Have a Heavenly Hogmanay in Scotland

For most of the world, the last day of the year is named New Year’s Eve but in Scotland the celebration is called Hogmanay. Its origins began in the winter solstice that the Vikings celebrated on the last day of the year. The word ‘Hogmanay’ also has possible French origins from the world hoguinané meaning a gift given at New Year.

In the past, Christmas was not celebrated in Scotland, and Hogmanay was the most important celebration in the country. In fact, Christmas Day didn’t become a public holiday in Scotland until 1958 and Hogmanay became Scotland’s most important celebration. Hogmanay lasts longer than traditional New Year’s Eve celebrations as it runs from 31st December all the way through to 2 January which is a Scottish public holiday.

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Hogmanay has a number of customs associated with it and the most well-known is first-footing. The practice, which involves the first person to step into a household from the outside after the clock strikes midnight, is supposed to bring luck to the inhabitants. The custom requires that the chosen ‘first-footer’ brings items into the house that represent goals for the new year ahead including coins for wealth, or a drink to represent happiness and good cheer. You can be sure to find a lot of Hogmanay celebrations all over Scotland with firework displays, live music and great food.

hogmanay-blog-post-stirling-fireworksStirling Midnight Fireworks

Stirling in Central Scotland is known for its historic castle, the William Wallace monument and many a great Hogmanay celebration! Experience the arrival of the New Year in the grounds of Stirling Castle with a large range of cuisine and an array of bright and beautiful fireworks at midnight. The Ridge is the perfect place to stay in Stirling if you are planning on attending the Hogmanay event.

The Scottish Baronial mansion is situated on the same hill that the castle is situated on, so when you are tired from an evening of Hogmanay fun, it’s only a short walk back home. The Stirling Midnight Fireworks event starts at 10.45 pm on 31 December 2019 and tickets are £12.50 each.

hogmanay-blog-post-new-years-eveFamily Hogmanay in Aberdeen

If you are looking for a high-class event that you won’t forget, Mercure Ardoe House Hotel Spa in Aberdeen is holding a ‘Family Hogmanay’ event that everyone can enjoy. There will be a large buffet and plenty of entertainment before welcoming in the new year with a fireworks extravaganza. The event starts at 7 pm and is £85 per ticket.

If you want to join in with the celebrations in the city but retreat to the quiet and comfort of a Unique Cottages for the rest of your trip, Seaview Cottage is located in Banff, Aberdeenshire, and is the perfect holiday home. Celebrate New Year’s Day with a walk on the beach as this beautiful cottage is only 5 minutes’ walk from Banff’s wonderful sandy beach!

hogmanay-blog-post-highland-flingRed Hot Highland Fling in Inverness

This exciting event was first staged in 2008 and has been a crowd favourite ever since! The Red Hot Highland Fling attracts 10,000 spectators each year and it is not hard to see why. The family-friendly event has a wide range of food to choose from, fireworks and a big ‘Auld Lang Syne’ singalong. Better still, the event is free to attend and is hosted by comedian Craig Hill featuring numerous exciting acts such as the Trad Project, Blazin’ Fiddles and Tidelines.

Strone House is only a 30 minute drive from Inverness and is located on the west shore of Loch Ness. Combine the excitement of the Red Hot Highland Fling and a peaceful stay in Strone House to create the perfect Hogmanay trip away. What a way to ring in the New Year!

Visit our website to find out more or get in touch with our friendly Booking Team on 01835 822277.

It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

There are literally thousands of reasons to visit Scotland and discover its breathtaking mountains, mysterious lochs, enchanting towns and bustling cities. While these elements remain all year round, they truly come to life at Christmas. Below are a few of our favourite reasons to visit Scotland around the festive season:

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Christmas Markets

What is more magical than visiting a Christmas market? The lights, the smell of mulled wine and the general feeling of festive cheer as well as the chance to pick up some special gifts. Scotland has a wealth of exciting Christmas markets to attend and, as there are multiple events happening around the country, no one has to miss out. If you’re staying in Fife near Aberdeen, you will not want to miss Aberdeen’s wonderful Christmas village. After a successful run in 2018, the Christmas event is back again this year by popular demand. You will find an open-air ice rink, a selection of fairground rides and attractions, festive food and drink and even Santa’s Grotto!

If you are looking to visit a Christmas market, but are also keen to visit some historical landmarks, Glamis Christmas market at Glamis Castle has the whole package. Located in the village of Glamis in Angus, the castle is a magical location to visit at Christmastime. With 80 different stalls selling food, drink and festive gifts, and winter walks around the historic castle, there is something exciting to do for visitors of all ages.

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There’s a higher chance of snow!

Bing Cosby’s famous song ‘White Christmas’ has really got our hopes up for some snow at Christmas. It is such a magical feeling to pull back the curtains on Christmas morning and see a blanket of snow on the ground. If you choose to spend your Christmas in a cottage in Scotland you are far more likely to have a white Christmas, especially if you choose one in the more northerly parts of the country.

Picture this – a cottage with an open fire, Christmas films on the TV and a bright white blanket of snow covering the ground outside as you cosy up to your loved ones on the sofa. If this sounds perfect to you, Unique Cottages offers many cosy cottages that would suit your festive needs. Glen Affric View is particularly lovely and is also pet friendly!

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Visit real reindeer in the Cairngorms National Park

If you are a fan of nature and are feeling particularly festive, a visit to the Cairngorm Reindeer Centre is an absolute must. Located in Glenmore in the Scottish Highlands, the centre is open from February half-term through the year and into early January. Enjoy a guided trip up a mountainside to view the impressive reindeer herd or, if you are not feeling up to the walk, you can visit the reindeer paddocks which are easily accessible.

In the run up to Christmas the centre runs various festive events including craft activities and there is even a visit from Santa that will definitely appeal to the kids! Set just a 20 minute drive away from the centre is one of our delightful cottages, Tayvulin. Wake up with a view of the Cairngorm mountains in this peaceful and quiet cottage and spend Christmas in the serenity of the Scottish Highlands.

Make this Christmas one to remember by booking your stay in a unique cottage. With hundreds of properties to choose from, you will be sure to find the perfect location for you. Visit our website or call our friendly Booking Team on 01835 822277.

The Scottish Backdrops of your Favourite Books

From 18 to 24 November it is Book Week Scotland! This annual event is a celebration of Scottish literature with different events that are held across the country. Scotland’s abundance of incredible landscapes and intriguing locations has inspired authors for centuries. From modern crime writers to eighteenth-century novelists, many authors have been enchanted by Scotland and the country features heavily in numerous famous novels.

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Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus books, set in Edinburgh

Rankin was born in Cardenden in Fife, which is 25 miles from Scotland’s capital city Edinburgh. His Inspector Rebus novels are mostly set in Edinburgh and are considered by many as integral contributions to the tartan noir genre that has grown in popularity over recent years. The genre has its roots in traditional Scottish fiction but borrows from twentieth-century American crime writing.

The author has published 23 Inspector Rebus novels over 31 years and they are based in various locations across southern Scotland. The main focus of the books is the criminal underworld in various locations across Edinburgh, but the books do also include various small villages, business districts and nightclubs. Rankin fans should definitely explore Edinburgh!

Have a look at our range of cottages in Edinburgh and The Lothians to find the right fit for you.

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Val McDermid’s The Distant Echo, set in St Andrews

Crime novelist Val McDermid grew up in Kirkcaldy, a town and former royal burgh in eastern Scotland. Her novel The Distant Echo is set in St Andrews, 24 miles from where McDermid grew up. The book centres on the relationship between four students who stumble across a dead body in the town.

The author explained that she set the crime thriller in St Andrews because she was familiar with the area, and she needed a small community to make the plot of the book believable. McDermid has used specific locations and landmarks to her advantage, saying ‘I knew I could use the particular features of the place to great effect. The Pictish cemetery, the Bottle Dungeon, the Castle Cliffs… irresistible, really.’ We can’t resist Scotland either, so we know exactly how she feels.

To find a cottage in the St Andrews area, view our selection.

book-week-blog-loch-katrineWalter Scott’s Waverley, set in the Scottish Highlands

Walter Scott’s Waverley has been regarded as one of the first historical novels in the Western literary tradition. The book, which was published in 1814, sees an English soldier travel from the south of England, first to the Scottish Lowlands and then into the Highlands to experience the aftermath of the Jacobite uprising of 1745.

The book features numerous Scottish locations as the protagonist travels further north as the book progresses. Walter Scott created a romantic vision of Scotland in the book that was characterised by tartan, tradition and nobility.

Experience the beauty of northern Scotland for yourself by staying in one of our many cottages in the Highlands.

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Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, set in Edinburgh

Born in Leith, Irvine Welsh is one of the best-known Scottish authors due to the success of his 1993 novel Trainspotting. Trainspotting isn’t the only one of Welsh’s books that is set in Edinburgh; Filth, the story of an indulgent and cruel detective sergeant, is also set in Scotland’s vibrant capital. Trainspotting and its sequel feature prominent Edinburgh landmarks such as Arthurs Seat, Edinburgh Castle and Princes Street, the main shopping street in Edinburgh.

While Edinburgh is a cultural capital and a tourist favourite, Welsh paints a darker picture of the city in the 1990s and the underworld that existed at the time. You’ll be delighted to know that you can learn all about the area AND stay in a beautiful cottage in the Lothians, while still being in easy reach of Edinburgh – it really is the best of both worlds!

To view our cottages in the Lothians, visit the website.

Why not celebrate Scotland’s literary masterpieces by visiting Scotland in person? We have hundreds of cottages for you to choose from. Visit our website to find your perfect match.

Autumn Adventures in Scotland

As the autumn weather makes an appearance and the cosy nights begin to roll in, why not book a stay in a unique cottage? Explore Scotland as the leaves start to brown and the air begins to cool. What could possibly be better than that? Here are just some of the activities you could be getting up to if you rent a cottage with us this autumn:

Stirling Castle
1. Discover Stirling

Avoid the sweaty summer crowds of tourists by visiting Stirling during the autumn months. The city in the heart of Central Scotland is full of character and charm and is a history lovers paradise. Make sure to visit the imposing fortress that is Stirling Castle and enjoy the entertainment provided by costumed performers there.

After a fascinating excursion around Stirling Castle, why not stop off at the National Wallace Monument which commemorates the Scottish hero, Sir William Wallace? Braveheart fans will certainly want to give Stirling a visit! After taking in the fascinating history of the building, climb to the top of the Monument and enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the whole city.

Browse our selection of cottages in Central Scotland.

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2. Explore the Scottish Lochs

As the leaves begin to turn their orange hue, why not visit one of the many Scottish lochs? There are over 31,000 different lochs spread out all across the country that range in size from the largest (Loch Ness) to much smaller ones such as Loch Ard in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, but all of them are beautiful in their own special way.

Drumnadrochit in the Highlands is, of course, home to the famous Loch Ness where the fabled monster that is said to haunt the depths of the water. Loch Muick, pronounced Loch ‘Mick’, in Aberdeenshire is sometimes home to a royal visitor, as it lies within Queen Elizabeth’s Balmoral Estate. A trip to one of Scotland’s many stunning lochs makes for a perfect day out in nature.

To view our cottages in the Highlands, visit our website.

 

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3. Visit Glasgow

Glasgow has a lot to offer people of all ages. If you are a fan of shopping, history, or nature, Glasgow has got you covered. Nature lovers will want to visit the stunning Botanic Gardens, located in the west end of the city by the River Kelvin. The gardens contain a variety of exotic plant collections from all over the world and the carnivorous plants in particular are quite fascinating!

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After a wander around the Botanic Gardens, wind down with a riverside walk or head towards the city centre for an afternoon of indulgent shopping. If that wasn’t enough, Glasgow has 11 fantastic museums ranging from the history of art to the history of religious life with something for everyone to enjoy. A visit to Glasgow is not complete without popping to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (free entry) that houses some fantastic works of art. The ‘Floating Heads’ sculptural art installation is a real highlight and makes for plenty of great photo opportunities.

To view our cottages on the West Coast of Scotland, visit our website.

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4. Spend a cosy night in your Unique Cottage

What could be better than spending the night snuggled up in a dressing gown, drinking hot chocolate and watching a film? Many of our cottages are pet friendly, so your furry friend can join in too! That isn’t all – some of our cottages have hot tubs that you can wind down in after a busy day of exploring all that Scotland has to offer.

To find your ideal cottage visit our website or call the friendly Booking Team on 01835 822277. They have specialist knowledge of Scotland and can help find exactly the right fit for you!

4 of Scotland’s Best Hiking Trails

We offer a variety of Unique Cottages that are perfect for your stay in stunning Scotland. Apart from its many lovely, quaint cottages, Scotland is known for its incredible natural beauty with so much to see and experience. If you’re a fan of hiking, Scotland is the place for you.

Explore mountains, forests and coastal paths from John O’ Groats to Dumfries – there are literally hundreds of trails to choose from. Here are our four favourite Scottish hiking trails:

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Loch an Eilein, Cairngorm National Park

Fans of medieval architecture will love the Loch an Eilein walk. The walk is 4.25 miles and explores the magnificent Rothiemurchus Forest in the Scottish Highlands. The walk attracts kayakers, wild campers and photographers from all over the world.

