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Scotland

    Where to go in Scotland – the best road trip ever

    If you are undecided about road tripping through the Scottish Highlands, just go. Simply get in a car, add a bottle or two of wine for an evening, a couple of snacks, good company and a GPS. 

    Where to go in Scotland - Skye Road Trip

    That’s all you need for an amazing journey of awe-inspiring landscapes, curious beauty and quirky discoveries.

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    Sipping our way through the Scottish Isles

    A realm of faerie-stories, kilted clansmen and bagpipes, we knew that visiting the Scottish highlands we were going to see beautiful scenery, but we weren’t quite prepared for the variety of stunning vistas that seemed to appear ever time we turned a corner.

    Isle of Skye, Scotland

    From the civilised streets of Edinburgh we wended our way into the
    Northern Highlands, stopping overnight to visit Nessie in Loch Ness,
    snuck as many castles stops as I could into the itinerary, passed
    through the Trossachs, sipped proper Scotch, admired the spirit of kilt wearers, watched the sun set and the mist lift on the Isle of Skye.

    Isle of Skye, Scotland

    Isle of Skye, Scotland

    We roadtripped over Easter and travelled miles, but they seemed to stretch even longer than usual,
    owing mostly to wanting to stop every 5 seconds as another breathtaking
    vista was unveiled.

    Isle of Skye, Scotland

    Ever since I’ve lived in the UK, the mystical Isle of Skye has
    beckoned to us in a way that we can’t quite explain. Actually no, that’s
    a lie – it was even before that – as a teenager my singing teacher at
    my New Zealand high school taught me the Skye Boat Song, a traditional folk waltz
    recalling the escape of Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince
    Charlie) from Uist after his defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. I
    didn’t want to. It wasn’t exactly high-fashion cool to be singing soft
    hearted scottish historical melodies.

    Isle of Skye, Scotland

    Isle of Skye, Scotland

    We slipped from obstructed hill crowns…

    …to sunlight seaside pastures within 10 minutes driving.

     Isle of Skye, Scotland

     
    We traversed dramatic loch shores…

    Eilean Donan Castle Scotland

    …and discovered prehistoric landmarks.

    Kilt Rocks Scotland Roadtrip


     We discovered volcanic riverbeds…

    Scotland Roadtrip

    …and James Bond scenery.

    Glencoe Scotland

    Best. Roadtrip. Ever.

    It was so delicious I had to make a video of one of the road bends (‘scuse the wobbly bits).




    As a sidenote, I was pleased to realise that years down the track, the incredibly popular Outlander TV series has re-purposed (but changed the lyrics of) the Skye Boat Song melody as the theme tune. My singing teacher was clearly a woman ahead of her time.

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    Things to do (if you fall for a sailor and find yourself spending time) in Aberdeen, Scotland – Part 2

    Bottle of rum Glass of beer in hand, Alana also spent a few hours of her recent trip to Aberdeen tasting her way around the city. When in Rome and all that…


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    Drink some craft beer
    I’ll admit I was in a bit of a bad mood when I arrived in Aberdeen due to some issues with my flight but Brewdog helped turn my mood around. The decor is trendy craft brew pub standard – carefully curated raw materials mixed with funky eclectica. The guys at the table next to us (who matched the general decor) sported fine hipster beards, curled moustaches and were busy taking macro photos with their DSLR. If you ignored their Scottish accents we could’ve been back in London!

    Where to eat and drink in Aberdeen, Scotland. You heard it at Adventures of a London Kiwi first...

    The beers The Boy and I tried had personality – both on the palate and with their rather creative names. Brewdog’s cheeseboard is also delicious and third party mediation was nearly needed to ensure the spoils were divided evenly. Cheese, like beer is a serious business.

    Where to eat and drink in Aberdeen, Scotland. You heard it at Adventures of a London Kiwi first...

    Within sight of Brewdog is another gem in Aberdeen’s beery crown. Some Scottish folks down the coast in Stonehaven got it in their heads to start brewing Belgian beer and 6° North was born. With an intimidating list of tap beers, help from the staff was very necessary to for me make my choice. They were also rather generous about serving up samples to help me with my decision.

    Where to eat and drink in Aberdeen, Scotland. You heard it at Adventures of a London Kiwi first...

    Luckily they didn’t tell us there are over 300 bottled beers on their beer menu until after we’d picked our first drinks or I think I might’ve had had a meltdown over what to choose. However The Boy got a gleam in his eye when he discovered the extent of the beer menu and took a copy back to the boat with him to show his colleagues.

    Where to eat and drink in Aberdeen, Scotland. You heard it at Adventures of a London Kiwi first...

