Category Archives: Scotland

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

Review of Hot Flame Restaurant in Edinburgh

Update 11 July 2015 – The Hot Flame restaurant in Edinburgh’s Quartermile was closed when we went there to eat today. I says on the notice that it’s for refurbishment, but that’s very strange as it only opened last year.

We had lunch at the Hot Flame Restaurant in Quartermile district of Edinburgh on a Saturday in September 2014. Gary, our son who lives in Edinburgh, had heard about the recent opening of this international buffet restaurant, so we thought we’d give it a try.

hot flame restaurant cooking area

It’s not that easy to find the restaurant as it’s tucked away in Lister Square, sandwiched between Lauriston Place and the Meadows. The Hot Flame Restaurant was very quiet for a Saturday lunch time, This was good for customers, as I could see it getting pretty difficult to access the food during busy periods.

hot flame restaurant interior

I really liked the double aspect of interior which made the restaurant bright and airy. The windows at one side overlooked Lister Square. However, I thought that the booths were too small, I assume to pack in as many diners as possible.

hot flame restaurant salads

There was a good choice of food, but the majority was Indian style, despite the restaurant saying it offered ‘world banquet dining’. The Mexican counter inappropriately had chicken nuggets and potato croquettes. There were a few Italian dishes, which Gary said weren’t that great. There was a ‘live cooking’ station but the only thing being cooked there was nan bread.

hot flame restaurant starter choice

I enjoyed the salad selection and the vegetable dumplings from my starter selection.

hot flame restaurant starters

My favourite main course was the shrimp curry. The meat in the lamb curry was very tender and lean.

hot flame restaurant shrimps

The cakes were a bit disappointing. The banoffee gateau was still partially frozen with rather foamy filling. The ice cream was very good, with a large selection of flavours.

It cost £10 per adult for Saturday lunch. It’s £1 cheaper Mondays to Thursday, but £14 all day on Sundays.

I’d recommend the Hot Flame restaurant in Edinburgh if you are a fan of Indian cuisine.

Review of Premier Inn Stirling City CentreKeep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff

Why I’m Relieved Scotland Voted No to Independence

I’m in Chicago. As the time here is six hours behind the UK, I was able to see that Scotland had voted in favour of staying in the UK before going to bed last night.

The whole Scottish Independence Referendum Campaign has been frustrating for me. I was born in Scotland and lived there for most of my life. However because I currently live in Berwick upon Tweed, three miles south of the Anglo-Scottish border, I couldn’t vote.

I would’ve voted for Scotland to stay in the UK. There were too many unanswered questions such as currency, border controls, EU membership, the size of oil reserves and the public spending deficit for me to vote for independence.

With Scottish independence, I had visions of having to allow twice as long to drive to Edinburgh Airport from Berwick upon Tweed in case there was a queue at border control on the A1 upon entering Scotland. I thought that I might need to get two passports, a Scottish and UK passport, to make crossing easier in both directions.

I thought that the infographic below from Sykes Cottages highlighting the geographical implications of a UK minus Scotland was fun. Fortunately, the UK won’t lose these parts of its landscape.

The Scottish Referendum: How The UK's Landscape Could Have Changed
The Scottish Referendum: How The UK’s Landscape Could Have Changed by Sykes Cottages

I laughed at the idea that, with the loss of Ben Nevis as its highest peak, the UK would’ve been 366 Shetland ponies lower.

shetland pony and foal

Shetland pony and foal

I hadn’t realised that more than half of the UK’s coastline was in Scotland. The beaches in Scotland are some of most beautiful which I’ve seen in Europe. My favourite is St Ninian’s in the Shetland Islands. You can see that I’m a big fan of the Shetlands.

st ninians beach 640

St Ninian’s Beach

Both  of the Scottish National Parks, Cairngorm and Loch Lomond, are really beautiful. You may even be able to do some skiing or snowboarding in the Cairngorm Mountains Resort if the weather plays ball.

loch lomond

Loch Lomond from Inveruglas

I recommend that you organise a trip to Scotland to enjoy its natural beauty. If you’re travelling from another part of the UK, there’ll be no concerns about border crossings and a different currency.

Review of Taza Indian Buffet Restaurant in Dundee

I had lunch at the Taza Indian Buffet restaurant at the City Quay in Dundee in May 2014. I paid £7 for lunch.  You can park free of charge for one hour outside the restaurant.

It was a Bank Holiday Monday, so the restaurant was busy. However, I didn’t have to wait for long to get a table. My table had a view to the side of the restaurant, towards what looked like some sort of navigational aid.

taza exterior1

I thought that there was a good selection of dishes for starters and main course. My favourite starter was the Aubergine Pakora.

taza starters

The meat in the Lamb Curry was lean, and I enjoyed the Vegetable Curry.

taza main courses

There was a fair selection of desserts, including Honeydew Melon, Ice Cream and Gareau.

The staff were all very friendly and welcoming.

I’d recommend the Taza Indian Buffet restaurant on Dundee’s City Quay for a reasonably priced tasty meal, Getting a seat by the window at the back of the restaurant with a view of the quayside would be a bonus.

Review of Tza Indian buffet restaurant DundeeKeep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff

The Old Town Cemetery in Stirling

After a very wet afternoon in early May, I took an evening stroll up to the Old Town Cemetery near Stirling Castle. I was extremely lucky that I didn’t get wet and the sun even made a brief appearance at just the right time.

old town cemetery pond

There’s even a pyramid in the Old Town Cemetery in Stirling.

old town cemetery

It’s called the’Star Pyramid’ which was built in the 1860s by William Drummond, as a monument to Scottish martyrs who died in the cause of religious and civil liberty. Each of the four faces of the pyramid features an open white marble Bible.

old town cemetery star pyramid

The area around the ‘Star Pyramid’ with the pond and shrubs is called ‘Drummond Pleasure Garden’.

old town cemetery pond1

If you’re in the Scottish city of Stirling, set aside some time for a walk around the Old Town Cemetery.

Review of City Harbour Chinese Buffet Restaurant in Dundee

My Aunt and I had lunch at the city Harbour Chinese buffet restaurant on the City Quay on Dundee’s watefront on a Tuesday in May 2014. It cost £6.50 per adult. You can park outside the restaurant free of charge for one hour.

city harbour chinese buffet restaurant exterior

The restaurant was fairly quiet. We were happy to be shown to a table at the window with views over the City Quay toward the Carr Lightship.

city harbour chinese buffet restaurant view

The food was fairly standard Chinese buffet fare. But considering that a plate of fish and chips often costs around £8 in a pub, it was good value for money.

city harbour chinese buffet restaurant starters

I thought that the tables were spaced further apart than in many other buffet restaurants. This, plus the addition of screens, made for a pleasant dining experience.

I’d recommend the City Harbour Chinese buffet restaurant in Dundee for a relativelly cheap, filling meal in congenial surrourdings.

Review of City Harbour Buffet Restaurant DundeeKeep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff

Review of Premier Inn Stirling City Centre

I stayed at the Premier Inn Stirling City Centre on a mid-week night in May 2014. It cost £35 on an advance booking non-refundable rate. The hotel is behind Stirling rail station in a recently redevoped area by the River Forth.

premier inn stirling city centre from distance

You can reach the hotel on foot in less than five mintues over the pedestrian bridge by the railway station

footbridge to pemier inn stirling city centre

The Prermier Inn Stirling City Centre offers free guest parking at the rear of the hotel, but you need to give your car’s registration number at check in. There’s an adjoining Beefeater restaurant and a cinema and another couple of restaurants opposite the hotel.

I was allocated a room at the back of the hotel on the first floor. This is a new hotel so everything is fresh. The room had air conditioning, which would be great in the Summer, but I’d have preferred to be able to open the window.  There were plenty of electrical sockets by the desk. You get 30 minutes free WiFi at Premier Inns, but I stuck to my mobile broadband.

premier inn stirling city centre room

From the window in my room, I could see the Rvier Forth and the Ochil Hills through the foliage. When I sat on the bed, I could also see the Wallace Monument. There was a footpath along the riverside.

premier inn stirling city centre view from window

The shower was very good. Although I’m not a fan of shower curtains, the curtain rail curved out, so I didn’t get the usual horrible shower curtain sticking to my arms effect.

The toilet seat in my room was cracked. I’d put that down to design as the seat curved up to join its hinges. I could have gone to reception to request another room, but as I really liked the quiet, scenic outlook from my room, I decided to stay in that room and report the issue on check out.

There was no-one at reception when I checked out, so I left a note, rather than buzz for a member of staff to come down.

For me, the Premier Inn Stirling City Centre offered a winning combination of a conmfortable, reasonably priced room with free parking in a quiet location within a few minutes walk of tranport links and a city centre with plenty of shops, cafes, bars and restaurants.

Click here to check availabity and prices at the Preminer Inn Stirling City Centre.

Review of Premier Inn Stirling City CentreKeep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff

Review of the Indian Cottage in Dumbarton Rd Glasgow

We had the buffet lunch at the Indian Cottage restaurant in Dumbarton Rd in Glasgow, on a Saturday in June 2014. Our son Simon who lives in Glasgow, had already been there for a buffet dinner with friends and was keen for our family to sample the food.

indian cottage exterior

I did a double take as we entered, as the two course buffet lunch was priced at £4.95 per person.

