The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle

Monday, 26 December 2011

Double header heralds in the New Year at Ayr Racecourse

By: Iain Ferguson

Ayr Racecourse brings in the New Year with a double header race meeting - the New Year Festival race meeting on Monday 2 January and Tuesday 3 January.

The opening day’s feature race is The Bet Mobile At Handicap Chase over 2 miles 4 furlongs due off at 1.55pm with a prize fund of £8700 and is sure to attract a healthy field.

This is followed half an hour later with the Bet Live At Handicap Hurdle also over 2 miles 4 furlongs and the final race of the afternoon is the 3 mile Best Odds Guaranteed At Victor Chandler Novices Handicap Hurdle at 3.35pm.

First race on Monday is at 12.20pm with the gates open at 11.00am.

Tuesday’s action is due off at 12.35pm with the Juvenile Hurdle over 2 miles. The main event on the day is the Bet Mobile At Handicap Chase over 3 miles 1 furlong and gates open at 11.00am.

Find out more about the New Year fixtures at Ayr Racecourse here

For further information please contact Iain Ferguson on 01292-294972 or 07795-565691.

Ayr Racecourse and the associated Western House Hotel are Founder Members of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Ayr Racecourse makes it eight awards in a row

By: Iain Ferguson

Corks were popping at Ayr Racecourse when it was announced that the track had been voted Racecourse of the Year 2011 for Scotland and the North East by The Racegoers Club.

It is the eighth consecutive year the accolade has been bestowed on Ayr, and underlines the course’s status as the premier racecourse in Scotland and the country’s only Grade 1 track.

The fantastic run of awards dates back to 2004, the first full year current owners Alan Macdonald and Richard Johnstone were at the helm.

Ayr has thrived, and as well as staging Scotland’s two most prestigious Festivals - the Coral Scottish Grand National Festival in April and the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup Festival in September - many major music acts have appeared at the course, including Alexandra Burke, Deacon Blue, Status Quo, The Saw Doctors, Stacey Solomon and The Overtones.

In addition, facilities at the track have greatly improved in both Club and Grandstand areas. All racecourse catering has been in house for the last 6 years, and is currently headed by renowned executive chef Donald McInnes.

The Racegoers Club has more than 6,500 members who are all active racegoers. Ayr has now won the award 18 times since 1990.

Ayr Racecourse sales and marketing manager Lindsey Smith said: “It is a great honour to have won this award again, which means we are retaining our popularity with our core audience. I’d like to thank everyone at the Racegoer;s Club who voted for us.”

To find out more about racing at Ayr you can visit or call 01292-264179.

For further information please contact Iain Ferguson on 01292-294972 or 07795-565691.

Ayr Racecourse and the associated Western House Hotel are Founder Members of The Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Christmas Message from John Scott, MSP for Ayr

I am grateful for this opportunity to wish all local people a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Most of us will enjoy the festive period with our family and friends, but many others will not be able to share Christmas with their loved ones. This may be because they are working in our emergency services, such as the NHS, police or fire service, or because their family are members of our armed forces and stationed abroad. At this time of year it is important that we remember them and thank them for their work on our behalf.

Christmas is also a time to take particular care of those who are elderly, ill or alone. The best present can often be as simple as a kind act, a helping hand or just some company.

It is the love, compassion and companionship of our friends and neighbours that enrich us in the most meaningful way, and that is a lesson we should embrace not only at Christmas but all year around.

I wish everyone a merry Christmas and a very happy and, most importantly, peaceful New Year.

John Scott, MSP for Ayr

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas Message from South Ayrshire Council Provost Winifred Sloan

The days are growing shorter; the dark winter nights are growing longer and Christmas is now drawing upon us. Christmas remains a magical time and each and everyone is entitled to feel the warm glow of humanity touching us all, as well as, raising our hearts and spirits.

The past year has resulted in challenges unseen in decades. But the human spirit of resourcefulness and resilience has helped overcome many of the difficult days we've all encountered. The continuing global financial crisis has caused deep concern for individuals and businesses alike and we all hope 2012 will result in greater financial stability and security for our families.

Christmas remains a time for families to re-engage and share those cherished moments. It's a special time for young children to enjoy the wonder of Christmas activities and share the general excitement and the bestowing of family gifts. A childhood Christmas is an enduring part of our lives; something we all cherish and appreciate with the passing years.

However, there will be many families this year who will be unable to reunite with their loved ones. In particular, we think of our service men and women on active duty in Afghanistan. Sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, grandparents, husbands, wives and sweethearts will be separated over the forthcoming festive season.

We acknowledge the pain of their separation, especially those on active duty with small children, and look forward to their safe return to family, friends and loved ones in the near future. Our support to these brave men and women will help maintain their families over the forthcoming weeks and months.

We also acknowledge the work of those closer to home. Our emergency services are on duty for 365 days of the year and the work of the police, ambulance and fire service continues to safeguard our homes and families over the Christmas period. We should also acknowledge the work of social services, care-workers, hospital-staff, doctors and nurses, who help care for the sick, young, elderly, frail and vulnerable members of our community. Christmas is about caring – and sharing. Please spare a thought for the vulnerable or an elderly person who may not have relatives close to home. Just check up on a neighbour and ensure all's well. Caring; is a gift in itself.

The true message of Christmas has a special meaning. It touches all our hearts and makes us all appreciate the values of Christianity. The wonder of a small child opening presents on Christmas morning; the warmth and appreciation of parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts; and the thoughtful gifts of appreciation to family and loved ones. It's a time of joyous fun, kindness, and consideration as well as a coming together of family and friends.

Let's ensure Christmas 2011 brings warmth and appreciation to everyone within our community. And remember; let's think of others as well as ourselves. Finally, I'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone in South Ayrshire, a Merry Christmas and a peaceful New Year!

Provost Winifred D. Sloan

Christmas Message from Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council

As Leader of South Ayrshire Council I have been looking back on 2011 and through hard work, determination and commitment a lot has been achieved.

2011 started with very cold weather, when our roads maintenance teams did an outstanding job, out in horrendous weather gritting roads to keep people moving in and around South Ayrshire. Their dedication is the same type that employees across the Council show while carrying out their duties, determined to do the best possible job they can.

Like every household across the country, we have to ensure we use every penny of the funding available to us as wisely as possible, and are committed to doing this.

We have made it quite clear that our aim is to be the most improved Council in Scotland and we have achieved this by being ambitious, forward thinking and responsive.

Being responsive is vital, which is why we carry out consultations or invite people across South Ayrshire to give us their opinions on a range of topics including customer services, land use, parking, access for dogs, housing and much more.

I would like to thank everyone who has taken part in any of our consultations during 2011, your input has helped to shape the future of our services.

We have achieved so much this year across all our services: we built the first new Council houses in the area for more than 30 years; a new £1.5 million eco-friendly primary school – the first of its kind in the South Ayrshire Council area – opened in Colmonell; our Customer Contact Centre, which has dealt with over 100,000 calls from the people of South Ayrshire and beyond celebrated its first birthday; we introduced paying for parking by phone at some of our car parks and exceptional academic achievements at primary and secondary schools.

These are just a few of the outstanding things that, working together with communities across South Ayrshire we have achieved. I could go on, this is just a flavour of our accomplishments.

In 2012 we will face many challenges and we have to work together to deal with them. If we work together in partnership we will be much stronger and achieve so much more.

In May there will be local elections, when people across South Ayrshire will have the chance to select the people who they would like to represent them as Councillors. None of us know what the results of the elections will be, or what the make-up of the Council will be.

However, I am certain of one thing, that the Council is on the path to success and that it will go from strength to strength in the future.

On behalf of the Council, I would like to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

Councillor Bill McIntosh

Sunday, 18 December 2011

CKD Galbraith reports that Scotland’s property letting market is booming

The lettings market for residential property in Scotland, including Ayrshire is thriving according to Scotland’s leading independent property consultancy CKD Galbraith, as many would-be property owners are continuing to rent during uncertain economic times.

The firm, with six regional lettings divisions throughout Scotland, has reported a higher than average rental value than the Scottish national average, with demand remaining strong in the lettings sector where lending is still somewhat stringent in some segments of the market.

CKD Galbraith’s latest lettings report for Quarter3 (July-Sep) highlighted average rental values of £701 per calendar month (pcm) with it taking on average 36 days to let out properties. During the same period, Citylets reported that the Scottish national average rental price was £670pcm with the average property being let out within 38 days of coming to market.

2011’s Scottish national average is an all time high and is up 3.2% on Quarter3 2010, research by Citylets shows.

CKD Galbraith’s regional offices reported the following average rental values for Quarter3, which takes into account the full range of properties let out by the firm in the area:

* Ayr – average rent of £636pcm

Average time to let out a property – 35 days

* Galashiels (covering the Scottish Borders) – average rent of £558pcm

Average time to let out a property – 49 days

* Inverness (covering Inverness-shire and the Highlands)– average rent of £572pcm

Average time to let out a property – 28 days

* Cupar (covering Kingdom of Fife) – average rent of £903pcm

Average time to let out a property - 49 days

* Perth – average rent of £715pcm

Average time to let out a property – 42 days

* Stirling (covering Glasgow and Stirling areas) – average rent of £823pcm

Average time to let out a property – 15 days

Shirley Kenyon, head of CKD Galbraith’s lettings department, said: “Demand for private rental properties is showing no sign of decline and the choice of accommodation for tenants is increasing as more rental properties come on to the market. These rental levels are area specific due to regional market conditions but demonstrate an excellent return on capital investment for landlords.

“There is no doubt that the swell in popularity of rented accommodation is caused by the continuing difficulties that would be homeowners are facing in financing their first purchase. However, more recently there has been an emergence of a new sector in the lettings market - an increasing number of middle aged owners taking the decision to sell their family home and rent, particularly in the middle to top end of the property market, whilst they monitor market conditions or alternatively decide to have less responsibilities, more disposable income, and take the positive decision to rent for the remainder of their life.”

As we enter the New Year, CKD Galbraith envisages the lettings market to remain robust and already have a number of properties covering all categories across the country lined up to come onto the market for 2012.

Currently for let through CKD Galbraith:

* 82 Doonfoot Road, Ayr (pictured above): Spacious family home with 4/5 bedrooms located in excellent area of Doonfootwith easy access to Ayr & A77 - £1,100 pcm

* Pumpherston Farmhouse, West Lothian (pictured above): A substantial five bedroom farmhouse recently refurbished and situated in mature garden grounds - £1250 pcm

* 5 Collairnie Cottage, Collairnie, Cupar: A charming two bedroom detached country cottage enjoying country views over farmland - £650 pcm

* Charleston, Stanley, Perthshire: Traditional four bedroom farmhouse set in 1.5 acres offering spacious and flexible accommodation - £1295 pcm

* 1 Bluecairn Cottages, Bowhill, Scottish Borders: Traditional semi-detached country cottage on Bowhill Estate recently redecorated offering three bedrooms - £425 pcm

* The Old Post Office, Glen Mazeran, Tomatin Inverness-shire: Beautiful converted old post office offering comfortable accommodation in a peaceful rural location - £675 pcm

CKD Galbraith’s lettings division recently became a SAFEagent thus being able to guarantee that tenants’ and landlords’ money is protected by a client money protection scheme.

The firm has also introduced QR (quick response) codes which enables smart phone users to gain instant access to particular properties available on the firm’s lettings website, relevant to the area in which they are seeking residential property to rent. A marketing tool which CKD Galbraith believes has led to a reduction in the average time taken to let out properties.

About CKD Galbraith

CKD Galbraith is an independent property consultancy specialising in serving the needs of private clients. It employs over 200 people in offices in Edinburgh, Perth, Stirling, Cupar, Inverness, Aberfeldy, Castle Douglas, Ayr, Elgin, Galashiels, Kelso and Peebles.

The partnership provides the full range of property consulting services across the commercial, residential and rural sectors throughout Scotland. The company enjoys a successful relationship with its associate firm in London, CKD Kennedy Macpherson.

CKD Galbraith’s Ayr Office is a Founder Member of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Celebrity chef Mafiz Ali announces Burns Supper at Ayr Spice

TV celebrity chef Mafiz Ali (pictured below) is delighted to announce that he will be holding his very first Burns Supper at Ayr Spice Indian Restaurant in Minishant, Ayrshire on Tuesday 24 January.

Master of Ceremonies will be Donald Kay, (pictured below) the leading interpreter of Rabbie Burns and his songs and poems.

All the traditions of Burns Suppers will be observed, including the entertainment and the menu of haggis, neeps and tatties, but Mafiz Ali may be adding a few twists and surprises of his own!

The whole evening is very reasonably priced at £24.95 per person, and you can book now by telephoning 01292 441413. .

Mafiz Ali
Ayr Spice Indian Restaurant
The Old Minishant Memorial Church
22 Ayr Road
KA19 8EX

Tel: 01292 441413

Ayr Spice Indian Cuisine can be found in the fine old red sandstone Memorial church at the entrance to the picturesque village of Minishant, 5 miles south of Ayr on the A77. The church was erected by the thread magnate Sir Peter Coats of nearby Auchendrane, in loving memory of his wife Glorianna, who died in 1877.

Mafiz Ali has enjoyed a busy and successful 2011.

He has made two guest appearances on STV’s popular early evening television programme “The Hour” with regular hosts Stephen Jardine and Michelle McManus.

The previous month, Mafiz Ali hosted a very successful luncheon meeting of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle, which further enhanced his already growing reputation amongst discerning diners in the local business community.

He has also already this year put on successful special menus to celebrate Mother’s Day, the Bangladeshi New Year and the Royal Wedding.

In the Spring of this year Mafiz extended the opening hours of Ayr Spice Indian Restaurant, which is now open from 12 noon 10.30pm every day.

For the Summer he introduced a Tandoori Barbecue, at which customers can dine al fresco (weather permitting!) in a family-friendly atmosphere with a tree-house for the kids and ample parking.

In the Autumn the newly refurbished upstairs function room seating 100 people was officially opened by South Ayrshire Deputy Provost Mary Kilpatrick, and Mafiz hosted a Halloween Party for the pupils, parents and teachers of Minishant Primary School

There will be further exciting developments to be announced during the course of the next few months which will cement Ayr Spice’s place as one of the top fine dining experiences in South West Scotland.

A set of photographs recalling some of the highlights of 2011 for Mafiz Ali at Ayr Spice Indian Restaurant in Minishant in Ayrshire, Scotland can be found on Flickr. CLICK HERE.


Mafiz climbed the ladder to fame when he won a chef of the year award in 1998 and, almost immediately, added one for exceptional hygiene and cleanliness. Newly crowned at Westminster, he was commissioned by the then prime minister, John Major to supply a banquet for his 50th birthday at Number 10 Downing Street.

A replica banquet was then ordered by one of the distinguished guests and sent to New York city. Since then he has sent food elsewhere in the USA and to Japan and Australia in what must be an almost uniquely international takeaway service! He has also catered for numerous celebrities from the world of entertainment and some have vowed to come to his restaurant while they are in Scotland on tour.

It is not widely known that 92% of all “Indian” restaurants in the UK are in fact Bangladeshi, and it was to promote such eating houses and reward young chefs by recognising their talents, that Mafiz founded the “British Bangladeshi National Curry awards” at the Houses of Parliament at Westminster, also in 1998.

Mafiz Ali has been closely associated with charities, notably when he entered the Guinness Book of Records with 4.5 tons of chicken korma, which was then eaten at a charity event. Because of the enormous quantities involved he had to seek the advice of a professional engineer for the technical realisation of the project.

No stranger to TV, Mafiz has been invited to return to STV for further programmes in the future. Channel 4, Big Breakfast TV and several others including Bangladeshi TV on which he has his own programme, number among the other stations for whom he has appeared, and he has made double that number of radio broadcasts, as well as contributing to many publications including the Times and Daily Mirror.


Mafiz Ali
Ayr Spice Indian Restaurant
The Old Minishant Memorial Church
22 Ayr Road
KA19 8EX

Tel: 01292 441413

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

South Ayrshire Council recognise employees who went the extra mile

What do a cleansing operative, a libraries team, a cemetery worker, Girvan Resource Centre team and an apprentice plasterer all have in common?

They were named this week as South Ayrshire Council Outstanding People Award winners at a ceremony in Ayr Town Hall.


The Outstanding People Awards is the Council’s reward and recognition scheme and celebrates those employees who go the extra mile to deliver the highest quality of service to residents and colleagues across South Ayrshire.

A total of fifteen individual and team nominations were shortlisted as finalists in five categories – Service Excellence, Innovation, Equalities in Action, Sustainability and Inspirational Young Employee.

The finalists were selected throughout the year from more than 130 nominations from Council employees and members of the public.

Selecting the Outstanding People Awards winners was a difficult task for the judging panel – made up of representatives from across the Council – as each person was a worthy finalist.

David Anderson, Chief Executive said: “The Outstanding People Awards not only recognised the best of our employees within the Council but the outstanding people who work in every corner of our organisation. The finalists and the winners are all terrific ambassadors for the Council and they should all be proud of what they have achieved.”

Councillor McIntosh, Leader of the Council said: “I believe it is important to recognise the positive contribution our employees make to the Council and to the lives of people across South Ayrshire. The energy, enthusiasm, dedication, drive, positivity and desire to be the best they can be made these employees stand out from the crowd.”

South Ayrshire Provost Winifred Sloan said: “I travel the length and breadth of South Ayrshire, meeting employees, volunteer groups and people within our communities, something I really enjoy. I get a lot of pleasure when people I meet tell me how great they think our employees are, and how much they appreciate the services we deliver.

An organisation is only as good as its employees and the employees of South Ayrshire Council set very high standards.”

The Outstanding People Awards 2011 finalists and winners (with details of the reasons for their nomination) are:

Service Excellence
• Clive Price
• Munch Crunch
• Gavin Welsh

Winner: Clive Price

Clive is a Cleansing Operative stationed in Ayr and he has been nominated for his dedication, commitment and quality of workmanship.

Clive’s nominees have described him as a gentleman who goes about his business without any drama or fuss and who is extremely well thought of by his work colleagues.

Residents regularly comment on how much they value Clive and his dedication to doing a job well. Recently the service received a letter from an appreciative resident, and Clive was also recognised in the Kincaidston Newsletter for his positive contribution to building a strong community. Clive’s valued work within the local area is appreciated by residents and visitors to the Kincaidston district who regularly remark on the excellent standards to which he works.

• Clare Kennedy
• Libraries Team
• Get on Your Bike Team

Winner: Libraries Team

The Libraries Team is based in locations across South Ayrshire and are nominated for the outstanding contribution they have made to the E-Book Revolution.

The team’s work has resulted in South Ayrshire being the first Council in Scotland to provide a free e-book and e-audio book download service to library users, and in September this year the Team led South Ayrshire to be the first Council in the World to publish an e-book in a range of formats that could be borrowed via the e-book lending service and downloaded from Amazon. The new service means that library users no longer need to visit the library – they can download books anywhere, at any time.

This nomination acknowledges the bold step taken by South Ayrshire Council to embrace the e-book revolution and the concept of moving into the e-age has been driven forward enthusiastically and positively by the Libraries Team.

Equalities in Action
• Linda Hall
• Margaret Catterall and Susan Hughes
• Girvan Resource Centre Team

Winner: Girvan Resource Centre

The Girvan Resource Centre Team have been nominated for the work they have been doing to ensure the Girvan Opportunities project is a success.

Following the withdrawal of Ayr College Further Education services in Girvan for people with learning difficulties, the Girvan Resource Team developed a tertiary curriculum to be delivered locally by staff and volunteers. As you can see, the team get involved with all activities much to the appreciation and benefit of their clients.

Girvan Opportunities offers courses that develop social, employment and independent living skills and it is the hard work and determination of everyone in the Team that is to be celebrated with this nomination.

• Anne Smillie
• Street Lighting Project Team
• John Fergusson

Winner: John Fergusson

John is a Cemetery Worker who has been nominated for his inspiring ideas that are helping to promote wildlife diversity in cemeteries and crematoriums across South Ayrshire.

John has been working hard with Scottish Natural Heritage and has a pilot project operating which has included planting a variety of bulbs, as well as fitting a number of nesting boxes to attract a wide variety of wildlife within the Cemetery. John is preparing to roll this great project out across other cemeteries and crematoriums in South Ayrshire with plans to link in to local primary schools to promote a wider understanding of the environment.

Described as respectful, hardworking, kind and always ready to lend a hand or a word of advice, John’s idea has been a huge success which has been demonstrated by sightings of red squirrel, and the even more elusive Holly Blue butterfly. John has started a project that will have a positive impact, which will echo through the community for generations to come.

Inspirational Young Employee of the Year
• Kirsty Gerrish
• Kristofor Breingan
• Sarah Crawford

Winner: Kristofor Breingan

Kristofor is a craft apprentice training to be a qualified plasterer. Having established himself as an apprentice who was keen to learn all aspect of the trade, Kristofor has been nominated for his positive attitude towards his work and training.

Kristofor’s pleasant good humour and willingness to learn has made him very popular with his colleagues and both his apprentice reviews and college reports are always excellent.

Having won the Reid Kerr College apprentice of the year earlier this year, Kristofor has made a positive impact in the workplace which is to be celebrated as he has made himself an asset to the service.

South Ayrshire Council is a Founder Member of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Christmas in style in a Scottish castle or country cottage!

A Christmas break in a cosy cottage with a log fire in the beautiful Scottish countryside is hard to beat, whilst spending New Year in an idyllic country mansion or stunning castle with a group of friends is the perfect way to see in the New Year in style.

Celebrating a festive getaway in Scotland need not break the bank as many stunning castles, large country retreats or cosy cottages can be all yours at a reasonable price, with some good discounts available through Cottages & Castles Ltd.

Cottages and Castles, Scotland’s specialist holiday lettings agency, has experienced an increasing trend this year from large groups of family and friends booking Scottish castles and country mansions over the Christmas and New Year period, as they are one of the most affordable options, according to manager Sue Bourne.

To stay in some of the most spectacular large rural properties available in Scotland, it can cost as little as £20 per person per night.

Sue said: “In a difficult economic period, booking a self-catering holiday in Scotland allows people to control their own costs for food and drink without having to pay high prices at bars and hotels. Our customers, both from home and abroad, love the individual touch and the unusual settings that our properties can offer, especially over the festive period – and what could be better than your very own Hogmanay Ceilidh in a stunning Scottish castle!

“This year has seen a number of bookings where people are coming in from all over the world to meet in a Scottish house to celebrate Hogmanay, with the added appeal of the chance of some winter snow.”

Holidaymaker Charles Morrison has been booking New Year breaks through Cottages & Castles for three years now as part of a large group of friends. Charles said: “We have booked a variety of properties in the past and this year we’re staying in Loch Avich House, a large Victorian Lodge in Taynuilt, Argyll. The advantage of booking self-catering is the space a large exclusive house offers and the ability to be with close friends in a relaxed private environment where we can also do our own cooking, which we find very sociable.

“Living near London it’s nice to escape the city life at this time of year. As our group of friends live all over the country, New Year is the ideal time to get together and there’s no better place to celebrate Hogmanay than in the beautiful Scottish countryside.”

An enviable range of properties to suit all tastes and budgets is still available over the festive period through Cottages & Castles. Some of the best deals for large groups include:

* The Shieling - Troon, Ayrshire – sleeps 10 - Christmas week £2500 and New Year week £2750.

The Shieling is set in an exclusive and beautiful area of Troon and is a formerly Gardener’s House to a large Victorian House, which benefits from mature vistas, privacy and a real sense of calm. A mere walk from the famous championship golf course, seaside or woodland walks, this house really is a perfect base to enjoy the countryside, especially over the festive period. The house itself has been renovated and extended to an exceptionally high standard and it is designed to ensure you have a wonderfully sociable stay with the many attractive public rooms leading on to each other and to the gardens – you’ll certainly feel that you are living in five star comfort. As well as the numerous golf courses, you can visit spectacular Culzean Castle, explore Burns Country, take advantage of the excellent local restaurants and see the beautiful Troon marina. CLICK HERE

* River Lodge, Inverness – sleeps 12 - £5000 for Christmas or New Year week with short breaks over festive period available from £3750.

River Lodge is a five star luxury property which offers exceptional holiday accommodation in a tranquil wooded location between Loch Ness and the city of Inverness. The lodge enjoys picturesque views over the River Ness providing an ideal retreat, perfect for large groups. The lounge with its truly magnificent fireplace and double height cathedral ceiling forms the centre point of the property with the grand picture window allowing guests to marvel at the breathtaking views over this famous river. CLICK HERE

* Glenfeochan House, near Oban – sleeps 14 - New Year week reduced from £3900 to £3600.

Glenfeochan House is in a wonderfully secluded positioned on a private estate overlooking its own lake with glorious views to Loch Feochan yet only five miles from the harbour town of Oban. This impressive baronial-style house has tremendous character and history and is furnished to the highest standard. The drawing room offers sumptuous leather seating and open log fire and stunning views across the loch is sure to create the backdrop to memorable evenings. The private tennis court, well equipped gym, snooker table, table tennis and table football will offer hours of entertainment whilst the rowing boats on the private seven-acre lake or walks round the walled garden and Victorian Arboretum offer some tranquil afternoons. CLICK HERE

* Burgie House - Burgie, near Forres – sleeps 25 - Christmas week was £3000 now only £2250

A large beautiful country house set amidst 1500 acres, Burgie House is a welcoming and family friendly holiday house that is perfect for a large group offering an abundance of charm and character. This much loved family house includs a wonderful basement billiard room and a fantastic Ceilidh room – a great ‘play area’ for young and old. Outside, there are beautiful grounds complete with Arboretum and lochans, paddocks (you can bring your own horse if you wish), natural woodlands and walking/cycling tracks as well as large lawns and BBQ areas. Burgie can offer you field sports on the estate, catering for all or some of your meals if you prefer not to self-cater and some housekeeping should you wish. CLICK HERE

* Easterheughs Castle – Aberdour – sleeps 10 – Christmas week £3900and New Year week £4600

Grade A listed Easterheughs Castle is situated high above the Firth of Forth and enjoys a dramatic and breathtaking location with views of Edinburgh Castle. The tower holds many architectural surprises and is immersed in history and to add to the prestige, the castle was once the home of the famous Scottish painter Jack Vettriano. The interior of the castle is immaculate and full of character and the accommodation is beautiful and boasts traditional atmospheric steep twisty stair cases. The master bedroom has sole access onto an outside turreted terrace complete with cannons for protection! The grand drawing room has a cleverly hidden false door which leads to a small movie cinema whilst the timber lined dining room is charming and lends itself nicely to formal dinner parties or even a Scottish ceilidh. CLICK HERE

For more information on all properties available over the festive period through Cottages & Castles CLICK HERE or call 01738 451610.

About Cottages & Castles Ltd

Cottages and Castles Ltd is Scotland’s specialist holiday lettings company with over 600 properties in its portfolio. The firm’s dedication and attention to detail has made them one of the largest self catering companies in Scotland offering an enviable range of holiday cottages, exclusive large houses, holiday castles, Scottish mansions and country lodges.

The firm is operated by CKD Galbraith, one of Scotland’s leading independent property consultancies with 12 regional offices throughout Scotland.

CKD Galbraith's Ayr Office is a Founder Member of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce appoints Val Russell as new chief executive

After 12 years of working at Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce, Val Russell takes over the helm as chief executive this month.

Val (pictured above with Ayrshire Chamber president Willie Mackie) started working at Ayrshire Chamber of Commerce in 1999, when Pamela Anderson was the chief executive and there was a staff of 3. She has been instrumental in the Chamber achieving British Chambers of Commerce accreditation and has grown the staff to 14, who look after members, services, export documentation, events, education links, and business mentoring.

Val said: “It has been a long apprenticeship, but I feel that my years of working with a number of different chief executives and presidents will stand me in good stead in building on what we have achieved to date. I see the Chamber as a positive focus for Ayrshire business and want to develop a pro-active attitude to growing the local economy.”

Martin Cheyne, who retires from the chief executive’s post after 3 years commented: “As Val takes over as chief executive members can be confident that the Chamber is in excellent hands. I have valued Val’s opinion and views and I know there is no better person to lead the Chamber.”

President of Ayrshire Chamber, Willie Mackie concluded: “I would like to pay tribute to outgoing chief executive Martin Cheyne who has contributed strongly to the work of the Chamber, and on behalf of the Board I would like to thank him for his commitment and support. The Ayrshire Chamber has a strong reputation for excellence and I look forward to working with Val Russell our new chief executive and my colleagues on the Board to enhance this reputation and to support our members to the maximum of our capabilities.”

