Category Archives: Scotland

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

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

old gala house front page me as astronaut

Front Page Exhibition at Old Gala House in Galashiels

The ‘Front Page’ exhibition of iconic magazine covers runs until 8 June 2014 at the Old Gala House museum and gallery in Galashields in the Scottish Borders. The exhibition is made more fun by the various related masks and head gear that you can wear.

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 Dalek cover on Radio Times

old gala house front over nme beth ditto

Beth Ditto cover on NME

old gala house front page sunday times magazine margaret thatcher

 Margaret Thatcher cover on Sunday Times magazine

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Marilyn Monroe cover on SEE

old gala house front page elvis mask

 Me as Elvis by Elvis cut out cover on Time Out

old gala house front page rolling stone john lennon and yoko ono

 John Lennon & Yoko Ono cover on Roilling Stone

old gala house front page nixon tapes newsweek

 Nixon Tapes cover on Newsweek

old gala house front page private eye face transplant

Tony Blair/David Cameron Face Transplant cover on Private Eye

old gala house front page everybody's gene tierney

 Gene Tierney cover on everybody’s

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 Bjork cover on Dazed

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Gail Porter cover on FHM (beamed onto Houses of Parliament)

It’s a good idea to double check the opening hours at Old Gala House by phoning 01896 75261101896 752611 before you visit, as they vary from month to month.

  • March to May and September – Tuesday to Saturday 10.00am-4.00pm
  • June to August – Monday to Saturday 10.00am-4.00pm and Sunday 1.00pm-4.00pm

 

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Review of Cosmo Restaurant in Edinburgh

I had lunch with one of our sons at the Cosmo Restaurant, beside Edinburgh’s Omni Centre, on a Friday in late February. We’d tried to have lunch there on a Saturday a couple of weeks earlier, after it’d been recommended on Twitter, but gave up when we saw the long queue to get a table.

cosmo buffet exterior

As I had to check out of the nearby Travelodge Edinburgh Central Waterloo Place at noon, I decided to walk straight to the restaurant to ensure we’d get a table by the time our son arrived at 12.30. When I arrived at 12.15 there was no queue. I was thoughtfully given a table by the wall so that my luggage would be out of the way.

Arriving early also meant that I could take photos without being in anyone’s way.

cosmo buffet interior

There’s a good selection of Thai, Chinese, Indian and Italian food. However, a couple of serving stations were empty with signs saying that they were only open in the evening.

cosmo buffet main course selection

With the exception of a fatty piece of lamb, all the chicken, beef and seafood that I ate were of very good quality.

cosmo buffet starters

By 12.45 the Cosmo restaurant was full, resulting in lengthy queues at all the serving stations. As it’s a large restaurant, it was getting a bit chaotic with so many people wandering around with platefuls of food. Both our son and I selected food with the easiest access, versus a considered choice, to reduce queueing time.

cosmo buffet main course

The desserts were good, with a selection of Profiteroles, Banoffee Gateau, Toffee Apple Tart, Chocoate Cake, fresh fruit and ice cream.

cosmo buffet desserts

It costs £7.99 for lunch on weekdays. I’d recommend that you either arrive around noon or 13.30 on a weekday; lunch is served until 15.00. The price for lunch goes up to £10.99 on Saturdays (served until 16.00) and £13.99 to eat at any time on Sundays. The website says there is normally a time limit for table occupation of one hour and 45 minutes, which may be reduced to one hour and 30 minutes at busy times, but I don’t know if that’s enforced.

In summary, I thought that the Cosmo Restaurant offered excellent value for money for a tasty, quality selection. I’d prefer to have a larger plate, to reduce the number of times I’d have to queue up for food at busy times and to have more space between the tables.

Keep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff

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Scott’s View near St Boswells in the Scottish Borders

Scott’s View was a favourite viewing point of the Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott, author of Ivanhoe and Rob Roy. It’s located close to the village of St Boswells. scotts view1 It’s another of these places in the Scottish Borders which I’d been meaning to visit for ages. Seeing Scott’s View featured on a TV programme about walking St Cuthbert’s Way from Melrose to Holy Island spurned me into action. A couple of weeks later, we were admiring the view down over the River Tweed with the Eildon Hills on the horizon. scotts view bench There’s a fair bit of parking available, leading me to assume it could get rather busy on a sunny weekend. We were there in late February and had the place to ourselves. You can also visit Smailholme Tower when you’re in the area.

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Field of Light in Edinburgh’s St Andrew Square

The ‘Field of Light’ installation by Bruce Munro in St Andrew Square Edinburgh runs until 27 April 2014. It’s an optic fibre display using 9,500 glass spheres which light up and change colour.

I visited the ‘Field of Light’ in late February. Although it seems strange to complain about the lighter nights, I was hoping it would be dark by 6pm, as I had to leave St Andrew Square at that time to attend an event at 6.30pm. However, with all the traffic and illuminated buildings surrounding the Square, it’s never going to be that dark there.

field of light edinburgh

Although you can see the lights from the perimeter of the Garden, I’d recommend that you visit before 9pm when the Garden closes.

field of lightedinburgh information board

I thought that you’d be able to walk through the lights , but they were cordoned off. I wondered if that was because the ground was so muddy after all the recent rain. Maybe it was for health and safety reasons in case you tripped over the wires.

