Category Archives: Scotland

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

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Review of Quality Hotel Edinburgh Airport

We stayed at the Quality Hotel Edinburgh Airport, now the Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh Airport, for one night in December 2013. I booked the room through the Superbreak site. It cost £86 for a double room including full breakfast and up to 15 days parking. Unfortunately, we couldn’t leave our car in the mono-blocked hotel car park, but had to put it in the long-term car park opposite the hotel, which was icy and full of potholes.

quality hotel edinburgh airport exterior

The hotel is re-branding to the Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh Airport in January 2014. The lobby was being renovated during our stay.

quality hotel edinburgh airport lobby

Our first floor room felt as if it had been recently refurbished; the downside of that was that there was some residual smell from the redecorating, probably due to the room not being aired enough. The bathroom was lovely with a large shower. It was disappointing that the water flow varied in temperature. There was a neat little shelved area with the tea and coffee making facilities leaving the desk space free. The office chair by the desk was so comfy, I wished that I had one like that at home.

quality hotel edinburgh airport

Although the hotel offered free WiFi the signal in our room was awful, so I had to use my USB modem. It didn’t feel as though the bed was new, it was a bit soft and lumpy. The duvet wasn’t large enough to cover us both properly. We could hear planes taking off through the double glazing. With decent sound insulation, e.g. as used at the Citizen M hotel at Amsterdam Airport, it is possible to have a quiet room close to an airport.

We had breakfast in the Auberge Restaurant. There was a continental buffet with cooked breakfast to order. However, when the hotel re-brands to Holiday Inn Express, it’ll be a standard Holiday Inn Express breakfast on offer.

In summary, the Quality Hotel Edinburgh Airport was a mixed bag. I liked the room size and decor and the price was reasonable. But they really should’ve aired the revamped rooms before letting to guests, fitted a decent thermostat to the shower, bought new beds and some larger duvet covers, and filled in the potholes in the long-term car park.

Review of the Macdonald Kinloch Rannoch HotelKeep It Real Travel Review No Fluff

loch rannoch hotel exterior

Review of Macdonald Loch Rannoch Hotel

We stayed at the Macdonald Loch Rannoch Hotel in Kinloch Rannoch, near Pitlcochry in Perthshire. on a Saturday night during October 2013. I had a 10% discount code for which brought the price of a double room including breakfast down to £76. I checked that I couldn’t find a lower price with another accommodation site using the HotelsCombined price comparison site before booking with

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Madonald Loch Rannoch Hotel

I liked the stags etched onto the entrance doors. The first thing that I noticed upon entering was that it was lovely and warm. Some hotels in the Scottish countryside can be distinctly chilly.

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Stag on glass of door at Macdonald Loch Rannoch Hotel

The lobby is traditional, there’s a beautiful staircase with stained glass windows.

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Stained glass window in stairwell at Macdonald Loch Rannoch Hotel

I had requested a room with a loch view on a high floor and this request was fulfilled. Unfortunately, we checked in after dark so couldn’t appreciate the view that evening. The double bed was two single beds joined together. The beds were comfy and the room was very clean.

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Double room at Macdonald Loch Rannoch Hotel

Our room was on the small side, especially the bathroom which was like a corridor. Both the sink and bath plugs had fallen off their chains. This made it hard to pull up the plug to empty the bath. I don’t know who fitted the bedroom carpet, as it was all rumpled. There were a limited number of TV channels.

The hotel charges a ridiculous £10 a day for internet access through BT OpenZone. As a BT broadband customer, I was able to connect free of charge. The WiFi signal in the room was excellent. I was surprised that I was able to pick up a good Vodafone mobile broadband signal on my phone.

When we opened the curtains the next morning Loch Rannoch was shrouded in mist, which lay there for a couple of hours.

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Sunrise over Loch Rannoch from our room

The deer antler chandelier in the restaurant was unusual.

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Deer antler chandelier in restaurant at Macdonald Loch Rannoch Hotel

The breakfast was really good for a three star hotel. The buffet included fresh fruit salad, water and honeydew melon, fruits of the forest compote and freshly squeezed orange juice. You’d to order cooked breakfast. I thought it was bad form to charge a supplement for any of the fish options. They should’ve either been included in the breakfast price or left off the menu.

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Breakfast buffet at Macdonald Loch Rannoch Hotel

Overall, I really enjoyed my stay at the Macdonald Loch Rannoch Hotel; I found it quirky and charming with much better breakfast than in many three star Highland hotels. Yes, the rooms could do with a refit, but the location is fab and the hotel is full of character.

Review of the Macdonald Kinloch Rannoch HotelKeep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff

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Review of Best Western Queens Hotel Perth

We stayed at the Best Western Queens Hotel Perth for one night in October 2013. I found the lowest price of £62 for two guests including breakfast though, using the HotelsCombined price comparison site. The hotel is located in the city centre opposite Perth railway station. There’s a free car park at the side of the hotel.

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Exterior of Best Western Queens Hotel Perth

The lobby is pretty ghastly with a large monitor counting down the days until Christmas, garish colours and cheap cane furniture. Check-in isn’t until 4pm, which is rather late. The receptionists try hard to get you to book dinner in the hotel and sign up to the Best Western Loyalty Club.

