5 Ways To Get The Most Out Of New Year In The UK

New Year is a magical holiday all over the world, and we in the UK definitely know how to mark the occasion in style. Wherever you are and however you see it in, there’s nothing quite like hearing the chimes of Big Ben announcing the start of another year, indulging in a collective off-key sing-along of Auld Lang Syne, and embracing your loved ones in celebration.

Whether for you, New Year is the perfect time to go wild and indulge before the January resolutions begin, or if you’d much rather just take the time to truly relax and kick back, here are a few suggestions for making the celebrations go off with a bang.

  • EAT, DRINK, AND BE LUCKY. Take advantage of celebrating on home turf by enjoying a meal with friends and family. Many restaurants across the country will offer special deals or menus on New Years Day, so there’s plenty of reason to treat yourself with a special meal. Try embracing some New Year traditions from other cultures in your choice of cuisine. Legumes and cooked greens, for example, are consumed in Denmark, Italy, and the southern US because of their associations with good fortune. In Spain, Portugal and Cuba, revellers eat pork because it is thought to symbolize progress. Just don’t indulge in lobster on New Years if you want to avoid bad luck!
  • DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT. If you’re tired of the standard festivities offered by winter breaks, why not take part in something a little bit out of the ordinary for your New Year? Discover some of the strange local celebrations taking place across the country. In Allendale, Northumbria, you can join the bizarre Allendale Baal parade, thought to have originated as an ancient pagan ritual, where town-dwellers carry flaming whiskey barrels full of tar through the streets. In Orkney, Scotland, on New Year’s Day you can witness the traditional Kirkwall Ba football game in the town fiercely fought between the ‘Uppies and Doonies’. Or head to Cornwall, where the streets close for the night in St Ives, and scores of residents in fancy dress take over, parading along the harbour front and often continuing the party on the beach after midnight.
  • LIVEN UP. For those who love a big city New Year, the UK is home to two of the largest celebrations in the world: London and Edinburgh. The Edinburgh Hogmanay attracts visitors from all across the globe, and on the night itself hosts a street party and a huge concert next to Edinburgh Castle, while a breath-taking firework display lights up the sky. London is full to the brim with New Years nights throughout the city to get stuck into, or get wrapped up warm and head to to the South Bank with plenty of time to spare to see the fireworks at midnight.
  • WIND DOWN. If you want to give the city crowds a wide berth and seek out some serenity, short breaks in the countryside are ideal. Explore local landscapes and enchanting winter woodlands on a New Years holiday in areas of outstanding beauty, such as Cumbria or Wiltshire – ideal if you’re travelling with family or children.  An escape to the country, while peaceful, doesn’t need to be boring either; plenty of resorts and holiday villages offer their own range of seasonal entertainment. All the fun of a city New Year, but in idyllic rural surroundings.
  • BE ENTERTAINED. With plenty of weird and wonderful events taking place across the UK on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Try taking a river cruise along the Thames, or attending a masquerade ball or medieval-themed banquet. A murder mystery dinner is one thrilling way to celebrate. Get up early New Year’s Day to enjoy the London Parade if you’re spending the holidays in the capital – or if you’re a little worn own from the previous night’s frivolities stay in with friends and family, snuggle up on the sofa and watch some good old New Year’s Day television.

London to Edinburgh cheaper by rail than air?

Taking the train service from London to Edinburgh may be more cost effective than taking a flight, according to a recent report submitted by sustainable transport group, Transform Scotland.

The report, named ‘On track for business: Why Scottish businesses should try the train’, states that train tickets between Edinburgh and London are around 81 percent cheaper than flights, and hence provide a very cost-effective travel option for commuters.

Transform Scotland has also reported that travelling by rail between the two cities is a better option for business travellers, as it provides a better working environment and is better for the environment.

At present, rail only has a 12 percent share of the business travel market between London and Edinburgh.

Colin Howden, the director of Transform Scotland, said, ‘The financial benefit of making an Edinburgh-London return journey amounts to £217, including the value of productive working time and other benefits.

Given that the price of a ‘Scottish Executive’ ticket, which gives first class return travel from Edinburgh and London, is only £229, it’s clear that greater account needs to be taken of the financial benefits of rail travel and not just the ticket price.

Our report makes a compelling case to Scottish business of the financial and productivity benefits of using the train for business travel to and from London.

