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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 Â£5.25 or a cooked breakfast for Â£7.75.
Wifi access is priced at Â£5 an hour or Â£12 for 24 hours, which I think it too expensive. I used my 02 mobile broadband which costs Â£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 Â£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.
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.
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.
The Europe a la Carte Summer 2010 Blog Tour took placeÂ 6 – 10 August 2010 with accommodation provided by Premier Inn.
Loch Faskally, Pitlochry, Perthshire
My first night was spent be in my city of birth Dundee.Â I stayed at the Premier Inn Dundee Centre which is right on the waterfront at the Tay Estuary. I paid a visit to Discovery Point, the home of Captain Scott’s Antarctic voyage ship RRS Discovery.
The Magic Mirror at Sensation Science Centre Dundee
Enroute to my next overnight stay in Aberdeen I had a few stops.Â In Arbroath I had a walk around the harbour where I ended up smelling like an Arbroath Smokie due to smoke wafting out from the traditional fish smoke house.
Abroath Harbour (with fish smoke house at back left)
Then I had a walk along the beautiful Arbroath cliffs, where the path was bordered by wild flowers.
I had a quick visit to the Montrose tidal basin.
There was no way I was passing through Montrose without saying hello to Bamse, the WW2Â Norwegian canine hero.
I had intended to drive straight to Aberdeen from Montrose but I noticed a sign for the Johnshaven Fish Festival and decided I should go to this event.Â I just caught the tail end of the festival but was in time for a bit of Scottish music from the pipe band.Â I also had another smoking from the mobile smoke house which had travelled up from Arbroath for the event.
I went to Kilau Cafe in Aberdeen, where I enjoyed a spicy spinach and mushroom soup and a goat’s cheese and apple salad while uploading photos and videos in their wifi.Â I finally arrived at the Premier Inn Aberdeen Central West around 9pm.
Crathes Castle Garden, Aberdeenshire
I decided to take a circuitous route from Aberdeen to Elgin.Â My first stop was in the village of Alfrod, around a 40 minute drive west of Aberdeen.Â I went to the Alford Valley Railway station to take some photos and videos the the narrow gauge train.Â I was given a personal tour around small exhibition telling the history of the railway by Ed Stannard, the station master.
Alford Valley Railway train
I thought that the carvings on the pink granite boulders just outside the railway station were lovely.
Eagle and rabbit carvings in Alford
As I drove into the village of Lumsden my attention was drawn to aÂ large rusty construction at the road side, which I realised was part ofÂ the Sculpture Walk when I saw the sign for the walk.
Lumsden Sculpture Walk
I parked the car and had a wander along the Sculpture Walk.
A piece on the Sculpture Walk
There are lovely views from the Sculpture Walk and some Highland cows were feeding just behind the fence.Â In fact I thought that their feed container would’ve been a possible addition to the Walk.
Highland cows feeding close to the Lumsden Sculpture Walk
I had another unplanned stop at Craigellachie Bridge over the River Spey.Â The pedestrianised four turreted bridge looked so majestic that I had to stop and take some photos.Â The bridge was designed by Thomas Telford.Â It opened in 1810 and carried traffic until the new bridge was constructed in the 1970s.
The turreted Craigellachie Bridge (2 turrets at either end)
Next morning I was heading south for my final night in Stirling in central Scotland.Â The weather forecast for that day wasn’t very good but I did have some breaks in the rain.Â My first port of call Grantown on Spey where I had a look around the museum.Â The Bell Tower stands just outside the museum.
Grantown on Spey bell tower
After a very wet drive down the A9, I managedÂ a walk around Loch Faskally in Pitlochry.
The wooded path along Loch Faskally in Pitlochry, Perthshire
I was really swithering whether to stop in Perth or just head straight to my abode for the night, but it was such a lovely evening that I stopped for a short walk along the River Tay in Perth.
River Tay walkway Perth
I spent my final night at the Premier Inn Stirling.Â The next morning the rain was so heavy that I decided to just head straight home.
