Category Archives: Scotland

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

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Photo tour of the Biblical Garden Elgin, Scotland

During my Summer 2010 Scotland Blog Tour, I visited the Biblical Garden in Elgin which is just across from Elgin Cathedral.  I don’t know if I happened to go at the most colourful time of year, or if it’s always as beautiful. As I’m not religious I enjoyed Elgin’s Biblical Garden for the floral displays. This Scottish garden contains all 110 plants mentioned in the Bible.  Sculptures around the garden portray various parables including the Good Shepherd, Moses and the Ten Commandments and the Prodigal Son.

Biblical Garden Elgin

Biblical Garden Elgin

Biblical Garden Elgin

Biblical Garden Elgin

It’s free to get into the Biblical Garden in Elgin.  It’s open from 10am – 7pm everyday from May through to September.

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Elgin Cathedral photos

I visited the town of Elgin in north east Scotland one evening during my Summer 2010 Scotland Blog Tour.  Elgin Cathedral is an example of Scottish medieval architecture, dating from the 13th century.  It was known as the “Lantern of the North” as it was such a landmark in the surrounding flat terrain.  I didn’t pay to go in Elgin Cathedral, as I thought I could see it quite well from the perimeter fence. I’m already a member of the National Trust for Scotland but Elgin Cathedral is managed by Historic Scotland. I just wish the two organisations would merge, so I could have pay for one membership to get into all Scotland’s historic buildings.

Elgin Cathedral

If you visit Elgin Cathedral between May to September do walk across to the Biblical Gardens.

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Review of Premier Inn Stirling

I stayed at the Premier Inn Stirling for one night in August 2010 on the final night of my Summer 2010 Scotland Blog Tour, on a complimentary basis.  The hotel is located on the outskirts of Stirling, just down from the services roundabout where you can join the motorway to Edinburgh or Glasgow.  There’s a Brewer’s Fayre restaurant next door where we ate on the 2 main courses for £9 offer last year.  It’s a couple of miles into the city centre if you want to find a choice of restaurants.

The receptionist who checked me in was super friendly.  There were baskets with tea bags, standard and decaf coffees sachets and milk on the reception desk.  I’ve already commented that Premier Inn are a bit mean with the in-room tea, coffee and milk supplies, only giving you two sachets of regular coffee, four milks and two teabags. Therefore it’s a good idea to stock up when you check in, to save you having to come back down to reception later when you run out or milk of fancy a decaf coffee.

My room was on the first floor at the side of the hotel with a lovely view towards Stirling and the distant mountains.

The view from my room at Premier Inn Stirling

The room had obviously been recently refurbished and was looking very good with a spacious desk and a separate small shelf for tea and coffee making attached to the wardrobe. I though it was practical to have the kettle away from the desk, to give more desk space and in case of spillages on mobile phones or laptops. My only niggle with the room was the double glazing which wasn’t effective in blocking the exterior noise from the nearby road.  The window did look quite old, so I reckon that new double glazing could probably mean no road noise at all. In saying this, I have to admit that it’s very quiet traffic wise where I live, so I am easily disturbed by the whoozing of passing traffic.

The breakfast buffet table in Stirling was constantly replenished with plenty of yoghurts, cereals, fresh fruit salad, milk and the water in the flasks was hotel enough to make a decent pot of tea. There were even freshly baked croissants and there was still plenty left on the buffet when I left at 9.10.  Staff were going around the tables asking guests if they wanted anything else from the kitchen.  Breakfast isn’t included in the room price, it costs £7.75 for a full breakfast and £5.25 for a continental breakfast but kids under 16 eat free when accompanied by an adult.

I stayed at four Premier Inns on my Scotland Blog Tour and Stirling was the best overall in terms of the standard of my room, the breakfast and the super staff.  I’d rate this as one of the best budget hotels in Stirling, especially if you can find a room for £29 with the Premier Offers.

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Aberdeen day trips

3 great Aberdeen day trips

There are many possible day trips from the city of Aberdeen during which you can explore the beautiful surrounding area.  Here are my ideas for three great Aberdeen day trips, based on my Summer 2010 Scotland Blog Tour and an earlier trip to the area.  You could do a bit of a hybrid day out, taking in some elements from each of the three suggestions.

Aberdeen day trips

The lovely Aberdeenshire countryside in August

Visit Alford

The town of Alford lies around 25 miles west of Aberdeen.  It’s home to the  Alford Valley Railway where you ride on the narrow gauge railway to Haughton Park. There are events such as Teddy Bears Picnics on Wednesdays in August and Santa Specials in the run up to Christmas.

The Grampian Transport Museum is also in Alford.

I loved the carvings in the pink granite boulders which sit just outside the Alford Valley railway station.

