Food – Port of Menteith: The Lake of Menteith Hotel. Dining in spectacular surroundings

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There can be few more spectacular dining settings than here at the Lake of Menteith Hotel, perched, as it is, on the shores of its namesake. The hotel itself is styled in the design of a New England waterfront inn and sits perfectly in this landscape.

Located in central Scotland some 14 miles from Stirling, and even from Glasgow or Edinburgh, can be reached within an hours drive.

The lake is Scotland’s only natural one. It contains Inchmahome Priory,  a now abandoned Augustinian priory formed by Walter Comyn, Earl of Menteith in 1238. The Island of Inchmahome is where Mary Queen of Scots spent three weeks hidden following Somerset’s defeat of the Scots army at Pinky Cleugh. The Priory can be visited by boat from Port of Menteith during the months of March to September.

If you’re lucky you just might see an osprey feeding on the trout in this stocked fishery. Herons patrol the shallows and reed beds and in the evening, as darkness falls, you could be in for a treat if the otters that inhabit this area make an appearance.

Food – Crieff: Knock Castle Hotel. A rooftop restaurant with unparalleled views.

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Knock Castle Hotel & Spa – simply stunning at night.

Knock Castle Hotel & Spa isn’t just a place to lay your head – albeit in some luxury, but it’s also an award-winning restaurant in its own right – and you don’t have to be staying here to enjoy it.

I reviewed the hotel in February 2019 Crieff: Knock Castle Hotel & Spa. Living like a king – for a day! and was so impressed with the food provided that I’ve decided to review the restaurant as a separate entity.  Why, I hear you ask, well that’s simply because it deserves it.

The kitchen brigade is run by the hotels chef-patron Jason Henderson, who, rather amazingly, not only is the head chef, but also the man behind the overall control of the hotel, ably assisted by his right-hand man, general manager, Malcolm Copland.

It’s a quite remarkable achievement.  Running a kitchen is in itself a full-time job, never mind adding in the complexities of a hotel to the mix, but Jason not only manages but makes it look effortless too.

Crieff: Knock Castle Hotel & Spa. Living like a king – for a day!

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Located in the heart of Highland Perthshire there lies the small market town of Crieff.  And tucked away in a quiet secluded spot high above the main street is a piece of Victorian splendour that has stood the test of time.  This is the gem that is Knock Castle Hotel & Spa.

The fairytale turreted castle lies in its own private three-and-a-half acre site reached down a tree-lined driveway which rears up to meet you in all its majesty between the forested canopy.  Lit at night by green floodlighting, the gothic-looking structure could easily be part of a film set.

It really is awe-inspiring, and, if first impressions count, then this luxurious spa hotel needs no further introduction.  This the type of place where you can dress up in your Sunday best and act out the part of Lord of the manor, or, alternatively, set yourself up in the bar and relax as the stress of everyday living rapidly dissolves.

Built in the 1800s the building was once the former home of shipping magnate Lady Macbrayne. It then had a spell as a nursing home before being bought up by a local family, the Hendersons. This establishment is kept firmly on track under the careful guidance of the energetic and award-winning chef patron, Jason Henderson, ably assisted by a select management team headed up by the general manager, Malcolm Copland – an extremely likeable and professional individual with a very definite finger on the pulse of this hotel at all times.

Food: Blantyre – Central Cafe. Watch out for this one, it’s going places!

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Blantyre’s Central Cafe

Move over, there’s a new kid on the block, quite literally – at Block three, Blantyre Industrial Estate, Lanarkshire.

Central Cafe is located in a busy industrial space on the outskirts of Hamilton and located minutes off the main A725 East Kilbride Expressway. Not perhaps your first choice of location to travel to, but don’t be too hasty – bear with me on this one folks.

I turned up on a Friday afternoon at 12 noon for a lunch, having heard about this new business from a friend.  I have to say I was intrigued – and the thought did run through my mind as to what quality of food could ever be offered by a ‘greasy spoon cafe’ on an industrial estate in Blantyre. Have you ever heard of that old saying “never judge a book by the cover?”  Well in this particular case it was never more aptly applied!

The place was busy, even at 12 noon with what appeared to be a mix of tradesmen, businessman and local customers. That’s a sign immediately that this cafe and I hesitate to call it that because it’s so much more, is doing something right, particularly as it had only just opened the week previously.

Accomm: Cologne. Lindner City Plaza. A very comfortable hotel in a superb location.

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The Lindner City Plaza Hotel.

Sometimes trying to find a good hotel, and relying on other people’s subjective opinions and reviews can all be a bit ‘hit and miss’. However, The Lindner group’s City Plaza establishment in Cologne is a very definite ‘hit’ in terms of both location and level of comfort provided.

This is a hotel, which, at the time of our visit in December 2018, was predominantly used by business clients rather than tourists.  But, don’t let that put you off, it’s merely proof, if it were needed, that its location is slap bang in the centre of the city and is ideally placed.  Located at Magnustrasse 20, it is a five-minute walk to the nearest underground station (U-Bahn).

I was visiting the Kölner Weihnachtsmarkt or Christmas markets, of which there are seven dotted around the city. And, from this hotel, the main four can easily be reached on foot with a 30-minute gentle stroll. See blog post here. Travel: Cologne’s Christmas markets. Well worth a visit.

Getting from Cologne Bonn airport is easy via all the usual methods, however, we had pre-booked a taxi in order that we didn’t have to wait around for trains or buses, and from collecting our luggage to arriving at the hotel, was a short 30-minute journey.

