Strathearn, Gleneagles

Last year I had a big birthday and BB and SiL gave me the fabulous present of a gift voucher for Gleneagles. Although I could have used it to do one of the many country pursuits they offer, OH and I thought we would rather have Sunday lunch. So, talking Mini-me into being a taxi driver for the day we donned our glad rags and set off for the 5 star hotel in Perthshire.

As ever, we arrived too early and decided to have drinks in the Century Bar first. I explained to the waiter I had a gift voucher and asked if it was okay to have drinks on it as well as lunch. I was told it was okay but he would have to transfer my drinks to the dining room. Therefore, with everything in hand I had a Bloody Mary and OH decided he fancied a pint. I have to say my Bloody Mary is one of the best I have ever tasted. Firstly it had a light sweet taste and then as it went down it gave a massive kick, which left your mouth tingling and demanding more.

At 1 o’clock a waitress took our drinks through to the Strathearn dining room and we were seated in plush surroundings reminiscent of 1920s. Gold trolleys were wheeled around by waiters and waitresses all who had their own role. We were given food menus and offered water by one and a wine menu from another. Then we were offered bread from a french waitress’s trolley. There were far too much to chose from so she offered to cut a selection of them. She then gave us butter with some Skye salt sprinkled on top.

The menu offered pre-starters of oysters and caviar blinis, which had hefty supplements. The menu then announced where to start with a box that described 2 different kinds of salmon. One from Dumfries, which had been smoked using beer barrels and one from Perthshire that had been oak smoked. Both came with capers, lemon, creme fraiche and shallots but if you wanted caviar there was another supplement. The salmon arrived on a gold trolley and was sliced thinly next to us. The waitress was amazing to watch as time and time again paper thin slices of salmon were removed from the large fish and arranged delicately on the plate. The salmon was delicious and the accompaniments really added to the taste.

Then there was the choice of soup, terrine, salad or crab. I went for the New Season Garlic and Potato Soup with sauteed leeks and girolle mushrooms and OH decided on the West Coast Crab, cucumber, pink grapefruit, white balsamic and hazlenut.

My plate arrived with the leeks and mushrooms deconstructed in the centre of the bowl and then the soup was poured from a jug around them. The soup was beautiful. Thick and creamy and garlicky with the leeks adding a very pleasant texture addition.

OH’s crab was a beautiful plate of colours. The grapefruit gave it a fresh citrus tang whilst the white crab meat was light to taste. The hazelnuts and cucumber gave the dish a crunch.

For my main, I had Seabass, roasted cauliflower, crushed potatoes, baby artichokes and champagne sauce. The skin on the fish could have been crispier and the cauliflower could have done with more colour but overall I enjoyed the dish particularly the artichokes, which I have been wanting again since enjoying them in Spain last March.

OH had Borders Lamb Rump, garden peas, confit shallot, fondant potato, roasted tomato and lamb jus. The lamb looked exceptional without a bit of fat insight and OH said it tasted just as good as it looked.

Throughout our meal the sommelier topped up our wine glasses with the sauvignon blanc we ordered and anyone passing would top up our water glasses. The service was impeccable. The ambience was added to by a three piece band who played a range of hits from people such as Pink Floyd, Nine Inch Nails, Amy Winehouse and The Clash but in the style of lift muzak.

After a short break we were given dessert menus. There was a list of ports with prices and a cheese trolley on offer with another supplement however, I went for a light and refreshing mix of sorbets. OH went for the sticky toffee pudding with a whisky and date puree.

My sorbets were the perfect way to end my meal. The mango, lemon and raspberry flavours going down a treat. The accompanying baked strip of loveliness wasn’t crisp as I had suspected but a soft, chewy affair.

OH’s pudding tasted of toffee and was sticky so ticked all the boxes. The date and whisky puree was a small dollop and I think he’d have preferred more.

When our plates were cleared we were offered coffee or tea and OH asked for a coffee, which arrived with 2 little sweets that looked beautifully wrapped in egg-shell blue and gold leaf. However, when I picked one up it immediately started to melt in my hand and I realised it was the chocolate which had been painted and not any kind of wrapper. The chocolate was rich and heavy.

Our meal was excellent and we both enjoyed all the food we had. The theatre of the dining room was stunning and it was great watching the waitresses and waiters give such fantastic performances.

After our lunch we returned to the Century Bar and mini-me joined us for a round of drinks. I then asked for the bill. Now this is when things went a bit awry. Our bill arrived with a whole bunch of drinks we hadn’t had and no mention of lunch. When I queried it, the original waiter appeared and I was told there was a difficulty because of our voucher and the drinks having to be transferred. Yes but those drinks still aren’t ours. I then had to return to the dinning room and explain to another waiter the issue. After a while he managed to clear it up and gave me the right bill minus the voucher. However, this was when I realised the smoked salmon and coffee were extras. This annoyed me because as I have been pointing out, it was clear everything was priced and it was highlighted where the supplements were. There was nothing on the menu that stated it was £25.50 extra for the salmon. Feeling slightly annoyed and a bit duped I paid the bill.

A very decadent Sunday lunch consisting of a Bloody Mary, 2 pints, a ginger beer, a G+T, a bottle of wine and 2 3 course lunches with salmon and a coffee. £247.

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DBB at The Old Course Hotel, St Andrews

Just before Christmas I received an email from The Old Course Hotel in St Andrews offering dinner, bed and breakfast for £199. Now, considering to stay overnight is usually around £185, this was a bargain I could not ignore so I quickly booked a room for in between Christmas and New Year.

So off we popped to St Andrews. Prior to check in we decided we would try out their golf academy and whacked 100 balls on to the practice range. The experience was made more interesting with the little screens next to the tees that showed exactly how far the ball was hit as well as it’s trajectory and speed. I’m no Jack Nicklaus but I was pleased I managed 142 yards straight down the fairway.

We then drove down to the hotel to check in. The hotel’s Christmas decorations were beautiful and I was glad I had booked within the festive season. Our room was on the second floor and was large, spacious and very comfortable with the deepest bath ever – ideal for testing out all the complimentary toiletries and large fluffy towels. Unfortunately, the view was of the car park but it being winter (and me being Scottish) I wasn’t paying an extra £30 to see a golf course in the dark.

Dressed for dinner we paid The Jigger Inn a visit for a couple of aperitifs before heading back in to the hotel and up to the Road House Restaurant on the fourth floor. We were given a window seat but as we already knew, it was dark outside so unsurprisingly all we could see was the Royal and Ancient Clubhouse, which was lit up at the end of the 18th. Unfortunately, it also meant our table was a little dark as there were no lights above us. Hence my rubbish pics – sorry.

As we were on the DBB deal we were given the set winter menu with 3 options for each course and I ordered a bottle of NZ Sauvignon Blanc from the sommelier. It was not long before he was back allowing us a taste and chatting away about wine. As he blethered he continued to hold our bottle of wine in his hands. I started worrying about his hot hands heating up my cold wine especially as there was no wine cooler in sight. What was even more bizarre was that when our starters arrived he continued to chat away. Thankfully our starters were both cold…unlike our quickly warming wine. Eventually we were allowed to start our meal when the sommelier wandered off still holding our bottle.

For starter OH ordered the Sweet potato croquet, truffled goats cheese, pecan and apple. OH enjoyed it and it was gone before I remembered to take a pic and now it appears it didn’t make much of a mark on his memory either.

I had Duck presse, foie gras, smoked duck and clementines, which was lighter than expected with the orange segments giving it a refreshing tang.

For my main I had Red mullet, shellfish, pancetta broth, cocotte potatoes samphire and saffron nage. This dish was beautiful. The shellfish was plump, juicy mussels and hidden under the mullet, which was a lovely shade of red (not shown at it’s best in the pic). The potatoes were good but nothing special and the samphire could have had more bite but overall it was a lovely dish.

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What I am now starting to discover, since actively reducing my salt intake, is restaurant meals are starting to taste too salty to me so I did find it heavy on the salt but that might just be fish dishes and me nowadays.

OH had Pork belly, red onion marmalade, blackcurrant jus, baby carrots and haggis bon bons. OH felt the pork belly was too dry and chewy. There was only 1 carrot and the blackcurrant jus was just a smear on the plate which by the time OH got the plate it was baked on so there was no taste. Yes, OH was more than a little disappointed in this course.

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Throughout the meal different waiters topped up our glasses so I can only imagine a host of different bottles being kept in fridges and someone co-ordinating how they get back to the right diners. No easy feat but it appeared to work as we were never left dry.

For dessert OH went for the Chocolate and orange deluce, orange segments, caramel crumble and frangelico ice cream. OH says this was the best part of his meal and was just the right taste and amounts to finish off with.

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I went for the selection of artisan cheeses, truffle honey and black grapes. The cheeseboard was lush and I loved it and ordered a port (and extra crackers) to go with it. 4 good sized pieces of cheese all of which were tasty, plenty grapes and I love a cheeseboard with honey, which goes amazing on blue cheese. The truffle honey smelt and tasted highly of garlic but the sommelier (who popped over as he had noticed I had ordered port but not from him) assured us it was truffle oil. I honestly would have argued against this as it was very garlicky but still lovely with the blue cheese.

Breakfast the following morning was busy and often there were people having to wait for a table. They were asked to sit in the bar with complimentary tea and coffee whilst they watched over the links. Our timing must have been spot on though as we were immediately shown to a table.