Our challenge to Scottish business is to try the train. Given that it’s generally cheaper and provides a productive working environment, Scottish businesses can gain financially by switching many more of their employees’ trips on to rail for Edinburgh to London journeys.’

The report says that some Scotland based corporate companies, such as Royal Bank of Scotland and Scottish and Southern Energy, are now encouraging their employees to use trains when travelling between the two cities.

The author of the report, David Spaven, said, ‘The train beats flying for business travel to London. It offers a high-quality working environment, superior environmental performance and, crucially, better value for money. Unless a company’s sole criterion for choice of transport is journey time, air shouldn’t be treated as an automatic preference over rail.

East Coast has introduced a wide range of major service improvements in the last few years, yet rail is carrying only 12 per cent of Edinburgh-London business travel. The time is clearly right for many more businesses to ‘try the train’ and experience directly the benefits which rail can deliver.’

‘Incrediburgh’ slated as Edinburgh slogan

A slogan thought up to promote tourism to the Scottish city, Edinburgh, has been criticised by several bodies and individuals.

Incrediburgh, a play on words that combines the word incredible with the city’s name, was thought up by Marketing Edinburgh, an organisation that was created last year to promote the city’s tourism potential, and which is funded by the taxpayer.

This was not the only example of name manipulation that the organisation penned, with other suggestions being Paintthetownredinburgh, to promote the city as a party venue, Wellfedinburgh, to promote its wide range of eating options, Romanceisnotdeadinburgh, to promote it as a venue for couples to take a break, and Grabyoursledinburgh, to be used as a winter promotion. However, following criticism that the formulated words were ‘absolutely appalling’ and ‘twee’, the promotion has been scaled back.

One of the dissenters was Jenny Dawe, a former Liberal Democrat leader of the city council. She is quoted in the Daily Mail as saying, ‘I think these ideas are absolutely appalling. You don’t need silly slogans to market Edinburgh. They don’t sound worth using at all, and they make me shudder.’ Meanwhile, Cameron Rose, a Conservative councillor said that some of the slogans were ‘a bit twee,’ and just didn’t cut it.

In a response, Marketing Edinburgh’s Lucy Bird said, ‘Over the past few months, we have collaborated with many of our city partners to develop a dynamic and lively new campaign. As you would expect, there is a huge amount of planning and discussion around a project like this, and we are welcoming feedback.’

EasyJet to Expand Services from Edinburgh Airport

Easyjet, a budget airline based at Luton in the UK, is implementing a major expansion plan for its hub at Edinburgh Airport, in Scotland.

The airline’s expansion project includes the addition of two more aircraft to the airport hub, increasing the number of planes based there to seven.

Hugh Aitken, the airline head for Scotland, said, ‘The decision to base a further two aircraft in Edinburgh is testament to the importance of Scotland to easyJet’s operation. The new management team at Edinburgh Airport fully understands the importance of growth and connectivity for the airport and Scotland as a whole.

The arrival of the two new aircraft from December will deliver over 180,000 new seats. We are asking key partners to work with us to determine which new destinations to launch and look forward to working with Edinburgh Airport and others over the coming month to finalise our plans.’

The initial Airbus A319 is arriving on December 2, 2012, while the second plane will be operating from March 2013. With the two new aircraft, the airline will be able to offer more routes and around 180,000 new seats for travellers annually. The new aircraft will also add around 100 new jobs to the local economy.

Gordon Dewar, the chief executive officer, Edinburgh Airport, said, ‘Today’s announcement from easyJet is hugely significant for Edinburgh Airport. It demonstrates that we are willing to do business with airlines that are ambitious for growth and delivering great service for their passengers. Our partnership with easyJet is based on these central values and we’re looking forward to working with them in bringing planes and new routes to Scotland.’

Dalmahoy, A Marriott Hotel & Country Club, Completes Remodelling Project

Dalmahoy, A Marriott Hotel & Country Club, a Marriott international brand property located in Edinburgh, Scotland, has announced the completion of a renovation project, and the opening of a new restaurant.

The £1 million refurbishment has involved the launch of a new Marriott concept at the hotel, the re-branding of its restaurant as Zest, and the upgrading of the James Braid Bar.

The project has also involved modifications to the hotel’s leisure club, as well as spa and fitness areas, renovations to the Golf Pro Shop and upgrades at the gymnasium, tennis courts and dance studio. The refurbished spa now includes more fashionable changing rooms and improvements to the reception area and entrance. The newly added leisure facilities include two 18-hole golf courses, and a PGA-approved golf academy for learners.

