Green Shadows B&B (Drymen, Scotland)
My partner and I have just come home from a short break away down in Loch Lomond where the purpose of our trip was to climb the Munro, Ben Lomond. We had been planning on climbing this particular Munro for a while and finally decided a couple of months ago that we were going to book ourselves a bed and breakfast for a couple of nights in ... Loch Lomond to allow us to complete the climb. We wanted to find ourselves a bed and breakfast that provided us with easy access to Ben Lomond and one that was close to local amenities such as shops, bars and restaurants so we could get dinner somewhere that was easy to get to.
My partner completed the West Highland way a number of years ago and remembered that the village of Drymen was the first rest point and it had a number of places to eat, and was on the east side of Loch Lomond which was where we needed to be so it was decided that this was where we would start our search for B&B's. After enquiring at several different B&B's it became apparent that we were going to struggle to find something in Drymen itself as there was a wedding on in the area and most of them had been booked up on the particular weekend we were looking to stay so we decided to check on the outskirts of Drymen and it was then that we found Green Shadows set in Buchanan Castle Estate. We enquired as to the availability of this particular bed and breakfast and were able to book a 2 night stay on the weekend we wanted to go down.
***Booking the B&B***
The booking process was really easy. On the website itself www.greenshadows.co.uk or www.visitdrymen.co.uk there is a booking link where you are provided with 2 booking options, the first being to contact them directly on the telephone number provided or the second, to complete an online booking form. We completed the online booking form and within 24 hours had a response confirming that the 2 nights were booked - no deposit required.
***Getting to the B&B***
Leaving from Aberdeen we headed south on the A90 which becomes the M90 and headed towards sterling. We exited the M90 onto the A84 continuing to head toward Sterling and from there we took the A811 continuing on until you reach the Drymen Bypass. The entrance to the Buchanan estate is just a short car journey from the village of Drymen which you pass on the way, and the entrance is un-missable.
White pillars mark the entrance to the Estate on the right hand side of the road. After turning into the Estate we had to travel along the road for around ¾'s of a mile until we came to a Y junction where we turned into the left fork. The Bed and Breakfast was located 6 houses down on the right hand side. Had we not known it was the 6th house on the right, we wouldn't really have known where to turn in as there is no indication outside the property that it is in fact a bed and breakfast, and there is a small plaque on the driveway entrance stating Green Shadows which was the only confirmation that we were actually in the right place.
Because we hadn't seen the standard B&B sign outside the house, we were a little unsure at first as to whether or not we were in the right place but continued on up to the front door all the same where we were greeted by a very friendly Gail, who knew immediately who we were and invited us into the house. I have to add that it was around 5pm when we arrived as we did stop off in the village of Drymen for a look around to familiarise ourselves with our surroundings before heading to the B&B which only allows entry after 4pm which I found to be quite typical for most B&B's I've stayed at. We were shown both the guest lounge, breakfasting area and of course our bedroom complete with en-suite bathroom and after a bit of a chat with our host who offered us some excellent advice on where we could eat that evening and inquired as to what we wanted for breakfast and at what time we were left to settle in.
***About the property***
As you can imagine from any house that exists within an estate, it is a rather large house and directly across the road from it lies the Buchanan castle golf course which both our bedroom and the guest lounge looked onto, I found the view to be a very pleasant one, full of greenery. The house has 2 floors and we were situated on the 1st floor so we had a small flight of steps to climb to get to our room. We had a separate key in which to enter our bedroom and were told that the front door is always left open for guests to be able to get in and out of the house in the evenings if going out for a meal etc.
The B&B has 4 different accommodations to choose from including a single, double, family or twin bedroom. We of course had the double room which as stated previously was situated on the 1st floor and was complete with an en-suite facility. The cost for our stay per person per night was £35 so £70 per night for the 2 of us which I thought was quite reasonable for a 4star B&B. The room was fully equipped with tea and coffee making facilities, a flat screen TV which for some reason was not allowed to be on past 10pm in the evening which I found rather odd but didn't detract from the general comfort of the place, a hairdryer and a local information pack put together by the owners of the B&B. The en-suite bathroom was complete with shower, heated towel rail, toilet and wash hand basin, and there was also a fancy infra red mirror on the wall which had little lights up each side of it which turned on by simply waving your hand over the on/off switch, a neat little effect and now I want one cause it created a really nice effect in the bathroom when it was on. We did of course have bath towels and hair towels supplied along with shower gel which I thought was a nice touch.
Although it was a double bedroom we had a king size bed, which unfortunately had a softish mattress, which neither myself nor my partner found particularly comfortable as we have an orthopaedic mattress at home so are more comfortable with firm mattresses. The room was equipped with both bedside lighting and ceiling lighting along with a floor lamp so we had plenty of lighting to choose from. The other odd thing I found was that the switch for the main ceiling light for our bedroom was outside the bedroom door, but again this wasn't something I found to be hugely inconvenient. The floor was carpeted in cream and so we had to be very careful not to get mud on it, so this resulted in us taking our shoes off before entering the room as there was a bit of rain when we arrived in Loch Lomond resulting in some muddy feet.
***A funny story***
On our first nights stay my partner and I decided to head into Drymen to one of the local restaurants for a bite to eat. We had been told when we arrived that there was one other couple staying at the same time as us but that they would be late back to the bed and breakfast, around 11pm and that the owners themselves were going out that evening and so we were provided with a front door key to let ourselves back into the property after our meal. We got back from dinner around 9pm to find no-one home and so let ourselves in with the key we had been provided and left it on the radiator shelf next to the front door, leaving it locked behind us as we were the only people there in the property. It had been a long day just with the travel and excitement of being on holiday and so we immediately headed upstairs, bypassing the guest lounge and got ready for bed. At around 9:30 we heard a bit of banging coming from downstairs and just assumed at the time that the owners had returned from their evening out and were perhaps making preparations for breakfast the next morning.
Arriving down at the breakfast area the following morning, our host Gail gave us another friendly welcome and proceeded to tell us about what had happened to her and her husband the previous evening and it was then that it became apparent what all the banging was. As it turned out, Gail and her husband had left the property without their own keys to get back in, leaving them on the same radiator shelf that my partner and I had placed ours. With bags of wisdom, it was decided that the best course of action was to retrieve the keys using a fishing rod located in the garage, and after several attempts they managed to get the keys and unlock the door. Well this story had us all laughing I have to say, and to think we had no idea, lying upstairs wondering what on earth they were doing banging away downstairs.
Breakfast at this particular bed and breakfast is served between 7:30am and 8:30am, and there are three options to choose from which are: a continental breakfast, a full Scottish breakfast and something called a middle of the road breakfast which basically consisted of scrambled eggs on toast with bacon and tomato. We decided as we were going climbing the morning after we arrived that we would get breakfast nice and early with the intention of starting our walk at around 9am, so we asked for breakfast at 7:30. My partner chose to have a full breakfast whilst I opted for the middle of the road option. We were served orange juice and coffee and were offered a selection of cereals to start before our hot breakfast was served, an option which neither of us chose to indulge in. I think a full cooked breakfast in the morning is more than enough to keep you going without throwing cereal into the mix too.
The breakfasting area is situated directly across from the kitchen where there is a blind that runs from the ceiling to the top of the counter top which separates you from the area where your breakfast is being cooked, and rather than having individual tables for you to sit at, green shadows has one big table to seat 6 so that all the guests eat together, which can only be described as being elegantly decorated in red silver and white which was very nice to look at.
***The Guest lounge***
We were welcome to use the guest lounge as much as we wanted and again this was fully equipped with tea and coffee making facilities, a full colour TV and a spectacular view out onto the golf course from the front of the house. We also had access to Wi-Fi in the B&B which was easily accessed in the guest lounge. It is here that guests can watch television after 10pm, until as late as they like and it is decorated in traditional Tartan.
Guests are required to depart the property before 10am during their stay and of course on the day of departure. On the morning we were leaving we had breakfast at 8am and had our bags out to the car by 9am. We got a very professional bill on headed paper and settled our bill in cash. The overall impression we got of the B&B was that it was a cash or cheque only establishment but we did not confirm that so there is the possibility that they would accept a credit card but without asking there's no way of knowing. Our host wished us well on our journey and told us what it pleasure it had been meeting us.
Green Shadows B&B I found was very clean and comfortable with excellent hosts and an enjoyable hearty breakfast which offered really good value for money. It's set in a beautiful location which is very peaceful and tranquil and away from the general hustle and bustle of the village of Drymen but close enough to be able to enjoy the local amenities. It was relatively easy to get to and provided the perfect base for us to be able to complete our walk up the impressive Ben Lomond. With there being so much to do in the Loch Lomond area I would definitely recommend a stay at this B&B if you are looking for somewhere that's quite but also somewhere that's not too far away from Glasgow's shopping or the various walks and scenery there is to enjoy in Loch Lomond. A thoroughly enjoyable stay in a picturesque location.
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Torguish House B&B (Inverness)
Review: Torguish House, Inverness Having decided to visit the Orkneys, we needed to consider the various travel options open to us, taking into account cost, convenience, journey duration, etc. We weighed up the respective merits of flight, rail, coach or car, and decided to maintain a degree of independence by driving up ... there in my rather under-powered, ancient, then almost 'round the clock' Ford Ka. (Yes, we nearly gave it a heart attack, and displeased a lot of other motorists at our slow, tortuous crawl up the mountains. Well, we don't have many mountains in Warrington, so the poor old car didn't really know how to go uphill.)
Suitable stopping-off places on our epic, 1200 miles return journey were sought, Stirling and Inverness seeming good choices. After considerable research, we were delighted to discover that we could stay in the childhood home of the late author, Alistair McClean: Torguish House, four miles south of Inverness, in the beautiful Nairn Valley. Torguis house is set just off the North / South A9, five miles from Inverness Station and a reasonable taxi distance from the airport. Guests come from all over the world.
Having made internet / phone contact with our hosts, Mike, Angie, Ben and Siobhan Moor, we received a comprehensive information pack, including local directions. Now note this - they DID give us a good sketch map and clear, written instructions, so the only reason we nearly ended up in a farm field in the back of nowhere was that our not so trusty sat nav knew better, showing us a good short cut across the fields. So near, yet so far!
Torguis House, a former manse, was built prior to the Jacobite uprisings of 1715. Many of the original features have been retained, although the house has been modernised to provide a luxurious retreat to weary travellers. Detailed information can be obtained from their east-to-navigate website.
The long drive from the main road, leads past two small holiday cottages. Torguish House is a beautiful building, surrounded by mature, extensive gardens, the home of maybe a dozen free range hens, Mr and Mrs Peacock and Gertie, the bad-tempered goose. Gertie looks after the pond and the smooth, green lawn in front of the house, and defends the house from all intruders. (We soon understood why Rome was defended by geese!) Beyond the house is a fascinating collection of mostly ancient items for sale, even a totem pole. And then behind the house are the hen-coops and an amusing wooded walk. Ben's quirky sense of humour and artistic skills are responsible for the ... um...interesting range of items spied on the woodland walk. But if my husband thinks he can use MY treasured piano to decorate OUR garden like that, he has another thought coming!
There are eight letting rooms, including twin beds, double beds, a family room, and rather fetching four-poster bed rooms, all with en-suites and comfortably furnished. "Each room in Torguish is named after a famous Scottish Clan and Alistair Maclean novels are in evidence in each of the rooms." There is a communal dining room, containing three refectory tables. There is also a comfortable lounge for guests to share.
Walking through the grand entrance, we were greeted warmly by Angie, our hostess, and then shown to our ground floor room. This room was clean and comfortable, furnished with the usual items of furniture. The welcome tray was much appreciated, as was the en-suite shower facility. The bedroom was light and airy, with night-time shutters and curtains. The towels were soft and fluffy. The only disadvantage was the poor signal on the tv, which was no problem for us anyway. There was an extra cloakroom suite outside the room, as there was on each floor.
We paid £76 for our twin-bedded room and a sumptuous breakfast. The breakfast choices were pre-ordered, and were fit for a king. Fresh fruit salad, YORKSHIRE style porridge, cereal, free-range eggs served in the style of your choice, black pudding, bacon, sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms, toast, all washed down with self-served fruit juice, coffee / tea. (Well, it saved us the bother of searching for a suitable place for lunch!)
On our departure, we were warmly thanked for our custom and invited to return soon.
Unfortunately, due to a nasty fall by yours truly, our return was sooner than anticipated. A quick phone call confirmed that a room would be available for us that night, even though we hadn't booked in advance. On arrival, we were warmly welcomed back, like old friends, and much sympathy was expressed about my highly visible facial injuries - don't ask! Let's just say that a purple eye, combined with a grey & yellow cheek, and damaged front tooth, led to a very striking appearance.
Angie offered us the choice of the two rooms left: an upstairs, four posted bed (VERY nice) or the honeymoon suite, at a special, last minute discount price.
And so we enjoyed the use of a six foot wide, four poster bed, in the beautifully decorated honeymoon suite, replete with many big mirrors, double shower, and a wash-basin that was so grand that at first we thought it was a special ornament! Having been married for 38 years, we were highly amused and honoured to be given this room and fully appreciated the luxury.
Our departure was made with warm hugs and best wishes for a safe journey home. What a lovely warm experience it was on both occasions to stay at this lovely guesthouse!
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Hotel Edinburgh House (Edinburgh)
Aah, Edinburgh during the Festival: a whole month of culture, entertaining street artists, a cosmopolitan buzz...and overpriced accommodation. Delightful! The brief: a double or twin room for one night, not too far from Hibernian's football ground Easter Road, and not too far from Waverley train station. You'd think it ... wouldn't be so difficult but Edinburgh rooms get booked up well in advance for this time of year and, of course, the accommodation in the centre goes first. Many bed and breakfast establishments also insist on a minimum stay of three nights during August, and well they might because they know they easily fill those rooms. As we were going to be taking a train out of Waverley at 6.00 a.m. the following morning, we wanted to be quite close to the station, at most only a short taxi ride away.
We booked through Expedia and found a double room at the Edinburgh House Hotel for just £46 for one night which was an absolute steal given that it was within fifteen minutes walk of the football ground and more or less the same to the top of Princes Street in the centre of town. Unfortunately the webpage seized up and when we refreshed the price had gone up to £77.00 which was a huge increase but still relatively reasonable in comparison with other options. We also went through topcashback.co.uk which earned us a whopping 8 per cent cash-back and 400 Nectar Points.
We were travelling to Edinburgh by train in middle of the afternoon, expecting to arrive in Edinburgh around 5.00 p.m. We would have to collect our match tickets from the ground and had been advised to do this early to avoid queues. With this in mind, I telephoned the hotel in the morning to say that we would aim to check in before the match and that if this was not possible, we would arrive sometimes after 10.00 p.m. This was fine and the lady I spoke to advised me of what to do if the front door was locked. As it happened, our train WAS delayed and we didn't have enough time to check in before the match. I telephoned again and confirmed that we'd be arriving after 10.00 p.m.: I was anxious not to lose the room.
The hotel was easy to find. It's on Pilrig Street which is just off Leith Walk, about halfway down and on the left hand-side as you come from the city centre. Although there's a steady stream of cars using this street, it's relatively quiet compared to Leith Walk. The hotel is actually two houses knocked into one and it occupies a large corner plot with a well tended and nicely planted front garden and a small secluded rear garden. It's an attractive, solid looking building but unlike others in the street, the stone hasn't been cleaned and I think this would make the property look much more appealing.
Another couple we coming in just as we arrived and they let us into the building. Just beside reception there was a side table on which was a telephone and instructions for getting assistance if reception was unstaffed. Two minutes later the lady I'd spoken to earlier that day arrived and checked us in. One thing that concerned us was that the confirmation from Expedia said that payment should be made at the hotel but when we got there, we were informed that they had taken the payment from the credit card we had held the room with. We might have paid anyway by credit card but this was not what we had been informed would happen.
We said we'd be leaving early and the lady happily phoned to book a taxi to take us to Waverley. She said that we would be leaving too early for breakfast but did not offer to prepare anything we could take away.
(Incidentally, the reviews I have read on other sites mention that the breakfast is a cold continental breakfast that, while plentiful, is not very exciting. As one reviewer says, Britain's B&Bs are well known for their cooked breakfast so it's a shame not to be able to enjoy one here. It does seem as if this hotel does the very minimum but charges relatively high prices).
We were not shown to the room or given any other information but I suppose that given the late hour and our early departure, there wasn't a great deal we might need to know. You could argue that it's not very helpful to review a hotel when staying only one night and basically spending about six hours there, however, I do feel that even in that short time, I picked up on a few points that it would be useful for potential guests to know about.
Our room was on the second floor and although we weren't shown to it, we found it fairly easily: the hotel is labyrinthine and there are little nooks and crannies all of the place so you need to look out for the signs directing you to different room numbers. The stairs were terribly creaky and not very wide: there were doors at the ends of each cluster of rooms but instead of reducing the level of noise, these heavy creaking doors served only to increase it.
The room was fairly small and had we been staying longer I'd have said it was too small. What's more there was an additional single bed in there too which was really much. We were in the eaves of the house and the sloping ceiling made the room feel even smaller. The only light came from a Velux window which only opened a little way, which was unfortunate given that the room was far too warm. There was a tiny dressing table stool (but no dressing table) and teeny wardrobe which was in actual fact a cupboard built above a ledge in the corner of the room, and a kettle and a tray of tea and coffee making paraphernalia was placed on one of the bedside tables which was slightly inconvenient. A flat screen television was on the wall at the end of the bed; it had only the five terrestrial channels and the picture quality was pretty poor.
Although the room was clean enough it was a little tired. The carpet was old fashioned and the divan bed didn't look very nice but it was, at least, very comfortable and, for once, the pillows were great. The en suite was also very clean and this was really the best feature of the room. It was small but clearly fairly recently renovated; superficially it looked well done but if you looked more closely it was not a great job. That said, it did look nice and it sparkled. There were two tiny bars of soap but no shower gel or shampoo; this was a disappointment as we had travelled very light, with only deodorant, toothpaste and brushes and a hairbrush. (We had left clean clothes to change into once back at work in Newcastle!) Given the price of the room, I'd have expected at least a sachet of something cheap and nasty that would have sufficed for one wash. Furthermore, there was no shelf or soap tray inside the shower cubicle for soap or any other washing items which I found a little irritating.
We did have a fairly good night's sleep, although for an hour or so after we'd turned the lights out we were woken a couple of times by noise from other guests and I would advise light sleepers to take ear plugs just in case. In the morning we left our room key on the table beside reception as advised. Reception is locked at night but when it is open there is a computer with internet access available. There's also a vending machine for hot drinks and a fridge with a variety of soft drinks.
Waiting outside for the taxi we were able to get a better look at the exterior of the building than we had been able to the night before; what I noticed that I hadn't the evening before was a big pile of junk beside the bins, hopefully waiting for imminent collection. Now, it's perfectly possible that the rubbish had been put there very recently, and may even have been collected just hours later, but it did really spoil the look of the place. A very scary looking monster of a seagull was picking its way around this heap as we left.
Edinburgh House Hotel is billed as a three star which seems a little extravagant. I would say that the hotel appears greatly improved since many of the reviews on Trip Advisor were written, but I'd say that the hotel is a decent two star, not three. We paid over the odds for our room because we left booking fairly late and were quite limited as to which areas we'd consider. The original £46 we were quoted would be a bargain, but the £77 we did pay was way too much. Location-wise this isn't bad at all; it's a short bus ride or a fifteen minute walk to the centre of Edinburgh with all its attractions, and the same walking time from the Royal Yacht Britannia, docked at Leith. The Edinburgh Playhouse is about seven minutes walk and there are plenty of pubs and restaurants on Leith Walk. As mentioned before, the location is handy for matches at Easter Road. There is parking available on the street for visitors coming by car; a taxi to Waverley costs around £6.00
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Scotland Hotel National
Address: 8 Crosbie Road / Hotel National / Troon / Ayrshire / KA10 6HE / Scotland - The hotel is surrounded by countryside and coastlines and overlooks an 18 hole golf course.
Address: 1 St Andrews Drive / Hotel National / Cumbernauld / G68 0EW / North Lanarkshire / Scotland - The hotel overlooks the Campsie Hills in Lanarkshire.
Address: Carrutherstown / Hotel National / Dumfries / Scotland / DG1 4JX
Address: 69 Bruntsfield Place / Hotel National / Edinburgh / Lothian / EH10 4HH / Scotland
Address: Stockwell Street / Hotel National / Glasgow / G1 4LW / Scotland - Just minutes from Glasgow central station.
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Kingussie / Hotel National / Scotland - Enjoy the beautiful Scottish country side. This comfortable 5 bedroom cottage has lots of space for the entire family and is far enough from the city, but close enough for the necessities.
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