I stayed at the Grassmarket Hotel in Edinburgh for one night in November 2013 on a complimentary basis. The hotel is at a central location, close to Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile.
The exterior of the Grassmarket Hotel
The receptionist who checked me in was charming. I was allocated a double room on the first floor. I liked the view from my room. The secondary double glazing shut out most of the exterior noise.
View from my room at the GrassmarketÂ Hotel
I thought that my room was quirky and fun. There was a large map of central Edinburgh on the wall opposite the bathroom door.
Edinburgh map in room at the Grassmarket Hotel
The wall above the desk had Dandy comic front pages as wallpaper. The red kettle, teapot and colourful mugs all added to the upbeat atmosphere. There were a couple of single-serving ground coffee packs, herbal teas and Tunnock’s Teacakes. The bathroom was very swish with dark tiles and a walk in shower with a rainhead fitting. The towels were fluffy and the toiletries lovely. The bed was very comfortable, with excellent quality linen and pillows.
Although the WiFi in my room was reasonable on the afternoon of checking in, it became awful that evening and the next morning. I didn’t want to go down to the lobby to work, so I connected to mobile broadband with my USB modem. I was awakened at 7am by the TV in the neighbouring room. I don’t know if the occupants had the volume high or if the TV was on the adjoining wall, meaning that the wall acted like an amplifier.
My room at the Grassmarket Hotel Edinburgh
I was told at check-in that breakfast was served in Biddy’s Bar, the pub next door, until 12.00. I went down for breakfast around 10am. There were a few items out buffet-style, some melon, cereals, ham and cheese that looked a bit dried out, fruit juice, bread to make your own toast with and croissants.Â I ordered the bacon, French Toast and maple syrup.
When there was no sign of my cooked breakfast after around 20 minutes, I went over to the bar to enquire when it would arrive. That member of staff said I’d need to speak to someone else. I spotted the member of staff who had taken my order and went over to ask her. She told me that, when she asked me if I wanted to order a cooked breakfast, I said I didn’t want anything. I was taken aback by this response which was shifting the blame to me. I just left the pub, as I wanted to check out soon and wasn’t prepared to beg for my breakfast.
There must have been some misunderstanding/confusion about my order, mistakes do happen, but the responses from both staff were very unsatisfactory and inappropriate.
In my opinion, the first member of staff I approached should have said she “would find out what was happening”, instead of taking the stance that it was nothing to do with her. The member of staff who I thought had taken my order should have said, “sorry about that, what did you order, I’ll get it for you as soon as possible”.
In summary, I was left feeling very ambivalent about the Grassmarket Hotel. I loved the location and most aspects of the room, but the poor WiFi, the noise from the adjacent room and the issues over breakfast spoiled my stay.
After a drive of around 15 miles south from a wet and windy stop in St Andrews, we were delighted to arrive in a sunny Lower Largo on the Fife coast.
Lower Largo Harbour
There’s a fascinating sculpture, ‘Malagan’ by local artist Alan Faulds, in his garden by the beach. Faulds was inpsired to create the work after visiting Lithuania in 2007, where he saw many Roofed Poles, tall structures like totem poles by the roadside. The name Malagan comes from the wooden ceremonial sculptures made in the New Ireland region of Papua New Guinea.
‘Malagan’ in Lower Largo
Â Close up of ‘Malagan’ in Lower Largo
I assumed that this gate, across the road from the sculpture, lead to Alan Faulds’ home.
I stayed at the Mercure Perth Hotel in Scotland for one night in November 2013, on a complimentary basis, when attending the Perth Chocolate Festival. The hotel is in the city centre and has a free car park for guests operated on a first come, first served system.
The exterior of the Mercure Perth Hotel
The building was originally a 15th century watermill; you can see evidence of this by the reception, where part of a large water wheel is exposed and you can see the water flowing underneath through a glass panel.
Â The waterwheel and glass viewing panels in the Mercure Perth Hotel
I was allocated a twin room on the first floor. I thought that I might hear some exterior noise through the single glazed panelled window, but I wasn’t disturbed. The room was quite plainÂ but very clean, with comfortable beds, an armchair and a high-backed chair at the desk. The free WiFi was very good. I liked the fact that the bath was large enough to lie in. There was an enormous built-in wardrobe.
My room at the Mercure Perth Hotel
There was warm water running from the cold tap in the bathroom. I know that you sometimes get this for a few seconds if the hot and cold water pipes lie close to each other, but this lasted for much longer. There was a keyboard, using the TV as a monitor, so that, in theory, you wouldn’t need to bring your own computer. However, the keyboard wasn’t much use as the letter A was missing. This didn’t affect me as I had my own laptop with me.
There were more remnants of the former watermill in the restaurant. The tables were well spaced; many restaurants have their tables so close together.
Restaurant at the Perth Mercure Hotel
There was a buffet selection of cold items such as cereal, yoghurt and fresh fruit, but you had to order a cooked breakfast. Tea and coffee was served at your table, a good thing to avoid queues at hot drinks machines. The cooked breakfast was good, especially the tomatoes and mushrooms.
Cooked breakfast at the Mercure Perth Hotel
I enjoyed my stay at the Mercure Perth Hotel. All the staff are really friendly and helpful, creating a very warm, welcoming atmosphere in the hotel. The central location means that you can walk to a wide selection of shops, bars, restaurants and cafes, as well as the Fergusson Gallery, Perth Theatre and Concert Hall, the River Tay and the North and South Inch within a few minutes. My room was comfortable, it was good to have a decent WiFi signal and the breakfast was fresh with good quality, tasty food.
The hotel is re-branding to the Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh Airport in January 2014. The lobby was being renovated during our stay.
Our first floor room felt as if it had been recently refurbished; the downside of that was that there was some residual smell from the redecorating, probably due to the room not being aired enough. The bathroom was lovely with a large shower. It was disappointing that the water flow varied in temperature. There was a neat little shelved area with the tea and coffee making facilities leaving the desk space free. The office chair by the desk was so comfy, I wished that I had one like that at home.
Although the hotel offered free WiFi the signal in our room was awful, so I had to use my USB modem. It didn’t feel as though the bed was new, it was a bit soft and lumpy. The duvet wasn’t large enough to cover us both properly. We could hear planes taking off through the double glazing. With decent sound insulation, e.g. as used at the Citizen M hotel at Amsterdam Airport, it is possible to have a quiet room close to an airport.
We had breakfast in the Auberge Restaurant. There was a continental buffet with cooked breakfast to order. However, when the hotel re-brands to Holiday Inn Express, it’ll be a standard Holiday Inn Express breakfast on offer.
In summary, the Quality Hotel Edinburgh Airport was a mixed bag. I liked the room size and decor and the price was reasonable. But they really should’ve aired the revamped rooms before letting to guests, fitted a decent thermostat to the shower, bought new beds and some larger duvet covers, and filled in the potholes in the long-term car park.
We stayed at the Macdonald Loch Rannoch Hotel in Kinloch Rannoch, near Pitlcochry in Perthshire. on a Saturday night during October 2013. I had a 10% discount code for Hotels.com which brought the price of a double room including breakfast down to Â£76. I checked that I couldn’t find a lower price with another accommodation site using the HotelsCombined price comparison site before booking with Hotels.com.
Madonald Loch Rannoch Hotel
I liked the stags etched onto the entrance doors. The first thing that I noticed upon entering was that it was lovely and warm. Some hotels in the Scottish countryside can be distinctly chilly.
Stag on glass of door at Macdonald Loch Rannoch Hotel
The lobby is traditional, there’s a beautiful staircase with stained glass windows.
Stained glass window in stairwell at Macdonald Loch Rannoch Hotel
I had requested a room with a loch view on a high floor and this request was fulfilled. Unfortunately, we checked in after dark so couldn’t appreciate the view that evening. The double bed was two single beds joined together. The beds were comfy and the room was very clean.
Double room at Macdonald Loch Rannoch Hotel
Our room was on the small side, especially the bathroom which was like a corridor. Both the sink and bath plugs had fallen off their chains. This made it hard to pull up the plug to empty the bath. I don’t know who fitted the bedroom carpet, as it was all rumpled. There were a limited number of TV channels.
The hotel charges a ridiculous Â£10 a day for internet access through BT OpenZone. As a BT broadband customer, I was able to connect free of charge. The WiFi signal in the room was excellent. I was surprised that I was able to pick up a good Vodafone mobile broadband signal on my phone.
When we opened the curtains the next morning Loch Rannoch was shrouded in mist, which lay there for a couple of hours.
Sunrise over Loch Rannoch from our room
The deer antler chandelier in the restaurant was unusual.
Deer antler chandelier in restaurant at Macdonald Loch Rannoch Hotel
The breakfast was really good for a three star hotel. The buffet included fresh fruit salad, water and honeydew melon, fruits of the forest compote and freshly squeezed orange juice. You’d to order cooked breakfast. I thought it was bad form to charge a supplement for any of the fish options. They should’ve either been included in the breakfast price or left off the menu.
Breakfast buffet at Macdonald Loch Rannoch Hotel
Overall, I really enjoyed my stay at the Macdonald Loch Rannoch Hotel; I found it quirky and charming with much better breakfast than in many three star Highland hotels. Yes, the rooms could do with a refit, but the location is fab and the hotel is full of character.
We stayed at the Best Western Queens Hotel Perth for one night in October 2013. I found the lowest price of Â£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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I loved the salmon sculputres by the estuary. Each fish had a different expression.
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.
Chocolate Fountain at the Perth Chocolate Festival
Lush Spa chocolate facial at Perth Chocolate Festival
A selection from Iain Burnett, the Highland Chocolatier, at Perth Chocolate Festival