Friday, 10 February 2017

Castles and Kilts! Why Scotland is Ideal for (MICE) Corporate Events

A picture of Edinburgh castle at sunset in Edinburgh Scotland United Kingdom

Edinburgh castle at sunset in Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

The spirit, landscape and sheer quantity of activities on offer make Scotland a great business destination. Whether you’re planning a meeting, incentive, corporate gathering, conference or event, the number of options make Scotland a unique and impressive destination for any MICE event.

Scotland has over 1,000 castles and they make a one-of-a-kind location for a magical event or an exclusive incentive. Our favourite castle experiences include themed royal evenings at Stirling Castle, a private reception at Edinburgh Castle and a product launch at Scone Palace (we know it’s not technically a castle but we love it). There are so many options from the updated and luxurious to the classic and gothic.  

A picture of the famous Swilcan bridge on the 18th hole of the Old Course links in St Andrews, Scotland

The famous Swilcan bridge on the 18th hole of the Old Course links in St Andrews, Scotland

The legacy of golf spans six centuries in Scotland so there is no better place to play a round of golf. After all, Scotland is the country that gave the game to the world.
There are over 550 fantastic courses to choose from. Our favourite places to play a round are St. Andrews, one of the oldest courses in the world and in Speyside for golfing in Malt Whisky country - after a game you can sample some malt at a distillery.

A picture of the Strathisla distillery the oldest and most picturesque distillery in the highlands of Scotland
Strathisla distillery, the oldest and most picturesque distillery in the highlands of Scotland

Whisky is the closest thing to Scotland in a glass and there is so many whisky related activities (aside from drinking it) to do in Scotland. There is nothing like the sights, sounds and unmistakable aromas of a traditional Scottish distillery. Tours to discover the origins of Scotch Malt and of picturesque distilleries like the Strathisla are a must. Another great whisky option is a led whisky tasting at an event or coupled with a dinner at a castle.

A picture of an Owl in flight at a Falconry demonstration at Dunrobin Castle, Golspie in Scotland
Falconry at Dunrobin Castle, Golspie in Scotland

Falcons and Fishing
Scotland is famous for its ancient sports. We’ve been experts in Royal sports since the monarchy began hunting in the forests and fishing in the rivers of Scotland. Today, these sports have become exclusive experiences. At a falconry display, you can see the spectacular sight of a bird of prey hunting with the backdrop of a castle.
Scotland is also one of the world's top destinations for freshwater and sea angling. There is world-class fishing available across the country throughout the year.

A view of the Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland with rolling hills in the background

Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland

The Great Outdoors
Another reason for a team event in Scotland is because it is the ultimate natural playground. With the Highlands on the doorstep, the spectacular mountains are ideal for hiking and exploring. But sometimes the best way to promote teamwork, fun and company values is with some outdoor activities. Scotland has many to choose from including canyoning, bungee jumping, survival skills and whitewater rafting. Expert instructors will cater for all abilities. These experiences will bring any team together.

A man dressed in a kilt lifting a Caber or large wooden pole during a Highland Games Caber Toss demonstration at Winton Castle Pencaitland, East Lothian, Scotland
A Highland Games Caber Toss demonstration at Winton Castle Pencaitland, East Lothian, Scotland

Highland Games
For an authentic Scottish atmosphere, you can create your own Highland Games clan gathering. Kilts will swirl, pipes will skirl and haggis will be hurled at your exclusive event. Staged in breathtaking scenery, with a castle or country house as a backdrop, this magical day gives a truly warm Scottish welcome.

A picture of Three young gentlemen walking and wearing a semi-dress sporran kilt outfit
Three young gentlemen wearing a semi-dress sporran kilt outfit

And, of course, we couldn’t forget Scotland’s national man skirt, the kilt. Any dinner can be made more interesting with a kilt dress code.

There are so many reasons to host a meeting, incentive, corporate gathering, conference or event in Scotland.

We look forward to welcoming you to Scotland!

Monday, 6 February 2017

Temple Bar: The Vibrant Heart of Dublin’s Pub and Music Scene

A picture of St Patricks Day Parade at O'Connell Bridge Dublin Ireland
St Patricks Day Parade, O'Connell Bridge, Dublin, Ireland

St. Patrick’s Day is on the horizon & here at Cashel Travel we're planning our celebrations. With this in mind, we thought we’d explore one of Dublin’s best spots: Temple Bar.

Imagine the best that Dublin city has to offer - pubs, restaurants, galleries and music - all gathered together in a few cobbled streets. This is the cultural heart of Dublin city.

