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

a140dfb30266d79dbbc8d1d7e12005a5

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.

Screenshot 2019-11-16 at 22.31.01.png

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!

f8efdf203ba2daddc54fa0ee46e8ba44

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*

DSC_0135

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.

DSC_0149

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.

DSC_0447

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.

DSC_0414

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.

DSC_0224

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.

DSC_0211

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.

DSC_0442

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*

DSC_0846

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.

DSC_0571

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.

DSC_0547

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.

DSC_0535

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.

DSC_0525

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

A Night at Hawkstone Hall*

Screenshot 2019-08-25 at 20.06.55

Is there anything more glorious than spending a night or two away in a luxe hotel? I certainly don’t think so. No matter how busy, stressed or anxious you’ve been feeling – the moment you check in somewhere plush, the worries tend to absolutely melt away.

DSC_0640

I’ve been having a busy summer, and without the time to go a proper holiday somewhere sunny, it felt like fate when the opportunity to spend a night at the stunning Hawkstone Hall came up.

DSC_0599

An absolutely stunning early 18th century mansion nestled in the heart of the English countryside, we headed down on a rather soggy Wednesday afternoon, and it felt like an absolute dream when we rounded the corner, and came across the hotel.

Only opened back in April following a two year renovation, Hawkstone Hall was previously a family home, then a Roman Catholic Priest Retreat. Sumptuously decorated, we were met at the door with a glass of champagne, and allowed to relax in the morning room during check-in.

DSC_0648

Honestly, the building is one of the most staggeringly beautiful hotels I’ve been in. There are some many incredible original features, so that every time you look around, there’s something new to see. I’m a bit of an architecture and interiors nerd at the best of times (I studied Art History at university, and I can spend days in galleries and museums) so the hotel was quite literally a dream come true to stay at.

DSC_0606

With 39 bedrooms to choose from, all named after British authors, Hawkstone Hall is a hotel which really feels like the quintessential country house hotel.

DSC_0302

We were swiftly shown upstairs to the Christie room on the third floor. Named after the famous mystery novelist, it was absolutely everything you could hope for in a hotel. Seriously plush, with an oversized tub, huge bed and all the mod cons, I could have happily spent a week in here and still been sad about leaving.

After a four hour drive from Edinburgh, the bath was soon put to good use, and after the obligatory photos were taken, it was glorious to have a good old soak, making good use of the fabulous Elemis toiletries on offer.

The bathroom itself was just as dreamy – incredibly spacious, with more than enough room to set out my skincare goodies, thanks to the his ‘n’ hers sinks – I loved the vintage touches and roomy shower. With some serious pressure behind it, it was the perfect way to get the morning started!

The bed was the stuff of dreams too. Absolutely huge and decorated in taupe and grey, it was hard to resist jumping right into.

Right in the centre of it, was Hector – a fun little touch, which would make the perfect souvenir of your trip. Throughout the room, we were completely blow away by all the little extra touches. The bedside tables had Elemis pillow spray and lip balm, whilst the drinks trolly had a wonderfully curated selection of drinks and nibbles.

It’s these little touches, which for me, really make a hotel memorable, and Hawkstone Hall has quickly become one of our favourites.

DSC_0398

Not only was it absolutely beautiful, but the staff were unfailingly wonderful. Full of enthusiasm and knowledge about the building, it’s clear that the hotel really have a wonderful team in place.

DSC_0564

We headed down to the Saloon for dinner (it was so good, it’s got a whole post of its own), but were were back down for breakfast.

We headed down to the Saloon for dinner (it was so good, it’s got a whole post of its own), but were were back down again for breakfast.

DSC_0418

The Saloon really is one of the grandest rooms you can imagine, but impressively, it’s cosy, and wonderful to sit and relax in. In addition to breakfasts and dinners, it also plays host to afternoon tea too!

We kicked things off with a fruit platter, which came beautifully presented. Slices of watermelon, pineapple and mango were delicious, and the berries were all sweet and succulent.

Despite not normally being much of a breakfast person, I couldn’t resist their cheese omelette, and I am so glad I indulged! A fluffy cloud of eggs, filled with melting cheese was presented, and promptly devoured. Unlike most omelettes which rely on a sprinkling of cheddar, Hawkstone Hall had (once again) gone above and beyond – a touch of brie and blue cheese worked to give it a delicious savoury richness, and I could happily wake up to it daily from now on.

We had made a couple of appointments in Cheshire for later that morning (rookie error on our part), so after breakfast I took a quick walk around the hotel to see what was what.

My first port of call was the Tapestry Room, which was absolutely stunning. Decked out in powder blues, it makes the perfect spot for an intimate wedding ceremony, and the plasterwork on the ceiling truly was the stuff of dreams.

DSC_0649

The features which Hawkstone Hall have retained are absolutely incredible. I could have happily spent the day taking photographs of each and every detail.