You can see all my Summer 2010 Scotland Blog Tour photos and videos on Flickr
I’ve stayed at Edinburgh First at Pollock Halls University of Edinburgh student residences quite a few times over the years but not since 2008. I thought that the rooms were a good budget option especially for single travellers. I stayed here again for one night over the weekend of 24-25 July 2010 and to attend the Taste of Spain event and the Edinburgh Travel Tweet Up . However on this occasion I stayed in the John Burnett house, a new hall of residence on the campus. That’s because at Â£32.50 per night, including breakfast, it was Â£5 cheaper than a room with shared bathroom facilities in the other halls. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of the communal female shower and toilet room, preferring the four individual toilet/shower rooms per floor in the older buildings, as it offers more privacy. But as it was only for one night and I liked the sound of top floor room with a balcony in the John Burnett rooms (and paying Â£5 less), I booked up there. Ensuite and double/twin rooms are available if you’re prepared to pay a higher price.
Pollock Halls at Edinburgh 1stwith Arthur’s Seat in background
I was very happy with my room. John Burnett House opened in 2009, so all the furniture and fittings were in good condition. The room was a good size with a sink behind a partition. The single bed was very comfy. My room even had a TV which I’d never had in my stays in the other halls. It was bit noisy at night and in the morning from all the banging bedroom doors, bathroom facilities doors and corridor fire doors.
It was very light in my room as there was glass along the exterior with a patio door out to the balcony. The views from the balcony were great down towards the Pentland Hills. However I think the views over Arthur’s Seat from rooms at the other side of the building are probably even better.
View from 4th floor room at John Burnett House
The communal bathroom facilities were very clean. As access to the facilities requires your keycard, it’d be easy to get locked out of your room if you forgot to take your keycard with you. Then you’d be stuck in the corridor, unable to get back into your room or into the bathroom facilities.
Each floor had a pantry with a large fridge, a microwave oven, a toaster, an iron and ironing board. However there was no crockery or cutlery.
Pantry at John Burnett House
The campus restaurant has been renovated recently and is more like a cafe now than the previous dining hall layout. You can go for breakfast any time between 7-10am. The food is as good as ever and it’s all self service. I had a vegetarian breakfast with haggis, sausage, egg, tomato and mushrooms. There’s a good selection of cereals, croissants, pancakes, rolls and fresh fruit.
Overall I’d rate Edinburgh 1st very highly; I love the location, free parking, the very good breakfast with long serving hours and the clean, comfy rooms. I’m not a great fan of shared bathroom facilities but wasn’t prepared to pay more for an ensuite bathroom. There’s a charge for internet access, I’m not sure how much, as I was using my mobile internet dongle.
I organised the first Edinburgh Travel Tweet Up which took place on Sunday 25 July 2010 at St Giles Cafe Bar.Â It was timed to coincide with the free Taste of Spain event running in Edinburgh over the weekend 24 – 25 July.Â It was great to meet some virtual friends in the flesh and meet some new UK travel tweeple.
1st Edinburgh Travel Tweet Up
Unfortunately I forgot to ask someone to take my photo.Â I’m Karen Bryan, founder and editor of the Europe a la Carte Blog, you can find me on Twitter as @karenbryan.
I stayed at the Edinburgh Cameron Toll Travelodge, a recent addition to Travelodge’s Edinburgh hotels, for one night in July 2010. I booked a double room at the Saver rate of Â£19 in April 2010. The hotel is located opposite the Cameron Toll shopping centre, next to a busy junction. I took the photo below late on a Sunday evening, that’s why there are no cars. There’s a fair sized car park at the rear but I reckon it could fill up on a busy night but there are side streets nearby where you can park free of charge. The hotel is in a bit of a no man’s land location wise. It’s a bit far out to walk to the city centre, although there are frequent buses, and the surrounding area is mainly residential.
Edinburgh Cameron Toll Travelodge exterior
We were allocated room 08 which although it was on the ground floor, felt a bit like a basement with small window which faced a wall. Although we were at the roadside of the building the double glazing cut out most of the exterior noise. The room was a reasonable size, although I always try to book a family room for the extra space and the sofa bed to sit on rather than having to sit on the bed. The bathroom only had a shower with a shower curtain which did create quite a lot of drips on the floor unless you were ultra careful. The wash basin was small, with a large mixer tap in the centre, meaning it was virtually impossible to wash your face or even fill the small kettle. This type of sink is only suitable for hand washing in a small cloakroom.
The main issue I had with the room was the plastic mattress cover which felt so uncomfortable and sticky. Travelodge are publicising their comfortable beds but that’s not the case once that protective cover is on.
Overall I wouldn’t choose to stay at the Edinburgh Cameron Toll Travelodge again despite the fact that it’s excellent value for money, if you can find a cheap Saver rate. This is due to its location next to busy roads, the fact that, apart from shopping, there’s not much going on in the area, its distance (2 miles) from the city centre and the uncomfortable mattress covers. My tip is to stay at Edinburgh Travelodge West End in a quiet location just opposite the Dean Gallery and the Museum of Modern Art, next to the Water of Leith walkway and a 20 minute walk to Princes Street. However you do have to pay Â£3 for 24 hours to park at Edinburgh Traveldoge West End (correct at 8 December 2010).
I was hosted by McKinlay Kidd, who specialise in self-drive short breaks and holidays in Scotland, on a Shetland flydrive holiday for 4 nights 26 – 30 May 2010.Â McKinlay Kidd arranged my flights from Edinburgh to Sumburgh (in the south of the Shetland Mainland), a taxi transfer from the airport to the Bressay ferry terminal in Lerwick on arrival, car hire for 3 days, two centre accommodation on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis, a spa treatment and a boat trip to Noss Island.
Weisdale Voe, Mainland, Shetland Islands
I was sent a pack around one week before departure with my full itinerary containing the flight times and booking reference number, a map, contact phone numbers (including a 24 hour emergency contact number), ferry information, hire car and boat trip vouchers and some suggestions on things to do on the Shetland Islands.
My first 2 nights were spent on the island of Bressay, which lies east of Lerwick, the islands’ capital.Â My flight arrived a few minutes early so I was able to catch the 20.00 ferry to Bressay.Â Â I stayed at the Northern Lights Spa Guest House.
View from my guesthouse window on the island of Bressay, Shetland Islands
I went on a boat trip to the isle of Noss on the morning of the 27th of May.Â I was feeling a bit nervous about this as I’m not a great sailor, being inclined to feel queasy when I leave terra firma.Â Fortunately it was a beautiful, calm sunny day when I was picked up at Bressay pier.Â There was so much wildlife to observe and photograph.Â We entered a sea cave on Bressay and live footage from the sea bed was transmitted to the TV screen on board, with amazing quality colourful underwater life such as star fish and sea urchins.Â Â As we made our way along the cliffs we saw loads of gannets on the cliff ledges, guillemots (which looked like mini penguins to me), puffins and terns.
Gannets on Noss Island, Shetland Islands
One of the other passengers on the boat trip asked the skipper how often whales and dolphins were spotted.Â About five seconds later I spotted a fin, it seemed like too much of a coincidence but I told the skipper, who cut the engine and a couple of minutes later a minkie whale surfaced briefly.Â Unfortunately I didn’t manage to get a photo.Â I disembarked at Lerwick harbour, where I was picked up to collect my hire car.Â The heavens opened that afternoon, so after a wet wander around the shops, I decided to return to my guest house in Bressay by ferry.
The next morning I was heading north on the main island and did a circuit around the Sandsting Peninsula passing the Scord of Weisdale to Reawick, Sheld and Wells before checking into the Busta House Hotel for my final two nights.
Wells, Mainland, Shetland Islands
The next morning I set off for the north of the main island and the Eshaness Cliffs, with a stop at the Braewick Cafe.. The cliffs at Eshaness are amazing, if you park at the lighthouse there’s a coastal path you can follow.
Eshaness Cliffs, Mainland, Shetland Islands
I then drove to up to North Roe and Ibster (where the road ends).Â Before returning to my hotel, I crossed over the bridge to the island of Muckle Roe, driving to Little Ayre, where there’s a footpath to a beach.
View from the bridge to Muckle Roe Island, Shetland Islands
As Shetland airport is in the far south of the island, my final day was the ideal time to explore this area.Â My first stop was Scalloway on the west coast.Â The taxi driver who picked me up on arrival in the Shetlands had recommended St Ninian’s Isle.Â As I drove down I was stunned by the white sands and colour of the sea. The beach is the largest tombola (beach with sea on both sides) in the UK and is the link to St Ninian’s Isle.
The beach linking St Ninian’s Isle to the Mainland, Shetland Islands
I always aim to be at the airport two hours before my flight departure time, after a couple of near misses in the past.Â However, there’s plenty to see within a mile of the airport including West Voe beach and the Norse settlement at Jarlshof.
West Voe beach, Mainland, Shetland Islands (airport terminal in top left of photo)
I had a wonderful time on my Shetland flydrive trip.Â I was very lucky with the weather, only having one afternoon of rain and few odd showers during my four day stay.Â The natural beauty of the islands takes your breath away.Â It was great to have everything organised for me and know that I’d be staying at quality accommodation.Â It was reassuring to have a 24 hour emergency contact number.Â Fortunately I didn’t need to use this as everything went so smoothly.
I was very happy withÂ the standard of accommodation and food served in both my lodgings.Â One of my main requirements from accommodation was that internet connection was available.Â The wifi in both my lodgings was very good which was a relief as I’ve stayed in several hotels on the UK mainland who claim to offer wifi but the signal is so bad that you can’t get connected.Â The accommodation is personally selected and vetted by Robert Kidd, MD of McKinlay Kidd, so clients can be sure of good lodgings.Â Flying from Edinburgh or Glasgow to the Shetland Islands takes around 90 minutes, so a Shetland flydrive is an ideal way to get the most from your Shetland holiday, as you do really need a car to get around the islands.
I stayed at the Busta House Hotel on the Shetland Islands for 2 nights in May 2010, on a complimentary b basis, during my McKinlay KiddShetland flydrive press trip. The hotel is located on the west coast of the main island, close to Brae, overlooking Busta Voe (a narrow sea inlet). The hotel dates from the late 16th century with additions made over the following centuries. It has an absolutely gorgeous garden which slopes down to the Busta Voe and a small harbour.
Busta House Hotel exterior and garden
The hotel rooms don’t have numbers, they are named after the different Shetland islands. I stayed in St Ninian’s, which is classed as a double or twin room as it has two single beds which are pushed together as a double. I think there would be virtually no space to move around in the room if the two beds were made up as singles with some space between them. The room was quite old fashioned which in many ways is appropriate for the age of the building and the country house atmosphere. The room was nice and cosy, the heating appeared to be on 24 hours a day. I’ve stayed in some establishments, especially older buildings in the Scottish Highlands and Islands, where the heating is switched off during the day and the rooms are freezing.
However the beige carpet did have some faint stains on it, some of the paintwork on the woodwork was chipped and my towels on the first day were thin and frayed at the edges. But the next day these towels were replaced with fluffy, thick ones.
The view from my room was amazing. The downside was that it faced east and I was awakened both mornings at around 5am by bright sunshine streaming in through the woefully inadequate curtains. Busta House really needs to get some decent blackout curtains.
View from my room at Busta House Hotel
The hotel offered free wifi throughout and the signal was very good in my room. They have made a real effort with the wifi with routers along all the corridors. The wifi was better than wifi in many hotels on the UK mainland and for an old building like this, the Busta House Hotel is to be congratulated for its efforts.
The Long Room was really beautiful. Unfortunately there were always some other guests here, so I wasn’t able to get a photo of the whole room.
The Long Room at Busta House Hotel
I decided to try out both dining options at the Busta House Hotel. On my first evening I ate from the set menu at the Pitcairn Room restaurant. My Fish Trio starter was so tasty, I’m not keen on mussels but the Shetland smoked salmon was much better than the average smoked salmon. My main course was Scallops which were very good., followed by a wonderful Coffee Fudge Pudding. The portions were very generous and the only negatives were the vegetables served with the main course, as for my own taste the red cabbage was over spiced and the mangetout beans and baby sweetcorn were too al dente (not that I like mushy veg either). I did find it slightly chilly in the restaurant, compared to the rest of the hotel.