Tom Gibson, the director of operations at the hotel and spa, said, ‘These are exciting times for Dalmahoy and we are delighted with our newly refurbished and newly named Zest Restaurant. A lot of planning and preparation went into the new concept and our team is ready to make Zest the venue of choice for food and beverage at the hotel and in the local area.

Additionally, we have refurbished our James Braid Bar in order to ensure that it continues to be a place where members and guests can go to simply sit back, relax and enjoy a well earned rest.’

Dalmahoy, A Marriott Hotel & Country Club, is claimed to be a majestic retreat located within Scottish parkland, and it has 215 luxury hotel rooms.

Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa Edinburgh Reopens After Renovations

The Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa, a luxury hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland, has reopened after the completion of a re-modelling project.

The hotel is part of Sheraton Hotels and Resorts, a brand from US-based hotel company, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide. According to the company, the recent re-modelling of the hotel includes a new and contemporary look for public areas, refurbished guest rooms and meetings complex; as well as the opening of a new restaurant and bar.

Hoyt Harper, the company global brand leader for Sheraton Hotels and Resorts, said, ‘We have spent the last few years renovating and rebuilding one of the hotel industry’s most iconic brands and Sheraton’s all-time high guest satisfaction scores are a direct result of this investment. As one of our flagship hotels, the newly renovated Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa in Edinburgh showcases our commitment to making the brand an unparalleled leader in the hospitality sector.’

The hotel’s new look is intended to offer superior customer satisfaction to both business and leisure travellers, with 269 fully refurbished guest rooms that have a modern Scottish look; a new Sheraton Club Floor, for Club level guests; 14 flexible event rooms; and a six-story, 35,000 square foot ‘One Spa’.

The hotel is also offering new Sheraton brand signature experiences, including a Link@Sheraton communications hub in the hotel lobby with complimentary Wi-Fi and computer workstations; and a holistic fitness programme, Sheraton Fitness, programmed by Core Performance.

The hotel is being re-launched as part of a global re-branding operation, which will be seeing a worldwide rejuvenation of the Sheraton branded properties for an investment of around $6 billion.

New Hotel Indigo Opens in Edinburgh

InterContinental Hotels Group PLC, a UK-based owner, manager and franchiser of hotels and resorts, has opened a new Hotel Indigo in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The new 60-room hotel is located in an 18th century building on York Place in Edinburgh, and combines five residential properties. The building has distinctive features, including decorative stairwells and cupolas.

The hotel rooms have complimentary Wi-Fi and stocked refrigerators with complementary snacks and beverages, and the other hotel amenities include a business centre, a 24-hour fitness centre, housekeeping and laundry services, a concierge service, and a bar and restaurant named the Turquoise Thistle, which is claimed to serve classic and modern Scottish dishes with a contemporary twist.

On advance bookings, guests can currently benefit from an introductory room rate of GBP114.00 per night, but most of the standard hotel package rates will commence at GBP126.00, which is inclusive of accommodation, full Scottish breakfast, VAT and a 24-hour parking at Craig James Walk.

Intercontinental Hotels Group said that the hotel’s interior design reflects the Georgian terraces of the local area.

The new property is the company’s second in Scotland, with Hotel Indigo Glasgow having opened in Glasgow last year. The brand also owns other properties in the UK, including those in Birmingham, Liverpool, London Paddington; London Tower Hill; and Newcastle.

Edinburgh named as most family-friendly airport

A study has revealed that parents find Scottish airports the most family friendly, with Edinburgh being rated the best in the UK, followed closely by Glasgow.

As part of the study, Skyscanner asked parents to rate airport facilities for children allowing them to establish which airports best catered for families.

Airports were rated on children’s play areas and facilities, food options for children and the efficiency of the security process.

Edinburgh Airport – which caters for more than 9million passengers each year – was praised for its family friendly restaurants, which provide a wide choice of food.

Parents recommended the airport for its runway viewing areas and its accessibility, whereas Glasgow International was rated highly for the variety of children’s play areas.

Mary Porter, Skyscanner’s family expert said: “We conducted this study following a consumer survey last year which saw 59 per cent of people state that UK airports failed to cater for families”.

Liverpool and Manchester Airports were ranked third and fourth in the survey complied of parents, and Gatwick followed in fifth place.

