Category Archives: Scotland

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

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.

Review of V&A Dundee

I visited the V&A Dundee in mid October 2018, around three weeks after the museum opened. As a Dundonian, I was expecting great things of the V&A Dundee.

I’d seen the construction progress during visits to the city over the last couple of years. I thought that the building looked like a large dark ship jutting out on the Tay Estuary. I really liked it.

It was cloudy morning, with heavy rain forecast for later, when I arrived in Dundee. Therefore, I started off my visit with a good walk around the exterior of the V&A Dundee, in the hope of avoiding the heavy rain.

However, as I looked at the building close up, I wasn’t so impressed. It appears to be constructed mainly with concrete. You can see the large steel brackets which secure the concrete slabs at an angle.

My disappointment continued inside the V&A Dundee. There was so much space, but so little to see (free of charge). There was the Ocean Liners exhibition, but as it cost £12 for adult entry. I didn’t go in.

On the ground floor, there was an information/ticket desk, a gift shop and a cafe. The cafe become really busy during my visit. There weren’t enough tables and chairs, customers were having to take their drinks and snacks over to the seating at the bottom of the walls.

With a southerly aspect on an estuary, I  expected great views from the museum. But no, there were only some letter box style windows, most of them located well above eye level. Surely, particularly in Scotland, you’d want to let as much natural light as possible into a building?

The best part of top floor which had large windows with views to the estuary and the adjacent Discovery Point, was a restaurant and bar. We attempted to go there for a coffee, but were told that the tables were reserved for those having a meal. So much for the architects claim of of the V&A Dundee being a living room for the city.

Now I reckon that you could easily see the free sections of the V&A Dundee, both located on the top floor, in under one hour

There was an exhibition called the Scottish Design Relay on the landing. Young people throughout Scotland were challenged to co-design a new object, service or artwork.

There was a queue to enter the Design Galleries. There were interesting exhibits such as the Rennie Mackintosh Oak Room, some tapestries, clothing and an interactive display on wellie construction.

I liked Ciara Phillip’s ‘This, looped’ installation beside the queuing area for the Design Galleries.

I thought that some of the best views of the exterior of V&A Dundee were from the adjacent Discovery Point. I was able to enter Discover Point free of charge using my National Art Pass.

My recommendation would be to go into the V&A Dundee when it’s quieter. Either early, arriving at the opening time of 10am, or arriving later around 4pm. There is plenty else to see and do on a trip to Dundee. I recommend the Mcmanus Galleries, Dundee Contemporary Arts and Discovery Point.

With a price tag of £80m, the V&A Dundee should have wowed me. I don’t even blame the architect Kengo Kuma. Architects have their flights of fancy. It was up to the client to say ‘hold on a minute, where are the windows, to let in natural light and expose the views, and the space for the exhibits’? In my opinion, in design terms, as public space, and a as a museum, the building is a total flop. Looking good from a distance is not as important as the interior fulfilling its purpose.

Barholm Accommodation Creetown, Dumfries and Galloway

I stayed at Barholm Accommodation in Creetown on the Friday and Saturday night of the Spring Bank Holiday in late May 2018. Barholm Accommodation has eight rooms a mix of shared and private ensuite rooms.

I was attracted by the low price of £19.50 per night for a single ensuite room and the positive reviews. I was in Dumfries and Galloway primarily to attend the Spring Fling event.

I received a call on my mobile phone from one of the owners on the Friday morning asking me at what time I’d be checking in. I really wasn’t sure. It was a hot day (by Scottish standards) and I wasn’t sure if I’d be feeling like making my planned evening art studio visits. The owner didn’t seem best pleased that I wasn’t willing to commit to an arrival time.

In the end, I did go to one art studio in Ross Bay that evening. I arrived in Creetown around 7.30pm. I found the last available space in the car park at the rear of the building. There is one disabled parking space and one space for charging an electric car.

There was another guest wishing to check in by the locked entrance. door. There was a note on the door with a mobile number to call. Within a few minutes one of the owners arrived to let us in.

I was shown up to my 2nd floor room. It was located at the back of hotel, which meant no view of the estuary. But the view over some cottages and countryside from the large window was pretty.

The necessity of closing the bathroom door when having a shower was emphasised to avoid triggering the fire alarm. The owner explained that a TV had just been installed in the room and set it up.

Personally, I’d rather have had a kettle in the room than a TV. There is a shared kitchen with a kettle. But with 8 rooms, it can be hard to access the kitchen at peak periods. The kitchen had a fridge/freezer, which was great for keeping my food and freezing my ice blocks.

Despite being on the top floor my room was cool on a rather warn evening.  It was good size for a single room. Some single rooms are more akin to a broom cupboard. The towels were thick and fluffy. The mattress was a bit soft for my taste. There was no desk space at which to lay my Chromebook.

I didn’t get a very good WiFi signal in my room and my mobile phone signal was patchy. But on both evenings by the time I arrived at the Barholm Accommodation, had something to eat and a shower, I wasn’t too bothered about no getting online.

In my opinion, Barholm Accommodation was excellent value for money at £19.50 a night for a single ensuite room. The room was very clean.

Click here to check price and availability at Barholm Accommodation.

Making the Most of the Glasgow International Festival

The Glasgow International is Scotland’s largest festival for contemporary art. In 2018 it ran from 20 April to 7 May. The festival runs every second year.

With 268 artists work on show at 90 exhibitions and more than 80 events over 78 venues. I found it really hard to decide what to attend and then to organise an itinerary.

The Glasgow Internation 2018 website was very user friendly. It allowed you to search by dates, geographic location, artist, exhibition, event or date.

Part of my quandary was on several days, there were events which I fancied on at the same time. Then the dispersed venues meant that I might not have time to travel between venues if an event end time was close to another event’s start time.

In order to make the most of the Glasgow International you do have to be super organised. You need to double check the opening hours and days of venues. I thought that I had done this, but I still managed to arrive at the Glasgow Sculpture Workshop around 11am, when it didn’t open until noon.

Then work out the best way to get between the venues. I did a mix, taking the train from Stirling to Glasgow Queen Street and then walking around the city centre and Southside one day. On another day, I drove to Glasgow, parked at our son’s flat and then walked around the West End.

The other four days, mainly weekends, I took the car to drive around dispersed venues. I managed to be in the East End on a day when Celtic were playing at home, when the roads were jam packed and it was hard to find a space to park. I was on my way to see Carla Scott’s Stretch/Pulled/Inked exhibition at Impact Arts. I am so glad that I persevered in looking for a parking space, as I loved Carla’s work pictured below.

I wanted to achieve a balance of seeing several events and exhibitions per day, without dashing around like a headless chicken. You should also beware of sensory overload. You might get more out of doing less.

The Pipe Factory exhibition was spread over four floors. I arrived there with only 45 minutes until closing time at 6pm. I wish that I’d spent a lot longer there. The annoying thing was that I had spent around 40 minutes getting to and from another exhibition in the East End which I didn’t appeal to me. But then how long should you allow to see each exhibition? It’s so hard to know until you get there.

There were several exhibitions at SWG3. My favourite was Judy Blame’s.

I liked the rope sculpture at the Briggate, formerly Glasgow’s fish market.

There were some interesting pieces at the Savoy Tower.

I really liked the ceramics at the nearby Savoy Centre.

The dome in The Savings Bank was beautiful I went there to see Michelle perform Keener, but unfortunately she had to cancel the performance due to vocal cord issues.

I visited Lauriston Arches on the first day of the Glasgow International. Some artists were still in the middle of setting up their work. I didn’t have time to return to that venue to see all the exhibitions.

It would be fab to live in such a colourful house as portrayed Duggie Field’s show at the Modern Institute in Osborne Street.

The multitude of coloured loaves at the David Dale Gallery was eye catching.

I enjoyed Linder’s talk at the Glasgow Women’s Library. Linder was commissioned to create a flag and a short film for Glasgow Women’s Library.

One of the highlights of the Glasgow International was Necroplis Action performed by XSexcentenary.

I also had a great time at a workshop offered by the Glasgow Open Dance School (GODS) at the Old Barn in Pollok Park.

I’m looking forward to Glasgow International 2020.