Scotland’s striking architectural treasures span the centuries from medieval castles to modern auditoriums. Engineering marvels range from Victorian bridges and viaducts to the Falkirk Wheel - an awe-inspiring and beautiful rotating boat lift built in 2002, and the first boat lift built in Britain since 1875! While Scottish prowess in design in emblazoned everywhere from its colourful textiles to the unique Art Nouveau style of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Glasgow.
This year Scotland celebrates the richness of its much-loved heritage, culture and environment, alongside the contemporary and cutting edge designs of today. From textiles to technology, architecture to fashion and design, a year-long programme will shine the spotlight on Scotland’s greatest assets and icons, as well as some of the hidden gems.
Scotland’s story is written in sandstone and granite, steel and glass. It has always been at the forefront of architectural design and continues to be so. There are as many striking modern buildings to take in as there are fabulous architectural treasures from the past. Here are just a few of the highlights that you will encounter all over Scotland.
The delightful 14th Century Rosslyn Chapel is now a popular tourist location due to its central role in Dan Brown’s book and movie – The da Vinci Code. Imposing Balmoral Castle is another “must see” – completed in 1856 and favourite of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert it is the summer residence of the current Royal Family. Eilean Donan Castle, first inhabited around the 6th century, is probably one of the most iconic images of Scotland – but there are many impressive castles throughout the land.
Aberdeen is known as the “Granite City” and boasts many imposing buildings fashioned in locally quarried grey granite. Especially when the sun comes out after a period of rain the stone can sparkle like silver because of its high mica content.
Edinburgh is world-renowned for its rich architectural heritage. There are 4500 listed buildings in Edinburgh and Edinburgh Castle is surely the most iconic symbol of the city. Built on a rock dominating the city, it dates back to the original 12th century St Margaret’s Chapel, and more buildings have been added over the centuries. The castle has a fascinating history - battles and sieges were fought over it and royalty lived and died in it.
The world famous Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo at the Castle is an annual global gathering showcasing the talents of musicians and performers from around the world. Visitors can also see the The Stone of Destiny - a powerful and ancient symbol of Scottish monarchy that witnessed the coronation of its kings for hundreds of years. In 1296 Edward I of England took the stone from Scone, near Perth, and had it built into his own throne. It was returned to Scotland to the Crown Room in Edinburgh Castle in 1996.
Edinburgh's Royal Mile is a vibrant area steeped in the city's colourful history. Edinburgh’s Old Town with its cobbled streets and closes give visitors a sense of what it must have been like to live in cramped conditions of medieval times. Today it is home to countless cafes, restaurants and specialist shops. Edinburgh’s New Town development had a major influence on urban architecture and town planning throughout Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Old and the New Towns of Edinburgh was created a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.
When you think of Glasgow you may think of Victorian sandstone buildings, but there are also striking modern buildings such as the Hydro entertainment venue, the Clyde Auditoriuim (Armadillo) and the Glasgow Science Centre. Glasgow architecture is also synonymous with the Art Nouveau design of Charles Renee Mackintosh in the early 1900’s. Mackintosh did not just create grand buildings like the Glasgow School of Art or The Lighthouse but also delights such as the Willow Tea Rooms and the charming House for an Art Lover.
Other Victorian masterpieces in Glasgow include St. Vincent Street Church, a Presbyterian church on St. Vincent Street. It was designed by Alexander Thomson (also known as "Greek" Thomson due to his Geek revival style). Holmwood House just a few miles outside the centre of Glasgow is another classical design by Thomson. The Necropolis is a unique representation of Victorian Glasgow – the remains of almost every eminent Glaswegian of the time are enshrined in monuments of ornate sculptural detail.
A great example of industrial architecture is the Titan Crane in Glasgow, which was built in the heart of the shipbuilding hub of Clydebank and finished in 1907. This century-old crane towers 150 ft over the Clyde, and on a clear evening you can see the mighty cantilever crane from miles away, thanks to its nightly illuminations. Today the Crane is one of Scotland’s most unique tourist attractions, acting as a lookout point over Glasgow. Innovative Scotts engineering has given us bridges, viaducts and more and continues to this day - 2016 will see the opening of the new Queensferry Crossing. Set to be the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world this beautiful bridge will join the Forth Rail and Road bridges across the Firth of Forth.
No celebration of Scottish innovation and design would be complete without mentioning the textile designs for which the country is famous. The well-known Harris Tweed is a cloth handwoven by islanders at their homes in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland and made from pure virgin wool dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides. Harris Tweed is protected by the Harris Tweed Act 1993, which strictly outlines the conditions in which the cloth can genuinely be made. The main centre of production for Harris Tweed is now the Isle of Lewis, where the wool is dyed, carded and spun; you can see all these processes by visiting the Lewis Loom Centre in Stornaway.
Indeed the Scottish Islands are a hotbed of creativity. From jewellery, knitwear and paintings to the distinctive Orkney chair - follow the Orkney Craft Trail. Inspired by Shetland’s dramatic scenery, heritage and culture, Shetland arts and crafts producers offer a unique range of woodcraft, knitwear and textiles, fancy goods, fashion and home accessories, gifts, and fine art. And the Isle of Skye Craft Trail takes you to the open studios and galleries of painters inspired by the unique island light, local legends and the island's dramatic landscape of unusually eroded and sculptured geological forms.
It’s never been easier to get to Scotland than in 2016 with Air Transat’s direct routes to Glasgow from Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver. And exciting news – there is a new non-stop route from Montreal launching on May 29, 2016. Glasgow is a great choice as your arrival point in Scotland. It is the largest city in Scotland and only about 1 hour from Edinburgh by train with a frequent commuter service. There is also an Express bus between Glasgow and Edinburgh that runs every 15 mins in peak times.
All these flights are aboard award winning Air Transat, which has been named best North American Leisure Airline for the third consecutive year and has also received the Family Friendly Airline award two years in a row.
If you haven’t flown Air Transat for a while, their planes are completely refurbished – offering a level of comfort that is important on a Transatlantic flight. Expect a bigger seat pitch, a free seat back entertainment system, mood lighting and more. And on a longer flight it’s also worth considering an upgrade for extra comfort with Transat’s Option Plus and Club Class services.
Transat can help with accommodation and excursions once you arrive in Scotland. As well as a la carte hotel accommodation and car rental there are packages and excursions to help you make the best of your trip to Scotland.
The “Go As You Please” package from Transat comprises B&B accommodation of your choice in a package that comprises flights to Glasgow, 7 nights B&B, 7 full breakfasts plus car rental.
Another Transat package is the Edinburgh and Historic Scotland package. This comprises flights to Glasgow,2 nights hotel in Glasgow and 5 nights hotel in Edinburgh, Train between the two cities, plus:
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