As the world famous Edinburgh Festival gets into full swing in Scotland, we asked our Scottish correspondent Rob Bruce (yes, that is his real name!) to review some of the exclusive luxury experiences available in the county for the well-heeled traveller.
The Hebridean Princess
“Luxury, small ship cruising as individual as you….” is how the Hebridean Princess sells itself, and with 38 crew looking after only 50 passengers every voyage, there is little doubt those individuals will be exceptionally well looked after.
There are a host of itineraries available, and the ship can also be booked for private hire, but the jewel in the crown is the Hidden Isles of the Hebrides tour which starts at £8600 for seven nights. From Oban, passengers will travel to Gigha and the beach on Jura where the 180 residents are outnumbered by more than 6000 red deer. Then it’s off to the islands of Coll, on to Bishop’s Isle, Can, Iona, Ulva and back to Oban taking in all sorts of amazing sights along the way.
All meals and drinks are included, including onshore picnics, champagnes and wine, as are the service of local guides at each shore stop, and all entrance fees to castles, gardens and other areas of interest on dry land.
If you want to travel on a floating country house, the Hebridean Princess is definitely the place for you.
The Royal Scotsman
The iconic Royal Scotsman train offers another mobile country house experience, but this time on tracks as opposed to water. Like the Hebridean Princess, there are a wide range of itineraries on offer, but the highlight as far as Luxury Launches is concerned is the “Whisky Journey”, a four night dram swilling extravaganza costing £4680 per person.
A whisky ambassador meets you at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh for a welcome drink before you board the train which hosts only 36 guest in beautiful, opulent private carriages. The next five days will see you enjoy the stunning Scottish scenery, friendly locals and wonderful food and whisky in places like Keith, Inverness, Plockton, Carrbridge, Boat of Garten, the Cairngorms and back to Edinburgh, including distillery visits to Glenlivet and Tullibardine.
The Alfred Dunhill
The Alfred Dunhill Links Championship is one of the world’s leading golf events, and as you would expect being sponsored by a luxurious men’s brand, it provides hospitality and an experience which is second to none when it comes to premium golf.
Now in its 15th year, it takes place annually every October, attracting not only golfing pros, but a host of celebrity amateurs. Nowhere else in the world will you be able to see the likes of Michael Douglas, Samuel L Jackson, Morgan Freeman, Hugh Grant and Dennis Quaid share the fairways with golfing greats such as Padraig Harrington, Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood.
The event takes place over three different courses in or near St Andrews, where visitors are spoilt for accommodation choices – St Andrews Bay Hotel, The Old Course and Hotel Du Vin – but you have to book early if you want to share breakfast with Holywood’s finest.
Gleneagles is more than just a hotel, it’s an award winning luxury experience. Arguably the best hotel in the world, it has three internationally renowned golf courses, a superb spa, and offers a range of activities including off road driving, wildlife photography, falconry, an equestrian school, and even on site dog training
It also offers six different dining experiences, one of which is the Andrew Fairlie restaurant. Fairlie is Scotland’s only chef to hold two Michelin stars, and his exquisite restaurant is the perfect place to taste his amazing twist on French and Scottish cuisine.
The Winter Festival
Nearly 2.5million tickets are sold in the month of August for the world famous Edinburgh Festival, which is why Luxury Launches is suggesting you visit Scotland’s capital city at time when it’s less busy and a little more….Scottish. And that time is Hogmanay. Nobody celebrates the New Year like the Scots, and nowhere celebrates it in Scotland like Edinburgh.
Edinburgh’s Christmas festival lasts three weeks taking place over multiple sites in the town centre. St Andrew Square features the Spiegeltent, where festive show’s take place, the Scottish artisan gift and food market and a stunning circular ice rink.
East Princes Street Gardens hosts the Big Wheel and the Star Flyer, both of which give stunning views over the city, another ice rink, Santa Land, a huge traditional carousel, and one of the world’s biggest (and busiest) European Christmas markets.
Last year the historic Royal Mile was transformed into the beautiful Street of Light with over 60,000 festive lights synchronised with specially commissioned recordings by choirs from across Edinburgh.
Then of course there is fabulous and world famous Street Party which has seen the likes of Primal Scream, Kasabian, Blondie and the Pet Shop Boys see in the New Year with more than 70,000 revellers, top DJs and one of the best firework displays in the world.
Luxury travellers are spoilt for choice when it comes to accommodation in Scotland’s capital city, but you won’t go far wrong with the likes of The Balmoral, The GnV, The Waldorf Astoria and Prestonfield House. For luxury loving foodies there are way too many options to mention in full, but Tom Kitchen, Martin Wishart, Castle Terrace and The Witchery would sit at the top of any gourmands list.