The Indian Cottage has a quite small and unpretentious interior.

indian cottage interior

The starters are freshly cooked and served to the table. Everything in the starter selection was full of flavour, but it was a bit too meaty for my taste. I generally stick to vegetable starters as I feel that I eat enough meat in the main courses.

indian cottage starters

The main courses were served buffet style. There were seven options, predominantly chicken, but including chickpea, vegetable and lamb curry, along with rice, nan bread and chips. I found the chicken and lamb to be tender. The meat had more favour than in some other Indian restaurants, where it tastes as though pre-cooked meat has been added to the various curry sauces.

indian cottage main course

I thought that, at under £5 per person for the lunch buffet at the Indian Cottage, I’d underpaid, considering the quality and choice of food. You’d probably pay more than £5 for a coffee and a bagel at the one of the nearby cafes.

It doesn’t mention the buffet on the website, so I recommend that you phone in advance to check that it’s being served on the day that you plan to eat there.

The Borders Book Festival in Melrose

The Borders Book Festival was held in the Harmony Gardens in Melrose from the 12 – 15 June 2014. It was free to enter, but you did have to pay for most of the talks and presentations, with adult tickets costing an average of  £10 – £14.

borders book festival sign

We had a look around the Festival before going for a walk along the River Tweed. The backdrop of Melrose Abbey afforded a unique setting.

borders book festival

Andy Stanton, author of the ‘Mr Gum’ series, was signing his books.

borders book festival andy stanton

There was a good selection of children’s books, including the Scottish favourite ‘Oor Wullie’, a comic strip character from the Sunday Post, who’s usually portrayed sitting on an upside down bucket.

borders book festival book selection

There was some free kid’s entertainment. Free WiFi was advertised, but I didn’t try it.

borders book festival kids entertainment

The beer tent wasn’t doing much trade, but it was before 1pm.

borders book festival beer tent

The portaloos at the Borders Book Festival were the poshest I’ve ever seen.

borders book festival portaloos

Crash in Customer Service Levels at Edinburgh Airport

It seems to me that Edinburgh Airport is getting too big for its own boots. As the airport has expanded, levels of customer service have taken a nosedive.

It started with the introduction of a £1 drop off fee in 2010. It was previously free to drop off passengers close to the terminal building.

edinburgh airport drop off charge

When we returned to Edinburgh Airport from Prague in late April 2014, the pick up points for the transfer to car parks had been moved further away from the terminal, to make room for the new tram stop. However, there was only one small shelter for all the bus stops. Woefully inadequate for the Scottish weather.

When I returned to Edinburgh Airport from Bratislava in mid  June 2014, only one bus arrived to transfer passengers from the plane to the terminal. There was a wait for another bus to turn up.  When that second bus arrived at the terminal drop off point, the passengers from that bus couldn’t get into the covered walkway as passengers from another flight had entered further down the walkway. Just as well the torrential rain which was falling during landing had stopped by that point.

There was a massive queue at Border Control. Despite this, not all of the e-gates were open. The e-gates which were open seemed to be operating very slowly. The size of the Border Control area doesn’t appear to have increased, despite the expansion of Edinburgh Airport.

All in all, very poor customer service at Edinburgh Airport for international arrivals, giving the impression of a disorganised and badly managed facility.

It’s time to pull your socks up Edinburgh Airport.

Art Show by Zydrune Auksoriute in the Howff Cemetery Dundee

Although it was lookng as though it might start raining at any moment when i was walking from the McManus Galleries to pick up my car from the car park at Dundee Travelodge Central, I decided to have a quick look around the Howff Cemetery.

The Howff was originally the garden of the Greyfriars Monastery, which was destroyed in the 1540s. It was granted licence as a burial ground a few years later by Mary Queen of Scots. Strangely, it was concurrently used as a meeting place (howff) for the Dundee Incorporated Trades until 1776, although it continued to be used for burials until 1857.

the howff entry

The Howff has one of the best collections of tombstones in Scotland.

the howff skull and cross bones

Parts of the perimeter walls date back to 1601.

the howff

I’d observed padlocks on the cemetery gates. There was no information given on closing times, so I was a bit concerned about getting locked into the cemetery, as it was approaching 5pm. Therefore, I was relieved to see some other people around a cherry blosson tree.

As I approached, I could see some art work resting on some headstones under the tree. I had stumbled upon a photo session of the ‘Living Legends’ by painter Zydrune Auksoriute (on the left in the photo below), a Lithuanian studying in Dundee. She, along with her paintings, was being photographed by fellow countrywoman Justina Smiles Photography (on the right of the photo below).

the howff art show

It’s further proof of why you should allow time for wandering around on your travels, you never know who you might bump into.