Breakfast was good with a vast selection of items on offer. Everything from cooked meats, salmon and cheese to cereals, fresh and dried fruit and pastries. The hot plates offered bacon, sausage, lorne sausage, haggis, black pudding, scrambled egg, tomatoes, beans, potato scones and hash browns and on top of this you could order freshly prepared dishes such as eggs benedict, kippers and omlettes etc.

When we checked out our bill for the wine and port came to £42.50 (I had already paid the DBB rate of £199).

Overall, it was a fabulous night away and a great way to set myself up for a good start to the New Year.

And hopefully you are all ready for the new year too so with that in mind I wish you all the best for 2019 and thanks for taking the time to read my blogs over the years x

The Kingarth Hotel and Smiddy Bar, Isle of Bute

Whilst touring around the Isle of Bute recently we stopped off at The Kingarth Hotel for lunch.

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A friend had heard it was good and therefore had mentioned it within a list of musts whilst in Bute. When we arrived we were told immediately that they were having difficulties as the gas board had chosen lunch time to check their gas and therefore the kitchens were limited with what they could produce. Paninis and sandwiches weren’t a problem but anything that required a gas hob was not going to be arriving any time soon. The girl was extremely apologetic but at the same time was trying to be as helpful as possible.

The menu on the board looked lovely as did the one on the table. The girl assured us that it shouldn’t be too long before they were cooking with gas and therefore we ordered cold starters in the hope by the time we had finished them our mains would be hot. Therefore, I ordered peppered smoked mackerel pate, salad and oatcakes. OH ordered the vegetable and lentil soup (yes I know that’s not cold but we figured they’d have a microwave).

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OH’s soup arrived with half a loaf. He was hungry so everything got demolished but he did mention that the soup was thick and heart warming between spoonfuls and bites.

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I received a full pot of mackerel pate and 3 oatcakes, which meant I piled the pate high and devoured them. The pate was fantastic. The accompanying salad was great – in particular the pea shoots and pieces of melon stood out and the cherry tomatoes tasted like they were straight out of the greenhouse.

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We did have to wait a while for our mains but we did not mind as everyone was trying their best to feed us. I ordered the Kingarth burger because the description just sounded so good – our butchers best beef burgers served in a ciabatta bun with melting Emmental cheese, relish, fried onions, chips and coleslaw. As soon as it arrived I dived in (which is why the pic shows it already started to). The burgers (yes there were two) were fantastic and because it was in a ciabatta roll it meant nothing fell to bits as I ate it. The chips weren’t quite so good but I’m going to guess they had to put them in the oven instead of a fryer.

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OH had ordered the Mixed seafood risotto with salad and parmesan from the board. When it was put in front of him I could see it was jam-packed with fish and prawns. He also got a side salad, which I was jealous of as I had already sampled it with my starter. OH said it was everything he expected from a risotto, creamy, bursting with flavour and full of fish. However, it was no insult to the kitchen that OH did not finish his meal (personally I blame the half loaf) but it was so full of fish it filled him up quickly. Even when they have issues with their gas you do not leave The Kingarth Hotel hungry! With no space for puddings we got our bill.

2 starters, 2 mains, 2 gins, 1 tonic, 1 juice = £39.30

Melrose Abbey and Barony Castle Hotel

Since it was my birthday midweek OH and I decided to celebrate it the weekend after and booked a hotel near Peebles – the near bit is important as there’s no way you could say it was in Peebles – it’s 5 miles out of the town! The wrongly named hotel was the Mercure Peebles Barony Castle Hotel. Before OH and I checked in we decided to go further south and visit Melrose Abbey as I had never been before. The abbey is beautiful and the complimentary audio tour is definitely worth listening to as it gives you all the history of the abbey, highlights all the nooks and crannies you’d want to see and gets you to look for things such as the bagpipe playing pig gargoyle that you’d probably miss otherwise. There are spiral steps up to the roof, which gives a fantastic view but they aren’t for the faint hearted and my thighs muscles are still sore from the climb so be warned. melrose-abbeyAfter the abbey we had a quick wander around the shops and then headed back up to Peebles.

As usual I had picked a dog friendly hotel so (for an extra £15) Amber could come too. The hotel is a 15th Century building with a mixture of old comfortable chairs and modern, stylish furniture. There is a spa and conservatory area as well so the hotel has done well to marry old with the new.

During check-in we were asked if we wanted to book a table in the restaurant but it would have to be later on as the hotel was fully booked and there were no dining room slots until 8.45. Being a Fifer, I have a 5 o’clock tummy so we decided to eat in the bar instead where there was a typical pub grub menu. I opted for Chicken fajita wrap with seasonal salad and fries £12.95 and OH went for the Beer battered haddock, peas, homemade tartare sauce, crisp salad and fries £13.95. Just in case you’re interested the restaurant menu has things like deer, duck, lamb and salmon.