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Lobby at Best Western Queens Hotel Perth

Now Best Western’s strapline is “hotels with personality”. Well, our second floor room was distinctly lacking in that. It was also cold, it felt like walking into a fridge, as the radiator had been turned off. The furniture was a bit tatty and old-fashioned. There were no electrical sockets close the desk. Our room overlooked the Perth ring road at the front of hotel, but I didn’t hear much road noise through the double glazing.

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Room at Best Western Queens Hotel Perth

The room was very clean. There was excellent free WiFi which didn’t require a password, so I was able to connect my netbook, phone and camera simultaneously. The bathroom looked more recently refurbished than the bedroom, but the sink taps seemed to have continuous small leaks.

Breakfast was served in a featureless function room that didn’t have enough tables laid out for the number of guests. Breakfast was OK. There was a buffet with cereal, yoghurt, fresh and tinned fruit, fruit juice, rolls and pastries. You could order a cooked breakfast; we both had smoked haddock with poached egg.

In summary, the Best Western Queens Hotel is located in a convenient central location with clean but depressing rooms, free parking and WiFi. However, the lobby and rooms are in desperate need of a makeover. In cold weather, the heating in the bedrooms should be turned on from midday, to enable the rooms to warm up for the arrival of guests. There are plenty of other hotels with more character and warm bedrooms in Perth for around the same price, e.g. the Station Hotel and the Salutation Hotel.


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Newburgh Bear and Salmon

On our drive from Perth to St Andrews we had a stop in the Scottish town of Newburgh, which lies on the southern bank of the Firth of Tay. As we walked toward the Sailing Club, we spotted a bear and tree trunk etched out on a hill. The Newburgh Bear first appeared in 1980 during a community project/art festival. Many figures which I’ve seen on English hillsides have been outlined with chalk, but the Newburgh Bear’s perimeter is a shallow trench which is kept free of growth by regular burning.

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I loved the salmon sculputres by the estuary. Each fish had a different expression.

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Perth Chocolate Festival 22-24 November 2013

The Perth Chocolate Festival was held from 22-24 November 2013. I headed to Perth, in central Scotland, on Sunday 24 to attend the interactive talks and workshops and have a browse at the Chocolate Market.

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Chocolate Fountain at the Perth Chocolate Festival

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Lush Spa chocolate facial at Perth Chocolate Festival

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A selection from Iain Burnett, the Highland Chocolatier, at Perth Chocolate Festival

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Stalls at the Perth Chocolate Festival

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Cupcakes at the Perth Chocolate Festival

perth chocoate festival


Leaderfoot Viaduct: Today’s Walk 15 November 2013

This morning we decided to make the most of the continuing autumnal colours and mild weather and have a day out in the Scottish Borders. On the return leg of the journey we stopped at the Leaderfoot Viewpoint, where three bridges span the River Tweed. As we walked across Drygrange Bridge, I thought that the Leaderfoot Viaduct was looking almost the same colour as trees behind it.

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Leaderfoot Viaduct from Dygrange Bridge


Corran Ferry near Fort William

The Corran Ferry traverses Loch Linnhe approximately ten miles south of Fort William.

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The Corran Ferry approaches the eastern slipway

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Corran Lighthouse from the eastern slipway

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The Corran Ferry with Ardgour (the western slipway) in the background

Even if you’re not planning to take the Corran Ferry, the eastern slipway, just off the A82, makes for a scenic stop with public toilets.

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The Royal Observatory Edinburgh

I finally visited the Royal Observatory Edinburgh during the Doors Open Days in September 2013. I reckoned that the Observatory would be one of the most popular venues, so we set out from Berwick upon Tweed early with the intention of getting to the Observatory by 10.30 at the latest. We arrived soon after 10am; it was easy to find a parking space and to get tickets for first show at the Starlab Planetarium.

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The exterior of the Royal Observatory Edinburgh

In the few minutes before the Starlab Planetarium I posed for an infrared photo in the Library. The hottest parts are displayed in red, so I suppose that the red area around my forehead relates to brain activity, while my nose, eyebrows and cheeks were a cooler white colour.

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Infrared photo of me

The Starlab Planetarium was in a domed indoor blow-up tent. The presenter Ally gave an excellent overview of the different seasonal constellations. It was so funny when a young child asked Ally how long it’d take to travel to Mallorca by rocket.

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Copper dome of the East Tower at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh

There’s a large telescope in the East Tower.

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Telescope in the East Tower

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Telescope in the East Tower

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Information board in the East Tower

The views from the rooftop of the Visitor Centre over the city and the Forth Estuary were amazing.

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View of Salisbury Crags from the rooftop of the Visitor Centre

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View of Edinburgh Castle from the rooftop of the Visitor Centre

The Deep Space Gallery was accessed from the rooftop of the Visitor Centre. There were rocket making workshops and meteorite handling sessions taking place in the Gallery.

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Light pollution map of Europe in the Deep Space Gallery

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Information about the seasonal constellations in the Deep Space Gallery

Normally individuals can only visit the Royal Observatory Edinburgh during monthly Public Astronomy Evenings. Places need to be booked in advance. The cost is £4 per adult, £3 for concessions and children, payable on entry by cash or cheque.