I can see why the hotel is so popular for weddings and for retreats – every single corner of the place is glorious – a especially loved the corridor heading up to the Tapestry Room which had a real greenhouse feel – such a beautiful spot to relax and enjoy the sunshine in!

I couldn’t resist sneaking into the Ballroom too! Already set up for their next event, the room had some serious glamour! With a gilded ceiling and crystal chandelier, this room was an absolute dream to explore – I can only imagine how stunning it must be full of people enjoying themselves!

If you’re looking for the North of England’s prettiest ballroom – I’m pretty sure Hawkstone Hall has the crown!

DSC_0293

The hotel also enjoys acres of stunning grounds, including lily ponds and terraced gardens. There’s a bank of hunters at the front door to slip into if you want to explore – as well as a golf cart which can show you round in record time. Thanks to the aforementioned appointments, we weren’t able to explore, but the next time we visit, I’m leaving a whole afternoon free to properly explore.

DSC_0611

As you can probably tell, we had an absolute ball at Hawkstone Hall. The staff could not have been lovelier, and honestly, the hotel is an absolute jewel. We’re already planning a return visit, and I’ve been shouting about the place to pretty much everyone I know.

Thank you so much to Hawkstone Hall for having us. Rooms start at £200 and you can find out more information here

A Taste of New Orleans with the US Consulate*

DSC_0067

It’s not every day that an email from the US Consulate pops into your inbox. Even rarer is one inviting you to brunch. Not quite sure what to expect, I headed over to the stunning Principal Officer’s Residence in the heart of leafy Edinburgh for a taste of New Orleans in the heart of Scotland.

As part of the Taste of America initiative, top US chef, Tory McPhail had travelled to the UK to introduce us to a true taste of New Orleans. Executive Chef at the iconic Commander’s Palace, and winner of 2013 James Beard Award Best Chef South, I don’t think that we could have been in better hands for the afternoon!

DSC_0058

After kicking things off by getting to learn about the Consulate’s role in US-Scotland relations, as well as a taster of Southern cuisine, we were treated to some milk punch. Called an ‘eye-opener’ when you’re brunching in ‘Nola’ and made up of bourbon, half and half (single cream in the UK) a splash of milk and grating of nutmeg, it was a delicious start to the proceedings.

Soon it was time to tuck-in, so we headed through to the dining room to try some of Tory’s signature dishes. As with all great chefs, Tory is a real champion of what’s fresh, what’s local and what’s in season, so rather incredibly, The Commander’s Palace menu changes daily, with even the recipes being tweaked each time! We were treated to a seafood starter, with a trio of seafood – salmon, lobster and caviar. Served on a warm blini with a grated duck egg, it was incredible – fresh, surprisingly light, and full of flavour, it paired perfectly with our champagne!

DSC_0056

With a beautiful open kitchen, we were able to snoop on proceedings – wondering what was coming next. It was absolutely mesmerising to watch Tory and Executive Chef Meg Bickford at work as they whipped, plated and served up at record speed.

Our main course was the stuff of dreams – the most tender pork had been rubbed with Creole spice, which gave it the perfect amount of peppery heat, and it was served alongside toast, melted brie, poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, mushrooms and an absinthe vinaigrette. Indulgent doesn’t even begin to cover this dish – the rich hollandaise was the perfect foil to the heat from the pork, and the sharpness from the vinaigrette absolutely shone. Truly, I don’t think I’ve ever had a dish quite like it – and I’ve already attempted to replicate the pork at home. As we tucked in, we were able to discuss what life and eating is like in New Orleans with Tory and Meg, and it was so inspiring to hear about how they keep an iconic restaurant like the Commander’s Palace at the top of it’s game. Opened in 1880, it’s a landmark for the city and is regularly ranked as New Orleans top spot. It was fascinating to learn about dishes which are a real part of the Louisiana culture, like Turtle Soup and Jambalaya.

All too soon it was time for dessert, and honestly, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such an exciting preparation of pudding! The iconic Bananas Foster was on the menu, so the entire table headed through to the kitchen to see Meg and Tory at work!

DSC_0104

If you’ve never tried the dish (stop everything and try a classic recipe like this one), it’s an absolute riot. Bananas are sautéd in butter and brown sugar, and just when they reach a soft, pudding-y consistency, they’re flambéed with rum then served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. You can see how it all went down here.

The result is pretty much everything you want from comfort food – soft, sweet and deliciously rich – it really is the ultimate pudding!

DSC_0097

The afternoon finished with strong black coffees brought over from New Orleans – and they were the perfect pick-me-up after such an indulgent few hours. It was such a delight to meet Tory, Meg, Chief Officer Ellen Wong as well as everyone who attended. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that New Orleans is now topping the (rather long) list of holiday spots!

Thank you so much to the US Consulate in Edinburgh, Chief Officer Ellen Wong, Tory McPhail and Meg Bickford for having me, and educating me in all things New Orleans. You can find out more about the Commander’s Palace here

Close Me
Looking for Something?
Search:
Post Categories: