Monday, 28 December 2015

Why is Hogmanay so important in Scotland?

Ever wondered why Hogmanay is so important in Scotland? Or why there are so many rituals and traditions associated with it?  Well so did we, so we thought we’d have a look into the history.

The Date - As with lots of traditions at this time of the year, many have their roots in Pagan and Norse customs.  Long before the arrival of Christianity, the inhabitants of Scotland were celebrating the arrival of the New Year around the time of the winter solstice (the shortest day)….we celebrate that on the 21st/22nd December here in Scotland.  Logically this is when we should still be celebrating the New Year, but the subsequent arrival of the Romans with their own calendars led to changes in the date.  The date changed several times over 100’s of years until the matter was finally settled when the Gregorian calendar was adopted by Britain in 1752. 

Throughout this time Scotland also experienced the arrival of Christianity in its various forms as well as the first celebrations of Christmas……which were subsequently banned in the Middle Ages.  Christmas and was not made a public holiday until as recently as 1958!  This meant that the biggest celebration of the year in Scotland was New Year, or Hogmanay!

Customs….in the order you should perform them!

Redding the House – This is the act of cleaning out the house before the start of the New Year, particularly the act of cleaning out the ashes from the hearth which could be read to predict the year ahead.  The ‘redding’ refers to the readying of house for the coming year.  There may not be many hearths left now, but many people do still do observe the tradition of cleaning the house so they can start afresh in the New Year.

Hogmanay Bonfire in Biggar
Bonfires and Torches – Harking back to the influence the Vikings had over much of Scotland, the use of fire is prevalent throughout many Hogmanay celebrations.  It is thought that the fire would ward off evil spirits or ‘burn the old year out’.  In places like Stonehaven and Biggar the New Year’s celebrations are started with a torchlight procession which lights an enormous bonfire.  Quite a spectacle if you are lucky enough to experience it.  Mostly though you can expect to see lots of fireworks....from the huge display in Edinburgh, to the more local, yet still impressive displays in places such as Grantown on Spey.

Auld Lang Syne – On the stroke of midnight up and down the country….indeed, all around the world, everyone will join in singing Auld Lang Syne and wishing one another Happy New Year.  This poem was written by Scotlands most famous poet, Robert Burns and somehow has become the theme tune to New Years Eve parties everywhere.

First Footing – Possibly the most famous of all the Scottish Hogmanay traditions is the ‘first footing’.  This is where a stranger is welcomed after midnight, bearing gifts of coal or shortbread and is repaid with a dram of whisky.  The arrival of a tall dark stranger on your doorstep was thought to bring especially good luck for the following year. Apparently this was due to most Vikings being fair haired and therefore not a welcome knock on the door....but then the same theory decreed that the a knock from a strange woman, a redhead or someone with cross eyes or flat feet would also be bad luck! Nowadays it is more likely that the neighbours will be calling.  Whoever it is, they must not already be in the house on the stroke of midnight or live in the house.

Steak Pie, Neeps and Tatties – Quite when this tradition started we do not know, but if you are in Scotland before New Year you will see the butchers and supermarkets piled high with Steak Pies.  Families the length and breadth of the country will be tucking in to Steak Pie, neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatos) on New Years Day. The best pies are home made of course, but if you go to the butchers, you buy your pie by weight! ie. the amount of steak in the pie!

An extra Bank Holiday – Unlike the rest of the UK, Scotland enjoys an extra Bank Holiday on the 2nd January…..possibly to recover from all the revelry of the days before!  Until recent years everything was closed, but gradually shops and supermarkets have started to open.  So far, everything remains steadfastly closed on the 1st of January. 

You don’t have to be in Scotland to enjoy a great New Years Eve…..although that would be the best way!  With good friends and all the best bits of our traditions you can have an authentic Hogmanay of your very own.  
Wherever you are in the world we hope you have a Happy New Year and wish you the very best of health and happiness for 2016.
From all of us at Scotland’s Best B&Bs

Visit our website to find your perfect B&B for your 2016 Scottish holiday

Friday, 11 December 2015

Our pick of great B&Bs for a perfect New Year in Scotland

When you think of going away for New Year, you must surely think of the home of Hogmanay when considering your options?  Nowhere embraces the start of a New Year more than the much so our most famous poet, Robert Burns, penned Auld Lang Syne just so you could all enjoy it with us!  

