Inverness’ Cacophony of Concerts

Piper In InvernessHaving walked through the centre of town on a Saturday afternoon in Inverness, you can’t help but notice during tourist season the pipers on the corner – and as cliché as they are when thinking of anything stereotypically Scottish – you can’t help but be proud of the rich diversity of the musical culture expressed here in the Capital of the Highlands!

Admittedly the bagpipes have been a set-piece of Scottish history and musically expected in the Highlands from as early as the 1700s, with everyone being aware of the traditional Great Highland bagpipes. So much so that they are embraced in a variety of ceremonial and traditional occasions throughout, not only Scotland, but also within the British army and in pockets of Europe.

But Scottish music is so much more than the bagpipes, and never before has this been showcased or expressed as openly as it is today. The home-grown musical talent of the Scots is no secret with the likes of Mark Knopfler, born in Glasgow, Annie Lenox from Aberdeenshire, Lulu brought up in Glasgow, and more recently KT Tunstall of St. Andrews, all having been embraced by the national public throughout the UK from the 1960s right through to today!

And not only through the popular music of the day, but within Classical circles too, most notable today the inclusion of the percussionist Evelyn Glennie in the Olympic opening ceremony, shows that the UK are recognising Scottish musicians as having significant influence over the country’s music scene. And many extraordinary musicians are excitingly within easy reach of Inverness this summer with the Highland Chamber Orchestra playing at Strathpeffer Pavilion on Sunday 2nd September.

And likewise Scotland has always been embracing of musicians and the popular music of the day, engaging as much as any of the major English cities with touring concert dates of popular artists. But notably Inverness, being in the Highlands has until recently been missed from these tours, I guess deemed too remote to pull a crowd. As of Rod Stewarts concert date here in 2010 though, this has finally been dispelled, and this year Inverness embraces more well known bands than ever before with an exciting final weekend in August.

Concerts from Status Quo, Jools Holland, and the extremely popular youth sensation JLS are all being held in Inverness this month (tickets for the JLS concert are currently available to win as detailed by Mi Inverness, Entertainment and are expected to be, if are not already, sell out events, showing undoubtedly that the appetite of the people of Inverness and the Highlands for a wider, more accessible array of music up until recently has been massively underestimated to say the least.

So let’s embrace a new found musical freedom of expression. Regardless of age, style or musical taste, Inverness has something for everyone this Summer, there’s a cacophony of concerts on the horizon! Why not join us?


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Why You Should Consider Buying A Holiday Home In Scotland

There are many things that make Scotland the perfect place to spend a holiday, and its many attractions help to make purchasing a holiday home there a great investment.  The country combines some of the most beautiful scenery and wildlife in Europe with towns and cities that are full of history, art, and culture.

What Scotland has to offer

Scotland is so full of attractions that it really is difficult to know where to start.  In the towns and cities the cafes, coffee shops, and some of the best pubs and clubs in the UK give the country a vibrant atmosphere both by day and by night.  The shopping facilities in the larger cities rival any that can be found elsewhere in the United Kingdom.

Museums and art galleries seem to be everywhere in Scotland and provide all the culture a person or a family could wish to soak up.  For more adventurous individuals, there is an abundance of historical sites located throughout the countryside.  The rural areas of Scotland are littered with castles and stately homes, many of which are open to the public and provide a great day out for all the family.

As well as the historic buildings, the scenic views and backdrops provided by the Scottish countryside are second to none.  For animal lovers, the wildlife that can be found in the hills and lochs alone will make a holiday home in Scotland an excellent option.

Financing a holiday home in Scotland

Although the housing market has been stagnant for some time, people are still buying second homes.  In fact, this sector of the market has been rising steadily since 2009, which is encouraging both long and short term lending by banks as opposed to the one off direct payday loans lenders or short term lenders off the high streets..  The type of financing that will be available to those wishing to purchase a second home will depend in large part on what the property will be used for; for example, whether it is to be used solely by the owner and his or her family as a holiday home, or will be rented out for either some or all of the year.

As a rule, a ‘buy-to-let’ mortgage will only available for properties rented as an assured tenancy in which a contract of six months or longer is signed.  However, some lenders may be flexible about this, particularly for borrowers who wish to rent the property out some of the time but also intend to use it themselves for a part of the year.  Buy-to-let mortgages are generally more expensive and will often have a 1.5% higher interest rate than a standard mortgage, and require a 25% deposit.