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Top race to launch jumps season at Ayr Racecourse

Ayr Racecourse launches its 2011-2012 Jumps Season on Tuesday 29 November with the St. Andrews Raceday featuring a seven race card.

The highlight of the afternoon is the Best Odds Guaranteed At Victor Handicap Chase with a prize fund of £15,500.

This race, due off at 1.35pm, will attract some top handicap chasers in pursuit of an outstanding prize for a midweek raceday. Trainers likely to have runners here include Lucinda Russell, Nicky Richards, Jim Goldie and Donald McCain.

Other highlights include the Bet Live At Victorchandler.Com Novices Chase at 1.35pm and the final race of the afternoon, The European Breeders’ Fund “Junior Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race at 3.40pm.

Gates open at 11.00am and the first race is due off at 12.30pm.

Ayr Racecourse and the associated Western House Hotel are Founder Members of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Provost Winifred Sloan and Jai McDowall switch on Ayr festive lights

Thousands of people filled Ayr High Street on Sunday 20 November to see South Ayrshire Provost Winifred Sloan switch on the festive lights in Ayr town centre.

[South Ayrshire Provost Winifred Sloan and Jai McDowall are pictured switching on the festive lights in Ayr High Street as the crowds look on.]

Provost Sloan was joined by South Ayrshire’s very own Jai McDowall, a local singer who won Britain’s Got Talent. Also entertaining the crowds were Jill Jackson, a singer songwriter from Paisley, described in the Nashville press as the Scottish Songbird, who brought her own unique style to the contemporary country scene, Non Jove – a Bon Jovi tribute band, the Gospel Truth Choir and DJ Colin McCardle from WestFM.

Provost Sloan said: “This was an outstanding event, the atmosphere was electric and everyone had lots of fun.

“Jai McDowall was outstanding and the crowds really enjoyed his performance. I know that it was a very emotional experience for Jai, as this is the first time he has been home and performed to his home crowd.

“Thanks to the outstanding talents of all the entertainers everyone had a great time and many people took the opportunity to do some Christmas shopping and see the town centre lit up.”

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Scottish Government fosters economic links with North America

Scotland’s Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop is to travel to Canada and the USA to strengthen business, economic and cultural links, and further promote a dynamic and creative Scotland as a great place to visit and invest.

As well as showcasing all that is great about Scotland during St Andrew’s Day celebrations in Toronto, Ottawa and Washington DC, the Culture and External Affairs Secretary will hold talks with Government Ministers and politicians in Canada and the US. Ms Hyslop will also undertake a series of business, travel trade and cultural engagements.

Ms Hyslop said: “Scotland’s bonds of kinship and friendship with Canada and the USA are deep and strong, and both countries are vitally important to our economy. The USA is our single largest overseas market and Canada is a major tourism market for Scotland.

“There is huge enthusiasm for Scotland all over North America. In a challenging economic environment, we must capitalise on that interest and continue to nurture longer-term relationships and foster real prosperity for our country. St Andrew’s Day is the ideal platform to raise Scotland’s profile internationally as a dynamic and creative nation, not just in cultural but also economic terms.

“Working with Scottish Development International and VisitScotland, I will undertake a series of business, travel trade and cultural engagements aimed at strengthening Scotland’s economic growth and building future prosperity.

“In September, the First Minister and I welcomed the new Canadian High Commissioner Gordon Campbell to Scotland. We committed to working together to promote our common strengths - world-class education systems, internationally-recognised research communities, highly skilled workforces, and thriving creative industries - and I look forward to discussing that further during my visit to the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa and meetings with Federal and Provincial Ministers.”

Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop will visit Toronto, Ottawa and Washington DC from 28 November to 3 December 2011.

The Scottish Government’s Canada and USA Plans make it clear that these are priority countries for engagement. The Plans build on the strength of the existing relationship between Scotland and both countries, aim to further strengthen the important historical, cultural and economic links between our countries, to ensure that Scotland maximises the economic opportunities that both markets have to offer for the future.

The promotion of Scotland in the USA and Canada is supported by a multi-agency approach - ‘Team Scotland’ that includes representatives from the Scottish Government, Scottish Development International and VisitScotland.

Scotland’s Winter Festivals begin with St Andrew’s Day on 30 November and includes Scotland’s Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations, culminating with Burns night on 25 January. Events and celebrations will begin on the weekend leading to St Andrew’s Day (26 and 27 November) and run through Christmas and Hogmanay until Burns Night, and will bring together lovers of all things Scottish from across the globe.

South Ayrshire Council launches one-stop service for the bereaved

South Ayrshire Council has officially launched a brand new service to help ease the burden of having to deal with official paperwork and telephone calls after the loss of a loved one.

[Pictured: Pictured at Ayr Registration Office are (left to right standing) Councillor Philip Saxton, Councillor Ian Douglas, Councillor Douglas Campbell, Portfolio Holder for Customer Services, Councillor Bill Grant, Councillor Hugh Hunter, (left to right seated) South Ayrshire Provost Winifred Sloan, Councillor Nan McFarlane and Valerie Andrews, Head of Legal and Administration for South Ayrshire Council.]

The service, Tell Us Once, is now offered to anyone registering a death at Ayr Registration Office and means the Council can notify participating organisations of the death on a customer’s behalf.

Through Tell Us Once, information is passed securely and in confidence to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in the first instance, which can then be passed on to other government departments and Council services.

The information is then used to update records, amend service provision accordingly and calculate any changes to finances such as benefits and tax. Services and organisations involved include:

* Council – Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, Council Tax, Council Payments, Libraries, Electoral Service, Blue Badges, Adult Services, Children’s Services, Housing

* DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency)

* DWP – Pension, Disability & Carers Service, Jobcentre Plus, Overseas Health Team

* HM Revenue and Customs – Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit & Working Tax Credit, Personal Taxation

* Ministry of Defence – War Pensions Scheme

* Identity and Passport Service.

