Sometimes in life you just have to take a chance – go with your instincts and move forward. Such was the case with my very first Airbnb booking.
And that’s what led me to Sula, a holiday cottage on a secluded beach in rural Argyll in the Scottish Highlands.
The new-build two-storey home is located at Cuil Bay in the small hamlet of Duror which is equidistant between the seaside town of Oban on the West Coast of Scotland and the outdoor capital of the Highlands at Fort William and has some absolutely spectacular views across the beach on which there is easy access for both walking and fishing.
I once wrote about a seafood restaurant telling readers I didn’t think it could be bettered – well read on, because Loch Fyne Seafood and Grill in Edinburgh has just stolen the crown!
The restaurant, located in the old fish market at Newhaven Harbour in Leith has just undergone a complete refurbishment from the flooring to the ceiling. And, boy does it look good now.
I’ve no idea who the designer is but, like me, he or she has obviously done some travelling down the coast of Maine in the USA. The pastoral greens and blues, the light wood accents on the floors and in the tables/chairs, the large floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the harbour – are all very reminiscent of the many lobster and crab shacks all along the eastern seaboard.
The Cliffs Hotel, owned by the Choice Hotel Group, is an older Victorian-style hotel located on Queen’s Promenade approximately one mile from the town centre.
It couldn’t be in a better location for those visiting Blackpool. It’s roughly a 15-minute walk from the hotels front door to the city centre. Of course, if you can’t be bothered doing that you needn’t worry as there’s a tram stop right outside.
My booking was made directly with the hotel reservations unit and was completely fuss-free; in fact, it was one of the easiest bookings I’ve made. Reservations staff were exceptionally helpful with everything that was thrown at them.
There are certain events in life that should feature on a bucket list – and for me, visiting an attraction that I’ve been trying to get tickets to for more than three years – The Enchanted Forest in Perthshire, was just one such event.
And the reason it’s taken me three years to obtain tickets to this sound and light open-air spectacular is only down to the fact it sells out the moment tickets go on sale every year – and I’ve always been too slow!
However, this time around I was lucky enough to ensure that the moment they opened up the sales desk I was there faster than many sprinters, no easy task for someone like me, and got hold of four tickets for the family.
The Merchant City area of Glasgow is now a rather upmarket and trendy location which is why it was no great surprise to find this is where the hipster pancake restaurant Stack and Still can be found.
Located on West George Street you’ll find there is very little parking available locally and I would recommend you use public transport.
I visited with daughter number one on a Saturday mid-morning in advance of a gin tasting afternoon and thought that some pre-loaded carbohydrate would be a good idea. Talk about busy, the place was almost full, it was heaving. I’ll tell you now there’re many restaurants out there who would sell their grannies to be this busy at 11am on a Saturday morning.
And, it’s not exactly a small restaurant either. I estimated they can easily cover 200 diners in what is basically an open-plan setting with Glasgow’s first self dispense bar.
As a food reviewer, I’ve been exceptionally lucky to have eaten in some of the best restaurants and tasted some of the finest dishes, but sometimes, just sometimes, you leave somewhere in the sure and certain knowledge that a relatively unknown eatery is set for stardom!
And that couldn’t be truer for Edinburgh’s Surf and Turf restaurant on Holyrood Road.
This is the kind of place when word gets out as to how good it actually is, you’ll soon have to make a booking. Walk-ins will become a thing of the distant past. I’m just surprised it’s not been ‘found’ yet.
Having stayed overnight at the Allan Ramsay Hotel in Carlops, we decided not to eat out and to try their own restaurant. And what a fortuitous decision that was. In fact, it was that good I’ve decided it merits a review all of its own.
So, having booked a table for 8pm we duly arrived at 7.45pm to be shown to a nice corner table where we wouldn’t be overlooked by others, but, we needn’t have worried on that front, as you’ll find out later!
If you, like me, dislike modern or boutique style hotels, preferring something with a bit of character, perhaps an older coaching inn, with wooden beams and open fires, then you’re going to love the Allan Ramsay Hotel in the village of Carlops near Midlothian.
I say village, but it could equally well be described as a hamlet. A couple of dozen houses, the hotel, a church, a pair of bus stops, telephone and a postbox and that’s basically your lot. Blink and you could easily miss it.
It would not be unfair to say that the Allan Ramsay Hotel is truly at the heart of the community being slap bang in the centre of the village. Interestingly it has a plaque in the bar to prove exactly that point. Places like this are the literal lifeblood of small communities across the country, serving a purpose far beyond that of food and drink. They are a meeting point, an entertainment venue, a ‘local’, a place to eat, and so much more.
I‘d love to have brought you my fun-filled review of Elsrickle’s Big Red Barn, Lanarkshire’s answer to Fawlty Towers – with its very own Sybil – unfortunately, the whole visit turned into a big embarrassing farce.
The good lady and I had dolled ourselves up and set off as we made our way into deepest South Lanarkshire and to a place where apparently pies reign supreme.
Now, I’ll readily admit to being a bit of a pie aficionado – steak and kidney, chicken and mushroom, macaroni, haggis – yes, I’ve tried them all, written about the good ones, slated the bad imitations and absolutely slammed the nonsense that in the past masqueraded as a pie.
So, off we trundled in the old charabanc down the M74 and along the A702 towards Edinburgh. We duly chugged on past many a good-looking café, pub and restaurant in search of the Big Red Barn near a village called Dolphinton. Weird name eh? How did an inland village in central Scotland get the name of a water-dwelling mammal? Anyway, I digress, back to the pie saga, or should that be piegate.
Sometimes we food writers are lucky enough to find a hidden gem that’s not on the food luvvies circuit.
So imagine my delight while on a day trip to the conservation village of Luss, located some 12 miles outside of Glasgow, on the shores of Loch Lomond, in finding Luss Seafood Bar.
And, while I’m at it, the wee village, which doubled up as Glendarroch in the STV soap drama ‘Take the High Road’, – as Scottish as kilts and shortbread – is well worth a visit and might just feature in a future travel review.
But, back to the purpose of my mad scribblings. Wondering around the village primarily for the purpose of testing a new digital camera, we came across a small bistro tucked down a side street.