Summer in the City: Glasgow Summer Spotlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://bardinthebotanics.co.uk/

Glasgow Botanic Gardens
Glasgow Botanic Gardens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merchant City Festival
Merchant City Festival

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

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

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

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

http://magnerssummernights.com/

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

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

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

World Pipe Band Championships
World Pipe Band Championships

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

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

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

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Take a Trip to the Movies with The Spires

Trainspotting - Princes Street- (1996)
Trainspotting – Princes Street- (1996)

James Bond. Harry Potter. Fast & Furious. Globally renowned and beloved, you might think these epic blockbusting movie franchises are worlds away from the natural wonder that is Scotland. While the stunning beauty of its lochs, beaches and mountains cannot be replicated, it is fair to say that Scotland may be missing the glamour, glitz and the bright city lights often associated with the Hollywood-LA lifestyle. However, it is precisely for this reason that Scotland does in fact have its own dazzling spotlight on the global movie stage and nothing has quite epitomised Scotland’s starring role in film tourism quite like it recently coming top of a reader-voted poll held by USA Today’s Travel Site 10Best to determine which destination holds the rather esteemed reputation of being the best cinematic travel destination in the world. Nominated by TV and film tourism experts alongside the likes of larger than life destinations such as the mighty metropolis of London; the indulgence of the Sin City itself Las Vegas and the exotic tropical paradise famed for its roaming Hobbits of New Zealand, Scotland’s breathtaking natural landscape as well as its bustling modern cities ultimately triumphed.

Often when people come to visit Scotland, you would expect it to be in association with the dramatic ruins, regal castles, tempting whisky distilleries and adrenaline pumping adventure sports; however the irresistible allure of film and television plays a bigger motivating role than you may think in bringing tourism to our corner of the world. It has been estimated that 40% of UK visitors have been inspired to come having been influenced by the cinematographic wonders they have seen unfold on the big and small screen alike. It is clear that Scotland has visibly arisen through the international filming ranks, and nothing has quite solidified its fame like “Outlander”, a domestic and overseas hit which depicts the romantic turmoil of a woman living through WW2 and 18th century Scotland. Its influential impact on tourism can be reflected in that figures from Historic Scotland show year-on-year visitor numbers to Doune Castle, the predominant outdoor filming location, have grown by a rather impressive 30.2% to 49,553 in the 2014-2015 period and visits to VisitScotland’s dedicated Outlander site sit at a mighty 98,000, with over 160,000 unique page views. The demand has even led to a subsequent visitor map being created so that impassioned fans are able to pay a visit to the locations used.

Outlander - Doune Castle - (2014)
Outlander – Doune Castle – (2014)

While Outlander has done much for tourism in the borders, that is not to say that all the action is happening there. With apartments in major UK city destinations such as Edinburgh (coming soon!), Glasgow and Birmingham, we are never too far from the (literal) Blockbuster action. Therefore, whether you are an international guest and want to see the sights that have acted as a backdrop for iconic movie magic, or you simply want to engage in a staycation with a twist, why not stay with The Spires and pay a visit to locations that have gone down in movie history:

Glasgow

World War Z - George Square (2012)
World War Z – George Square – (2013)

There is no city in Scotland which could be better suited for the entertainment industry than the animated, dynamic and effervescent city of Glasgow. The heartbeat of Scotland, there is no denying the positive energy and warm hospitality that radiates from its exquisite, historic architecture and bustling streets and so it is no surprise that Glasgow has managed to slide itself as an extra into many a blockbuster. It is also Glasgow’s stellar ability as a stunt double that has worked in its favour with it masquerading as Philadelphia in Brad Pitt’s “World War Z” and as San Francisco for Halle Berry’s “Cloud Atlas”. See all the other major films and television shows in which Glasgow has managed to win a starring role and some of the iconic locations that they featured:

That Sinking Feeling (1980)Kelvingrove Park

Taggart (1983-2010)

Heavenly Pursuits (1986)-Glasgow Cathedral

Trainspotting (1996)

Beautiful Creatures (2010)

Neds (2010)

Perfect Sense (2011)

Cloud Atlas (2012)Blythswood Hill

World War Z (2013)George Square

Fast and Furious 6 (2013)Cadogen Street

Sunshine on Leith (2013)Kelvin Art Gallery

Under the Skin (2013)Argyle Street, Buchanan Galleries, Celtic Park

Edinburgh

arthurs-seat-edinburgh-one-day
One Day – Arthur’s Seat – (2011)

As Scotland’s capital, of course Edinburgh has to witness some of the action! With stunning cinematographic attractions such as the Forth Rail Bridge and Edinburgh Castle, as well as the magnificent views of the beautifully historic city afforded from the likes of Calton Hill, it is no surprise that Edinburgh is every filmmaker’s dream. From Robert Carlyle to Anne Hatheway, walk the streets which have been treaded on by many a famous foot:

39 Steps (1935) – Forth Rail Bridge

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969) – Greyfriars Churchyard, Grassmarket

Chariots of Fire (1981) – West Register Street, Broughton Place

Trainspotting (1996)-Princes Street, Waterloo Place, Leith Street

The Da Vinci Code (2006­) – Rosslyn Chapel

Burke & Hare (2010)-Merchant Street, Edinburgh Castle, Old Fishmarket Close

The Illusionist (2010)– George Street, Princes Street, Arthur’s Seat

One Day (2011)Arthur’s Seat, Cockburn Street/Warriston Close, Moray Place/Forres St, Parliament Square, Calton Hill

Cloud Atlas (2012)– Victoria St/Terrace, Princes Street

Filth (2013)– Grassmarket, Merchant Street, Edinburgh Castle

Sunshine on Leith (2013)– Constitution Street and the Shore

Birmingham

Hustle - Victoria Square - (2010)
Hustle – Victoria Square – (2010)

While it is not technically in Scotland, we can never leave our Birmingham location out of the action particularly with its esteemed reputation as Britain’s “Second City”. Becoming a formidable rival to London, but a cheaper alternative, it is no surprise that Birmingham is starting to become the location of choice when it comes to filming in a bustling, dynamic metropolis. Due to the presence of the BBC, it is predominantly the television world where Birmingham has left its mark but with just last month Glenn Close and Gemma Arteton filming scenes at Church Street and Dudley Hospital for the Dystopian“She Who Brings Gifts”, it is clear Birmingham is preparing itself for a Hollywood debut:

Dalziel and Pascoe (1996-2007)

Doctors (2000-Present)

Survivors (2008) – Birmingham Municipal Bank

Hustle (2010-2012)- Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, Victoria Square

Toast (2010)

Line of Duty (2012-Present)

Dancing on the Edge (2013) – Grand Hotel, Birmingham’s Council House, Birmingham University

WPC 56 (2013-Present)- Jewellery Quarter and Black Country Living Museum

For Day Trips

Harry Potter - Glenfinnan Viaduct - (2002)
Harry Potter – Glenfinnan Viaduct – (2002)

If you make your way through those lists, then here are some simply unmissable locations that have witnessed the most iconic Scottish cinematography moments in movie history and are only a day trip away from some of our apartments:

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974)-Doune Castle, near Stirling

Braveheart (1995) – Glen Nevis and Loch Leven

Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets (2002) – Glenfinnan Viaduct

The Queen (2006)-Balmoral Castle, Castle Fraser, Cluny Castle

The Eagle (2011) – Loch Lomond and Stirling

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)- Royal Burgh of Culross

Skyfall (2012) – Glencoe

So what are you waiting for? Visit the cities where the entertainment royalty of Ewan McGregor, Eva Green, Brad Pitt, and Scarlett Johansson have all visited and breathed in the fresh Scottish (and Brum!) air. If you are a real film buff in general, there is definitely no reason not to visit us as there is an annual Film Festival held in each of our locations: Aberdeen (October 2015), Glasgow (February 2016), Birmingham and Edinburgh (the Edinburgh International Film Festival is globally renowned).

