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Tag Archives: Scotland

The Best of the UK

The United Kingdom boasts a wealth of attractions for every member of the family. So many in fact, it’s hard to choose just a few to highlight. But if you’re debating how to spend your vacation dollars, you can’t go wrong with any of the following:

National Space Centre

For weekend breaks that don’t cost the earth, head into space. The National Space Centre that is. The word “space” doesn’t immediately spring to mind when you think of the UK, but the award-winning National Space Centre in Leicester is excellent choice if you’re looking for a quick weekend break. The UK’s attraction dedicated entirely to space, the National Space Centre offers hours of interactive fun and self-discovery. There’s even a nifty planetarium to keep you (and the kids) occupied for hours. 

The Royal Opera House Tea Dance

Royal Opera House London

Named by Lonely Planet as one of Best UK Attractions for 2013, the tea dances offer an unparalleled “back-in-time” experience where you can waltz, tango, cha cha cha and quickstep to the Royal Opera Dance Band at this London landmark. Check their website for dates and times throughout the year.

British Museum

British Museum Best of the UK

The most visited site in all the United Kingdom for 2012, London’s British Museum never fails to impress. From the inspired design of the building to the rotating exhibits, there is no doubt that every family member will find something that appeals to them here. And good news for the budget-conscious – admission is free.

National Football Museum

If you find yourself keen on cheap short breaks out of the city of London, head to Manchester where you can find no better attraction than the National Football Museum. The museum houses the world’s greatest football collection with over 140,000 items, and explores everything related to the “world’s greatest sport.” Five floors of interactive exhibits dedicated to football past and present are open to the public. And again, like the British Museum in London, admission if free.

The Coast

A visit to the UK would not be complete without a visit to the coast. Did you know that there’s a stellar beach only 43 miles from London? It’s in the town of Skegness — there’s even a Butlin’s resort here with a stellar waterpark if you’re hesitant to dip your toes in the sometimes chilly ocean.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle

Dominating the skyline of Edinburgh in Scotland, the massive Edinburgh Castle is not only one of the largest, it’s also the city’s oldest building. The Crown Jewels are on display here, including the Crown, Sceptre, and Sword of State which are the oldest Crown Jewels in the United Kingdom. Coveted by kings, the historical Stone of Destiny – built into a throne by King Edward I —  is also on view within the castle walls.

Christmas in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is frequently listed as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Brimming with history, the pretty skyline is filled with castles and sandstone, and its cobbled streets are lined with museums, boutique hotels, galleries, traditional pubs and artisan shops selling everything from hand-made quilts to loose leaf tea. The perfect combination of upmarket sophistication and olde worlde charm, it makes the perfect setting for a Christmas break. And the city has worked hard to provide residents and visitors alike with a dazzling array of activities and events to see them through the festive season.

The first thing to do if you’ll be spending Christmas here is to book your Christmas meal. If you’re visiting family, then you’ll already be taken care of, but if you’re only here for a few days it’s a great excuse to luxuriate and let one of the top hotels or restaurants take care of you. Elliot’s Restaurant at the Apex Waterloo Hotel does a particularly luxurious Christmas day lunch or dinner, but there are plenty of pubs offering great home-made grub if you look around (try Witchery by the Castle for a good ‘in-between’ – homely, welcoming, but very good quality food. They do a fabulous parma-wrapped rabbit).

German Christmas ornaments at Edinburgh Christmas market, Christmas in Edinburgh Scotland

If you’re leaving the usual sights to another time (the Castle, Arthur’s Seat, the Scottish Poetry Library), and want a full-on Christmas experience, then head straight to the Real Christmas Fair on Castle Street (1-6 Dec). Christmas lights and traditional music fill the streets, and there are free tastings at lots of the stalls selling traditional fare. The Ethical Christmas Fair picks up where the Real Christmas Fair leaves off, selling home-made and ethical wares including hand-crafted Christmas garlands, candles, jewellery and clothing. Or if you head to The Mound, you can enjoy the German Christmas Market and its festive food and drink offerings. A cup of Glühwein on a frosty day is a marvellous thing, and the traditional German biscuits and pastries are as delightful as the general feeling of cheer in the place.

Fireworks over Edinburgh, Scotland

Aside from the food, the absolute highlight of Christmas in Edinburgh is the fireworks. Every year, fireworks light up the sky from Edinburgh Castle to Holyroodhouse in a dazzling display of gunpowder brilliance. This year, Light Night has been scheduled for November 29, but don’t worry if you miss it. There are plenty of fireworks displays all over the city between Christmas and New Year’s. Check ahead of your trip to make sure you don’t miss them. And if you’re staying on for New Year’s, join the torchlight procession up Calton Hill to watch the traditional burning of the wicker man.

Temporary ice rink in Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, Scotland

If you’ve brought the kids with you, make sure you book ahead for the specially set up Christmas ice rink at East Princes Street Gardens. It’s a stunning setting, and the rink is big enough that you don’t get crowded out by the throng of tourists. This year, there’s a 3D cinema on site, and as per usual, there’ll be festive foods and mulled wine sold at the sides of the rink, so you can warm up your hands and get warmed up for those Christmas carols later. Just don’t forget your gloves!

