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You might be wondering what we were doing back in Scotland, just a couple of months after we took in the new sites in Edinburgh and Glasgow. But the Scots are such a friendly bunch, it’s hard to stay away. So friendly are they that on two occasions our taxi drivers actually stopped the meter and apologised when they got stuck in traffic. They are pulling out all the stops to entice more visitors to the country, which includes creating plenty of facilities to accommodate them all.
In the spring magazine, we told you about the new Scottish Hydro Arena at Glasgow’s SECC (tel: 0141 275 6211). Since then, the plans have progressed and it is now called – more simply – The Hydro. A hard hat tour took us around the soon-to-be 12,000-capacity music and entertainment venue and into the VIP boxes, which are notably close to the stage. In fact, most of the seats are close to the stage; despite the size of the structure, it feels intimate, even with no roof and several JCBs driving around. As you’d imagine with a venue of this size – in the UK it is trumped only by The O2 – big budgets can really create something special. Space-age tinfoil cushions surround the outside of the building and can be transformed into 12 million colours using video projectors.
As the theme of the trip was ‘Year of the Creative’, it was only fitting for our next stop to be A House for An Art Lover (tel: 0141 353 4770). The house was originally designed by one of Glasgow’s most famous architects, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, for a competition in 1901. Work began on the house in 1989 and took seven years to complete. There is a strong Eastern influence in the interiors, due to the many Japanese engineers living in the city at the time. Black and white wood panelling, intricately stencilled wallpaper and a floral theme decorate the three original function rooms, which go down a storm with brides. Recent refurbishments saw the old art studios on the top floors turned into boutique-style meeting rooms, with bold Farrow & Ball paint palettes and colourful furnishings. The largest, aptly named The View, is an attic room with a roof terrace and space for 36 guests for dinner.
Travelling north towards Perthshire, we took in Crieff Hydro (tel: 01764 651670), a luxury hotel, where a six-year and £40m refurbishment has recently spruced up all the bedrooms and added new meeting rooms, purpose built for wet and dry weather teambuilding activities. Teambuilding is a strong suit at the hotel, with facilities for up to 300 delegates; the line-up includes golf, laser quest, off-road driving, quad biking, segways, to name but a few. Despite being in the countryside, the hotel is just over an hour from Glasgow Airport and just under an hour from Dundee – our next destination.
Dundee, might not at the top of the list of places to visit before you die. Well not yet anyway, but just give them a couple of years and you’ll be thinking differently – a day there did it for us. The city was once described by Stephen Fry as ‘probably more extraordinary than any other city in the UK. It is about as ideal – ludicrously ideal – as any setting could be.’ Dundee is out to prove Fry right. A £70m development plan is afoot and among the blueprints – costing £45m of the total – is the first V&A outside London. Located right on the waterfront, the showstopper of a building, which will hang over the river, was designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma as part of an international competition. Work is due to start on the project next year, with the aim to open in 2015. The space will be available for fashion shows, exhibitions, as well as private functions in the double-height hall.
Houses, office space, new restaurants and hotels are appearing in Dundee at a rate of knots. A new Malmaison was under construction just moments from our hotel – the Apex (tel: 0845 365 0000) – and will open next year. The changes in the city are so rapid that even the locals are getting disorientated.
Leaving Dundee with a promise to return in five years, when the waterfront should be unrecognisable, we made our way to the final stop of the trip, Hopetoun House (tel: 0131 331 2451), 30 minutes outside Edinburgh. The beautiful stately home on the banks of the Firth of Forth has recently up its game for corporate teambuilding. Along with the usual shooting, fishing and Highland games that many Scottish venues offer, the recent arrival of a Farm Shop has added tastings, cookery demonstrations and butchery lessons to the offering, while picnics can be arranged around the grounds. Produce is all sourced or reared locally or on the grounds. It was raining when we arrived, so we skipped the picnic and headed to the Tapestry Room for a Pommery Champagne tasting – too bad!
It’s true what they say about saving the best until last. Hopetoun House is devastatingly handsome and its charm is enhanced by the fact that the owners still live there. Family photographs, coffee table books and comfortable furniture mix with ancestral portraits and antiques. It is open to the public from April to September but for events all year round and has four function rooms, with reception capacity for up to 450 in the traditional Ballroom.