Category Archives: Scotland

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

city harbour chinese buffet restaurant view1

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

premier inn stirling city centre exterior

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

indian cottage main course1

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.

borders book festival2

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.

the howff art show1

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.

hms frigate unicorn

Exploring Dundee’s Waterfront

I had a walk around the waterfront in Dundee on the afternoon of a holiday Monday in May. I was amazed that it was so quiet, as when I’d passed the shops there were plenty of people about. The weather was reasonable with some warm sunshine, although you could sense rain wasn’t far away.

I started off on the banks of the Firth (estuary) of Tay.

waterfront quayside

I thought that the standng stones installation was a bit drab. It was almost the same colour as the surrounding pavement and the estuary.

waterfront sculpture1

I had the viewing platfrom on the quayside to myself.

waterfront viewing platform

Then I had a walk on the Tay Road Bridge. The pedestrian/cyclist section of the bridge is in the centre, which would make it pretty noisy and difficult to see the views if traffic were heavy.

waterfront looking toward dundee from tay road bridge

Dundee from the Tay Road Bridge

To the west, I could see the Discovery Centre and the Tay Rail Bridge.

waterfront view from tay bridge

Unfortunately, Dundee didn’t exactly look at its best as there are enormous piles of rubble where Tayside House, the former local authority HQ, used to stand. This is all part of the revamp of the Waterfront prior to the construction of the V&A Dundee.

You can see one of these rubble piles in my close up of the Discovery Centre from the bridge. These works have closed off the walkway along the estuary.

waterfront view of discovery centre from tay bridge

Next, I had a wander around the City Quay.

city quay1

City Quay is home to two ships. One is the North Carr Lightship, which is currently used by a maritime training charity.

waterfront carr lightship

A bit further along the dock, HM Frigate Unicorn is moored. It was constructed as a Royal Navy frigate in the early 1820s.

hm unicorn

If you’re feeling a bit peckish, both the Taza Indian buffet and the City Harbour Chinese Buffet offer good value food, with views across to City Quay.


The Kelpies at the Helix, Falkirk

I went to see ‘The Kelpies’, two huge sculptures of the mythical Scottish horse water spirits, at the Helix in Falkirk, central Scotland, in May 2014. The Helix is a new green space between Grangemouth and Falkirk, which encompasses a section of the Forth Clyde Canal.

kelpes looking at you

I first saw the macquettes (sculptor’s models) at a roundabout outside Edinburgh Airport in April 2012. I didn’t have time to photograph them, so I took a photo (below) of the information board inside the airport terminal building .


I managed to photograph the start of the construction of the Falkirk Kelpies when passing in July 2013. I could see that the sculptures were going to be enormous from the scaffolding.

kelpies construction july 2013

I was fairly well informed prior to my visit to ‘The Kelpies’, as I’d watched an one hour BBCdocumentary about the installation narrated by the sculptor Andy Scott a couple of days earlier.

I didn’t spot any signage to ‘The Kelpies’ or the Helix, from the M9 motorway. Plus there were roadworks at the roundabout just off the motorway. I turned down the first road I could see that lead in the direction of ‘The Kelpies’. I ended up in an industrial estate. Fortunately there was a footpath into the Helix from the bottom of the industrial estate.

The car park in the Helix closest to The Kelpies was free of charge. It looked almost full when I walked past on a weekday afternoon. I’d imagine it’d be hard to find a space at busy times. There was a portocabin ticket office selling tickets for a guided tour plus toilets. I believe that a Visitor Centre is being constructed.

kelpies approach

As I approached ‘The Kelpies’ there was a sleeping cygnet. It must’ve been brought up with all the construction and people around, because it was oblivious to passersby.

kelpies cygnet

The colour of the sculptures was totally different from the orther side due to the position of the sun.

kelpies against the sun

I loved the expression on the face of the horse which faces down. From on angle the expression was almost coquettish.

kelpies close up

From the other side, I felt a  benign presence towering above me.

kelpies close up1

It was much harder to relate to the other horse with its head sticking up, as you couldn’t see its face.

kelpies head up reflection

It was very appropriate to see these water spirit horses reflectied in the pool at their bases.

kelpies reflections

I’d like to go back after dark to see the sculptures when they’re floodlit.


I’d recommend a visit to ‘The Kelpies’. They are really impressive in the flesh, or should I say metal?

ashoka buffet restaurant edinburgh main course jpg

Review of Ashoka Buffet Restaurant in Edinburgh

I had lunch for £6.95 at the Ashoka Buffet Restaurant in Edinburgh’s Hanover Street (a five minute walk from Princes St) on a Thursday in late Febrary 2014.

I received a warm welcome upon entering the restaurant and attentive service throughout my meal.

ashoka buffet restaurant edinburgh exterior

I liked the decor in the restaurant, but I thought that the tables were a bit too close together to allow easy movement in and out to the buffet.

ashoka buffet restaurant edinburgh interior

There was a fair selection of tasty starters including ‘Tomato & Onion Bhaji’ and ‘Chicken Pakora’.

ashoka buffet restaurant hot plates

After everyone from a table of six diners had taken starters, two of the choices had been finished. They were replenished within a few minutes.

ashoka buffet restaurant edinburgh starters jpg

I found the chicken in the main courses to be very bland, as though the meat hadn’t been cooked in the sauce. I had two pieces of lamb; one was tender, the other pretty fatty.

I enjoyed the’ Jalebi’ (like donuts in syrup) and the milky ‘Vermicelli’ desserts, but wasn’t keen on the ‘Carrot Pudding’. There was also vanilla ice-cream.

ashoka buffet restaurant edinburgh desserts

Overal, I was happy with my lunch at the Ashoka Buffet Restaurant. I thought it offered good value for money in a central location. I’ll probably go again to either eat either on my own, or with one other person. However, I’d give it a miss with a party of four, as I think it would be too cramped and awkward to get in and out to the food.

Keep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff

bella italia north berwick interior front

Review of Bella Italia Restaurant in North Berwick, Scotland

Althought we like eating at the Grange when we visit North Berwick, we decided to try somewhere different, the Bella Italia in the High Street, on our most recent visit.

bella italia north berwick exterior

I was attracted by the three course set lunch for £8.95, which seemed to offer great value for money, as the average cost of a plate of fish and chips in a pub was around £8.

bella italia north berwick interior

We both had the Meatball starter which was served with garlic bread.

bella italia north berwick meatball starter

My husband had Scampi, served with chips & salad, for his main course.

bella italia north berwick scampi

I had the Spinach & Ricotta Cannelloni.

bella italia north berwick cannelonni

We both ordered the Cheesecake for dessert.

bella italia north berwick cheesecake

As there was only one portion remaining, we ordered a Chocoate Fudge Cake. It turned out to be a good thing. Although the Cheesecake was good, it was more like a moist sponge and quite sweet. The Chocolate Fudge Cake was excellent; very chocolatey but not too sweet.

bella italia north berwick chocolate fudge cake

It was a good decision to eat at Bella Italia, as the food was really tasty and freshly cooked.  If you’re visiting North Berwick, I recommend that you check if the £8.95 three course lunch is on offer, as it isn’t mentioned on the restaurant’s website.

Review of Bella Italia restaurant in North BerwickKeep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff