The Insider’s Guide to Edinburgh*

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When it comes to visiting a city like Edinburgh, it’s all too easy to get distracted by the idea of tartan and castles, and miss out the capital’s real gems. From some of the country’s best hotels, to restaurants and even some of my favourite salons and spas – there’s always somewhere to add to your ‘must-visit’ list!

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First up, if you’re not a local, your first job is to find your favourite out of the many hotels in Edinburgh city centre. If you’re only staying a night or two, I’m always a fan of enjoying a little luxury, and Edinburgh’s Balmoral Hotel is one of the city’s finest. Originally built as a luxurious base for rail travellers, the hotel’s iconic clock keeps visitors and locals alike on time day and night, thanks to it being set 5 minutes fast so travellers don’t miss their trains (apart from New Year’s Eve when it’s bang on). The building’s exterior is absolutely glorious, and you can’t miss it when you’re exploring the city.

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With 187 rooms to choose from, guests can bring furry family along for the fun, as the hotel has a number of pet friendly options, and General Manager brings along his own dog, Lucy, who sometimes makes appearances in the Lobby.

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Not only does The Balmoral take the crown for Edinburgh’s most central location, but it might just be the foodiest spot to enjoy too! Home to Number One – which has held a Michelin Star for nearly 20 years, it’s a must-visit for those celebrating a special occasion (or who just fancy enjoying some top tier cuisine). If you’re after something a little more relaxed, Brasserie Prince is also a fantastic option, with fine French dishes served up daily.

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Just a short walk up to St Andrew Square, you’ll find my new favourite daytime spot – Lady Libertine. A spot with a bit of a split personality, during the day it feels like something out of Mad Men, with original dark wood panelling, sumptuous velvet booths and swathes of marble. They serve up some of the city’s best coffees, and it’s the perfect meeting spot, as you can sit and chat away for an hour or two without feeling too rushed or hurried. Once night hits, the space transforms into a bit of a speakeasy, with sharing plates to savour and a downstairs space which plays host to DJs on selected nights.

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Like most, I’m trying to incorporate a little more self-care into my weekly and monthly routines, which is where Zen Lifestyle comes in. With two locations in Edinburgh (Hanover Street is the most centrally located, whilst the Bruntsfield location is perfect for those exploring a little further out) Zen Lifestyle has become a bit of a go-to. Mixing relaxation with medical-grade treatments, a trip to Zen will leave you looking and feeling your very best. My most-booked treatment is the Diamondtome Facial – an incredibly effective exfoliation treatment which has absolutely transformed my skin in the year or so that I’ve been enjoying treatments. With no irritation or downtime, it’s perfect if you’ve got sensitive or reactive skin, but still want that natural glow. I love how easy it is to customise your treatments too – you can add massages or red-light therapy treatments onto facials, which leave you positively floating out the salon!

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If you’re in need of a bit of a nail-refresh when you’re visiting Edinburgh, Buff CS is a must-visit! Perched up on East Market Street, the salon is a converted railway arch, and it brings a whole lot of Skandi-cool to the capital. Whether you’re after detailed nail art, or a simple manicure, it’s the top spot to try.  I’ve been a regular for a good few years now, and I can’t believe the difference that having a regular manicure has made to my nails, not to mention that I’m in love with their curated selection of products – if you’re in the market for some very cool, hard to find L:A Bruket, this is the spot to pick it up.

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If you’re after a dose of culture during your trip, head to The Queen’s Gallery at Holyrood Palace. Smaller, and often quieter than the National Galleries (which are definitely worth a trip) it’s part of the Royal Collection, and often hosts some really marvellous exhibitions. Currently showing Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing, which marks the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death, you can often see less well known pieces, which is always such a thrill. The exhibitions change regularly, and include everything from old master paintings, rare furniture, decorative arts to photography.

The spending money used for this post was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own.