The lilac croci growing around the bases of the light spheres added a new dimension to the installation.

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The lights were dwarfed by the 42 metre high Melville Monument in the centre of St Andrew Square Garden.

field of light edinburgh meville monument

Get more ideas for planning your trip in our tips for things to do in Edinburgh.

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Photo Tour of Falkland, Fife, Scotland

If you’re a fan of the Outlander TV series you’ll see the Scottish vililage of Falkland, masquerading as Inverness in the 1940s, featured in a forthcoming episode.

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The High Street in Falkland

I had a wander around the village in the late afternoon before checking into the Bruce Inn. Heavy rain was forecast for the next morning, so I thought I’d better get my photos taken there and then,

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The Bruce Fountain in Falkland

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Burn by Falkland Parish Church

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Floral cart in Falkland

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Close up of one of the lion’s heads on the Bruce Fountain

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Mill Wynd in Falkirk

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House in the High Street in Falkland

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The Bruce Fountain in Falkland

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Falkland Palace

Falkland Palace

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Sculpture in grounds of Falkland Palace

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Autumn colours in grounds of Falkland Palace

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Crown on roof at Falkland Palace

If you’re in the area on a dry day, take a hike up Falkland Hill for views over Fife and over the Forth Estuary to Edinburgh.

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South Leith Parish Church Edinburgh

I stumbled across South Leith Parish Church on my way to the Raj on the Shore restaurant. The church was opposite a none too attractive shopping precinct.

south leith parish church ventura

The incongruity continued with a block of flats at the other side of the church yard.

south leith parish church with flats in background

There were several arched structures in the church yards built to house individual memorials, but their roofs and most of their gates were long gone.

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south leith parish church2

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There were lots of interesting grave stones, but as the rain was getting heavier, my photo session was cut short. Not for personal reasons, as I was clad in my waterproof jacket and trousers, but because neither my Samsung or mobile phone cameras could cope with much rain.

south lieth parish church headstones

south leith parish church skull

south lieth parish church sign

I’m planning to return to South Leith Parish Church on a brighter day to have a better look around.

cocktail making equipment

Girl’s Weekends: A Guide to a Night Out in Aberdeen

Aberdeen, otherwise known as ‘The Granite City’ because of the material from which its buildings are made, is the most desirable place to live in United Kingdom and it shows. People from all over England are moving there because of its deep roots in history, low unemployment rate and low crime statistics. It’s little known, however, that Aberdeen is truly a young city with a diverse night life, making it the perfect spot for a weekend away. So read this guide, grab your girls and get yourself to Aberdeen. We’ve put together recommendations for whatever kind of night you want to experience, be it beach, hen party or musical.

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Union Terrace in Aberdeen by Library of Congress

Beach Night

If you fancy a higher-class do or something a little different from the standard drink and dance, look no further than Aberdeen’s beach. Located within the city, it’s a great spot to spend with your ladies. You could make your own party, by cracking open the champagne, getting a good quality food hamper, and plugging your phone into a mini-amp to play your favourite Beyoncé Spotify playlist. You don’t have to spend tons of money to have a fantastic time. There have even been sightings of dolphins in the sea, so bring your binoculars, kick back and relax, unless you’re brave enough to actually attempt to ride them.

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Aberdeen Beach Front by Gordon Robertson

Hen Do

Has he popped the question or are you sure he’s going to? Well then, this is the section for you. If done properly, a hen do can be the best night of your life. We actually think it is much more fun than your wedding night! Make sure that you do it in style – you are marking the end of an era after all. To ensure a fantastic transformation from singleton to married woman, prestigious hen events organisations like Hen Heaven have a variety of packages, from clay pigeon shooting to cocktail making lessons. Better yet, you won’t have to sort out a hotel as it is all included in the package, as is a queue jump to the local nightclub. Pretty good, huh? If you’re interested, check out their website for prices.

cocktail making equipment

Cocktail making equipment by Callum Mckain

Posh Night

As Aberdeen is surrounded by forests and sea, the city has many fine eateries, each selling fresh produce that visitors of the area adore. Bistro Verde, a local’s favourite, is the prime location for the fresh catch of the day from Aberdeen’s fresh waters.

After you’ve finished wining and dining your girls, be sure to move to the nearest jazz club, The Blue Lamp. The club is a local’s favourite, sponsored by Jazz Scotland, the prestigious music promoter. The Blue Lamp puts on nights from orchestra to experimental and people from all over Scotland flock to experience the internationally-renowned talent that perform on the prestigious stage such as the Aberdeen Jazz Orchestra. Don’t believe us? We’ll leave you with one of AJO’s top hits, Belly Roll:

We’ve more tips on fun things do in Aberdeen.

