Posts filed under scotland

Pack Your Bags | Dunnottar Castle

If you travel up towards Aberdeen, along Scotland’s eastern coast, you’ll have the chance to view one of the most postcard-perfect castles in Great Britain: Dunnottar Castle. While the castle now lies in ruins, it’s easy to see that it’s dramatic location along the rocky coast was once the home to a really special place.

The medieval castle, which was once captured by William Wallace, now lies in ruins. The history of this site runs deep- all the way back to the 3rd century- but today, the only things happening there are casual exploring of old stones and photos being taken along the way.

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Throughout the centuries, Dunnottar Castle has hosted many famous historical heroes- William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, and the future King Charles II… but it may be most famous for the 8-month stay of a small band of men that held out from Cromwell and saved the Scottish Crown Jewels.

Not only will you get the chance to peek in the partially standing castle rooms to give a glimpse at medieval castle life, but you’ll also be able to get some dramatic views of the coast below. 

The castle opens (in the summer season) at 9am and stays open until 18:00. (Last entry is a 17:30, so make sure you’ve given yourself enough time.) 

I’d give yourself at least 1.5 hours to visit Dunnottar, because the walk down and back up does take a bit longer than you may expect. As you can see, the walk to and from the castle isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires climbing 136 stairs each way… and while you may think that sounds miserable, I can tell you that if I could do it 8 months pregnant alongside a group of German senior citizens, you’ll be fine, too.

While this may be close to Aberdeen, it also makes for an easy day trip from St. Andrews, too. There aren’t many places to eat nearby, by there is a tiny food truck selling decent quality food items (fish & chips, Angus burgers, homemade fishcakes, etc). I’d recommend either packing a picnic, eating there… or heading on to the tiny town of Stonehaven for a picnic on the beach.


Looking for more places to see and stay in Scotland?

 

Find my previous posts here, or look in my Scotland travel guide.


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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on October 2, 2017 and filed under scotland, travel, day trips, uk getaway.

Outlander + My 5 Favourite Castles in Scotland

I had planned to get my nails done before having Edie, but, alas, she came early and so me and my overgrown hooves had to deal with not looking their best during her first few weeks of life. Fast-forward one month and I managed to sneak away for a trip to the cheapest nail salon in our neighbourhood to finally get my nails done. Since I was wedging this between a trip to the fabric shop and Tyler taking the kids to the park, I didn’t have an appointment. When I walked in, they told me it would be 20 minutes before they could help me, and I gladly parked it until it was my turn.

With my phone dead and nothing else to do, I glanced around to find something to read. All of the magazines were at least a year old- literally, the newest featuring Princess Charlotte’s first birthday, but I found a copy of a DEPARTURES magazine that wasn’t entirely from another century. I grabbed it and spent the next hour absorbing every single letter within that tattered and faded issue. I skimmed ads for luxury cruises, read about trends in Shanghai’s food scene… and, eventually, landed on an article where an editor journeys around Scotland to trace the steps of the scenes from the show, Outlander. A show that I had previously assumed to be included motorcycles and ponytailed men in chunky metal-toed boots. (Why you ask? I honestly have no clue. Was there some old TNT series that had a similar name and premise? I digress.)

To my surprise, the editor’s description of Outlander totally captivated me (historical fiction + art-like costumes) and I can’t wait to submerse myself in it as soon as possible. On top of the fact that the plot sounds incredible, I have to say: I was mostly excited to read about all the Scottish settings that the show features…. Many of which I have been this summer.

One of the places the editor talks about is the town of Falkland- where I just so happened to spend the morning a few weeks ago. It’s one of the cutest little towns that I’ve been to in Scotland, complete with a palace, an antique shop full of affordable treasures and a small handful of cafes and pubs to keep you fed during your day there. It’s charming, and after being quite taken with Falkland after my day there, I included it on my list of “5 Scottish Castles to See.” 