Take a journey to the stars with The Spires; your name is being called…

Ready, Set, Action!

Information Sources

http://black-kilt-tours.org/scotland-in-film.html

http://www.thelocationguide.com/blog/2015/03/ng-film-tourism-outlander-boosts-film-tourism-for-scotland/

http://www.scotsman.com/news/scotland-tops-poll-of-best-cinematic-destinations-1-3802404

http://visit-glasgow.info/sights/glasgow-as-a-film-scene/

http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/whats-on/film-news/ten-tv-series-filmed-birmingham-9418471

http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/whats-on/film-news/16-movies-filmed-in-birmingham-9418666

http://www2.jpscotland.co.uk/en/filmmap.pdf

http://www.visitscotland.com/about/arts-culture/films/locations

http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/Outlandish-Success-Story-1833.aspx

http://thisisedinburgh.com/discover/itineraries/edinburgh-on-film-tour-1/

http://mediacentre.visitscotland.org/pressreleases/join-the-glasgow-set-jet-1121374

http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/whats-on/tv/tv-programmes-made-birmingham-city-5715440

Images

http://whatculture.com

news.stv.tv

celtictoursfotos.wordpress.com 

studyinuk.universiablogs.net

www.outlandertvnews.com

The City Built on More than Just Oil

Source: www.offshorewind.biz
Aberdeen

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

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

The Silver City

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

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

Do I Spot A Castle?

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

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

The Grass is Always Greener…

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

Johnston Gardens  Source: Wikipedia
Johnston Gardens
Source: Wikipedia

Nature Watch: Aberdeen Style

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

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

Golf Anyone?

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

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

Those Summer Days Spent by the Seaside…..

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

Aberdeen Beach Source: VisitScotland
Aberdeen Beach
Source: VisitScotland

Journey to the Past

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

 

Footdee  Source: TripAdvisor
Footdee
Source: TripAdvisor

History in the Walls

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

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

The Water of Life

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

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

City Life

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

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

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

Sources:

http://www.visitscotland.com/

http://www.visitaberdeen.com/

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

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

The Water of Life

whisky_2525228b

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

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

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

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

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

glen-garioch-distillery-tour

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

glengoyne5

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

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

Always remember to drink responsibly and with caution 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bollywood Meets Birmingham

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               Today marks a sad day as we reach the closure point on our Bollywood Meets Scotland series. If you had mentioned to me at the start of this year that I would end up blogging about the connection between Bollywood and India, I would have been somewhat doubtful to say the least; predominantly because I had never even realised that any Bollywood films had been filmed in Scotland. However, fortunately I have now been enlightened, and I have been thoroughly interested to discover just how many a Bollywood movie has been filmed here and the wide array of locations that have been featured. However, before we bid adieu to this blogging series, there is still one important stop to make: Birmingham.

                Ok, so geographically we are all well aware that Birmingham is not a part of Scotland. However, considering the increasing popularity towards filming a Bollywood movie in Britain’s second city, there is no reason why a Bollywood adventure in Scotland cannot turn into a Bollywood adventure in the UK. In 2013, Birmingham even celebrated the 100th year anniversary of the Indian movie industry through hosting a wide range of Bollywood themed activities from live music, dance and entertainment, such as “Bollywood’s Got Talent” to functions which included the attendance of famous Bollywood royalty such as Zeenat Aman. With classic Bollywood movies being shown during the month-long festival, it would be inconceivable to consider leaving Birmingham out of all the fun.

