgow-christmas-activities-pictures-glasgow-4769441

Christmas Market, 20th November – 22nd December, St Enoch Square

When you consider all the celebrations occurring across Glasgow this winter, there is no denying that the city itself could almost be considered one large Santa’s grotto – it is overflowing with that much Christmas cheer and spirit! This could not be better reflected by the fact that there is not just one traditional Christmas market but two. Therefore, whether you want warming culinary delights; beautifully ornate handcrafted decorations or an exhilarating fairground ride or two, you are bound to get it somewhere whether it is in St Enoch Square or in George Square (opening 26th November – 29th December). Likewise, with a retail reputation which has led to the development of a renowned ‘Style Mile’, there is no surprise that there are a few festive bargains to be found across the 1, 500 shops.

*Coco Cola Christmas Truck Tour – Silverburn – 18th November 2016

*Glasgow Christmas Light Switch-On – George Square – 20th November

*Style Mile Christmas Carnival – Glasgow City Centre – 27th November

*Panto – Aladdin – Clyde Auditorium – 10th December – 31st December

Edinburgh

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Image: https://www.list.co.uk/article/74953-edinburghs-christmas-2015-programme-revealed/

European Christmas Market, 19th November – 7th January, East Princes Street Gardens

It is no surprise that there is nowhere that does Christmas bigger and better than Scotland’s stunning capital itself. Beautiful whatever the season, Christmas just elevates Edinburgh’s scenic wonder to the level that it could fit in perfectly on any Christmas card. Right at the heart of this beauty and warmth is the European Christmas Market which resides in the hub of the city. It is full of all kinds of delicate artisan works, handcrafted decorations, unique jewellery, as well as tantalising festive sweet and savoury treats. Likewise, Edinburgh’s skyline is resplendent with the twinkling of thousands of lights bedazzling both the city streets and the myriad of fairground attractions including a Big Wheel and the renowned Star Flyer. Whether you prefer your fun in the air; down on the ground in the Christmas Tree Maze or on the ice in the ink-rink, it is undeniable that there all kinds of levels of fun to be had.

*Light Night – 20th November, 1pm – 5pm

*The Scottish Market – West George Street – 26th November – 24th December

*Street of Light – George Street – 21st November – 24th December

*Alice in Wonderland – The Lyceum – 2nd – 31st December

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Double, Double, Toil and Trouble…

The nights are getting darker, there is an escapable chill in the air and the streets are slowly becoming festooned in a trail of leaves. Factor in those comforting mugs of hot cocoa, and you definitely know that Autumn is finally here. This officially means that if you are brave enough to pay the shops a visit, you will now be aware that the jolly man in red and his reindeer friends are on the way. However, while we are undoubtedly excited for all the indulgent food, glittering sparkles and mysterious gifts that Christmas brings, we want to focus on some events that are arriving a little sooner. This is because while nothing is quite comparable to the magic and wonder of Christmas, we like to think that the fiendish fun of Halloween and the spectacular night-time displays of Bonfire Night hold their own in the excitement stakes. When else can you dress up as someone you are not, pig out on all kinds of indulgent candy and see the skies brought to life in an illuminating display of rainbow colours? Therefore, this week we thought we would look at all the family-fun you can experience with us this Autumn and when you consider our super city central locations, you know you are never too far away from all the action.

Aberdeen

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Image: http://www.picturebritain.com/2011/05/crathes-castle-banchory.html

Crathes Castle

Being located in ‘Castle County’ with more castles per acre than anywhere else in the UK, it is safe to say that we are all relatively castle crazy in our Aberdeen HQ. However, you can take this craziness and lunacy to a ghoulish level when you attend the special Halloween ghost tour of Crathes Castle from 28th – 31st October. With dark passageways and walls that hold stories spanning all kinds of decades, where else could be more spookily fitting to spend the holiday? No matter what corner you turn, expect the unexpected and with a ‘warm’ welcome from the castle’s most renowned inhabitant who haunts the halls, the Green lady, you know you are in for a few chills down the spine.

Website: http://www.nts.org.uk/Events/Theme/Halloween-fun/

Haddo House

Halloween is all about mystery and tricks, but that does not mean it always has to be gruesome. Take for instance Halloween Magic at Haddo House where you can be captivated by mesmerising illuminations that bring both ethereal creatures like fairies, and those which are a little more sinister, to life. With stunning woodland grounds which deserve to be admired both during the day and in the mysterious night, it is the perfect setting for a night rich in fairy tales and magic.

Website: http://www.nts.org.uk/Property/Haddo-House/Events/

Codona’s

Complete with bowling, dodgems and an arcade where one can spend many an hour (and your loose change!), Codona’s amusement park is the perfect family friendly trip at it is. However, if you factor in it being bedecked in all kinds of ghostly gruesome decorations and offering traditional party games, then you know there is no where you can get more in the Halloween spirit of things. The only thing not so scary is the special reduced prices Codona’s offering throughout the month of October meaning you can be scared, but for less!

Website: http://codonas.com/sunset-boulevard/smugglers-cove/smugglers-cove-halloween-spook-tacular

Hidden Aberdeen

If there is anything synonymous with Halloween, it is creepy and spine-tingling tours of deserted streets haunted by restless ghosts who want to lure you into their dark and twisted stories. Therefore, if you are the kind of adrenaline junkie who lives for these kinds of scares, Hidden Aberdeen undoubtedly offers a tour which will hit all the spots. With tours focusing on all kinds of morbidly fascinating stories covering murder, bodysnatchers and ghosts, there is a darker history to the buzzing streets of Scotland’s Silver City which deserve to be told and when better to hear them than on this ghostly night?

Website: http://www.hiddenaberdeen.co.uk/

Birmingham

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Image: https://www.cadburyworld.co.uk/whats-on/autumn

Birmingham is the ultimate destination for family friendly fun because due to its convenient location, it is only a short distance away from major UK attractions including Drayton Manor, Warwick Castle, West Midland Safari Park and Cadbury’s World. Fortunately, if these attractions were not exciting enough as it was, they are taking it to a whole new level this Autumn as they fully embody and embrace the ghostly season. Therefore, from horror mazes to all kinds of wicked tricks and treats, there are all kinds of new mischievous fun to be had from the seasonal horror spectaculars on offer.

The National Sea Life Centre

All kinds of mystery and wonder lurk in the dark crevices of the ocean floor and the National Sea Life Centre is certainly playing on this with a Spooky Seas exhibit on display from the 22nd October to the 31st October. From jellyfish to piranhas, not all ghostly forms are to be discovered on dry land!

Website: https://www2.visitsealife.com/birmingham/discover/events/

Black Country Living Museum

One of Birmingham’s most renowned and award-winning museums, there could not be a better setting for some Halloween fun quite like the cobbled streets of the Black Country Living Museum which tells the story of the world’s first industrial landscape. Factor in live street entertainment including magicians and fire-jugglers; actual trick or treating and interaction with all kinds of creepy, crazy characters, it is a sure fire guarantee for a wicked night out! Available between 28th and 31st October.

Website: http://www.bclm.co.uk/events/halloween-nights–sold-out/14.htm

Pumpkin Flotilla at Sarehole Mill

Ghosts, witches, vampires and candy; all are symbols synonymous with the seasonal haunted spirit. However, from infamous Pumpkin Spices Lattes to Pumpkin Pie, who can forget the other main accessory of the season – pumpkins! Therefore, for a more relaxed spooky evening, how about partaking in Birmingham’s only pumpkin flotilla at Sarehole Mill? Occurring between October 28th and October 30th, you can spend the mysterious period of twilight, not gawping at vampires, but being hypnotised by the wondrous sight of gently glowing carved pumpkins floating away down the Mill pond. The complimentary hot chocolate also adds a little something special to the proceedings!

 Website: http://www.birminghammuseums.org.uk/sarehole/whats-on/pumpkin-flotilla

 

Glasgow

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Image: https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/halloween-in-glasgow

Glasgow Horror Festival

Sometimes Halloween is not all about going out, it is also about staying in, turning off the lights, snuggling up in a duvet and then subjecting yourself to a marathon of the scariest and most gruesome movies which guarantee you a night with the lights switched on. Well, with the inaugural Glasgow Horror Festival on 29th October 2016, you can be terrified out of your wits with company as the festival will be 12 hours full of indie movies, live music, industry Q and As and of course some crazy dressing up! If you are really a horror movie buff, make sure not to miss the movie drive-in at the Riverside Museum on the 30th October which is showing classics including Hocus Pocus.

Website: http://www.princeandprincessofwaleshospice.org.uk/event-article/social-events/drive-in-movie

Tennant’s Halloween Brewery Tour

Whether it is Halloween or not, the Tennant’s Brewery tour is always worth a visit just because you cannot say you have fully experienced Scotland until you have learnt the story of one of Scotland’s national drinks. However, the Halloween tours on the 28th/29th October just elevate the invigorating stories to be told because mysterious tales of the brewery are interwoven alongside the provision of Halloween games and nibbles.

Glasgow Science Centre – Halloween Fright Night

While you may be dying to enjoy a spooky pint of Tennants, sometimes with your young ones in tow this may not be a possibility. However, Glasgow is able to provide some family friendly thrills and nowhere is this more clearly evident than at the Glasgow Science Centre’s Halloween Fright Night on 28th October. It is literally one of Scotland’s biggest family friendly Halloween extravaganzas and with a costume catwalk, the chance to concoct your own monster potion, a gruesome live autopsy and the telling of tales of mystery in the planetarium, it is no surprise why all the young ghosts and ghouls congregate here!