However the UK’s busiest airport Gatwick – which caters for more than 69 million passengers each year – only came in at 10th place.

The airport was criticised for the lack of children’s play areas, small seatings areas and overcrowding.

Birmingham Airport was ranked 7th place after 45 per cent of families travelling through the hub claimed the process was ‘too long.’

She added: “It is encouraging that several airports across the UK are now well prepared for family travellers and no airport scored less than six marks out of a possible 10”.

It is no wonder that young children who have already experienced long queues and little entertainment at the airport are then prone to having meltdowns by the time they board the aircraft.

“By catering better for them at the airport, the on board experience could be far less stressful for families and in turn more enjoyable for all passengers”.

Article by Charlotte Greenhalgh

Giant pandas bring in the crowds at Edinburgh Zoo

The giant panda’s presence at Edinburgh Zoo has increased visitors by 200 per cent. Tourist numbers at the Scottish attraction have increased massively, and its all thanks to two very cute pandas.

The pandas named Tian Tian and Yang Guang, have had around 70,000 visitors since they arrived in December. Increasing visitor numbers three fold compared with the same time last year.

Yang Guang, the male, who is also known as Sunshine, has been exploring his new home and spending hours in full view of the zoo’s keepers.

Tian Tian (Sweetie) has been more reserved and shy, hiding from the public much of the time.

Since the pandas arrival, the zoo has seen a huge increase in sales of panda toys, costing as much as £40.

Edinburgh Zoo chief executive Hugh Roberts said: ‘We’ve been fully booked almost every day so far and expect the popularity of Tian Tian and Yang Guang to continue. Visitors’ faces have been amazing, both young and old. For the vast majority of people this is the first chance they’ve had in their lifetime to cast their eyes on a giant panda.’

Time slots are needed to visit the pandas as they are in such high demand, but visitors are not charged any extra.

Mr Roberts added: ‘As well as being incredibly endangered and rarely seen outside China, they are an extremely cute and anthropomorphic (showing characteristics identified with humans) animal.

‘People are often amazed to see for themselves that pandas are quite happy to make eye contact and our visitors can learn lots of interesting facts from our panda patrols, like pandas eat a third of their bodyweight in food every day and the male pandas do their own version of a handstand to scent mark their territory.’

The pandas arrived in Edinburgh from Ya’an reserve in Chengdu, China on December 4.

Once they had become accustomed to their new home, they went on show to the public on December 16.

Edinburgh Zoo will be the animals’ home for the next 10 years, and it is hoped during this time the pair will have cubs. They are the first breeding pair in the UK for 17 years.


Edinburgh consider introducing ‘tourist tax’

Tourists planning to travel to Edinburgh to catch a glimpse of what the city has to offer could soon be paying extra for the experience – after the city announced they are considering introducing a controversial ‘tourist tax’.


The city council this week have held discussions about bringing in the fee, which could bring in between £5 and £10million extra in revenue each year.


On top of their accommodation cost guests in the city would pay an extra ‘bed tax’ charge of either £1 or £2 a night.


Countries across the world, including Vancouver and Venice have also introduced tourist taxes.


Edinburgh Council officials are hugely in favour of the new idea, however Green councillor Steve Burgess has argued it would be “unlikely to discourage visitors or affect the hotel trade”.


He argued, “£1 or £2 will not make a big different when most hotel rates in Edinburgh start at £50 or £60”.


According to records of the discussion on the possible tax, it is noticed that it would require Scottish Parliament legislation to enable the City of Edinburgh Council to introduce a transient visitor levy.


Hoteliers in the city however, have reacted in a negative way to the proposed idea.


Colin Paton of the Edinburgh Hotels Association said, “This is a lose-lose initiative, and is completely anti-business. It would certainly put people off coming to Edinburgh and coming to Scotland”.


He added: “The City of Edinburgh wants to put itself at a competitive disadvantage to the rest of the UK. It is bad news for consumers, for business, for employees, for the city and for Scotland”.


Mr Paton also believes that the introduction of the change would lead to job losses.


However Italy’s great Renaissance destination has justified their tourist tax as a way of protecting the city’s heritage.


Sandro Simionato, Venice’s deputy mayor said: “This tax is a new and important opportunity for the city”.


“The fundamental objective, which will also involve tourists who visit and love Venice, is to save this unique city, which is precious and fragile”.


Article by Charlotte Greenhalgh