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Winton Castle’s common sense approach to sustainability 01st March 2018

The rich history of Winton Castle and the Estate stretches back to Bronze Age through to the Norman Conquest in 1066 and to the Royal gift of the estate in 1150 by David I to Phillip de Sayton. In this blog post Winton’s owner, Sir Francis Ogilvy, discusses their approach to sustainability, corporate social responsibility and local community

Estates can offer integrated management where farms often cannot. In the past, trees were planted and villages and schools built, said Francis Ogilvy. Today you can’t just do that – you have to work with the planning process – and some trust has been lost between communities and landowners.

A lot of what we’ve done in terms of conservation and sustainability is simply common sense. For example, we had 800 acres of our own woods and needed to replace the old oil-fired boiler, so in 2000 we put in one of the UK’s first wood chip, biomass boilers. Our investments in a wind turbine and solar panels provide electricity for homes and power log cutting equipment for Winton Logs. Excess electricity goes back to the grid so it makes commercial sense.

The woodlands that we’ve planted act as buffers round land where sand and gravel extraction is planned. The trees also contribute to carbon capture. In our farming operations, we seek to minimise fertiliser and chemical usage because it’s expensive, and the run-off from the soil can contaminate water supplies.

Uncultivated wildlife margins have been set up alongside rivers and at field edges because this encourages the wildlife that we all love to see. It protects indicator species like bumble bees, partridges and kingfishers. Making lochs and wetlands also provides wildlife sanctuaries and interesting features.

A network of paths called the Winton Walks was created for local walkers. Developing these 12 miles of trails took more than two years. We have ambitions to continue developing the estate and have engaged extensively with our local communities – neighbouring villages, community groups, politicians and public officials – for their feedback. Sand and gravel extraction is one proposal from this exercise; it has the potential to leave behind an exciting water resource – great for tourism and jobs. .

At Winton we want to see a thriving countryside. Our aim is to broaden appreciation of what it has to offer in an increasingly urbanised culture. In the process – we strive also to provide worthwhile rural employment. Friends farming in South Africa have left their mark with me looking to see how many people they could employ rather than how few.

As Churchill put it: “The positive thinker sees the Invisible, feels the intangible and achieves the impossible.” Taking a holistic, sustainable approach is a journey with its ups and downs, but, to quote Churchill again, “You will never reach your destination if you stop and throw stones at every dog that barks.”

Winton plans holistically and sustainably for the very long term; the high level of investment dictates this!

This blog is an extract from Francis Ogilvy’s talk at Winton Castle in East Lothian, given to an audience from the Bright Green Business Network (BGBN) and the local Chambers of Commerce on Tuesday 20th February. For more information on Winton Castle, please visit the website.

Memories with mum on the Royal Mile 15th February 2018

The best present you can get mum this Mother’s Day is your time and attention. Edinburgh is the perfect place to let mum know just how special she is, and the Royal Mile has all the top spots for your brunch, lunch, and afternoon tea needs, as well as a few fun activities to truly make it a day to remember.

Below we’ve compiled our favourite spots for making memories with mum on the Royal Mile this year.

Edinburgh Castle

Capture your memories with the most beautiful backdrop the city has to offer, Edinburgh Castle. Mum will treasure these special snaps for years to come, and you can bet she’ll be parading them proudly when she next sees her friends, boasting about what a loving, attentive child she has.

If she’s a history boffin and has yet to tour the Castle, you can take her on a historical stroll through the most iconic Scottish Tourist Attraction in the city. Castle doors open from 9.30am and tickets start from as little as £13.60 for Concession card holders (60+ years).

Buy your tickets here.

The Hub

For a unique afternoon tea experience mum will never forget, you can stop by The Hub on your way down from the Castle. At just £25 for two, you don’t have to break the bank to make mum feel spoiled.

The afternoon tea experience combines continental flair and the finest British ingredients. Sure to tantalise the taste buds is a selection of delicious and traditional sandwiches, French macarons, homemade strawberry tarts, and dainty mini lemon meringue pies – and of course, you’ll also find your traditional freshly-baked scones with strawberry jam and whipped cream.

Mum can sit back, relax and enjoy her afternoon treats – and choose from a selection of artisan loose teas or have a cheeky glass of prosecco!

