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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...

Perth & Kinross

Queen Victoria television drama filmed in Perthshire

June 29 2017

A Perthshire castle will play a central role in one of television’s biggest historical dramas. Star names including Dame Diana Rigg and Denis Lawson were among the cast and crew who descended on Blair Castle this month for filming of the highly-anticipated second series of the ITV drama Victoria, which tells the story of the famous monarch. The first series was ITV’s highest rating drama of 2016, receiving critical acclaim and an average viewing audience of 7.7 million. The programme has been sold in 350 territories worldwide and has proved hugely popular in the US attracting more viewers than the first series of Downton Abbey. Lawson, uncle of Ewan McGregor, will appear as the Duke of Atholl who welcomes Victoria and Albert to Scotland in scenes filmed at Blair Castle. The series also features Line of Duty actor Martin Compston as a guest star and Dame Diana Rigg who has joined the regular cast as the Duchess of Bucchleuch, the young queen’s new mistress of the robes. Jenna Coleman and Tom Hughes reprise their roles as Queen Victoria and Prince Albert alongside series regulars including Nell Hudson and Peter Bowles. Picking up six weeks after the first series ended, the new season establishes Victoria as a working mother, learning to balance her responsibilities as both parent and queen. However, Prince Albert is still struggling to find a role for himself alongside his powerful wife as she returns to her duties. Blair Castle administrators said they are delighted to be associated with the programme and the worldwide exposure it will bring to Perthshire. “We are absolutely delighted to be involved with this prestigious drama programme, which has already been critically acclaimed,” said Julia Sim , sales and marketing manager for Blair Castle. “Blair Castle is central to Queen Victoria’s story in Scotland, and it is fantastic to have the scenes actually filmed here. Dennis Lawson is a very fitting actor to play the Duke. We look forward to viewing the finished programme. Our team are all very excited.”

Perth & Kinross

Culinary dimension added to Perth Show

July 28 2016

For more than 150 years Perth Show has been a popular, once a year meeting point for the people of the city and the farming community. The show - now the third largest of its type in Scotland – remains as always a showcase for champion livestock but this year holds a much wider appeal for visitors. To be held on Friday and Saturday August 5 and 6 on the South Inch, throughout the two days, trade stands, sideshows, entertainment, activities, music and parades all add to the vibrancy of the show along with a new culinary direction. “For the first time, Perth Show is set to feature a cookery theatre and food and drink marquee,” said show secretary Neil Forbes. “This will bring a new and popular dimension to the visitor attraction. “Perth Show 2016 is also delighted to welcome Perthshire On A Plate (POAP) - a major food festival, celebrating the very best in local produce and culinary talent. “Organised by Perthshire Chamber of Commerce, the two-day festival will run as part of the show and feature celebrity and local chefs, demonstrations and tastings, book signings, food and drink related trade stands, fun-filled activities for ‘kitchen kids’ and a large dining area and pop-up restaurants in a double celebration of food and farming.” Heading the celebrity chef line-up are television favourite Rosemary Shrager (Friday) and spice king Tony Singh (Saturday), backed by a host of talented local chefs including Graeme Pallister (63 Tay Street) and Grant MacNicol (Fonab Castle). The cookery theatre, supported by Quality Meat Scotland, will also stage a fun cookery challenge between students from Perth College and the ladies of the SWI. A range of pop-up restaurants featuring taster dishes from some of the area’s best known eating places will allow visitors to sample local produce as they relax in the show’s new POAP dining area. “We’re trying to create a wide and varied programme of entertainment,” said Mr Forbes. “Late afternoon on Friday will see the It’s A Knockout  challenge with teams from businesses throughout Perth and Perthshire competing against each other. “And the first day’s programme will end with a beer, wine and spirit festival where teams can celebrate their achievements and visitors can sample a wide range of locally produced drinks.” This year will also see the reintroduction of showjumping at Perth Show on the Saturday afternoon.

Perth & Kinross

Blair Castle hosted episode of popular ITV series Victoria

September 5 2017

Staff at a Highland Perthshire tourist attraction will be glued to their TV screens to watch the latest series of ‘Victoria.’ Film crews and cast spent two weeks at Blair Castle to produce episode seven, which saw Denis Lawson and Dame Diana Rigg feature in scenes shot at the location. Two of the estate’s native Highland ponies were used in the filming, as Victoria and Albert’s own ponies. And several Atholl Highlanders — the regiment which Queen Victoria herself founded — also feature in the episode. The first series of Victoria was ITV’s highest rating drama of 2016, receiving critical acclaim and an average audience of 7.7 million per episode. Julia Sim, Blair Castle’s sales and marketing manager, said: “The two weeks of filming was a great deal of hard work for all of our staff, as we strove to ensure that the production crew and cast had everything they needed to film episode seven, with scenes filmed in the castle, on our forecourt, and around the estate. “Overall it was a massive honour for everyone involved with the castle to have Victoria’s time at Blair Castle documented in this way for the world to see. We have 145,000 acres on Atholl Estates and could easily offer the diverse range of scenery that the show needed.” She added: “Queen Victoria visited Blair Castle many times over her reign and clearly loved being in Scotland. The castle still houses items of furniture and other personal belongings of Victoria which were here during her time staying in Blair Atholl.” The series is currently airing on ITV on Sunday nights.

