The Highlands named as top world destination for 2019 by Lonely Planet

The Highlands and Islands have been selected as one of the top places in the world by Lonely Planet.

The beautiful landscape helped place the region in the top 10 of Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel list for 2019.

The guide named the Highlands “one of the wildest, least inhabited and most scenic parts of Europe”. The “innovative and fast-developing” accommodation across the Highlands is another reason for the area’s high ranking.

Lonely Planet’s guide recommends looking out for a number of animals native to the area including red deer, golden eagles, otters and whales.

The Highlands have long been a popular destination. They are home to Britain’s largest National Park, Britain’s highest peak, Ben Nevis, and a stunning coastline.

We found out where else in Scotland visitors should be sure to check out, by asking the public the most beautiful places they have been.

 

 

Can Scottish football compete with European elites?

It’s that time of the year again when football fans eagerly await news of the latest transfers their club is making in the transfer window. As clubs in Europe are making transactions of over £100 million per window these days, it’s normal practice to see those types of figures bandied about.

For the bigger clubs in Europe those signings are made to help them achieve success in European competitions like the Champions League or the Europa League.

This season, only Celtic made it through the qualifying rounds as the only Scottish team in European competition. Despite dropping out of the Champions League before Christmas, Brendan Rodgers’ side will take part in the Europa League next month – where they will face Russian outfit Zenit St. Petersburg.

In their Champions League group, Celtic faced two of the richest clubs worldwide: Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain. They lost all matches against those sides. The total value of Celtic’s team was tiny compared to the German and French teams – a far cry from the days when Scottish clubs competed in high level matches with Europe’s best. In the current climate, that is not likely to happen again.

Olivier Ntcham was Celtic’s big money buy last summer. Credit: Getty Sport

Neil Patey, a football finance expert, believes that the millions of pounds in broadcast revenue sets the larger leagues apart from that of Scotland’s top flight. He said:

In reality, small leagues, Scotland and Celtic as an example, will never be competitive financially with a team in the upper echelons of the English, Spanish, German, Italian leagues. Aside wealthy owners, those leagues command more money from media rights.

You’re going to get somewhere between £140 million to £200 million every year through media rights. The winners of the Scottish Premiership get about £2.5 million so you are never going to be on an equal footing and there will always be that disparity between big and small leagues.

Celtic are still miles ahead of the rest of the country financially. They spent £4.5 million on midfielder Olivier Ntcham last summer and are likely to receive a multi-million pound offer for their striker Moussa Dembele this month. Edinburgh clubs Hibernian and Hearts struggle to reach seven figures to pay for any players.

Former SFA chief executive, Gordon Smith, thinks that Scotland’s finances will only get better if money is invested into the clubs differently. He said:

[Clubs] might have a buyer who can flaunt the rules a wee bit like some people do, basically coming in as a sponsor like you see in England with Etihad, for example. They can get around it because the owners get to put money in in different ways so that’s the only way Scottish teams can compete.

Gordon Smith (left) believes the Scottish clubs need wealthy owners to compete. Credit: Getty Images

UEFA’s financial fair play rule also keeps tabs on how clubs operate financially. The rule requires teams to financially breakeven with their revenue and expenditure. For the leagues and clubs who benefit from hefty television income that means more money is able to be spent within the rules.

Financial fair play expert, Ed Thompson, says that it is those rules which make it hard for smaller leagues to compete now. He stated:

In Scotland, and smaller countries, the amount of money that TV companies can afford to pay is less. If you look at big clubs in small countries, they have absolutely fallen off a cliff as far as UEFA competition is concerned.

Historically, top clubs in Holland, Belgium, Romania and Scotland – like Ajax, Steaua Bucharest, Anderlecht, Celtic and Rangers – who would have done well in Europe and won competitions, because they are in small countries where TV revenues are lower, financial fair play rules mean they are unable to compete.

Scottish clubs can keep trying. However, football and money are a married couple in the modern day and until Scottish football is rolling in it, pushing custard up a hill with a fork looks much easier.

Britain to offer more money in bid to further Brexit talks

In an effort to accelerate talks over a new trade deal with the EU, the UK cabinet has agreed that Britain will offer more money to the EU as Brexit talks continue.