Up and down the country preparations are being made....the party has started early in Edinburgh with the streets alight and visitors already enjoying the fair....bonfires are being built in towns ready for the Hogmanay torchlight processions and dances are being practiced for the biggest ceilidh of the year. 

But it's not all partying.  Lots of people come to Scotland to get away from the excesses of the holiday season and just want to find somewhere to relax.  The winter is a magical time of year to be in any part of the country, especially with the first dustings of snow on the mountain tops.

Whether you are wanting to join in the party or just get away from it all, we have something for everyone.  Here are our pick of just some of the great B&Bs that you could be staying in this New Year.  Just click the links to visit the B&Bs listing on our website where you can find out more.

Binnilidh Mhor - Nr Loch Ness, The Highlands

For those that really want to get away from it all, this B&B in the heart of the Highlands is the perfect place to be.  Wouldn't you rather be looking at this on your New Years Day walk?  3 Nights from £260, 2 Nights from £182 View Listing

Brae House - Aberfeldy, Perthshire

Brae House is a beautiful property overlooking the River Tay in the centre of Perthshire. Walking, Mountains and beautiful scenery are right on the doorstep for that perfect New Year getaway.  Head to Pitlochry to bring in the New Year.  3 Nights from £335, 2 Nights from £250 View Listing

Waters Edge Cottage - Loch Lomond

What could be better than waking up on the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond on the first day of 2016?  Waters Edge Cottage is in the wonderfuly named 'Duck Bay' in Alexandria on the banks of the Loch. 3 Nights from £270, 2 Nights from £180 View Listing

Spean Lodge Country House, Spean Bridge

In the very heart of the Highlands you can find Spean Lodge.  It's just what you imagine when you think of a New Year break in a country house in the Highlands. 3 Nights from £405, 2 Nights from £270 View Listing

Newton Farm - Angus

How about spending time on a working farm for the new year?  Newton Farm provides a great getaway where you can visit all the animals and take a tour of the farm...a real antidote to the Christmas excess.  2 Nights from £200 View Listing

Highland View - Nr Glencoe, The Highlands

How would you like to wake up next to this wonderful view on New Years Day?  The appropriately named Highland View offers one of the most stunning vistas of any of our B&Bs looking out over mountains and Loch Linnhe  3 Nights from £250. 2 Nights from £170 View Listing

Leanach Farm - Culloden

A new year break at Leanach Farm offers the best of both worlds, a quiet country break on a working sheep farm, but, you can also get to Inverness in 6 miles and attend a super New Years party  in the city centre! 3 Nights from £270, 2 Nights from £180 View Listing

Sunnyside B&B - Nr Alloway

Where better to celebrate the New Year than in the birthplace of the man who wrote the soundtrack for New Year, Robert Burns.  Sadly the museum is closed over New Year, but you can enjoy a pleasant walk on the beach on New Years Day as it is only a short distance from Sunnyside 2 Nights from £153 Visit Listing

Tips for a Good New Year in Scotland

  • Be sure to speak to your B&B host before you arrive to see what is happening in their area.  Some events might be ticket only and it would be a shame if you arrived and could not attend something you have set your heart on 
  • Many shops, museums and restaurants in Scotland close on the 1st AND 2nd of January.  Speak to your host who will be able to help you find places to eat and things to do.
  • If relying on public transport, make sure you check times and availability on the two bank holidays (1st and 2nd January)
  • Make sure to book as soon as you can as these B&Bs won't be available for much longer!
  • Whatever you do, be sure to wish everyone a Happy New Year!
To find more great places to stay, or to start researching your 2016 holiday, visit our Website
* Availability and prices correct at time of publishing.  Please check with the B&Bs or our website for up to the minute prices and dates.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Welcome to the new Scotland's Best B&Bs Website for 2016

Today sees the launch of our great new website, just in time for our 20th Birthday next year! The team at Scotland’s Best B&Bs have spent the whole of this year working with Plan B Online to  develop a site fit for the modern traveller, with a wealth of information, integrated online booking and optimised for Mobile and Tablet devices.

