Category Archives: Scotland

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

Review of Travelodge Inverness

We stayed for 2 nights at the Travelodge Inverness during our budget break in Scotland in early May 2012. The room cost £10 a night booked in the Travelodge December 2011 Sale. The hotel is located just east of the A9 off the Nairn road. If you’re coming off the A9, you need to drive right around the first roundabout (you’ll see a large Tesco supermarket) and then take the first left signposted for the Holiday Inn Express. The Travelodge is on your right. There’s a bar/restaurant just across the access road from the hotel.

Travelodge Inverness

Travelodge Inverness

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Review of Glasgow Mansion House

I used a Groupon voucher for an early evening pub meal at Glasgow Mansion House, which cost £18 for a main course and a soft drink for four, in June 2012. I received credit from Groupon to select and road test a variety of their offers.

I was impressed to receive an email confirmation after making my booking by phone. It was quite confusing on arrival at the Mansion House as there are several entrances to various venues.

Mansion House Glasgow

I was joined by Cecilie of The Wee Frenchy in Glasgow, Linda Fairbairn of Journey Jottings and our son Simon. The staff were very welcoming.

Cecilie (left) & Linda (right) at Mansion House Glasgow

It was so refreshing that there weren’t any exclusions on which main course we could order from the menu, after an unpleasant experiences at The Italian Job restaurant in Glasgow the previous day when we were unable to order two of the main courses that we wanted when using a Groupon voucher.

Cecilie had a Steak Sandwich which she thought was rather overdone. Linda and I had Steak Pie, while the pie was good, the accompanying mashed potato was very bland and not properly heated throughout. I also thought that some veg, such as carrot or peas. should have been served with the Steak Pie We all reckoned that Simon’s Chicken Fajita was the best choice.

Chicken Fajita at the Mansion House Glasgow

The Mansion House could improve their food by ensuring that items are appropriately cooked/reheated and by serving some veg, apart from potato with pies, as the quality of the food was fine.

From my recent Groupon experiences, the Mansion House in Glasgow are one of the few establishments doing things right; other suppliers offering Groupon deals could learn a lot from them.

  • They confirmed the booking by email.
  • There were no exclusions from the menu.
  • The Mansion House offer did represent a money saving offer; with main courses priced around £7-8, getting 4 main courses and soft drinks for£18 was a bargain, in contrast to the Glasgow Thistle’s Afternoon Tea which stated a hugely inflated standard price to make the deal sound like a bargain.

Sculptures on River Ericht Walk in Blairgowrie, Scotland

Our first stop on Day 2 of our budget break in Scotland was for a walk along the River Ericht in Blairgowrie in Perthshire. You can enjoy this walk without needing to be super fit and into country hiking; it takes around 40 minutes to do the walk illustrated below, if you turn back soon after the footbridge.  You get to the car park at the start of the walk from the town centre if you’re coming from Perth and take a sharp left turn just before crossing the bridge heading in the Braemar direction. There are several relief stone sculptures at various points along the walk.

sculptures on River Ericht walk Blairgowrie

Birds sculpture near car park

sculptures on River Ericht walk Blairgowrie

Monkey puzzle tree branch sculpture

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Walking Along the North Sea Trail from Eyemouth

One of our regular short day trips from Berwick upon Tweed is to the coastal town of Eyemouth in the Scottish Borders, for a walk along the North Sea Trail towards Coldingham. The views were particulary attractive one afternoon in mid April. Although there was a chilly wind, it was sunny and bright. The white heads of the crashing waves contrasted sharply with the colour of the rocks.