Re-mortgaging to finance a holiday home in Scotland

For those not wishing to rent out their holiday home in Scotland, re-mortgaging may be the best option.  With re-mortgaging, banks and building societies will usually offer around 75% of the combined values of both the primary and holiday properties.  The advantage of re-mortgaging is that some of the equity in a current property can be used as a deposit for the holiday home.  This can help to increase the amount of the deposit put down on the second property, which will in turn help to keep the interest rate low.


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Tips For Studying In Scotland

In a world where you can study Ancient Greek in China or Chinese in Greece, students have a wide variety of choices when it comes to choosing where they want to study, whether for A Level or a university degree.  Classrooms, laboratories, and lecture theatres are generally pretty much the same on the inside all over the world, so it is important for students to consider how they will spend their time outside their academic timetable.

Advantages of studying in Scotland

Studying in Scotland is an ideal choice for many students.  The country’s academic and research reputation is renowned throughout the world, and the list of inventors and innovators who have passed through Scotland’s academic system is impressive in itself.  When considering Scotland’s history of academic success, it is clear that this is one of the best places in the world to study.  It is also considerably less expensive to study and live in Scotland than it is in, say, the south of England.  Additionally, Scotland offers a wide variety of excellent employment opportunities for students after they graduate.

Away from the classroom

Scotland has a great deal to offer any student when they are not busy studying, including a number of vibrant modern cities and a stunning array of landscapes.  Even a simple railway journey can turn out to be a sightseeing experience that will leave a lasting impression.

Consider the many locations for which Scotland is famous – the Western Isles, the Highlands, Loch Ness (with its monster still at large) – and it is clear why the country appeals to visitors from around the world who want to either explore its unique historical and cultural treasures, or just stand back and marvel at the scenery.  Scotland’s admirable road and rail links make it easy to get around the country and enjoy all that it has to offer.

While it may be difficult to tear oneself away from Scotland’s dramatic landscape, its cities also have a huge amount to offer students.  Edinburgh, the capital, is renowned for the massively popular Fringe – the largest arts festival in the world – as well as the sense of history that greets visitors.  Glasgow, named the European City of Culture in 1990, has consistently enhanced its reputation every year since and offers what is considered to be the best shopping experience in the UK outside London.  The cities of Aberdeen, Inverness, Dundee, Perth, and Stirling all have much to impress visitors including a huge variety of nightlife options, a vibrant café culture, extensive shopping opportunities, and beautiful public gardens.

Quality of life

Of course, the learning process and the end results are the paramount consideration, but the quality of life that the student experiences while they are studying is also a very important component of a well-rounded educational experience.  Students who are happy and settled in their environment will have a better, more focused experience in the classroom, which can only reflect favourably in their results.  For many students Scotland, with its unique mix of ancient and modern, city and countryside, is the ideal place to both live and study.


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Top Reasons To Take A Railway Journey Through Inverness

For those that take to the rails on a daily basis for the wearying commute to work, the phrase “rail holidays UK” probably doesn’t evoke especially romantic or enticing images. It’s more likely to conjure a memory of that tubby man sitting opposite that snores like a dyspeptic hippo, or the young fella sitting adjacent listening to his iPod at such a volume that anyone within earshot is treated to a barrage of nerve-shredding white noise (think of a bottle full of miniature marbles being shaken interminably).  But thankfully, there’s a cure – taking a rail trip through the breathtaking landscapes of Inverness.

Here are some reasons why a railway journey through Inverness can restore the pleasures of letting the train take the strain, as that old TV ad used to put it.

1. Travelling to Inverness by rail is a delight. No snoring commuters or young men trying to deafen themselves, just comfortable seats and enchanting vistas as your train speeds through spectacular scenery on its way to the most northerly city in Scotland. Driving such distances simply mars the experience; it’s tiring. But who cares if a little spontaneous shut-eye is called for when one’s derrière is nestled warmly on a comfy train seat?

2. The delights continue upon arrival. This is a real chance for hemmed-in, scrunched-up, stressed-out urban refugees to experience the almost astounding vastness and grandeur of the Scottish Highlands. Why not see some of it by booking a seat on the Kyle Line? The 63 miles of railway running from Dingwall to the Kyle of Lochalsh coveys the spellbound passenger through no fewer than 31 tunnels carved through solid rock, and over 29 bridges offering jaw-dropping views of the Highlands en route. A train runs to and from Inverness three to four times a day and the Kyle Line itself is occasionally graced by visits from glorious old-timers such as the Orient Express and the Flying Scotsman.