It is believed that such an offer could be as high as £40 billion pounds – double the £20 billion that was offered by the Prime Minister Theresa May in Florence last September.

The European Parliament. Source: Flickr

This was decided yesterday in a meeting of the prime minister’s new Brexit-subcommittee, not long after the EU’s lead negotiator Michel Barnier stated that the EU would not concede over trading laws and regulations.

Whilst the negotiation teams of both the UK and the EU have been meeting each month since March, progress has been slow, with the ‘divorce bill’ proving to be a key point of disagreement for both sides. The EU has been reluctant to begin trade talks without receiving financial assurances by the UK.

One area that the UK Government has found challenging to manage is placating those Conservative MPs that feel offering and giving the EU more money would be undesirable. Some such as Nigel Evans MP feel that it would be like a ‘’ransom payment.’’

Talks on a future trade relationship with the UK will be held by EU leaders on the 14th and 15th of December. One key point that the EU has maintained throughout the negotiations is that the UK must uphold its financial commitments in any final withdrawal bill.

Even the £40 billion offer would still fall short of some estimates of the UK’s financial responsibilities to the EU over the course of its membership. The EU wants the UK to maintain its payments into the EU budget up to 2020, as well as covering its commitments to ongoing EU programs such as aid and pensions.

The UK has until this Friday to potentially increase that offer of £40 billion pounds, suggested Michel Barnier in talks earlier this month. It looks set to determine the success or not of the crunch European Council Summit due to take place in December.


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The lights of Edinburgh’s Christmas Market returns

The most wonderful time of the year is finally here! A winter wonderland has arrived in Edinburgh and everybody is invited to come along.

Edinburgh’s annual Christmas market re-opened last week and has multiple festive treats lined up for its visitors, including a traditional European market and even Christmas cabaret shows.

The attractions are split across two city centre locations: East Princes Street Gardens, where visitors will have stunning views of the castle; and George Street, which will be illuminated by sensational Christmas lights.

Both markets are set to host spectacular stalls where shoppers can stock up on unique trinkets and crafts whilst enjoying a warming cup of gluhwein.

The markets are inviting family members of all ages with returning favourites, including the beautiful elliptical ice rink on St Andrew’s Square, the Big Wheel, the Star Flyer, and the Santa Train for younger visitors.

This year, the market will for the first time be hosting a fascinating ice museum filled with life-sized sculptures on show for all visitors.

The Edinburgh Christmas market is originally inspired by Germany’s tradition of hosting street markets throughout the country during the four weeks of advent. This festive celebration is said to have emerged in the late middle ages within German-speaking parts of Europe.

In the UK, we didn’t catch on to the festive fun until 1982 when the city of Lincoln established the first British Christmas market. It wasn’t until 1997 when Edinburgh joined in  the festivities with its first ever Christmas market.

 

 

Since then, the Edinburgh Christmas market has been attracting millions of visitors every year and has even been a contender for UK’s best Christmas market.

Charlie Wood of Edinburgh’s Christmas are inviting all from around the world to take part in the capital’s Christmas fun, saying: “The economic impact of Edinburgh’s Christmas on the city is growing every year and with the positive effect it has socially on the residents of Edinburgh, we are proud to be able to bring world class winter entertainment to the Scottish capital yet again.”


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A Guide to Burano

This colourful island sits on the Venetian Lagoon and possesses its own unique sense of beauty. With most flocking to the enchanting streets of Venice, Burano can be an often overlooked destination.

 

Visitors can experience a childlike sense of wonder and whimsy as they wind through the rainbow coloured town. Every colour of the rainbow is represented. No home is quite the same. Fishing boats that match the bright homes float upon the canals.

 

Boats and Homes. Source: Megan Taylor

 

Burano has preserved its authenticity throughout the years. Centuries ago, fishermen painted their houses the most vibrant of colours to distinguish their home from that of their neighbours. It also allowed them to see their homes from offshore – ensuring that even on the foggiest of days, they wouldn’t crash onto the island!