Review of the Royal Hotel in Blairgowrie

I stayed at the Royal Hotel in Blairgowrie, Pertshire, Scotland for one night in October 2013. I searched the lowest price on HotelsCombined; a single room cost £39 including breakfast on LateRooms. There was traffic chaos in Blairgowrie; the access road from the east, Rattray High St, was closed and there were road works in the town centre. I decided to park the car at a supermarket and find the hotel on foot.

royal hotel exterior

The hotel looks impressive from the exterior. Unfortunately it’s another example of a hotel giving a misleading impression on their photos. My standard room was in a 1980s annexe at the side. There is a small car park at the hotel, but was full so I thought I’d move the car up a parking space closer to the hotel after the parking restrictions finished at 5.30pm.

I was asked at what time I’d like breakfast upon check-in. I’d rather not be tied to a specific time.

On entering my room I felt like I was stepping back a few decades into a Butlins chalet. At least the bedroom was warm. Although as the bathroom had no heater, it was on the chilly side. There was mould along the base of the shower cubicle. I didn’t like the fact that instead of changing the duvet, there was a top sheet.

royal hotel room

The worst aspect of the room was the armchair, which was in a disgraceful state. It’s not acceptable to have grotty chair like that in a hotel bedroom. Especially when the hotel’s website claims that “all rooms are furnished to the highest standard”. Now I did think of going back down to reception to ask for another room, but I couldn’t be bothered. I checked that the bed and the towels were clean and didn’t use the armchair, there was another chair I could use to work at the desk..

royal hotel chair

I reckon that it’d have been easy for a thief to get in through the bedroom window as the catch felt quite wobbly. I certainly wouldn’t leave anything valuable lying in the room when I went out.

I’d requested a quiet room; my room overlooked some kind of garage. I did have a good night’s sleep, ,which is unusual in a town centre on a Saturday night.

The breakfast buffet consisted of cereal, watery low-fat yoghurt and fruit juice, Some fresh fruit would’ve been a welcome addition.

royal hotel breakfast buffet

The breakfast was cooked to order and you could have porridge instead of cereal.

royal  hotel breakfast

I couldn’t take a photo of the restaurant. as there were other guests there. The photo below is of the cafe area. The restaurant was certainly much more stylish than my room.

royal hotel cafe

When I checked out I wasn’t asked how my stay had been, as I was ready to launch into a tirade about that chair but i thought that could wait for my review.

In summary, I wouldn’t recommend a stay in a standard room at the Royal Hotel in Blairgowrie. I thought it was poor value for money; my room was dreary ,old-fashioned and that armchair should be either binned or re-covered. The breakfast was nothing to write home about.

If you’re ei in Blairgowrie, take a walk along the River Ericht to admire the sculptures included in our ten things to do in Perthshire.

blairgowriefishsculpture

Keep it real reviewsKeep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff

Review of the Bruce Inn Falkland

I stayed at the Bruce Inn in Falkland in Fife in east central Scotland for one night in October 2013 .I searched for the lowest price on HotelsCombined – a single room with breakfast cost £45 on Booking.com. The hotel is located in the High Street opposite Falkland Palace.

I found out that there is a family connection with the Bruce Inn. When I told my Dad that I was staying there, he said that my Mum’s cousin and her husband ran the Inn around 50 years ago.

bruce inn exterior

The entrance to the Bruce Inn

When I checked into the hotel, I was taken aback that there was a shared bathroom. I didn’t say anything until I checked it out on the booking.com site. Right enough, when I clicked on the individual room description it did say shared bathroom. I have to take some responsiblity for not carefully checking the room details, but at £45 a night it never crossed my mind that it wasn’t an ensuite room. However, I think it that the shared bathroom should be made a lot more obvious in the hotel description page on the Booking.com. Free parking and WiFi were certainly prominently featured in the description, although it’s not the hotel’s own car park, and the free WiFi didn’t work in my room due to the thick walls. My advice is to make sure that you check out the individual room description before booking any room on Booking.com.

bruce inn room

My room at the Bruce Inn Falkland

My room was at the front of the building directly opposite Falkland Palace and I loved the aspect of the room. The room was cosy when I arrived.  I was glad that it was only me in the double room which I was allocated. The TV was on a coffee table at the window, so when you shut the curtains, you had to move the table and TV into the middle of the room. There wasn’t a teaspoon on the tea and coffee tray. I could’ve gone down to the bar to ask for one, but I carry a spoon in my handbag.

bruce inn view to falkland palace

Falkland Palace from my room at the Bruce Inn

The bed was comfy, but I didn’t sleep well as I could hear quite a lot of traffic noise through the single glazed window. The shared bathroom was clean but cold, as it didn’t have a heater. I couldn’t get the shower door to close properly, so the floor outside the shower cubicle was pretty wet by the time I’d finished showering.

Breakfast was good with Muller corner yoghurts and Special K with Red Berries cereal. The cooked items were freshly prepared to order,

bruce inn breakfast

Breakfast at the Bruce Inn

Overall, I was disappointed by the Bruce Inn, predominantly by the cold, shared bathroom. If I’d been aware of the shared bathroom, I wouldn’t have booked the room.

If the weather’s reasonable when you’re in the area, you should climb Falkland Hill.for great views over to Edinburgh.

Keep it real reviewsKeep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff