Kat’s Scotland Guide: Longer Journeys




2 hours + from Edinburgh:

Glencoe (top, above) (2.5 hours) – featured in the Bond film Skyfall, stunning mountain ranges and just an incredibly-beautiful drive overall! I love this drive so much.  Take the route that is M9-A84-A85-A82 – enter the Glencoe Visitor Centre as your destination (GPS postcode PH49 4HX).
Glenfinnan monument & viaduct (bottom, above) (3 hours-ish north-west) – featured in Harry Potter etc, and a very pretty drive up there indeed, it’s about 3 hours from Edinburgh. Generally the west coast is just beautiful.
Oban (2 hours 45 north-west) – a very pretty seaside village with a coastal garden called Inverewe (below, top) which is an adventure to get to (single track roads!)
Inverness/Loch Ness (3 hours north) –  Inverness is the best vantage point for getting to Loch Ness.  You can get a cruise from Inverness or drive to the loch yourself. If you get the cruise they often drop you off at the ruins of Castle Urquhart which is a good visit. Inverness also has the famous Culloden battlefield.
Culzean Castle (below, bottom)


(2 ¾ – 3 hours south west) – Culzean Castle (pronounced Cul-ain) is a beautiful castle on the west coast looking out towards Arran. It is surrounded by stunning gardens and is just well worth visiting if you’re heading south, or if you just fancy it for a day.



I hope you enjoyed this wee series. Any questions, hit me up and I’d be happy to update the guides or put up a Q&A.




Kat’s Scotland Guide: Further Afield


So you’re here, you’ve got wheels, and you want to see more of Scotland..




Rosslyn Chapel

Falkirk Wheel


Close to Edinburgh (30-60 minutes):

Rosslyn Chapel (20-30 mins east) – lovely chapel, featured in The Da Vinci code.
Falkirk Wheel (20-30 mins west) – very cool giant loch wheel (Google it or check out the website to understand!)
Glasgow (45-60 mins west) – for a wander

Glasgow is a larger city and less old/pretty but still worth a look, if you fancy a day trip.



Loch Lomond from Luss


45-90 minutes from Edinburgh:

Culross (30-40 mins north-east) – old historical village, very pretty.
North Berwick (45 mins north-east) – lovely beach-side town.
Stirling (45 mins north-west) – Stirling Castle is really worth visiting!
Anstruther (1hr 10 mins north-east) – best fish and chips in UK.
St. Andrews (1hr 10 mins north-east) – oldest golf course in Scotland.
Loch Lomond (1hr 30 mins west) – beautiful loch you can cruise on or just visit Luss or Balmaha.


We’ll go even further next time…!





Kat’s Scotland Guide: Edinburgh Pt 2




See Part 1 here.  And also, a version of this was published early without the links. My apologies.



Extra fun stuff

Take the ‘closes’ Edinburgh is full of small windy staircases and pathways we call ‘closes’ to get between areas. Take a few off the Royal Mile and get lost.  They also do free ghost tours and there is a special one, “Mary King’s Close”, set up as an attraction (walking tour under Edinburgh).
Ceilidh! A Scottish traditional dance/folk dancing, they’re quite regularly held if you do some Googling.  NB: Pronounced ‘kay-lee’
Deep Fried Mars Bar We’re kinda famous for this ridiculous treat.  My favourite place to try it is the Clam Shell fish and chip shop on the Royal Mile. Worth trying once.
Edinburgh Zoo We have pandas!  To get to the Zoo take the no. 26 or no. 31 buses from Princes St.




Panda and Sons A ‘hidden’ bar on Queen Street.
Eteaket Excellent teas and cakes, etc, off George Street.
Illegal Jack’s One of my favourite restaurants ever in Edinburgh – cheap, no frills Tex-Mex. Good food made by good people. This is up the road a bit further from central town but definitely walkable from Greyfriar’s Bobby, etc.
Chaophraya Excellent Thai restaurant on the top of a building on Castle St, you can get good views of the Castle at night if you ask for a good viewing table! Bookable online.
Spoon Good wee eatery by the Festival Theatre.
Blackbird In Tollcross (ask a local, not too far a walk up Lothian Road until it splits, take the right fork) – good food and cocktails.
Tuk Tuk Indian ‘tapas’ just up from Blackbird in Tollcross.
The Banshee Labyrinth A bar with a series of small “caves” you can sit and drink in.
Jekyll & Hyde* Hanover St – has good cheap cocktails.
Bar Soba* Great wee cheap Asian eatery.
The Dogs* Bit more upmarket and super tasty.
Montpeliers Bruntsfield – excellent brunch.
Loudons Fountainbridge – excellent brunch.
Arcade Bar, Haggis & Whisky House On Cockburn (Co-burn) street off the Royal Mile. Whiskies and haggis, which is worth trying. Vege haggis is delicious too.
The Last Drop Pub on the Grassmarket, at the site of Edinburgh’s last hanging. Scottish dishes.