 

Today, the calming atmosphere remains the same. Fishermen laughing by the shore, women sitting on deck chairs in the street chatting with friends, children running around freely and riding their bikes by the canals. There is an overwhelming sense of peace and tranquillity.

 

And with a population of less than 3000, it can be a welcome escape from the madness of Venice.

 

Burano is not just famous for its colourful homes but for its lacework too. Legend has it that one day many years ago, a siren attempted to seduce a soon-to-be married fisherman. When he turned down her advances, she was impressed by his faithfulness and created a lace wedding veil for his future bride. The tale inspired women in Burano who tried to replicate her design. The Burano Lace Museum is now one of the island’s most popular attractions.

 

Three bridges connect the three canals that run through the island. Across every bridge lies an abundance of restaurants, homes and craft shops. It is difficult to get lost on this island so it’s worth exploring some of the side streets to understand a little more about local life.

 

A bridge connecting the streets. Source: Megan Taylor

 

As the day ends, visitors can head to the Pescaria Vecia – a much loved spot to watch the sun set over the lagoon.

 

Burano sits just forty-five minutes away by vaporetto (water bus) ride from the main island of Venice. With brightly coloured homes and photogenic sights around every corner, the island should be on everyone’s travel bucket list.

Robertson to Compete with Tierney for Scotland Jersey

There is competition in the Scotland squad this week as Andy Robertson vies with Kieran Tierney for a start.

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan has opted to play both his left-backs in recent qualifiers but this week he might only choose one. Liverpool’s Andy Robertson has told Celtic’s Kieran Tierney – who has shifted to right-back for his country – he is ready to battle for the jersey if Strachan only wants one of them.

“KT [Tierney] would prefer to play at left-back, it’s his natural position, but since he’s gone over [to the right] he’s been different class,” Robertson said of his team mate.

“It has been working quite well, but there might come a time when both of us need to compete for the left-back spot. If we need to do that, we’ll be ready to compete.”

Scotland v England - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier

Credit: Getty Sport

Scotland face Slovakia at Hampden on Thursday night, and a win would mean they a trip to Slovenia on Sunday to compete for a place in the play-offs. Robertson feels the squad is ready for the challenge:

“You can see it is a big week, all the boys and staff are buzzing about it. There’s a feel-good factor but we need to go out on Thursday and do the job, then hopefully we’re celebrating at the end.”

The European Struggle

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Ten years ago, British football teams were regularly finding themselves in European finals. Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal could be seen playing at the end stages of Europe’s elite club competition on a yearly basis. So what has changed in the last ten years? Why do British teams not perform in European competition as they once did? If the English Premier League truly is the ‘best league in the world’ then why are Britain not producing teams who can challenge for the Champions League?

If you look at the very top level of world class players, it has to be said that most of them are playing in La Liga or the Bundesliga. A player considered to be the best in the world these days will always look to play for Barcelona, Real Madrid or Bayern Munich. World class players still exist in the Premier League in people like Sergio Aguero and Eden Hazard. Nevertheless, the vast majority of the best players in the world now play in about three or four teams.

While Celtic usually have a run in European Competition, whether it be the Champions League or the Europa league, Scottish football teams rarely progress past preliminary qualifying rounds. Aberdeen, who have been finishing second in recent years, have failed three years in a row to make it to the group stages of the Europa League and Hibernian who won the Scottish cup last year also failed.

Many British managers put these European shortcomings down to the intense nature of British football and the amount of games played. While many European teams get a winter break between December and January, an average British team will play ten games in that time. However it is also British teams’ inability to get their tactics right that causes their lack of success on the continental stage. British teams seem unable to change their tactics when they are playing stronger opposition, and they concede far too many goals as a result of this.

Arguments about the lack of homegrown players and the competitive nature of the Premier League simply shift the focus from the real problem of teams and managers ignoring the importance of defensive organisation and discipline in Europe.

The vast wealth created by the Premier League is spread so evenly between the twenty teams in the league that the league is always getting more competitive. It is easy to dismiss this as an excuse by the British media to deflect from poor performances. However, when managers of such experience as Mourinho and Wenger claim this puts British teams on the back foot before the competition has started then we may have to look at the way our game is played.

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