You are Argyll and the Isles Tourism. Every one of the area’s individual local marketing groups are your members. The philosopher’s stone for anyone in the tourism industry in rural Scotland is selling the winter season.
So what does the young umbrella marketing organisation for Argyll and the Isles come up with?
Are you sitting comfortably? You could be. In Argyll. In this fabled winter season. And you’ll be able to try it for size and pleasure at Inveraray Castle at the Best of the West event in mid-September.
Scenic Scotland – and particularly in the winter season – is for active decadence, meaning activity and decadence actively sought out and supplied.
What Argyll and the Isles can deliver in rich variety at these times of the year are outdoor activities of all kinds – on land, in glens and hills; on, in and below the water – and indoor comfort and entertainment of one kind: big fires, music, dance, first class locally sourced food, the best whiskies in the world and locally brewed beers. And that’s before you get to the tall tales.
So the Best of the West will be just that – a suck-it-and-see taste of Argyll and the Isles at the time of the year when the winter season is on the near horizon.
The concept is inspirational.
They’re not going to tell folk about it, They going to show them.
First there’s the castle.
One way and another you cannot separate Scotland from its castles, whether they’re the doughty defenders like Dunstaffnage or the endlessly romantics like Eilean Donan, making Loch Duich its own moat.
But if there’s a prettier, more utterly charming castle than Inveraray, show it to me. This event will be no empty Best of the West. This will be the business.
All 22 west coast whisky distillers will be there – and some, like Bruichladdich, distil more than whisky. (Ugly Betty has a tale to tell.) Alongside them will be renowned specialist retailers like Loch Fyne Whiskies.
All the catering will be by Food From Argyll, the collective of top class local food producers who put stomach into revellers at T-in the Park and other music festivals. They opened a multitude of eyes at the Argyll and the Isles aisle at VisitScotland’s 2012 Tourism Expo in Edinburgh, with game, beef, pork, lamb,oysters, seafood, smokery pokery…
No fewer than 15 bands will be there, headlined on Saturday by Skerryvore and on Sunday by the Red Hot Chilli Pipers – who won’t be the only pipers either.
There will be horse rides from Argyll Adventure; abseiling (from the castle turrets), kayaking, archery and survival skills from Stramash; and the unique World Top 100 Machrihanish Dunes golf course is sending a putting course.
Children are not sidelined. Argyll and the Isles is arguably the best place in Scotland for families and the entertainment for them includes The Drakes of Hazzard – of which no more should be said here.
And if the west coast whisky distillers thought their presence alone was enough to woo – it’s time ‘tae think again’.
They’ll be competing, nose to nose – and may the best malt win.
But the Best of the West Malt Whisky Challenge, pitting all 22 of them against each other is no po-faced sniff, twirl and spill wastefulness adjudicated by the rarified. It’s a light hearted ‘peoples tasting’, where the malts will almost certainly be swallowed with relish after they’ve made their first mark on the palate – and where it will be the votes of the whisky drinking public who decide which distiller gets the inaugural Duke’s Trophy.
The strongest possible proof of the extent to which the focus and calibre of the event has caught the imagination is the scale and nature of the buy-in – including Argyll and Bute Council.
The major national and regional businesses with an interest in the tourism sector will be there and are direct sponsors of the event. Think hotels, golf courses, transport providers, activity and experience companies and many others, amongst them the best and most inventive
The event is built around a special winter offer developed by Argyll and the Isles tourism with west coast ferry operator, CalMac and with the national tourism agency, VisitScotland.
Visitors at the event, from travel and tourism operators to interested and curious individuals, will hear about it and experience almost every aspect of it on the spot.
There will be someone there representing the best of what anyone really wants to find out about.
The creative energy at the heart of Argyll and the Isles Tourism, its Vice Chair, Mike Story, provides the last piece of strategic information on the thinking and planning behind this intensely focused blast of an event:
‘We picked Inveraray due to its proximity to the central belt where we will concentrate a lot of our winter season marketing; and because of the popularity of last years BOWfest. Huge thanks go to the Duke and Duchess (a committed director of the Argyll and the Isles Tourism Partnership) for giving this fantastic venue for free and for seriously getting their sleeves rolled up and stuck in at every level.’