North Sea Trail

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Review of Travelodge Dunfermline

We stayed at the Travelodge Dunfermline on the first night of our budget break in Scotland during early May 2012. The room cost £19 for a Saturday night booked during the December 2011 Travelodge Sale. It’s quite hard to get cheap Travelodge rooms on Saturdays, so this was a good price. Travelodge Dunfermline is located close to the M90 Perth to Edinburgh motorway. The hotel is a bit out on a limb, near an industrial unit. There’s often a restaurant next to Travelodges; here it’s a few minutes walk to a Harvester Inn at Halbeath Retail Park, where you’ll also find an Asda supermarket.

review Travelodge Dunfermline

Exterior of Travelodge Dunfermline

We were allocated a room at the back of the hotel which is very close to the access road from Dunfermline up to roundabout to join the motorway. Most of the traffic noise was screened out by the double glazing and trees. I did go back to reception to ask if we could change to a room at the front of the hotel, but was told that the hotel was almost full and the only rooms left were at the back.

review Travelodge Dunfermline

Travelodge Dunfermline room

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Afternoon Tea at the Glasgow Thistle

I had Afternoon Tea in the Cabin Bar at the Glasgow Thistle Hotel with Dougie of BairdsTravel in June 2012. I used a Groupon voucher priced at £18. Groupon asked me to roadtest their offers, giving me credit to make my own selections, so I wanted to share some the treats on offer with Europe a la Carte readers.

The Cabin Bar was comfortable and the waitress was very sweet. I asked if I could substitute one of the glasses of Prosecco for a cup of tea, as I’m a teetotaller, but was told that wasn’t possible. I’m not sure why, as surely it’d have been cheaper to give me a pot of tea than a glass of wine.

Cabin Bar at the Glasgow Thistle

It was probably the most bland, in taste and presentation, Afternnon Tea I’ve ever had.

Very poor Afternoon Tea at the 4 star Glasgow Thistle

Everthing was a creamy colour, the sandwiches were very unimaginative, I couldn’t discern any banana taste in my banana cake, the egg custard tarts were a waste of space and the scones were tiny.

Dougie Baird unimpressed by Afternoon Tea at the Glasgow Thistle

The £18 price tag claimed to represent a saving of 60%. Well, all I can say is I very much doubt if they’d get any takers at £43.90 for that Afternoon Tea for two people. It smacked to me of a grossly inflated initial price in order for the Glasgow Thistle to claim that they were offering a decent discount. This sort of practice gives Groupon a bad name and they need to do more checking to see that the supposed standard price quoted by suppliers’ offers is real.

 

 

Review of Premier Inn Edinburgh Princes Street

I stayed at the Premier Inn Edinburgh Princes Street for one night in April 2012 on a complimentary basis. This purpose built Premier Inn opened a few weeks ago, so everything is very shiny and new. The hotel isn’t that obvious as you walk along Princes Street; just a small sign at an entrance doorway.

Premier Inn Edinburgh Princes Street

Entrance to Premier Inn Edinburgh Princes Street

Inside there’s a lift up to the second floor Reception & The Kitchen restaurant, which has views towards Edinburgh Castle.

Premier Inn Edinburgh Princes Street

View from The Kitchen restaurant at Premier Inn Edinburgh Princes Street

I tried to use the quick check-in kiosk but it didn’t recognise my booking on the first attempt. Fortunately there were staff to assist.

Premier Inn Edinburgh Princes Street

Quick check-in at Premier Inn Edinburgh Princes Street

I have to say that initially I was a little disappointed that we’d been allocated at room at the back of the hotel, as I’d hoped for a castle view. However, I reckoned that a room at the back of the hotel would be quieter, no noise from late night revellers and the current tram works in Princes Street, and we wouldn’t be in the room that much in any case.

Premier Inn Edinburgh Princes Street

View from our room at the back of the Premier Inn Edinburgh Princes Street

Our room, number 605, was of an adequate size for a double. The TV was tucked away at the side of the wardrobe. The floral art really brightened up the room. I thought that it was a bit stingy to only give you two sachets of coffee and two teabags in a double room.

The bathroom was a good size with the shower above the bath. The bed was extremely comfortable. There appears to be good sound insulation, as we didn’t hear any noise from the exterior or neighbouring rooms, apart from doors opening and closing. The bedroom windows didn’t open, they just had an air vent, but there was a heating/air-con unit in the room.

The desk was quite large with plenty of sockets to charge up all my gear. You now get 30 minutes free WiFi per day per device in Premier Inns. I thought I’d try to upload the video I had taken of the room during my free 30 minutes on my mobile phone, but the upload failed. Maybe there’s a data or an upload limit? When I connected on the netbook and just stuck to things like email and Twitter updates, it all went smoothly and the connection was pretty fast.

Premier Inn Edinburgh Princes Street

Room 605 at the Premier Inn Edinburgh Princes Street

I like the fact that breakfast is served between 7 and 11.30 at weekends and wish that all hotels would give guests this flexibility of serving times. Breakfast cost £8.25 but kids under 16 eat free.

Premier Inn Edinburgh Princes Street

Our table for breakast in The Kitchen restaraurant

There’s a good choice of hot and cold food for breakfast. I enjoyed the fresh fruit salad, the Yeo yoghurts and the croissants. It was strange that neither my husband nor I could spot the teaspoons near the hot drinks machine and they they weren’t set on the table. I don’t know if it’s company policy, but there was no attempt to clear any used plates away from our table when we were eating; although there were several members of staff around, they only appeared to be clearing plates once guests had left.

In summary, the Premier Inn Edinburgh Princes Street offers comfortable rooms of a good standard in a central location. The breakfast is good and I loved the views of Edinburgh Castle from the restaurant. The staff were all cheery and friendly. In my opinion, more coffee sachets and teabags should be put in the bedrooms and restaurant staff should clear away dishes from the tables when guests are eating breakfast.

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Budget Break in Scotland

Our budget break in Scotland from 5 -  10 May 2012 was based on cheap rooms bought in the Travelodge UK December 2011 sale.  I paid £59 for 5 nights accommodation, one night in TraveldogeDufermline, two in both Travelodge Inverness & Travelodge Perth Broxden Junction.  You can save on travel if you snap up hotel deals whenever you spot them. While Travelodge is unlikely to offer a memorable experience, you get a comfortable place to sleep with your own bathroom. I managed to get a decent mobile broadband signal with my T Mobile USB modem during our trip. Although Travelodge offer free WiFi in their Bar Cafes, none of the Travelodges at which we stayed had Bar Cafes.

Caledonian Canal Locks at Fort Augustus in the Scottish Highlands

We decided to come home a day early, on Thursday 9 May, as heavy rain was forecast for the following day. We’d been very fortunate as the weather was much drier and brighter than forecast and we didn’t want to end the trip on a soggy note. It turned out to be a wise decision, as it rained non-stop all day on the 10 May.

Cost of Budget Break in Scotland

Accommodation £59 It was £19 for the first night in Travelodge Dunfermline, Travelodge Inverness cost £10 a night for two nights and Travelodge Perth Broxden Junction was £10 a night for 2 nights, so a grand total of £59 for 5 night accommodation (room only) for two people.

TransportFuel £60 We travelled in our Skoda Fabia diesel supermini which returns 67 average miles per gallon. We covered just under 650 miles, so that cost £60 for fuel.

Food – Meals  £74 -  We took quite a bit of food with us; things like longlife milk, cereal, sandwiches, tinned tuna, cheese scones and fruit for breakfasts in our room and picnics. As we’d be spending money on food at home anyway, I haven’t included this in the cost. Having a flask saves a lot on drinks and means you can pick the most scenic spots for a tea or coffee. We had lunch in Edinburgh on the first day which cost £24, a dinner at Jimmy Chung’s Chinese Buffet in Inverness costing £21 and afternoon tea in Hettie’s Tearoom in Perth, which cost £9 with Groupon voucher. If we’d stayed for the last night,  I reckon we’d have spent another £20 on a meal and some food shopping.

Total Spend – £193

Photos from the Budget Break in Scotland

Click here to see all the photos on Flickr.

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Love UK

Review of Oblo Bar & Bistro, Eyemouth, Scottish Borders

We had a late lunch at the Oblo Bar & Bistro in Eyemouth in mid April 2012. Our decision to eat at Oblo was based on the fact that they have an all day Bar Menu, which allowed us to have a leisurely walk along the North Sea Trail toward Coldingham without having to rush back to make lunch serving hours.

Oblo Eyemouth

It was a bit cold to sit out in the patio or the balconcy, so we opted for the first floor conservatory where it was light but we had some protection from the wind. We did get a whiff of cigarette smoke from the one smoker out on the balcony and wished that smoking was prohibited in all areas.

Oblo Eyemouth
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