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 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 Booking.com, 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.

queens hotel perth exterior

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.

queens hotel perth twin room

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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newburgh salmon1

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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.

 

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Smailholm Tower in the Scottish Borders

After finally visiting Greenholm Tower in the Scottish Borders, we decided to do a slight detour on our drive to Galashiels to stop at Smailholm Tower. It was badly signposted, with signs at junctions rather than a bit in advance to give you time to signal and turn. The Tower car park was up a pretty nasty looking dirt track. We decided to park on concrete by a derelict building at the farm which lies at the start of the track to the Tower.

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Smailholm Tower reflected in the Millpond

The four storey Smailholm Tower was built upon a crag of Lady Hill in the 15th century. The Scottish novelist Walter Scott referred to the Smailholm Tower as “standing stark and upright like a warden”. You certainly get a commanding view of the surrounding countryside from the Tower.

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Smailholm Tower perched on a crag

I’d assumed that it’d be free to enter Smailholm Tower, as there was no entrance fee at the nearby Greenknowe Tower. However, as it cost £4.50 per adult, we decided not to stump up and just have a walk around the periphery. We’re already members of the National Trust for Scotland; I can’t understand why Historic Scotland and the National Trust for Scotland don’t merge, so that you can buy one membership to visit Scottish historic buildings.

I was also surprised that Smailholm Tower is open all year round: albeit only at weekends from October to March. We were there during high season in August and only saw a group of four visitors. I reckon that some potential visitors miss the signs and others don’t want to drive their cars or walk up that dirt track. I’d advise stout shoes even for the walk from the car park to the Tower.

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Welcome sign at Smailholm Tower

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Cows close to Smailholm Tower

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Map of walking route to Smailholm Tower

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Red arch above entrance to Smailholm Tower

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The Scott Wilson Memorial Sculpture in Glen Prosen

The Scott Wilson Memorial Sculpture in Glen Prosen was unveiled in 2012 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Terra Nova expedition to the South Pole led by Captain Rober Falcon Scott. Dr Edward Adrian Wilson was the expedition’s chief scientist and surgeon, as well as being an artist.

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Dr Wilson on the right, Capt Scott on the left

It’s believed that Scott and Wilson met up several times at Burnside Lodge in Glen Prosen to plan their forthcoming trip. The original memorial fountain, known as ‘Scott’s View’, was knocked down in a car crash in 1979.

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Scott Memorial Fountain by Dave

Thie fountain was replaced by a cairn.

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Scott Memorial Cairn by  Dave

Local artist Bruce Walker, based in Kirriemuir, created the new memorial.

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Dr Wilson in profile

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Close up of Doctor Wilson

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Close up of Capt Scott

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Dog on the Scott Wilson Memorial Sculpture

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Autumn colours by the Scott Wilison Memorial Sculpture

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Horse on the Scott Wiilson Memorial Sculpture

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Penguin on Scott Wilsom Memorial Sculpture

You can find out about Captain Scott’s first expedition to the South Pole at Discovery Point in Dundee.