When I was staying for three nights at the Travelodge Edinburgh West End in April 2011, I decided to drive north over the Forth Bridge to climb up Falkland Hill, aka East Lomond, in Fife. Now although Falkland Hill is a landmark in the surrounding area, the picnic area car park is half way up the hill, so you can get great views even if you don’t do any hard work. Or like me, you can say you climbed a hill when your car has done half the ascent.
View from Falkland Hill car park down to Forth Estuary
There was a heavy shower as soon as I arrived at the car park and I thought what timing. However I was determined to get up the hill, even if I’d to don my waterproof gear.
Some windswept daffodils on Falkland Hill
View from half way up my ascent on foot
Rainbow starting in middle of photo curving right toward the sky
The summit beckons but that grey cloud looks ominous
The summit of Falkland Hill, no rain but extremely windy
I was very fortunate in having a dry ascent and descent. If you’re in the area and are lucky with the weather, do go up Falkland Hill. You can also visit the nearby village of Falkland and its palace.
I stayed at the Premier Inn Glenrothes in east central Scotland for one night on Saturday 22 January 2011. I managed to bag the room for only Â£19 a night (room only) during the Christmas sale on the Premier Inn website. Now I recently did a comparison of the two biggest UK budget hotel brands in the UK, Premier Inn versus Travelodge in which I concluded that Travelodge was better mainly due to wider availability of cheaper rooms. However on this occasion a room at the Glenrothes Travelodge for the same night was priced at Â£23.50.
The Premier Inn Glenrothes is located just off the big roundabout as you drive into the town heading north from Kirkcaldy. There’s plenty of parking at the front and the back of the hotel. I checked in just after 2pm and requested a room at the back of the hotel at the end of the corridor, which I judged would be quieter. The receptionist was very helpful, although I’d already been allocated a room she gave me a room which matched my request.
Exterior of Premier Inn Glenrothes
My room was a good size with the sofa bed made up as a single bed. There’s a thermostat to control the heating and the room was warm within minutes. I also like the fact that there’s a heated towel rail in the bathroom to make it a bit warmer and to avoid soggy towels. The bed was very comfortable but I didn’t like the pillows, they were too soft for my liking.
Breakfast is served next door at the Brewer’s Fayre. It costs Â£8 per adult but kids eat free with paying adults. I didn’t bother with breakfast at the restaurant, I just ate some cereal and fruit I’d brought with me in my room. I noticed that the restaurant was doing two main courses for Â£10 and two desserts for Â£2 Monday – Friday until 18.30, meaning a couple could eat a two course meal for Â£12,. That seems better value than breakfast for Â£16 for two guests?
My room at the Premier Inn Glenrothes
While the town of Glenrothes may not be on many peoples’ top Scottish destination list, it does make a good overnight stop as you head north up the east coast from Edinburgh or as a base for spending for exploring the Fife region. Some suggestions of things to do in the area are a visit to Falkland to see the Palace and climb up Falkland Hill, the historic village of Ceres and the seaside town of St Andrews.
I’d recommend the Premier Inn Glenrothes if you can find a cheap room here by booking in advance on the non refundable rate or during a sale.
I was looking forward to staying at that Premier Inn as I really like the location down on the Forth Estuary next to Newhaven Harbour. One big benefit of staying here is the free parking, as parking around Edinburgh city centre is expensive and it can be hard to find a space. The hotel is located around 2 miles from the city centre but there are regular buses from a stop just across from the hotel.
I was delighted with my room at it was on the first floor with an estuary view. The room was a good size with two comfy chairs and a coffee table, as well as a chair at the desk.
My room at Premier Inn Edinburgh Leith
I’d recommend the Premier Inn Edinburgh Leith if you prefer not to be in the city centre and/or are coming to Edinburgh by car. You’ll either need to book well in advance on the non refundable rate or during a promotion, if you want to get a cheap room here. There’s a Brewers Fayre restaurant attached to the hotel, a large Asda supermarket and another couple of pubs within walking distance. The Ocean Terminal shopping and leisure centre and the home of the Royal Yacht Britannia is around half a mile away from the hotel. You can see all my photos/videos of the Premier Inn Edinburgh Leith on Flckr.
The 3rd Edinburgh Travel Tweet Up took place at the Hotel Missoni Edinburgh on Sunday 10 April 2011 from 3 – 6pm.Â The Missoni kindly provided chefs choice canapes, Prosecco and soft drinks for attendees.
3rd Edinburgh Travel Tweet Up at Hotel Missoni Edinburgh
We stayed for one night in February 2011 at the Hilton Edinburgh Airport, on a complimentary basis arranged by hotels.com from their selection of Edinburgh hotels. As we had to be at the airport by around 5am the next morning, we were concerned if there was bad weather we wouldn’t be able to reach the airport in time, so wanted to play it safe by staying close to the terminal.
Lobby of Hilton Edinburgh Airport
We were allocated a double deluxe room on the 3rd floor. The room was very spacious and decorated in muted brown/cream colours. I appreciated that the chair by the desk was padded and very comfortable. There was a good selection of tea, coffees and drinking chocolate sachets.
The Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries in the bathroom had a lovely scent. The towels were thick and fluffy. The bed was one of the best I’ve come across in a hotel. There was a padded mattress cover and I was sorry that I had to get up at 4.30 to catch a flight, as I’d have loved to have a long sleep in that bed.
Deluxe double room at Hilton Edinburgh Airport
There was some exterior noise of banging doors and guests laughing loudly around 3am in the corridor. However I didn’t hear any noise from outside the building.
The negatives were a large crack in the sink and some cracks in the tiles of the bathroom floor and the fact that there’s a Â£15 charge for internet connection. I think that the Hilton is charging far too much for internet connection and this should be provided free of charge to guests.
We had a takeaway breakfast consisting of fresh fruit salad (heavy on apples), a bacon roll (delicious lean bacon), croissant (very doughy), a muffin (some of the best I’ve had) and an apple. I was a bit surprised that there was no drink included, I thought there would be at least a carton of fruit juice.
The hotel offers a free shuttle bus to and from the airport but as it’s such a short distance, we walked there. You can park your car at the hotel at a guest rate of Â£6 per day.
Overall I’d recommend the Hilton Edinburgh Airport if you have an early flight departure time or a late arrival. The deluxe rooms are very comfortable and beautifully furnished and it’s great to be so close to the airport. The only thing that let down the room were the cracks in the bathroom sink and floor, which is a pity as everything else was of very high quality.
The Scottish city Glasgow is a great UK short break destination. It’s on the main west coast railway line and served by Glasgow Airport (Ryanair flies into Prestwick Airport), making it easy to get to from many parts of the UK and Europe.
River Clyde Walkway in Glasgow
Glasgow has come a long way since the days of post industrial gloom, to become top UK tourist destination. Below are some ideas for things to do in Glasgow during your short break.
The Riverside Museum, Scotland’s Museum of Transport and Travel, opened in June 2011.
Reflective exterior wall of Riverside Museum
Admire the Parks and Gardens
Glasgow has some beautiful parks and gardens. Glasgow Green is the city’s oldest park, home to the Winter Gardens.The Botanic Gardens have so many colourful orchids and begonias in the main glasshouses and the recently restored Kibble Palace has a collection of trees and ferns.
Winter Gardens at Glasgow Green
Shop ’til You Drop
There’s ample opportunity for shopping in Glasgow, with Princes Square, the St Enoch Centre, Sauchiehall Street & the Argyll Arcade, all in the city centre.
Princes Square Shopping Centre, Glasgow
Enjoy the Music
Glasgow has a very vibrant music scene, one of the main reasons our son Simon, a part time DJ, lives there.Â There’s traditional music in pubs, techno in trendy night clubs and big names performing at the SECC.
Glasgow has the widest array of restaurants in Scotland, catering for all tastes and budgets. It’s not all fish suppers and deep fried Mars Bars! Two of my favourite Glasgow restaurantsÂ are the Kama Sutra and Rogano.
Where to Stay in Glasgow
If you can find a good deal at a hotel, as I did with my Â£20.12 room at the Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside, in January 2011, then you’ll have even more spending money for your Glasgow short break.
I managed to bag a room at Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside for a stay on Saturday 8 January 2011, for only Â£20.12. Rooms at this price were only available for one day (20 December 2010) on the Holiday Inn site, to publicise that they are one of the sponsors of the 2012 Olympics in London.
Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside
The hotel is a perfect location for a Glasgow short break. The hotel doesn’t have its own car park but I saw a car park close to the hotel which advertised all day stays for Â£5. We managed to find free on-street parking close to George Square (chargeable hours are Monday to Saturday 8am-6pm). It takes around ten minutes to walk to the hotel from either Queen St or Central rail stations. The hotel is a two minute walk from the St Enoch Shopping Centre and Argyle Street. The hotel is by the River Clyde, and Glasgow Green park (home to the People’s Palace) is just along the river.
Doulton Fountain in Glasgow Green
Although the hotel is by the riverside, only the two rooms at the end of the corridor on each floor have full river views. It may be worth checking in early to try to get one of these rooms?
We were allocated room 523 on the top floor. Our room was at the front of the hotel facing the street, so there was some traffic noise, made more audible by the fact our window was missing one of its catches, so wouldn’t close properly. I have to admit that I always find it noisy in city centres, as it’s very quiet where we live. I did hear a bit of door banging and some loud voices during the night, but nothing too bad. The room was fairly comfortable but the bed had an inclination to roll together in the middle.
There was free wifi in the lobby which had a reasonable signal, although it struggled to upload a short video to Flickr.
Lobby at Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside
Continental breakfast was OK but the fruit juice tasted a bit watery and one of the hot drinks machines was low on supplies, so my hot chocolate appeared as watery hot milk. However the croissant and fruity cereal were good.
Continental Breakfast Buffet at Holiday Inn Express Glasgow Riverside
Overall, I’d recommend the hotel as a good budget option for a Glasgow short break, with reasonable rooms, free wifi in the lobby and breakfast included, as I’ve noticed more and more hotels with room only offers.
I love Scotland but then I would say that as I’m Scottish. However, I’m sure you can appreciate why, once you’ve read about some unusual and fun things to do in Scotland, selected from posts about Scotland written by the Europe a la Carte blogging team. If you want to explore beyond the major Scottish cities, you’ll need to hire a car, as there’s isn’t much public transport in rural areas.
North of Scotland
Admire the Beauty of St Ninian’s Beach, Shetland Islands
I visited the Shetland Islands for the first time in May 2010 and they are absolutely beautiful. My favourite spot was St Ninian’s Beach, which was recommended to me by the taxi driver who picked me up at the airport. Which just goes to show it’s always worth asking locals for tips.If you stay in the Shetland capital Lerwick, you can explore the main island from there and/or take day trips to some of the smaller islands.
St Ninians Beach, Shetland Islands
Go North at Dunnet Head
Andy visited Dunnet Head, which is the most northerly point of the UK mainlandand not John O’Groats as popularly believed.
Get in Touch with Your Mystical Side at Callanish Stones, Hebrides
Andy also wrote about his visit to the Callanish Stones, a stone circle on the Island of Lewis in the Hebrides. I’ve been to the stones on a misty morning when no-one else was there and it was a really mystical experience.
Durness is the most north westerly village on the UK mainland. Taking a boat trip into Smoo Cave is the best way to see the interior.
Be Amazed You’re so Far North at Inverewe Gardens, Highlands
Inverewe Gardens, located on the west coast close to Poolewe in Wester Ross, lies in a sheltered bay warmed by the Gulf Stream.I’ve been there twice and it’s hard to believe that you’re in the north of Scotland.
Be Wowed by Colour at the Biblical Garden, Elgin
The very colourful Biblical Garden in Elgin contains all 110 plants mentioned in the Bible. The sculptures around the garden are based on characters in various parables including the Good Shepherd and the Prodigal Son. You can see all my Biblical Garden photos on Flickr.
Visit the Queen Mother’s Birthplace at Glamis Castle, Angus
Andy asked if Glamis Castle is Scotland’s prettiest castle. I’m not sure about that as it’s got some stiff opposition and it didn’t make my three favourite Scottish Castles.It was the birthplace of the mother of the current UK monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
Imagine Yourself in Antarctica at Discovery Point, Dundee
Board the Antarctic explorer Captain Scott’s ship at Discovery Point in my city of birth Dundee, where the ship was built.You can buy a joint admission ticket for the Verdant Works which tells of the history of Dundee’s jute industry.Here are my recommendations for hotels in Dundee.
Meet Robert Burns at the Birks of Aberfeldy, Perthshire
The Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote the Birks of Aberfeldy after taking a walk up to the Mo’ness Falls. The sculpture was unveiled in 2009, in honour of the 250th anniversary of the birth of the Scottish poet.
Walk for Miles along West Sands Beach in St Andrews, Fife
Although St Andrews is synonymous with golf and the University where Princess Diana’s elder son William studied, there’s a lot more to this lovely historic town. There are two beaches, West Sands (pictured below) and the smaller East Sands and a very tempting ice cream shop.
I love the Prestonpans Murals Trail which celebrates the industrial heritage of the village. The cow below is at the site of a former dairy.You can get to Prestonpans by bus from Edinburgh city centre.
The cow mural at Prestonpans
Fly 1st Class at the National Museum of Flight, East Fortune, East Lothian
The big attraction at the National Museum of Flight is a Concorde. I was fascinated to learn that the first return crossing of the Atlantic by air was undertaken by the airship R34 which took off from East Fortune in 1919.
The Concorde Experience at the National Museum of Flight
South of Scotland
Learn About One of the Fathers of Conservation in Dunbar, East Lothian.
Discover the life story of the conservationist John Muir at his birthplace in Dunbar. You could then walk along the beautiful red cliffs.It’s easy to get to Dunbar by rail from Edinburgh.
St Abbs is a pretty little fishing village which is now a marine reserve and popular with divers. The Eyemouth Fishing Disaster Memorial in St Abbs portrays some of the anguish caused by the death of 189 fishermen on October 14 1881.
Eyemouth Fishing Disaster Memorial, St Abbs
Find Out About 1930s Motorcycling at Hawick Museum, Scottish Borders
Hawick Museum, located in Wilton Park, has a display about the 1930s motorcycling champion, Jimmy Guthrie, who was born in Hawick.There’s a lovely walk along the River Teviot through Wilton Park. If you walk along the river toward the town centre, you’ll find the James Thomson Bridge, opened in 2006 to honour the 19th century local poet.
I was happy with my room on the fourth floor. It was an adequate size for a double room and had a desk area and a sofa bed. These family rooms can sleep up to two adults and two children under the age of 18 but it would be pretty cramped with four people in the room. The bed was really comfortable and there was a choice of soft or firm pillows. The bathroom only has a shower. Unfortunately you have to pay if you want to use wifi in your room, although it’s free in the lobby, for up to 6 hours per day. The signal in the lobby was good enough for me to upload a video.
Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh Waterfront bedroom
My room was at the front of the hotel and the double glazing didn’t quite shut out all the noise from the road below but I wasn’t disturbed overnight by traffic noise. Several buses stop just outside the hotel, so it’s easy to get to the city centre.
The self service breakfast was good with a choice of cereal, fruit juice, toast, sausage, scrambled eggs, plain yoghurt, pain au chocolat and tinned grapefruit. There were no croissants and a very limited choice of fresh fruit, apparently due to it being a bank holiday. It did get quite chaotic once it became busy with guests milling around. The two toasters couldn’t cope with the demand.
Overall, if you don’t mind being a couple of miles from the city centre, the Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh Waterfront is a good budget Edinburgh hotel, especially for families (kids sharing with adults stay and eat breakfast free of charge). The hotel is also a good choice if you are going to Edinburgh by car, as parking is expensive and can be hard to find close to your hotel, if you stay in the city centre. There’s a good choice of restaurants, cafes and pubs within a few minutes walk from the hotel, either at Ocean Terminal or at the Water of Leith.