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.

 

 

Edinburgh Waverley station worst in Scotland for delays and cancellations

As an experienced train commuter, Michaella Wheatley gives an insight into how train delays from Edinburgh Waverley can impact everyday lives.

“The 15:35 service to Stirling has been delayed. Please listen for further announcements.”

The sigh that escaped my mouth was echoed across the platform. A quick glance around, and it became obvious that this was the last thing anyone wanted to hear. Frowns were plastered to almost all faces on platform 14 – and those who did not wear a frown wore a blank expression instead.

It was not that much of a surprise to hear my train was delayed. Unpleasant and disappointing? Yes, but shocking? No.

At least one train a week, out of the three Edinburgh to Stirling services I took, ended up being slightly delayed. This varied from the train being a minute late to arriving at the platform roughly a quarter of an hour after its scheduled time. For me, this meant waiting on the platform for longer, then being home a little later than planned.

It might not seem like a long time to me, but for those who had to catch another train, it was inconvenient. These are the commuters who are always hit the hardest when trains fail to run on time — the domino-effect of one delayed train, leading to missing the next train, and so on, is likely to ruin their plans completely.

Judging from some of the reactions to this announcement around me, it was easy to spot who would be missing their next train home.

In light of the importance of reliable train services and why they are important to commuters, consumer group Which? has uncovered the percentage of delayed and cancelled services for stations across the UK.

The company looked at the 20 busiest train stations outside of London and the ten busiest London stations from the beginning of this year to September 30, 2018, using data from the rail-performance tracking website On Time Trains.

Michaella W 3

42% of all Edinburgh Waverley services end up delayed by more than a minute.

Three of Scotland’s train stations made the top 20 busiest stations in the UK: Edinburgh Waverley, Glasgow Queen Street, and Glasgow Central. Most services ran smoothly for both Glasgow stations, with Queen Street reaching only 39% of delays and Central on second place with 34%. The two Glasgow stations reported a 3% in cancellations on all services.

Edinburgh was ranked the worst station in Scotland, the 16th worst outside of London, even though it is the second busiest Scottish station after Glasgow Central.

Last week, Which? reported that 42% of all train services from Edinburgh Waverley are delayed, by one minute or more, or cancelled. The station’s cancellation rate was stated to be 4%.

However, since the end of September, these statistics have changed slightly.

The table below, including statistics from On Time Trains about Edinburgh Waverley’s performance over the past six months, reports the current percentage of delays and cancellations.

Edinburgh Waverley Station Performance

It is hoped that rail companies, as well as the government, will take notice of this report.

Alex Hayman, who is the Managing Director of Public Markets at Which?, said: “Passengers have told us reliability is hugely important to them. People have been left deeply frustrated at the unacceptably high levels of delays and cancellations which impact on their everyday lives.

“Passengers must be at the centre of the forthcoming Government rail review, it must look at performance targets to drive improvements in punctuality and reliability for passengers.

“The review must not be used as an excuse to delay real action to improve passengers’ experiences on the trains today. As a first step, the Government must introduce fully automatic compensation, ensuring more passengers get the money they are owed.”

In the Which? report, it is found that only eight train operating companies offer Delay Repay, and ScotRail is one of them.

This report from Which? comes a few weeks after ScotRail announced major changes to the train timetables, which will take effect in December, and are hoped to combat criticism from passengers about over-crowding trains during rush hour. The changes include faster journey times, more services, and more seats have been promised, but failed to announce how this would affect the punctuality of Scotland’s train, which is, at the end of the day, the biggest problem at hand.

 

Poor Brexit negotiations could cause the British public their money and their holiday

UK is set to leave the European Union on the 29th of March next year.
As the monumental date draws closer, British holiday-makers, who have booked airtravel in and out the EU after this date, are being urged to contact their travel agents and flight providers.

Today, consumer think-tank, Which? has publicly called on all British airlines to clearly communicate whether or not refunds will be offered to customers who book flights before they are grounded.

Ryanair Boss Michael O’Leary has repeatedly advised the British public that flights to and from the EU may be brought to a halt after Prime Minister Theresa May signs her name to the final documents as part of Article 50.

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Ryanair Boss Michael O’Leary Image Credit: Press Association

Mr O’Leary is worried that Mrs May and her government must establish an aviation deal with the existing members of the European countries as part of Brexit negotiations.