It hardly seems possible that 20 years ago, Scotland’s Best B&Bs started with just a humble brochure, when the internet had only just begun and Google hadn’t even been heard of!  Scotland’s Best B&Bs was started in the Spring of 1996 by Jacqi Elmslie, a B&B proprietor in Inverness who wanted to be able to confidently recommend B&Bs of the the same high standard, to her guests.  As this was a time before the internet and online reviews, it wasn’t so easy for B&B owners to locate other highly commended B&Bs or to recommend ones further across Scotland that they’d never visited.

With a small grant and cooperation of The Scottish Tourist Board, the very first Scotland’s Best B&Bs brochure was published in 1996 and included 60 members. 

These B&Bs had all been selected for their high grading scores from the Scottish Tourist Board, but more importantly, had been personally visited by the new groups committee.  This selection process continues to this day and ensures that standards are kept high.

Over the years our members have received many awards for their hard work within the B&B sector and in 2007 Joan Campbell, an ex-Chairman of SBB&B’s was awarded the coveted Silver Thistle award for over 40 years of work within the industry.  The previous Scotland's Best B&Bs website has also won a Thistle award in the Innovation category and many of our members have either won or been runners up in their areas over the years.  The Thistle awards are the B&B version of the Oscars!

Over 60% of our members have a GOLD award from Visit Scotland.
Over 70% of our members have the Visit Scotland Taste our Best Award

A Brochure from 1998 and nest years 2016 Brochure 
The group has continued to evolve, increasing in numbers and embracing new ways of reaching out to its guests from the advent of email to the many forms of Social Media.  The group has also become so well respected  in the industry that we are frequently being asked to participate in many steering groups and committees, working toward improving tourism in Scotland.  Our latest website shows our commitment to using technology to connect with everyone who loves Scotland and wants to have the best experience possible when visiting.  

But even though the world might have become digital, we haven’t forgotten our roots and our B&Bs still have the human touch.  There are some things you just can’t computerise and that is the warm welcome you will get at our B&Bs, the high standards only a dedicated owner can maintain and the delicious food they lovingly prepare. 

Visit our new website at

Thanks to our wonderful web developers at Plan B Online and our Online Booking providers at Freetobook for helping us build such a terrific new site.  We hope you find it informative and easy to use.

You can also follow us on Twitter Facebook and Google+

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Meet our Chairwoman, Rosemary Young

The wonderful thing about Scotland's Best B&Bs is that we have some fascinating people in our group.  At our recent AGM, Rosemary Young OBE, was elected as our new Chairwoman.
Rosemary has been in the hospitality business for decades having previously owned hotels in Nairn, worked with the Government on hospitality and employment issues in the Highlands and is the current Chair of the Nairn Tourism Association.

Rosemary now runs the successful Inveran Lodge Bed and Breakfast in the coastal town of Nairn just 16 miles from Inverness.   The area is popular with visitors who want to experience the splendour of a Victorian seaside town as well as the many Golfers who come to play the world famous Golf courses like Castle Stuart and Royal Dornoch.
Our new Chair also has a keen interest in Golf having previously played for Hertfordshire, which is very helpful to the guests who stay at her B&B.  Rosemary provided a lot of valuable knowledge and text for the golf pages on our new website which we will be launching shortly.
Before hospitality, Rosemary enjoyed life as a sheep farmer and pony breeder and she has been on the BSPS panel of home and international judges since 1986, judging throughout the UK and Australia.  In her 'spare' time, Rosemary loves to spend time with her grandchildren and skiing in and around Nairn when the whether allows

On her election to the Chair of Scotland's Best B&Bs, Rosemary said...
"I am so honoured to have been chosen for this role.  From the moment that I became a member of SBB&Bs, I was not only thrilled to be asked to join, but I continued to be impressed by the network and the advantages of being included in such a prestigious group.  During the past year, as I attended committee meetings, I found the work not only interesting, but so focused on maintaining the highest standards of accommodation for visitors to Scotland.

