Category Archives: Scotland

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

Glasgow Airport accommodation

The Best Glasgow Airport Hotels

If you have an early departure or late arrival at Glasgow International Airport in Scotland, not to be confused with Glasgow Prestwick Airport, you’ll need somewhere to stay close to the airport.  To determine the best Glasgow Airport hotels, I’ve only included hotels which are within walking distance to the terminal and receive at least 75% in verified (i.e. the person actually stayed in the hotel) guest ratings. I did a price check for a double room for one night on Friday 5 November 2010 (prices accurate on 2 September 2010). However, November is low season, so expect to pay more for accommodation in peak holiday periods.

Best Glasgow Airport hotels

British Airways plane at Glasgow Airport by Bob the courier

Glasgow Airport Accommodation

The Holiday Inn Glasgow Airport is less than a one minute walk from the terminal building.  You can check in from 2pm and checkout deadline is 12pm.The hotel receives an average guest rating of  76% from 280 verified reviews.  The price was £49 for room only.

Best Glasgow Airport hotels

The Express by Holiday Inn Glasgow Airport is a two minute walk from the airport terminal through covered walkways. A buffet breakfast, served from 6am – 10am is included in the room price.  Check in is from 2pm and latest check out is 11am.   The hotel receives an average guest rating of  76% from 411 verified reviews. The price was £49 including breakfast.

Best Glasgow Airport Hotels

The Premier Inn Glasgow Airport is situated 400 metres from the airport on the other side of the motorway.  You could walk to the terminal in 5 – 10 minutes but if you have heavy bags or it’s raining, there’s a shuttle bus which costs £1 per adult each way. Check in is available from 2pm and latest check out is 12pm.  The hotel receives 84% from 78 verified reviews.  The price was £29 room only on Premier Offers Advance Booking but you have to book at least 21 days in advance.

Best Glasgow Airport hotels

Ramada Glasgow Airport lies a 500 metres from the terminal building but there is a shuttle bus which costs £2 per person each way. Check in is from 2pm and check out by 12pm at latest.  There’s free wifi in the lounge. The average guest rating is 78% based on 247 verified reviews. The price was £45  for room only.

Best Glasgow Airport Hotels

Parking Options

Some hotels will also include parking for up to 15 days either in a fly-park room rate or on payment of a supplement.  This may be a cheaper option than arranging parking directly with a car park provider.  However, when comparing costs, remember to factor in any costs for getting to and from the terminal if transfers aren’t included in the hotel car parking rates, as transfers are generally included in the price quoted by car parks.  You can find the cheapest airport parking using the price comparison search below.

 

Which Glasgow Airport accommodation would I choose?

I’d probably go for the Premier Inn Glasgow Airport budget option, at £29 room only. I’ve stayed in a few Premier Inns and the rooms are usually fairly spacious and comfy.  I’d be tempted to book at Express by Holiday Innn Glasgow Airport if the price differential was less than £20 and if my check in time allowed for a leisurely breakfast or if I was at the hotel after a late arrival back to the airport  I’ve stayed at several Express by Holiday Inns and although the rooms can be a bit on the small side, the breakfast buffet is really good.

 

 

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How the Scottish City of Glasgow Morphed from Post Industrial Gloom to Top Global Visitor Destination

Introduction

The Scottish city of Glasgow has undergone a successful metamorphosis from unappealing post industrial gloom to a popular global tourist destination.  How was this achieved?  What lessons can be learned for other cities keen to make themselves more attractive to potential visitors with so much competition from other possible destinations.

Background

Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland, located on the River Clyde, in western central Scotland.  It was home to the famous Clydeside ship building industry which fell into terminal decline in the second half of the 20th century turning swathes of the city into industrial wasteland and leading to high unemployment among the blue collar workforce. By the late 1970s the city’s reputation was one of grime, crime and deprivation. However plans were afoot to change this.

Landmarks in the lead up to 1990s

Glasgow’s regeneration started in the early 1980s. The specially commissioned Burrell Collection building in Pollok Park opened in 1983.


Burrell Collection

That year also saw the launch of Glasgow’s Smiles Better campaign to counteract the negative image of the city.

In 1985 the Scottish Exhibition & Conference Centre (SECC) opened on the site of the Queen’s Dock at Finnieston Quay on the northern bank of the Clyde.  In 1998 the Glasgow Garden Festival was held on the site of the former Princes Dock in Govan on the southern bank of the River Clyde.

1990 The Year of being European City of Culture

The 1990 European City of Culture encompassed 3,400 events throughout Glasgow, from large international to small local events over the the whole year. There were 60 world premieres, performers from 23 countries and over 150 sporting events. Glasgow City Council judged Glasgow’s year of being the European City of Culture to have been very successful partly because the definition of culture was wide ranging not merely focussing on music, theatre and visual arts but also sport, design and education.