For more information, visit Cafe Hub.

Signet Library

If mum enjoys the finer things in life, splash out on a luxurious afternoon tea experience at the Signet Library.

Discover the finest seasonal ingredients in divine sandwiches, delectable savouries, and decadent cakes served on bespoke silver tea stands. Make mum feel like a Royal with an extensive tea selection – including the venue’s own Signet Blend.

For something more substantial, the Signet Library’s Colonnades also offer sumptuous and seasonal lunches, featuring the best of Scottish meat, seafood and produce, as well as carefully created and delicious puddings.

Book your afternoon tea here.

The Real Mary King’s Close

If a tour of the Castle doesn’t tickle your fancy, transport yourselves back to 17th century Edinburgh as a costumed character guide leads you on an hour-long, fully guided tour through the uniquely preserved streets and spaces of Real Mary King’s Close.

This interactive and unique experience paints a picture of how different life would have been for the people of Edinburgh when these streets were open to the skies. It’s also a fantastic photo opp for that memorable snap!

Book your tour here.

The Scotch Whisky Experience

A limited edition tasting of rare Scotch whiskies.

What better way to wind down the afternoon than with a dram? Make dad envious when he hears about your trip to Whisky’s Edinburgh Home.

If it’s mum’s first time indulging in whisky, then a guided tour plus a nosing and tasting of a Scotch whisky on the Silver Tour is the perfect introduction.

If she’s a seasoned whisky lover then the Platinum Tour is just for her.  A whisky lover’s dream, it includes an early evening tour, plus a guided nosing and tasting of five contrasting single malt whiskies followed by an extended viewing of The World’s Largest Collection of Scotch Whisky.

Take a look at The Scotch Whisky Experience’s full tour selection here.

No matter where you take mum this Mother’s Day, be sure to give her your undivided attention and thank her for all her years of hard work and love.

Valentines Day at Scotch Malt Whisky Society 08th February 2018

This blog contribution comes from Edinburgh’s Scotch Malt Whisky Society, celebrating the month of St Valentines Day. While we know how easy it is to fall for the delights of the Society’s single cask, the SMWS also knows the role whisky can play in sparking romance.

Take the story of Paul Kosmetatos and Simona Foscarin for example, who first met as researchers at the University of Cambridge’s Whisky Appreciation Society in 2013. Simona was a founding member and became the Society’s social secretary. Paul was a long-time whisky enthusiast keen to expand his knowledge beyond the widely available blends and bourbons he was familiar with.

“While the Society was serious about learning about whisky, it was also a vibrant social club that brought together a regular crowd who were friends as well as whisky enthusiasts. It was usual practice that after the formal nosing and tasting was over that the remaining whisky supplied a de facto ‘bar’ for the ticket holders,” says Paul.

Whisky brought Paul and Simona together, and in 2016 they moved to Edinburgh, where the SMWS quickly became the focus for their shared passion.

“One of the first things we wanted to do was to find a whisky tasting society to continue our exploration,” says Simona. “We discovered the SMWS and now regularly visit the Members’ Rooms at The Vaults and especially 28 Queen Street. We love the Society’s unique expressions of whisky but we also enjoy the setting, which for us is both a location for a bar, a club and an excellent restaurant.”

When Paul and Simona decided to get married in August last year, they held their ceremony and wedding lunch in the Dining Room at 28 Queen Street – surrounded by friends, family – and the Society’s green bottles.

“Whisky played an integral role in the celebration,” says Simona. “The cake had whisky in it, and together with the usual champagne toast that newlyweds have, we also drank from miniatures with Society whisky.”

For those of you looking ahead to Valentine’s Day, the last word has to go to Paul.

“Whisky is a romantic drink, and not just because of our experience and our mutual love of it,” he says. “Whisky tasting is by definition sensuous – it engages smell, taste and vision. It’s also social – people experience these senses differently and share them with each other.”

And who knows where that might lead…

It’s not only whisky that the Society provides as the basis for romance…our Members’ Rooms are also the perfect setting for a declaration of love. At The Vaults on Hogmanay, SMWS member Steve Dick took the plunge and proposed to fiancée Jo just after midnight. She celebrated with prosecco – while he picked out a Society dram from distillery 39.