O’Leary has been a long-term critic of Theresa May. In Skynews interview in September last year, he accused the PM of:

“Faffing around with India, Brussels is where trade deals need to be done”

Despite the very real fear that flights will be cancelled, TUI, Jet2 and On the Beach have not offered any reassurance that cancelled flights will be reimbursed.

Which? did note that Thomas Cook have amended their terms and conditions to stipulate that no refunds will be given if changes to aviation markets cause flights to be cancelled.

The public have been worried for weeks regarding the reliability of tourism companies and their approach to Brexit. One Twitter using the name ChicoMioLoco tweeted:

Ryanair Boss Michael O’Leary has repeatedly advised the British public that flights to and from the EU may be brought to a halt after Prime Minister Theresa May signs her name to the final documents as part of Article 50.
Mr O’Leary is worried that Mrs May and her government must establish an aviation deal with the existing members of the European countries as part of Brexit negotiations.

Consumer think-tank, Which? has publicly called on all British airlines to clearly communicate whether or not refunds will be offered to customers who book flights before they are grounded.

Tourism Management student Samantha Long believes that although flights will not be cancelled, it is very likely that flights will change routes which will cause disruptions.
Her fellow-student, Tessa Campbell believes Brexit could cause the holiday-makers emotional stress as well as financial. She states that crowds and extra delays are probable while waiting in customs at EU airports.

Tessa also stated:
“Communication isn’t flowing’ between tourism companies and the public”.

However Tessa believes travel angencies are stuck between a rock and a hard place, because “UK government isn’t giving much away” to help them.
Tessa, along with a large number of UK citizens, thinks that “they should be as transparent as possible” in order not to implicate British holiday-makers who wish to visit EU destinations.

How to travel Thailand in two weeks

South-East Asia is quickly becoming one of the most renowned places in the world for people to escape to. Thailand’s popularity within this travel sphere is somewhat soaring and rightly so.

If you are a holiday-maker and only have two weeks leave from work, or if you are a backpacker with a fast-paced plan of action; take this advice when you get round to planning your Thailand get-away.

 

 

1. Arrive in Bangkok

Bangkok is one of South-East Asia’s largest hubs and you will grasp a real feel of this when you arrive. The relentlessness within tuk-tuks, people, heat and different smells will first astound you but you do get used to it. Allow yourself to spend at least a full day here to experience the surreal skylines, street food, temples and party scene then allow yourself to move onto places more authentically Thai.

2. Visit the East Islands

Take an overnight train from Bangkok to Chumpon then catch a boat to Ko Pha-Ngan- an island East of Thailand. Here, you can indulge in the first of your many Thai beaches and shake the business of Bangkok away. Climb to breath-taking viewpoints located all around the island and attend one of the worldly-famous full moon parties

3. Travel to Krabi

From Ko Pha-Ngan there is daily boats and connecting busses to take you to Krabi, a region to the west of Thailand. Krabi

is the gateway to a majority of the west-coast islands. However it also offers day trips to some of the most beautiful locations within the west-coast of the country. Spend no more than one night here, within this time make sure that you take one of the long-boat taxis to Railey Beach, a beach coated in golden sands surrounded by limestone cliffs this is one of Thailand’s treasures.

4. Island Hop

Travel to the island of Ko Phi-Phi, unmistakably one of the most popular and appealing islands of Thailand. Surrounded by crystal-clear seas and beautiful beaches, Phi-Phi is a favourite for everyone. Here you can take day trips hopping around some of the most iconic landmarks of Thailand, including Maya Bay and DiCaprio’s ‘The Island’. Or swim with clown fish in coral reefs within the depths of the Andaman Sea. There is something to offer for everyone in Phi-Phi which will make you want to stay for weeks, but just three days should suffice.

5. Head North

Travelling to Chiang Mai will be the longest haul of your journey in Thailand but every mile is worth it. Chiang Mai is a vibrant,

small city and a hub for entertainment and things to do. Day trips include visiting Buddhist temples, elephant sanctuaries and jungle trekking. From Chiang Mai you can also visit the small town of Pai and soak up in the beautiful scenery that Thai mountains offer. Spend a recommended two days in Chiang Mai and a further two days in Pai to grasp a feel of the Thai north.