Councillor Douglas Campbell, South Ayrshire Council’s Portfolio Holder for Customer Services, said: “This is all about providing the best possible service for our customers at a very difficult time, and I’m sure that will be appreciated.

“The average bereaved family has to contact multiple government services when someone dies and, while it’s essential the information is provided, Tell Us Once makes this a far easier process.

“I am pleased we now offer this service at Ayr Registration Office, and I hope it makes a difficult time just that little bit easier.”

Tell Us Once is available at Ayr Registration Office, High Street, Ayr and is expected to be rolled out to Girvan Registration Office in the new year.

Those using the service will need information about the person who has died including date of birth and National Insurance number, details of benefits/services received, death certificate, driving licence (or number) and passport (or passport number and details of place of birth).

For further information, visit or call 01292 617617.

South Ayrshire Council is a Founder Member of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

South Ayrshire Council completes new eco-friendly public housing development

Forty-two delighted tenants have moved in to new homes at Thornyflat – completing the development ahead of schedule and on cost and the first built by South Ayrshire Council in a generation.

The new £4.5million development, funded by the Council in partnership with the Scottish Government, consists of 42 new homes, a mixture of two, three and four-bedroom properties.

[Celebrations all round as Lynne Docherty is presented with the keys to her new home. Pictured are (left to right back row) Councillor Douglas Campbell, Portfolio Holder for House, Councillor Nan McFarlane, Portfolio Holder for Social Services, Lynne Docherty, Laura McQuiston, Housing Officer and local Councillor John Hampton along with two of Lynne’s children Logan and Tyler.]

Councillor Douglas Campbell, Portfolio Holder for Housing and Customer First said: “This development was built after listening to local people to find out the kind of homes they wanted to live in. We considered all comments, and I believe that we have met those aspirations, and we already know that people are pleased with the layouts which meet a whole range of needs.”

“Built using modern building techniques, the homes are environmentally friendly and have achieved an excellent eco rating, which means lower fuel bills. South Ayrshire is the only Council so far to meet this standard and we can proudly say they are the best Council houses in Scotland.”

To mark the occasion Lynne Docherty, one of the first tenants to move in was presented with a bouquet of flowers. Lynne said: “We absolutely love our new home. The space, in particular storage space, is excellent throughout the house. Having an ‘office space’ upstairs gives us somewhere to store the kids toys without them falling over them when they climb out of bed in the morning. Our neighbours are also really friendly, and I can't believe how lucky we have been to receive one of these homes.”

After meeting Lynne and others at the Thornyflat development Councillor Nan McFarlane, Portfolio Holder for Social Services said: “This development provides high quality affordable homes for people.

“The homes have been designed to meet the needs of a wide range of people including those who need low level access to enter their home, or wider doors to accommodate a wheelchair or walking frame.

“I am really pleased that we were able to build new houses in South Ayrshire which meet the modern needs of our tenants. I am confident that people will enjoy living here, because they are not just houses, they truly are homes.”

The construction of the new development provided valuable training and employment for Nathan Brown an apprentice bricklayer and Steven McCallum an apprentice joiner.

[Apprentices Nathan Brown and Steven McCallum are pictured at the new Thornyflat development.]

Through Access Construction the apprentices are gaining employment with linked training in the building industry. The programme encourages unemployed people to seek employment with a contractor as an apprentice, trainee labourer or trainee administrator. It targets those who would not otherwise consider applying for a construction job with a training commitment.

Originally focused on its own building contracts, Ayrshire Housing has extended the model across Ayrshire through a consortium of four housing associations. The development and day to day management of the project is handled by the Ayr-based Aspire2gether. This independent social enterprise is also a leading provider of housing support and related services across Ayrshire.

On completion of the work at Thornyflat both apprentices will move on to other construction contracts with their employer CCG.

Access Construction has helped more than 30 individuals to gain employment with linked training in the building industry. An independent evaluation has demonstrated its value both to the individual trainees and to the building contractors themselves. Through the programme, unemployed people are encouraged to seek employment with a contractor as an apprentice, trainee labourer or trainee administrator. Originally focused on its own building contracts, Ayrshire Housing has extended the model across Ayrshire by through a consortium of four housing associations. The development and day to day management of the project is handled by the Ayr-based Aspire2gether. This independent social enterprise is also a leading provider of housing support and related services across Ayrshire.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Strengthening business and education links between Scotland and India

Education Secretary Michael Russell has said that Scotland and India will continue to develop their education and business links and make both countries stronger.

Speaking at the influential Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) higher education summit in Delhi, Mr Russell highlighted the benefits and opportunities presented when Scotland and India work together.

Education Secretary Michael Russell said: “Scotland and India have historical and enduring bonds, reaching back many years. We also share links that have been forged more recently and our relationship continues to go from strength to strength.

“At the moment there are no fewer than 20 Scottish universities working with partners in India and this week I have opened a new Scottish university campus and witnessed the signing of three new co-operation agreements.

“Of course, the Indian economy is one of the fastest growing in the world and they are experiencing heavy demand in sectors where Scotland has key expertise such as energy, education and banking.

“That's why I have been encouraging Indian business leaders and academics to continue to look towards Scotland. With the Scottish Government investing in research to the tune of £250 million and continuing the SMART:Scotland fund to promote business innovation and knowledge exchange activities, we are in strong place to support international partnerships.

“Scotland is open and willing to build on our existing partnerships with Indian universities and companies and I hope we can progress what has been started, maximise the potential and realise a host of infinite possibilities ahead.”

Mr Russell was speaking at the Higher Education summit of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry. This is SDI’s third annual mission to the Summit, which is India’s premier Education sector event. The primary objective of the Mission is to position Scottish higher education institutions as partners of choice for Indian academia and businesses. It is also the largest and most senior delegation from the university sector to visit India.

Mr Russell was in India as part of a wide-ranging seven day programme in India which included engagements in universities and schools, speaking at a conference for influential business leaders and meetings with key Indian companies and academics.

