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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...

Angus & The Mearns

Queen of the castle bows out after taking Dunnottar to new heights

September 1 2015

Dunnottar Castle custodian Wendy Sylvester has departed after a five-and-a-half-year stint which has seen visitor numbers soar. During her watch the iconic Mearns ruin on the rock has become one of Scotland’s top attractions, and she had no regrets as she handed over the key of the great door to her successor Jim Wands. From the start, stunning though the location is, Wendy wanted to prove to visitors the castle merited so much more than just a quick snap from the top of the cliff. Numbers are now near 100,000 a year, and she declared: “I always wanted Dunnottar to compare well with Edinburgh and it can. “I just love a challenge and I don’t do half measures,” said Wendy. “I could see the potential here and for the first few years I lived and breathed the job. The office was actually part of my house.” During her time at the helm the castle has also gained a four-star VisitScotland rating, a gold green tourism award for three years in a row, and has come runner-up in the Thistle Award for top north-east visitor attraction. “It has felt like David taking on Goliath at times, with some pretty mighty opposition. While our competitors all have their specialist marketing and advertising departments and so on, we just have our small core team augmented at the height of the season by students and casual staff. “But what a team,” said Wendy. She especially credited the factor of Dunecht Estates (castle owners) Emily Telford for sharing her vision and driving the business forward. Fostering closer links between the castle and the town of Stonehaven has also been a priority, and Dunnottar’s sponsorship this year of the Stonehaven folk festival was the culmination of several years’ hard work. For a new challenge Wendy has taken up the post of manager of a water sports complex in the Highlands. That leaves Jim, who comes from a background in the British Transport Police, to keep the castle on the right track, with plans including a new visitor centre which promise further massive visitor growth.

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

Angus & The Mearns

Shedding light on monster tourism boost – ‘It’s wonderful the beauty of rural Aberdeenshire has been captured on film’

