This case study from unique member Winton Castle brings to life a wonderful winter wedding held at this East Lothian private use venue.
Amy Sarra and Adam Mallace invited guests from all over the world to join them for their beautiful Christmas wedding celebrations at Winton Castle in December. They were excited to be the inaugural patrons of the lovingly restored venue, the Potting Shed; the latest addition to the Winton events venue portfolio and linked directly to the castle’s Walled Garden.
“On the Friday night the Potting Shed looked fantastic, and the marquee in Winton’s Walled Garden was just perfect. We had gleaming reviews from everyone,” says Amy, the bride. “The Christmas decorations in the Potting Shed were also an absolute hit.
“The whisky tasting was great fun and seemed to last all night. Everyone who spoke to Tom, the whisky guy, thought he was fantastic. It was also helpful to have the street food van there, as the guests were ravenous, and the staff all very helpful!
“Everything was exceptional on Saturday, our wedding day. It had been planned to a tee and all the little bells and whistles provided by the Winton team made it a high-class affair! The venue itself looked incredible and all the staff involved in running the day were so friendly and helpful. In particular, Kenny, the piper, was an absolute star!”
Amy continues: “All of the guests said the food was the best wedding food they had ever had. Some went as far as to say that the duck main course was the best duck they’d ever tasted!
“I am glad we’d decided to go for a banquet style layout in the end too – it seemed much more friendly and efficient given the number of guests we had. The tables looked fantastic and the castle looked just amazing as well.
‘Several of our guests commented on the delicious Champagne, and we would definitely recommend the string quartet. Everyone was blown away by them and they added such a nice touch to the day.
“All of the rooms were beautifully presented and well maintained, and it felt like our home for the two days that we were there. We stayed in the castle’s luxurious Bridal Suite and our families and guests stayed in either the castle or Winton’s three country houses.
“Overall, we were very pleased with every aspect of our wedding. We found everyone at Winton very flexible and accommodating with the arrangements, and our wedding day would not have been as seamless or successful without you all.
“Lastly, we felt it was all really good value for money as well. Seeing how far our budget stretched in terms of the quantity and quality, and what was presented before, during and after the wedding. We were left in no doubt that it was money well spent.”
You can see more on weddings at Winton including their winter wedding offers, as well as summer weddings, on their website.
A guest blog from unique venues member, the Hub.
Completed in the 1844, this unique venue at the top of the Royal Mile inevitably has a great depth of history. Although now a beautiful venue for weddings and events, it was originally built as ‘The Victoria Hall’ and opened as Edinburgh’s Festival Centre in 1999. Twenty years later the team have chatted to Benjamin Tindall who was the architect at the time of the alterations.
The challenge that architect Benjamin Tindall faced was how to take a dilapidated but undeniably special building and turn it into the physical representation of the synergy and creativity that is the hallmark of the Edinburgh Festival.
It needed to be bold and colourful, and to include arresting artworks and design to reflect the vibrancy and contemporary spirit of the Festival. At the same time, he was converting a landmark Gothic Revival building that held a commanding position on the Royal Mile, and which had been designed by James Gillespie Graham with the famous Augustus Pugin.
The creation of The Hub, as we know it, was one of the most complex conservation projects ever undertaken in Scotland, with more than 1000 people contributing to its five-year overhaul. By the end of the project there was no bit of the building that Benjamin did not know and understand: from the 241 foot tall spire – which he scaled despite its scaffolding, to watch the 1998 Festival fireworks – to the detail and scale of the mouldings and floor plan.
Benjamin knew he had absorbed the essence of Pugin’s architectural vision when he needed to create an additional fire exit from what is now Cafe Hub. Knowing the exit needed to fit Pugin’s elegant proportions he came up with a design he thought would match. During the works the original mouldings were uncovered and to his surprise and relief Benjamin found he had got the size, placement and proportions exactly right.
Crucially, Benjamin designed a way to respect the integrity of Pugin’s design as well as the building’s original purpose as a place of assembly, yet be playful with the interior spaces and allow what seems at times an unfettered creative approach.
Stand out elements include the sculpture stair, decorated with more than 200 figures painted a rich carmine red. In much the same way as medieval masons included carved caricatures of well-known faces among the buttresses and arches of cathedrals and abbeys, the figures representing the first 50 years of the Edinburgh Festival also include friends of the artist, and some of the people who worked on the project alongside Benjamin Tindall.
When The Hub re-opened once more, the brightness and concentration of differing styles, design and artworks signified that a standout venue had been created. And 20 years later, it is still vivacious and proved itself to still be a beacon on the Royal Mile, made for gatherings and good times.
Today The Hub is packed full of visitors from the world over. It houses a thriving box office for the Edinburgh International Festival and is regularly host to some of Edinburgh’s largest and best gala dinners, unique and unusual weddings and conferences. Its vibrant tones create a stunning backdrop and make beautiful stunning photographs – despite its history, it’s a timeless venue.
Winton Castle and Estate in East Lothian was thrilled to be the hosts of the 2nd round of the Thistly Cross Cyclocross Scottish Super Quaich, for the second year running, on the 18th of January 2020. 240 competitors registered to tackle the 2.6-kilometre Thistly Cross course, and they were greeted with a fun but challenging route bathed in glorious sunshine.
The event attracted all levels of participants from complete novices to seasoned professionals, and all ages from 16 to 70. Even Sir Francis Ogilvy, owner of Winton, donned his kilt and jumped on his bike. Competitors raced in 2 groups, group B and the more competitive group A, around the newly improved cyclocross course, tasked with racing around the track as many times as possible in one hour.
The cyclocross organisers John Archibald, Neil Clyde, Colin Shearer and Eric Easton from the Haddington Cycling Club, said to the Winton Events team: “Well done for yesterday! We’ve had a lot of great feedback about the course and I received the comment below today, which is testament to all the work that’s gone into developing the course.”
“Another stunningly epic cyclo-cross course. Just a massive thanks from myself and the guys I was with to you and all your team. We fully appreciate the weeks of work that will go into organising an event like that and you even sorted the weather out. Best course by miles.’’
Anthony Robson on Facebook said: “Loved and hated the course in equal measure – the mud seemed to be that extra-special sticky kind, but so many fun elements as well, and kept you on your toes all the way round. The tunnels and bridges had to be the Thistly Cross defining characteristics.”
The team from Winton Estate and more than 20 cyclocross enthusiasts had worked together to ensure the course was ready in time.
Winton Castle and Estate’s General Manager, Linkon Axon, said, “We are currently making significant activities infrastructure investment across the estate, and the Cyclocross course plays a major part in that. The route can easily be used for quad bike tours and mountain biking events.”
John Archibald described the course: “The circuit includes a great blend of technical difficulties, challenges, muddy hazards, respites, tunnels and bridges.
“There are big off-camber descents followed by steep climbs then respites. The route includes a great mix of ditches, run-ups for carrying bikes up and even a couple of 12-inch hurdles for experienced riders to bunny-hop! The technical features reward the best cyclists and provide challenges for less experienced ones.
“Winton provides a fabulous venue; with the castle as a backdrop, it’s very picturesque and the Winton team were brilliant to work with, going above and beyond.”
Some cyclists commented on Facebook
“Cheers to Neil Clyde, John Archibald, Colin Shearer, Eric Easton and all their squad of helpers for a great Thistly Cross today… Great course with good techy wooded bits and a good mix of surfaces…,” wrote Ian Churcher.
“Definitely a great course – kept you on your toes – as soon as I relaxed at all I lost the line and all momentum! Loved the gravel track – but heading straight into the sun, boy did those bumps come at you quickly! Great effort by all involved,” added Howard Perkins.
Winton Castle is looking forward to hosting the Thistly Cross Cyclocross Scottish Super Quaich series again in 2021 and is also investigating the possibility of hosting further Cyclocross events as part of the National Cyclocross Series.
Planning your own outdoor event? Learn more about this evenue
Anyone interested in holding cyclocross, quad bike or mountain bike events at Winton, should contact the events venue direct. More information is available at Activities at Winton on their website.
New year, new wedding planning season. At this time of year, many Edinburgh venues are gearing up to welcome couples to open days, fairs, and events. The wide range of options can be daunting, but do not fear. We’ve searched high and low and found some dates for the diary for those planning their big day. Dont miss these Edinburgh Wedding Open Days in January:
Sunday 12th January
– The Botanics: The perfect setting to host your truly unique wedding, surrounded by plush greenery and breathtaking views. 11am – 4pm. Click here for details.
Sunday 19th January
– The Signet Library: This venue, situated in the very heart of Edinburgh’s historic Old Town, is the unique wedding venue of choice for those searching for a magical combination of breath-taking setting, glamorous design, and perfect hospitality. 11am – 4pm. Click here for details.
– Mansfield Traquair: This stunning city-centre venue invites couples-to-be to see the Baldaccino and the Nave set up so you can imagine making your grand entrance, celebrating your vows under soaring ceilings and entertaining your guests during the reception. 11am to 4pm. Click here for details.
Wednesday 29 January
– The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh: The Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh invites couples to be to its January Wedding Showcase. In partnership Hickory Weddings, the team will transform the Royal College venue into a dream wedding location. Click here for details.
Winton Castle was delighted to welcome Clare Blatherwick on Saturday for ‘Diamonds & Darjeeling’ for a delicious afternoon tea with lots of diamonds for the guests, the first of an inaugural series of talks on jewellery at the unique events venue.
Clare is an East Lothian based jewellery consultant who works all over the country. She set up her own jewellery business in 2017 after working for 10 years as Head of Jewellery for an international auctioneer.
“I am delighted to say that ‘Diamonds & Darjeeling’ was a big success with forty guests filling Winton’s drawing room, and Clare was an absolutely fantastic speaker,” says Fay Hardwick who organised the event for Winton and Clare Blatherwick.
“I presented a talk called ‘The Fascination of Jewellery – Important Women Jewellery Collectors’ which looks at the jewellery of four very different women and their motivations for collecting,” says Clare.
“Some of the protagonists may not be immediately known to all but certainly pieces in their collections will have been heard of.”
Clare’s fascinating talk covered the stories of Evalyn Walsh McLean, who owned The Hope Diamond and The Star of The East Diamond; Elizabeth Taylor, the famous actress and avid jewellery collector; and Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State under President Clinton, who used her brooches to pass messages during political meetings.
As Clare explained, Madeleine Albright was following in the footsteps of the Jacobites and Suffragettes who covertly displayed their beliefs through their choice of jewels.
Case Study: A unique media launch
The internationally acclaimed ‘No Name Theatre Group’ chose Winton Castle to host a media conference event ahead of their their two-week performance at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe earlier this year.
Winton Castle were delighted to be chosen as the host to portray the two ancient cultures of China and Scotland, because of the castle’s rich, 500 year history with its links to Mary Queen of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Setons.
Winton Castle is happily welcoming more and more Chinese guests, from the stars and production crew of a hugely popular Chinese TV advert by Freak Films, to corporate and leisure groups. The exclusive use events venue has also recently launched its own Chinese website as a part of Winton’s latest international initiative.
The first part of the event was taken up with interviews and photos of the troupe in their colourful costumes, followed by short performances of modern and traditional interpretive dances and movement. These were enjoyed by Consul Zeng Wei from the Chinese Consulate, Lindsay Neilson from VisitScotland, and Lady Ogilvy whose family still live in Winton Castle. A Memorandum of Understanding between Magna World, the event organiser, and the theatre group, was also signed.
The theme of the performances in the castle’s Scottish Renaissance drawing room was the universally uniting search for personal happiness and fulfilment. Their work reflects the holistic, Confucius philosophy which was beautifully communicated through dance and song.
Mrs Kong, founder and benefactor of the Chinese theatre group, said that “art should not just entertain but inspire, arouse and encourage people to explore life, whether we are in China, Scotland or elsewhere”. She quoted Scottish Rabbie Burns’ poem, ‘A Man’s A Man for A’ That’, saying that she believes passionately different nationalities are united “through similar emotions, hopes and dreams”.
Lady Ogilvy said: “the performances and their colourful costumes were not just beautiful, but magnificent, and represented several Chinese dynasties. When I asked what advice the troupe director would give to UK students receiving exam results (which happened to be that day!), I was treated to an improvised, acted, and very elegant answer involving two girls responding to prompts.”
You can see a full feature on the launch event in the ‘Scotland Correspondent’ magazine by Paul Kelbie, ‘Actions Speak Louder than Words’, in English (page 20) or in Chinese (page 50). The photographs have generously been provided by Stewart Cunningham at Great Scot Photography.
Photos: Great Scot Photography.