It’s a dynamic time to be in Scotland, as the country will host the 2014 Commonwealth Games this month in Glasgow and vote on independence in September. But U.S. association meeting planners should also look at Scotland as an excellent place to bring their international meetings, with new or upgraded facilities in the past few years.
The Scottish capital features a number of event sites and tourist attractions that make it an ideal place for an international meeting or convention.
First, the Edinburgh International Conference Centre recently completed an exciting expansion to the already state-of-the-art facility. EICC is renowned for its innovative Pentland Auditorium, which can transform from a 1,200-seat auditorum to three smaller lecture spaces by rotating parts of the room. In 2013, EICC again premiered innovative meeting space engineering when it opened the Lennox Suite. The floor in this space can remain flat or transform to theater style. A stage also can be raised from the floor. For more information and for videos that depict these transformations, go to www.eicc.co.uk.
For a more intimate setting, such as a board meeting or a leadership reception, try the Royal College of Surgeons. Several buildings are open for lectures or more relaxed get-togethers. The historic Playfair Building dates back to 1832 and features graceful spaces with wood paneling and crown moldings. The building also houses the Surgeons’ Hall Museum, which may offer tours and private viewings for your event. On display is the death mask of an executed murderer who, in the 1800s, supplied the college with bodies for dissection. Details: www.rcsed.ac.uk.
A fantastic space for an opening or closing reception is the Assembly Rooms, a large venue that dates back 200 years and has always served as a meeting space. Refurbished in 2012, the elegant interior design of the past has been updated technologically for modern use. Hire a bagpiper to serenade attendees as they ascend the grand staircase to the upper floor ballroom.
Limo bus service is an easy way to transport your attendees between these facilities, though all are located near each other in the downtown area. There are several hotels that can accommdate guests for a mid-sized or large meeting, including the Sheraton Grand, near the EICC, the historic Balmoral and Caledonian hotels, which have kept their century-old charm while offering modern conveniences expected by meeting participants.
Glasgow has experienced a boom in preparation of hosting of the 2014 Commonwealth Games. The SSE Hydro is the latest ultra-modern multipurpose facility, which opened in 2013. The venue can seat 12,000 for a concert-type of event. For the Commonwealth Games, it will host netball and gymnastics and also will host the MTV Europe Music Awards in November.
The SSE Hydro shares a campus with the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre and the Clyde Auditorium, known locally as the Armadillo, and also bears a resemblance to the Sydney Opera House. The SECC is ideal for exhibition and education meetings, with auditorium seating of up to 10,000. There are 34 breakout rooms and 72,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space. The venue is adjacent to three hotels. Details: www.secc.co.uk.
A fun place to have a meeting, reception or team-building event is the Glasgow Science Centre. A striking crescent-shaped building linked in titanium, the centre features an IMAX theater with stage that can seat 370 and a smaller auditorium for 120. Thee is an area suited to exhibitions as well. You can also make the GSC a family program, where children can play in the interactive area on the second floor. Find out more at www.glasgowsciencecentre.org.
For something completely different, take your board or staff to the Corinthian Club, a restaurant, bar and casino that is also suited for a young professionals event. The building originally was a bank with lavish Victorian era designs. In the 1920s it was converted to a court building and most of the beautiful features were covered up. After two restorations, the latest in 2010, the building opened as as the Corinthian Club, with three floors of themed rooms in various sizes. The Corinthian Club is definitely a spot to let your hair and guard down at your meeting’s afterparty. It also can be a nice venue in the daytime for a more private lunch. Details: www.thecorinthianclub.co.uk.
If time allows, plan an evening at centuries-old Stirling Castle, now a museum and events venue that can be reached by bus from Edinburgh and Glasgow. Restored areas include the chapel and the private chambers of Mary, Queen of Scots, as they would have appeared at the time she ascended the Scottish throne. Packages can include traditional Scottish food and entertainment. Get more information at www.stirlingcastle.gov.uk.
Fairmont St. Andrews is a destination hotel that features 15,000 sq. ft of space for exhibitions, an auditorium and several other breakout and meeting-type rooms. The atrium area can be used for receptions or dinners that can accommodate up to 1,000 delegates. There are two golf courses, as well as a spa. Close by is the Old Course Hotel with ample space for small meetings. The hotel, of course, overlooks the world-famous Old Course. Details: www.fairmont.com/st-andrews-scotland; www.oldcoursehotel.co.uk.
For more information about meeting in Scotland, go to www.visitscotland.com/en-us.