Category Archives: Scotland

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

Review of Glasgow Marriott Hotel

I stayed at the 4 star Glasgow Marriott for 3 nights in April 2010, on a complimentary basis, arranged by Hotels.com from their selection of Glasgow hotels. The Marriott is located close to the M8 motorway, around a ten minute walk from Glasgow Central rail station.  The hotel has a large car park which costs £8 per day for guests.

Review of Glasgow Marriott Hotel

Glasgow Marriott exterior

I stayed in room 809, a double deluxe.  My room was very light as the south facing window spanned the outside wall. Despite the double glazing the traffic noise from the motorway was loud enough to disturb my sleep.

Review of Glasgow Marriott Hotel

View from Room 809 at Glasgow Marriott

My room was spacious and well equipped.   There was a padded office style chair for working at the desk, two other chairs and a small circular table.  The king size bed was really comfortable. However  I found the room to be far too hot.   I had to turn on the air conditioning to bring the room down to a bearable temperature, as it was impossible to leave the window open due to traffic noise and exhaust fumes.  By my third and final night, I had worked out that if I left the air conditioning on at the low fan setting that kept the room temperature cool enough without producing excessive fan noise. The constant noise from the air conditioning drowned out the majority of the exterior traffic noise.

The bathroom was adequate but the tiles gave it a rather dated feel. The shower above the bath had a shower curtain which I dislike.

Review of Glasgow Marriott Hotel

Room 809 at the Glasgow Marriott

Guests have to pay £15 for internet access per 24 hour period.  There is the option of either a cable connection or wifi in guest rooms.  I tried the wired connection after check in and kept getting an error code. I couldn’t get decent wifi signal, I was constantly being disconnected. Fortunately I was able to pick up a 3G signal with my 02 mobile internet dongle.   The next morning when I reported this to reception they informed me that there had been a problem with ibahn their internet provider.  I was able to connect through the wired connection for the rest of my stay but was never able to get a decent wifi signal in my room.  In my opinion a four star hotel should be offering all guest a free internet connection, as done by the Park Grand Hotel London Paddington where there is free wired and wifi (with excellent signal) for all guests.

The buffet breakfast is good with a wide selection of hot and cold food but be aware if you book on a room only basis that a cooked breakfast costs £15 per person.  It’s great that breakfast is served from 6.30am to 10.30am on weekdays and 7am to noon at weekends.  This is excellent for leisure travellers who may miss breakfast at other hotels if they wish to have a lie in.

I found some of the tables to be a bit too close together for comfort making it difficult to get up and down to the buffet without knocking the neighbouring table.

Review of Glasgow Marriott Hotel

Breakfast tables at the Glasgow Marriott

Overall it’s hard for me to rate the Glasgow Marriott as it has some very good points: long breakfast serving hours, well equipped, comfortable rooms,  large car park and noon checkout time.  The hotel is an easy walking distance to the city centre restaurants, cafes and shops. However the noise and heat of my room made restful sleep impossible for me, despite the lovely bed.  The internet issue is annoying but not crucial for all  guests and there’s always the option of mobile internet access which costs me £15 a month, so is much better value than paying a hotel £15 a day.

Review of Glasgow Marriott HotelKeep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff

More Tips for Things to Do in Glasgow

You can also read more ideas on things to do in Glasgow collated from Europe a la Carte readers’ tips.

Click here for the lowest prices on Glasgow hotels

St Andrews photo tour

The Scottish town of St Andrews lies on the east coast in the Kingdom of Fife.   It’s a very pretty and historic town and as observed by Kat Calvin in her guest post on the blog, there’s a lot more than just golf to St Andrews. I visited the town on 1 April 2010, so come on my photo tour of St Andrews to see it for yourself.

My first stop was at West Sands, this  two mile stretch of beach is where the opening scenes of the “Chariots of Fire” movie were filmed.  The famous golf course is just behind the dunes here.  When I visited there was fresh snow on the Angus hills on the horizon.

St Andrews photo tour

West Sands, St Andrews

I then drove down to the harbour.

St Andrews photo tour

St Andrews harbour

This was followed by a stroll along East Sands.

St Andrews photo tour

East Sands, St Andrews

Evidently the previous day waves had been crashing over the pier but the sea was pretty calm for my walk.

St Andrews photo tour

St Andrews pier

Next it was up to the Cathedral which was the largest cathedral in Scotland in medieval times. The 12th century St Rule’s Tower in the grounds affords great views over the town.

St Andrews photo tour

St Andrews Cathedral and St Rule’s Tower

A  short walk and I was at St Andrews Castle, once home to the bishops of St Andrews.

St Andrews photo tour

Drawbridge at St Andrews Castle

I managed to restrain myself from calling at Jannetta’s ice cream parlour, who claim that they are the third reason, along with golf and beaches, for visitors flocking to the town.

St Andrews photo tour

Jannetta’s, St Andrews

A little further down South Street is the Citizen Office with its unique shop front architecture.   The Innes family printed the local newspaper and  had a stationery shop at this location.

St Andrews photo tour

On the other side of South Street, in the grounds of Madras College, stand the ruins of the 13th century Dominican friary.

St Andrews photo tour

Dominican friary remains at Madras College St Andrews

At the bottom of South Street is West Port, dating from the 16th century, one of two remaining town ports in Scotland.

St Andrews photo tour

West Port, St Andrews

I do hope that you’ve enjoyed my St Andrews photo tour.  You can see all my St Andrews photos and videos on Flickr.  If you’re planning a visit to the town, find the cheapest hotel rates using the HotelsCombined price comparison site.

botanicgardenrhod

Why you should visit Edinburgh in the Spring

I feel slightly disingenuous writing this as I’m off to warmer climes for a conference. But I do LOVE Edinburgh in the Spring.  I’d encourage you to visit the Scottish capital, one of the most popular Europe destinations in Spring, if you can. Here’s why.

Why you should visit Edinburgh in the Spring

Edinburgh Botanic Gardens in April

  • Nobody’s Here. It’s not as quiet as Jan/Feb, but it’s still quiet here. That means good hotel rates while everything is open and waiting.
  • The Days are Getting Lighter. After the winter equinox, we tend to see the daylight get longer quite quickly. That makes the sunrises and sunsets more accessible, and they are truly incredible.
  • Spring Flowers. I love seeing little patches of flowers budding out of the ground in hidden places. The grass is green and lush and stretching out ready for summer.

It’s still a touch chilly sometimes right about now, but here are my Edinburgh travel tips for the Edinburgh Spring:

  • Watch the sunrise (or sunset) from Arthur’s Seat. It is truly incredible. Bring a torch to get up (or down), a warm jumper, and be careful. Ask your hotel to check the times for you.
  • Go to the Royal Yacht Britannia down in Leith. It’s so crowded in summer, but now you can get in no problem, linger and enjoy yourself, and even nab a table at their new cafe which serves up some amazing soups and sandwiches.
  • Walk along the Water of Leith. It is my favourite thing here and I will recommend it whatever the season.

Whether that be a quick weekend city break or a week exploring both Edinburgh and the Highlands (which can be chilly/wet but still enjoyable in Spring), now’s the time to visit.

Find the Lowest Prices for Edinburgh Hotels

Click here to find the best deals on hotels in Edinburgh using the HotelsCombined price comparison which quickly looks at more than 30 popular travel sites to find the lowest prices for your stay.

melrose abbey1

Why I Love the Scottish Borders: A Photo Tour

Earlier this week we spent the day in the Scottish Borders one of the best places to visit in Europe if you enjoy history and beautiful countryside. I thought that the best way to illustrate why I love the Scottish Borders was in a photo tour.

Why I Love the Scottish Borders:  A Photo Tour

Me with Eildon Hill in the background

Our first stop was at the Leaderfoot viewpoint, just off the A68 (the Edinburgh to Jedbrugh trunk road), where 3 bridges span the River Tweed. The oldest is Drygrange Bridge constructed in 1780, closed to vehicles after the construction of the modern road bridge in the early 1970s.  The Leaderfoot Railway Viaduct opened in 1860s but has been redundant since the branch line closed in the late 1940s.  Unfortunately you can’t walk across the viaduct.

Why I Love the Scottish Borders:  A Photo Tour

Leaderfoot Viaduct

Just up the from the bridge are the not very obvious remains of  Trimontium a Roman fort.

Why I Love the Scottish Borders:  A Photo Tour

Me on the viewing platform for Tritontium

Next stop was Melrose, also on the Rvier Tweed. It’s said that Melrose Abbey is the burial place of Robert the Bruce’s  heart.

Why I Love the Scottish Borders:  A Photo Tour

Melrose Abbey

There’s a circular walk along the banks of the River Tweed in Melrose.

Why I Love the Scottish Borders:  A Photo Tour

River Tweed at Melrose

The town of Kelso where the 1803 bridge spans the Tweed, was on our way back.

Why I Love the Scottish Borders:  A Photo Tour

River Tweed at Kelso

Kelso Abbey dates from the 12th century.

Why I Love the Scottish Borders:  A Photo Tour

Kelso Abbey

I hope that you’ve enjoyed my photo tour of a day trip to the Scottish Borders and will visit soon to see it for yourself. You can see all my photos from our day out here.

Eyemouth, Scottish Borders: Photo and video tour

Today we drove the ten miles north from Berwick upon Tweed, crossing the Anglo Scottish border, to Eyemouth, one of the few coastal towns in the Scottish Borders.

Eyemouth, Scottish Borders: Photo and video tour

Looking down Eyemouth Harbour

Gunsgreen House (the imposing cream building at the rear of the photo above)  was built in the mid 18th century by successful local smuggler, John Nisbet.  The house is now dual purpose, the House of Secrets attraction, on the lower floors tells the story of smuggling in this border region and the upper floors, the Merchant’s House, can be hired as a luxury holiday rental.

Although it was still a couple of hours until high tide the beach had already disappeared and some waves were crashing over the prom wall, with a high risk of an seawater shower.

We stopped in a sheltered spot with a bench with a great view over Eyemouth Bay on the ascent to the Berwickshire coastal path to have a coffee from our flask.

Eyemouth, Scottish Borders: Photo and video tour

There’s a colourful collection of mosaics close to Gunsgreen House.

Eyemouth Maritime Cemtre on Harbour Road, has a collection of boats and dinghies and changing exhibitions on a nautical theme.

Eyemouth, Scottish Borders: Photo and video tour

Looking across to the Eyemouth Maritime Centre

We really enjoyed our walk around the harbour and along the coastal path and I’m sure we’ll be back in Eyemouth again soon. Eyemouth is not the best known of Europe destinations but if you’re travelling on the A1 between Newcastle and Edinburgh, Eymouth only a couple of miles off the main road and makes for a more pleasant midway stop than the services at Berwick upon Tweed.

Photo tour of Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum: A free Glasgow attraction

I visited the Kelvingrove Art Gallery Museum in Januarry 2010. It was my first visit after the recent three year restoration of the building. The main entrance leads you straight into the grand Centre Hall. I loved the art deco style ceiling lamps and the decorated ceiling.

Photo tour of Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum: A free Glasgow attraction

The Centre Hall at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

There was an organ recital during my visit on a Sunday afternoon.

Photo tour of Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum: A free Glasgow attraction

The organ in the Centre Hall at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

In an adjacent hall there was a plane suspended from the ceiling.

Photo tour of Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum: A free Glasgow attraction

The suspended plane at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Under the plane stood a moose with enormous antlers.

Photo tour of Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum: A free Glasgow attraction

The moose at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

In the hall opposite there were hanging heads displaying a spectrum of expressions from horror to indifference to sheer joy.

Photo tour of Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum: A free Glasgow attraction

Hanging heads at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Elvis Presley AKA as The King was strutting his stuff, complete with halo and bulging stomach.

Photo tour of Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum: A free Glasgow attraction

Elvis at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

One of Glasgow’s most famous sons, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, is remembered through a recreation of a dining room typifying his distinctive style.

Photo tour of Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum: A free Glasgow attraction

Rennie Mackintosh style dining room at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

One of my favourite paintings was Vetheuil by Monet.

Photo tour of Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum: A free Glasgow attraction

Vetheuil by Monet at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

Motherless by Edinburgh born sculptor George Lawson depicts a widower cuddling his child.

Photo tour of Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum: A free Glasgow attraction

Motherless by George Lawson

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum and it’s a top free Glasgow attraction, worthy of inclusion in any travel Europe guide. It’s open seven days a week, Monday to Thursday and Saturday 10am to 5pm, Friday and Sunday 11am to 5pm.

More Tips for Things to Do in Glasgow

You can also read more ideas on things to do in Glasgow collated from Europe a la Carte readers’ tips.

Click here for the lowest prices on Glasgow hotels

More on European Museums

Find out about more museums in Europe on Europe a la Carte.

Concorde

Scotland’s Concorde at the Museum of Flight

Did you know that you can see the inside of a Concorde airplane in Scotland?  Yup – there’s one waiting for you at the Museum of Flight in East Fortune, about halfway between Edinburgh and North Berwick in East Lothian. You can get there via a bus from outside the North Berwick train station, but to be honest if you can get a car, that’s a far easier/quicker option.

Scotland’s Concorde at the Museum of Flight

East Fortune is actually an old airfield, and the hangers have been converted into displays, exhibitions, and in many cases old airplanes that you can go in and poke around, sometimes even sitting in the cockpit! Lots of fun for the wee ones, and one hangar in particular is only child-friendly displays and exhibits to learn about how airplanes fly.

To visit the Concorde, you’ll need to go and collect a timed pass; it’s of course included with your fee to the grounds, but because of the narrow space only a few people are allowed on at the time. You can see why travellers were thankful this plane was fast, because it was very small and cramped; flight attendants called it the toothpick and you can imagine why.

An interesting feature is the galleys, which are so small one wonders how British Airways & Air France managed to serve up their decadent menus. A skill to work in here, I’d think.

The cockpit is quite small and filled with switches, dials, gadgets, levels, menus, lights, and other miscellany. Outside the cockpit, though, are all of these panels which house all the electronics. Pretty crazy.

Be sure to listen to the extra portions of your free audio guide as you tour around the outside of the plane. It is unbelievable to stand below the back of the engines and imagine what they would have been like if they were powered up.Impressive stuff. Learn more about it on the Museum of Flight website.

East Fortune is a great thing to combine with a visit to North Berwick and the Prestonpans Murals, especially if you have a car to get around quickly. Although Edinburgh is one of the best places to visit in Europe, there’s lot to see and do outside the city, so if you have the time, schedule a couple of day trips to explore the surrounding area during your stay.

More on European Museums

Find out about more museums in Europe on Europe a la Carte.

Up Helly Aa

Up Helly Aa – Europe’s Largest Fire Festival

Looking for a reason to head to Scotland’s Shetland Islands – a dark, often wet and cold place in winter? Well, believe it or not, at the end of January the Shetlands are one of the most happening places in Scotland as Lerwick plays host to Europe’s Largest Fire Festival: Up Helly Aa

Up Helly Aa – Europe’s Largest Fire Festival

Up Helly Aa, as the name implies, has it foundations in Viking culture. It has many meanings: some say it’s a celebration of the end of the festive season, others mention a purification ceremony. The cynic would say what the hell else do you do when it’s cold and dark up there? No matter how you look at it, though, Up Helly Aa is a pretty crazy experience that is a must-see if you get the opportunity.

The night centers around a man known as the Guizer Jarl. He has over 800 Vikings with torches helping him light the streets of Lerwick, as they all march towards a massive replica Viking ship. In dramatic flair, the men throw their torches into the galley of the ship, and mayhem ensues as the ship bursts into flames

The festival doesn’t end there; in fact, it goes all night long, as folks head to private parties.  The Viking “squad” attempt to visit every party, doing a little song and dance in each (and of course, having a drink).  It’s a good think the  nights are long in Lerwick in winter as you need all the hours you can get to get through this Up Helly Aa marathon.

Want to check it out?

Up Helly Aa – Europe’s Largest Fire FestivalYou can fly to the Shetlands from Edinburgh, or travel across the mainland and then catch a ferry; make sure you investigate this before you travel as a) it’s a long ride, and b) there aren’t that many trains/ferries so you’ll want to know your schedule. Several companies offer package tours from Edinburgh that include accommodation and transport but these often sell out several months in advance.

Photo by chatirygirl

Why Glasgow’s a must visit for music lovers

In this guest post our son Simon describes the current Glasgow music scene and why the city’s a mecca for music lovers. Simon Bryan is a DJ in the Glasgow area and presents the Beat Beneath show on Subcity Radio, his email address is simon (at) subcity.org.

Why Glasgow’s a must visit for music lovers

Simon’s gig at the Lite Club by subcityphotos

“Whether you know it or not, Glasgow is proud to have a vibrant music scene with nearly all styles being represented, from folk music in traditional pubs to some of electronic music’s most interesting new artists and labels and just about everything in between. There is no shortage of venues either, so whether you’re into seeing international pop acts in places like the SECC, the Glasgow Auditorium and the Academy or want to witness some obscure DIY noise-punk in a dingy basement you’re bound to find something that takes your fancy.

Why Glasgow’s a must visit for music lovers

Glasgow Auditorium by alllyballly

The current local scene is as diverse as ever with plenty local bands and artists of various styles doing the rounds. The last year or two has seen bands such as The Twilight Sad, Frightened Rabbit and We WerePromised Jetpacks break out of the local scene onto national radio and US tours, and young groups such as Nevada Base, Vendor Defendor and Super Adventure Club are sure to follow suit. If you want to catch the next big thing then head to the very reputable King Tut’s (often
publicised as the place that Oasis were discovered but don’t let that put you off) or Nice N Sleazy in town or perhaps the West End’s new kids on the block The Captains Rest and The Halt Bar, the latter of which has recently made a name for itself putting on an extremely wide range of free gigs in its function room. Also worth mentioning are The 13th Note and Mono just east of the city centre, both of which are famed for their anything-goes music policy and tasty vegetarian food.

Why Glasgow’s a must visit for music lovers

Francois & the Atlas Mountains @ mono by twistyfoldy.net

Glasgow is also renowned for its electronic music scene: long-running clubbing institutions such as Slam, Colours, Subculture and Optimo are going as strong as ever, helping clubs like the Arches and the Sub Club consistently place high in worldwide clubbers’ and DJs ‘ lists of favourite destinations, and at the same time there is no shortage of newer but nonetheless high quality nights in smaller venues like AdLib, Stereo and The V Club. Those looking for a true underground experience should check out the Soundhaus, a former warehouse in an industrial part of the city’s Anderston district, home to regular techno, drum and bass and dubstep nights, while a more hip, studenty crowd can be found throwing shapes on the Glasgow School of Art’s infamous dance floors. In terms of DJs and artists, youngsters barely out of high school including Rustie, Hudson Mohawke and other members of the Numbers collective are finding international acclaim with their hard-to-categorise styles and exhilarating live sets.

Why Glasgow’s a must visit for music lovers

Mu @ Optimo by biotron

As well as venues, local media help to support the thriving scene. Publications like The Skinny and The List are full of articles and listings about the most interesting gigs and releases while Subcity Radio and Radio Magnetic pride themselves on their all-inclusive, no-playlist policies and have served as the launchpad for countless DJs and musicians. Overall Glasgow is, more than ever, a hub of exciting, forward-thinking music and is a must-visit for music lovers from around the world.”

More Tips for Things to Do in Glasgow

You can also read more ideas on things to do in Glasgow collated from Europe a la Carte readers’ tips.

Click here for the lowest prices on Glasgow hotels

Videos of The Enchanted Forest, Pitlochry 2009

We were at the Enchanted Forest on Sunday 18 October. I received complimentary tickets for the show. This year’s theme was Scottish Myths & Legends. Below are videos of my favourite parts.

The Kelpie’s Pearl’s portrayed the supernatural water horse protecting the pearls in his lair.

The Pictish Dundee Dragon is reputed to have a fearsome temper and has eaten nine wee sisters.

The Dunmore Faeries love prancing around in Faskally Wood.

At Selkie’s Deception I stood with my head in the circular space while various projections of selkies (which can transform from seals to humans), fairies and mermaids were beamed on the white board.

Overall I was slightly disappointed by the Enchanted Forest. There were thirteen attractions, some of which I thought were pretty lame e.g. Feed the Haggis, where you threw beanbags into the mouth of a cut out of a haggis and Robert the Bruce & The Spider with a mannequin watching a film of a spider. I have to say that the fact that the event is well attended also detracted from my enjoyment, there was constant flash photography and at times I felt I was on the pavement in a busy city centre, hardly able to move. Having said that most of the attendees, predominantly families with young kids, appeared to be having a great time.