Category Archives: Scotland

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

Pickering’s Gin Made in the Summerhall Distillery Edinburgh

We visited Summerhall with our son Gary during the Edinburgh Open Doors weekend in late September.

Until 2011,  Summerhall was home to the Royal Dick Veterinary School. I have family connections with the Vet School;  my brother studied there and my husband worked there.

I already knew that Summerhall has been transformed into a creative art hub, as Gary had been to some gigs there. Gary was also aware that there was a brewery at Summerhall.  But we didn’t know that since last year there’s  been a distillery making  Pickering’s Gin at Summerhall.

pickering's gin at summerhall distillery edinburgh - scooter

The head distiller Chris gave a presentation, and then offered some neat samples. As a teetotaller, I didn’t try any. Gary who isn’t a gin drinker, thought it was very good.

pickering's gin at summerhall distillery edinburgh - display cabinet

It’s a pretty small distillery with the bottling done by hand.

pickering's gin at summerhall distillery edinburgh - bottling

There was a vintage Pickering’s Gin delivery van parked outside Summerhall Distillery.

pickering's gin at summerhall distillery edinburgh - vintage delilvery van

I can imagine the trailer, parked in the courtyard, proving very popular at outdoor events.

pickering's gin at summerhall distillery edinburgh - vintage trailer

Usually, you need to contact Summerhall Distillery to book a tour, which costs £10.

Cambuskenneth Abbey in Stirling, Scotland

Cambuskenneth Abbey is located by the River Forth in the outskirts of Stirling. If you visit by car, you need to head in the Alloa direction on the A907 and look our for the turn off to Cambuskenneth.

looking towards Cambuskenneth Abbey in Stirling

However, it’s’ possible to visit Cambuskenneth Abbey on foot from Stirling city centre. If you head down to Riverside, there’s a footbridge over the river to Cambuskenneth. The blossom trees by the bridge were so beautiful when I was there.

blossom treess by bridge to cambuskenneth

Cabuskenneth Abbey is maintained by Historic Scotland and it’s free to enter.

gate into cambuskenneth abbey in stirling scotland

The Abbey was founded in 1140.  Robert Bruce’s parliament assembled there is 1326. James III and his wife, Margaret of Denmark, were buried there in the 1480s.

arched entrance to graveyard at cambuskenneth abbey in stirling

Cambuskenneth Abbey’s free standing bell tower was built in the 13th century.

cambuskenneth abbey in stirling scotland

By 1560, the Abbey was a ruin, with the land being used as a quarry. It’s believed that the Bell Tower survived, being put to use as a lookout tower over the Carse of Stirling by the local Earl of Mar.

cambuskenneth abbey in scotland

You can see the Wallace Monument from Cambuskenneth Abbey.

wallce monument from cambuskenneth abbey

If you walk down to the banks of  the River Forth, you’ll get great views towards the Ochil Hills.

looking toward the Ochil Hills from Cambuskenneth Abbey in Stirling

If you’re in the Stirling area between April to September (the months in which the grounds are open), I recommend a visit to Cambuskenneth Abbey.

Review of Premier Inn Edinbugh South Queensferry

I stayed at the Premier Inn Edinburgh South Queensferry on a Thursday night in early May 2015.  I paid £35 on the non-refundable advance booking rate, booked on the Premier Inn website.

I’d stayed at the hotel a couple of years ago, when I thought that it was looking a little tired, but I read that the rooms had since been refurbished.

Now, although technically the town of South Queensferry falls within the City of Edinburgh boundary, it lies 10 miles west of the city centre. It’s a good location if you have an early departure or late return from Edinburgh Airport, as outwith rush hour, it takes around ten minutes to drive from the hotel to the airport.

On arrival at the Premier Inn Edinburgh South Queensferry in the early evening, it was hard to find a space in the car park, which is shared with the adjacent Brewer’s Fayre restaurant.

I was allocated a room on the second (top) floor at the front of the hotel. My room had a good view of the construction of the Queensferry Crossing, as well as the current Forth Road Bridge.

view of bridge from room at premier inn edinburgh south queensferry

According to the receptionist, Premier Inn spent £13,000 per room on the refurbishment. It was looking great. There was a well padded golden headboard above the bed. The sofa looked brand new and the Hypnos bed was very comfy.

The desk was large and had plenty of electrical sockets in which to charge my netbook and mobile phones.

desk space in room at the premier inn edinburgh south queensferry

The orientation of the room worked well. it was sunny in the evening, with a welcome lack of morning sunshine. I tried to open the window, but it seemed to be sealed, I assume that was because the room had air-con.

double room at premier inn edinburgh south queensferyy

The bathroom was looking fresh, but still had a shower curtain. I think that Premier Inn should’ve put in a shower screen.

For me, the new and refurbished Premier Inns offer as high a standard of room as I need. Plus, the 2pm check-in and 12 noon check-out times are some of the best in the industry.  If you can get a room for around £30 a night, it’s good value for money. But with rooms in most of the Premier Inns in Edinburgh often costing between £70 – £100 a night, even on the non-refundable Saver rate, I wouldn’t classify Premier Inn as a budget hotel chain.

Exploring the Grounds of the House of the Binns in Scotland

When I stayed at the Premier Inn Edinburgh South Queensferry, I decided to go for a walk in the grounds of the House of the Binns, which lies off the A904 between South Queensferry and Bo’ness in central Scotland.

The current house was built by the Dalyell family in the early 17th century. The house and grounds were gifted to the National Trust in 1944, but the Dalyell family retained the right to live there.

the house of the binns in scotland

The strange sounding name originates from the Celtic binn, meaning the peak or summit of a hill. That’s appropriate, as the House of the Binns sits in an elevated position overlooking the Forth Estuary. You get some great views of Blackness Castle, which sits by the water.

blackness castle from the house of the binns

I took the short Woodland Walk to the Tower. It was built in 1826, on what is believed to have been the site of a Pictish fort. Unfortunately, you can’t enter the Tower.

tower at the house of the binns

There’s a trio of picnic benches with views over the Forth Estuary.

picnic benches at the house of the binns in scotland

The peacocks who live in the grounds seem quite tame, I was able to stand around one metre from them. One was heading for the net in the play area.

peacock by net in play area at the house of the binns in scotland

Another, strutting past a rhododendron, made for a very colourful photo.

peacock in grounds at the house of the binns in scotland

There’s a peacock feather sculpture in the driveway.

peacock feathers sculpture at the house of the binns in scotland

I spent quite a while in the garden, which offered shelter from the wind. Initially, I sat on a bench under the blossom tree.

blossom tree in garden at the house of the binns in scotland

The I moved to another bench to admire the bluebells.

garden at the house of the binns in scotland

The grounds at the House of the Binns are open all year. You can only visit the house on a guided tour between June to September, Wednesdays to Sundays, from 14.00-1700.

Review of Airth Castle Hotel in Scotland

I booked one night at the Airth Castle Hotel in Stirlingshire, Scotland on the ebookers app. Through the combination of a 15% ebookers hotel discount code (earned through leaving a review for an earlier hotel stay booked through ebookers), £3.79 of credit earned through the ebookers Bonus+ reward scheme, and a 10% mobile deal discount, I paid £40 for one person in a suite including breakfast.

Now I’m always dubious about the exact location of the room in which I’ll stay at grand sounding hotels, as the lower priced rooms always seem to be in some type of annexe, rather than the main building.

airth castle in stirlingshire scotland

Sure enough my room wasn’t in the castle itself, but in a huge modern building, which appeared to have been constructed around the original stables.

entrance to reception at airth castle hotel in stirlingshire

I’d never classify a single hotel room as a suite, as to me a suite means more than one room. But usually, as was also the case at the Airth Castle Hotel, that one room is a decent size. There was a sofa, as well as two armchairs and a small table. It was a proper king size bed, as opposed to two single matresses laid on a large base. The bed was really comfortable.

The dark-stained wooden furniture made the room feel old fashioned and it was looking tired due to the multitude of small chips. The upholstery on the sofa and chairs was in good condition.

suite at airth castle hotel

I was surprised that there were no toiletries in the bathroom, not even a bar of soap. It stated in the guest information booklet, that you had to request toiletries at reception. I queried this on check-out and the receptionist appeared to think there should have been toiletries in the room. It wasn’t really an issue for me. As I was travelling by car, I’d brought my vanity case. But I do think that there should be toiletries in the bathroom of a four star hotel.

The free WiFi had a very good signal.

The room faced onto some open ground between the hotel building and an upmarket housing estate. Between the great bed and the quiet location, I slept well that night.