               Prior to last year’s festival, less than 12 films a year used Birmingham as a backdrop but to that ignorant likes of me, that was a much higher number than I had anticipated. One of those dozen films which Birmingham squeezed its way into (it even held the premiere) was the recent Yamla Pagla Deewana 2, a UK-based 2013 action comedy sequel to Yamla Pagla Deewana which focused on the trials and tribulations a married Indian man from Canada experienced when searching for the brother and father in India he had lost contact with. Although not setting the Bollywood Box Office on fire, Yamla Pagla Deewana 2 did succeed in generating £2.5 million for Birmingham’s local economy which only goes to reflect the positive benefits of film tourism. This is particularly true when it is considered how the likes of big stars like Dharmendra have now visited Birmingham, putting it on the map for their loyal fans. Happened to have watched Yamla Pagla Deewana 2? Well, Birmingham featured extensively in the movie and some iconic Birmingham sights to keep an eye out for include the Gatecrasher Night Club, the Rotunda Apartments and the NEC Birmingham.

               Another recent movie to feature Birmingham was Tezz, a 2012 action movie featuring a rather darker plot with a man hiding a bomb on a train in order to avenge the wrong that had been done to him in his past. Birmingham’s St Phillips Cathedral played a part in the action as did Victoria Square where the ransom money was even dropped.

                A particular link that can be found between Birmingham and Bollywood is the food series “From Birmingham to Bombay” which followed the renowned head chef Alan Coxon as he discovered how the 5 favourite UK curries, cooked by the best Anglo-Indian chefs, matched up against their authentic Indian counterparts to see just how they compared. Filmed in both the UK and India, if you like curry, spices, food history, Indian food, beautiful scenery and a captivating knowledgeable narrative; this is one for your viewing. As a disclaimer, just remember to have some food at hand because the odds are favourable that you will begin to feel a bit peckish! Make sure to check out the whole series on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E6afkSPLHc0. Not to name-drop, but also look out for the credits on Episode 1 where a certain serviced apartments firm makes a sneaky appearance….

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               One final link that reflects just how intertwined Birmingham and Bollywood is that Birmingham was the first UK city to open up a Bollywood Academy which teaches vocals, acting, singing and dancing from expert teachers who are well renowned in the UK and India alike for their Bollywood based talent. As a result of this academy, the awareness of Bollywood themed Performance Arts in the UK can only be increased and enables further opportunities for the industry.

Alas, that brings us to the final stop on our Bollywood venture through Scotland into Birmingham. While the story may be over, your journey can only just begin if you choose to follow the action, music, dancing and romance in the movies and live it out for yourself. See where all the famous stars acted out those iconic moments in some of the UK’s  favourite and most beloved cities that are full of history, culture, entertainment and beautiful landscape. The whole way throughout your journey, The Spires can accommodate you and with apartments that come with fully equipped kitchens, spacious lounges and comfy bedrooms, we can cater for the whole family. So what are you waiting for? Engage in a little bit of Bollywood magic and follow in the paths of the stars. Make sure to share those movie-ready selfies with us!

Photo: VisitBirmingham

Want to go back and look at how the Bollywood journey began? Or have you just tuned into all the fun now? Here are our previous Bollywood blogs…

https://thespiressuites.wordpress.com/2015/03/04/have-a-bollywood-adventure-in-scotland/  

https://thespiressuites.wordpress.com/2015/03/05/bollywood-meets-the-north-east/

https://thespiressuites.wordpress.com/2015/03/09/bollywood-meets-glasgow/

https://thespiressuites.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/bollywood-meets-edinburgh/

Bollywood Meets Edinburgh

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Here at The Spires we are extremely excited for the opening of our new property in Edinburgh because as Scotland’s capital, it tends to be the Scottish destination that everyone tends to think of first. Aided by all the history, beauty and entertainment that it has to offer, it is no surprise that Edinburgh is frequently seen as a top European Destination and as it holds the world’s largest arts festival in August, it is also no surprise that Edinburgh holds a rather prominent position on the cultural arts stage. Therefore, it is only to be expected that of all the places in Scotland, Edinburgh would most certainly aim to be an extra in many a Bollywood film. Consequently, Edinburgh should be a major stop on your Bollywood journey because not only has it been showcased in many a Bollywood film, but it was the first location where the VisitScotland Bollywood map was even unveiled in Scotland!

