Category Archives: Scotland

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

Review of Northern Lights Spa Guest House, Bressay, Shetland Islands, Scotland

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 Kidd Shetland 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.

Review of Northern Lights Spa Guest House, Bressay, Shetland Islands, Scotland
View from Room 1 at the Northern Lights Spa Guest House

Wifi is available for a one off cost of £5.  I found the signal to be very good.

Review of Northern Lights Spa Guest House, Bressay, Shetland Islands, Scotland

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.

Review of Northern Lights Spa Guest House, Bressay, Shetland Islands, Scotland

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.

Review of Northern Lights Spa Guest House, Bressay, Shetland Islands, Scotland

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.

Review of Northern Lights Spa Guest House, Bressay, Shetland Islands, Scotland

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.

Review of Northern Lights Spa Guest House, Bressay, Shetland Islands, Scotland

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.

Review of Northern Lights Spa Guest House, Bressay, Shetland Islands, ScotlandKeep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff

You can read more about my Shetland flydrive trip and see my Shetland Islands photo tour.

Photo tour of the Shetland Islands, Scotland

I spent four nights on the Scottish Shetland Islands in May 2010 on a McKinlay Kidd Shetland flydrive press trip.  Below is a photo tour of these lovely islands, arranged from the south to the north of the main island (Shetland Mainland), with a few forays to nearby smaller islands enroute.

Photo tour of the Shetland Islands, Scotland

St Ninian’s Beach which leads to St Ninian’s Island

Photo tour of the Shetland Islands, Scotland

Shetland ponies and foals in Sumburgh, Shetland South Mainland

Photo tour of the Shetland Islands, Scotland

West Voe Beach, Sumburgh, Shetland South Mainland

Photo tour of the Shetland Islands, Scotland

Spiggie Beach and Loch, Shetland South Mainland

Photo tour of the Shetland Islands, Scotland

Painted houses at Scalloway, Shetland Central Mainland

Photo tour of the Shetland Islands, Scotland

View out of sea cave on the Island of Bressay, Shetland Islands

Photo tour of the Shetland Islands, Scotland

Gannets on Isle of Noss, Shetland Islands

Photo tour of the Shetland Islands, Scotland

Weisdale Voe, Westside Shetland Westside Mainland

Photo tour of the Shetland Islands, Scotland

Dusk over Busta Voe looking towards Brae, Shetland North Mainland

Photo tour of the Shetland Islands, Scotland

Harbour at Muckle Roe Island, Shetland Islands

Photo tour of the Shetland Islands, Scotland

Eshaness Cliffs, Shetland North Mainland

Photo tour of the Shetland Islands, Scotland

North Roe,  Shetland North Mainland

I thought that the Shetland Islands were jaw droppingly beautiful and my Europe travel tip for anyone visiting Scotland is to make a trip to these islands.

You can see my all my Flickr Shetland Islands photos and videos here.

Verdant Works Dundee: The history of the jute industry

The Verdant Works in Dundee, Scotland illustrates the history of the Dundee jute industry. This museum is my tip for visitors to Dundee interested in Scottish industrial heritage.  This Dundee attraction opened in the early 1990s when the Dundee Heritage Trust purchased the then derelict Verdant Mill.

Verdant Works Dundee: The history of the jute industry

Dundee’s global jute connections

Jute became a big industry in Dundee for three reasons: the existing weaving skills of workers, the local shipbuilding industry that built the large vessels to carry the raw material from India and the availability of whale oil (used to soften the jute) from the Dundee based whaling fleet.

Verdant Works Dundee: The history of the jute industry

Hand operated jute weaving loom

The Verdant Works does truly bring history to life.  On the factory floor there are working smaller machines built in the first half of the 20th century for training local workers.

Can you imagine working for 9 hours a day in all this noise?

Verdant Works Dundee: The history of the jute industry

I was fortunate that volunteer Lily Thomson, a former jute weaver, was at the Verdant Works on the day I visited, so I could see (and hear) the machines in action.  There are screens behind each of the pieces of machinery showing old films of scenes from the jute production line.

I enjoyed my visit to the Verdant Works, it certainly gave me an insight into the lives of the Dundee jute workers and the amazing number of products manufactured from jute including tents and carpet backing.  The Verdant Works offers a great day out for all the family as there are plenty of interactive displays for kids. There’s free parking for visitors at the rear of the building and an on-site cafe.

You can see all my Verdant Works photos and videos on Flickr.

Click here for the lowest prices on Dundee hotels

Review of La Tasca Edinburgh

We had lunch at La Tasca Edinburgh in South Charlotte Street (just off Princes Street at the Haymarket end) in May 2010.  There’s some outdoor seating on the pavement at the front but it’s too close to the road for my liking.

Review of La Tasca Edinburgh

La Tasca Edinburgh exterior

The interior is a bit contrived but nevertheless attractive as it’s bright and colourful.  It was pretty quiet when we were there for Sunday lunch.  There were two staff on duty, both of whom were attentive and enthusiastic.

Review of La Tasca Edinburgh

La Tasca Edinburgh interior

I had a 50% off “Tapas to Share” voucher.  We  ordered 10 dishes, the full price would have been £44 but with the voucher we paid £22.  The quality and flavour of the food was very good but the servings are quite small, so you did need that number of dishes to feel that you’d eaten a decent meal.  I wouldn’t have been prepared to pay the full price for what we ate .I wish that La Tasca would adopt the Spanish custom of serving bread with their meals.

Review of La Tasca Edinburgh

Our 10 tapas at La Tasca Edinburgh

La Tasca run various promotions so it’s worth checking them out before you go.  I’ve seen an evening offer running Sunday to Tuesday 5pm  – 9pm with an all you can eat menu for £10 a person and a 5 Tapas for £10 lunchtime offer (which I’ve sampled at La Tasca Belfast) but dishes such as prawns or salmon are not featured on these menus.

In summary if you eat at La Tasca Edinburgh on a fixed price menu or have a promotional voucher, you can have a very tasty meal at a reasonable price in pleasant surroundings.

Review of La Tasca Edinburgh Keep It Real Travel Reviews

Review of Dundee Central Travelodge

I stayed for at the Travelodge Dundee Central for one night in May 2010. I paid £12 for the room, booking in the January sale. The building was originally a jute mill, so the rooms are different to standard purpose built Travelodge rooms. There’s a good sized free car park at the rear.

Review of Dundee Central Travelodge

I requested a room at the rear of the hotel as the front of the hotel is on a  fairly busy road. My room was enormous and had three windows. Luckily it faced west so I wasn’t wakened by daylight.

Review of Dundee Central Travelodge

However I did have a rude awakening at 6.45 as a Tesco delivery lorry reversed into the unloading bay, adjacent to my room. As ever a city centre location is unlikely to be peaceful but does have the advantage of being able to walk to most Dundee attractions within a few minutes.

If you can find a promotional rate room at the Travelodge Dundee Central, Dundee is a great location for a UK short break.

Review of Dundee Central TravelodgeKeep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff

Click here for the lowest prices on Dundee hotels

Big Savings with the Scottish Heritage Pass

Big Savings with the Scottish Heritage Pass

Travelling in Scotland can be an expensive endeavour, for both Britons and those visiting the country – between car hire costs, hotel accommodation, and food/drink, costs add up quickly.  We’ve covered lots of UK budget savings tips before, but this summer Scotland has a fantastic offer that both locals and visitors should consider:  The Scottish Heritage Pass.

What Is it?

The heritage pass is a new offering, produced jointly by three Scottish organisations: Historic Scotland, The National Trust for Scotland and selected members of The Historic Houses Association Scotland.   It’s similar to your typical attractions pass – e.g. you pay a fixed price and get access to a number of attractions for a certain number of days.  In this case, there are several attractions included – nearly 100 – so if are interested in historic attractions, this could very well be worth your while.  (Note – this is not the same as the Great British Heritage Pass.  Read on – I actually think it is better value.)

How Much and How Long?

So passes are valid for 7 consecutive days, and only for visits between 1 April to 30 September 2010.  The price is £35 adult (£26 concession and £17.50 child).

How Do I Find Out More or Purchase One?

So this is where the waters get a bit murky – this isn’t the sort of pass you just rock up to the tourist office and buy one.  It is a “travel trade” only pass, meaning that consumers must purchase it from a reseller.  There are three websites where you can find out more:

So when doing your Europe travel planning, if you are taking any tours conducted by a tour operator,  you should contact the tour group and ask them if they are selling the Scottish Heritage pass.  If they are, you can buy directly from them.   The bottom line is, though, you have to buy the pass before you travel – the pass isn’t available in the tourist office.  For locals, definitely check in with one of the three websites above for purchasing a pass as well as to get information about the long long list of included attractions.

