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Visit Scotland

by Olivia Powell

EN explores the venues Scotland has to offer.

With its 5.5m population, over 700 islands and 3,000 castles, Scotland is a country often associated with history, culture and scenery.

However, there are many other things that makes Scotland a great option for hosting events, including great venues.

SSE Hydro


The SEC sits at the heart of Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city. The SEC is made up of the SEC Centre, the SSE Hydro and the SEC Armadillo, and has a number of event spaces including three auditoria, 20 breakout/meeting spaces and five exhibition halls. In 2019, the group saw 46 exhibitions and 89 conferences.

The venue’s plans for the future include a continued focus on accessibility and sustainability, making the most of the flexible venue space, to create more unique events experiences – for example, ‘festivalised’ events such as Celtic Festival. Throught 2020, the SEC will see the return of shows that launched there during 2019, including the Gin to My Tonic, Road Expo, Celtic FC, and the Scottish Hair & Beauty Show in addition to long-standing shows like Model Rail Scotland, Country Living Christmas Fair, and the Scottish Wedding Show, among others. 

The SEC is situated within Finnieston, which was voted the UK’s hippest neighbourhood by The Times, and 67 per cent of Scotland’s population (3.7m people) are within an hour’s journey of the venue. The set-up of the venues means that a live event, a conference and an exhibition can all take place at once, without interrupting each other, whilst its central location means there a multiple activities in the surroundings for attendees to take advantage of.  

Just some of these activities are: 

The Eden Mill Blendworks Gin School in Glasgow’s Princes Square, where visitors can be guided by expert tutors in order to create their own personal bottle of gin, which they can take home, complete with a custom-made brand label, two Blendworks gin glasses and certificate 

The Mackintosh in the Willows, which serves a special afternoon tea in the only surviving Tea Room designed by Scottish artist Charles Mackintosh

The Clydeside Distillery, a single malt whiskey distillery where visitors can take a tour around the Queen’s Dock and learn more about the distillery’s history, before taking a tour around the distillery itself and tasting the drams in the Blender’s Room

Edinburgh International Conference Centre


Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland – famous for the world’s largest arts festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – hosts a number of venues, including the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC), and the Edinburgh Corn Exchange.

The EICC has a number of key spaces within the venue, including: The Pentland Suite, a raked auditorium that can transform into three separate auditoria; the Lennox Suite, a space with moving-floor technology which allows it to transform from a flat-floor space to a raked auditorium, an arena or a tiered cabaret; the Cromdale Hall, an exhibition space that can be used as an exhibition hall; and the Strathblane Hall and Atrium, two reception/registration/catering areas that can be combined or used separately.

The EICC hosted 217 events in 2019, which included events for industries for which Edinburgh is well-known, including finance, life sciences and technology, as well as comedy, theatre and circus performances during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The venue contributed £55m to the local economy, and welcomed over 1,000 delegates from 100 countries to the venue during the TEDSummit held there in July 2019.

Looking to the year ahead, the EICC is set to announce a number of initiatives to ‘further improve the venue’s competitive offering’.

The venue also plans to focus on sustainability, after introducing a zero waste to landfill initiative, in addition to cutting down the venue’s utility bill by half while doubling the number of events held. The EICC has also introduced a full-time environmental consultant in order to maximise their sustainable efforts. The venue has also been proactive in safeguarding the venue against Brexit, through securing clients outside of the EU and setting up an alliance of conference centres from across Europe.

The Edinburgh Corn Exchange recently celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2019. The venue has a number of rooms including the Exchange, the Baron, the Bistro and the Newmarket Suite, with the varying sizes of the rooms allowing the venue to be able to accommodate a range of events, shows and conferences.

In 2019 the Corn Exchange hosted a number of events including 10 national award ceremonies, 4 international conferences, the Edinburgh Wedding Fair, the Hogmanay Hoot, the city’s largest indoor Hogmanay Party, and the Big Big Gin Festival.

As the capital city, Edinburgh has a number of interesting activities for visitors to take part in, including: 

The Cauldron, where guests can take part in the Cauldron Magical Experience, a 1 hour 45-minute immersive mixology class where they are given a robe and magic wand and taught how to use molecular mixology to brew drinkable potions which bubble, smoke and change colour

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, the world’s first ever purpose-built portrait gallery designed by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson as a shrine for Scotland’s heroes and heroines. It’s home to artwork of famous historical figures including Mary Queen of Scots, Robert Burns and even Prince Charles 

My Adventure, an outdoor activities centre which offers a number of different activities including gorge walking, coasteering, mountain biking and canyoning

P&J Live


Aberdeen is often associated with Scotland’s maritime history, as well as the marine life that can be spotted from the city. It is also the home of P&J Live, a 48,000sqm event space made up of three exhibition halls, an arena and a subterranean car park.

The venue hosts a range of events – from exhibitions to conferences to concerts. The location of the venue itself allows organisers to target a new demographic through hosting events there. 

In 2013, Aberdeen City Council announced that a brand new, state-of-the-art events venue was to be built, and in 2019, P&J Live opened. The £33m development was delivered by Aberdeen City Council in partnership with Henry Boot Developments and replaced Aberdeen Exhibition Conference and Centre.

The site is environmentally friendly and has its own energy centre, which will use local renewable resources and advanced technologies to produce an energy ecosystem. Over 29,000 trees and shrubs are planted on-site as P&J Live has been designed to be living environment to attract both people and wildlife to the area. The venue is also on course to achieve BREEAM excellent the world’s leading sustainability assessment. 

Those in Aberdeen can also enjoy the experiences it has to offer, for example: The Torry Battery, a dolphin watching spot open all year round, where from April to August visitors can join the RSPB Dolphin Watch team who will provide binoculars, spotting scopes and talks on the bottlenose dolphins, and where visitors may also spot other mammals like otters, seals and whales 

The Countesswells Forest, where visitors can explore using the three walking trails which provide views of the countryside and the city of Aberdeen;

The Aberdeen Maritime Museum which has a collection of artefacts from shipbuilding, fast sailing ships, fishing and port history, and is also the only place in the UK where you can see displays which focus on the North Sea oil and gas industry

Ayr Racecourse


Ayr Racecourse is not just home to Scotland’s only Grade 1 track, the Coral Scottish Grand National Festival, and the William Hill Ayr Gold Cup Festival, it is also home to the Princess Royal Conference and Events Centre.

The Princess Royal hosts a number of events including banquets, gala balls, exhibitions, conferences and car launches. Offering 11 suites over four floors, the largest having 1000-person capacity, the venue also has over 150 acres of land which can house outdoor events.

Each suite is equipped with large plasma screens, situated around the room, to give delegates a good view of the proceedings. These can be interfaced with PowerPoint for presentations, company advertising, or the ‘in house’ conference cameras in the larger suites.

Besides the events at the racecourse, Ayr has a number of other sights to see, including: 

The birthplace of the man voted greatest Scot ever to live, Scottish poet Robert Burns – the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum is an interactive museum with more than 5,000 artefacts on display including a number of his original manuscripts

Culzean Castle, a clifftop castle on the Ayrshire coastline which dates back to the 18th century and has more than 568 acres of gardens and land. The castle was the family holiday home of choice for President Dwight D Eisenhower, and with just six bedrooms, The Eisenhower Hotel at Culzean Castle is now one of the most exclusive places to stay in Scotland. 

V&A Dundee


Dundee is home to the world’s first V&A museum located outside of London, the V&A Dundee. 

The museum opened in September 2018 and is Scotland’s first dedicated design museum. The V&A Dundee is home to a Scottish Design Gallery, which collates around 300 exhibits from world-famous collections of art and pieces from Scottish designers, in addition to being a great space for launch parties.

The idea for a V&A museum in Dundee originated at the University of Dundee in 2007 when Professor Georgina Follett (then Dean of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design) suggested it to University Principal, Sir Alan Langlands. Following this, the idea was pitched to Sir Mark Jones, then director of the Victoria and Albert Museum. It was suggested that the museum be built in Dundee due to its ‘potential as an anchor for the urban regeneration of the waterfront’. In 2010, a design competition took place to decide what the museum would look like and Japanese architect Kengo Kuma won the competition for his design, which was inspired by the eastern cliff edges of Scotland. 

The V&A Dundee opened on 15 September 2018, and attracted 27,201 visitors during its first week and 100,000 in its first three. It was then officially opened by Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge in a private official opening on 28 January 2019. By 30 March 2019, the museum achieved its target of 500,000 visitors within a year, six months earlier than expected. 

The venue includes a number of rooms, including the Scottish Design Galleries, which feature permanent design works from across Scotland, and the Oak Room, which was originally completed in 1908 by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and was commissioned by Catherine Cranston, who planned to use it as a tea room. It took 16 months and £1.3m to conserve and restore the room from over 700 original parts..

Besides the V&A museum, Dundee has a number of other visitor attractions like: 

The Ancrum Outdoor Centre, which provides a range of outdoor experiences all year round, including alpine skiing, mountain biking Whitewater rafting and sea kayaking

The St Andrews Links, which is referred to as the home of golf, is the largest public golf complex in Europe, and has seven courses to choose from. Next year, St Andrews will host the 150th Open tournament on its Old Course. EN

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