Page last updated at 11:22 GMT, Monday, 21 December 2009

Nairn in the Highlands in holiday destination top five

Nairn's former bingo hall - its entrance flanked by a bookshop and barbers - hosted a film festival

A seaside town in the Highlands has been ranked second on a list of the world's top five "emerging" travel hotspots for next year.

Travel website Trip Advisor put Nairn, on the Moray Firth coast, behind first-placed Troncones in Mexico.

The former Victorian resort was described as a "perfect base" for exploring the Highlands.

It was ahead of El Chalten in Patagonia, Patara in Turkey and Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Germany.

The list emerged as the website revealed the results of its annual travel trends survey of more than 3,000 US travellers.

You have castles, golf, walking, beautiful scenery, fantastic food and a very friendly welcome
VisitScotland spokeswoman

Tourism body VisitScotland said Nairn was a "must visit" destination.

A spokeswoman said: "For those who know it already, it's the perfect spot to explore the area.

"You have castles, golf, walking, beautiful scenery, fantastic food and a very friendly welcome."

El Chalten offers access to hiking in the Unesco World Heritage site at Parque Nacional Los Glaciares, Patara has a 12 mile-long beach and the Bavarian town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber has been described as picturesque.

Nairn has long historic links to fishing and farming which resulted in a language divide with the fisher families speaking Scots and farmers Gaelic.

When King James VI took to the throne in England he tried to impress the English courts, telling them there was a town in Scotland so big that one end could not understand the language of the other.

Fishing reached its peak in the 1870s, but World War I brought to an end to the market for herring in eastern Europe and the industry declined.

In the 1880s Nairn was a popular seaside resort with visitors flooding in on the Victorian railway network.

The town's popularity with holidaymakers earned it the nickname the Brighton of the North.

It later become a regular holiday destination for Charlie Chaplin, the star of black and white silent films.

During World War II its beaches were used for rehearsals for the Normandy Landings.

In recent years, Nairn has been championed by Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton.

She has hosted two film festivals in the town - the first staged in a former bingo hall - and given her backing to a campaign to reopen its cinema.

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