Category Archives: Scotland

What to do in Scotland; attractions in Scotland and the best places to visit in Scotland.

Rozelle House Galleries & The Maclaurin Gallery in Ayr

I did an online search for art galleries in Ayrshire, when planning my drive south to Dumfries and Galloway for the Arts and Crafts Trail in Kirkcubright. My search brought up the Rozelle House Galleries and the Maclaurin Gallery in Ayr.

Initially, I was a bit confused wondering if the two galleries located in different places. But they are adjacent.

Rozelle House is a former mansion house which was gifted the Royal Burgh of Ayr in the late 1960s. It then became an art gallery. In the mid 1970s, the stable block and servants quarters and became the Maclaurin Gallery.

There were plenty of parking spaces in the free car park when I arrived early on a Thursday afternoon.

I started off in the Maclaurin Gallery, which is accessed through the courtyard.

I really liked William Dick’s The Paper Works  exhibition.

As it was raining, I had a  rather quick look around the Sculpture Park.

Then it was back inside to the Rozelle Galleries.

There’s a Henry Moore sculpture at the bottom of the staircase.

I thought that some of the pieces by the Ayr College students in their HND Art & Design exhibition were wonderful. The young woman portrayed on the left below is constructed with jigsaw pieces.

The man on the right below was made by painting on a tapestry.

Below are photos of some of the other exhibits.

Upstairs at Rozelle, there was an exhibition of Alexander Goudie’s painting depicting Robert Burns’ Tam o’Shanter. Most didn’t appeal to me, being too dark coloured. The one I liked was of Brig o’Doon.

The basement walls outside the toilets had been painted by local young people.

I highly recommend a visit to the Rozelle Galleries and the Maclaurin Gallery in Ayr. It was free to get in and the galleries are open Monday to Saturday 10am to 5pm and noon to 5pm on Sundays. But do check before you visit as many museums and galleries opening hours have been reduced and charges introduced to see some exhibitions, due to spending cutbacks by local authorities.

Review of Premier Inn Dundee Centre

I stayed at the Premier Inn Dundee Centre for two nights in October 2018. My stay cost £60 for a double room, booked several months in advance on the non-refundable Saver rate.

I’ve stayed at the hotel in the past, you can read my review here. The hotel was closed for in 2016 for a year long renovation and extension. When it reopened in early 2017, the number of rooms had more than tripled from 40 to 148.

Premier Inn Dundee Centre is in a great location on the Tay estuary, next to Discover Point and close to the V&A Dundee (which you can just make out at the end of the esplanade in the photo below).

An unwelcome change, is that you now have to pay to park at the Premier Inn Dundee Centre. It costs £3 per night, which very reasonable for city centre parking.

It’s pretty confusing in the car park, especially if you arrive after dark.  The The car park is meant to be for Premier Inn guests and customer of the adjacent Beefeater restaurant. However the car park is not run by the hotel or restaurant (owned by Whitbread0, but by a private car park firm.

There are machines in the car park, but they  are for Beefeater customers, who pay £2 for three hours, which they can reclaim when they order in restaurant.

Premier Inn guests should use the machines the hotel lobby. The strange thing is that you don’t get a ticket to put on your windscreen. You enter your car registration number as part of the payment process. Be sure that you enter the registration number carefully. If you enter it incorrectly, you could end up with a £100 parking infringement charge.

I arrived at Premier Inn Dundee Centre around 9.30 with the intention of making the most of the day. Check in time is !4.00.  I checked with the receptionist, that paying the £6 for my two night stay would cover parking until noon checkout time, two days later. She said that it would.

I attempted to phone the hotel the day before arrival to request a room with an estuary view. But I wasn’t put through to the hotel, it was a customer relations office. They said that my request would be passed onto the hotel, but could not be guaranteed. When I asked the receptionist about the parking, I also asked if my request had been received. She said that they didn’t accept requests in advance, that I would have to make the request at check in. To increase the chance of my request being granted, I decided that I would need to return to the hotel at exactly at check in time of 2pm.

I arrived back at hotel a couple of minutes after 2pm. I couldn’t see any spaces in the Premier Inn/Beefeater car park. I think that some visitors to the V&A Dundee are parking in that car park. It’s cheaper than the adjacent Discovery Point car park, which quickly fills up with museum visitors. This made me think that it would be wise not to move the car, as I might not find a parking space upon my return.

At reception, I was allocated an estuary view room on the third floor. I was so glad that I had persevered to achieve my goal, as the hotel remodelling included the fitting of floor to ceiling window, so the views were great despite the grey, wet weather.

The room was great; tastefully furnished, spacious and comfortable. There was plenty of desk space. My beef with Premier Inn is that they are still so mean with tea and coffee supplies. You only get two teabags, two sachets of coffee and four little milk pots in a double room. Everything’s Premier, except the hot drinks supplies.

You can request more supplies at reception, but you might not feel like trailing down there. It seems such a penny pinching policy when it feels like a lot of money has been spent on the room.

I liked the fact that there was a sofa, so that could have a comfy seat without having to sit on the bed.

The bathroom was spotless with lovely tiles.

It was nice and quiet in the room. I heard no external noise, not even the hotel banging fire and room doors.

I spent most of the time in the room sitting by the window admiring the view. Fortunately,there was a small table by the bed, which I was able to move over to the window, which was ideal for laying he Chromebook so that I could work with a view.

In summary, I thought that the Premier Inn Dundee Centre was very good value for money at £30 a night. The room was of a high standard. But I think that the car parking policy needs to made much clearer to guests in their booking confirmation and on the machines in the lobby. Plus, Premier Inn need to be more generous with tea and coffee making supplies.

Hidden Door Festival in Leith, Edinburgh

The Hidden Door Festival in Leith, Edinburgh ran from 25 May to 3 June 2018. I attended the event on the second Saturday the 2nd of June.

I mainly attended to see the contemporary art exhibitions. Most of the art was exhibited the State Cinema.

I liked the copper panels in the foyer.

It was very colourful in the colonnade of Leith Theatre, across the road from the State Cinema.

I also saw a few performances.

Hagit Yakura – Air Hunger was wonderful.

photo courtesy of Hidden Door

I also enjoyed Claricia Kruithof – Untitled (labyrinth), which was performed outdoors in the courtyard of Leith Theatre.

I made my Edinburgh stage debut at Alice Mary Cooper’s Bean Counter, when I was selected from the audience to play the part of the bean counter’s oath taking official.

photo courtesy of Hidden Door

Review of the Old Manor Hotel Lundin Links

I stayed at the Old Manor Hotel in Lundin Links (in east central Scotland) on a Tuesday night in October 2018. I paid £36 for a single room including breakfast, booked on the eBookers website.

I was looking for lodgings for the night when I was in Fife to visit several art exhibitions. I knew of the Old Manor Hotel, having driven past it many times over the years. I was attracted by the location with views over the Forth Estuary. But I wasn’t willing to fork out an additional £20+ for a sea view room. I reckoned that I might arrive after dark, so wouldn’t see the view and at least, I would have the view during breakfast in the dining room.

I arrived at the Old Manor Hotel around 5.30pm. There was plenty of space in the car park. But the surface of the car park was like fine gravel, vs tarmac, so I decided to carry, as opposed to wheel, my suitcase.

The public areas were attractive.

I was upgraded to a double room, but not to a sea view room (fair enough). My first floor room faced the road outside the hotel, but I didn’t hear any exterior noise when the window was shut.

I was impressed by the room.  I believe it had been recently refurbished. There was a large wardrobe with a light. The TV was in a corner, as opposed to above the desk. There was a cafetiere and a ground coffee bag, a sachet of luxury hot chocolate and various teabags.

The bed and the char at the desk were very comfortable. In addition to the thick curtains. there was a roller blind, so it was nice and dark in the room for sleeping. The WiFi was good.

The bathroom was a good size, with lovely toiletries and soft towels.

The one improvement I’d like would be electrical sockets above the desk. I ended up having to put the kettle on the carpet.

The following morning, I arrived in the dining room in time to see the sunrise.

My table was in the corner, so I had an expansive view.

There was a buffet table with a selection of fruit choice, cereal, yoghurt, fresh fruit, pastries. You could make your own toast in the toaster. Tea or coffee was served to your table.

There was a good choice for the freshly cooked breakfast. I found it hard to decided whether to have the smoked salmon with scrambled egg or the smoked haddock with poached egg. I opted for the salmon, which was very good.

The waiting staff were very friendly and attentive.

In summary, I’d recommend the Old Manor Hotel in Lundin Links. The quality of the accommodation and food was high.

Click here to check availability and price of the Old Manor Hotel on the HotelsCombined price comparison site.

Harbour Arts Centre Irvine

When I stopped in Irvine, on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland, to visit the Scottish Maritime Museum. I decided to take a walk along the harbour road. It was a pretty dull day, but thankfully dry after earlier rain. I had a quick look in Harbour Arts Centre. I really liked the sculpture opposite the centre.

Inside, there was a painting of Harbour Street.

When I visited in August, I saw the Futureproof 2018 exhibition by Street Level Photography. It was the tenth exhibition of work by emerging artists who graduated from Scottish Fine Art and photography courses.

