Scotland is a land of plentiful activity for corporate and incentive groups, from whisky tasting to golf, highland games and even seafaris but with so much on offer where do you even begin?
Our corporate and incentive team gave us some insights into their favourite activities and venues for groups to consider when visiting Scotland.
What is your favourite incentive activity?
Landyachting with Blown Away on West Sands, St andrews
Theresa Steven, Business Development Manager - UK: I’m a huge fan of the traditional highland games. It is great fun seeing everyone get into the competitive spirit and support their clans as they take battle in a fun and light-hearted way – also where else can you gain points from tossing a welly?
I also love talking to clients about the options that incorporate Scotland’s stunning landscapes, including foraging for breakfast or supper in many of the country’s luxury estates. It is a fantastic opportunity to explore nature and reconnect with each other.
Heather McNee, Corporate & Incentive Assistant Manager: For me nothing can beat learning survival skills in the Scottish countryside. Working with other members of your organisation to find water, build shelter and lighting a fire is great way to build team spirit and step back in time. It is great fun to imagine how you would cope as a team if you needed food and warmth and learn about nature. At the end of these sessions, I think it’s so rewarding to come together and enjoy a simple meal and hot drink as a result of your endeavours.
Richard Knight, Senior Corporate & Incentive Manager - the Americas: There is so much to do in Scotland and whilst the cities offer many great experiences, the rich tapestry of the countryside, often referred to as an incentive planners playground, appeal the most to me
There are so many activities to consider but for me I think spending time at Gleneagles in Perthshire is an amazing opportunity. The estate sprawls across 850 acres and has an incredible amount of activity to offer including horse riding, cycling, fishing, falconry, off road driving and even zip lining. Of course, the resort has a rich golfing history, hosting The Ryder and Solheim Cups, and is home to three world-renowned championship golf courses. And where better to relax and talk about the day than at one of the great on-site restaurants. It is also comforting to know that each person who stays at the resort contributes to the Perthshire Big Tree Fund, which maintains the local environment and forests.
St Andrews also offers some great experiences over and above the obvious golf. Landyachting is fabulous on West Sands beach where Chariots of Fire was filmed back in the 80s.
Emma Richards, Business Development Manager - UK: I love being outside in nature and Scotland has so many beautiful areas and unexpected hidden gems.
The beautiful islands off the west coast of Scotland are a favourite of mine to take guests to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and are easily accessible from our major cities. In particular, I’d recommend the islands of Cumbrae, Bute and Arran as they are only an hour away from Glasgow and there are so many options and they offer such a diverse range of activities to suit all tastes.
- Visitors can “island hop” between the three islands and visit the artisan gin and whisky distilleries and enjoy a wee dram along the way.
- If guests are more suited to an active break, all the islands have so many possibilities, from walking and cycling tours to water sports. They can finish the day with a picnic or BBQ on a secret beach watching the sunset.
- Hiring a boat and wildlife spotting is also an amazing thing to do. Scotland is lucky enough to be home to marine life including dolphins, orcas and seals, which can be seen around our stunning coastline.
Lindsay Neilson, Senior Corporate & Incentive Business Development Manager - UK & Europe: I really enjoy the activities provided by the team at Primal Adventures. Their wealth of expertise and good humour always makes for a fun trip. Getting into the spectacular countryside is always guaranteed, and a welcome escape. The dramatic west of Scotland often plays host, and everything can be tailored to the group requirements. This could be from survival skills – there’s something awe-inspiring about creating fire - to having your personal chef whip up a banquet in the most beautiful surroundings.
Another firm favourite of mine is a seafari which combines a little adrenalin with getting up close and personal with nature. Leaving from several locations in Scotland, the whole activity is fun, from getting all suited up in wet-water gear, to taking your place on the boat ready for the off. Short journeys take you to many small Scottish islands teeming with wildlife, such as the famous Bass Rock, with the largest colony of Northern Gannets in the world. You can also spot puffins, otters, and so many other delightful creatures. Of course, at some stage during the trip, your captain may let the throttle out for an exhilarating fast ride!
What venue would you recommend for an exclusive dinner and dance?
Gala dinner set up at Achnagairn Castle in the Highlands © Achnagairn Estate
Theresa Steven: The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh is a venue I always like to tell clients about. I love the fact that the venue can host an intimate supper or a grand dinner for up to 1,200 people, both utilising the Grand Gallery with creative thinking which can really make a huge impact on an event.
You are surrounded by exhibits that tell you so much about the country’s history, which makes for a unique conversation. There’s also space for a traditional Scottish ceilidh at the end of the night, which adds an extra moment of wow.
Heather McNee: My favourite venue is Achnagairn Castle in the Highlands. The castle has a stunning vaulted ballroom, which was built in 1912 for the then-owner’s daughters 21st birthday, so it truly is the ideal place to dance the night away or network over a glass of bubbles.
The castle is also surrounded by beautifully manicured grounds, which are a must see when you visit.
Richard Knight: Whilst the choices are so varied and extensive across the length and breadth of Scotland, my favourite venue for a dinner is The Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh.
The yacht’s grandeur, exclusivity and history never cease to amaze me. To think of all of the people who have been hosted in the vessel over the years by Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II in so many countries, whilst also maintaining that private relaxing space for the royal family is fascinating.
For the North American market, I find clients are always interested that five US presidents have been welcomed on the yacht as well as numerous celebrities over the years including Clint Eastwood, who said “that was the best Steak I have ever had” when dining with Princess Diana.