It may seem a strange thing to say when in Scotland, but it was too bright in the conservatory style restaurant where I had breakfast.

restaurant at airth castle hotel in stirlingshire

The large white lampshades suspended from the ceiling looked a bit like cacti doughnuts.

bar area at airth castle hotel in stirlingshire

The buffet section included fruit juice, cereal, yoghurts, fruit, bread and pastries. The Danish pastries were fresh and yummy.

airth castle hotel breakfast buffet

A hot breakfast was cooked to order.

airth castle hotel cooked breakfast

You really need your own transport to stay at the Airth Castle Hotel. Although It’s in a central location, near the Kincardine and Clackmannanshire Bridges over the Forth Estuary, Airth is only a village. I’d recommend a visit to see the giant kelpie sculptures at Helix Park (a 15 minute drive from the hotel), and the Pineapple building, with its adjacent woodland walk, which lies a couple of miles from the hotel.

kelpies

In summary, I really enjoyed my stay at the Airth Castle Hotel. It was excellent value for money at £40 for the night. The room was spacious, quiet and comfortable and the breakfast was good quality. It’s probably wise to take your own toiletries with you.

Click here to compare prices for the Airth Castle Hotel on the HotelsCombined price comparison website.

Photo Tour of the Fergusson Gallery Perth Scotland

The Fergusson Gallery in Perth showcases the work of the Scottish Colourist painter John Fegusson and his partner, dance pioneer and artist, Margaret Morris.

fergusson gallery exterior

The gallery, which opened in 1992, is housed in a former waterworks building.

fergusson gallery exterior sculpture

John Fergusson was born in Leith, Edinburgh. He spent a large part of his life in France in the company of other artists including Matisse and Picasso.

fergusson gallery10

‘At My Studio Window’ (1910) by Fergusson

fergusson gallery11

‘The White Dress: Portrait of Jean’ (1904)

fergusson gallery8

‘Two Nudes’ (1959) by Fergusson

fergusson gallery2

‘Danu, Mother of the Gods’ (1952) by Fergusson

There’s an Impressionist door as you enter the first floor gallery.

fergusson gallery impressionist door

Margaret Morris was born in London. By the age of 19, she had developed her own system for dance training.

fergusson gallery margaret morris

Margaret Morris

fergusson gallery dance

Typical Margaret Morris movement poses

She was frequently the model for Fergusson. ‘Megevian’ below was painted in 1931.

fergusson gallery3

The Fergusson Gallery is open Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10am – 5pm, and on Sundays from noon to 4.30pm from early April to late October. It’s free to enter.

 

Glass Exhibition in Perth Museum Scotland

I loved the ‘Dazzle: A Glossary of Glass’ gallery at Perth Museum. My favourite piece was a hare entitled ‘Glare’ by Rachel Mary Elliot.

perth museum glass exhibition hare

The Perthshire Blacksheep sculpture by Carrie Fertig had a serene yet quizzical expression.

perth museum glass exhibition sheep sculpture

I visited Perth Museum after dark. I think that the glass displays would look wonderful when the sun is shining through the glass dome of the rotunda above the gallery.

perth museum glass exhibition yellow and lilac pieces

perth museum glass exhibition1

perth museum glass exhibition

glass exhibition perth museum vases

Perth Museum is open Tuesday to Saturday 10 am to 5 pm and Sundays 10 am to 5 pm (April to October) with free entry.

Review of the Khublai Khan Restaurant in Edinburgh

I had lunch with our son Gary at the Khublai Khan restaurant in the Leith district of Edinburgh.

khublai Khan Edinburgh exterior

I’ve eaten the evening buffet a couple of other Khublai Khan restaurants in Glasgow and Newcastle, but never had lunch there.

The interior was large. As it was quiet, all customers were seated in area next to the fire.

khubai khan edinburgh fireplace

We selected a main course from the Lunch Menu, we both went for the Kangaroo Meatballs, served with Mushroom Sauce and either Mashed Potato or Tagliatelle, which cost £6.95. We added for the ‘Meal Deal’, which for an additional £2 each incluced soup and a soft drink.

We weren’t informed of the type of soup, but it was tasty and served with a slice of warm bread. I really enjoyed the Kangaroo Meatballs, The meat was tender with a slightly sweet flavour.

khublai Khan Edinburgh meatballs

I’d recommend lunch at the Khublai Khan Restaurant in Edinburgh. I thought that at £9 for a two course meal with a drink it was good value for money. The waitress was very friendly and the atmosphere relaxed.

 

Glasgow Versus Edinburgh: Which Gets Your Vote?

There’s a long standing rivalry between the Scottish cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh over which is top dog. Although Edinburgh is the Scottish capital, Glasgow is the country’s largest city. Reserve Apartments have entered the fray with their Glasgow vs Edinburgh infographic.

