One of the campaigns from VisitScotland for 2014 is the idea that the country is a land of Brilliant Moments: whether it’s the sight of a mountain glen, the sounds of the bagpipes or the taste of a fine meal, visitors will have memories to last a lifetime.
We only spent four nights in Scotland yet we came home reeling from the beauty, history and warm welcome we received. My previous posts cover many of the highlights of the trip:
But there’s still more to tell, still experiences I want to write down, to preserve for my own pleasure and to share with the big world out there. So here are all the bits that didn’t fit neatly into the other posts: the brilliant moments the four of us shared.
|The mezzanine of the Ubiquitous Chip|
That’s some name for a restaurant, isn’t it. ‘The Chip’ as it’s known to the locals, is a long established, well-loved restaurant in the West End of Glasgow. On a recommendation, we booked a table for our first night in the city, taking a taxi to Ashton Lane and being utterly captivated as we got out of the cab, to see the cobbled streets and twinkling lights welcoming us to a charming part of the city. The restaurant in the courtyard is quite bewitching with tiny lights and masses of greenery, reminiscent of a bijou bistro somewhere in the Mediterranean.
We had booked a table in the brasserie, in the mezzanine. A slightly different, lighter menu than in the ground floor restaurant but the experience was just as magical. What did we eat? Our starters included The Chip’s famous venison haggis, neeps and tatties and a delicious Tarbert crab. For mains, my Inverurie beef skirt with smoked potatoes and mushroom ketchup was, in true food critic parlance, historic.
A relaxed atmosphere, friendly unfussy service and excellent food. A big thumbs up from the Burgess clan.
A family-owned traditional Italian restaurant, one minute’s walk away from our B&B, Don Costanzo hadn’t been recommended to us but, as it was so close it seemed the perfect choice for our second night in Glasgow. An informal, welcoming restaurant with great service. If you moved away from the pasta dishes, the mains weren’t cheap but there were no complaints about the calamari, mussels, lemon sole, poached pears and a light-as-a-feather Tiramisu. We loved it and it was an easy stagger back to our beds.
|Stanes bar in Dunstane Hotel|
The Dunstane Hotel, Edinburgh
Our base in Edinburgh, a 20 minute walk to the west end of Princes Street (but we took the bus), the Dunstane Hotel had free parking which was ideal for us. It’s an unusual hotel because there are, in fact, two properties, one either side of the main road running into the city centre. We were given rooms in the main hotel so didn’t have to cross the road to have breakfast. However, we had access to the more contemporary building with its lounge, TV and honesty bar and this was great in the evenings. Our ‘classic’ rooms were a little on the small side but were pretty and the bathrooms spotless.
Despite having a choice of Edinburgh restaurants to choose from, there was something very comforting about the Dunstane’s dining room, Skerries Restaurant, so we ate there both nights. Our favourite dishes were the haggis bon bons with chilli jam for starters and the various fish dishes (monkfish, salmon and battered haddock). In fact, Rory must have had haggis in almost every meal he had in Edinburgh, choosing it for breakfast and evening meal. His father was so proud.
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
This was one of Dougie’s brilliant moments rather than mine. While I was back at the Dunstane, resting my weary legs, he decided to explore the streets behind the hotel. Wandering past the houses, he came across the Water of Leith, a river running through Edinburgh from the Pentland Hills to the Firth of Forth. Finding a small bridge over the river, he explored further and found himself in the grounds of the National Gallery of Modern Art. The gallery itself had closed but he was able to walk though the gardens, finding superb sculptures by artists such as Joan Miro and Henry Moore.
|Dougie’s Brilliant Moments caught on his phone: the hidden treasures behind our hotel.|
The Falkirk Wheel
Driving between Glasgow and Edinburgh, we took a slight detour to visit the Falkirk Wheel, the world’s first and only rotating boat lift. This 35m high structure is situated where the Forth & Clyde Canal meets the Union Canal. An ingenious design allows boats to enter the contraption and be transported to the next level on the canal network. Families can have a trip on a boat and experience it for themselves: we sat in the warm visitors’ centre, escaping the only rain of the holiday, and watched the procedure instead. This would be a great place for a day trip: a children’s play area, canoe hire, woodland walks and a water play park plus Rough Castle Roman Fort and the Antonine Wall nearby.
|The Falkirk Wheel – stationary and in motion.|
The success of any holiday is measured by the happiness level everyone in the party. Taking two 18 year olds on a fairly full-on trip, involving lots of sightseeing, might have been a testing time. On the contrary, despite early starts and a great deal of walking, the teens were a joy to have around. They adored both Glasgow and Edinburgh and were wonderful travelling companions. The memories I will treasure will be the evenings chatting over dinner and the laughs we had as we visited museums and galleries. But I think my own Brilliant Moment came when I realised that family holidays don’t have to end when our children grow up. Thank you, Scotland.
|Juliana and Rory, our travelling companions, very happy in the Ubiquitous Chip.|
Our trip was arranged by VisitScotland. All accommodation was paid for and we were given passes for all the attractions requiring an entry fee. We chose our own itinerary, having been given some recommendations.
For more information on holidaying in Scotland go to www.vistscotland.com
VisitScotland’s internationally recognised Quality Assurance scheme is a benchmark for quality and service standards across the tourism industry and operates across accommodation, visitor attractions and food sectors.
12 Ashton Lane, Glasgow
+44 (0)141 334 5007
13 Woodside Crescent, Glasgow
+44 (0) 141 332 3070
4 West Coates, Haymarket, Edinburgh
+44 (0) 131 337 6169
Scottish National Museum of Modern Art
75 Belford Road, Edinburgh
The Falkirk Wheel
Lime Road, Tamfourhill, Falkirk
08700 500 208