Looking Back, Looking Forward
Now the shortest day has passed and as the festive season approaches it’s a great time to look back on the year, select a few highlights and make some predictions for 2017.
The North Coast 500 has undoubtedly been one of the biggest success stories of the year with a huge surge in visitor numbers to the west coast. Nobody could have predicted just how much it would capture the imagination of visitors from all around the world and the resulting leap in traffic left service providers at times struggling to meet demand. This means in practical terms that next year will be even better with added facilities due to businesses having had enough time to plan and adapt to the needs of all the extra traffic. If we have any advice for those thinking of doing the route it is to take it slowly, stop and wallow in the landscape and the many attractions en-route rather than see it pass in a blur from the car window.
One of the pivotal moments of the year, maybe even of our generation was the Brexit vote. Long term it is impossible to say with any degree of certainty what will happen, but the fall in the value of the Pound has already started to affect the holiday habits of some. For those travelling from overseas the myriad attractions of Scotland can be had for much less in real terms than at any time for years. The resulting increases in the cost of foreign holidays due to the poor exchange rate is also gently persuading more and more people of the benefits of holidaying in their own country.
One of our biggest inspirations of the year was a visit to a hole in the ground in the Outer Hebrides. To even describe the Hebridean Earth House as such is to do it a remarkable disservice. This hobbit hole, covered by earth on almost every side and perfectly blended into the landscape is a stunning and unique triumph for its architects. Bright, sunny and luxurious this pioneering building will be ready to rent from LHH early in the new year and in our opinion is ready to kick-start a trend for luxurious eco-living on the islands.
Another trend that we see happening in 2017 is the emergence of the Uists as a major holiday destination. Skye, Lewis and Harris have for many years been attracting the majority of visitors on the west coast. It’s easy to see why, the pristine beaches, history, culture and outdoors sports opportunities make them the obvious first choice. But the Uists are finally starting to realise their potential and are quickly catching up. Now would be a brilliant time to visit with great deals to be had on properties with amazing views, hot tubs or traditional thatched roofs. New ferry connections to the mainland and more reliable boats mean that it is easier than ever to get across and see why so many people are calling them the next big thing.
Stones and bones will also be big in 2017 with Visit Scotland officially launching The Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology. Part of the reason for this being chosen is to try and focus attention on the huge number of fascinating historical sites you can visit on holiday here. In addition to the really well known sites like Callanish Standing Stones and Edinburgh Castle there are hundreds of accessible, fascinating and educational places of interest, just waiting to be discovered.
One of our biggest disappointments in 2016 was the extensive damage caused to Inver Lodge at the start of the year in the massive floods that devastated large parts of Aberdeenshire. The building was originally a coaching inn and has been standing since the 1760s so fortunately was able to survive reasonably intact structurally (they built them pretty sturdy back then). The owners have been working tirelessly all year, not only to repair the damage but to totally renovate the whole interior. The old fashioned charm of the original bar and lounge will remain but facilities will be greatly modernised. The lodge will be reopening for bookings in the New Year and the photos of the refurbishment due in January are some of the most eagerly anticipated of 2017.