It you click on the infographic below, it’ll take you to the original article. There, you can vote for your favourite city under the categories of food and drink, attractions, music and culture by clicking on the score charts.

Looking at the current scores, Glasgow is winning on most fronts. But you can change that with your votes.

glasgow vs edinburgh

Here’s my opinion on each of the categories.

Food and Drink

As I’m a teetotaller, I can’t comment on the beers. Foodwise, neither toffee or haggis get my vote. Regarding restaurants, we don’t frequent relatively expensive establishments such as the Devonshire Gardens or the Witchery. However, Glasgow gets my vote on the food front for a great selection of restaurants at very reasonable prices, e.g. Cook and Indi’s World Buffet in Sauchiehall Street which costs £10 per adult all day on Sundays.

cook and indi

Attractions

While Edinburgh Castle is an intergal part of the city, the £16 adult admission fee is a bit steep.

edinburgh castle

Edinburgh Castle dominates the city’s skyline

Whereas, Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is free of charge and full of interest for all ages.

glasgow kelvingrove art gallery and museum

Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum

I prefer the intimacy of the Greyfriars Bobby sculpture in Edinburgh, to the tall Duke of Wellington sculpture wearing his traffic cone hat, in Glasgow.

greyfriars bobby

Greyfriars Bobby

Music

I’m not a fan of any of the singers or bands mentioned in the infographic. Being a typical proud Mum, I have to mention our sons. Simon is a DJ in Glasgow and has written about the Glasgow music scene for Europe a la Carte.

simon bryan dj

Simon in action by Subcity Radio

Our other son Gary is in the heavy metal band Winter Lizard, based in Edinburgh.

gary winter lizard

Gary on guitar

Culture

Although Glasgow’s Robbie Coltrane may be best known as Hagrid in ‘Harry Potter’, my favourite Coltrane character is the lead in the ‘Cracker’ TV series.

robbie coltrane

Robbie Coltrane as Hagrid in ‘Harry Potter’ by Karen Roe

In my opinion, Edinbugh born Sean Connery was the best James Bond.

sean connery as james bond in you only live twice

Sean Connery as Bond in ‘You Only Luve Twice’

Review of Mr Basrai’s World Cuisines Restaurant Edinburgh

We had Sunday lunch at Mr Basrai’s World Cuisines Restaurant in Edinburgh’s Fountainpark Centre at the end of October 2014. The restaurant had been recommended to our son, who lives in Edinburgh, by one of his work colleagues.

mr basrai's view of edinburgh

I liked the fact that the tables had a bit more space between them than in other buffet restaurants in Edinburgh, e.g the Cosmo. There were also discrete sections in the restuarant, which made it feel less like a large canteen.

mr basrai's interior1

The way that the  buffet selection was laid out down two sides and in smaller central counters meant that it was easier to access the food.  The food displays were very attractively presented.

mr basrai's starter display

My favourte starters were the Goat’s Cheese Salad and the Butternut Squash Pate.

mr basrai's starters

You can order freshly cooked food. You place your order, giving your table number, and it’s brought to your table. I opted for the fish selection.

mr basrai's catch of day fish

However, putting a limit of two on the Tiger Prawns seemed to be in contradiction to the supposed “all-you-can-eat” buffet. Now you can return to the live cooking station to order more food, but if it’s busy you’d have to queue up again.

mr basrai's fish

My favourite main couse was the Prawns in Mongolian Sauce. I wish that the prawns had been shelled, as it was messy getting them out of the shells.

mr basrai's mussels and prawns

The dessert selection was impressive.

mr basrai's dessert display

The Passion Fruit Cheesecake was a bit disappointing, as it was a bit fluffy. I enjoyed the Apple Crumble with custard, and the Mint Ice Cream. The ice cream wasn’t self service. I can appreciate that it makes easier to keep the serving area clean, but we had a wait a while for a member of staff to appear.

mr basrai's desserts

It costs £13 per person all day on a Sunday. On Friday and Saturday,  lunch costs £10, Monday to Thursday it’s £7.99.

In summary, I thought that the quality and selection of food at Mr Basrai’s World Cuisines Restaurant was excellent. But I do think they should lift the restrictions on food at the live cooking stations. Next time I’ll go for lunch on a Saturday, to pay £3 less.

Review of Mr Basrai's World Cuisines Restaurant in EdinburghKeep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff