Cutting-edge convention centres

Scotland has a fantastic mix of stunning landscapes, wildlife and wonderful local produce, combined with a thriving arts and culture scene. Visit Scotland explore the nation’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design and explain what the country has to offer in terms of venues for meeting and events

Innovation is at the heart of Scotland and so it proved in 2016 as the country celebrated its achievements. From the invention of the telephone and television to penicillin and the pneumatic tyre – even the first cloned adult mammal in Dolly the Sheep – visitors were reminded of the country’s crowning glories and 1.4 million joined in the celebrations to tie-in with the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design.

That legacy is evident for anyone looking to host a conference or other business event in Scotland. The country is endowed with pioneering knowledge and world renowned reputations, particularly in key sectors such as energy, technology, financial, life sciences, food and drink, creative industries and medicine.

These areas of expertise are driven through Scotland’s centres of innovation, such as the Oil and Gas Innovation Centre in Aberdeen, Scottish Association for Marine Science in Oban and The Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, producing world-leading research, while bringing innovative products, services and technologies to market.

Iconic venues
Innovation is reflected in Scotland’s outstanding, iconic and unique venues, from the ground-breaking Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC), to the state-of-the-art SSE Hydro and the cutting edge Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC).

Scotland’s history and heritage also offers a unique business events appeal epitomised by 2017 as the country embraces the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology. From World Heritage Sites to ancient monuments, cultural traditions to myths, stories and legends – a year-long programme of events will shine a spotlight on some of Scotland’s greatest assets and icons as well as its hidden gems.

Conferences and meetings can get a flavour of Scotland’s fascinating past with the many heritage venues on offer, from its castles – Stirling, Dundas and Edinburgh to name just a few – country houses, such as Hopetoun House in West Lothian and Winton House in East Lothian, and five-star attractions, including the National Museum of Scotland and the Royal College of Surgeons, both in Edinburgh.

As the Scottish capital, and home to the Old and New Town, one of Scotland’s six UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Edinburgh combines modern world-leading venues with a rich cultural heritage. Home to the world’s first hall-wide moving floor system, the EICC’s stunning glass atrium provides a perfect welcome point to the 1,600 square metre Lennox Suite - Europe’s most technologically advanced meetings and events space. The moving floor can be reconfigured into numerous different set-ups, including flat-floored exhibition banqueting for 1,400 guests, a tiered auditorium for 2,000 and arena mode for 1,400.

An Edinburgh event
Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh - The Caledonian to the west end of Princes Street, which first opened its doors more than a century ago, provides an unforgettable experience for guests that continues the legacy of the Waldorf Astoria in New York. The Caledonian can host events for up to 250 guests with Wi-Fi access across all meeting rooms while the hotel also features 241 bedrooms, seven suites and a luxury Guerlain Spa. Guests are spoilt for choice with four food and beverage outlets, including two restaurants from the Michelin-starred Galvin brothers with their first Scottish venture.

The Assembly Rooms in George Street is another hugely popular venue for meetings, conferences and live events. The Music Hall and Ballroom are large, opulent spaces, ornately decorated with intricate plasterwork and crystal chandeliers. Facilities at the A-listed venue include state-of-the-art background lighting and sound systems, in-house audio visual, plasma screens in the foyer and a fully equipped finishing kitchen for exclusive use of the event caterers.

For a taste of the country’s national drink, The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, recently reopened following a £300,000 refurbishment, is an ideal location for bespoke corporate dinners and tastings and now boasts the new Kaleidoscope Whisky Bar where delegates can explore the varied range of whisky flavours, with more than 200 rare single malt whiskies and other spirits available at the bar each month.

Last year Hilton Hotels & Resorts continued their brand expansion in Scotland with a £17 million refurbishment of the Hilton Edinburgh Carlton. Offering a chic hotel experience in a city centre, seven dedicated meeting rooms that can accommodate a variety of gatherings including banquets, executive roundtable meetings, conferences and celebrations. The main event room, the Highland Suite, can accommodate up to 200 people for a banquet and 300 people for a reception and offers panoramic views across the city.

Another multi-million development taking shape in the capital is the refurbishment of the Scottish National Gallery. Due to be completed by summer 2018, the £16.8 million extension will radically improve access to the Gallery’s world-class collection of modern art.

For evening events, The Scottish Cafe & Restaurant can accommodate 240 for a banquet and 300 for a reception. In addition, The Scottish National Portrait Gallery can accommodate 120 for a banquet and 250 for a reception and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art can accommodate between 20-50 for a banquet and up to 100 for a reception.

Memorable meeting spaces
Looking to Glasgow and the world-leading Scottish Exhibition + Conference Centre (SECC) was recently renamed and rebranded the Scottish Event Campus to acknowledge the development of the site to include the Armadillo and The SSE Hydro. The Campus features the SEC Centre, with five interconnected exhibition and meeting spaces and a combined area of over 22,000sqm, the iconic 3,000 seat SEC Armadillo and The SSE Hydro – a 13,000 capacity concert, sporting and special events arena.

The SSE Hydro plays host to around 140 events each year, is consistently ranked by Pollstar in the top three arenas globally, and has been designed to be flexible, accommodating a wide range of conferences and events. The unique façade of The Hydro, made up of pneumatic translucent cushions, allows natural light to illuminate the foyers during the day and the arena to ‘glow’ at night.

Another unique addition to the Glasgow landscape is the five-star visitor attraction, the Riverside Museum. Taking visitors through a fascinating history of transport, the museum is also a flexible exhibition space that offers conference organisers a stunning, iconic waterfront location with a number of event options. A unique concept is the museum’s Main Street, which can host bespoke receptions for 120 people in a beautiful re-created 1900s Glasgow street. The entire museum can be hired out with opening times, offering a maximum capacity of 800.

Outside, the museum boasts a large plaza, which can host a range of events, from concerts and rallies to formal functions and fairs, while berthed adjacent is The Tall Ship Glenlee, which can comfortably accommodate up to 200 people – again presenting organisers with further venue options. With more than 18,000 rooms across the city, from budget accommodation to five star hotels, all within close proximity of café venues, hotels and restaurants, Glasgow offers numerous possibilities.

Among Glasgow’s dazzling range of hotels is the five-star, £26 million Blythswood Square. Home to a 10,000 square foot Urban Day Spa, the 100-room hotel includes seven suites. The Monte Carlo Suites, beautiful oak-panelled events spaces, offer bespoke private dining menus and a range of flexible room layouts, as well as cutting edge audio visual technology. There is even a custom-designed 52-seater meeting table for those all-important round-table discussions.

The Screening Room, meanwhile, is perfect for product launches and presentations. A unique cinema available for private hire, each of the Screening Room’s 40 seats are finished in a custom Harris Tweed fabric.

City of Discovery
In Dundee, Scotland’s ‘City of Discovery’, work continues on the £80 million V&A which will add significantly to the country’s appeal among the business events community. The first British building designed by renowned architect Kengo Kuma, the galleries will feature the first dedicated home to the story of Scotland's outstanding design heritage.

Featuring more than 1,500sqm of flexible gallery space, the new V&A, which is due to open in the summer of 2018, will boast one of the largest dedicated museum-standard exhibition spaces in Scotland. The facilities at the museum will provide first-class opportunities for conferences and other event events to be held in unique venues. These include the great hall, which will be available to host receptions, while galleries can be hired on a private access basis. There will also be a number of workshops and meeting rooms which will be suitable for the needs of business customers.

Edinburgh-based caterer Heritage Portfolio has been appointed to run the catering operation at the V&A. It is the only catering company in Scotland to have been awarded a Royal Warrant as an official supplier of catering services to Her Majesty the Queen. Heritage Portfolio also runs highly successful cafes, restaurants and events at a range of visitor attractions including the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, the Scottish Portrait Gallery, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Signet Library and Scone Palace.

Further north, a journey into the magical Scottish Highlands may be just the thing to get creative juices flowing. Set within acres of manicured grounds, the Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness is the perfect blend of historic grandeur, contemporary design and passionate service. The Kingsmills Suite offers 410 square metres of the newest design-led meeting and events space. A relaxing circulation and breakout area, exclusively for guests of the Kingsmills Suite, enables unsurpassed choice of event schedules.

In the North East, the new Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre (AECC) will open in 2019 and be the county’s second biggest conference centre. The new state-of-the-art site will have four times the available space of the existing AECC, double the arena capacity to 12,500, including a moveable stage, feature 20 hospitality boxes and club lounge and create 48,500 square metres of flexible exhibition space. The site itself will include three hotels and its very own energy centre.

Scotland has many more hotels and conference spaces available, all within touching distance of the country’s rich history and heritage, which provide a unique platform for truly inspiring business events.

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