Emma Richards: Platform Glasgow, previously the famous Arches nightclub, offers a completely unique option for evening events. It has such a modern and funky feel to it and has a huge focus on locally sourced, Scottish ingredients. To me, it really is a quintessential Glasgow venue. The space is incredibly versatile, making it well suited for most events and can be tailored to meet the requirements whatever the size or theme. From a formal black-tie ceilidh to a relaxed street food style festival, the space is extremely adaptable and can transform to suit the client's needs.
Lindsay Neilson: You’ll find most places in Scotland lend themselves well to an impromptu ceilidh (dance) no matter what the size.
I particularly enjoyed the ambiance of a dinner and ceilidh at Dundas Castle just outside of Edinburgh with a small international group. It's a beautiful, atmospheric setting, and always lovely to see guests appear wearing kilts - especially if it's for the first time. We had our ceilidh in the large entrance hall to the castle with a couple of musicians to set the scene - it felt very special indeed and was a great opportunity to teach guests some of the more unusual Scottish dances.
What venue would you recommend for team meeting or education session?
Board room at the National Museum of Scotland
Theresa Steven: As a huge fan of our National Trust for Scotland properties, I always like to tell my clients that they can tick many boxes using properties such as Hill of Tarvit Mansion House. Delegates can experience a traditional Scottish property steeped in history and wonder, and also utilise the vast outdoor space to get teams working together.
Hill of Tarvit boasts its very own Hickory Golf Course, the only one in Scotland where delegates can step back in time and try their hand at traditional golf with a ginger beer afterwards. Local activity providers such as BlueSky Experiences can also set up a traditional Highland Games for delegates to enjoy.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a key focus for National Trust for Scotland so you can be sure that you are using a venue that demonstrates environmental protection. Hill of Tarvit was built to entertain, so it's a perfect venue for celebrating in.
Heather McNee: The National Trust for Scotland have several venues which are full of splendour and offer exciting options to host meetings, with sustainability at their core. I have a particular soft spot for Fyvie Castle in Aberdeenshire, which has an other-worldly quality. The 800-year-old fortress has several beautiful portraits, armour and antiquities to admire. As well as having a team meeting within an opulent space, you can visit the largest collection of Scottish fruits and vegetables. Their garden tasting tours allow you to explore the grounds when you step outside the castle walls.
Richard Knight: There are so many places to choose from across the whole of Scotland, from the stunning views of Ailsa Craig at Trump Turnberry to the views of Edinburgh Castle from The Balmoral, Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh - The Caledonian or Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa, Edinburgh hotels. The venues all offer the benefit from inspiring views that help to stimulate conversations.
Emma Richards: House for an Art Lover is an incredibly quirky venue in the southside of Glasgow. The venue is located in the magnificent grounds of Bellahouston park and is inspired by the work of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It was originally created as a country retreat but is now a multipurpose venue, hosting art galleries and exhibitions. I can't think of anywhere more inspiring to hold a meeting than to be surrounded by the works of one of Scotland's most famous designer and artists. The kitchen only uses ingredients from local suppliers and the food is absolutely delicious - the scones are the best I have ever tasted.
Lindsay Neilson: Having a meeting in the Board and Bute Rooms at the National Museum of Scotland is a unique experience. The round rooms are inspiring in themselves, but also provide access to a stunning rooftop terrace that can be used for drinks receptions and BBQs. Being located in Edinburgh’s Old Town, means that you will have amazing views over to Edinburgh Castle from some of the rooms in the venue.
And finally, what is your favourite place for a group visit?
Theresa Steven: For me, I encourage my clients to set up a city tour with Invisible Cities when they are visiting Edinburgh or Glasgow. The charity helps to get Scotland’s homeless back on their feet by training them to become tour guides. So, when you join an Invisible Cities tour you are helping someone in need, it’s a rewarding way to give back to the local community. And who doesn’t like hearing all about the afterhours stories and seeing the ‘nooks and crannies’ that only they would know about!
Heather McNee: I love to be truly immersed in the dramatic scenery of the West Coast of Scotland. Whether it is exploring Loch Lomond near Glasgow or heading further north to Glencoe you can enjoy majestic mountains, lochs and glens. It is wonderful to experience the region as a group; perhaps taking a boat trip, a 4x4 driving experience or simply walking in the area with a guide, it's impossible not to enjoy stepping into this wilderness.
Richard Knight: There are plenty of options for group visits in Scotland and I always like the opportunity to see true history come alive. Stirling Castle is a particular favourite of mine with its very impressive restoration project, dinning and reception options. For smaller scale affairs, I have always found The Real Marys Kings Close fascinating. Being able to walk the ancient old streets of Edinburgh, under the streets of ‘new’ Edinburgh with all of the history that surrounds life in those times. Another favourite is The National Museum of Scotland where hours can be spent exploring the exhibits and discovering the innovation and developments that Scotland has given the world over centuries.
Emma Richards: With mindfulness and wellbeing being a core focus for groups, I'd recommend walks around our stunning woodland. There's nothing better than a group forest walk followed by sitting around a cosy campfire with a hot chocolate. We work with the wonderful charity The Green Team, who can provide activities and expert knowledge to any group hoping to spend some time in nature.
Lindsay Neilson: It’s hard to beat the imposing Stirling Castle. Very accessible from Glasgow and Edinburgh, and extremely versatile for atmospheric dinners, receptions, activities such as falconry and fire-juggling, and of course finding out more about history. It’s such a pivotal venue in Scottish history – Mary Queen of Scots was crowned queen here as a baby. Hearing bagpipes play here after dinner will have the hairs raised on the back of your neck. It’s certainly a jewel in the crown for incentive groups to enjoy and explore.
If you have any questions, please find the corporate and incentive's team contact details here.