When my fajita arrived I was surprised to see it was already rolled and not the usual DIY job I am used to. It left me wondering how I was supposed to put the sour cream, guacamole and salsa on to it. I then tried to pick up the tortilla and it collapsed fajitahsungracefully in front of me. So that was my problem solved as I then ate it with a fork and knife and added the sauces to it as I ate. Overall it was tasty enough but I’d have preferred a couple of tortillas and the chance to build it myself. I had no complaints with the accompanying fries as they were delish.

fishOH’s fish looked a bit small compared to other pieces of haddock he has had in the past but the batter was nice and crispy and although it looked like a bit of a tiddler OH said it was filling enough. Surprisingly, he also said he quite liked the tartare sauce as it wasn’t overpowering. This is unusual for him as he isn’t normally a fan. Of course he also loved the fries.

We spent the rest of the evening in the bar running up a large drinks bill. The décor of the bar again brought together  the ancient with the contemporary. However, some of the old chairs could do with a bit more padding. I’m pretty sure Drew Pritchard would be interested in buying and re-upholstering a number of the armchairs in the Blue Dug Bar.

The following morning we were woken by one barking dog and another whining. My best guess is that their owners had left them in the room whilst they had went for breakfast and they had set one another off. I have been to a number of dog friendly hotels before and this is the first time this has happened. Fortunately Amber didn’t join in the dog chorus. barony

The hotel breakfast was good and there was the usual vast selection of hot and cold stuffs on offer. After consuming as much of the buffet as we could we went for a walk in the grounds to see the The Great Polish Map of Scotland. << Click the link for more info but basically the map is a huge 3D map of Scotland, sculpted in concrete and measuring some 40m by 50m. It is a sight to behold and my pic really doesn’t do it justice. map

All in all, we had a fabulous time in the Borders and enjoyed our stay in the Barony Castle Hotel.

 

 

 

The Roxburghe Hotel, Edinburgh

OH and I decided to pop through to Edinburgh and enjoy an afternoon tea at the Roxburghe Hotel. I know what you’re thinking – you wait ages for a blog about afternoon tea and then suddenly two come along. Personally, I think OH was just a tiny bit jealous of Lusa and I’s fabulous afternoon at the Roman Camp so was more than happy to sip tea of an afternoon rather than our usual cocktail crawl along George Street.

When we first arrived at the Charlotte Square hotel we were ushered along to the Samovar Lounge by the efficient door man. The room was lovely and decorated to a high standard. Unfortunately, there were no window seats available so we were seated next to a thoroughfare. imag5129Yes, you read that right. It turned out that the lounge sits between the entrance and the rest of the hotel so people that were staying in the hotel walked through the lounge to get to their rooms or to go out…and it was a busy hotel.   Although it gave us something to talk about I would much have rather had a more private dining experience.  You’ll notice from the pic that the fire wasn’t lit either.

The first thing to arrive was the amuse-bouche or mouth amuser, which isn’t on the menu but a freebie from the chef to give a hint to his style. It turned out to be home made lemonade served in little screw top jars with handles. Cute. We were also asked what kind of tea we would like. I opted for traditional black breakfast tea and OH, who isn’t a fan of strong tea, decided on rosy white fig tea. There was also a little timer on the table to ensure that you don’t let your tea stew for too long.   imag5131

Then the little plates of nibbly things arrived. On the savoury plate there was a smoked salmon and cream cheese blini; coronation chicken tart; smoked ham, dill pickle and piccalilli Provençale roll and an egg mayo and cucumber brioche roll.  Another plate had plain and fruit scones with clotted cream and strawberries with little jars of strawberry jam. The middle plate held fresh strawberry tart; baklava; chocolate opera cake and mini meringue with lemon cream.

As ever, my favourites were the little rolls. I could eat several plates of them without coming up for air. OH loved the scones with clotted cream and managed to eat both of his. Incidentally, the clotted cream had grapes and strawberries in it and came in a little flower pot with a pansy on the top. Cute too. OH also rated his pot of tea highly. The baklava was quite greasy and I could feel the calories coat my lips. The strawberry tart was yum and although I left my 2nd scone I cleared up the rest quite easily. Although also quite messily. Why don’t you get tongs and little dessert forks for afternoon tea? I left my napkin in a disgusting state.

Overall, the food was great, the service good and if I hadn’t of had an exceptional afternoon tea experience a couple of weeks ago it would get a high rating. However, a visit to the toilet brought the afternoon tea to a disappointing end. The 4 star hotel had 1 star loos. First of all it was a trek to get to them, down stairs along a corridor and then into another one. Then the smell hit me. When I went in I found there was only two toilets and one was out of the order (hence the smell?). The other had no lock on it and it was a busy place. One lady was already waiting and having to stand guard for her mum. The décor wasn’t great either and considering how lovely the rest of the hotel is I was surprised at the lack of the attention there was to the Ladies.

Afternoon tea for 2 – £38.

