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...
Perthshire's chefs, farmers and food producers have joined forces to ensure visitors to this month's Rewind Festival at Scone Palace will get a real taste of quality local produce. Jim Fairlie at Logiealmond, Jamesfield Organic Centre and Thomas Thomson (Blairgowrie) Ltd will be among the producers joining Perthshire Farmers and Producers to serve an expected crowd of 15,000. The group was set up by Mr Fairlie and his wife Anne McGhee two years ago to tap into the market for quality Perthshire produce at events across the area. Mr Fairlie said, "Having attended a number of events in the area over recent years, Anne and I noticed that there was a real gap in the market for catering which offered fresh, local produce to visitor. "All too often, the food on offer was of poor quality and based on produce brought in from outside Perthshire. "We were frankly astonished that so many event organisers were not making the most of the rich larder available right here on our doorstep." He added, "It's a win-win situation, really. Visitors to events go away more satisfied and at the same time we're able to provide a platform for local farmers and producers to showcase their products to a much wider audience." They have already achieved significant success, attending T in the Park for the first time last year, followed by the Etape Caledonia in Highland Perthshire. This year, in addition to Rewind, they are returning to T in the Park and attending the Rally of Scotland at Scone Palace in October. In preparation for Rewind, the couple are hard at work with chef Graeme Pallister, of 63 Tay Street in Perth, to develop an innovative menu for visitors to the three-day festival. Scone Palace administrator Elspeth Bruce said, "Research has shown that for many visitors culinary tourism is an integral part of their travel experience and that there is increasing demand from visitors to sample distinctive local food and to taste traditional cooking. "We are therefore really delighted that Perthshire produce will be showcased in such a great way at Rewind and that produce grown and reared on our own estate will feature so prominently on the menu."
The combination of spicy food and beer proved an irresistible draw at the weekend, with thousands attending Scotland’s first chilli festival. Around 2,000 people made the journey to Scone Palace on Saturday and Sunday to sample all things chilli-flavoured, from ciders to curries. “We are absolutely delighted with the numbers who have turned out for the first ever event of its kind in Scotland,” said Scone Palace administrator Elspeth Bruce. The highlight of both days of the Great Scottish Braves Harvest Chilli Festival was a chilli eating contest. The crowds took a break from sampling the chilli chutneys and curries to see the bravest or most foolhardy attempt to eat chillies of varying strengths. Among those taking part was the Beechgrove Garden’s Carole Baxter, who was filming a piece on the festival for inclusion in the TV programme.Photo gallery:Great Scottish Braves Harvest Chilli Festival at Scone PalaceThe contest proved a little hot for her and she was the first of the competitors on Saturday to fall by the wayside and reach for a comforting glass of milk. The contest is a ‘last man standing’ competition and one by one those taking part dropped out as the increasingly hot chillies proved too much. Despite some macho posturing from the male-dominated field, and to the delight of the crowd, Saturday’s champion was Linda Richford, 45, from Glasgow, who munched her way through a dozen of the hottest chillies known to man. She revealed her secret at the conclusion of the contest: she had prepared her palate for the challenge by buying the hottest chilli sauce in the world on the internet. Event organiser Alexander Mustang, from London, said he was delighted to bring the event north of the border. “It is a beautiful venue,” he said of the palace grounds. Running the chilli festival was a hobby which had originally been conceived as a way of cheering up a friend of his. He said that, due to the overwhelming success of the venture, he hoped they would return to Scotland in the not too distant future.
Almost two weeks after the mysterious disappearance of one of Scotland's most iconic artefacts, there is still no sign of the people responsible. Inquiries continue in a bid to find who removed the replica Stone of Destiny from its resting place at Scone Palace last month. The unusual crime was reported on April 29 by an eagle-eyed member of staff, who spotted the replacement rock. Officers carried out a search of the palace grounds and the missing sandstone block, which weighs around 200kg, was found a short distance away but the brass plaque identifying it as a "replica" has not been recovered. The stone, outside the chapel on Moot Hill, is a copy of the Scottish Coronation Stone, used for centuries to crown monarchs at Scone. Rumours surfaced that the crime may have been politically motivated and some even speculated that the replacement was the "real" stone, in line with famous conspiracy theories. Police have issued a fresh witness appeal.ElectionA spokesman confirmed the timing, only a few days before the General Election, may have been important. "The investigation has established that the imposter stone, discovered where the replica stone had been moved from, is not from the palace grounds," he said. "It is a mottled and weathered dense granite stone, not thought to be common to the Perth area, and it's believed it would have been transported into the grounds by those responsible. "Equally, given the size and weight of the replica stone and the imposter stone, a vehicle would have been required to bring the fake stone in and it would have taken at least three to four adults to move both stones. "The brass plaque, which was situated on a post by the replica stone, is still missing. "As yet no motive has been established for this offence but given that the incident happened just days prior to the national election, we have not discounted the possibility that it was in some way politically motivated." The spokesman added that investigators were awaiting the results of a forensic examination of the scene. The original Scone Stone was last used for a Scottish coronation in 1292, when John Balliol was proclaimed king. According to historians it was captured by King Edward I as spoils of war and taken to Westminster Abbey. It remained south of the border until Christmas Day 1950 when a group of four Scottish university students including Ian Hamilton QC carried out a legendary sneak theft to bring it back to its homeland.ConspiratorsIt was swiftly returned to London but brought back to Scotland in 1996 on the orders of then secretary of state for Scotland Michael Forsyth. Thousands of tourists from all over the world visit the original at Edinburgh Castle every year although conspirators believe it, too, is a fake, saying the real stone lies hidden in a glen in Highland Perthshire. The tale also took a twist in 2007 when a local photographer told The Courier he had been called out to a secret location in the dead of night to photograph what he believed to be the real stone. He said it was being moved from one hidden location to another for "safety" and the details had been passed down from father to son over hundreds of years. Security at Scone Palace is set to be tightened as a result of the theft. Lord Stormont, whose family own the stately home, told The Courier, "While the palace is one of Scotland's iconic visitor attractions, it is also a private family home and as such there is a fine balance to be struck between accessibility and security. "We were all quite shocked and will be taking further steps to secure the stone and deter another incident of this nature from happening again." The stolen plaque reads, "A replica of the stone upon which the Kings of Scots were crowned on Moot Hill until 1296 when Edward I took the stone to Westminster Abbey."
The blossoming project to replace dozens of oaks which were chopped down more than 200 years ago has taken root at Scone Palace. The landscaped grounds were originally laid out between 1790 and 1812 but in the late 18th century, Thomas White the Elder designed a scheme which required many of the very old oak trees to be felled. This enraged the second Earl, who started planting to replace them. His son, David, the 3rd Earl of Mansfield, is said to have planted more than 2,863,000 trees. This legacy was continued yesterday in a joint project involving Tay Landscape Partnership and a team of horticultural students from Perth College, which saw the planting of 30 young oak trees under the supervision of Scone Palace’s head gardener, Brian Cunningham. He said: "A recent review of the trees identified several giant specimens which have grown too fragile or have been damaged by storms. “The new oak trees are the first of many young trees to be planted at Scone Place, as part of an ongoing programme in partnership with the National Tree Collections of Scotland to restore this historic landscape and ensure it remains magnificent for many years to come." The planting of the trees at Scone is being funded by the Tay Landscape Partnership, with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Community Environment Challenge Fund. Catriona Davies, access and biodiversity project officer for the Tay Landscape Partnership added: "This is a great opportunity to help revitalise the historic park land at Scone Palace, with native trees that will be of huge benefit to wildlife for decades. “TayLP is all about getting people involved in their local environment, so I'm delighted that the students from Perth College have been able to come out and help plant the trees today." In 1885 an article in the Journal of Horticulture and Cottage Gardener praised the park and described the 'magnificent trees which are monuments of past ages'. The trees along the old driveway were probably planted in the mid-18th century, with most of the other trees on the estate added between 1800 and 1840. The open ‘deer park' planting of Scone Palace parkland is typical of many Perthshire estates, and includes native species such as oak, beech, lime, sweet chestnut and copper beech, many having grown to a great age.
A huge concert at Scone Palace at the end of May, headlined by Noel Gallagher, will be streamed live on TV and radio. On Tuesday morning BBC Music announced the broadcasting plans for its Biggest Weekend, which takes place at the Perthshire estate from Friday, May 25 until Saturday, May 26. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds will take to the stage at the event along with Simple Minds, Emile Sande, Julie Fowlis, Nigel Kennedy, Jamie Cullum, The Shires, Amy Macdonald, The Beat starring Dave Wakeling and the Scottish Jazz Orchestra. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GXscIZptas The BBC has announced that the set by Gallagher on Saturday will be broadcast on BBC Two, while Simple Minds are due to appear on a highlights show on BBC Four. Performances will be available to watch "both live and on demand" on BBC iPlayer. Perth's TV presenting team for the weekend will be Edith Bowman and Claudia Winkleman. BBC Radio Three will cover the Scone Palace event on Friday and Radio Two will take over on Saturday. Presenters Ken Bruce and Sara Cox will join Winkleman live backstage at Scone Palace from 3pm-10pm on the Saturday and, alongside interviews and live coverage, will discuss the "incredible history" of the estate. Across the weekend, performances will be broadcast on BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Four, Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3, 6 Music and made available on BBC iPlayer. The Biggest Weekend includes three other events in Belfast, Coventry and Swansea. Bob Shennan, director BBC Radio and Music, said: "No one does music like the BBC - across TV, radio and online we’re bringing the UK nations together to enjoy a musical celebration unprecedented in its scope, scale and range of artists." Ken Bruce said: "I’m delighted to be in beautiful Perthshire for this fabulous weekend of brilliant music. It promises to be the event of the year." Claudia Winkleman added: "I’m so excited to be part of the Biggest Weekend. I’m going to be in Perth chatting to the people who have come to watch the brilliant bands. If you’re there, come find me. I’ll have snacks."
One of Scotland’s legendary figures was brought to life at the weekend when Robert the Bruce led his ‘army’ off from Scone Palace to a Glasgow pub. Brian McCutcheon re-enacts the historical legend at the Palace and tells stories of how Bruce was crowned King of Scotland at Scone, and went on to defeat Edward II at The Battle of Bannockburn. So, when his partner Gini Craig, decided to raise an army and march to help wage war on cancer, she knew the story had to begin at Scone Palace. Mr McCutcheon’s mother, Jean, is suffering from inoperable cancer so it was decided that Ms Craig and her friend, Yvonne Kernachan, would embark on five challenges to raise £5,000 for five cancer charities. Ms Craig said: "Sadly, like most people I know, I was all too aware of cancer and it got me thinking, could I do something more than change my profile picture on social media? I came up with ‘Our 555 Challenge' — a plan for me and my best friend, Yvonne, to take on five challenges in 2017.” The mother-of-two wanted a challenge that would inspire others to arrange their own fundraising opportunities. The first of these challenges is a 100km walk, ‘From Scone to the Scotia.' "Scone Palace holds a very special place in our hearts and minds so where better to begin this walk and launch the challenges than at Scone," Ms Craig added. On Saturday, Ms Craig, Ms Kernachan and an army of friends led by Robert the Bruce in full regalia set off from Scone Palac on a 100km walk from the crowning place of Scottish Kings to Glasgow's oldest pub, the Scotia Bar. Margo Baird, marketing manager for Scone Palace, commented: "We're delighted that Gini has chosen Scone Palace as a venue to launch the challenge and are happy to lend our support. Her desire to do something worthwhile has led to a very inspiring and creative approach to fundraising which will benefit some fantastic charities." The packed calendar of challenges for the team include racing a Viking longboat, climbing Ben Nevis, stepping off the Titan Crane in Glasgow and going across the River Clyde on a zip wire. The challenge has currently reached 12% of its target on Just Giving, and is also raising extra money through individual sponsorship. The charities chosen to receive donations from the '555 Challenge' are Cancer UK, Macmillan, Lanarkshire Cancer Care Trust, Breast Cancer Care and Be Child Cancer Aware. Anyone wishing to donate should visit www.justgiving.com/teams/our555challenge.