Along the way is a breathtakingly beautiful 13th century castle surrounded by water and thick, magical woodland. It is the perfect walk for a family who don’t want to journey too far but want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a couple of hours. Loch an Eilein was voted Britain’s Favourite Picnic Spot back in 2010. We can see why!

To view our cottages that are in close proximity to Cairngorms National Park, click here.

The Cateran Trail

For the hardcore hiker, The Cateran Trail is the whole package. The route takes hikers across 64 miles of farmland, forests and glens in Angus and Perthshire. The walk can be done in five days and is typically split into five stages by hikers, but completion times do vary.

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For those who want to explore Scotland’s breathtaking landscapes but want a range of terrain to traverse, this trail is perfect. The trail is well marked and there are plenty of places to have exciting and educational pit stops, such as the Alyth Museum in Strathmore. You will never forget the natural beauty of Scotland after completing this walk!

Browse our Perthshire cottages that are in easy reach of The Cateran Trail.

Fife Pilgrim Way

Since 1600, St Andrews was a popular pilgrimage destination in Medieval Europe as Christians wanted to be close to the bones of St Andrew, one of Jesus’ disciples in the Bible. The pilgrimage made its mark on the landscape in Fife, as many of the paths and roads were created to ease the passage of thousands of pilgrims.

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The Fife Pilgrim Way follows one of the many routes that the pilgrims took to reach the holy site of St Andrews. The walk spans 117 miles and the route goes through wildlife reserves, stunning beaches and historic villages.

To view our cottages near St Andrews along the Fife Pilgrim Way click here.

Arthur’s Seat and Hollyrood Park

hiking-blog-arthurs-seatView from Top of Arthur’s Seat

If you’re visiting Edinburgh, this short walk is one you shouldn’t miss. Arthur’s Seat is a well-known spot in Edinburgh that attracts thousands of visitors a year. But did you know that it marks the very top of a dormant volcano that erupted 350 years ago?

When you reach Arthur’s Seat, you’ll see spectacular 360 degree views of the city, including historic Edinburgh Castle. It is the perfect way to escape the chaos of the city for a while.

To view our cottages that are in close proximity to Edinburgh, click here.

Whichever trail you choose, Unique Cottages have a variety of beautiful cottages for you to choose from. Visit our website to find the perfect cottage for you or give us a call on 01835 822277.

Wild at Heart – the Whitmuir Estate

Guest blogger Lucy Cooke tells us all about her wildlife spotting visit to the beautiful Whitmuir Estate.

Deep in the heart of the Scottish Borders lies a very special secret – you don’t have to travel hundreds of miles to find a piece of the Scottish wilds and some absolutely stunning wildlife. This rolling countryside contains valleys, lochs, mountains and forests all ready to be explored or simply appreciated from the comfort of your chosen cottage.

Escape

'Common Blue Butterfly'
Common Blue Butterfly

Past the picturesque Eildon Hills and near the lovely town of Selkirk sits Whitmuir Farm and Estate that is set in 176 hectares of wonderful countryside with exceptionally rich grasslands, wildflowers and a mixture of woodland with more deciduous trees being planted every year. The estate has an impressive range of biodiversity, boasting as many as 1,400 different species including badgers, wild orchids, butterflies and fungi like the out-of-this-world Smurf Blue mushroom.

Explore

Whitmuir offers the perfect base for further exploration of the area within easy reach of the best the Borders has to offer. Lovers of the untamed and uninhabited can take their pick from the many hill ranges in the area, from the Lammermuirs to the Cheviots, that each provide a different experience and reward walkers with uniquely beautiful views and scenery.

Several long distance foot paths wind their way around the region from the Southern Upland Way that skims the outstandingly beautiful St Mary’s Loch and the Border Abbeys Way that takes in 4 historic abbeys, to St Cuthbert’s Way that leads from Melrose all the way over to the east coast. If waterways are your passion, pick from the many walks along the River Tweed where salmon jump, osprey fish and kingfishers dart.

Embark

Take a drive into any of the Border towns to find excellent local food, quirky little shops and many museums, castles and abbeys celebrating the life, culture and history of the region. For sport enthusiasts there is horse riding, rugby, golf and fishing and a trip up to the capital is easily achievable within an hour by train for a day trip to enjoy all that Edinburgh has to offer.