    Eat some Italian
    Dinner was decided on the toss of a coin (if it had come up heads we would’ve been eating Indian). Rustico has classic Italian decor without being kitsch and the photographic prints of Sicilian life on the walls took me back to when I was there a couple of years ago. The restaurant is well reviewed online and the praise is justified. The Boy’s Padellata Siciliana justified it’s £20 price tag by having plentiful portions of every type of sea creature in a spicy tomato broth. My mushroom pasta was packed with so many oyster mushrooms there were possibly more of them than pasta. I wish we’d had more space for dessert – their handmade cheesecake looked divine but we were so full we only had room to share a tiramisu.

    Where to eat and drink in Aberdeen, Scotland. You heard it at Adventures of a London Kiwi first...

    Read/buy a book and have a cup of tea
    Imagine a bohemian cafe inside a secondhand bookstore and you have Books and Beans. It’s cluttered and a little bit cosy but it works. I browsed their books but didn’t have a coffee so the verdict is out about the quality of their brew. If you go there grab a seat on the first floor. The ones by the window have good light for reading and a view of the street if you prefer to people watch. Don’t bother going to the second floor – there’s only an internet cafe up there and it smells a bit like teenage boy and people who don’t go outside much!

    Get a coffee
    Contour cafe gets a tick in my book for a good coffee in Aberdeen (even if they did serve it in a mug). They’re tucked away on The Green, a quiet square just below Union Street (the main shopping street). Their lunch menu looks impressive but they were kind enough to make me a bacon and egg roll with plenty of tomato sauce for breakfast – despite not being a breakfast kind of place. I arrived just as they opened their doors for the day and when they turned on their music the first track that played was Katchafire. Between that and the plentiful tomato sauce this kiwi was pretty happy.

    Restaurant Recommendations Aberdeen, Scotland. You heard it at Adventures of a London Kiwi first...

     

    Also popping out to nearby Stonebridge, a good helping of Fish and chips was on the menu…

    Walking past people in kilts practicing their bagpiping in a carpark
    for the festival (it wasn’t pleasant so I didn’t linger to see/hear
    more) I made it to Stonehaven beach. Following the beachfront walkway I
    eventually reached The Bay Fish and Chip Shop, winners of the
    Independent UK Fish and Chip Shop of 2013. As well as being award
    winning deep fryers they’re also all about the sustainability and
    accountability of their food. Apparently the potatoes for my chips came
    from a farm in Suffolk and my haddock was caught on a boat called
    Faithful FR129 (which is a real boat because I checked).

    Fish and Chip Restaurant Recommendations Stonehaven, Scotland. You heard it at Adventures of a London Kiwi first...  Fish and Chip Restaurant Recommendations Stonehaven, Scotland. You heard it at Adventures of a London Kiwi first...

    But forget about the pedigree of my food – the most important thing is that it was delicious.

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    Utterly scrumptious. Have you been inspired yet?

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    Things to do (if you fall for a sailor and find yourself spending time) in Aberdeen, Scotland – Part 1

    Scottish Sea shanty singing aside (rounds are usually best I’ve found) my lovely guest poster Alana (she of the SantaCon legend and Guildford walking track) has kindly offered to pop back in with a round of adventures and recommendations in Aberdeen.

    I adore that Alana likes to travel the way I do, explore and get under the skin of a city off the beaten track, really taking the time to wander and taste the beer. I mean, the culture of a new place.


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    Aberdeen is Scotland’s third largest city, the ‘gateway to the North Sea’ and not a city you’d find yourself visiting unless you have another reason to be there. I date a sailor who works in the offshore industry and he’d been away forever doing boat things so I decided to pay him (and Aberdeen) a visit.

    When going to a new place I normally search for travel blogs to get ideas beyond the usual Tripadvisor/tourist board website fare but it seems nobody has written a travel blog on Aberdeen. So after researching and visiting it myself (and with many thanks to Emma) I would like to present:

    Things to do (if you fall for a sailor and find yourself spending time) in Aberdeen – Part 1

    Get some Scottish banknotes
    If you’re used to spending English pounds the Scottish equivalent are a colourful change. Plus it’s fun to use them back in England. They’re legal tender anywhere in the UK but they can confuse people – so if you’re the mischievous sort this one is for you.

     Things to do (if you fall for a sailor and find yourself spending time) in Aberdeen, Scotland – Part 1
    Visit the Aberdeen Museum
    I LOVED this museum. The rooms were small enough that I didn’t feel overwhelmed and a lot of the paintings and sculpture were in my art sweet spot of somewhere between 1800 and 1940.

      Things to do (if you fall for a sailor and find yourself spending time) in Aberdeen, Scotland – Part 1 
    Following a colourful trail of flowers up the stairs took me to the current exhibition which was 50 years of work by textile designer Kaffe Fassett.

     Things to do (if you fall for a sailor and find yourself spending time) in Aberdeen, Scotland – Part 1

     Things to do (if you fall for a sailor and find yourself spending time) in Aberdeen, Scotland – Part 1

    Compared with the white walls in the rest of the gallery the exhibition was a riot of colour, pattern and texture. I absolutely loved it and couldn’t rate it high enough. The only people that seemed to like it more than me were the couple wearing matching Fassett inspired knitted jerseys.

    The staff are also lovely. When I asked reception if anyone would know if works from an ancestor of mine were in the collection another staff member tracked me down, catalogue in hand to look it up for me before I had a chance to find him first.

    Get your sailor boyfriend to give you a tour of his boat
    It’s not something that most visitors to Aberdeen get to do but The Boy organised for me to have a quick tour of the boat he works on. Technically it’s 81 metres of multi purpose offshore vessel but calling it a boat simplifies things.

     Things to do (if you fall for a sailor and find yourself spending time) in Aberdeen, Scotland – Part 1

    There was some pretty serious maintenance underway – in fact the boat wasn’t even floating as it was getting a new paint job and an overhaul of its mechanical bits. It was fascinating, oily, manly (seriously there were no women anywhere) and a totally different working environment from my job in a pristine central London office.

    Visit Footdee and try find the ugliest garden ornament or friendliest cat
    Footdee (called Fittee by the locals) is an old fishing village on the east side of the Aberdeen harbour. It’s incredibly photogenic with cute little wooden shacks and slate roof cottages. I had a lot of fun judging peoples taste in garden ornaments and trying to figure out if a garden gnome can ever be ironic.

     Things to do (if you fall for a sailor and find yourself spending time) in Aberdeen, Scotland – Part 1

     Things to do (if you fall for a sailor and find yourself spending time) in Aberdeen, Scotland – Part 1

    The weather was good so I also took a walk along the beach near Footdee. You can see out across the North Sea and watch the boats coming in to Aberdeen harbour. I was there at 7.30am but I think it would be spectacular if you arrived a bit earlier for the sunrise.

     Things to do (if you fall for a sailor and find yourself spending time) in Aberdeen, Scotland – Part 1

    Walk around Aberdeen
    Aberdeen is known as the grey or granite city as a lot of the buildings are build of the local granite. The Marischal College building is pretty spectacular as it’s recently renovation has restored the granite from charcoal to the original silver grey.

     Things to do (if you fall for a sailor and find yourself spending time) in Aberdeen, Scotland – Part 1

    Aberdeen isn’t a big city and I got a good feel for it by walking around.

    Leave Aberdeen and go on a daytrip
    45 minutes south of Aberdeen by bus is the town of Stonehaven and nearby Dunnottar Castle. The castle is a ruined fortress famous as the hiding place of the Scottish crown jewels from the army of Oliver Cromwell. It’s also perched on a headland facing the North Sea and is pretty awesome to explore.

     Things to do (if you fall for a sailor and find yourself spending time) in Aberdeen, Scotland – Part 1

     Things to do (if you fall for a sailor and find yourself spending time) in Aberdeen, Scotland – Part 1 Things to do (if you fall for a sailor and find yourself spending time) in Aberdeen, Scotland – Part 1 Things to do (if you fall for a sailor and find yourself spending time) in Aberdeen, Scotland – Part 1

    There is a path that heads from Dunnottar Castle in the direction of Stonehaven. Hoping it would eventually get me to town I followed it along the edge of the cliffs getting stunning views over farmland, the sea and back towards the castle. The walk goes past the Stonehaven War Memorial which is designed to look unfinished to symbolise the lives of the local men that were cut short.

     Things to do (if you fall for a sailor and find yourself spending time) in Aberdeen, Scotland – Part 1

    When I reached Stonehaven there was all sorts of noise (I believe it was a rather enthusiastic jazz band) and activity down by the harbour. The town was in the middle of a harbour festival and there were children and boats everywhere as well as people trying to convince you to vote Yes or No to Scottish independence, donate to the RNLI or even just buy a kipper in a roll.

     Things to do (if you fall for a sailor and find yourself spending time) in Aberdeen, Scotland – Part 1

    I also ducked into the Tollbooth Museum which is tiny but worth a look. It’s like being in a really quirky and cluttered antique shop. Except nothing is for sale.

     Things to do (if you fall for a sailor and find yourself spending time) in Aberdeen, Scotland – Part 1

    Things in Aberdeen I didn’t get to see
    I had some bad luck with flight cancellations and delays and arrived in Aberdeen half a day later than I planned. Here’s some other things I would’ve seen if I had the chance:

    Aberdeen Maritime Museum
    I prioritised the Aberdeen Art Gallery ahead of this museum however it’s meant to be pretty cool and would’ve made the list if I’d had another day.
    Aberdeen Country Fair
    Held on the last Saturday of the month (and the Saturdays before Christmas) this market has everything from local produce to crafts and jewellery.

    In a second installment shortly I talk about the tasty places for food and drink at in Aberdeen…

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    Thank you Alana! I need to book a couple of tickets methinks…

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    Edinburgh #travelthursdays

    Edinburgh holds a special place in my heart. It’s funky, uncompromising, unexpected and friendly. It’s also the place that hubby and I first travelled together. Not the world’s most challenging trip – straight up on the train from London – but in some ways it was.

    It’s perfect for a long weekend/city break. We hired somewhere central and cheerful to stay and basically wandered the city, going wherever the fancy took us. 

    Warning: these photos are a little old, and a bit grim, but hold a special if freezing cold place in my travel book. We live, we learn!

    We couldn’t miss the hair-raising, and beautiful views from the top of Edinburgh Castle. We went in October/November, and unluckily the weekend that we went it was freezing. Fah-reezing. It also meant that we didn’t get to enjoy the full view expanse of the view, but it’s still a beautiful city.

    We took a good long wander around Holyrood Palace, and it was the first place (in my limited travelling) where you really felt a part of the history. Wandering through Mary, Queen of Scots bedroom (and over her ‘blood’ which I still think is the result of an over-enthusiastic guide but it’s never been proven) it really gives you a sense of this woman who has such an impact on history.
     

    The exceedingly modernist Scottish Parliament is directly across from Holyrood Palace, a dichotomous statement. It’s a really beautiful building & well worth a wander around.

    (Borrowed from The Widows World)

    Our favourite thing to visit? The Forth Rail bridge, mostly because we’re nerds, additionally because it’s internationally famous. Cool fact; the bridge was known as ‘the bridge with neverending painting’ because as soon as they finished, they’d have to start again. In 2011 a paint was developed that would last 25 years much to our disappointment.

    The world-famous Forth Rail bridge…

    … and the graceful Forth Rail Bridge.

    We enjoyed all of the local delicacies; neeps and tatties, black pudding for breakfast and tried Irn-bru (not for me I’m afraid) but chickened out on the heart attack on a serviette that is a deep-fried Mars Bar.

    Too ashamed to do this in public in London, I Ninja’d in this country phone box.

    On the flipside though, if you do try the deep fried Mars Bar, you can slough off the calories walking up the crazily steep street inclines. We did one uber-touristy thing (preferring just to laugh at the drunken idiots wearing tam o’shanters and kilts lurching with their drunken Aussie accents antics) which was visit Mary Kings Close, a set of rooms and streets preserved in their 17th Century condition. We didn’t see any ghosts, but it was pretty darn interesting.

    We’ve been back to Edinburgh several times and keep discovering more; sunshine, rain, hail and snow and I don’t mind telling you that we missed out on Hogmanay one year because I was too chicken (after recently breaking my wrist) to slip-slide on the busy snowy streets. We love it.

    15th Century Rosslyn Chapel is breath taking, and worth at least half a day’s visit, in my humble opinion. If you like churches/the da vinci code/craftsmanship/conspiracy theories and has quite a good pub nearby. Ps. the photos is borrowed from Visit Scotland as my camera was rubbish.

     

    My top tips for Edinburgh?

    • Take layers & a jacket for warmth
    • If you want to see the Forth Bridge and don’t have a car, you don’t have to go on a guided tour, just jump on the bus & ask the bus driver where to walk. You walk down a hillside, begin to wonder what the heck you’ve got yourself into, and then boom, there it is. There (at our time of visiting) is also a cute little pub nearby.
    • There are great free museums.
    • Try a deep fried Mars Bar, and let me know what you think of it.
    • Rosslyn Chapel is a must, again if you don’t have a car there is a bus from the city centre, and it doesn’t take too long.
    • Haymarket Station is about a 15 minutes wait and 5 minutes journey from Waverly Station on the train.
    • Take layers & a jacket for warmth.
    • If you’re sick because you caught a cold as you didn’t take enough layers, it’s ok to eat Dominos in your hotel room. 

    Would you try a Deep-Fried Mars Bar?

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