December 4 2015

In the quiet western corner of Arbuthnott village churchyard near Inverbervie stands a memorial to one of Scotland’s classic novelists. It’s a tribute to Sunset Song author Lewis Grassic Gibbon, which was the pseudonym of James Leslie Mitchell, and stands just half a mile from the Grassic Gibbon Centre, established in Arbuthnott in 1991 to commemorate the author’s life. A lesser known fact is that just up the road, beyond the Laes of Arbuthnott, Mitchell grew up on the farm known as The Gobbs. Now, with the release of a new screen adaptation of Sunset Song being released at UK cinemas on Friday December 4, tourism chiefs are hoping that the area can benefit from a new influx of visitors. A second boost is also being predicted from the release this week of Victor Frankenstein, filmed at nearby Dunnottar Caslte. Born in Auchterless, and raised in Arbuthnott, James Leslie Mitchell started working as a journalist for the Aberdeen Journal and the Scottish Farmer at age 16. He began writing full-time in 1929, but it was his trilogy entitled A Scots Quair, and in particular its first book Sunset Song, with which he made his mark. A Scots Quair, with its combination of stream-of-consciousness and lyrical use of dialect, is considered to be among the defining works of 20th century Scottish Renaissance. It tells the story of Chris Guthrie, a young woman growing up in the north-east of Scotland in the early 20th century. The Aberdeenshire locations featured in the big-screen adaptation of Sunset Song are being highlighted in a new movie map produced by VisitScotland. The national tourism organisation has teamed up with Metrodome, the film’s distributors, to produce the map, which is available in VisitScotland information centres throughout the region. Terence Davies’s acclaimed version of the classic tale got its Scottish premiere in Edinburgh on November 11 ahead of the UK launch today. The film’s producer is Bob Last from Dundee. As well as highlighting the filming locations, which include Fettercairn, Glen Tanar Estate and Arbuthnott Church, the publication also points visitors in the direction of the Grassic Gibbon Centre and other locations with a connection to the novel. It also provides details on the author and explains why Sunset Song continues to be compulsive reading. Philip Smith, VisitScotland’s regional director for Aberdeen City and shire, said:“It is wonderful that the beauty of rural Aberdeenshire has been captured on film in Sunset Song. Our locations map will allow visitors to explore these amazing landscapes and also learn more about the region that inspired one of this country’s most enduring works of literature. “Aberdeenshire’s stunning film locations are truly coming to the fore. Not only do they play a key role in our new publication Set in Scotland: A Film Fan’s Odyssey but, with upcoming titles such as Victor Frankenstein and Whisky Galore also being filmed here, the region’s cinematic stock is continuing to rise, making it an even more popular destination among set-jetters.” Meanwhile, it’s hoped that the release of another major Hollywood movie this week could lead to a monster rise in the number of visitors to another attraction, just a few miles up the coast from Arbuthnott. VisitScotland says Dunnottar Castle’s starring role in 20th Century Fox’s Victor Frankenstein, which stars James McAvoy and Daniel Radcliffe, will inspire even more people to visit the historic Aberdeenshire property. The castle is no stranger to movie fame, previously serving as the chief inspiration for Merida’s family home in Disney-Pixar’s Brave in 2012 and also doubling as Elsinore in Franco Zefferrelli’s 1990 adaptation of Hamlet, starring Mel Gibson. In 2013, Dunnottar was shortlisted for the title of ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’ in a global competition organised by Virtual Tourist. Mike Cantlay, chairman of VisitScotland, said: “Dunnottar Castle’s awe-inspiring clifftop setting is a magnet for film-makers and visitors alike. Set-jetting, where people visit the shooting locations of their favourite movies, is big business, so Dunnottar’s role in Victor Frankenstein is further great news for a fantastic visitor attraction which also features in our new film locations guide Set in Scotland: A Film Fan’s Odyssey. I’m sure its thrilling role in Victor Frankenstein could lead a monster rise in visitor numbers.” Jim Wands, custodian at Dunnottar Castle, said: “All the staff here are excited to see our beautiful castle on the big screen. The film trailer features a quick shot of it, and the stunning location really adds to the dark atmosphere of the film. We are sure it will bring many visitors to ‘Frankenstein’s Castle’ and to the wider Stonehaven area.” Councillor David Aitchison, chairman of Aberdeenshire Council’s Infrastructure Services Committee, said: “The benefits of this film to Aberdeenshire are wide-ranging. From the attraction of tourists to Dunnottar Castle and the wider Stonehaven area to building on the momentum of films set in the area and supported by the council’s film officer. “The Frankenstein film and book have strong links to Scotland through the locations as well as through author Mary Shelley, who lived in Dundee.” Tourism bosses say the release of Victor Frankenstein further cements Aberdeenshire’s strong ties with Gothic fiction, with the Cruden Bay castles of Ecclesgreig and New Slains said to have inspired Bram Stoker during the writing of Dracula.

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.

Angus & The Mearns

New Mearns Academy will be full after two years

August 27 2013

The new £23 million Mearns Academy will be over its initial pupil capacity within two years of opening, according to a new forecast. Projected figures have revealed the 640-pupil building in Laurencekirk, in line for completion next summer, could top its limit as early as 2016. Aberdeenshire Council moved to reassure parents the 17-acre development on Aberdeen Road, which includes a community campus, can be extended to accommodate up to 840 pupils. However, the data from a council report predicts the school will be more than 125% its opening capacity by 2018, while Mackie Academy in Stonehaven will reach 113%. Mearns Community Council chairman James Stuart said the Laurencekirk site was designed for up to 840 and will simply require additional classroom space as it is required. He added: “When the council went to the Scottish Government they only got money to replace the school at its existing capacity of 640 and they have had to come up with the rest themselves. “The council will be looking at the (forecast) figures for the next five to 10 years to see if there is just a blip or if there is a need to extend further. “The school has a very good reputation and takes children from Brechin and Edzell as well as the local area.” Mackie Academy’s pupil count is expected to rise from 1,087 to 1,289 over the next five years, while Mearns Academy will go from 599 to 676. A council spokesman said Mearns Academy will be built with a “core capacity” of more than 28% of current requirements. He added: “This is intended to ensure that we can deal with any increase in demand for toilets, social spaces, canteen space. “For our classrooms, we design the plans in such a way that we can increase classroom capacity if need be, in the most cost effective manner possible. “We anticipate that we will be able to meet the needs of the families in our catchment area for many years to come.” The figures to be considered by the council’s education committee on Thursday also reveal an anticipated capacity breach in some Mearns primary school rolls by 2018, including Dunnottar (154%), Johnshaven (127%), Laurencekirk (123%) and Marykirk (122%). In his report, director of education Stephen Archer said measures are in place to combat the effects on primary schools. He said an extension is planned for Laurencekirk Primary with extra temporary accommodation available at Dunnottar. Mr Archer added: “The working capacity for Johnshaven is expected to accommodate the projected increase in roll, and the roll at Marykirk will be closely monitored over the coming years to see if the projected numbers are realised.” Dunnottar’s school role is expected to rise from 220 to 302 by 2018, with Johnshaven going from 39 to 60, Laurencekirk from 307 to 372 and Marykirk from 37 to 57. Across both Kincardine and the Mearns there will be an increase of 782 pupils, or 13.6%, across both the primary and secondary sectors. The wider forecast for Aberdeenshire indicates an increase of 14.2% for primaries and 5% for academies. The statistics account for demographic factors such as birth rate and new housing. Work on the new Mearns Academy, which will include facilities to be used by the community, started in September last year and is due for completion in June 2014. The site will have a range of sports facilities, including a four-court games hall, gym and fitness suite, public library, community rooms and a police office. The project is funded through the council’s capital plan, with a contribution of £9.74m from the Scottish Futures Trust.

Motoring news

Join the queue for littlest Audi Q

November 9 2016

Audi’s relentless release of new models continues with the launch of its smallest SUV. The Q2 goes on sale in the UK next week with prices starting at £22,380. There’s an extensive selection of petrol and diesel power trains as well as the option of front or Quattro four-wheel drive. More models will be added to the range later on, including powerful SQ2 and RSQ2 versions. Aimed squarely at a younger audience, the Q2 has bolder, sharper lines and a different shape to Audi’s bigger SUVs, the Q3, Q5 and Q7. Although it’s clearly meant more for buzzing around cities than growling across farmland, cladding and skid plates lend it an aura of ruggedness. Audi is also offering a range of vibrant colours to deepen the Q2’s appeal to youthful buyers. The interior is as plush as you’d expect from Audi, justifying its price hike over similarly sized SUVs like the Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V. The materials are high quality – softtouch plastics, leather on higher spec cars and brushed aluminium trim elements all blended into a smart-looking package. As standard, drivers get a seven-inch infotainment screen on top of the dashboard. It’s operated through Audi’s rotary dial system that’s far more intuitive and easier to use when on the move than rivals’ touchscreen systems. Among the many options is Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit - a 12.3in screen that replaces the manual instruments behind the steering wheel. Overall, the Q2 is 4.7in shorter than the A3 hatchback, but Audi says there’s enough leg and headroom for two adult passengers in the back. Boot space comes in at 405 litres – 50 more than you’ll find in the A3 hatchback and rival Nissan Juke, although it trails the Mini Countryman by the same amount. To begin with, the only diesel option is a 1.6 litre with 114bhp, although a more powerful 184bhp 2.0 litre unit will be added to the range soon. Similarly, the petrol engine range is limited for now but will be expanded by the end of the year. The 1.4 litre, 148bhp unit offered now will be joined by 1.0 litre, 114bhp three cylinder turbo and 2.0 litre, 187bhp options – the latter coming with an S-Tronic automatic gearbox. When it arrives the 1.0 litre petrol version will be the cheapest model in the range with a price tag of £20,230. Courier Motoring has yet to get its hands on the car but early reviews have been very positive and Audi looks to have yet another winner on its hands. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk

Motoring news

Form an orderly Q for Audi SUV

August 10 2016

First there was the Q7. Then the Q5 and Q3. All have been a phenomenal success for Audi. I’d be surprised if that script changes when the Q2 arrives in November. Audi’s baby SUV is available to order now with prices starting at £22,380. Can’t quite stretch to that? Don’t worry, an entry level three-cylinder 1.0 litre version will be available later this year with a cover tag of £20,230. From launch, there are three trim levels available for the Q2 called SE, Sport and S Line. The range-topping Edition #1 model will be available to order from next month priced from £31,170. While the entry-level 113bhp 1.0-litre unit isn’t available right away, engines you can order now include a 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel and 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit, both with manual or S tronic automatic transmissions. Also joining the Q2 line-up from September is the 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 148bhp or 187bhp. This unit comes with optional Quattro all-wheel drive. A 2.0 litre petrol with Quattro and S tronic joins the range next year. Standard equipment for the new Audi Q2 includes a multimedia infotainment system with rotary/push-button controls, supported with sat-nav. Audi’s smartphone-friendly interface, 16in alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity and heated and electric mirrors are all also standard for the Audi. Along with the optional Audi virtual cockpit and the head-up display, the driver assistance systems for the Audi Q2 also come from the larger Audi models – including the Audi pre sense front with pedestrian recognition that is standard. The system recognises critical situations with other vehicles as well as pedestrians crossing in front of the vehicle, and if necessary it can initiate hard braking – to a standstill at low speeds. Other systems in the line-up include adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go function, traffic jam assist, the lane-departure warning system Audi side assist, the lane-keeping assistant Audi active lane assist, traffic sign recognition and rear cross-traffic assist.


Award-winning Tayside song writer Eddie Cairney immortalises Queensferry Crossing in tune

October 25 2017

An award-winning Tayside song writer who immortalised the 50th anniversary of the Tay Road Bridge in music last year has released an EP which pays tribute to the newly opened Queensferry Crossing over the Forth. Perth-born Eddie Cairney, 65, who now lives in Arbroath, has released an album called ‘Sketches o' the QC’ which includes songs dedicated to the “isolated” workers who were employed during construction and contrasts the old Forth Road Bridge to the new crossing with its wind shields designed to keep traffic flowing during storms. Eddie, who delayed the release of the album due to family illness and bereavement, said: “It's just another quirky album like I did for the Tay Road Bridge. https://youtu.be/Z6BblA_Zev4 “As you can probably imagine, how do you write six songs about a bridge? “I usually end up using a process of creative journalism. I get a few facts or even just a single fact and then I let my imagination take over. “With each album early on in the writing process I draw a blank and think there's nothing here I can write about but there's always something to write about. “You just have to hang around long enough and it comes eventually. https://youtu.be/a9NyQAFjDsY “I just took threads from here and there. I was going to call the album The Queensferry Crossing but thought that was a bit boring so I went for Sketches o' the Q.C. “It introduces a bit of ambiguity. If you Google the name you get lots of drawings of court scenes!” Eddie was inspired to write Columba Cannon after reading an article about the general foreman for the foundations and towers. https://youtu.be/y_y1y8oV7vo Eddie said: “It was the name that got me and that gave me the first line of the song "He is a bridge builder wi a missionary zeal" Has to be with a name like Columba!” Fishnet bridge was set in a meditative light, describing the bridge as a “thing of beauty that looks like a big fish net glistening high above the Forth but it is a symbolic fishnet with the song taking the form of an imaginary conversation with the bridge.” https://youtu.be/dJgsl2WQ5G0   “Midday starvation came from an article which highlighted the isolation of the workers working high up on the bridge,” he added. https://youtu.be/Dme-bfCXHRI “If you forget your piece you've had it and you starve for there's no nipping round to the corner shop for a pie. The article also said that a local pizza delivery firm regularly delivered a pallet load of warm pizzas to the bridge so that was "midday salvation"! Meanwhile, The boys frae the cheese is a play on words. https://youtu.be/phtQ2-Xx1I0 He added: “I read an article that said The Forth Estuary Transport Authority (FETA) could have acted sooner and avoided the costly closure of the bridge at the end of 2015.” Eddie is no stranger to music and song influenced by Dundee and wider Scottish history. In 2015 he featured in The Courier for his efforts to put the complete works of Robert Burns to music. With a piano style influenced by Albert Ammons, Champion Jack Dupree and Memphis Slim, and a song-writing style influenced by Matt McGinn, Michael Marra and Randy Newman, the former Perth High School pupil, who wrote the 1984 New Zealand Olympic anthem, has organised a number of projects over the years including the McGonagall Centenary Festival  for Dundee City Council in 2002. Last year’s Tay Road Bridge album included a tribute to 19th century poet William Topas McGonagall and also honoured Hugh Pincott – the first member of the public to cross the Tay Road Bridge in 1966. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y51tixl9GEs Thanks to The Courier, he also became one of the first to cross the Queensferry Crossing  when it opened to the public in the early hours of August 30.

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.