Extremist found guilty of encouraging terrorism in YouTube campaign

January 24 2018

An extremist behind a YouTube campaign glorifying Islamic State has been found guilty of encouraging terrorism, but cleared over a video featuring Tony Blair in flames.Father-of-four Gary Staples, 50, drummed up support for terrorism in home-made clips posted to the video-sharing platform and Google Plus between May and September 2016, the court heard.Eight videos were created by him, while one was made by the media arm of IS terror group Al Hayat, his trial was told.One clip featured an image of the former prime minister with flames imposed over it, followed by a message reading: “O kuffar, sleep with one eye open.”A picture of a wolf appears alongside the warning to the “kuffar” – or non-believer – in the video, which later features the black flag used by IS.Armed IS fighters and infamous jihadi warlords appeared during the clips – which are all slideshows – accompanied by Nasheeds, a form of tune featuring a male vocal without musical accompaniment.The Nasheed lyrics in the video of Mr Blair translate from Arabic as “death in the path of jihad is Allah’s blessing”, it was heard.Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Islamic State, and Osama bin Laden are among the extremists glorified in the clips.Ben Lloyd, prosecuting, had told the court: “His purpose in publishing and disseminating each of these videos, the prosecution say, is to encourage members of the public to commit, prepare or instigate acts of terrorism.“Each of the videos contains, the prosecution say, Islamic extremist material.“Much of the material relates to Isis, Isil, Islamic State; there are also images of Osama bin Laden, for example, who, as you will no doubt know, was the leader of al Qaida.”Pictures of radical hate preacher Anjem Choudary were also found on Staples’ Google Plus account, the court was told.The account had 1,180 followers, while his YouTube account had 67 subscribers.Staples, from Crowther Road, South Norwood, south London, was arrested in November 2016 and denied eight counts of encouraging terrorism and one count of sharing terrorist material.Giving evidence, he accepted posting the Blair video but claimed two friends must have been responsible for others.Judge Anuja Dhir QC directed jurors that they must be sure the clips were a direct encouragement for terrorism.The jury acquitted Staples of encouraging terrorism in the Blair video but convicted him of the other charges.He was remanded in custody to be sentenced on February 27.

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km


Hoping for firm footing at Blair Castle trials

July 26 2010

THE Blair Castle International Horse Trials are a month away and organisers are hopeful the event on August 26-29 will have perfect underfoot conditions. A spokesman said, "There has been plenty of rainfall over the last few weeks, which has ensured the going remains good with the grass green and growing throughout the summer. "In addition much of the ground has been prepared and maintained specifically for the event in 2010. Cross-country fence areas have been fenced off to protect them from livestock, while the main arena has recovered well from the damage last year and according to event director Alec Lochore is looking particularly well." Blair is a hugely popular event for horse trials competitors with three, two and one-star CCI classes and a CIC three star, combined with the famous Highland Perthshire hospitality tempting riders back year after year. A revised layout to the showground means stabling and horsebox parking this year is on fresh ground, while a new British showjumping arena, to be known as The Tummel arena has been created within the trade stand area to replace the old Tilt arena, while the Banvie arena will remain. British Showjumping classes run over three days in these two arenas, with two feature classes in the main arena on Saturday including the Blair Castle Grand Prix sponsored by Ingliston Country Club and offering prize money of £1040. For many showing competitors, Blair Castle is the highlight of their year having qualified at regional shows. This is true test for the working hunter and native pony classes and also ridden Clydesdales. This year new Coloured Horse and Pony Society (CHAPS) and veteran sections have been introduced which run alongside hunters, riding horses, and ex-racers. A Revolutionary new way for horse-owners to sell their animal or transporter will also be launched at the trials. The TAG66 system will be on display, with horses or ponies being used as their own advertisement by wearing a distinctive yellow tag on their saddle or bridle. This identifier, which has a unique number, shows the animal is for sale and can be used to find out more information on the horse, including price and the seller's contact details via text. The firm behind TAG66 came up with their product after noticing prospective buyers were unlikely to approach owners to find out if a horse is for sale. In a bid to promote the new system, the first 20 people who apply for a TAG for the event will receive one free of charge. To obtain one, sellers can visit Miri at the secretary's office next to the main arena and register their details. Entries for the horse trials opened on July 22 and entry forms for all other classes and sections can be downloaded from the website at www.blairhorsetrials.co.uk.