A Night at Luxury Hideaways, Perthshire*

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To say this month has been hectic is a bit of an understatement. I feel like I’ve been chasing my tail, so when the opportunity came up to enjoy an evening of ‘glamping’, I positively jumped at the chance.

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A night spent in luxury in the heart of Perthshire sounds like the definition of dreamy, and Luxury Hideaways have positively surpassed all expectations. A duo of luxe pods specially-designed by owner Angus, offer guests the chance to switch off and unwind in secluded luxury.

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Each comes equipped with a private terrace and hot tub where you can enjoy views stretching out over the countryside during the day, or simply relax under the stars at night.

As with everything at Luxury Hideaways, the hot tub is the height of technology – it bubbled up at the touch of a button, and you could change the colours of the lights in the water depending on your mood.

Tucked inside are the biggest, fluffiest robes and towels, you can imagine – perfect for warming up after a soak, they were exactly what was needed to warm up after a dip in the tub!

As if the outside out the pods wasn’t impressive enough, the magic really begins inside the pod. A specially adapted Armadilla pod, it’s impressively roomy, with an over-sized, super-king bed, ensuite, television and even a little living area complete with very generous hamper to enjoy!

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Controlled by a wall-mounted screen, you can control everything from the pod’s lighting, temperature to music at the touch of a finger. As you can imagine, I had a lot of fun playing with the controls!

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You can transform the interior with the coloured lights, and depending on your mood, you can lay back under pink, purple, blue, green or even golden lights.

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After I’d indulged in fiddling about the control panel it was time to unpack a little. Rather surprisingly, the pods feel super roomy, even with two people pottering about.

Rather stupidly, we’d headed out for supper prior to checking in, but we needn’t have bothered. Guests are treated to a luxury hamper filled with the finest Scottish produce, which makes up the most indulgent picnic and breakfast. There’s even an icy-cold bottle of Prosecco in the fridge – perfect to enjoy in the hot tub!

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We absolutely loved the local touches – on the bed was a box of the loveliest chocolates from Iain Burnett The Highland Chocolatier, who are located in nearby Grandtully. The box featured a number of the brand’s iconic truffles – an indulgent treat to end the week with!

Once we were finished exploring, it was time to kick-back and relax. Each pod has an absolute dream of a floating super-king bed. Kitted out with crisp linens from The White Company – it was perfect for snuggling into – especially with the great range of magazines provided.

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The absolute joy of a break spent in the Luxury Hideaway Pod is the sheer amount of privacy you get to enjoy, as well as the comfy surrounding you find yourself in.

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The attention to detail throughout the whole experience was second-to-none. From being personally greeted from Angus when we arrived, and shown all the features our pod had to offer, to getting to enjoy all that was included in the pod – the night away was exactly what I needed to recharge my batteries.

With new developments planned to open in Appin, Turnberry, and Delamere Forest in the coming months, a few nights enjoyed in a Luxury Hideaways UK pod is the perfect way to unwind, and Christmas is coming up, so why not treat a loved one to a gift you can enjoy too!?!

Thank you so much to Luxury Hideaways UK for hosting us – you can find out more and book directly here.

ad| The Affordable Guide to a Luxury Day Out in Edinburgh

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photo via Pinterest

When it comes to enjoying a city break, a trip to Edinburgh can be surprisingly affordable. There are a huge number of airBnbs and luxe hotels to stay in, meaning you can usually find a decent overnight rate (providing it’s not the festival), but even if you’re  only hitting the city for a day out, there’s a whole range of spots you’re going to want to visit (and they won’t break the bank!)

 

If you’re planning a day out in Edinburgh, I always recommend starting your visit at Harvey Nichols’ Forth Floor Brasserie for breakfast. Not only is it a perfect spot to people-watch, but the views over St. Andrew Square are pretty unparalleled. You’ll be able to enjoy a clear view up to Edinburgh Castle, and if it’s clear enough, you can see over the water to Fife.

Once you’re suitably fuelled for your day out – why not head down the stunning National Portrait Gallery. I just love the Victorian Gothic building, and the collection is incredible. There’s no entrance fee to visit (although temporary exhibitions can be charged) and it’s easy to lose a few hours savouring the numerous galleries.

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Feeling thirsty after a morning of culture? Then head along George Street to one of my favourite spots – 127. An instagrammer’s dream, this cafe couples slick interiors with great coffee, and if I need to have a meeting in Edinburgh, this is where I usually suggest. Grab an iced latte or hot chocolate and plan your next stop!

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I don’t think you can head to Edinburgh and not visit a royal residence. Obviously, the most popular spot people head to is Edinburgh Castle, but if you venture into Old Town, a trip to Holyrood Palace is always great fun. You can tell if a member of the Royal Family are in residence if the flag is flying at full mast, but even if you don’t bump into one of them, it’s a great trip. Unlike the castle, Holyrood Palace is furnished, and has hundreds of exhibits to look at, and some of it’s history is wonderfully vivid – look for a ghostly bloodstain left by a murdered lover of Mary Queen of Scots – David Rizzio, as well as numerous letters written by the various kings and queens. It’s a fascinating way to spend a few hours, and if you’ve still got some time to spare, I’d head to the Queen’s Gallery, which hosts a fascinating selection of exhibitions each year.

Images via Pinterest

Feeling peckish after all that? Then one of my favourite affordable spots for dinner has to be Dough Pizzeria. With two locations, I usually head to the Rose Street shop, which features a few tiny tables and a huge flaming pizza oven. You can order your pizzas online in advance, so they’re ready and waiting for your arrival. Head for the outside benches to sit under Rose Street’s fairy lights for a delicious end to an affordable day out in Edinburgh.

If you’re looking for more ideas for what to do during your trip to Edinburgh, why not check out Megabus’ fantastic guide here.

Thank you to Megabus for sponsoring this post.

 

A Night at The Airds Hotel, Port Appin*

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When it comes to travelling, I’ve been lucky enough to go to some pretty fabulous places. I don’t need any sort of persuasion to hop in a car or on a plane and go explore somewhere new, it’s resulted in some fun adventures, but it’s also meant I’ve slightly neglected Scotland as a destination.

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So, last month, in the middle of a rather busy few weeks, I left my laptop at home (and with it, my work emails) and in the hopes of relaxing for a few hours, headed out west to stunning loch side village of Port Appin. The drive itself was glorious – three hours of nothing but scenery to enjoy, and before too long we happened upon our destination for the evening – the lauded Airds Hotel.

Part of the Relais & Châteaux group, the hotel is a historic inn, boasting 11 luxury guest rooms as well as a fabulous 3 AA Rosette restaurant which has been given a nod for Fine Dining in the 2020 Michelin Guide.

Check-in was a glorious affair – we were ushered into the cosy lounge, and offered glasses of champagne in front of a crackling fire whilst our bags were swept up to the room.

The attention to detail at the Airds Hotel is evident in the details throughout the hotel – as you enter the hotel, the hallway is filled with dozens of fresh lilies which smell absolute divine, and the sitting room has the most beautiful arrangement of fresh orchids.

After we’d finished our champers, we were shown upstairs to our room for the night – the fabulous Loch View Suite.

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Situated at the front of the hotel, the room isn’t overlooked by anything other than the loch, so on the advice of the fabulous Carolyn, we slept with the curtains and windows open, so we were woken up with the most glorious views of the sun rising over the water.

The bedroom was a study in comfort – kitted out with the most heavenly beds courtesy of ViSpring, and linens from my forever-favourite Frette. As we were lucky enough to be in a suite for the night, there was a snug extra sitting room, as well a roomy ensuite which had a soaking tub, and shower too.

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I was thrilled to see toiletries by Bulgari in the bathroom – and it was such a treat to enjoy a post-dinner soak with them.