Edinburgh did not just help to put the VisitScotland Bollywood map on the well, map, but it also was a critical location in Bollywood’s breakout into Scotland itself. One of the films that really began the Bollywood movement to Scotland was Main Solah Baras Ki (Sweet Sixteen) where Edinburgh really managed to score itself a role.

In Main Solah Baras Ki (1998), an Indian director is looking for a female actress to play the leading role in his new role. After failing to find anyone in India, he comes to the UK which ultimately results in a love story between a young actress and the director. Many an iconic Edinburgh location was showcased in Main Solah Baras Ki from Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street, Calton Hill, The Mound, The Royal Mile, Holyrood Park, Princes Mall, Waverley Station, Scott Monument and Princes Garden. The film in itself was pretty much a walking tour of Edinburgh, thus reflecting how it is a good movie to generate some Scottish travelling inspiration! Some particular movie moments to reflect on and live out is when Sabrina played the tambourine and Scotland’s favourite instrument, the bagpipe, on the Royal Mile and at St. Giles’ Cathedral as well as when Sabrina bought some flowers on the roof-top plaza of Princes Mall. Kuch Khatti Kuch Meethi (2001), afforded the featuring of many similar sites but a particular special moment was where famous Bollywood actor, Kajol, performed a salsa by the Scott Monument!

Aarzoo (1999), directed by Lawrence D’Souza, was a Bollywood movie prominently filmed in the UK and was a film that revolved around a doctor’s daughter becoming entangled romantically with a man whom he does not like and how he conspires to get her together with a childhood friend of hers. As is the norm, it is a film heavily about love! Many a site that was featured in Main Solah Baras Ki is also featured in Aarzoo from the infamous Edinburgh castle to Princes Street. However, some new sites such as Edinburgh Zoo, Gladstone Memorial and the Scottish National Gallery also make their Bollywood debut.

Bollywood movie moments involving Edinburgh could also be found in Yeh Hai Jalwa; a 2002 Bollywood comedy translating as ‘This is Magic’ which focused on a young man, played by the renowned Salman Khan, seeking out his long-lost father in the UK. Yeh Hai Jalwa included a romantic scene on Princes Street; a saxophone being played outside the Scottish National Gallery and a rooftop dance near The Balmoral Hotel. Just a normal day in Edinburgh!

Even in recent years Edinburgh has still managed to be a critical setting for Bollywood movies as can be seen in Mausam (2011), a romantic drama where an air pilot falls in love with a younger woman. It was made by iconic Bollywood star Pankaj Kapoor showing how Edinburgh can still draw in the big names. Special moments included a night-time carriage ride in the Anchor Close area and many a unique Edinburgh location, from the Grassmarket to Usher Hall where the lead character and his friends went to see a Mozart recital, were showcased amongst all the standard (but always beautiful) shots of Scott Monument and The Mound. Melville Street and Newhaven Main Street even were used as exteriors for where the lead character lived. If you are a really eager fan and want to stop by and eat where the characters did, the Beehive Inn is the place to go! The formidable Forth Rail Bridge also made a sneaky appearance as it did in Yeh Dil Aashiqanaa (2002) and Main Solah Baras Ki.

The connection between the VisitScotland Bollywood campaign and Edinburgh is particularly strong because it is being sponsored by Quatar Airlines, the airline that from May 1st, are running daily flights from Edinburgh to Doha making a Bollywood adventure out to Scotland even more accessible. In particular, make sure to come to Edinburgh about August-September time when the Edinburgh Mela Festival and the Edinburgh Military Tattoo are holding a massive Bollywood Dance Extravaganza which will see 60 dancers from India and Scotland come together in celebration-it is not to be missed!