The hotel is located on a quiet street, and should you be driving yourself there, the hotel has a private underground car park.  Should it so happen that it is full, then fear not as there’s a public multi-storey car park directly opposite the hotels front door.

Food – Germany – Cologne: Jameson’s Distillery Pub. Excellent grub at reasonable prices.

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Jameson’s Distillery Pub, Cologne.

 

Imagine. Who travels to Cologne and then decides to eat in an Irish pub, when there is no shortage of local providers? Well, me, apparently! However, in my defence, we had just arrived that day and were looking for somewhere local to dine. Jameson’s was literally a five-minute walk from our hotel on Magnustrasse.

There are two steps from the pavement to reach the front door, which is wide enough to permit wheelchair access, however, once inside be aware there isn’t a huge amount of room in which to manoeuvre, and there are also further steps into other dining areas set apart from the main floor.

This pub/diner is entirely true to its name and Irish roots.  dark mahogany wood seats and tables, display cases of assorted Irish memorabilia and pictures of the old homeland.  In the main bar, there is an awesome marquetry style roof, and, frankly, it’s worth a visit just to see this.

The establishment is located in Friesenstrasse, a quiet side street where there are also a selection of other restaurants serving several local hotels.  It has a covered outdoor dining area which features heaters, but given that our visit was in December 2018 and the temp hovered just above freezing, eating en plein-air just wasn’t on the cards.

Travel: Cologne’s Christmas markets. Well worth a visit.

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There’s no better way to get you in the festive spirit than that of a traditional Christmas market. The lights, the atmosphere, the smells and the sounds, and that dear reader is quite possibly why I take a trip each December to set me up in time for the big event.

Cologne is a city with something for everyone, regardless of age, interests or gender, making it an ideal location for a pre-Christmas visit – we were tempted by the famed Christmas markets – known as the season of Kölner Weihnachtsmarkt – of which there are seven in total. Every year these markets attract almost three million visitors to Cologne.

Right off I’m going to suggest you make sure you take a sturdy pair of walking shoes, a warm jacket, a hat, gloves and a camera. Oh, and if you can afford it, try to book into a city centre hotel.  We used the Lindner group’s City Plaza Hotel and found that its location at Magnusstraße 20 was perfect. See my review here: Accomm: Cologne. Lindner City Plaza. A very comfortable hotel in a superb location.

Accomm:Oban Glenburnie House. Excellence with a view to match.

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Glenburnie House, Oban – the epitome of excellence.

It’s fair to say the west coast seaside town of Oban isn’t renowned for having a huge selection of five-star hotels – in fact, it struggles to get above a reasonable three-star level.

However, don’t let that put you off visiting.  There are some establishments that reach that level of luxury and comfort you crave, and the Glenburnie House is one of those.

Located on the Esplanade this Victorian, granite built home already rates a five-star with TripAdvisor from 368 reviews.  That, by anyone’s standard, is pretty good going. The guest house has private parking available, and if that’s full, there is on-street parking immediately outside the entrance, although it is metered at certain times.

The location of this establishment is, well, not to put too fine a point on it, simply stunning. It offers an unrivalled seafront location with spectacular views across Oban Bay and the island of Kerrera, where you can sit and idly watch the ferries toing and froing from the outer islands.

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There are some delightful views from the front-facing rooms.

Food: Harrogate – The Royal Baths. Stunning setting with a quality of food to match.

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The Royal Baths Chinese restaurant, Harrogate.

I once reviewed a Chinese restaurant in Blackpool and remember at the time thinking it would be almost impossible to beat. Well, how foolish was I because it has at least been matched!

The Royal Baths Chinese Restaurant has proven that it is possible to eat quality oriental food outside of China, but to find such a gem of an establishment in Harrogate of all places was, quite frankly, remarkable!

The establishment is located in Crescent Road in what was the original Royal Baths building of this spa town. The decor is stunning! Gothic columns, original stained glass, marble flooring, imported authentic Chinese furniture. Just go and have a look, its well worth it even if you don’t eat anything.

Food: The Creagan Inn. A pub with a seaview restaurant on the shores of Loch Creran.

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Creagan Inn is located on the main road so do take care, it can be busy.

Creagan Inn is a delightful pub which sits on the main A828 road between Ballachulish and Oban in the rural coastal area of Appin on the west of Scotland.  It is located in an enviable position on Loch Creran with stunning views across the bay to the hills of Mull in the far distance. The famous Castle Stalker, guarding the entrance to Loch Laich, was the one time home of the Stewarts of Appin and is located around five miles from the Inn.

Originally believed to have been built as a ferryman’s cottage in the 1740s, it is possible that where Loch Creran narrows at this point there may have been a ferry service before the road or even the rail bridge was built.

And, Creagan is a far cry from the days I enjoyed its public bar with the then host Alex Wardlaw on many clay pigeon shoots at Fasnacloich back in the 80s, being completely unrecognisable now, with the exception of the original stone building’s façade.

There’s ample parking with three separate car parks, but I’d urge caution as this is a busy road, particularly in the tourist season, so take care when entering or exiting any of the car parks.

Disabled access is good with ramped or level access throughout the building, as well as a couple of marked disabled bays in one of the car parks.

Inside, it’s basically all open-plan with a mix of table sizes, some of which have lochside views.  There’s also an outdoor dining area, which I can only imagine would be stunning on a summers evening as the sun sets across the Loch Creran.  At the time of our visit it was cold, wet, grey, and in good Scottish parlance, a ‘dreich’ day!

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Sunset on Loch Creran – Copyright: Flickr