There’s a cafe in the Harbour Arts Centre. It’s wise to check opening hours before visiting, as it’s closed on Mondays and may be closed at the weekend. It’s generally open Tuesday to Friday 9.30 to 16.30.

Scottish Maritime Museum

The Scottish Maritime Museum is located in Irvine on the Ayrshire coast. It’s not a state run museum, so there is an entry charge of £7.50 for adults (aged over 16), the concessionary price is £5.50. Up to three children enter free with one adult (full price or concession).

I decided to visit the Scottish Martime Museum for two reasons. It on my way to Dumfries and Galloway for the Arts and Crafts Trail in Kirkcubright and I wanted to see the Maritime Perspectives art exhibition, which was on at that time.

As I have an National Art Pass, I didn’t have to pay the entry charge. There’s a free car park in front of the museum.

There were some exhibits in the grounds of the museum.

I spent most time in the Maritime Perspectives art exhibition, in which you weren’t permitted to take photos.

The art theme continued in the museum. The ‘Propping Through Riverside’ architectural installation, a collaboration between an artist and an architect, illustrates the processes, techniques and construction methods used on the River Clyde.

I was interested to ready about George Wyllie’s ‘QM’ installation. His 80 foot long paper boat, lamenting the loss of heavy industry in the west of Scotland, toured the world for seven years, before being dismantled.

The last remaining piece of the installation is displayed in the Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine.

Tom McKendrick’s ‘Hole Borer’ installation is a altar dedicated to the trades and mythologies of the shipbuilding industry.

I liked the posters for ferry trips.

The museum in Irvine is housed in the Victorian glass roofed Linthouse, the former Engine Shop of Alexander Stephen and Sons shipyard in Govan in Glasgow. The building was dismantled and rebuilt in Irvine. This vast building is very appropriate for the large industrial exhibits.

The Scottish Maritime Museum in Irvine makes a good effort to engage young visitors. There is a wardrobe full of clothes for dressing up in period custume.

You can also try your hand at various nautical knots.

The models of ships were very intricate.

I believe that visitors interested in engineering, seafaring and industrial heritage would get a lot out of the Scottish Maritime Museum than me.

Dr Neils Garden Edinburgh

08Despite driving past many times, I had never had of Dr Neils Garden prior to attending an art exhibition there. The location is very scenic on the shore of Loch Duddingston a the foot of Arthur’s Seat.

The garden was created in the 1960s by a wife and husband, Drs  Nancy and Andrew Neil, who were local GPs. Some patients of the GP practice volunteered to work in the garden, while others spent time in the garden during their recuperation. The Neils both died in 2005, but had already set up Dr Neil’s Garden Trust to ensure the continuation of the garden.

Not only was there an art exhibition on the Saturday morning when I visited, there were also members of a local art club painting in Dr Neil’s Garden.

The art exhibition was held in Thomson’s Tower on the shore of Lake Duddingston. It was designed by the architect William Henry Playfair, as a storage facility for Duddingston Curling Society.

In 2012 the Physic Garden was created to commemorate the Neils.

Below are some more photos of Dr Neils Garden.

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Dr Neils Garden in Edinburgh and plan to visit regularly.

Neil’s Garden is open every day from 10am to dusk. It’s usually free to enter, with donations welcomed. But there may be an entrance charge during special event, so check before you visit.

Paisley Thread Museum

At present, the Paisley Thread Museum is located in Abbey Mill Business Park.

You can park free of charge in the business park when visiting the Paisley Thread Mill Museum. But you must give the receptionist the registration number of your car, or you may receive a penalty notice from private car parking firm which monitors the car park.

The Paisley Thread Mill Museum exhibits are spread out over the foyer and the first floor mezzanine and corridor.

I loved the installation on the ceiling of the lobby at Abbey Mill, which consisted of hundreds of spools of thread of every colour and shade.

There are also a couple of machines from the former thread factory in the lobby.

There is a mural on the wall opposite the mezzanine level.

On the mezzanine level, there are several glass cabinets pictured below.

In the corridor, there are some more glass cases, predominantly filled with more reels of every imaginable colour of thread.

 

It appears that you can visit the museum during the opening hours of the Abbey Mill Business Park. However, the museum is staffed by local volunteers on Wednesdays and Saturdays from noon to 3pm. In my opinion, you get more out of your visit to Paisley Thread Museums if you visit when a volunteer is in attendance.

Threave Castle and Garden

05I planned to visit Threave castle and garden in late May on my drive down to to attend Spring Fling in Dumfries and Galloway.

I had visited Threave in 2009. What I wasn’t aware of is that the castle and the garden are a couple of miles apart, and that I had previously only visited the garden.

On my recent visit, I followed the sign to the castle, assuming that the garden would be at the castle. I didn’t recognise the car park at the castle. I then saw a signpost for the path to reach the ferry to cross to the castle. My recollection was of walking straight from the car park into the garden.

I walked to the ferry, but decided not to cross over. It was a small boat and I wasn’t confident about stepping onto the boat. given that the last time I had boarded a small vessel in Vigo in Spain, the boat had moved and I had almost fallen through the gap into the water.

It’s a bit of strange arrangement as it appears that Threave Castle is managed by Historic Scotland, but members of the National Trust of Scotland (of which I am a member) are offered free entry. I have come across that arrangement before. I have often wished that Historic Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland would merge.

Upon my return to the castle car park, I had a closer look at my map and worked out the driving route to Threave Garden.

You enter the garden through the Visitor Centre, where there are toilets and a cafe with garden views.

I had my flask with me, so stopped for a cup of tea at a bench under a tree. I wanted to be in the shade as it was a warm day. I was also attracted by beautiful bluebells under the tree.

There’s another cafe with outdoor seating the former stable building.

I remembered the slate features in the fountain.

There were several types of fruit trees in blossom in the walled garden.

The greenhouse was full of colourful flowering plants.

I was tempted to cool my feet in the water feature in the rock garden.

There were lots more bluebells in the woodland walk.

There were some blue poppies close to the pond.

The rhododendrons were in full bloom.

I really enjoyed my visit to Threave Garden. I would have liked to stay for longer, but I also wanted to visit Broughton House in Kirkcubright that afternoon.

Exploring Culzean Country Park

On my return journey from Dumfries and Galloway in August, I planned to make Cluzean Country Park, in Ayrshire, my first stop.  I have visited Culzean Castle in the past, so decided to spend my time exploring the grounds, before heading to my next port of call, Dumfries House.

I normally avoid popular attractions on good weather days at weekends during the school holidays, but as I was passing and it’s a bit of a long drive from Stirling to Culzean for a day trip. I planned to arrive just after opening time of 10am, in the hope of avoiding the crowds.

As National Trust for Scotland member, I didn’t have to pay the adult entry charge of £11.50 for the country park. If you also wish to visit Culzean Castle, the price is £16.50.

I drove straight to the Walled Garden. I was relieved that the car park and the garden were fairly quiet. I took my flask with me to have a hot drink in the Walled Garden. I found a bench in the shade. The shade was provided by cascade from a flowering bush planted behind the bench.

The large Vinery greenhouse in the Walled Garden was undergoing renovation, which meant that there were ugly no-entry barriers along the front of the structure.

I spent quite a bit of time walking around the garden admiring the flowers, plants and trees.

There was an interesting circular hedge.

The wooden garden house was wallpapered in a botanical theme.

The rockery had a stone arch.

I was amazed that there were no toilet facilities at the Walled Garden. It looked a bit far to walk to the nearest facilities at the Swan Pond, so I drove.

Well it was mobbed there, even the overflow car park was pretty full. There was a wonderful adventure playground for kids and some event laid on by the local commercial radio station.

There was a long queue at the ladies toilet. Since I was in the vicinity, I decided to have a walk around the Swan Pond.

That walk vindicated my usual policy of avoiding popular places at peak periods. The path was quite narrow and crowded.

The cafe at the Swan Pond had a lovely garden.

Next, I walked up to the Pagoda.

There are a few activities for kids inside.

I liked the boat sticker on the window of the Pagoda.

I headed back to the Walled Garden to eat my picnic lunch in the relative peace and quiet. I sat in the same shady seat in the orchard to do some work on my Chromebook.

Then I walked down a path heading south for a coffee from my flask by a small pond.

On the drive to the exit, I stopped at the car park fairly close to the Castle, as according to the map, there were toilets next to the car park. I couldn’t find them, there was only a shut up shop, so I had to walk up to the Castle.

Fountain Court garden, beneath the Castle, was looking beautiful.

  

There were lots of people sitting on the wall close to the Castle, admiring the sea view. making it hard to take a photo.

There was an art gallery. I had a quick look inside.

There were great views of the sea from the outdoor seating at the Old Stable Coffee House

In the stables, there was a boat carriage.

Again, there was a long queue at the ladies toilet in the castle. No wonder, with one of the two cubicles out of order. I can’t believe that the toilet facilities are so poor at Culzean. At a busy attraction, with a fairly steep admission fee, surely adequate toilet facilities should a priority.

I enjoyed myself at Culzean Country Park so much, (despite the crowds and the woeful toilet facilities), that I ended up spending most of the day there, without even having time to walk down to the beach or visit Home Farm.