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As if the rooms weren’t comfy enough – they come with a bottle of Whisky Mac – a local delicacy dreamt up by the fishermen of yore. Made up of whisky and ginger wine – it’s a tipple which warms you up in a drop, and was the perfect accompaniment to the delicious Oban Chocolate Company truffles.

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Before too long, we headed downstairs for the most delicious of suppers (a blog post to come!) but heading back up to bed felt like a treat.

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Thanks to the suite’s position at the front of the building, waking up early felt like a treat thanks to the beautiful views. Even better? Each morning, coffee, pastries and the paper of your choice are delivered to your room so you can wake up at your own pace.

Once we were suitably caffeinated, we headed downstairs for a bit of breakfast. Since the dining room faces out to the loch, it’s worth grabbing a table by the window so you can soak in the views.

Breakfasts at the Airds Hotel are something to really savour. As we pondered the menu with more piping hot coffee, we were enjoyed a selection of toast and pastries – we even had the chance to try some of the hotel’s home-made bannock (a thinly sliced fruit loaf) and homemade lemon curd (as smooth and delicious as you’d imagine).

Despite not normally being the biggest breakfast fan, I couldn’t resist trying some of their cooked options.

We couldn’t resist trying the full Scottish breakfast – filled with local produce, it was a seriously delicious, and hearty start to the morning. Since I’m the mushroom fan in the family, I must admit to stealing them, and having zero regrets about it!

I opted for the smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and spinach. All locally-sourced, it was absolute perfection, and a perfect set-up for a busy drive home.

Set up for the day ahead, I was lucky enough to be given a tour of the hotel by Managing Director Shaun McKivragan, sneaking into a few of the stunning bedrooms to see what was what.

If, like me, you’re in need of a little time away from the daily grind, Airds have a number of fabulous offers on. I’m loving their Scottish Luxury Winter Escape. With up to 25% off all rooms from the 1st November until the 26th March 2020 (excluded dates apply), it’s the perfect excuse to enjoy a relaxing in the Scottish Highlands this Winter. From just £125.00 per person, per night, based on two people sharing. (Includes dinner and full Scottish breakfast)

A night for two in the Loch View Suite is priced at £530 for two and includes dinner and a full Scottish Breakfast. You can find out more here.

 

 

Farino City Carrier*

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When it comes to travelling, I’m not one of those people who do it lightly. No matter how hard I try, how many little bottles I decant my shampoo into, and how hard I try to use a capsule wardrobe, whenever I travel, I end up looking like I’m moving house rather than heading off for a few days.

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The past few weeks have been crazy-busy work wise, and as hard going as it’s been pinging about the country, it’s bee the perfect chance to give my new Farino City Carrier a good go. Designed to meet the needs of the modern business traveller, it’s sleek, lightweight, and has been an absolute life saver for me as I’ve headed from the Highlands of Scotland, right the way down to Stratford-Upon-Avon and back up to Edinburgh again.

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Available in a range of colour-ways, I opted for the black and rose gold, as I thought it would be the most versatile, but you can add a pop of colour with green, purple and blue options too. Unlike other carry-on cases I’ve tried, Farino’s are all about the interior storage.

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Made from durable neoprene material, Farino carriers are perfect for heavy duty travellers. Unlike other cases I’ve used, the storage on this one is perfect – rather than a whole lot of pockets which can take up more room than they’re worth, the interior of the case is left fully for your own storage. The base of the case also features four 360 degree wheels, which means that the case is super easy to wangle (even when it’s seriously full), and it’s perfect if you’re trying to move in a bit of a rush.

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Thanks to the sleek back pocket, which is perfect for slipping your laptop into, as well as the flip-open front flap, it’s incredibly easy to use, and it fits enough of my bits so that if I’m heading away for a few days, all I need is the Farino and my handbag of choice. Rather handily, Farino have made sure that the case meets the 15 of the most popular airlines’ hand luggage regulations, so if you’re planning a jaunt anytime soon, you know you can use the case for all your needs.

Farino Carriers are priced at £234 and are available here

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