Autumn 2002 - Scottish travel
Autumn 2002 - Scottish travel
First there was the immediate family: me, him and three children. Then there was - the rest of our large family as well. Total for Christmas: 23. Obviously we were going to need something big.
The Howe of the Mearns. These are five words that will ring bells for fans of Lewis Grassic Gibbon and his most famous work, Sunset Song. Lying between Aberdeen and Montrose, the Mearns is a great undulating fertile plain bifurcated by the silver-tinted Bervie water flowing to the North Sea at Inverbervie. It is the land that inspired Grassic Gibbon, and it has such an overwhelming presence, it often feels like the main character in Sunset Song.
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Way up north in Wester Ross, there’s a bump on the edge of the mainland where the lands falls into the sea before Skye. A lump across which the road climbs from sea-level to just over 2,000 feet and the ancient Bealach na Ba, the Pass of the Cattle.
Every time I visit the Borders, I wonder, why did I leave it so long? Is it because they seem remote, or in the wrong direction - heading towards England? But it takes less than two hours from Glasgow, no time at all from Edinburgh, and when you get there, you are charmed.
Stop me if I’m losing it here, but when someone says the words "mini break" you think of the great European cities - Paris, Rome, Barcelona - right?
When I discovered Herbert Yama’s book Hip Hotels, I confess I had mixed feelings. I was pleased that there was a guide that identified the sort of hotel you could really escape to, not the desert island sort of escape but a kind of cool, well-designed place with good service you could rely on. On the other hand, I was annoyed that I hadn’t thought of a book like this myself.
I’m not sure why, but the islands of Scotland have rarely been on my holiday list. I don’t have anything against them; it’s just that it seems like an awful lot of hassle to get somewhere that is just a little version of what’s on the mainland. Of course, this is the sort of attitude that gets you nowhere - not only are the islands quite different from the rest of Scotland, each has its own character, meaning every one is a fascinating place to visit.
Recently I drove with a friend down to Galloway.
If someone suggested to you that a good way to tell if a restaurant or hotel was worth visiting was through a guide for lorry drivers, you’d laugh, wouldn’t you? You’d have a hoot imagining a roadside caff with greasy, formica topped tables selling little other than egg and chips, hurled in front of you by bad-tempered ill-paid waitresses. But then again we don’t live in France.
It’s not very often that a shop is the reason for a city to see an influx of tourists, but the arrival of Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh has done just that, with everyone from Aberdeen academics to trendy Glasgow girls fighting for space among the rails of Versace, Prada and Dolce & Gabbana. Less unexpected, though, is the positioning of the store’s swanky restaurant on the top floor of the building.
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