And relax…

We have a range of properties on the estate to choose from with everything from the remarkable Whitmuir House which is great for families or larger groups right through to Meadowside Cottage that is a warm and cosy hideout for couples in search of peace and tranquillity. There is also Marl Moss Cottage, Whitmuir Steading Cottage and Knowpark Cottage to choose from. Teyl, the Estate Factor, shares the environmentally friendly ethos and will be sure to make your stay a pleasant one.

Waking up Wild

Whitmuir truly is a wildlife haven and every year improvements are made that encourage a rich mixture of environmental habitats across the estate. One of the recent ambitious projects was to remove large areas of Sitka Spruce and replace it with a diverse range of tree species including some from the International Conifer Conservation Program based at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.

FungiExamples of fungi from the estate

Fungi fanatics won’t have to go far to find a wide abundance of species such as penny buns, fly argaric, witches butter or scarlet elfcaps. The previously mentioned blue smurf (entoloma madidum) is a fabulous and rare fungus and the estate even boasts a species that was new to science when it was found in 2013. It was finally named Cortinarius brunneiaurantius in 2014 and has since been found a few more times but in Northern Scotland.

Over 90 species of birds have been recorded on the estate from warblers to water rail and goshawk to crossbill. Winter visitors may well spy waxwings and redwings feasting on berries or fields full of skylarks whilst those catching the beginnings of spring may hear the sound of the cuckoo call.

Emperor Moth
Female Emperor Moth

Those with a passion for wildflowers can walk through the gorgeous meadows in spring and summer enjoying a canvas of colour that attracts pretty pollinators like the common blue butterfly. Moth traps have been set up to attract and record the many varieties of moth that visit throughout the year including the beautiful emperor moth.

So whether it’s walking in the footsteps of St Cuthbert, listening to skylark singing overhead, or watching the mighty hares box outside whilst enjoying a roaring fire and a glass of something special, the Whitmuir Estate has something for everyone. Explore them for yourself and decide which Whitmuir property suits you best.

Glen Shee: An All Year Round Destination

Glen Shee is a very picturesque glen set amidst stunning scenery in Northern Perthshire within the Cairngorms National Park. The glen lies between the pretty towns of Braemar and Blairgowrie and takes its name from the gaelic ‘shith’ meaning fairies, so it is often referred to as ‘Glen of the Fairies’.

One of the main attractions in the area is the Glenshee ski resort at the top of the Cairnwell Pass that is Scotland’s largest ski resort with 38 different runs to choose from (lessons and kit hire available). When the resort first opened tractors were used to take people up the mountains but there are now 22 lifts and tows that make light work of the various ascents.

'Craigh Na Dun'
Downhill Mountain Biking

Much though the resort is best known for its winter sports it is also popular in the summer months (May to September) when it becomes a hub for walking and mountain biking with the ski lifts being made good use of taking people up to the blue graded mountain bike track.

Walkers can enjoy exploring the stunning mountain scenery whilst keeping an eye out for red deer, ptarmigan and mountain hares and may even be lucky enough to spot golden eagles soaring overhead.

The beautiful Dalmunzie Estate is set just 7 miles from the Glenshee resort and offers a range of 6 different accommodation options with something to suit everyone.

Dalmunzie HouseDalmunzie House

Large parties will enjoy the chance of being all together in Dalmunzie House which sleeps up to 14 people. There is plenty of room to spread out into as there is a sitting room, a separate TV room and a lovely sunroom that is perfect for admiring the view from. Everyone can gather in the open plan kitchen/dining room where the vast dining table allows the whole party to enjoy meals whilst planning the next day’s activities by the wood-burning stove.

Smaller parties have the other cottages on the estate to choose from – Dalmunzie Cottage, Glenlochsie Cottage, Lochsie Cottage, Sauchmore Cottage and The Dower House.

Carn Dearg Cottage
The Dower House

The Dalmunzie Estate extends to over 6,500 acres of rolling countryside and there is plenty to do within the estate itself. Fishing for rainbow and brown trout is available on a stocked loch and there is the opportunity to try clay pigeon shooting and stalking. There is great walking all around and also a 9 hole golf course that opened all the way back in 1922.

To the west of the Cairnwell Pass are three munros known as The Cairnwell Munros – Carn Aosda, Carn a’Gheoidh and The Cairnwell, an unsual cone-shaped mountain that can be seen for miles around. Those keen on some munro ‘bagging’ will relish the opportunity to be able to take in three different peaks in one day and the Cateran walking trail can also be joined nearby.

Get in touch on 01835 822277 to speak to our booking team to get your 2019 holiday booked in while we still have some availability.

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