6. Travel Back to Bangkok

Unfortunately, it will now be time to head back to Bangkok to catch any returning, international flights. If by chance you want to stay a few days longer in one place, it is easy to do so – catch a cheap domestic flight within Thailand from Krabi, Phuket or Chiang Mai to save yourself some time travelling via bus or train.

Throughout your two weeks in Thailand, travel safely and bring common sense but most importantly, enjoy yourself.

 

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Train breakdown caused major east coast line disruption

Passengers travelling on the east coast main line were met with severe disruption today due to a track maintenance train breaking down.

ScotRail suspended all trains between Edinburgh and North Berwick/Dunbar while Virgin Trains, East Coast and CrossCountry services were delayed. Replacement road transport was put in place for ScotRail passengers.

An engineering train broke down overnight in the Dream area of East Lothian causing the disruption, but has since been removed.

Shortly after the fault, ScotRail tweeted an image which stated:

“Unfortunately an engineering train has broken down in the Dream area and we’re unable to run a full service between Edinburgh and North Berwick/Dunbar. Tech staff are on site and working on the train at present, but we don’t have an estimate for when we might get the train moved.”

The broken down train was blocking a track, meaning only one track was available to be used by trains in each direction.

Delays were expected until at least 1:30pm, however this has since been pushed to 2:30pm – around 12 hours since the incident happened.

Network Rail announced that “The broken down engineering train has now moved, allowing all lines to reopen.

Trains between Dunbar/North Berwick and Edinburgh still may be cancelled, revised or delayed by up to 60 minutes.

Disruption is expected to continue until at least 14:30.”

Virgin Trains stated “Due to a points failure between Edinburgh and Berwick, trains have to run at reduced speed on all lines.

Train services running through these stations may be delayed up to 15 minutes.

“We apologise to customers who have been caught in the disruption today.

Please ensure you claim Delay Repay”

 

 

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.

Marseille City Guide

France’s oldest city, Marseille, is a charming autumn getaway.

 

The bustling port city is France’s second largest commune, where the fall days are just warm enough for lunch by the sea and a stroll along the harbour by night.

 

At the heart of the city lies the Vieux Port, a colourful old harbour where ships docked for centuries. Now it thrives with fishing boats and impressive yachts. Every day of the year fisherman present their best catch of the day at the Marché au Poisson (fish market), where many local restaurants source their classic Bouillabaisse for many a tourist to enjoy for the evening.

 

The colourful harbour of Vieux Port. Source: Leila Wallace

A wide variety of bars, restaurants and cafes surround the bustling harbour. This is ideal for a sunny lunch on the terrace of La Caravelle, a traditional dinner of Coq au vin or a French martini or two.

 

The old town of Marseille, located in the quarter of La Panier, is an ideal place for an afternoon wander through beautiful squares and a browse through the art shops. 

 

A day trip by boat to the gorgeous national park of the Calanques is a essential. It’s only ten miles from the city and boasts the highest cliffs in France where a series of white limestone crevices rise above the beautiful, turquoise Mediterranean waters below.

The national park of the Calanques. Source: Leila Wallace

Marseille Cathedral is one of the most iconic buildings in the city. Structured in a Byzantine-Roman style, it is the national monument of France, featuring a grand interior lined with murals, mosaic and marble.

 

Marseille hosts a wide range of street markets, from Marché Avenue du Prado, which sells everything from local produce, fruit, fresh flowers, clothing and household items to Marché Capucins, one of the noisiest and busiest markets selling herbs spices and African food.

 

Finally, head up the Basilique Notre-Dame-de-la-Garde, a Romanesque-Byzantine church, topped with a golden statue of the Virgin Mary for outstanding views across the city, especially at sunset.

 

Filled with over 1500 years of history, and a remarkable variety of galleries, museums, boutique hotels, delicious French food and shopping, Marseille has everything the autumn traveller could ask for.

Scotrail Satisfaction Plummets to 14-year Low

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPassenger satisfaction with ScotRail has reached a 14 year low according to the watchdog Transport Focus.

Satisfaction dropped to 83 per cent, its lowest since 2002. This is down from 87 per cent in Spring of last year.

By comparison, Virgin Trains East Coast, which run from Scotland to London, celebrated a three year high of 91 per cent.

These figures come four months after ministers ordered a plan to improve punctuality, however this was an issue for passengers, as there was a six point decrease in punctuality.

The 83 percent satisfaction rate does, however, keep their levels higher than the recorded National Average.

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