Fish Trio starter at Busta House Hotel Restaurant
Breakfast is cooked to order and served in the bar. There’s a selection of cereals, yoghurt and fruit juices and fresh fruit salad (which was very heavy on apples) to start. I had Bacon and Eggs one morning and Scrambled Egg with Smoked Salmon the other. The bacon was a bit fatty and greasy for my taste.
Breakfast at Busta House Hotel
On my second evening, I ate in the bar. Knowing the size of the portions I dispensed with the starter, just as well as the Haddock cooked in Unst Ale Batter was enormous and really delicious. Although that was more than enough food, I couldn’t resist another yummy pudding of Busta Rhubarb Crumble.
Haddock main course at Busta House Hotel Bar
Overall, the Busta House Hotel is a great place to stay where the positive aspects vastly outweigh the negative. It’s a really characterful building with an absolutely beautiful garden and views, the food is mainly local and high quality. It offers decent wifi and the staff are lovely. However, the hotel needs to do some carpet stain removal, get rid of these old towels, do some touch ups on paintwork and get some blackout curtains for east facing bedrooms. All these negatives can be fairly cheaply and easily rectified and then I’d rate the Busta House Hotel as excellent.
I stayed at the Northern Lights Spa Guest House on the island of Bressay in the Shetland Islands for 2 nights in May 2010, on a complimentary basis, during my McKinlay KiddShetland flydrive press trip. Bressay is just across the water from Lerwick, the main city of the Shetland Islands, reached by a regular ferry service.
I arrived in the evening on the 20:00 ferry from Lerwick with instructions to phone the guest house to arrange pick up from the ferry terminal on Bressay for the short drive up to the guest house. I was greeted by Paul, one half of the husband and wife team who run the Northern Lights Spa Guest House. On arrival, Vee showed me to my bedroom (Room 1), which was spacious, colourful and comfortable.
The room had three windows, one with a view over towards Lerwick.
View from Room 1 at the Northern Lights Spa Guest House
Wifi is available for a one off cost of Â£5. I found the signal to be very good.
Room 1 at the Northern Lights Spa Guest House
As I arrived after 8pm I was served a light supper on my first evening. It was a very tasty vegetarian plate of open courgette, onion, tomato and asparagus pastry, a bean salad, potato salad and focaccia bread.
Vegetarian Supper at Northern Lights Spa Guest House
Breakfast comprises of cereal, fruit, yoghurt, toast and a selection of warm items such as croissants, waffles, home baked cake and muffins. There’s a selection of home made jams and lemon curd.
Breakfast at Northern Lights Spa Guest House
My Northern Lights Hot Rock Massage with Vee was arranged for the following evening. It was a very enjoyable experience using local heated basalt lava stones for a back, neck and shoulder massage. Suffice to say that I slept better that night than I had done for ages. Use of the Turkish steam room, sauna and hot hydro pool is included in the room price. In fact I was so relaxed after my massage that I was late getting down for dinner. The home baked kale and carrot muffin served with the beetroot soup was delicious.
Beetroot soup with carrot and kale muffin
That morning I was asked if I preferred the meat, fish or vegetarian option for main course. I plumped for fish so my main course was Fillet of Shetland Megrin Sole with Langoustines.
Fish main course at Northern Lights Spa Guest House
Dessert was creme brulee followed by tea or coffee in the lounge.
McKinlay Kidd’s MD, Robert Kidd, personally selects the accommodation offered on their Shetland holidays, so you’re unlikely to end up in accommodation that’s not quite what you expected.
I’d highly recommend the Northern Lights Spa Guest House for a stay in the Shetland Islands. The hosts Vee and Paul are really friendly, attentive and helpful, the accommodation is very comfortable and the food is fantastic. Even if you don’t stay there, you can arrange for a spa session.