Category Archives: Scotland

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

Review of Ibis Edinburgh Centre South Bridge

I stayed at the Ibis Edinburgh Centre South Bridge for one night in early June 2014. I originally booked the Ibis Budget Edinburgh Park priced at £35 a night on an unrestricted rate (which could be cancelled without penalty up until 2pm on the day of arrival). I planned to drive up to the hotel the afternoon before my flight and then take the car to an airport car park the next morning.

However, when the opening of the Ibis Budget Edinburgh Park was delayed, I received an email offering to transfer my booking to the Ibis Edinburgh Centre South Bridge for the same price of £35 for the night. It’s usually a lot more expensive for a room in the Ibis hotels in Edinburgh city centre.

I decided to go to Edinburgh the day before my flight to stay at the Ibis Edinburgh Centre South Bridge. I reckoned that walking from the hotel to the express airport bus and the bus journey straight to the airport terminal would take 30-40 minutes. This would be around the same time as driving from the Ibis Edinburgh Park hotel to an airport car park and the transfer to the airport terminal.

ibis edinburgh centre south bridge exterior

Check in time at the Ibis Edinburgh Centre South Bridge is noon, much earlier than most other hotels. This was great, as I could drop off my luggage on arrival in Edinburgh. You have to pay £2.00 per item to use the left luggage facility at the hotel.

The lobby area was pretty small for a such a large hotel.

ibis edinburgh centre south bridge lobby

At check in I requested a quiet room. The receptionist informed me that I’d already been allocated a quiet room on the top floor. The views to Arthur’s Seat and over the Forth Estuary to Fife gave the room the wow factor.

ibis edinburgh centre south bridge view of arthurs seat

The room was fresh and bright. Initially I could only find one electrical socket, but then I noticed a double socket at at the side of the wardrobe. There’s free WiFi throughout the hotel. You have to give your name and email address to get connected . I found the signal in my room to be excellent.

There was only one chair in the room. There wasn’t a desk area, but I used the coffee table to work on my netbook.

The windows were sealed, but the room had air conditioning. I would’ve preferred to have been able to open the windows. I needed to switch on the air conditioning, as it was a warm June day (by Scottish standards).

ibis edinburgh centre south bridge room1

Although the prefabricated plastic bathroom unit was small, I thought that there was more room in the shower than in many standard hotel shower cubicles. I did think that the step up the bathroom door could be a trip hazard.

I was very happy with my room for £35 a night. However, I noticed that rooms were advertised at £134 for that night when I checked in. I think that this was way overpriced for a rather basic room which didn’t even have a safe or include breakfast.

I’d only recommend staying at the Ibis Edinburgh Centre South Bridge if you can find a low rate.

Review of Ibis Edinburgh Centre South BridgeKeep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff

Edinburgh Airport’s New Lounge Should Aspire to Having Toilets

I won two United BusinessFirst return tickets from Edinburgh to Chicago in a business card prize draw. These tickets offered us free-of-charge access to the new Aspire Lounge in Edinburgh Airport prior to departure.

aspire buisness lounge exterior

As our flight departed mid morning, we were looking forward to breakfast in the Aspire lounge. There was fair selection of food including cereals, yoghurts, bacon rolls and croissants. The staff were very friendly.

aspire business lounge drinks selection

The lounge had a good mix of seating; comfy sofas, seats at tables, work stations and bar-type stools with plenty of electrical sockets. The WiFi signal was good.

aspire business lounge interior1

However, I was amazed that the Aspire lounge didn’t have its own toilet facilities. You had to exit the lounge and walk down to the nearest public facilities.

I thought that this coming and going of users must be confusing for staff at the lounge reception. I suggested to the receptionist that users’ hands should be stamped on arrival,  a bit like when attending a gig, to provide a quick and easy way to verify legitimate re-access.

In opinion, lack of internal toilet facilities lets down this new lounge at Edinburgh Airport, which should aspire to get its own toilets.

Review of the Roxburghe Hotel in the Scottish Borders

We stayed at The Roxburghe Hotel near Kelso in the Scottish Borders for one night in September 2014 on a complimentary basis. The hotel is located around three miles south west of Kelso.

roxburghe hotel exterior

The public areas are very impressive.

roxburghe hotel lounge

We stayed in a four-poster feature room. When I checked into the room, I didn’t want to go out again, but we’d arranged to visit Floors Castle.