Pig and sheep stone carvings in Alford

Take the Aberdeenshire Castle Trail

There are fourteen castles in the Aberdeenshire Castle Trail, I visited three of them on a previous trip to Aberdeenshire; Crathes Castle with its lovely garden, Castle Fraser and Haddo House.

Aberdeen Day Trips

Crathes Castle and Garden

Follow the Malt Whisky Trail

On the Malt Whisky Trail you can visit seven working distilleries including Glen Grant,  the Glenlivet and Cardhu. As a teetotaller and being short of time on my way to Elgin, I only had a quick look around the Glenfiddich Distillery. As I walked down from the car park, I was almost knocked out by the pervasive strong whisky odour.

Glenfiddich Distillery

I hope I’ve given you some ideas for enjoyable Aberdeen day trips.  If you have any favourite routes/places to visit in Aberdeenshire, please leave a comment.

Review of Premier Inn Elgin

Review of Premier Inn Elgin

I stayed for one night at the Premier Inn Elgin, on the third night of my Summer 2010 Scotland Blog Tour, on a complimentary basis.  It’s located a couple of miles from the town centre, just off the main road from Inverness.   There’s a restaurant attached to the Premier Inn but apart from a McDonalds close by, you’d have to drive into Elgin for a choice of restaurants.  You should try to go into Elgin to see Elgin Cathedral and the Biblical Gardens.

Review of Premier Inn Elgin

Premier Inn Elgin exterior

I was allocated a room facing the car park at the back of the hotel,  a good distance from the road, so didn’t hear any exterior noise. I thought my room was looking a bit tired and the chairs had seen better days, one had a stain on the cushion and both were worn and grubby around the ends of the armrests.  The bathroom was showing some signs of wear too around the sink and bath plug holes. In my opinion, Premier Inn really can’t claim they are a superior budget brand on the basis of a room like this.

There are only two sachets of regular coffee, two teabags and four small pots of milk (no biscuits) in a Premier Inn room, which seems a bit skimpy. You’re told at reception that you can ask for more supplies but once you’re settled in your room, you don’t really feel like trailing down to reception again.  The bed was very comfy so I did have a good sleep.

My room at Premier Inn Elgin

Breakfast at the Premier Inn Elgin was not an enjoyable affair.  Serving hours are 7 – 9am on weekdays and 8 – 10am at weekends, which I don’t think is late enough for leisure travellers. I reckon breakfast should be served until 10am on weekdays and 11am at weekends.  Anyway, I turned up at 8.20 and had to wait for about 10 minutes to be shown to a table.  I ordered my cooked breakfast and had some cereal and yoghurt from the buffet.  Every time I went to the buffet table something was missing e.g. no hot water, no cups or no milk. I didn’t see croissants or fresh fruit salad on any of my visits to the buffet table.  I went to the buffet table at 9.15 to get some more toast and tea and everything but everything had been cleared away.  I spoke to some other guests who were also a bit bemused by the fact that their breakfast had come to an abrupt end.

Premier Inn quote room only rates, a full breakfast costs £7.75 and a continental breakfast is £5.25, kids under 16 eat free with accompanying adults.  I asked if the restaurant had wifi and was informed it didn’t.  Fortunately I have an 02 mobile broadband subscription which costs £15 a month for up to 3GB, as Premier Inn charge guests a hefty £5 for an hour or £12 for 24 hours for internet access.

If you need a bed for the night in the Elgin area and can find a cheap room at Premier Inn (rooms start from £29 a night), fair enough, the rooms aren’t that bad, but certainly not really premier. Just make sure that you go for breakfast early.

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Review of Premier Inn Aberdeen West Central

I stayed at the Premier Inn Aberdeen Central West for one night in August 2010 on a complimentary basis. It was the second night of my Summer 2010 Scotland Blog Tour.  The hotel lies just off Anderson Drive, on the Aberdeen ring road. However the hotel is set back from the road so I didn’t hear any external traffic noise during my stay. The hotel is a couple of miles from the city centre and has a large free car park.

I was allocated a room on the 4th (top) floor, which had a small window set in a sloping ceiling. I found the room to be a bit dark but spacious and well maintained.  The bed was large and very comfortable.  The bathroom was pristine.

There was plenty of space to work at the desk. However wifi access at Premier Inns is priced at £5 an hour or £12 for 24 hours which I think it too expensive. I used my 02 mobile broadband which costs me £15 a month for up to 3GB.  However there is free wifi, with a good signal, in the restaurant right next to the Premier Inn, where breakfast is served.

My room at Premier Inn Aberdeen Central West

Everything for breakfast at the Premier Inn Aberdeen Central West was laid out as a buffet (unlike other Premier Inns at which I stayed, where the cooked breakfast was freshly prepared to order). While this was a good thing as you could get your cooked breakfast at the time that best suited you, some of the items weren’t hot enough. There was a good selection of cereals, yoghurts, fresh fruit salad, fruit juices, croissants and muffins.  You could make your own toast in one of these conveyor belt machines, which never seems to do a good job. Hot water for tea and coffee were on the buffet table in flasks. I didn’t find this arrangement worked well, as the drinks were lukewarm as opposed to hot. Breakfast isn’t included in the room rate, most Premier Inns offer a choice of either a continental breakfast for £5.25 or a  cooked breakfast for £7.75.

The rooms at Premier Inn Aberdeen Central are very well presented.  The location is good if you don’t want to be staying in a potentially noisy city centre Aberdeen hotel.  All the staff I spoke with were very friendly and helpful. You’d probably need a car to stay here, so it would be handy as a base for day trips from Aberdeen. The quality of breakfast items is very good but I think preparing the breakfasts to order and bringing freshly brewed tea and coffee to guests tables would ensure a hotter, fresher breakfast.  I think that Premier Inn should reduce or abolish their wifi charges.

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dundeedragon

5 of the Best Dundee Hotels

I think that the Scottish city of Dundee is an ideal short break destination, so here are some suggestions for Dundee hotels.  Dundee is located on the east coast of Scotland, on the Tay Estuary.  There are some great Dundee attractions such as Discovery Point, Sensation Science Centre and the Verdant Works.  Dundee also has a good selection of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants.  There’s a lovely beach in the suburb of Broughty Ferry.

Dragon sculpture in Dundee city centre

Best places to stay in Dundee

My tips for the best places to stay in Dundee are based on my own experience plus research into Dundee hotels which receive very good reviews from guests.

Premier Inn Dundee Centre is right on the Tay Estuary, so try to get a room at the back of the hotel for the views. The rooms are slightly dated but it’ s a good Dundee budget hotel. If you manage to get one of the £29 rooms it’s a bargain for the location.  It’s just across from Dundee railway station, so ideal if you come by train.  You can read my review with a video of the room in which I stayed in August 2010.

Premier Inn Dundee Centre on the Tay Estuary

The 4 star Apex Hotel is on City Quay, I’ve seen room only rates here from around £65 a night.  The rooms get very good guest reviews but there are some negative comments about the restaurant, especially for evening meals.   However, there are a couple of restaurants on City Quay and a good  choice in the city centre, a 10 minute walk away.  The hotel has a free car park, a health spa and free wifi.

Apex City Quay Hotel Dundee

Another budget Dundee hotel option is the Travelodge Dundee Centre where I stayed in May 2010 for only £12 for the night. This was booked during the Travelodge January 2010 sale.  The building was formerly a jute mill, so I had an enormous room with 3 big windows.  There’s a free car park at the rear. I found the hotel to be a bit noisy as there’s a busy road at the front and service access to a supermarket at the rear.  However, I do live in a quiet location and often find city centres noisy.  You can read my full review which has a video of my room.

Travelodge Dundee Central

My room at Travelodge Dundee Centre

The Holiday Inn Express Dundee opened recently. The cheapest rooms I’ve seen on offer for this hotel were around £60.  Continental breakfast is included in the room rate and there’s free wifi in the lobby.

HOLIDAY INN EXPRESS

Holiday Inn Express Dundee by occahome

If you’re looking for accommodation away from the  city centre, the Taychreggan Hotel in Broughty Ferry is a good choice.  This Victorian mansion has ten rooms, some with views over the Tay estuary.  There’s a garden with a sun terrace.

View from Broughty Ferry Castle

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Things to do in Dundee - Discovery Point Dundee

Discovery Point Dundee: Home of Captain Scott’s Antarctic expedition ship

Discovery Point, in the Scottish city of Dundee, is the home of RRS Discovery, the the ship which transported Captain Scott’s first Antarctic “Discovery Expedition” to the South Pole in 1901. The ship was built in Dundee and returned there in 1986.

Things to do in Dundee - Discovery Point Dundee

RSS Discovery against the Dundee skyline

Discovery was locked in by ice in the South Pole during the Winter of 1903.  She had to be rescued by two other ships, Morning and Terra Nova (which took Scott back to Antarctica on the ill fated Terra Nova Expedition in 1910). In order to free Discovery the rescuers had to blast through 20 miles of ice.

Discovery Point entrance

RRS Discovery was the first ship to be specifically constructed for Antarctic exploration.  Dundee was chosen due to the workers experience in building robust whaling ships.

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Dundee Docks exhibit at Discovery Point

The “Race to the Pole – Centenary of the Terra Nova Expedition” exhibition runs until 2 December 2010, to commemorate 100 years since the start of Scott’s second and final journey to the Antarctic, where the expedition members perished on their way back to the ship, after being beaten to the South Pole by the Norwegian Amundsen.