Temple bar has always been a popular spot, the Vikings set up camp on the bank of the Liffey there as long ago as 795 AD. The remains of the Viking settlement can be seen in Dublin city castle today. Fast forward a few hundred years and the British diplomat Sir William Temple built his grand residence and his gardens and fixed the name, Temple Bar.

A night time picture at the corner of The Temple Bar Pub in Temple Bar with a few people outside socialising
The Temple Bar in Temple Bar, Dublin

A Taste of Temple Bar
A real treat can be had at The Clarence Hotel tearooms. A lucky visitor might even see the owners, Bono and lead guitarist from U2, The Edge. Wandering the cobbled streets delicious scents draw you to the doors of the many restaurants with their mix of international and local flavours. From The Chameleon serving contemporary Indonesian cuisine to the Italian restaurant Il Baccaro located in an eighteenth-century wine merchant's cellar. For traditional Irish food, the best place is The Quays Irish Restaurant where the specialities include Guinness stew, Dublin coddle and the famous Wicklow lamb shank. A hearty meal can be had at any of theses places before an evening of music in Temple Bar’s pubs.

A view of the Wall of Fame looking down Cecilia St in Temple Bar, Dublin
Wall of Fame, Temple Bar, Dublin

Cultural Heart of Dublin
Temple Bar is the city’s playground on the South Bank of the River Liffey. It’s crowded with cafes, pubs, galleries and music hubs. It’s the beating heart of Dublin city at any time of year.

Buskers and street artists entertain locals and tourists alike, filling the streets with music and dazzling shows. But that’s not all. An array of markets from fresh and local foods, antique books and the latest page-turner novels, to a designer market showcasing the best of handmade craft and design produced by Irish artists.

Away from all the hubbub is the ‘Old City’ area of Temple Bar with its sophisticated calm of independent boutiques, stores and cafes. Perfect for a quiet stroll and a cup of coffee.

Numerous galleries line the streets, including Temple Bar Gallery and Studios, one of the largest gallery/studio complexes in Europe. More than 30 artists work here on a variety of contemporary visual arts from sculpture and painting to printing and photography. The National Wax Museum giving a wax representation of Irish history, politics and sporting events.  

An evening picture of The Oliver St John Gogarty Bar in Temple Bar Dublin with people socialising & passing outside
The Oliver St John Gogarty Bar in Temple Bar, Dublin

Temple Bar by Night
Temple Bar has the most pubs in Dublin so it’s no surprise that as the sun goes down the volume goes up. Street musicians play their hearts out to the revellers who jump from pub to pub. The lively strains of traditional Irish bands tempt anyone into the bars for a pint and a dance. Some of Ireland’s best musicians gather here to share their love of music.

The Oliver St John Gogarty offers traditional music at every hour of the day and night. While Cassidy’s Bar, renowned for Bill Clinton’s visit in 1995, is a real Irish bar with a bohemian atmosphere, a jazz basement, a piano bar and, of course, traditional Irish music played regularly throughout the week. Another favourite is The Vat House Bar, that got its name from the vat house in the Guinness brewery where during the first phase of Guinness brewing it is stored in large vats and left to mature. The interior of the bar reflects this maturing and developing process, with timber floors salvaged from the original St. James Gate Brewery.

The Brazen Head is Ireland’s oldest pub, dating back to 1198, and has a timeworn sense of history within its walls. Its past patrons have included literaries such as James Joyce and Jonathan Swift, as well as revolutionaries like Michael Collins and Wolfe Tone. The Brazen Head is the authentic Irish pub experience and well worth a visit for anyone in Temple Bar.

A picture of people mostly dressed in Green or Irish colours enjoying the St Patricks day celebrations outside the Quays Bar in Temple Bar
The Quays, Temple Bar, St Patricks Day

St. Patrick’s Day
The nightlife in Temple Bar is known to be the best in Dublin, and even more so on March 17th, St. Patrick’s day and Ireland’s national holiday. And it’s just around the corner! By midday, the streets are full of people celebrating and you can be sure the main colour they'll be wearing is green. The St. Patrick’s Parade goes right past Temple Bar and it’s easy to catch a glimpse from many of the cobbled streets.

This year the parade will be brought to life by leading pageant companies presenting their fantastical creations and thrilling performances to excite the crowds. Amid the colourful pageantry bands from the USA, Mexico, Germany and Ireland will play uplifting music. It is set to be a memorable event.

St. Patrick’s Day showcases the best Irish music, culture and history, but all this is available at Temple Bar at any time of year. Luckily at Cashel Travel we arrange custom tours to the vibrant capital.

Spotlight on Rosslyn Chapel

A picture of Rosslyn Chapel after restoration work was finished
Rosslyn Chapel in Roslin, Midlothian, Scotland

Scotland is dotted with historic sites from castles to neolithic monuments, but there are perhaps none so shrouded in intrigue and mystery as Rosslyn Chapel. Now, after 16 years of work at the medieval chapel, restoration was completed in 2013 and the chapel is as spectacular as when it was founded in 1446. The mysterious symbols of the chapel’s ornate stonework has attracted visitors for generations but recently it has become even more popular with the publication Dan Brown’s novel, The Da Vinci Code, in 2003 and later featuring in the hit blockbuster of the same name, starring Tom Hanks.

Since the 1980s the chapel has been central to many speculative theories connected to Freemasonry, the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail. It is thought by many that the Knights Templar brought the Holy Grail to Rosslyn Chapel and left it there for safekeeping. Who can say if this is true? But anyone can now go and explore the chapel’s intricate carvings and underground chambers and attempt to discover the hiding place of the Grail.

The chapel is a great place to visit not only for its stunning location and secretive past but also because it is a mere twenty minutes drive from Edinburgh city. A trip to the chapel means you can become a detective. Find the date the chapel was founded, inscribed up high on the outside walls. Or go downstairs to the sacristy and discover the original architects’ drawings etched on the wall.

A picture of the top of the Apprentice Pillar inside Rosslyn Chapel
The Apprentice Pillar in Rosslyn Chapel

Building a Chapel
It’s no easy task to build a chapel, particularly one with such intricate carvings and elegant structure, especially in the mid-15th century, but Sir William Sinclair, 1st Earl of Caithness, employed brilliant craftsmen to build his Catholic collegiate.

The architecture of the chapel is some of the finest in Scotland. Although the original building was supposed to be a cruciform in shape it was never completed and only the choir was constructed, built on the crypt, which is believed to have formed part of an earlier castle. Scotland’s past overlapping. The chapel stands on fourteen magnificently carved pillars. Three of which are named: the Master Pillar, the Journeyman Pillar and, most famously, the Apprentice Pillar.

The Apprentice Pillar gets its name from a legend that tells of the master mason who did not believe that his apprentice could carve the column without seeing the pillar that provided the design’s inspiration. The master mason travelled to see the original but on his return was enraged to find that the upstart apprentice had carved the column himself. In a fit of jealousy, the master mason took his hammer and struck the apprentice on the head, killing him outright. The story states that as a punishment the master mason’s head was carved into the opposite corner from the column to forever gaze upon his apprentice’s superior craftsmanship.

The chapel is not the only site in the area worth seeing. Nearby is the magnificent structure of Rosslyn Castle or you can take a wander through the stunning woods that make up the local countryside. In the quaint village of Roslin a bite to eat can be had at ‘The Original’ in their friendly bar or at The Grail restaurant, which opens at weekends. The restaurant’s name gives a nod to one of the badly kept secrets of the chapel, that it hides the Holy Grail within its walls.

A picture from inside the Rosslyn Chapel Crypt
Rosslyn Chapel Crypt

The Secrets of Rosslyn Chapel
The search for the Grail has never ceased and the legendary vessel, which Christ is thought to have drunk from at the Last Supper, is considered the most important Christian relic. There is mystery and intrigue surrounding the Holy Grail but luckily it’s easy to visit Rosslyn Chapel, as well as many other sites throughout Britain, and piece together the puzzle of secrets that may lead to the true story behind the Grail.

Rosslyn Chapel contains many of the Templar’s symbols who are thought to have brought the Holy Grail to the chapel. The carving of ‘Two riders on a single horse’ also appear on the seal of the Knights Templar. William Sinclair, who built Rosslyn chapel 150 years after the Knights Templar dissolution, is claimed to be the descendant of the Grand Master of the Scottish stonemasons. Over the years the Freemasons have had many links with the Knights Templar. A later William Sinclair of Roslin became the first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland and many other members of the Sinclair family have since held the position. Clues that support the theory that the Grail is concealed in Rosslyn Chapel.

There are also other carvings in the chapel that reflect masonic imagery, like the carving of a man blindfolded and being led with a noose around his neck - similar to the way a candidate is prepared for initiation into the Freemasons. Each carving holds it’s own secrets and anyone can discover them on a visit to the chapel.

Here at Cashel Travel we design custom made ‘Holy Grail’ tours which take you from Edinburgh to London with visits to Freemason Lodges, majestic castles and underground mysteries so that any of our guests can discover for themselves the truth about the Holy Grail, the Freemasons and the Knights Templar.

Friday, 3 February 2017

London: Shop Till You Drop

People shopping on Regent Street & Oxford Street London
Regent Street & Oxford Street

There is so much to see and do in London: Madame Tussaud's, Buckingham Palace, and London Eye, to name just a few of our favourite sights. But after a few busy days exploring you’ll be ready for a change with an afternoon of shopping. But with so many places on offer where should you go?
We’ve whittled it down to our favourite shopping locations including famous department stores, markets and hidden gems.

Wide view of Harrods store in Knightsbridge London
Harrods on Brompton Rd, Knightsbridge, London

Harrods and Selfridges
In Knightsbridge doormen open the doors into Harrods, a shop unlike any other. It is awash with marble, gilt sphinxes and probably Arabian princes’s. Not forgetting what you can actually buy in the store: designer handbags, one of a kind dresses, and the shoe department (a whole floor) claims to be the biggest in the world. Oh and there are a few departments for men as well. A fun amusement can be to set oneself a test to find anything under £10. It’s quite a challenge.

Selfridges is another fashionista favourite, famed for its extravagant window installations which in the past have included a Mad Hatter’s tea party, Santa on a scooter and a herd of galloping zebra.

People passing by Fortnum & Masons shopfront
Fortnum & Masons flagship store in Piccadilly

Fortnum and Masons
This is a plush temple to fine foods, teas and wines and has been in business for more than 300 years. It’s premises oozes luxury, even the rooftop beehives, which supply the store’s own-brand of honey, are palatial dwellings for their tiny inhabitants. Goods range from truffles to mustards, and of course not forgetting their famous hampers. There are five impressive restaurants. In the 1707 wine bar you can sip a bottle of your choice from the excellent wine department.

People shopping & sampling the wonders on offer at the Market in Marylebone Village
Marylebone High Street in the heart of central London

North of Oxford Street is Marylebone a polished enclave of upmarket shops. The Edwardian Daunt Books is London’s loveliest bookshop. Its stained-glass windows and book-lined galleries make it highly instagramable. We recommend taking a stroll along Chiltern Street, a handsome Victorian-Gothic thoroughfare lined with stylish independent boutiques and cafes.

A really pretty picture of Christmas decorations hanging in Covent Garden market building
Inside the Covent Garden Market building at Christmas

Covent Garden
This long time favourite has recently had some impeccably cool shopping options arrive including a huge apple store and the beauty boutique Aesop. The historic covered market building attracts troupes of performers to entertain shoppers, especially under the portico of St Paul’s church. Wandering by you may catch a burst of an aria from Madame Butterfly or Carmen. It’d be the perfect taster before an evening at the Grand Opera House.

Moving away from the high end shops, an essential part of London’s culture are markets, and there are plenty to choose from. In these fascinating and varied street pop ups you never know what you might find.

A high view of a section inside the Borough Market London
Inside Borough Market, Southwark St, London

Borough Market
Temptation is all around at this sprawling food market. We recommend you head out hungry to take advantage of the rolling cheeses, olives, pies and cakes. Highlights include Cannon and Cannon’s artisanal British cured meats and Kappacasein’s amazing toasted cheese sarnies.

The days of wholesale fruit and vegetables are long gone at this Victorian market. Instead expect an arty array of hand-printed T-shirts, vintage dresses, bric-a-brac and food stalls, surrounded by a sleek shopping precinct.

An evening view of the Camden Lock Market Hall in London
Camden Lock Market Hall

For hip and counterculture fashion go no further than Camden market to pick up neon tutu’s, studded jeans and arty-crafty accessories. The market’s various subsections sprawl north from Camden town tube, the perfect labyrinth of unusual clothing and eccentric hairdos.

An example of the strange & wonderful items you can buy at Hoxton Street Monster Supplies, a Neck-Bolt Tightener
A Neck-Bolt Tightener, available from Hoxton Street Monster Supplies 

Hidden Gems
There are also plenty of fantastic secret shops tucked away in London’s bustling streets. Check out Choccywoccydoodah a colourful boutique shop elevating chocolate to an art form with plenty of edible sculptures, extraordinary cakes and a cosy cafe. Through the Looking Glass is a treasure-trove of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland-themed items. If you are in search of an old fashioned yacht chandler then go no further than Arthur Beale. Or if psychedelic clothing is more down your street hit Cyberdog with its pole dancers and light up T-shirts. Finally a shopping spree is not complete without a stop in Hoxton Street Monster Supplies where you can purchase all the essentials from tinned fear to cubes of ear wax. It’s been in business since 1818!

Well, we think we’ve given you plenty options for a packed afternoon of shopping. We hope you enjoy.