3. Inverness itself is a potent cure for anyone who experiences commuter-induced stress upon seeing or hearing the phrase “rail holidays UK.” There are fabulous walks along the River Ness, a bleakly beautiful Iron Age fort atop Craig Phadraig, and a mesmerisingly beautiful glen, the legendary Glen Affric, which dwarfs and humbles the human observer in its immense wilderness.

4. But there’s more to Inverness than hauntingly beautiful wilderness. There’s also excellent shopping for those who suffer cold turkey if deprived of retail therapy for too long. There are dozens of independent shops selling jewellery, clothing and gifts, ranging from the quaint to the voguish, and a charming Victorian market slap bang in the heart of the city centre.

5. No trip to Inverness could be complete for anyone with even a vestigial interest in whether Nessie exists or not. Take a day trip to the sublimely beautiful Loch Ness and put that scepticism to the test. Even if the great beastie doesn’t make an appearance, the trip will have been entirely worthwhile; it’s one of those places that remain achingly beautiful even on a grey, rainy day.

So, these are five reasons to take a railway journey through Inverness. And that’s without mentioning the magnificent West Highland Line, voted “Best Rail Journey” in 2009 by the Wanderlust Travel Awards for its incomparable beauty and spectacle.


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Summer At Eden – Meet The Makers

Exclusively Highlands presents Summer at Eden – a Meet the Makers event at the Bishops Palace, Eden Court, Inverness, where visitors can meet the artists and craftsmen, see some of them at work and have the opportunity to purchase something unique and exquisite from them.

Harris Tweed and Felt Trinket BoxesTaking place in the beautifully restored Bishops Palace, there will be over 40 exhibitors all bringing the very finest of Highland Arts, Crafts and Foods to Inverness on 7th and 8th July.  Visitors will be able to meet the Exclusively Highlands craftspeople and see some of them at work making traditional to contemporary arts and crafts.  Talk to the artists about how the local Highland landscape inspires them, how they use traditional Scottish crafting techniques and where possible Scottish materials to make authentically Highland arts and crafts, albeit often with a modern twist.

With over 40 exhibitors from all over the Highlands of Scotland, there are a wide range of crafts, including silversmiths and jewellers; felters, knitters and other textile artists; pottery, woodwork, glassware, sculpture, miniaturists and many others.  Items range from little purses or vintage style collectible toys up to sculptures and furniture crafted from whisky barrels and with price ranges to suit every budget.

HareThis new event will be on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th July from 10am until 5pm daily.  Entrance into the Meet the Makers Exhibition is free.  Eden Court is close to Inverness city centre, has ample parking and a friendly restaurant for those in need of refreshment.

Isabel Stewart, the woman behind Exclusively Highlands says “Visitors love speaking to the people who’ve actually made the items they are selling.     Members of Exclusively Highlands are extremely knowledgeable about their field of work and this gives them a chance to share that knowledge and enthusiasm with the public.”

Exclusively Highlands showcases quality wares by Highland artisans in beautiful venues around Scotland.  With a membership of over 70 artists and crafters – a  testament to the strength of their Eden Court Theatreevents and brand and an ever-growing reputation for the finest Arts, Crafts and Foods in the Highlands.  All the goods are hand crafted in the Highlands of Scotland and are carefully chosen for their unique and excellent quality. Group members make a diverse range of goods including handbags, bodices, millinery, jewellery, knitwear, soaps, paper and silk crafts, glass art, wood and ceramic sculpture, photography, pottery and furniture. There are also a whole range of food items such as preserves and sauces, baking and chocolates.  Members travel from all corners of the Highlands to bring their arts, crafts and foods to these events.   Prices range from a few pounds upwards so visitors can find something special whatever their budget.

Last year was the busiest on record for Exclusively Highlands with craft fairs across the Highlands. Isabel Stewart concluded ‘It is clear that there is a huge demand for unique and bespoke craftwork providing it is top quality and it is that that has been the secret of our success. I fully anticipate that this event will prove to be hugely popular.’

From 07/07/2012 To: 08/07/2012  10:00 – 17:00

Melanie McKay
Member of Exclusively Highlands
www.exclusivelyhighlands.co.uk
01463 250127
mmmckay@talktalk.net


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