*All next door to each other


Up next:  a bit further afield!  And later in the year, I’ll post about Edinburgh at Christmas.





Kat’s Scotland Guide: Edinburgh Pt 1


I get asked fairly regularly to recommend itineraries or places to see when visiting Scotland, so I thought I’d put up a few posts with my recommendations, starting with Edinburgh itself. So! Without further ado..

A wee disclaimer: This is not a massive list because I usually write these for people who are here for a really short time! An itinerary for longer trips will come later.




Edinburgh is a compact city.  Most of it is very walkable, but there is also an excellent bus and tram system.  I’d recommend purchasing a day ticket if you are going to get lots of buses, but it’s actually not necessary if you’re not venturing too far out and have a car for the rest of your visit to Scotland.



Transport from the airport:

I recommend the tram, especially if you are staying centrally.  They run every 8-12 minutes and it takes about 35 minutes to get into the city.  It’s £5 one way, £8 return and there are machines so you can use a card, etc.  Alternatively, if you are staying in Corstorphine, Murrayfield, etc, then take the Airport Bus (#100, bright blue and available right outside arrivals).



Places to stay:

Central hotels, with varying prices-

Apex Hotel (Chain, ****) – http://www.apexhotels.co.uk/en/hotels/edinburgh/

The Rutland (Boutique) – http://www.therutlandhotel.com/

Ibis South Bridge (Chain, ***) – http://www.accorhotels.com/gb/hotel-8484-ibis-edinburgh-centre-south-bridge/index.shtml

The Sheraton (Chain, ****, rooftop pool!) – http://www.sheratonedinburgh.co.uk/


And there are also budget spots-

Hostelworld is your best bet – http://www.hostelworld.com/hostels/Edinburgh

Also there are quite a few places in the Lochside area – Ibis Budget, Premier Inn.. which seems a bit far out on a map but is on the tram route so super easy (and quiet, cause it’s near business parks!)

There’s also an Easyhotel on Princes St.


It’s super quick to get into Edinburgh on a bus, if central prices put you off and you can find a good deal a bit further out.  We have great B&Bs!  Look in the Roseburn, Murrayfield, Corstorphine areas.



To Do/Itinerary ideas:

New Town

Princes St/George St The majority of our shopping is on or near Princes St and is known as Edinburgh’s ‘high street’ (in the UK this is what you’d call the main street for shopping etc – don’t confused with the actual High Street, that’s the Royal Mile.. sorry!). George St is one block up and a bit more upmarket.
Calton Hill At the far end of Princes St you’ll reach St. James Shopping Centre on your left, cross over to the next corner, pass a Howie’s restaurant and an Apex hotel. Keep going towards the monuments you can see up ahead.  Take the staircase, then turn right and walk up the hill.  This is a free view out over Edinburgh/the craigs. Worth the short hike!
Scott Monument/Princes St Gardens The Scott Monument is the dark gothic rocket-ship-looking thing on Princes St. You can go up for a view of Edinburgh for about £4. Small spiral staircases (just a warning in case you’re claustrophobic).  The gardens are also nice for a wander/a good view from below the Castle.
Rose Street In between Princes St and George St there is a pedestrianised street with small restaurants and bars.



Royal Mile/Old Town

Walk along Princes St past the train station until you reach the Balmoral Hotel. Turn right and walk up South Bridge to the “Royal Mile”.

Edinburgh Castle A must. A bit steep at £16 a person, but also has excellent views out over Edinburgh.
Tartan Weaving Mill Free and basic, a good way to see tartan being made, research tartans, try on tartans and get a “ye olde” style photo, buy tourist ‘tat’.
The Scotch Whisky Experience A fun museum about whisky. And you get tasters, etc.
Grassmarket/nearby Take George IV bridge and turn right onto Victoria St (my favourite street in Edinburgh), then at the bottom you’ll be on the Grassmarket. Pubs galore.  There is also a great vintage/thrift shop called Armstrong’s that is worth visiting.
Holyrood Palace/Holyrood Park/Arthur’s Seat At the bottom of the Royal Mile is Holyrood Palace, where the Queen stays when she is in Edinburgh. You can book a tour.  It is also at the entrance to the Holyrood Park (very pretty) and Arthur’s Seat (the large hill in the park, which is actually an extinct volcano! So is the Castle hill!).  Not too tough a climb and a great view.


That’s covering some of the more touristy stuff.  My next post will cover a few other interesting spots and venture out of Edinburgh!






Review: Teapigs’ Spiced Winter Tea


Mmm, tea. Mmm, winter.

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I’ve been asked by the lovely folks at teapigs to do another tea review!  And this time, they’ve sent me their spiced winter red tea, which has “the best bits of winter”, apparently! It has a cute wee description on the back.

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The first thing to say is that it smells divine.

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It tastes slightly sweet, a bit spicy and very warming. You can taste the orange, the cinnamon and the cloves, and it does indeed remind me of Christmas.  It’s so nice to have all the festivity break up these dark months.

I also love their wee tea bags. So much nicer than what you normally get tea in!

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Steeping it for a good few minutes makes all the difference, too. You watch the water turn a lovely golden colour and everyone around you asks what the tea is. I’m definitely going to share it around my colleagues before the Christmas break.  In fact, that’s my colleague’s mug up there. Cute.

If you’d like to try some or anything else from their Christmas shop, you can check it all out hereteapigs are also offering a lovely 20% off using the code XMAS13The code is valid until the end of December and excludes cheeky deals, mix & match and match kits.




Latest loves


A post of things I am really enjoying lately:

Regina Spektor – Like many on the planet right now, I am loving Regina’s latest musical offering, Begin to Hope. I have been compared to her in the past, which is very flattering. She has an adorably-appealing voice and very catchy wee songs. I personally love the very easy on the ears On the Radio, am quite entranced by Samson (even more so after a friend mentioned that it reminds him of me), and of course, the fantastic Fidelity. It’s definitely worth listening to.

Other music worth mention: Robyn’s Konichiwa Bitches, Good Charlotte’s new album Good Morning Revival (who I never thought I’d be recommending, ever), and I am loving the soundtrack to Music and Lyrics, though it is probably nowhere near as entertaining if you haven’t seen the film yet.

XKCD – A great webcomic. I suggest you read them all, starting at this one. There are lots of geeky jokes along the way (plenty I don’t understand, but I have geeky friends to ask).

Gala Darling – Gala is actually an old friend of mine from primary school (ages 5-10), and I’m catching up with her on Sunday afternoon at her Wellington brunch. She is an excellent writer, and I am loving her blog and sense of style.

Angel – I’ve been a Buffy fan for years, but never really watched Angel. I’ve now decided to go for it (Joss Whedon shows rule, after all!) and it’s coming in on my Dvd Unlimited service (like Netflix). Which brings me to..

DVD Unlimited – How great are these DVDs-to-your-door services?! I can finally catch up on all these TV shows and films that I’ve missed over the years.

And speaking of Angel, I am rather obsessed with Bones. It’s the new X Files, yet it has its differences, so it’s not a copy of any kind. There’s no supernatural activity, but the show does center around medical forensics/the FBI, and the chemistry between the two main characters is undeniable. It’s rather addictive. The characters are very appealing in their realism, and there are many amusing moments as well, to break up all the death and well.. bones.

And last but not least, Twitter. It’s a great way to communicate and I love being able to post and receive updates on my mobile phone at any time.. though I’m not sure that my sometimes 5am notes are appreciated by those who get my texts. Join up! I am gypsy_nz.

The last 5 songs


The last 5 songs on shuffle:

For A Song by Butterfly Boucher: Butterfly is awesome. And yes, that’s her real name. This track is a bonus song on her Flutterby CD, but it’s definitely worth the listen. Chris and I met her when she supported Sarah McLachlan last year, and we were the only ones in the audience cheering loudly like dorks for her. When we met her in the intermission, we gushed like little fangirls over her, and she was pretty neat.

Off the Hook by Barenaked Ladies: I am one of the few devoted Barenaked Ladies fans in New Zealand. Hell, am I the only one? (another good song). Probably. This song has such a catchy beat in the chorus, and Steve’s voice never fails to get a message through. I was very gleeful when I heard this track in the movie Sweet November. Go the Ladies! They need more soundtracks.

Everything You Want by Vertical Horizon: I think this is one of the best songs ever written. In fact, I love this album. I wonder where it is. Anyway, it’s an excellent observation on unrequited love. Do I sound like a reviewer now?

Song for Bernadette by Leonard Cohen (sung by Jennifer Warnes): My friend Randolph sent me Jennifer’s CD of Cohen songs many years ago, and it still gets play every now and then. This is one of those songs that sticks with you, even as it ages. It tells a story with soaring strings, and Jennifer’s voice can portray such subtle emotion.

Falling Free by David Gray: Any song that starts with “All of my senses overthrown, by the might of your skin” can’t be bad. This song is falling in love and having it completely take you over. It’s feeling dizzy and clouded and overwhelmed. It’s gorgeous. It’s the best feeling.

What’s coming up randomly on your iPod lately?