Happy Savings!

Photo by conner395

kelvingroveheads1

UK Travel Tips ‘n’ Tweets: What to do and see in Glasgow

After really enjoying my visit to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum when I was in Glasgow for the day in early February 2010, I resolved to return to the city soon. True to my word, I was back in Glasgow for three nights in April 2010.  I always ask for tips on the Europe a la Carte Blog, Twitter and Facebook when I’m doing my travel planning.  I’ve compiled the Glasgow attractions tips I received below and added my own.

UK Travel Tips n Tweets:  What to do and see in Glasgow

Hanging heads at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum

Facebook Tips

Marty L Wooten The Burrell Collection.  (You can see that I followed Marty’s advice and  spent a couple of hours at the Burrell Collection.)

UK Travel Tips n Tweets:  What to do and see in Glasgow

Me at the Burrell Collection

Twitter Tips

@WhyGoScotland On the topic of Glasgow restaurants, Nanakusa is pretty incredible Japanese. Other than that, just hang out in all the parks. Glasgow also has a fabulous rock music scene, and is great for music in general. The Renfrew Ferry is a great venue.

UK Travel Tips n Tweets:  What to do and see in Glasgow

Doulton Fountain at Glasgow Green

@andrewsponner great Italian food in Glasgow – here’s something i wrote for Ind on Sun couple years back-Bacco Italia awesome. Sarti’s is good as well.

My Tips

If you’re into Art Deco and seafood I’d recommend the Rogano in Exchange Square. The People’s Palace at Glasgow Green covers the social history of the city from the 1750s to the present. The Scotland Street School Museum, highlights the history of Scottish public education system in a former school building, designed by Rennie Mackintosh.

UK Travel Tips n Tweets:  What to do and see in Glasgow

Scotland Street School Museum exterior

Click here for the lowest prices on Glasgow hotels

Restaurant review: Rogano, Glasgow

I had lunch at Rogano in Glasgow in April 2010, as a guest of Chris Clarkson of sunshine.co.uk. The restaurant is in Exchange Square, just off Buchanan Street, close to Gallery of Modern Art.  With its Art Deco style interior dating from the 1930s, the Rogano is Glasgow’s oldest surviving restaurant.

Restaurant review: Rogano, Glasgow

Rogano exterior

I did attempt to take some photos of the ocean liner themed interior but due to the dark colours of the walls and respecting the privacy of other diners, I didn’t get any decent shots. The dark brown walls have friezes of sea scenes which you can just make out in the photo below from Flickr.

Restaurant review: Rogano, Glasgow

Rogano, Glasgow interior by IK’s World Trips

If find it hard to describe food in words so I’ll illustrate some of the dishes eaten by me and my dining companions.

Main courses

One of the daily specials from the a la carte lunch menu was grilled red mullet.

Restaurant review: Rogano, Glasgow

Grilled red mullet

The vegetarian option on the set lunch menu was honey gazed goat’s cheese with orange and roasted pinenuts.

Restaurant review: Rogano, Glasgow

Honey gazed goat’s cheese with orange and roasted pinenuts

I had the grilled trout.  The fish was perfectly cooked, very tender with no bones in evidence.  The sauce was a refreshing contrast to the trout.  I didn’t like the way that the fish was arranged on top of the potato,  skin side up.  I think it would’ve been better to lay the fish around the potato with the skin facing down.

Restaurant review: Rogano, Glasgow

Grilled trout, herb crushed potato with citrus beurre blanc

Selecting a dessert was pretty hard as I was very tempted by the iced Cranachan parfait.

Restaurant review: Rogano, Glasgow

Iced Cranachan parfait with fresh berry compote on shortbread

However I was more than happy with my choice of chocolate brownie served with fudge sauce and wild stawberry ice cream.  The strawberry ice cream actually tasted of strawberries as opposed to the usual rather sweet artificial flavour.  I couldn’t resist the petit fours selection of chocolates served with coffee, although after my dessert you’d have thought my sweet cravings would have been satisfied.

Restaurant review: Rogano, Glasgow

Petit fours to finish

There’s a set lunch menu, which changes every week, with a choice of four starters, four mains and four desserts which costs £16.50 for two courses and £21.50 for three courses.

I’d recommend Rogano if you love seafood and are looking for somewhere unique to eat.

Restaurant review: Rogano, GlasgowKeep It Real Travel Review

More Tips for Things to Do in Glasgows

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

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