The large double bed was comfortable. The room had an open fire. Although it was late September, it was warm outside, so the room didn’t require any heating. I liked the fact that there was a sofa to sit on to watch TV or read.

roxburghe hotel room1

The room had a balcony overlooking the garden. As the room had two large windows, you could see the views when sitting on the bed or the sofa.

roxburghe hotel balcony

The bath was large enough for me to lie in. My husband said that he had one of the most enjoyable showers ever under the rainhead shower.

I had a couple of minor niggles with housekeeping. There wasn’t enough toilet paper in the bathroom, fortunately there were tissues in the room.  There were only sachets of Nescafe instant coffee and Tetley teabags and no biscuits, I thought there should have been a bit more choice of drinks, e.g. hot chocolate and herbal tea. Some biscuits would’ve been nice too.

We had a pick and mix selection from the three course set and the a la carte dinner menu. My husband started with mussels from the set menu.

roxburghe hotel mussel starter

My scallop starter, from the a la carte menu, served with cauliflower, golden raisins and olive tapenade was delicious.

roxburghe hotel scallops

My husband’s main course was bass served with vegetables, from the set menu. I had chicken with beans, also from the set menu.

roxburghe hotel bass

My husband’s selection of six UK and French cheeses served with quince jelly and walnut bread, from the a la carte menu, was almost a meal in itself. Although I was tempted by the raspberry and chocolate trifle, I went for sorbet selection from the main menu. But I did try all my husband’s cheeses too.

roxburghe hotel cheese board

For breakfast there was a buffet selection of cereals, dried fruit and nuts and fruit juice.  Freshly baked croissants, pastries and toast was brought to our table. From the menu, we both went for the smoked salmon and scrambled egg.

roxburghe hotel breakfast

I’d rate the food at The Roxburghe Hotel very highly for quality, flavour and presentation.

All the staff at the hotel hit the right balance of being attentive, professional and friendly.

In summary, I really enjoyed our stay at The Roxburghe Hotel. Our room was a perfect example of a Scottish country house hotel, spacious, beautifully furnished and with an open view.

Review of The Roxburghe HotelKeep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff

Photo Tour of the McManus Galleries in Dundee

The McManus Galleries, one of Dundee’s most distinctive landmarks, was built in Gothic Revival Style.The gallery and museum, which opened in 1876 as the Albert Institure, was closed to the public for four years between 2006-2010 for major renovations.

mcmanus galleries entrance

Upon entering the building, I was drawn to the stained glass windows in the Cafe.

mcmanus galleries cafe

The beautiful stained glass continued with the depictions of well known Scots, including Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott, on the staircase windows.

mcmanus galleries sir walter scott

mcmanus galleries robert burns

On the first floor, the Albert Hall, there was more magnificent stained glass.

mcmanus galleries albert hall stained glass windows

mcmanus galleries albert hall stained glass

I found the ‘Making of Modern Dundee’ section very interesting, although it was rather sad to read about the decline of so many industries in the city.

In the 1870s Dundee was the UK’s largest whaling port. However, that industry had declined by the early 1910s. There’s a collection of whaling equipment, including the harpoons depicted below, in the gallery.

mcmanus galleries harpoons

The Tay Rail Bridge opened in 1878, connecting the East Coast line from London. Two years later, the bridge collapsed when a steam train was crossing during a storm, resulting in the death of all passengers and crew.

mcmanus galleries old tay rail bridge

NCR first started manufacturing cash registers in Dundee in1946, later moving onto the making of ATMs. In its heyday it employed more than 6,000 workers. The manufacturing side of NCR ceased in Dundee in 2009.

mcmanus galleries NCR ATM

Dundee publisher DC Thomson is best known for the Dandy (which ceased publication in 2012) and Beano comics. Dennis the Menace and Gnasher, pictured below, are two of characters in the Beano.

mcmanus galleries dennis the menace

Dundee became known for video game development with the launch of ‘Lemmings’ in 1991 and ‘Grand Theft Auto’ in 1996 by DMA Design. In the late 1990s DMA Design changed ownership three times and the Dundee office closed.

mcmanus galleries computer games

There was a Dundee United football strip from when this local team won the Scottish Premier League in 1983. Known locally as the ‘Tangerines’ the colour of the strip reminded me of the infamous Scottish ‘Irn Bru’ fizzy drink.

mcmanus galleries dundee united strip 1983

The McManus is open Monday to Saturday from 10am – 5pm and Sunday from 12.30pm – 4.30pm. Admission is free of charge.

If you’re in Dundee make sure that you visit the McManus Galleries, even if only to admire the interior of the building.

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