Dr Beatrix Garcia asserts that Glasgow’s stint as European City of Culture in 1990 was the first successful, high profile use of arts as a catalyst for urban regeneration. This was partly due to the fact that there was grassroots involvement from local communities in the 1990 event and the observation that the arts can make a difference even in socially and economically disadvantaged districts. There is feeling that cultural legacies have a longer term, deeper effect on a city’s psyche as they can attain a deeper level of involvement and meaning in the resident’s lives than economic or physical projects.

Post 1990 Landmarks

However Glasgow’s cultural regeneration didn’t run out of steam after 1990, continuing with the 1996 opening of the Gallery of Modern Art and in 1997 the Glasgow Auditorium, as an extension to the SECC.  In 1999 the city was crowned the UK’s City of Design and Architecture. The Glasgow Science Centre opened in 2001 close to the site of the 1988 Garden Festival. In 2008 Glasgow was named as an UNESCO City of Music. The 2014 Commonwealth Games will be held in Glasgow.

Crowne Plaza Glasgow from south bank of River Clyde

Clyde Auditorium (on right) and Crown Plaza Glasgow (on left)

Other Factors

However Glasgow’s cultural identity doesn’t hinge only on showcase events and the opening of new cultural venues, there are many other factors too.  Moving towards a new cultural identity also means embracing what is good from the past.

Architecture is an important aspect of Glasgow’s heritage. There is a plethora of grand Victorian buildings such as the City Chambers and the University of Glasgow.  The Willow Tea Rooms, Scotland Street School and School of Art are three examples of early 20th century work by Charles Rennie Macintosh.


Scotland Street School

Glaswegian writers such as James Kelman winner of the 1994 Booker Prize, Alasdair Gray author of “Lanark”, poet and playwright Liz Lochead and Ian Pattison, creator of Rab C Nesbitt the sting vested philosopher, all make their mark on the city’s cultural identity. The famous Glasgow sense of humour, exemplified by Billy Connolly, contributes to the local resident’s reputation for friendliness.

Glasgow is the second biggest shopping city of the UK after London. From the traditional weekend open air Barras Market in the city’s East End, the 1827 Parisian style Argyll Arcade (the first covered shopping mall in Scotland) and one of the oldest in Europe, to the trendy Princes Square and Buchanan Galleries, you really can shop till you drop in Glasgow.

Music has always been a strong part of Glasgow’s cultural identity, famed for its diverse range of tastes said to be helped by its status as a thriving port, absorbing influences from Europe and the US as well as its industrial background and lively arts scene.  This has given rise to many interesting bands and artists over the years, from the Jesus and Mary Chain’s riotous 1980s performances to worldwide commercial successes such as Texas and Travis. Also its proliferation of universities and colleges, including the aforementioned School of Art and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, have helped fuel the scene with fresh new talent. Our son Simon Bryan is part of the Glasgow music scene as a DJ.

Simon Bryan Glasgow DJ
Our son Simon’s gig at the Lite Club by subcityphotos

The opening of the SECC, the Clyde Auditorium and the Royal Concert Hall provided large spaces in which to house performances ranging from pop to classical music. At the opposite of the spectrum the city boasts many small pubs which provide a breeding ground for many local acts such as King Tuts, The 13th Note, Nice & Sleazy, and the Captain’s Rest. Those preferring more traditional tunes can find plenty of live jazz and folk bands in pubs all over the city, often with no admission charge. Meanwhile the Barrowlands Ballroom, famous in the mid 1900s as one of the city’s most popular Dance Halls, is now a 2000 capacity venue and along with the Academy and the ABC is a frequent stop of many international bands’ touring schedules.  Glasgow’s music scene goes from strength to strength and it is recognised as by far the best city in Scotland for music.

Evaluation of Glasgow’s cultural transition

Glasgow certainly now enjoys a reputation as a hip city to visit, probably best known for it’s shopping and nightlife. It’s a popular short break destination for UK residents and is the fifth most popular UK tourist destination for overseas visitors. Glasgow was riding high in travel guide headlines in 2006. Conde Nast proclaimed Glasgow to be the UK’s top city destination after analysis of a readers poll where Glasgow’s strengths were listed as its people, hospitality and vibrant nightlife. Glasgow was listed as the only “Top 10 Must See” destination in Europe in the Frommers Guide and the Lonely Planet Guide labelled Glasgow as “one of Britain’s largest, liveliest and most interesting cities”. Fodor’s commented on the city’s friendly atmosphere and amazing shops and National Geographic was impressed by “innovative design, eclectic boutiques—and unpretentious attitude”.


River Clyde Walkway

So it looks like it’s mission accomplished in the transition of Glasgow from the dark days of post industrial gloom to top global tourist destination in a couple of decades – no mean feat, propelled by the catalyst of being European City of Culture in 1990.

So if you’ve never visited Glasgow or haven’t been there for a while, you should try to visit soon.  There are lots of things to do in Glasgow, including many free options such as the  Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.

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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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aberdeenpremierinnroom

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.

Discovery Point Dundee - Things to do in Dundee

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).

Click here for the lowest prices on Dundee hotels