Website: http://www.glasgowsciencecentre.org/special-events/frightnight.html

Edinburgh

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Website: https://www.scotsmagazine.com/articles/break-free-from-the-edinburgh-fringe/

Ghost Tours

Just from looking at Edinburgh and its cobbled old streets, you can see that it is a city rooted in a rich history and of course where there is history; there are often dark, sinister stories of murder, mystery, treason and blood. Therefore, regardless of whether you visit Edinburgh at Halloween or not, there is always ample opportunity to have the goose bumps rise on your arms and the chill go down your spine as many attractions including the Edinburgh Dungeons, The Ghost Bus Tour, Mary’s Kings Close and Edinburgh’s renowned ghost walks/murder tours are open for haunting all year round. From bodysnatchers to vampires to witch trials, you can learn all about it whatever month you visit, but of course there could not be a more chillingly fitting time than the night of scares and ghouls itself. Mercat Tours in particular are offering dedicated Halloween tours.

Website: https://www.mercattours.com/

 Condemned, Real Mary’s King Close

Mary’s King Close is rumoured to be one of Scotland’s most haunted grounds as it is, therefore where better to spend Halloween? This is particularly true when you consider how the chilling stories of the underground streets are taken to a whole new terrifying level with the seasonal late night experience of “Condemned”. Witches are an integral part of Halloween due to their dark magic and plotting, and therefore this is why “Condemned” is centred on telling the story of Edinburgh’s witchcraft past.

Website: http://www.realmarykingsclose.com/events/16-02-17/condemned-287898829.aspx

The Real Jekyll and Hyde at Edinburgh Dungeons

While some of Edinburgh’s renowned ghost and murder tours may be a little too much for the young ones, the Edinburgh Dungeons are able to make the dark, gruesome past a little more accessible through invoking some comical relief and interactive guest participation. With the seasonal addition of ‘The Real Jekyll and Hyde’ to generate some extra thrills, there really cannot be a better time to interact with some of the shadiest characters of Edinburgh’s past.

Website: https://www.thedungeons.com/edinburgh/en/explore-the-dungeon/jekyll-and-hyde.aspx

Halloween Trail

Between the Botanic Light event and this creepy Halloween trail occurring between the 15th and 31st of October, there could not be a better time to experience the wonder, beauty and now mystery of the Royal Botanic Gardens. A light-hearted activity perfect for all the family, the trail centres on helping a witch’s cat, Caley, to amass all the necessary plant ingredients to concoct the healing potion for the Garden’s witch.

Website: http://www.rbge.org.uk/whats-on/family-events

Samhuinn Fire Festival 2016

There is no experience quite as immersive as the Samhuinn Fire Festival, a non-ticketed event occurring on 31st October which will send your senses into overdrive due to the dramatic fire, pumping music and captivating street performances that occur. Halloween is all about tradition and this event is no different because it is a Celtic festival all about reliving the pagan tradition of Samhuinn, the celebration that occurred when harvest ended and winter was coming. Beginning on the Royal Mile, this is an amazing spectacle and experience not to be missed!

 Website: https://beltane.org/about-samhuinn/

 

Remember, Remember the Fifth of November…

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Website: http://www.walkersandford.co.uk/festive-firework-displays-guy-fawkes-nights-in-glasgow-november-2012/

However, the night-time spectaculars go beyond the 31st of October, so make sure you stick around! This is because of course who can forget the 5th of November where the skies come to life in a blaze of colour and wonder to celebrate Bonfire night. Fortunately, none of our respective locations are shy when it comes to getting in the seasonal spirit of sparklers and Catherine wheels so make sure to discover where some of the headlining public events are occurring for the best view in the house. From fairgrounds to live music, this is a celebration truly not to be missed!

Birmingham

Edgbaston Stadium Fireworks Spectacular (tickets required)

                        Solihull Round Table Fireworks Display

Glasgow   

Glasgow Green Fireworks (free)

Edinburgh

Fireworks at Meadowbank! (tickets required)

Aberdeen

Aberdeen Beach (free)

Your One Stop Serviced Apartment Shop

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If there is anything that we pride ourselves on about our apartments it is their ultra-convenient and central locations. However, if you believe bias to be clouding our judgement, check out these vibrant and quirky word clouds we compiled from Trip Advisor reviews which only attested to how all our guests also agree that we come top when it comes to location.

Our post codes only speak to this as with highly sought after locations on renowned UK streets including Edinburgh’s Hanover Street and on the doorstep of Birmingham’s ultra-exclusive retail paradise known as the Mailbox, we are clearly right in the hub of all the excitement and adventure that cosmopolitan Britain has to offer. However, while we do reside in some of the UK’s biggest and best cities including the glittering granite exterior of Aberdeen and the world renowned hospitality and friendly banter of Glasgow, we appreciate that maybe you want to explore horizons further afield. For instance, maybe you are feeling courageous and want to pay the infamous Loch Ness Monster a visit or perhaps the bright lights of the UK’s greatest metropolis and dear capital London is calling you. Wherever you like, whatever destination your heart desires, from Dundee to Manchester to Liverpool to Newcastle to Belfast, with ‘The Apartment Collection – By The Spires’ we can find the perfect serviced apartment accommodation for you. Wondering how? Let us explain.

While we would love to say that we have managed to grow overnight and launch brand new apartments in cities from the top to the bottom of the country, unfortunately that is a dream for another day. However, that has not stopped us from developing connections with serviced apartment providers all across the country and subsequently alongside the title of ‘serviced apartment operator’, we also would like to add ‘serviced apartment agent’ embossed on a gold name plaque. Consequently, no longer can we just provide you with the ultimate experience in serviced apartment accommodation when you stay directly with us, but we can also source you the best possible stay even when you are not staying with us. At The Spires we are all about delivering our guests with the best experience possible and this is something that we want to continue whether you are staying with us or not. Therefore, we will only source you accommodation with serviced apartment providers who we believe share the same values and ethos as us in relation to customer service. Consequently, we are taking the stress out of your hands in relation to scouring the internet to see if providers are really living up to their proclaimed reputation through those rigorous Trip Advisor checks. All you have to do is dial the magic telephone number to The Spires and you can put your feet up as we do all the sourcing work for you through our network which we have accumulated afters years in business.

Therefore, we really are a one-stop-shop when it comes to serviced apartment living. From offering up our own apartments to helping you find accommodation when we do not have apartments in the city locations you want to stay in, one call to The Spires will sort out all your accommodation enquiries. Whatever the destination, serviced apartments really are the perfect cost-effective alternative to traditional hotels as the flexibility, freedom, space and convenience they offer just cannot be rivalled – wherever you venture in the world! Therefore, whatever your travel circumstances, whether you are travelling for 1 night or 1 year,  whether you are travelling nationally or internationally or whether you are flying solo or as part of a family trip, we will be able to source you the best stay so you do not have to.

With the October holidays on the horizon (an ample opportunity to explore all the treasures that the world has to offer) it is the perfect time to consider visiting somewhere new. Therefore, make sure to visit our dedicated ‘The Apartment Collection – By The Spires’ website to get the inspiration rolling or if you already have a location in mind, phone us at 0345 270 0090 to get your holiday booked. Wherever and whenever, The Spires have your every travel need sorted.

http://www.theapartmentcollection.co.uk/

“Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside…”

 

 

Nothing epitomises the summer season quite like the visual imagery of soft golden shores; the calming crush of the waves and a cooling ice-cream in one hand. However, you do not have to go somewhere very tropical and exotic to experience this as while the weather can sometimes taint the imagery, Scotland is still home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Aberdeen’s own beach is no exception to this and provides the perfect oasis of tranquility away from the bustling city streets. Whether you want to enjoy a walk close to nature or to engage in some childlike fun, Aberdeen’s beach provides it all and in our latest blog we document all the wonders and entertainment that the beach offers; making for the perfect family weekend when you stay in our serviced apartments:

Codonas Family Amusement Park – a staple part of Aberdonian childhood, there is no resident who has not experienced the thrills and excitement of this family owned amusement park. Hosting everything including an exhilarating rollercoaster; the splash-zone fun of the log flume; the crazy dizziness of the Waltzers and a good ole pirate ship, the amusement park offers every popular ride synonymous with a day at the fair.  Dominating over it all is the Grampian Eye, a massive wheel offering panoramic views of the city – it is definitely the best seat in the house!

Sunset Boulevard – all the excitement is not just found outside however. Therefore, if you are unfortunately at Aberdeen on an off day, there is still plenty of fun to be had at Sunset Boulevard complete with its offering of an inside play park; old-school amusement arcade games and everyone’s favourite rambunctious dodgems to get the heart-rate going. Therefore, make sure you are stocked up on some pennies so as to have the chance to win candy or cuddly toys galore – the perfect mementos of a family trip by the sea. Likewise, if you are looking to engage in a little bit of friendly competition, the bowling alley complete with numerous lanes is the perfect place to see who the leader in the bowling world is.

Adventure Golf – just when you think the beach is not offering enough excitement and thrills, you can further the competitive spirit with a round or two of Adventure Golf. Whether you want to pretend you are a pirate on an exotic island or if you want to traverse through some tropical jungle scenery, there are two different themes differentiating the beach’s adventure golf offering. With both indoor and outdoor courses, it is the perfect activity whatever the weather and perfect for demonstrating who has the potential to be the next Rory Mcllroy.

Water Activities – while so much fun can be found on the soft golden shores collecting pebbles or building sandcastles, there is nothing quite as refreshing as a dip in the North Sea – particularly for the braver among us. In particular, Granite Reef Surf School offers a surf school every weekend so whether you are a novice or consider yourself to be up there with the surfing champs, it caters to all abilities. Also, fear not, you are provided with a wetsuit for those apprehensive about the ‘refreshing’ chill of the North Sea.

Leisure Centre and Ice Rink – not feeling confident enough to brave the infamous chill of the North Sea? Fear not, there is still plenty of opportunity to have fun in the water at the Queen’s Link Leisure Centre offering all kinds of watery thrills includes waves, rapids and four adrenaline-pumping flumes. While still warmer than the North Sea, there is a sauna for additional warmth and relaxation as well as gym equipment for those wanting to give their heart a workout.

However, if you prefer your water frozen, then the ice rink also offers the perfect opportunity for some family fun – as well as a few tumbles!

Dolphins – It is nearly impossible to find someone who cannot be charmed by the pure innocence and beauty of dolphins at play in their natural habitat and with DolphinWatch (31st March to 14th August 2016), you can do just that. With particularly stellar views from the Torry Battery, you can discover stunning panoramic views of the harbour while having RSPB staff to help provide you with information, telescopes and binoculars on Thursdays through Sundays. For some of the best views in Europe of our favourite friends with fins, make sure to check out DolphinWatch when you stay with us – particularly as there are special event weekends.

Balmedie Beach – Of course while there are activities in abundance to engage in, nothing quite beats a tranquil walk along the soft sandy shores to admire the views and to hear the powerful crash of the waves. With cafes and stores lining the promenade selling all kinds of tempting goodies including ice cream or fish and chips to munch on and to complete the seaside sensory experience, it really is the perfect place to stop and bask in the glory of coastal nature. If you want to explore a little further, the award-winning Balmedie Country Park provides the perfect natural beach experience with sand dunes aplenty.

Footdee – while Aberdeen is unmistakably ablaze with city life, you can experience a slightly different perspective of the city by visiting the old fishing village of Footdee, known fondly by the locals as “fittie”. Located at the end of the harbour, Footdee is comprised of two areas of picturesque and idyllic fishing cottages built in two squares. Awash with charm, vibrant colours and well-maintained gardens, Footdee is definitely worth a visit to see where the fishermen used to live and to hide temporarily away from the animation of city life in scenic surroundings.

Sold on a nostalgic family trip to the seaside during the summer months? Our apartments are located only 20 minutes away from the city centre with strong transport links meaning it could not be any easier to spend your weekend hearing the crash of the waves and breathing in the fresh salty air. Book online at www.thespires.co.uk or phone 0845 270 0090 to book your trip today.

 

Images: http://travelbrochures.org/top-8-places-to-visit-in-aberdeen/

Balmedie Beach (3)

http://www.quirkyguide.com/place/footdee-scotland

http://www.codonas.com

 

 

Get into the Festival Spirit

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Image Courtesy of: https://aberdeenfestivals.com/

In 2015 we were very excited to open apartments in one of the world’s leading festival cities – Edinburgh. With a schedule comprised of 12 internationally renowned events that cover all disciplines from Films to Storytelling and which are spread out over the year, it is irrefutable how Edinburgh is certainly championing the festival scene. However, did you know that Aberdeen, Scotland’s renowned Oil Capital and Silver City, also has its own dedicated festival group? People often think of the golden sandy shores of the beach or the glittering architecture when they think of Aberdeen, but it is really starting to evolve beyond that and developing a rich multi-cultural entertainment and events base. This has culminated in the formation of “Aberdeen Festivals” so that there can be a collective effort towards raising awareness of the festivals and enhancing their offering. The success of “Aberdeen Festivals” is already prevalent with it being discovered how it generated a £2 million economic impact for the region – thus reflecting the number of visitors the collective events enticed and inferring the quality of the festivals. Therefore, if you are thinking of visiting a Festival city, why not choose Aberdeen with its burgeoning events scene that predominantly takes place between February and November? Amidst the stores, the dolphins and the castles, soak in culture in a different way and with 10 prime festivals underlying “Aberdeen Festivals”, there is at least one Festival that will appeal to everyone.

SPECTRA – starting off the year in a blaze of bright light, SPECTRA is officially Aberdeen’s Festival of Light which helps to brighten up the dark winter days. Involving international artists collaborating with Scotland’s creative community, this is a festival that touches all the senses. From gallery installations to imaginative works in public spaces, this festival truly celebrates all that is unique and amazing about the city’s creative scene.

Dates: Normally held in February

Find out more: https://aberdeenfestivals.com/our-festivals/spectra/

Aberdeen Jazz Festival – for the music fans out there, the Aberdeen Jazz Festival organised by Jazz Scotland should definitely be headlining your list as it is one of the city’s headlining music festivals. Attracting renowned jazz players and incorporating free lunchtime performances for those making their way into the jazz scene; the festival truly encompasses all players in the vibrant Jazz scene. Held in a multitude of locations, Aberdeen’s iconic “Blue Lamp” location plays a prominent role in the festival.

Dates: Normally held in March

Find out more: https://aberdeenfestivals.com/our-festivals/aberdeen-jazz-festival/

LOOK AGAIN – If the dazzling lights of SPECTRA caught your eye, so will the equally aesthetically attractive LOOK AGAIN festival which is centred on visual arts and design. For a number of days, you have to really be on the lookout as the city centre with its existing structures such as statues are transformed into imaginative and innovative works of art. Popping up when you least expect them, the works of art will really catch your eye so you have to ‘Look Again’. Seeing really is believing!

Dates: Normally held April/May

Find out more: https://aberdeenfestivals.com/our-festivals/look-again/

May Festival – the title is not a misnomer, you can certainly expect this festival to occur in May! One of the longest standing events in Aberdeen, the May Festival commenced in 2013 and is centred on one of the city’s renowned higher education institutes – Aberdeen University. Celebrating the world-class research that is consistently being carried out at the university, this festival crosses various disciplines and subsequently is a simultaneous arts and science festival.  Comprising of performances from a wide collection of familiar faces including musicians, authors and chefs, this festival is truly perfect for the whole family with there being over 100 events of all genres to be engaged by across 3 days.

Dates: 27th to  29th May 2016

Find out more: https://aberdeenfestivals.com/our-festivals/may-festival/

Aberdeen International Youth Festival – as inferred by its name, this festival is truly international in its scale and in its reputation both within the city itself and further beyond on the global stage. Formed forty-two years ago, this festival can now attract over 25,000 performers which only alludes to how well-regarded, popular and prestigious it is. A world-class festival celebrating performance arts and which also prides itself on its intimate chamber and classical music performances; it is bursting at the seams with talent and in 2015 held over 80 performances across the 9 days.

Dates: 29th July to 6th August 2016

Find out more: https://aberdeenfestivals.com/our-festivals/aiyf/

TechFest – it is not just all about music, drama or visual arts however, Aberdeen even has a dedicated festival to all things technological and numerical. An annual festival where people convene to celebrate four major disciplines, Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths, this event centres around promoting their attraction in an engaging manner to audience members of all ages.

Dates: 3rd to 18th September 2016

Find out more: https://aberdeenfestivals.com/our-festivals/techfest/

North East Open Studios – One of the biggest Open Studios events in Scotland, it is more than just a networking opportunity for the artists and designers involved, but is also an excellent opportunity to promote Scottish arts, crafts and galleries and to open their access up to the public. Therefore, be prepared to be introduced to some of the finest talent in Scotland and be inspired by their amazing works in their studios.

Dates:  10th to 18th September 2016.

Find out more: https://aberdeenfestivals.com/our-festivals/north-east-open-studios/

 

True North – One for all the music lovers out there who are always looking to discover the latest talent, True North is all about celebrating Aberdeen’s very own music scene with concerts aplenty all over the city. Whatever kind of music you love, you are sure to hear it and from some of the up and coming talent as well as well-established acts.

Dates: 23rd to 25th September 2016.

Find out more: https://aberdeenfestivals.com/our-festivals/true-north/

DanceLive – In its 11th year, the name of this festival says it all with this festival being dedicated to the beautiful world of dance. Specifically focusing on contemporary dance, it is a wondrous opportunity to witness spectacular talent from the dancers and choreographers of national and international companies involved and to bring the world of dance to our corner of the world. Combining both intimate studio encounters and performances held on a larger scale, you are sure to be entranced particularly as the programme has been broadened to even encompass masterclasses and workshops.

Dates:  14th to 25th October 2016.

Find out more: https://aberdeenfestivals.com/our-festivals/dancelive/

 

Sound – another music festival, but this one focuses more on the discovery of new “sounds” meaning it is all about innovation and new kinds of music that you may never have heard of before. A welcome into a world you may never have expected to enter, you can experience it all across a wide range of concerts and workshops that encompass all unique sounds from acoustic to improvised and experimental. Think you know music – experience “Sound” and really awaken your ears!

Dates: 20th to 6th November 2016

Find out more: https://aberdeenfestivals.com/our-festivals/dancelive/

Although not run by “Aberdeen Festivals”, an honourable mention needs to go to the Energetica festival particularly as the summer season is luring temptingly in front of us. Energetica is a long-term programme centred around developing Scotland’s Energy Corridor in a sustainable and innovative manner and this focus on energy and the environment is mirrored in the programme of events. In its fourth year, this festival focuses on activities which will bring you in harmony with nature including guided walks, wildlife spotting and tours of gardens. Taking place from May to August, most of the activities are free and provide the perfect itinerary for an adventure basking in the glory of nature.

http://energetica.uk.com/festival2016#August

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/

Nature in the City

Holyrood Park
Holyrood Park

This year it has felt rather sombrely like an eternal winter. However, now we have weathered the dreary, miserable winter days full of drizzle, hail and the relentless wind, it is now time to lock those well-worn wintertime lifelines of scarves, hats and gloves away for another few months. Yes, July is finally here meaning the hibernation weather has been vanquished and it is time to bask outside in all the resplendent glory that the sunshine brings with it (at least when it chooses to come out!). It is irrefutable that in our city destinations of Aberdeen, Birmingham, Glasgow and Edinburgh, you can find some of the most vibrant and pulsating entertainment, dining and retail scenes to be found in the UK, however amongst all those buzzing sights, sounds and noises, there is always a space for tranquillity, peace and clarity to be found. Whether it is spacious parks, stunning beaches or picturesque gardens, there is always a bit of nature to be found amongst the concrete jungle of city blocks and with this much prized heatwave bringing some light to the UK, we felt now would be the perfect time to discover them.

Aberdeen

Union Terrace Gardens
Union Terrace Gardens

A sparkling skyline created by magnificent granite buildings that glitter in the sun, it is undeniable why Aberdeen also affectionately goes by the title of the “Silver City”. However, do not let that title mislead you because Aberdeen actually has a hidden green side that softens out the harsh edge of the plethora of the outwardly appearing austere granite buildings. Nothing quite cements Aberdeen’s ability to be an equal natural wonder quite like it winning gold at “Britain in Bloom” a record-breaking eleven times.

You may not know it, but over a quarter of Aberdeen’s land is actually open space which is predominantly manifested in the form of gorgeous parks and gardens. Most renowned of all are Duthie Park, Johnstone Gardens and Hazlehead Park; all of which provide an abundance of lush space to have a leisurely walk around; an adrenaline pumping work-out in or a place to indulge in a summer picnic. However, each park also brings with it a myriad of hidden gems and treasures to be unearthed. For instance, in Duthie Park, a venture through the rather mysterious and exotic Winter Gardens will lead you to encounter the largest collection of cacti in the UK while an exploration of the idyllic Johnstone Gardens will enable you to photograph many a memory against the picturesque backdrop of fairy-tale like ethereal ponds, waterfalls and a signature bridge. Moreover, between its pets’ corner, rose garden, maze (the oldest in Scotland!), child’s playground and golf course, Hazlehead Park delivers the perfect family day out away from the hustle and bustle of city life. However, nothing quite epitomises nature in the city quite like the Union Terrace Gardens which present an oasis of tranquillity right in the midst of the city centre. With an abundance of green space to stretch out on, and an iconic floral recreation of Aberdeen’s Coat of Arms to admire, the ambient atmosphere is at total contrast to the fast-pace of life emanating from the surrounding city streets.

However, of course the crowning glory of the cosmopolitan Silver City is the golden sandy shores of Aberdeen’s beach. Aberdeen’s prosperity as a city is based upon the riches that reside below the crashing waves of the North Sea and so it is no surprise that images of the harbour also are commonly used to characterize Aberdeen. Take in the stunning coastal views and breathe in the fresh air as you venture along the coast and some of Britain’s finest beaches including Balmedie Beach.

Alternatively, at this time of the year, the sea also affords a different natural pleasure in the form of our friends with fins: 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 alongside surprise guests such as whales. 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 at the Torry Battery Car Pack till mid-August and with dolphins appearing on 90% of 2014’s DolphinWatch days, you cannot miss an opportunity to see such playful, innocent fun.

Birmingham

East Side City Park
Eastside City Park

With one of its defining features being its impressive canal system which covers more miles than Canal City itself, Venice, and runs straight through the heart of Britain’s animated ’Second City’, it can already be inferred the strong sense of nature that permeates throughout Birmingham. The canals provide the best seat in the house for an intensive tour of Birmingham, with none of the stress!

Nothing epitomises Birmingham’s green-side quite like the very aptly named Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park, which, with a collection of over 130 species including the popular likes of lemurs and meerkats, is an simultaneously fun and educational experience which offers much enlightenment in regards to conservation efforts.

Although not quite an authentic natural attraction, the headlining National Sea Life Centre certainly at least presents an opportune moment to get up close and personal with our friends in the sea. Surrounded by a one-million litre ocean tank, which is residence to all kinds of exotic and mesmerizing creatures including tropical fish species, gentle sea turtles and formidable sharks, it is no surprise that the Sea Life Centre is a popular attraction for anyone who wants to experience the wonder of the ocean in a bustling, up-and-coming city jungle. It is truly a whole other world!

However, of course you cannot miss the plentiful supply of headlining Birmingham parks in which to picnic, workout or just simply to admire. One of the most famous parks is Cannon Hill Park which with its pedalo boats in the summer, as well as its collection of tennis courts alongside a bowling green and mini-golf course, provides a lasting day of entertainment for the whole family to bask in. Alternatively, there is the Eastside City Park as well as Kings Heath Park, with the Eastside City Park being of particular importance due to it being the largest single piece of public open space in the bustling city centre and it even winning a special accolade for it being an outstanding public green space (which includes gardens, water features and a Science Garden) at the European Entente Florale 2013 competition.

Glasgow

Glasgow Botanic Gardens
Glasgow Botanic Gardens

Glasgow may well be a prime dynamic leisure hub due to its renowned nightlife and retail scenes, however with its collection of 90 parks, it is clear that Glasgow is more than a little in touch with its green side also. However, in fairness, the sassy yet warmly hospitable city has much to live up to considering that in Gaelic; Glasgow translates as “Dear Green Place”. Therefore, be under no illusion that Glasgow is all about the bright lights, the vibrating bass and the chime of cash registers, there is so much underestimated natural beauty and peace to be uncovered alongside the magnificence of its prestigious architecture.

No park brings nature to the city quite like Glasgow Green; Glasgow’s oldest and most city central park. Famous not just for its age or location, Glasgow Green also features the largest terracotta fountain in the world. However, that is not the only treasure to be enjoyed as within the stunning grounds you will also come across the People’s Palace and the Winter Gardens; a Victorian glasshouse masterpiece which will generate much wonder due to it being residence to all kinds of tropical and mysterious plant species.

However, it is the West End of Glasgow that is a particular natural showcase due to it being home to both the renowned Kelvingrove Park and Glasgow’s Botanic Gardens. Nothing enhances the beauty of Kelvingrove Park quite like its location on the banks of the River Kelvin. If its location was not idyllic enough, its status as a Victorian park only goes to exacerbate this considering the air of splendour and grandeur it conjures. The prestigious Kelvingrove Museum and Art Galleries aside, one of the park’s most stunning features is the tranquil walks it affords alongside the breath-taking river walkways and the plentiful supply of wildlife you might have the fortune of crossing.

Internationally recognised for many a thing, whether it is its warm hospitality or its inspiring art scene, Glasgow is also a winner on a global scale when it comes to its highly-esteemed Botanic Gardens. Well-regarded when it comes to both the glasshouses’ architecture and the wondrous exotic collection of plants they behold, the wooded walks and formal gardens are truly a natural haven that is worlds away from the hustle and bustle of Glasgow’s streets.

One other natural highlight worth mentioning is the picturesque Victoria Park which due to its stunning horticultural backdrop of beautiful floral displays, is often regarded as one of the loveliest parks in Glasgow. However, the real treasure it beholds is Glasgow’s most ancient attraction: the Fossil Grove. Open between April and September, the Fossil Grove consists of a fossilized grove of prehistoric trees which to give any indication of their age, are so historic that they are double the age of dinosaurs.

This year in particular is an opportune time to consider Glasgow as a “Dear Green Place” due to it being the “Year of Green”; a year in which there is much jubilation and cheer in correspondence with Glasgow’s mission to become a sustainable city in the future. As a result, there are many an exciting event to partake in; including the likes of Twilight Walks and Wildlife Garden Festivals.

Edinburgh

Edinburgh Botanic Gardens
Edinburgh Botanic Gardens

With its ideal location on the mighty Firth of Forth, it is no surprise that Scotland’s most bustling city is also greatly in touch with Mother Nature. It is a side that can only be reinforced due to it proudly receiving a Gold Award in the Britain in Bloom Awards 2013, one of the most prestigious awards when it comes to celebrating Britain’s best and most stunning gardens. Of course one of Edinburgh’s headlining attractions is the renowned Edinburgh Zoo which is home to many a fascinating furry resident including meerkats, tigers, rhinos and penguins.

The pinnacle of Edinburgh’s nature scene is most definitely the Royal Botanic Gardens which in itself provides over 70 acres of sweet-smelling, scenic gardens that contains wondrous plant species from all parts of the world. These gardens are so magical and beloved as they are rumoured to be some of the most excellent in the world due to them being residence to all kinds of special and rare plant species. Between the gardens, the greenhouses and the eco-centre, there is so much beauty to be admired and knowledge to be gained and all in a tranquil setting that is only a mile from the fast-paced Edinburgh streets. It is certainly a prime natural spot with the award-winning Inverleith Park being located in the near vicinity which offers mesmerizing cityscape views that cannot be easily replicated.

However, do not assume that nature is only to be found on the outskirts of the city, there is much green space to seek solitude in, even amongst the animation and the incessant hustle and bustle of Scotland’s Capital. At the base of the Royal Mile, you can explore the spacious Holyrood Park but the ultimate crowning glory in the area has to be Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano, which provides a heavy workout as well some of the most renowned and photo-worthy views of the whole city. Whether you hike it, walk it or even run it, the magnificent views will certainly make an intrepid adventure of Arthur’s Seat worth it! Alternatively, if you are needing somewhere to relax right there and then after an ambitious shopping spree on some of the nation’s most beloved high streets, then the extremely city central Princes Street Gardens should tick the box. Residence to some of the most iconic Edinburgh attractions that make their way into every picture perfect postcard, including the Scott Monument and the grandeur of the Ross Fountain, it is not surprising that these gardens are packed on a warm’s summer day due to the surrounding all-encompassing beauty and energy of Edinburgh’s historic streets.

Ultimately, there is so much natural beauty hiding amongst the concrete camouflage of some of the UK’s most cosmopolitan and dynamic cities, and it is waiting for you to discover it. Therefore, get your picnic baskets, running shoes and cameras at the ready, with the UK currently basking in the glow of a heatwave, now is the perfect time to breathe in that fresh summer air while enjoying nature’s gifts.

Sources

Images

en.wikipedia.orgwww.glasgowbotanicgardens.comglobespottingcara.wordpress.comwww.bdonline.co.ukphotorator.com

Information

http://visitbirmingham.com, https://peoplemakeglasgow.com/, http://www.visitaberdeen.com/, http://www.visitscotland.com/about/nature-geography/edinburgh-lothians/https://www.glasgow.gov.uk/