 

The Roman Camp, Callander

If you’re a regular reader you will have already heard of Lusa, my Scottish born cousin who now resides in L.A. She is visiting again so, leaving OH behind, we decided to take off for a couple of days to spend time together and catch up.

In the 50s our grandfather used to be a gardener at The Roman Camp in Callander so we decided to have our short break in The Trossachs and make Callander our base so we could check out the places our mums talk about and see where they stayed when they were wee.

Having already stayed at The Old Rectory and knowing it was a great B+B, Lusa and I decided to stay there rather than paying double the money to stay in the 4 star Roman Camp. However, we did book an afternoon tea there so we could visit the hotel and walk around the gardens our grandfather used to tend.

When we arrived we were offered numerous places to sit for our afternoon tea. The drawing room, the library…it was a bit like a game of Cluedo. 2016-10-04-16-30-22Eventually we settled on the Library where we sat in front of a log fire on a large comfortable couch. We were the only ones in the library so we were able  to imagine we stayed in the big house and taking afternoon tea was a regular occurrence.

Our white gloved waiter soon arrived with tea and coffee, milk and cream and bizarrely a 2016-10-04-16-41-46-1small haggis bon bon with mashed potato and whisky sauce. After he had gone Lusa and I immediately wondered if we were on the right menu. Maybe we were getting a high tea instead…oh well we thought,  ‘We’re in now’ (obviously being British we would just accept what we’re given and not question it).

Even though it was an odd starter the haggis was lovely and we cleared the small dish. By the way, the waiter wasn’t wearing a name badge but I’m going to call him Stefan.

Stefan then arrived with round 1. A 3 tiered cake stand with lots of savouries on it, which quickly calmed our worries around what menu we were getting. There were 2 of each – Falafel Fritter, Gougere stuffed with Liver Parfait, strong Cheddar 2016-10-04-16-50-18and Chive Quiche, home made Pork and Prune Sausage Roll, Egg Cress and Mayonnaise White Finger Sandwich, Salmon, Cream Cheese and Cucumber Brown Bread Finger Sandwich and finally, Ham and Grain Mustard and Little Gem Bridge Roll. I’m far more into savoury food than sweet so this was just yum for me. The top tier and the falafel were all warm, which was great. The liver parfait was a bit  strong and the sausage rolls tasted christmassy. I’d say the finger sandwiches were actually double fingers as they could easily have been halved again and as Lusa isn’t a ham fan I got two of my favourite, ham bridge rolls.

After executing a different kind of Scottish Clearance the empty plates were removed, fresh tea poured and round 2 brought in for inspection. 2016-10-04-17-21-32This time the tiers were all sweet. Freshly Baked Plain and Fruit Scones with Clotted Cream and Homemade Strawberry Jam, Tropical Fruit Panna Cotta, Lemon Drizzle Cake, Dark Sponge Gateaux, Chocolate Tiffin, Macarons with Vanilla Butter Icing and some Shortbread.

We started with the plain scones and they were amazing. As they were still warm the cream melted slightly making the overall taste sensational. The panna cotta didn’t taste of of tropical fruit so I’m guessing it was just vanilla and the chocolate tiffin seemed to have some citrus zest in it, which I’m not a fan of but they were my only small grievances. Lusa raved about the lemon drizzle cake which was easily her favourite.

I noticed that on the menu there was mention of a double chocolate and cherry cookie but nothing resembling it on the plates so, forgetting I was British, I just happened to mention it to Stefan when he next popped his head in to see if we were okay. 2016-10-04-18-14-21He looked perplexed, disappeared and then returned with yet another plate. This time there were 2 truffles and 2 squares of something wrapped in white chocolate – my guess was dark cherry. Stefan explained there were in lieu of the cookies. I wasn’t complaining the white chocolate square was divine and quickly became my favourite (after the scone).

As we were already sloshing with tea and coffee but had sweet things still to try (and because we didn’t want to leave), we just had to order a bottle of Prosecco.

So as dusk turned to night and the fire crackled and popped, we nibbled and sipped pretending we were to the manor born. It was the perfect way to end a perfect afternoon tea. 2016-10-04-18-22-54-2

The only downside is now Lusa and I believe we have ruined afternoon tea for ourselves as we’re not sure where or what could compete with the ambience, service and food at The Roman Camp – it really was a fantastic experience. 2016-10-04-18-59-43

2 Afternoon teas at £21 and a bottle of Prosecco at £27 = £69 plus tip.

Gleddoch – Hotel, Spa & Golf

So last weekend, for the want of anything better to do, OH and I headed to the west coast. We booked a night in the Gleddoch Golf and Spa Hotel, a dog friendly hotel not far from Greenock.

On parking we could see from outside what had been an old, secluded, country house had now been extended up the hill with a new build. Not that you could see the modern extension in any of the hotel’s online pics, of course.