"I am looking forward to an exciting year ahead, with the launch of our new website, our 20th Anniversary and discovering next generation of B&Bs who might be one of Scotland's Best B&Bs  "

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Scotland's Best B&Bs Annual AGM 2015

Once a year an Annual General Meeting is held where all the B&B owners that belong to Scotland's Best B&Bs can get together and meet their fellow B&Bers and discuss the issues of the day.  This years AGM was held in Perth this weekend and was enjoyed by all that came

 The weekend started with a meal on the Saturday evening where members from all over the country were able to meet, swap ideas and learn more about the other B&Bs in the group.  When  collegues are spread so far apart, it is always nice to meet people you may only previously spoken to on the phone
Sunday saw more members arrive to join in the AGM, where the plans for the coming year were discussed.  The longevity of Scotland's Best B&Bs is due in no small part to the active part the members play in running the organisation and the AGM is a great way for us to ensure we move with the times.

Speaking of which, the group got to see a preview of the new Scotland's Best B&Bs website which is due to launch in just a few weeks time. Having started 20 years ago with just a humble brochure, we are now looking at our 3rd website which is optimised for Mobile and tablet and includes on line booking...things that hadn't even been thought of when we first started
The day ended with an inspiring speech from our new Chair, Rosemary Young OBE, looking forward to an exciting future for Scotland's Best B&Bs.  Rosemary has a long career in the hospitality industry and runs a successful B&B, Inveran Lodge, in Nairn.  

In the coming year, the new Chair and Committee will be working hard on the groups behalf as well as discovering new B&Bs that might qualify to become one of Scotland's Best B&Bs!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

New Flights Announced between London Heathrow and Inverness

International travelers have welcomed the news today that British Airways are to introduce flights from London Heathrow direct to Inverness, starting May 2016.  The Highland capital has long been a key destination for overseas visitors and this new route will make reaching popular areas such as the Cairngorms and Loch Ness that much easier.  Flights are due to start on the 3rd of May and run all year round.
Highfield House B&B in Inverness

We have a number of recommended B&Bs near to Inverness airport, many of which will make a great base for a Highland holiday.  Choose from our members in the centre of the historic city of Inverness, in the beautiful coastal town of Nairn or out in the iconic countryside Website

Take the chill off this winter and warm yourself at a Scottish B&B

After an exceptionally busy summer, many of our hosts are preparing their homes now to welcome winter visitors to Scotland.  This is a most magical time with spectacular autumn colours across the forests and hills, the first sprinkling of snow on the mountain tops and the sound of a good crunchy frost underfoot.  Many people prefer to visit at this time of year as the landscape is transformed.  It is an especially popular time for photographers and wildlife watchers as well as skiers waiting for the first snow at Aviemore and Glencoe. Closer to the cities and towns like Edinburgh and Glasgow, Christmas Markets and Fairs pop up giving you the opportunity to purchase Scottish gifts and produce for that unique Christmas present.
Many of our recommended B&Bs are open all year and are ready to welcome you with roaring fires, home baking and of course, drying rooms!  Some are open over the Christmas and New Year holidays and ALL will be happy to welcome you to their homes!

Check our website to see where you could be staying this winter and visit our Events pages to see what’s on.

Home Baking at Glenegdale House on the Isle of Islay
Autumn Colours in Aviemore
First snow in the Highland - Photo by Home Farm B&B, Muir of Ord

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Steam Train Travel in the Highlands of Scotland

A guest staying at Tigh na Bruach, one of Scotland's Best B&B members by Loch Ness had a great day out earlier this week on the Strathspey Railway where you can enjoy a ride on a steam train with beautiful views of the Cairngorm Mountains.

He posted on the Strathspey Railway Facebook page saying,
Had a lovely day today on the Strathspey railway. Enjoyed lunch while travelling in first class comfort with waitress service. A great day out on yet another warm (21 degrees) and sunny day in the Highlands.
The Highlands of Scotland provides a wonderful destination for short breaks, family escapes and increasingly activity holidays for all ages throughout the year.

Attractions such as The Strathspey Railway run themed programmes throughout the year and include Festive specials with Santa!

Find out more about the destination and Scotland's Best B&Bs on the site.

Tigh na Bruach is located in woods near Loch Ness and only three miles from Drumnadrochit.