Consequently, it is clear that there is no shortage of Bollywood movie nostalgia to be lived out in Edinburgh and that no Bollywood adventure would be complete without a stop-off in Edinburgh. Coupled with Edinburgh’s Airport and the transport links to Aberdeen and Glasgow, it may even be the perfect place to begin a summer of Bollywood.

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(Information and Image: VisitScotland, http://www.visitscotland.com/bollywood)

(Image: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-30878983)

Bollywood Meets Glasgow

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After acting as a backdrop to the action depicted in Hollywood blockbusters like Cloud Atlas and World War Z, it is no surprise that Glasgow has snuck its way into the Bollywood movie scene too. For instance, whilst Glaswegian streets have been burnt up by the fast-paced car stunts featured in the likes of Fast & Furious 6, they have also witnessed exhilarating motorbike races and bus chases as seen in Tezz and Kick.  In fact, Kick was filmed last year (2013) in Glasgow reflecting how Glasgow is definitely on the hot list in terms of filming locations for both Hollywood and Bollywood.

Two of the biggest Bollywood movies that have heavily featured Glasgow are “Kyo Kii…Main Jhuth Nahin Bolt” and “Kuch Khatti Kuch Meethi”. Kyo Kii…Main Jhuth Nahin Bolt” is a 2001 movie directed by Dawid Dhawan which in English translates as “Because I Don’t Lie”. Therefore, if you liked Jim Carey’s “Liar, Liar”, make sure to check out “Kyo Kii…Main Jhuth Nahin Bolt” because not only is it a Bollywood classic that will have you chuckling away, but it also was indeed inspired by the Hollywood classic with similarities between the two.  Seen the movie and want to see in person the sites filmed in them? Well, “Kyo Kii…Main Jhuth Nahin Bolt” heavily featured Glasgow as a backdrop with filming taking place at many an iconic Glaswegian attraction, including the Gallery of Modern Art & Royal Exchange Square; Argyle Street; Buchanan Street; Princes Square; People’s Palace and Winter Gardens; Clyde Auditorium; Crowne Plaza Glasgow; Kelingrove Park and Bells Bridge.

Another Hollywood classic that was the inspiration for a Bollywood hit was everyone’s favourite childhood film, “The Parent Trap” which fuelled the creation of “Kuch Khatti Kuch Meethi”, or in English translation, “Something Sour, Something Sweet”; a 2001 movie directed by Rahul Rawail. In Glasgow, the lead characters found sanctuary at the Glasgow Cathedral & Glasgow Necropolis as well as met at Glasgow Prestwick Airport. In a very iconic moment, Buchanan Street was also featured in a sequence which entailed the lead characters dancing with kilted musicians (of course!).

The renowned Glaswegian shopping locations of Buchanan Street, Princes Square and George Square also can be spotted in the likes of “Pyaar Ishq aur Mohabbat” (2001) and “Yeh Hai Jalwa” (2002). In “Yeh Hai Jalwa”, a bhangra routine was even filmed in George Square which included none other than the famous Bollywood actor Salmon Khan!

Therefore, it can be clearly evident how Glasgow is a prime location to live out your own personal Bollywood adventure. The Spires has a convenient city centre location meaning you are never far from the sites and attractions; enabling a safe and efficient trip. Glasgow is only a three-hour journey from Aberdeen making the continuance of a Bollywood journey between the two even easier and quicker.  Like Aberdeen, Glasgow is well-stocked with high-quality Indian cuisine if you want to add to the authenticity of your trip with Cafe India Tapas, Himalaya Restuarant, Koolba and Charcoals Cafe all featuring in the Top 20 restaurants out of Glasgow’s 1,800!

So what are you waiting for? Watch the movies and go live out the action with the help of The Spires this summer! Do as Sunil Shetty and Kajol did in “Kuch Khatti Kuch Meethi” and explore Glasgow from the best viewpoint; from the deck of an open top bus!

Photo courtesy of http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-30878983