Take a quick look at my latest video where I walk through (literally) the 5 castles that I recommend to see when you’re in Scotland. You’ll also get a glimpse of some pretty scenery and an abandoned castle below. The great news for you is that, if you do find yourself in another castle in Scotland, chances are it’s going to be pretty great, too.

Now, can any of you that have seen Outlander weigh in below on whether or not I should watch this show? Win me over, please. I’m really hoping this can be a new favourite. And do guys like it, too?. Hopefully, I can get Tyler interested, too!



Find more of my favourite places in Scotland here in my travel guide.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on August 10, 2017 and filed under scotland, uk getaway.

St. Andrews | Balgove Larder

Hello from baby land! I'm sharing a few posts that I wrote this summer, but thought I'd save for a rainy day... and by "rainy day," I obviously meant a day where I'm hanging out with little kids and family rather than blogging. So while we do our newly-expanded-family-thing, here's a taste of a great day from earlier this summer.


I was walking through St. Andrews today and came to the realisation that, since we first started coming here seven years ago, either I've become more refined or the town has become a bit more posh.

The places we always used to go are still around but look a bit (cough) dated. And now, there are new spots that have captured my attention... luckily, these spots are bit more polished than my first round of picks and, if I'm honest, make a much higher grade of food.

For example, Balgove Larder. This farmshop + Cafe + Steak Barn make for a great foodie destination throughout the day. 


BALGOVE LARDER

While the evening and lunch are popular for the tasty Steak Barn, the morning has a bright breakfast being served in the farmshop cafe.  

This morning, I headed to Balgove (located a bit down the road from the Old Course Hotel) for breakfast. I got there around 10, and snagged a table along the counter by the window.

What makes Balgove a special stop is that the food is either grown on-site or sourced locally. And while it's perfectly pure in many respects, it's not obscenely priced.

A FEW THINGS TO TRY...

One of their (four types of!) homemade scones. These are served fresh and warm from the oven when ordered. Choose from plain, fruit, cheddar or cherry. These are one of the most popular items coming out of the kitchen, and they're worth trying!

The homemade granola served with local yoghurt and fresh fruit.

A bunch of flowers from their flower stand to take home with you when your tummy can't fit anymore in it.


To be honest, everything is pretty great at Balgove. I'm not sure you'll go wrong with anything off their well-groomed menu, so feel confident that what you're ordering is going to taste great... and treat your body kindly.

BALGOVE LARDER | Balgove Farmhouse, Strathtyrum Farm, St Andrews KY16 9SF, UK | Open 9AM-5PM


Looking for more of my favourite places in Scotland? Check out my posts here and my Scotland travel guide for more.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on July 24, 2017 and filed under eat, drink, scotland, uk getaway.

A Ladies Day: The St. Andrews Way

On my last work trip before this baby arrives, I headed up the East Coast of Scotland for a long weekend trip to St. Andrews and beyond. While we were headed to some lovely sites outside of St. Andrews, I have to be honest; I was the most excited about this portion of the trip. I absolutely love St. Andrews, and have gone through silly trains of thought that have nearly made me relocate there just for the sheer pleasure of residing in that sweet coastal town in Scotland. (Okay, Tyler wouldn’t really ever let this happen… but if I weren’t married to him, who knows where I’d be.)

Since the group that I’m with is all females, we opted to have afternoon tea at the Old Course Hotel with them. At £20 per person, this is one of the most reasonably priced teas that I know of… and it’s setting in the airy conservatory along the golf course with the sea alongside it is just, well, perfect.

The conservatory is slightly ethereal and the crisp design of the space makes it feel extra special. The actual afternoon tea is really yummy, too. Warm scones, fresh jam, homemade cakes and pastries crowning the plates of little sandwiches just feels perfect. The hotel also boasts some great teas to choose from, too. 