Feeling brave? Get along to Spirits of Scone for a spine-tingling illuminated tour around the grounds of Scone Palace. Gayle Ritchie made it out alive (just!) A ghoul’s maze with a blood-spattered cannibal butcher, a gravedigger and a witch – just some of the characters you’ll meet if you head along to Spirits of Scone. The event runs until October 31 – Halloween – and promises to give you the willies. I headed along on the launch night and got the fright of my life. Walking up the dark, pumpkin-lit path to Scone Palace, I'm welcomed by a scary voice booming out from the trees, warning me to keep to the path and avoid smoking “because the old hag in the trees doesn’t like it.” After grabbing a warming bowl of beef “ghoulash” from the palace kitchens, I gear myself up for the tour, which promises to introduce me to some of Perthshire’s scariest folk. I’ve come along on my own, but I tag along with a lovely group of folk I meet who have travelled from Edinburgh. (It would have been way too terrifying to do this alone). Our nerves are jangling as we venture deep into the woods, and I just about pass out when a creepy hag leaps out at us, screeching loudly. The girls behind us have worse luck – she chases them, and they flee, screaming wildly. “I’ve never been so scared in my life!” one tells her friend. Suddenly, we’re in darkness, and this is when I wish I’d brought a mate along to cling to. What creepy creature of the night is about to molest me? The lights flash up and I see my worst nightmare – huge black and hairy tarantulas high up on the trees. Arghhh! We’re ushered along to the next macabre section, where voices dare us to look through a hole in a tree trunk. Inside, there are creepy dolls, plastic heads and other indescribably terrifying sights. “Please help me find my dolly!” mourns a little girl’s voice, which then drops a few octaves and sounds like a demon possessed, or something from the Exorcist. It’s at this point that I realise we’re trapped and the only way out is to pass a cloak-clad figure, threatening to leap out. We make a move, and land up beside a woman displaying a table of odd charms and potions. She reveals she was a healer investigated for witchcraft in the early 17th century. The graveyard is illuminated and enveloped in mist. Out from behind a tombstone steps a gravedigger who relishes telling the bloodcurdling story of a man who disappeared into the ground. He’s very generous in his offer of giving us a room for the night – “a tomb with a view”, he guffaws, sending shivers down our spines. The most terrifying point of the evening, as far as I’m concerned, is in the ghoul’s maze. On entering, we encounter a pair of chopped off feet, and then proceed to be warned by a high-pitched disembodied voice that “he’ll get you”. The tension ramps up, the lights flash on and off, and there’s a low growling noise. Then he appears – Christie-Cleek, a 14th century Perth butcher who apparently turned to cannibalism. His apron is spattered in blood and his face is like stone – devoid of all emotion. Knowing that he ambushes victims with his hook, or “cleke”, I squeeze myself tightly into a corner of the hedge, and try not to make a noise. When he turns away, I run! Hopeful of reaching the maze’s exit, we are stumped – and scared – when we find a dead end with a white-clad nun-like figure wafting round an ornate pool. The girls behind me scream blue murder and we all run in the opposite direction. Thankfully, the exit is close by, and we catch our breath, exhilarated and relieved. Stopping briefly to toast marshmallows over an open fire, we then head for a storytelling session inside the haunted chapel. Here we meet a woman who tells us how to identify a witch by looking at her feet, her eyes, her nostrils and her hair. Is she wearing a wig? Does she scratch her head a lot? Does she cover her cat-like claws with gloves? I suspect she’s a witch herself! The palace is an amazing setting, lending itself to being a true horrorscape, and the promise of keeping visitors on tenterhooks is most certainly fulfilled. Be warned; you never know who you might meet when you go down to the woods at night! Go on, I dare you! info Spirits of Scone runs until October 31, with tickets starting at £5. Enjoy a selection of ghoulishly hot and tasty food in the coffee shop or visit the monster marshmallow pit along the way. For more details see www.scone-palace.co.uk
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
Scotland's biggest outdoor country sports event got underway on Friday drawing thousands of visitors to historic Scone Palace. The ever-popular Scottish Game Fair is expected to attract more than 30,000 people during its three-day run. This year's programme is packed with events and activities including a headline show by the Royal Marines Unarmed Combat Display Team. More than 450 traders are on site, backed with music from pipe bands and a welcome selection of culinary treats and displays. Day one of the fair got off to a soggy start with heavy showers in the morning. After lunch, the dark clouds parted for an afternoon of blue skies and sunshine. The large attendance was a double boost for Scone Palace, which celebrated a prestigious new status. The estate was presented with Wildlife and Game accreditation at a ceremony on Friday morning. The accreditation from Wildlife Estates Scotland (WES) highlights Scone Palace's commitment to best practices when it comes to maintaining species through conservation and collaborative work. A certificate was presented to John Greenshield of Scone Palace by Fergus Ewing, cabinet secretary for rural economy and connectivity. The award was given to Scone after a recent visit by judges scores the Perthshire Estate highly in all aspects of land management. Sarah Butler, chief executive of Scone Palace, said: "We are very proud that our commitment to the preservation of the land and incredible wildlife we have here on the estate has been recognised. "The Scone Estate, from the farms to the forestry management, is dedicated to ensuring that we preserve the national landscape and species that call Scone Palace their home, and to be scored so highly by Wildlife Estates Scotland is a real testament to their hard work." Scone Palace is also celebrating 50 years since launching as a visitor attraction.