Ayr Renaissance trainees make a difference to Ayr Town Centre

Fresh from the sparkling difference ‘Let Ayr Shine’ made to Ayr town centre during August, the town is all set to benefit again, thanks to four trainees appointed by Ayr Renaissance.

Tasked with regenerating and rejuvenating Ayr Town Centre, the regeneration company, with support from South Ayrshire Council, was successful in sourcing funding for four trainee Environmental Regeneration Operatives for a six month period.

[Pictured: The trainees are already hard at work repainting shabby entrances, removing graffiti and fly posters, litter picking and working to prevent the nuisance of dog fouling.]

James Thomson, Craig Stewart, Stephen McLaughlin and Robert Swann began work a few weeks ago after completing a rigorous induction programme and they’re already making a difference.

Robert has been working with the Council’s litter and dog warden patrol and said: “It’s great to have the chance of work for six months and I’m really pleased to be making a difference to two things that matter most for local people – litter and dog fouling. I intend to make the most of the opportunity and look forward to completing my training and placement.”

James, Craig and Stephen will be based in and around the town centre and their duties will include street cleaning, litter picking, gardening, decorating, the removal of fly posting and graffiti.

The trainees will also received take courses in basic construction skills, such as lime sand pointing and footpath repairs.

Councillor Bill McIntosh, Leader of South Ayrshire Council and Ayr Renaissance Board member said: “The Let Ayr Shine pilot civic pride campaign, which ran from 8-22 August, put some extra sparkle back in to Ayr town centre thanks to the hard work of South Ayrshire Council and Ayr Renaissance, with excellent support from local residents and businesses.

“I’m delighted to welcome the trainees to the town centre and know they will do a fantastic job building on the good work undertaken during Let Ayr Shine.

The Ayr Renaissance Strategy – delivered through the Ayr Renaissance Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) – is designed to rejuvenate Ayr town centre over the next 20 years, with a focus on improving the arrival ‘hubs’ of the town, improving connections within the town and developing quality residential, retail and commercial accommodation.

To help achieve this, the LLP received £2.258 million for the regeneration of Ayr town centre in the first tranche of Town Centre Regeneration Funding – the largest amount awarded to a single town centre project – and this included £500,000 towards the refurbishment of the Gaiety Theatre.

In the first phase of the Ayr Renaissance project, has seen a facelift for properties in Ayr’s Sandgate, High Street and Newmarket Street, delivering visible improvements to this part of town. This transformation is making a real difference and will continue as the project moves forward.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Scottish companies encouraged to target Brazil

Scottish Enterprise (SE) is urging companies to explore potential partnerships and business opportunities with Brazil - one of the world’s fastest growing economies.

During a fact-finding mission this week, Lena Wilson (pictured above), chief executive of Scottish Enterprise, will meet with Brazilian government officials, trade and industry leaders and representatives from the Brazilian Development Bank to discuss how to further strengthen trade relationships between the two countries.

The visit will enable SE to help equip Scottish companies with the right tools and expertise to trade more effectively with Brazil. As well as exploring key possibilities within the biofuels industry, the visit aims to gain a better understanding of the political, cultural and economic issues in the country and explore how SE can support Brazilian companies in Scotland.

Lena Wilson said: “As the fifth-largest country in the world with a population of around 185 million people, Brazil is one of the world’s most rapidly developing economies and with a GDP per head greater than either India or China, it offers huge opportunities for Scottish businesses.

“This fact-finding visit will allow us to experience first-hand the size and scale of the potential market prospects for Scotland in Brazil – both in relation to export opportunities for Scottish companies and investment possibilities for Brazilian companies looking to do business in Scotland.

“We know that trading overseas is a key way for companies to realise their ambitious growth plans and in doing so, generate long term sustainable economic growth and recovery for Scotland. This visit is all about establishing strong relationships with Brazil and creating the right paths for Scottish companies to successfully trade here.

“By tapping into lucrative new markets we can ensure our message is clear – Scotland is very much open for business and is ready to compete on an international level.”

Along with the United States, Brazil is the world’s leading ethanol producer and largest exporter of ethanol fuel. Brazil is also making significant progress in next generation biofuel technology such as the hydro processing of natural oils in refineries and the conversion of waste substances into ethanol.

SE and its international arm Scottish Development International, sponsored and worked with the British Embassy to organise a mission to Brazil for Edinburgh Napier University in 2009 to study the country’s success in biofuels and hosted a Brazilian delegation to Scotland a month later to further build relationships.

Other areas that offer the most possibilities for Scottish companies in Brazil include the oil and gas sector, automotive components, electronics, machinery, food and drink and chemicals. In 2009, 41 million bottles of whisky were shipped to Brazil.

Ayr Racecourse presents jockey, owner and trainer of the year awards

By: Iain Ferguson

JOCKEY Paul Hanagan was crowned The Isle of Skye Blended Scotch Whisky Ayr Flat Jockey Champion of 2011 at Ayr Racecourse recently.

The champion jockey celebrated by riding a double – bringing his total for the season at Scotland’s premier track to 14 from 61 mounts.

Pictured above: Ayr Clerk of the Course Emma Marley presented Paul with a limited edition Isle of Skye 21 year old bottle of whisky in a royal blue and gold Wade porcelain decanter and Paul commented: “I always enjoy coming to Ayr as its one of my favourite tracks, and I’m delighted to win this title again and this lovely prize.”

The Isle of Skye Owners title for the 2011 flat season at Ayr was won by Ken McGarrity, an owner with Linda Perratt, who also received a bottle of Isle of Skye 21 Year Old from Emma Marley (pictured above).

Ken said: “I have had runners at Ayr for many years, and I am over the moon to be top owner for 2011.”

Richard Fahey won the Trainers title but was unable to attend the meeting.

Enquiries: Telephone: Iain Ferguson on 07795-565691.

Ayr Racecourse and the associated Western House Hotel are Founder Members of the Elite Ayrshire Business Circle.