We wandered into reception, which was full of Chesterfield couches and club chairs. Obviously, I looked just like the kind of customer they would roll out the red carpet for carrying a bulging, well used, Asda bag full of dog food, chews, a water bowl and blanket. Classy. However, the receptionist was warm and friendly as she booked us in. She gave us our key and advised us that although we were more than welcome to go up to the room via the inside of the hotel it was recommended to take the car up to the car park as it was a bit of a trek and there were a lot of stairs.

So OH, the dog and me humphing my Asda bag, all went back out to the car and drove up to the first car park and looked around for an entrance. Nope. We drove up to the next car park. There were no signs but there was an open fire door so I checked it out and right enough found No.5. The room was fantastic. Concealed lighting, huge comfy bed, all the bits and bobs you could ask for (my favourites – free bottled water and biscuits) and a large walk in shower with multiple settings.  2016-07-02 18.28.21Not long after we took the dog out for a walk around the side of the golf course and explored the hotel grounds. The view from the hotel was stunning – right over the Clyde to Dumbarton.

Later we then tried to find the hotel bar, which OH had spotted next to reception. Remember we were now 2 carparks up from there? First off we walked along the first corridor. Nope. Dead end. Next we found the restaurant. Looked around there. Nope no sign of the way to reception. Back tracked. Started again. Another dead end. Back to the restaurant and through it to the pre-dinner sitting area where we were stared at. We persevered and walked through the on-lookers. We found another corridor and walked slowly along it looking for signs. There were none for reception but we did find the pool. We then met a waiter who pointed us in the right direction down stairs, then more stairs and another corridor. We eventually emerged into the reception area. It was only at this point I thought about leaving breadcrumbs…

…too much wine later and high heels in hand it was like a scene from the Crystal Maze as we tried to retrace our steps. Giggling and using stage whispers we found our way along corridors containing wheelbarrows, found numerous dead ends and eventually, and thankfully, found our room again.

It felt like no sooner had our heads hit the pillow than the fire alarm was going off. Oh yeah, suddenly I was wide awake. Good Morning Dumbarrrrrton! To be honest, it was after 9 but that’s not really the point.  I gingerly made my way out to  the car park wearing sunglasses even though it was dreich. The only one delighted with the rapid exit was the dog who darted off to the golf course to help with watering the fairway. It turned out the alarm was down to an electrical fault and the ongoing building work. I was just glad the alarm stopped when I nipped back to the room to take my phone off of charge. 2016-07-03 09.14.16.jpg

Not long later, showered and dressed in clean clothes this time, we left our room and went for breakfast. It was chaotic. I’m hoping it was due to the fire alarm and this was not the norm. Dirty plates were on the cold buffet table – probably dumped when the alarm went off and forgotten. Serving dishes were empty, juice jugs were lacking and there were tables needing re-set with people waiting.  One waiter – actually the one that showed us how to get to reception the night before – was sprinting between tables trying to meet everyone’s needs. White sugar here, more butter there, here a jam, there a  knife, everywhere some toast toast.

One chap who had been helping himself from the hot buffet returned and sat at the wrong table, which was completely cluttered. Surprised that he had no clean cutlery he asked for some without questioning it. His wife joined him and looked around confused as he wolfed down his bacon and sausage. She lifted a cup that was in her way and asked if it was his. With bean juice running down his chin he shook his head. She struggled to find a clear place to put the cup down again. She then asked if he had seen her phone. More head shaking. It was only when the wife spotted her phone on the other table that she realised they were at the wrong table. Oh the hilarity as they got up and moved. The man quipped, “I wondered why I could no longer see the Clyde”  as he returned to his own table not worrying about his faux pas. Other diners laughed along with him. I’d have been mortified and would have had to leave my breakfast as I allowed the ground to swallow me up.

To be fair we enjoyed our stay. I found the scene at breakfast hilarious – even when my toast turned up only toasted on one side. The trek from room to reception was a highlight and the surrounding scenery and room were brilliant. The staff were friendly and helpful and if it weren’t for the fire alarm turning breakfast into a comedy sketch it would have received high marks. Well, apart from the fact that there was no tv in the bar so we couldn’t watch the footy and had to speak to one another.
To recap – bits were so bad it was great 🙂 

Isle of Mull

OH has been at me to go to the Isle of Mull for eons. To be honest it’s not really my thing. Usually when OH wants to do something outdoorsy I will volunteer to sit in the car and read my book or sit in the hotel lobby and write. The promise of scenery doesn’t hold me as much as a good atmosphere in a pub does. So, on the promise of wine and much merriment, I eventually relented and looked up dog friendly hotels and ferry times.

2016-06-17 12.37.27The dog appeared to love the ferry – sticking her muzzle between the bars and sniffing the sea air as we made our way from Oban to Craignure. OH had planned a route beforehand that would take us down the island to Fionnphort – the very edge of the island where you can catch another ferry over to Iona – a small and beautiful island with a population of only 120 people. Our trip down made me realise the difficulties of travelling lengthy distances on a one-track road. Passing places became friendly places to stop and wave to other drivers. However, the novelty soon wears off and quickly you learn to drive as if some idiot is going to speed round the next corner at you. I’ve decided I’m going to invent a plastic hand that attaches to your car and waves for you whenever your car comes to a passing place. I’d soon be a millionaire. Well, maybe I’d make a few quid at least.

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Fionnphort

When we arrived a Fionnphort we (me really) decided not to catch another ferry but to allow the dog to have a walk and perhaps leave Iona Abbey for another visit. I have to admit the scenery was amazing. With the colour of the sand and sea you could have been anywhere in the world.

From Fionnphort we headed north towards Tobermory, where we were staying that night. O2016-06-17 16.59.43n the way back up we just had to stop for a Kodak moment outside Salen where 2 boats sat looking completely abandoned and unloved but extremely picturesque.

After taking a multitude of snaps we took to the road again until we reached Tobermory, where we were staying for the night. Our hotel turned out to be quite fabulous.

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Room with a view

Well the view from The Western Isles Hotel certainly was. The hotel itself was a little tired but it was dog friendly, had great staff/service, tasty food in the restaurant/breakfast room and everything you could need in a hotel room – not to mention again the view, which was phenomenal.

During our stay we literally travelled the length and breadth of the island. To my surprise I was impressed with the scenery, this was helped with the fantastic weather we had, which unfortunately you can’t rely on. Well, it is Scotland afterall. During our visit we didn’t see any otters but we did see some red deer, a Golden Eagle in the distance and I’m sure I saw the red feathers of a crossbill. There were also numerous ravens, grey backed crows and hunners of Highland Coos too amongst the other more regular wildlife on the island.

OH stuck to his promise and we enjoyed ourselves in the few pubs there are in Tobermory. The atmosphere was lively and we had a laugh with both locals and visitors alike. I managed to beat a Canadian at pool but was then thrashed by a local (boo). We met a couple from Motherwell who got us totally trashed and unable to make breakfast on Sunday morning – so that was definitely a good news – bad news moment.

All in all it was a top weekend and I won’t bore you with anymore details but I will leave you with just a few of the many pics I took and a recommendation you should go too.

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Tobermory

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View from Art in Nature, Calgary

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Beach at Calgary

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Tobermory

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Western Isles Hotel

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Anchors at the harbour in Tobermory

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Traffic jam in Mull

Thainstone House Hotel, Inverurie.

OH and I headed north to Inverurie last weekend. We haven’t been out and about much recently so thought it was about time we disappeared for for a bit.

First of all I checked the weather map and looked for the gaps in the rain clouds. From there it was onto the discount hotel websites to find dog friendly hotels and finally I narrowed down the search by looking for luxury at a bargain price and that’s how I found Thainstone House Hotel just outside of Inverurie.

OH hates hanging around so I knew we’d arrive early. I also knew that check-in wasn’t until 3pm so I had a quick search of the area to look for things of interest. Easter Aquhorthies Stone Circle jumped out as something that OH would like (Inverurie has a lovely town centre but OH and shops just isn’t a thing). The stones were only 4 miles further up the road so we headed there first and parked at the small car park just down from them.

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Easter Aquhorthies Stone Circle

The special thing about this 4000 year old stone circle is that it has a recumbent stone – a large monolith lying down lengthwise flanked by 2 other stones. It is believed that recumbent stones play a central part in moonlight rituals as they are aligned with the arc of the moon. This gives roughly a hour when the moon is framed by the 3 stones.

If you look at the pic the stone in the foreground is made from red jasper and has some amazing colours in it.

Culture box ticked we thought we’d give the hotel a try and see if we could check in early. We could!   Our room was lovely. Richly decorated, comfortable and lots of little extras such as chocolates, wine, toiletries, bathrobes and slippers. Not wasting much time we grabbed our swimsuits and headed to the spa.

We’ve been to a few spas in country hotels over the years and the majority of them have been a bit sad. Broken locker doors, manky grout, equipment not available/working etc but the facilities here were clean, well maintained and spot on. Pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and steam rooms indoors and hot tub and sauna out too. There was also a gym and spa treatments available but I’ve been allergic to gyms ever since I found out they don’t have bars in them.

I decided I wanted to go to the outdoor hot tub first so OH and I separated and went into the changing rooms. I emerged grabbed a robe and slippers and ventured outdoors. I slipped into the tub and relaxed waiting for OH to join me. I closed my eyes and allowed myself to relax. 10 minutes later and there was still no sign of my errant Other Half. A staff member wandered past so I called him over and explained I had lost my man and if he sees him could he tell him where I am. “What does he look like?” Suddenly I was on the spot. I didn’t even think to describe his swim shorts all I could muster was “eh like Phil Mitchel but with a tad more hair.” The guy looked up for just a short while, nodded, smiled and left. It was then I thought I really should have said before he was an alcoholic. Of course 2 minutes later OH appeared.