Things to do in Dundee - Discovery Point Dundee

Ice fishing exhibit at Discovery Point Dundee

The highlight of my visit was going on board RSS Discovery. I was amazed by the height of the masts, although the ship did also have engines.

Discovery Point was a showpiece of Dundee’s regeneration in the 1980s and is a must-visit Dundee attraction.  You can see all my Discovery Point photos and videos on Flickr.

I’d also recommend visiting the Dundee attractions the Sensation Science Centre and  The Verdant Works (which tells the story of Dundee’s jute industry).

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Review Dundee Centre Premier Inn

Review of Premier Inn Dundee Centre

I stayed at the Premier Inn Dundee Centre for one night in August 2010, on a complimentary basis.  It was the first night of my Summer 2010 Scotland Blog Tour. The hotel is in a great location right on the Tay Estuary, just across from Dundee railway station.  This is an ideal hotel for a Dundee short break with Dundee attractions such as Discovery Point and Sensation Science Centre, as well as a selection of shops, bars, cafes and restaurants, within a  5 minute walk from the hotel.  Guests can park free of charge, with parking pass available at reception, in the pay and display car park at the front of the hotel.

Review Dundee Centre Premier Inn

Premier Inn Dundee Centre by the Tay Estuary

I was fortunate to have a room at the back of the hotel with an estuary view and the Tay road and rail bridges.  There’s s walkway along the estuary but I didn’t hear any noise from there after midnight.  The rooms at the front of the hotel face the car park and a fairly busy road.

View from my room at the Premier Inn Dundee Centre toward Tay Road Bridge

My room was a good size with a comfy bed.  Some of the room fittings were a little bit old fashioned,  I didn’t like the plastic wood effect on the sink and toilet casing.

The staff are all very pleasant and helpful. I arrived at the car park just after  11.00am, check in time is from 2pm but I was given a free pass for the car park from the receptionist which I was told would be valid for the whole of the next day too.

Breakfast was mainly an all-you can-eat buffet but the cooked breakfast was freshly cooked to order.  I managed to get a table with an estuary view. It was a bit chaotic at the buffet table, due to the number of guests.  There was a fresh fruit salad, various cereals, fruit juice, yoghurts, toast from a toasting belt machine (which only seemed to do one side), croissants and muffins.  Hot water and coffee were available in flasks but were just about lukewarm.   I think that it’s be much better for staff to serve fresh tea and coffee to guests’ tables, so that the hot drinks would actually be hot and the buffet table wouldn’t get so crowded.  Breakfast isn’t included in the room rate, most Premier Inns offer a choice of either a continental breakfast for £5.25 or a  cooked breakfast for £7.75.

Wifi access is priced at £5 an hour or £12 for 24 hours, which I think it too expensive. I used my 02 mobile broadband which costs £15 a month for up to 3GB.  In my opinion, Premier Inn should offer guests free wifi.

I’d recommend the Premier Inn Dundee Centre for a city break or as a base for various day trips, for example to Fife, Perthshire and Angus.   It’s a good Dundee budget hotel option with rooms starting at £29 a night, kids under 16 stay free in family rooms.  For every adult who orders a cooked breakfast, two under 16s can eat free of charge.  I’ve included the Premier Inn Dundee Centre in my top 5 Dundee hotels.

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Sensation Science Centre, Dundee: Great fun for families

I visited the Sensation Science Centre in Dundee in August 2010 during my Summer 2010 Scotland Blog Tour.  It’s a great all weather Dundee attraction for families. This is the sort of place that our twin sons loved in their youth, where kids get involved in the hands-on exhibits as well as various fun, educational activities.

Sensation Science Centre Dundee - Things to do in Dundee

Exterior of Sensation Science Centre Dundee

My favourite was the Magic Mirror, where if you stood still you’d disappear from the monitor but as soon as you moved you were visible on screen.

Magic Mirror at Sensation Science Centre Dundee

It must be an adventure climbing in the large head in the Taste and Smell section.

The ne Small Step space exhibition was on during my visit.

In Mindball you control the movement of a small sphere with your brain waves. Two people, with monitors strapped on their heads, sit at opposite ends of a long table with the sphere placed in the centre of the table. The winner is the person who is most relaxed, as the ball will move towards their less relaxed opponent.

As my visit was during the school holidays, there were several shows and events on offer throughout the day. I watched a film about the planets projected on the top of the Planetarium tent while lying on a mat on the ground.

If you’re looking for ideas for other things to do in Dundee, I’d recommend the Verdant Works and Discovery Point.

You can see all my Sensation photos and videos on Flickr.

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