Blair Castle celebrates 75 years of public access

June 11 2011

Stunning Blair Castle this week celebrated 75 years of opening to the public. On June 6, 1936, the castle's first visitors were able to view its remarkable interiors and its many treasures for the first time. The privilege had previously been extended by invitation only and reserved for such illustrious guests as Queen Victoria and Bonnie Prince Charlie. The first day of public opening attracted 236 people and tours to the top of the tower could be enjoyed for just a penny. To celebrate the 75th anniversary, Blair Castle is staging a number of special events throughout the year and has also opened new interpretation rooms exploring its complex history. The new displays feature information panels explaining the castle's evolution from the 12th century to the present day. Visitors to the castle on Monday were invited to be among the first to view the new exhibits and were also given a small souvenir to mark the occasion. A new light display will be also be visible, with the white exterior wall of the caste illuminated at night with an anniversary logo, while an archivist will be creating a number of special temporary exhibits in the coming months.

UK & World

This student took his Tinder profile to the next level by turning it into a PowerPoint presentation

February 21 2018

Standing out from the crowd on Tinder can be tough, but with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint a British student has managed just that – and gone viral in the process.Sam Dixey, a 21-year-old studying at Leeds University, made a six-part slideshow entitled “Why you should swipe right” – using pictures and bullet points to shrewdly persuade potential dates to match with him on the dating app. The slideshow includes discussion of his social life and likes, such as “petting doggos” and “laser tag”, and “other notable qualities and skills” – such as being “not the worst at sex” and “generous when drunk”.It even has reviews mocked up from sources such as “Donald Trump”, “Leonardo Di Capri Sun” and “The Times Guide to Pancakes 2011”.Sam told the Press Association the six-slide presentation only took about 20 minutes to make and “started off as a joke”.However, since being posted to Twitter by fellow Tinder user Gracie Barrow, Sam’s slideshow has been shared tens of thousands of times across social media.So, it’s got the seal of approval form Gracie, but how has the slideshow fared on Tinder? “I’d have to say it has been pretty successful,” Sam said. “Definitely a clear correlation of matches and dates beforehand to afterwards.“Most of the responses tend to revolve around people saying ‘I couldn’t help swipe right 10/10’ but I’ve had some people go the extra mile and message me on Facebook.“Plus some people have recognised me outside, in the library and on dates.”A resounding success.


Saddling up for Blair 2017

August 18 2017

Blair Castle International Horse Trials and Country Fair is on August 24-27. Gayle Ritchie checks out some of the action. Excitement is building for Scotland’s leading equestrian event, held in the grounds of fairytale Blair Castle each August. As well as the thrilling eventing competition, which comprises dressage, showjumping and cross country, the event will host a Highland Pony Show, Pony Club mounted games and Country Fair demonstrations, providing a raft of entertainment for the whole family. Meanwhile, the extensive shopping village will cater for all tastes – horsey and non-horsey – with culinary delights, fashion accessories, jewellery, fine art, gourmet dog treats and country gifts just some of the things on offer. Equestrian fans will know that British number one Oliver Townend is leading the entry field for this year’s trials. Last year, Oliver had a sensational Blair, bringing seven horses, all of which posted top six placings, four in the top three. Despite European Championship duties the previous week, Oliver will again enter seven horses for Blair 2017. British riders Sarah “Cutty” Cohen, Gemma Tattersall, Emily King and Fife-based Wills Oakden are also likely to make a strong bid for the prize money, whilst Nini French – sister of British team rider Piggy – shouldn’t be overlooked. Meanwhile, Kiwi Olympians Mark Todd and Tim Price are sure to put up a fight for the spoils. All cross country courses have undergone changes since last year, and there are a few exciting new fences. Event director and course designer Alec Lochore said: “I want riders to be forward thinking and positive, with combinations being both educated and prepared towards their next level. “Above all, I want horses and riders to enjoy themselves.” As usual the Three Day Event competitors will do their dressage on Thursday and Friday, take on Blair’s unique terrain in the cross country on Saturday, and showjump in the main arena on Sunday. Entries have also been flooding in for Scotland’s Charity Air Ambulance abseil challenge on the Saturday and Sunday of the horse trials. Adventurers are invited to drop nearly 100ft from the Castle’s 13th century tower, while raising money for this essential life-saving service. Famous for its parties, Blair will host its array of Scottish hospitality each evening of the event, with charity malt whisky tasting, a ceilidh, live band and disco as well as the onsite bar where friends can meet up to discuss the day’s events. As ever, the food hall will be bursting with deliciousness – organic meat, fine wines, handmade chocolates, cheeses...the list goes on. The Trials attract in excess of 37,000 visitors each August. For more details, see www.blairhorsetrials.co.uk