After we had well and truly ticked the spa box we went back to the room and opened the complimentary wine and ate the chocolates.

I’m not going into great detail about the dinner but it was lovely. There was 3 extra courses between the normal ones. Haggis bonbons to start, a parsnip veloute between starter and main and a lemon sorbet palate cleanser after the main. There were 2 choices for each course so OH started with salmon and then had the beef, followed by pear tart and I went the opposite and had chicken, trout and rhubarb fool. OH and I enjoyed it all and any complaints would just be us trying to find fault.  The service was efficient (fast) and friendly and the whole meal surprisingly took us 2 hours. The time sped by.

After dinner we found “The Boys Room” which had a full size snooker table, a juke box and a retro games machine. In there, we met another couple also staying for the evening so for the the rest of the evening we played snooker, PacMan, Asteroid Wars and listened to music from 80s whilst making the most of the hotel bar in good company.

I always look forward t0 hotel breakfasts and there was nothing wrong with this one. There was all the usual stuff plus more. I had Cinnamon French toast with bacon and maple syrup and OH had poached eggs (maybe something to do with the previous nights wine and ale intake).

All in all, we had a wonderful stay and I’d heartily recommend Thainstone House Hotel if you’re looking for a short break with some proper Scottish hospitality. (oh and the dog liked it too)

 

Ducks Kilspindie House, Aberlady

If your name is Duck then you either change it by deed poll as soon as you can or you embrace it wholeheartedly and open a hotel called Ducks with a bistro called Donald’s and you fill the place with ducks at every point whether it is ornaments, pictures or shower curtains.

As tacky as that may sound it really isn’t. Duck’s was a lovely last minute find.

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As soon as I knew I wasn’t on-call and off on Bank Holiday Monday I checked the weather forecast and then did a search for dog friendly hotels down the east coast where it was going to be sunny and breezy and bright. And that’s how I happened upon Duck’s Kildpindie House in Aberlady.

We booked in for bed and breakfast and then when we go there we decided to dine there too.

The room was basic but comfortable and had everything you would need for an overnight stay. We had been given a room at the back of the hotel, which took a bit of getting to as the hotel surrounds a courtyard. However, this worked out to be ideal for us as there was a back entrance that allowed us straight in and out with the dog and saved us having to trail the dog through the hotel. 2015-05-03 17.53.17

After a fantastic walk around the bay we had a quick drink in the bar before dinner. As Aberlady (just like a lot of the villages on the east coast of Scotland) is a golfing village it was no surprise that the bar had a golfing theme. Golf pin flags festooned the roof and other golfing memorabilia decorated the walls.

With a healthy appetite we wandered through to Donald’s Bistro, named after the owner’s father. 2015-05-03 18.16.07As soon as I was told the soup of the day was French onion I didn’t pay too much attention to the rest of the starters. 2015-05-03 18.28.13OH decided on ‘Sauteed mushrooms on toast, highland blue cheese, poached egg’ as he thought it was a great combination that he hadn’t thought of putting together before. It was an inspired choice as he loved it and is now going to try and make them himself for a breakfast some weekend. (I won’t hold my breath though). I was a tad disappointed when my soup arrived and looked like no French onion soup I had ever seen before. It was butternut squash! 2015-05-03 18.28.46 I would have complained and sent it back but fortunately my second favourite soup is spicy butternut squash. It was good. Nice and thick with a little bit of heat about it.

For main I had ‘Twice cooked pork belly, Stornoway black pudding, apple fritter, Belhaven Best Yorkshire pudding, cider jus. OH chose ‘Roast saddle of lamb with confit shoulder, Belhaven Best Yorkshire pudding, mash, Stornoway haggis’.

2015-05-03 18.40.58We both enjoyed our courses. The pork belly melted in my mouth and the black pudding complimented it beautifully and OH loved the confit shoulder. However, neither of us managed to clear our plates. Whether we had pigged out on our starters or it was just too big a portion we’re not sure but our loss was the dog’s gain 😉 2015-05-03 18.40.35-1

Of course OH still had room for a dessert. He maintains that ice cream settles his stomach but I’m not sure if this is just a ploy to get a pudding when he hasn’t ate all his meat. Saying that, he did go for the ‘Vanilla ice cream with marinated berries, honey & whisky.’
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Dinner, bed and breakfast for 2 and a bottle of wine = £113.50. It was great value for money and worth a visit if you are in the area and looking for cheap and cheerful. The staff were very friendly and welcoming, especially the owner Malcolm, his son, Malcolm, and the barman, Jamie who unfortunately is set to leave and I bet, will be a sad lost to the Ducks.