If you are planning a Scottish city break, you are no doubt weighing up the history of Edinburgh against the culture of Glasgow. I'm sure that most of you haven't even figured Scotland's fourth largest city into the equation...yet!
'One City, Many Discoveries' is the current marketing slogan for Dundee and there are certainly many great discoveries to be found, they are just less in your face than other places. Thanks to huge investment in redevelopment and tourism, Dundee is very soon going to be discovered by the masses and that is just one of many reasons why you should visit now, in case you need any persuasion here are a few more!
1. Visit before the tourists arrive
There is nothing that makes me feel more satisfied than visiting a destination before it becomes the next big thing. Before the shiny buildings, boutique hotels and tourist prices, when there is still some decay and the layers of heritage can be viewed on the streets without the need to visit a museum. If you want to get away from the tourists and be among the first to 'discover' Dundee then now is the time to visit.
The UK's first UNESCO City of Design and the home of jute, jam, journalism and Grand Theft Auto is currently in a state of transformation, the rubble of demolished buildings along the waterfront is the first sign that big changes are on the way. The £1 Billion redevelopment will include the V&A Museum Of Design as it's jewel in the crown and will put the city firmly on the Scottish tourist map.
2. Enjoy uninterrupted views of the city
Head up 572 ft to the peak of The Law, an extinct volcano formed around 400 million years ago and take in the uninterrupted 360 degree vista of the city and beyond. You can walk, run or cycle to the top if you're feeling active or just cheat and drive up to the viewpoint car park!
Whatever way you get there the effort (or non effort) is worth it for the views. I found it a great starting point to get my bearings across the surrounding landscape.
When I was approached by Premier Inn to be their Glasgow city ambassador for the festive period and go on a Christmas themed expedition around the city for the day I jumped at the chance to share some of the best winter fun that is taking place over the holiday season. With the slogan 'Glasgow Loves Christmas' being used to promote the city I was keen to discover what extra offerings were available.
So this weekend I wrapped up warm, charged my camera and put on my special stripy expedition ear muffs before setting out with a vague plan. In case you were wondering my day ended up a going a little something like this...
An early rise, a flurry of snow and several thousand Santas ensured my day started off with a festive bang. The Glasgow Santa Dash is an annual event organised by Glasgow City Council and aims to raise money for nominated charities and good causes.
A sea of red swept through the city centre as Santas of every age and size, Including a few four legged hairy ones, made their way around the 5K route. If you are in Glasgow during December this is a spectacle you won't want to miss and you might even be tempted to take part next year!
Glasgow has had a lot to celebrate in 2014 after being the host city for a very successful Commonwealth Games in the summer, then continuing the party into the autumn by hosting the MTV European Music Awards. As the year draws to an end the city is looking more magical than ever as it sparkles under twinkling lights and the festive revelry begins.
Glasgow is already renowned as one of the best shopping destinations in Europe. With its style mile, designer names, traditional department stores, shopping centres and usual high street offerings there is no shortage of places to find the perfect present. However, Glasgow is also a retail haven for hand made Scottish goods from talented designers which can found at one of the many craft markets that take place around the city and of course at this time of year you can also hunt down some unusual goodies at the annual outdoor Christmas Market. I headed off with my pennies and my Christmas shopping list for some retail therapy at some of my favourite venues.
Frasers Department Store - The city's oldest department store is a much loved Glasgow institution, especially at Christmas time when it's shopping halls are adorned from head to toe in twinkly brilliance. Visiting Frasers at this time of year always takes me back to my childhood and I still find it just as magical an adult.
It really is a shopping mecca and I found myself spending a bit too much time (and money!) wandering around it's maze of floors brimming with tempting treasures.
If you're planning a visit to Scotland you will no doubt be wanting to experience as many things as you can within your budget. It's still possible to have a fantastic holiday in Scotland even if your finances are limited so I thought I would share a few of my tips to help make your money go that little further.
I have broken down my tips into two parts and this blog is designed to help you save money on transport, attractions and souvenirs. Watch out for part two which will have advice on saving money on your accommodation, food and drink.
Scotland is a small country and pretty easy to get around by car, however fuel prices in the UK can be costly and any savings you can make when filling up your tank will help you travel that bit further for that bit less. The cheapest fuel prices are normally found at supermarket petrol stations and it is possible to save up to 10 pence per litre over your out of town and rural garages. The main supermarkets with petrol stations are ASDA, Morrisons and Tescos.
If you are travelling by public transport then look out for off peak travel, all day tickets and multi journey tickets which can be more economical than paying for single journey tickets. For example if you were take a return train journey between Glasgow and Edinburgh for the day, travelling at on peak times it would cost £22.50 yet an off peak ticket would only cost £12.60, off peak times can vary so check the websites or ask at the ticket office.
The main transport providers that you will probably use during your journey are Scotrail for trains, City Link for long distance buses and CalMac for ferries. You can compare ticket prices online and order in advance.
If you are travelling in Glasgow then the Subway is a cheap and easy way to get around and if you are travelling in Edinburgh then the new tram system runs from the Airport and through the city centre, again you can check the website links for the best value tickets.
There are often travel discounts on national and local transport routes for senior citizens and students so it is worth carrying your ID and asking at the booking office.
In larger Scottish cities you can also get around by taxi with a choice of either a black cab or private hire car although only black cabs can be hailed in the street, private hires must be booked in advance for a designated pick up location. Black cabs can be costly to travel in so it would be worthwhile getting the number of a local reliable private hire company from your hotel which will work out much cheaper. It's acceptable to ask your accommodation or restaurant to call a private hire taxi on your behalf.
The cheapest and best way to see a place is by walking around, even the main cities have compact centres which are easy to explore on foot. Stop by the tourist information office and pick up a free city centre map and if you get really lost a friendly local will be happy to point you in the right direction!
Last weekend I enjoyed a much needed break at Lochearnhead and discovered some beautiful parts of Scotland covered in a tapestry of autumnal colours. After 2 weeks suffering from a literal pain in the neck and some serious sleep deprivation I really needed somewhere peaceful and picturesque to recharge my batteries.
Thanks to my lovely mum I had a voucher for a 2 night stay at the Clachan Cottage Hotel in Lochearnhead and the loch side location was just perfect for spending some relaxing time outdoors. Up until now I have only ever driven past Loch Earn but this was the perfect opportunity to stop and explore this popular tourist spot.
I enjoyed the most amazing walk through nearby Glen Lednock which runs from the town of Comrie. I followed the deserted road through the glen and up to the dam where I was rewarded with the most spectacular view of Loch Lednock. I can't recommend this area highly enough and there were quite a few walks to choose from, it really is one of the most tranquil and stunning places I've visited in Scotland. The nearby towns and villages of Comrie, St Fillans, Lochearnhead and Killin are all pretty stop off points and on the last day I enjoyed a short walk through Crianlarich on my way back to Bute.
Another highlight for me was the hypnotic sculpture by Rob Mulholland which stands reflecting the water near the shore at St Fillans. I had mixed comments when I put my photos of it on social media but you really have to see it to appreciate it!
If you are in need of some time out and your batteries need a boost, Loch Earn and the surrounding area is the ideal spot. If you are in need of any more convincing here are some of my photos from the weekend.
1. Step aboard a fishing boat on the River Clyde, Glasgow
Book a cabin and stay the night on the MV Reliant, a converted fishing boat situated on the river Clyde in Glasgow. Read about my stay here.
This week I'm having a staycation which when you live on a lovely Scottish Island feels a lot like you're on holiday anyway. However with the dark nights drawing in and some spare time on my hands it has given me the opportunity to start researching some ideas for Scottish travel adventures in 2015.
If you are a regular reader of my blog you have probably gathered that I like to search out places that are a wee bit unusual and wanted to share with you some of the quirky accommodation that I have come across during my internet trawling. From old fire trucks to trains to gypsy caravans, there is no shortage of fun choices of places to spend the night in Scotland. I should really have called this blog post 10 quirky places I want to stay in Scotland! I'm not sure my budget is big enough to sample them all next year but I hope to at least visit a few and review them for you on my blog.
So here is my guide to 10 quirky places you can spend the night in Scotland.
2. Enjoy a sleepover on a traditional railway carriage overlooking Loch Awe
This self catering converted railway carriage has stunning views over Loch Awe towards the historic Kilchurn Castle. Visit website
3. Let your stress melt away in this converted fire service truck in Aviemore
This converted Commer Q4 fire service truck was rescued from the Manston Fire Museum in Kent and is now situated in the grounds of inshriach House, Aviemore. Visit website
When researching accommodation for my recent Outlander blog trip to Fife I firstly needed to find somewhere in a convenient place for visiting all the filming locations on my list. I also decided on self catering as I wanted somewhere that felt like a home from home to really immerse myself in the area and get a feel for living as a local in one of the historical towns I was going to write about. I also needed somewhere quiet, with all mod cons so I could do my research and blogging in comfort and without disturbance.
Whilst browsing TripAdvisor I came across The Tanhouse Studio Holiday Apartment in Culross which looked perfect as it was situated in one of the villages used for filming, was very reasonably priced at £55 per night, I only needed to stay a minimum of 2 nights and as it had excellent reviews it seemed to tick all the boxes.
The little studio apartment is situated above a double garage next the owners' house which is one of the large, old properties in the heart of the village. My first impression of the flat was 'WOW' as it is totally my style in bright fresh white with simple contrasting blue coastal decor. Although small it feels surprisingly spacious and the three windows provide plenty of light and amazing views over Culross and the Firth of Forth and you can even see the Forth bridges in the distance.
The owners, Gail and Douglas, were very welcoming and although they live in the adjacent house the flat felt very private but they are close enough should you have any problems (which I didn't).
The finish on the apartment is to a very high standard and everything provided was of excellent quality, John Lewis mugs no less! After a long drive the little welcome basket was indeed very much appreciated as it meant I could enjoy a cup of tea and a biscuit before heading out to the supermarket for proper supplies.
There is a small kitchen with all the cooking utensils, crockery and cutlery you need, a micro/oven, dishwasher fridge/freezer, kettle and toaster. There is also a handy seating area with table and chairs.
The Outlander book series by Diana Gabaldon has taken on a whole new lease of popularity and growing international fandom since the TV series began broadcasting this year.
Much of the story takes place in the 18th century Highlands of Scotland and surrounds the adventures and romance of the two main characters, Jamie and Claire.
The filming of the show took place at multiple locations around Scotland with many scenes shot in the historical towns and castles of Fife. It may not have the mountains of the Highlands or Skye but Fife is one of the most important royal historical regions of Scotland and is still often referred to as the Kingdom of Fife.
From a Pictish Kingdom to Scotland's ancient capital, from the home of golf to the resting place of King Robert the Bruce, this area of the country is steeped in history. If you add in some colourful fishing villages, the only award-winning blue flag beaches in Scotland, the highest number of national attractions in the country and the fact it has been voted 'No 1 outdoor destination' by Scottish Natural Heritage for seven years in a row and you might wonder why this area is often overlooked in favour of a Highland roadtrip.
If you are a fan of Outlander you now have even more reason to visit (six more in fact) and explore some of the filming locations of the show.
Thanks to a contact from TayScreen I managed to get a list of the Fife locations where the filming of Outlander took place and decided to book myself a few days in the area to explore them all and compile a blog post with the details. My list included the towns of Falkland, Culross and Limekilns, and the castles of Balgonie and Aberdour. Quite by chance I also found some standing stones nearby Culross which I have included in my guide just as a point of interest and in case anyone fancies testing them out! So here is my guide to 6 places you must visit in Fife if you are a fan of Outlander.
Many fans will already be aware that Falkland was used for filming a 1940s Inverness which is quite ironic as many of the houses are preserved from the 17th and 18th century, some even older. With traditional pubs, shops and 28 listed buildings it is certainly a glimpse of times gone by (if you can block out the cars!).
The town is dominated by Falkland Palace which is well worth visiting so make sure you set aside an extra 1- 2 hours to explore the former country residence of the Stuart monarchs and it's unusual gardens. The guides in the Palace are very helpful and will provide you with lots of interesting stories about it's original use as a royal getaway to it's restoration and sometimes dark and turbulent past.
Outlander fans can recreate one of the first scenes of the show by standing at the Bruce fountain in the town centre and looking up to the window of Mrs Baird's B&B just as the ghost of Jamie did in the first episode. Mrs Baird's is in fact The Covenanter Hotel so you can go inside and enjoy a drink if you need a refreshment to quell all the excitement! Just along from the hotel you will find Fayre Earth which was used as Farrell's in the show, although it does look quite different on the outside in it's 21st century colours. Campbell's Coffee House in the show was previously a pharmacy. however after filming it has remained a coffee house and is situated just opposite the fountain.
If you are visiting the town make the most of your time here, take a walk around and look out for all the little details on the buildings including marriage lintels, stone carvings and original signs and get a real sense of historical Scotland.
I recommend half a day here if you want to explore the town, palace and enjoy a meal or drink without feeling rushed.
This week I visited the Royal Burgh of Culross which is full of the most characterful streets and cottages. It is situated in the south west of Fife on the edge of the Firth of Forth and is the most complete example in Scotland today of a Burgh of the 17th and 18th centuries.
I visited as part of my research for a blog on locations in Fife where the Outlander TV show was filmed and it easy to see why this quaint little town was chosen as a location from the 1740s.
I ended up taking so many photographs of the buildings, windows, doorways, plaques and scenery that I have decided to dedicate a photo blog to this scenic part of Scotland.
It is certainly a unique place to visit and if you can ignore the cars and wheelie bins it really does feel like you have been transported back in time without the need to even touch a standing stone, although there are some nearby if you still feel the need...
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