Tag Archives: Edinburgh

What to do in Edinburgh, the best Edinburgh attractions and places to stay in Edinburgh.


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.

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

cosmo buffet main course1

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

field of light croci1

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.

field of light1

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.

south leith parish church

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.

south leith parish church1

south leith parish church2

south leith parish church6

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.

grassmarket hotel dandy room

Review of the Grassmarket Hotel Edinburgh

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.

grassmarket hotel exterior

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.

grassmarket hotel view from room

View from my room at the Grassmarket  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.

grassmarket hotel map in room

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.

grassmarket hotel room

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.  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.

Keep it real reviewsKeep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff

quality hotel edinburgh airport1

Review of Quality Hotel Edinburgh Airport

We stayed at the Quality Hotel Edinburgh Airport, now the Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh Airport, for one night in December 2013. I booked the room through the Superbreak site. It cost £86 for a double room including full breakfast and up to 15 days parking. Unfortunately, we couldn’t leave our car in the mono-blocked hotel car park, but had to put it in the long-term car park opposite the hotel, which was icy and full of potholes.

quality hotel edinburgh airport exterior

The hotel is re-branding to the Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh Airport in January 2014. The lobby was being renovated during our stay.

quality hotel edinburgh airport lobby

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.

quality hotel edinburgh airport

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.

Review of the Macdonald Kinloch Rannoch HotelKeep It Real Travel Review No Fluff

royal observatory east tower dome

The Royal Observatory Edinburgh

I finally visited the Royal Observatory Edinburgh during the Doors Open Days in September 2013. I reckoned that the Observatory would be one of the most popular venues, so we set out from Berwick upon Tweed early with the intention of getting to the Observatory by 10.30 at the latest. We arrived soon after 10am; it was easy to find a parking space and to get tickets for first show at the Starlab Planetarium.

royal observatory exterior

The exterior of the Royal Observatory Edinburgh

In the few minutes before the Starlab Planetarium I posed for an infrared photo in the Library. The hottest parts are displayed in red, so I suppose that the red area around my forehead relates to brain activity, while my nose, eyebrows and cheeks were a cooler white colour.

royal observatory infrared image

Infrared photo of me

The Starlab Planetarium was in a domed indoor blow-up tent. The presenter Ally gave an excellent overview of the different seasonal constellations. It was so funny when a young child asked Ally how long it’d take to travel to Mallorca by rocket.

royal observatory east tower dome

Copper dome of the East Tower at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh

There’s a large telescope in the East Tower.

royal observatory telescope1

Telescope in the East Tower

royal observatory telescope

Telescope in the East Tower

royal observatory amazing science

Information board in the East Tower

The views from the rooftop of the Visitor Centre over the city and the Forth Estuary were amazing.

royal observatory view of salisbury crags

View of Salisbury Crags from the rooftop of the Visitor Centre

royal observatory view of edinburgh castle

View of Edinburgh Castle from the rooftop of the Visitor Centre

The Deep Space Gallery was accessed from the rooftop of the Visitor Centre. There were rocket making workshops and meteorite handling sessions taking place in the Gallery.

royal observatory europe light pollution map

Light pollution map of Europe in the Deep Space Gallery

royal observatory deep space gallery

Information about the seasonal constellations in the Deep Space Gallery

Normally individuals can only visit the Royal Observatory Edinburgh during monthly Public Astronomy Evenings. Places need to be booked in advance. The cost is £4 per adult, £3 for concessions and children, payable on entry by cash or cheque.


museum of fire tullis russell

Photo Tour of the Museum of Fire in Edinburgh

We visited the Museum of Fire in Edinburgh during the Doors Open Days in September 2013. I’ve walked past the building in Lauriston Place on many occasions, assuming that it was still an operational fire station.

fire museum me

Me at the Museum of Fire

Edinburgh was the first city in Europe to form a fire brigade, the Edinburgh Fire Establishment in 1824.

museum of fire edinburgh 1824

1824 Edinburgh fire engine at the Museum of Fire

museum of fire control desk

Me in the former control room at the Museum of Fire

The Museum of Fire is home to fire engines from all the UK.

museum of fire huntingdon

Fire engine from Huntingdon in the Museum of Fire

museum of fire helmets

Row of firefighter’s helmets at the Museum of Fire

museum of fire 1901 Tullis Russel

1901 fire engine from Tullis Russel paper mill in Fife at the Museum of Fire

museum of fire ladder

Long ladder stretches up the stairwell at the Museum of Fire

museum of fire models

Models of fire fighting appliances at the Museum of Fire

museum of fire engine

South Eastern Fire Brigade engine

museum of fire dunbar fire engine

Fire engine from Dunbar at the Museum of Fire

The Museum of Fire is staffed by volunteers and is usually open 10.00 -15.00 weekdays, but it’s better to phone in advance to check opening hours on 0131 228 2401.

college of art1

Doors Open Days in Edinburgh

We visited some of the Doors Open Days venues in Edinburgh during the last weekend of September 2013. It was really hard to draw up an intinerary as there were so many interesting venues, predominantly open between 10am – 4pm.

The Royal Observatory Edinburgh

My priority was to see the Royal Observatory Edinburgh, as I’d never been there. We planned to arrive soon after the 10am opening time to find parking outside the Observatory and secure tickets for the Starlab Planetarium.

royal observatory east tower

East Tower of the Royal Observatory Edinburgh

The views over Edinburgh from the rooftop of the Visitor Centre are wonderful.

royal observatory view of arthurs seat

View of Arthur’s Seat from the Rooftop at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh.

We then headed in the city centre. I reckoned that it was too time-consuming to visit more venues on the periphery of Edinburgh. It was easy to find free parking in the city centre on Sunday. We parked close to the Fire Museum and walked around the rest of the venues.

Museum of Fire Edinburgh

The Museum of Fire  has a collection of fire engines from all over the UK.

museum of fire classic

Fire engine from Fraserburgh in the Museum of Fire

museum of fire tullis russell 1901

1901 fire engine from Tullis Russel paper mill in Fife at the Museum of Fire

Edinburgh College of Art

The Edinburgh College of Art has been located in Lauriston Place since 1906. I’ve been in the modern wing during the Degree Show. There were guided tours of the college, but we had a wander around on our own.

college of art exterior

 Exterior of the Edinburgh College of Art

college of art boardroom

The 1960s Boardroom at the Edinburgh College of Art

college of art cupola

Cupola at the Edinburgh College of Art

college of art1

Exhibition at the Edinburgh College of Art

B+B Edinburgh

B+B Edinburgh is a boutique Bed & Breakfast hotel in the fomer home of John Richtie Findlay, owner of the Scotsman newspaper.

B+B Edinburgh stained glass window

Stained glass window at B+B Edinburgh

B+B view

View towards Dean Village from B+B Edinburgh

B+B lampshade

Cloud lampshade in the foyer of B+B Edinburgh

B+B ceiling

Embellished ceiling at B+B Edinburgh

B+B breakfast room

Another unusual lampshade in the Breakfast Room

All in all, we had a really interesting time on the Doors Open Days in Edinburgh. Next year I’m planning to book a hotel room in Edinburgh on the Saturday night, so I can get around more of the venues.

Read more of our articles on what to do in Edinburgh.