After the tea, my colleague and I tucked into the hotel’s incredible Kohler Spa. Ever since staying at the hotel when I was first pregnant with the twins, I’ve been dreaming of trying out the spa. (It was fully booked when we stayed at the hotel!) So a week in advance, I called in and got us treatments booked for after our afternoon tea. 

The spa experience there was all I hoped it would be- with Kohler owning the hotel, the water fixtures are impeccable. Every aspect is perfectly done- because they have such great water fixtures. Expect fantastic showers, expansive pools and steam rooms, a rooftop hot tub overlooking the golf course and relaxation rooms to sit in all along the way

I had the NEOM pregnancy treatment.  It was a massage + body scrub for 80 minutes. It was only £90, which felt like a steal compared to the prices for luxury hotels in London. The treatment was lovely, and is something I’d definitely recommend to all my pregnant friends. (Find their complete listing of services and treatments here).

After my session, they brought me into the Deep Relaxation Room and tucked me in (literally) on a little reclining chair with a cosy blanket, got me a drink and some nibbles and left me to it. I spent another two hours in the spa- relaxing there, taking a long shower and lingering doing extraneous grooming that I never have time to do at home (like shape my eyebrows and shave above my knee). It was glorious and I felt entirely unrushed. It was how all spa treatments should be, in my opinion.

So while the spa at the Old Course Hotel in St. Andrews is one that is a bit too far away for me to enjoy on a regular basis, I can definitely say that it is completely worth visiting when you make it to St. Andrews. Not only was it one of the best pregnancy massages I’ve had, the entire spa experience made it feel even more enjoyable.


A FEW TIPS 

Book in advance of your stay to avoid disappointment. You can email to book at reservations@oldcoursehotel.co.uk

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Bring a swimsuit. The spa has so many great rooms, pools, sauna/steamroom- you really miss out if you don’t have a swimsuit to enjoy them.

 

Give yourself a good buffer of time before and after your treatment. You’re going to want to enjoy the spa for all it has to offer.


Pregnant and feeling like you need a spa break? (You probably do!) Find my reviews of other great UK spas here:

FOUR SEASONS  |  BAGLIONI HOTEL  |  COWSHED SPA  |  ROSEWOOD LONDON


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*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Overnight Train to Scotland (A Vlog!)

It’s been a long time since I did a vlog… like maybe 3 years, but for some reason, I’ve been in the mood lately to switch gears a bit and add this format to my site. I think because I’m starting to love the idea of falling down the rabbit hole of Youtube channels, it feels right to join the fun.

And besides, I thought for certain things/topics- well, it’s really just a more effective format of communicating.

So a few weeks back, I headed up to Scotland on the Caledonian Sleeper train. It runs nightly from Euston Station to Scotland. It leaves late (like midnight!) and gets in early (like 7am!), so you really have full days wherever you are coming/going from to enjoy without loosing much to travel.

I’ve taken it a few times before, and I’ve always liked it…. And I thought, since so many people seem to want to know what the easiest way to get to Scotland is from London, it may help to just show you what way I prefer. While I’ve done the others (drive, fly, train) many times before… and, to be honest, will continue to do in the future, I can’t help but prefer the sleeper train over the rest. It feels nostalgic and efficient to me… and when I’m not with my tiny kids, it’s the best way for me to get to Scotland.

So without further adieu, my vlog of my overnight sleeper over-party-for-one on the Caledonian Sleeper train. Enjoy!

And make sure to subscribe to my Youtube channel so you don’t miss any of my upcoming adventures. (Hmmm… maybe my “nesting” phase involves creating new blog projects, because I’ve been lining up so many of these for the weeks to come. Don’t miss out on what’s in store!)

Have you traveled between Scotland and London? How did you get there? Weigh in with your experience below and share what you liked/disliked about how you traveled. It’s always so helpful to share your experience, so please do!


Find more of my posts on traveling to Scotland here, and check out my full travel guides to Scotland & Edinburgh.



*images original to Aspiring Kennedy

Posted on July 3, 2017 and filed under scotland, travel, uk getaway.