Deseo at Gleneagles – A combination of Scotland and Spain, of Winter and Summer

Deseo restaurant, Gleneagles, Scotland

When it comes to weather, the British are rarely happy. We yearn for Summer, only for it to arrive and it to be too hot – or too wet. Winter rolls around; and you guessed it – it’s too cold. As a result, a winter getaway holed up somewhere homely and warming can be perfect. Gleneagles Hotel and Resort in Perthshire, Scotland is one such example; and now, this winter wonderland is offering guests an all-round summer treat – Deseo Restaurant, a self-styled Mediterranean food emporium.

Opened in 2007, Deseo is a relatively new addition to this famous luxury hotel. In essence, it is Gleneagles’ principle casual dining restaurant, offering a variety of cuisines and meal experiences in disparate and relaxed surroundings.

The main room at Deseo is designed to create a vibrant dining experience; a large-yet-intimate restaurant with a striking open kitchen, the focus of which is the clay pizza oven, surely providing welcome warmth in the Scottish winter. A large antipasti station allows the hungry guest to help themselves and retire back their table to peruse the rest of the menu. Diners seeking a more intimate dinner may be interested in the ‘Quiet Area’, a plush corner of Deseo with plenty of secluded tables and nooks to enjoy a more peaceful meal.

Between the dining room and the Quiet Area is the emporium itself. Akin to a food bazaar, there are counters focusing on fresh produce with interactive explanations, inviting the more inquisitive guest (or foodie) to wander around and watch the food being prepared by chefs, right there, right then. Alternatively, guests can take up roost on one of the ‘Teppanyaki’-style food bars to taste the food, immersing themselves in gastronomic inspiration.

Deseo 2

Much like offering the perfect mix of wintertime dining in summery surroundings, Deseo effortlessly amalgamates the virtues of Scottish produce with Mediterranean colour and flair. The tapas menu features tradition Spanish dishes such as cured meats and Southern European vegetables, though fused with Scottish touches such as local Isle of Lewis Salmon. The rest of the menu features Italian classics such as pizza, pasta, risotto and the mighty Tiramisu alongside local dishes such as Aberdeen Angus beef and Scottish seafood. The kids menu offers simplified tapas alongside staples such as burgers and pizzas. On the other end of the spectrum, the chef’s table offers a tasting menu of tapas, Mediterranean cuisine and Scottish produce, served in the emporium by a personal chef.

Deseo seemingly offers the impossible – summery Mediterranean cuisine with hearty Scottish touches, all year round, whatever the weather outside throws at you. So whether you are a fan of windy winters or the summer sun, Deseo Restaurant is perfect for any occasion.

Greg is a travel writer and food lover, he’s currently working with Gleneagles and planning his next adventure to Scotland.

Quirky Things to Do In Glasgow

Unique, Odd, & Unusual Things to do in Glasgow, Scotland

Glasgow – the largest city of Scotland has turned itself from an industrial city to a tourist attraction in a matter of a few years. This is known to be the shopping center of the British and is one of the most famous cities in Europe. While you can enjoy the shopping malls, Glasgow Science Centre and the Tall ship but there are other Things to Do in Glasgow that you will love. These tourist attractions are worthy to watch but there are also some odd and unusual places in Glasgow that you would like to see.

1. Things to Do in Glasgow: Meet The Loch Ness Monster!

Black and White Loch Ness Monster -- Loch Ness, Scotland

While technically not in Glasgow, the lake where this legend resides can be driven to and fro in a day. The story goes that there is a serpent like monster living under the  loch. Many enthusiastic souls come to Scotland just to look at this mystic creature. If monster-spotting is not your thing, then you can take in view of the Loch Ness lake or enjoy a day of fishing.

2. Things to Do in Glasgow: Ghost Hunting

The Arches at Glasgow Central Station -- things to do in Glasgow Scotland

This can be found at the Arches that are below Glasgow Central Station. The legend says that a ghost who is called “The Little Girl” Resides here. This girl can be seen wearing old clothes under these arches and roam around during the night time. Eyewitnesses swear on a stack of Bibles that this “Little Girl” ghost does exist. If you’ve got the right constitution,  you might even like to visit this place at night…alone.

3. Things to Do in Glasgow: Reston Mather

Provan Hall, Glasgow Scotland

Blochairn House and Provan Hall is yet another haunted destination worth your visit. Though nobody knows how the rumour started, the legend goes that the last owner and resident of the house Reston Mather is still living in this place, only without his body. If that weren’t enough, the Provan Hall of this house is supposed to house two more ghosts a boy (young, around 15) and a woman that is supposed to be a phantom. The legend says that these two were murdered in the same building and are still dwelling here.

4. Things to Do in Glasgow: Barlinnie Prison

HMP_Barlinnie, Glasgow Scotland

Don’t worry, the ghost here is kept behind a firm wall of thick bricks. The origin is unknown but it is said that a women holding a lantern is seen in this prison, in the surgery wing of the old penitentiary. How she came to be there, nobody knows, but she is indeed there. If you do come across her, she’s easily recognizable by her Victorian clothes. And that fact that she’s dead of course. That’s sort of a giveaway as well.

What quirky or unusual things to do in Glasgow do you know?