Highland Escape

Highland Escape

Although it looks like we will be unable to grab our passports and fly off to a sunny destination anytime soon, I look forward to the day where we can travel in our very own country. The popularity of staycations looks likely to soar this year as soon as restrictions and guidelines allow and perhaps we can really take this opportunity to explore the beauty that lies on our very own doorstep. 

Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands is an area of stunning beauty and is notably known for its apparent monstrous inhabitant, Nessie. In 1924 a man named Robert Kenneth looked across the water from the drawing-room of a lochside property and it’s here where the famous photo of the alleged monster was taken. Today this property is known as Highland Escape, a stunning six-bedroom private hire house that has been meticulously restored to celebrate Scottish art, culture and history.

As soon as the property appeared on the market, founder Mathew Meredith, who works in the music business in London couldn’t wait to get his hands on it. Due to its stunning location and infamous history, it was his ultimate goal to restore the property to its former glory, adding a few contemporary touches whilst remaining sensitive to its past.

I was recently invited to stay for the weekend (pre-covid) and I couldn’t wait to experience this historic building and all the bespoke services that are on offer. After a glorious drive through Scotland’s renowned scenery, I arrived to the glimmering water of Loch Ness and as if out of a fairytale the house appeared majestically on the horizon. Its exterior slowly comes into view and as soon as I stepped out of the car I couldn’t help but look at it in awe.

The Old Manse as the building is also known, exudes a typical Victorian exterior with turreted roof, sash windows and impressive stonework. Alongside The Old Manse is Bona Church, a quant and spacious addition to the house which can cater for intimate weddings and ceremonies.

Bona Church

I was met by the passionate Highland Escape Director, Magda Meredith who kindly provided me with a welcoming glass of champagne and encouraged me to explore the property, which of course I couldn’t wait to do. On entering the house I was completely taken aback by its stunning elegance, its large entrance hall setting the tone of what you can expect throughout the rest of the property.

Antique furniture that has been locally sourced from the Highlands stands sophisticatedly against the mellow hues of the wall as if they have been there forever and a sweeping staircase entices you in to explore the rest of this eloquent building.

The living room is a large and inviting space where no money has been spared and its roaring open fire conjures up images of relaxed evenings and a warming glass of whisky, of which I certainly did later that night. Specially selected antique furniture enhance the room, however it is the addition of small details that really make this place special. An elaborate and extremely comfortable sofa from British company Tetrad adds a sumptuous and luxurious touch and the addition of a large Harris Tweed footstool brings in a further traditional Scottish element. The artwork that hangs splendidly in each room tells the history of the Jacobite uprising and local prints that pepper the walls are from the famous Leakey’s bookshop in Inverness.

Adjoining the living room is ‘the snug’ which again benefits from an open fire, antique furniture, artwork and beautiful hints of luxury such as the bespoke handmade blinds from Mulberry. I especially loved this room in the evening watching one of the many movies on offer whilst the roaring fire crackled away in the background.

The Snug

The country kitchen is both spacious and light and is equipped with everything guests could possibly need. As well the traditional elements they have included many contemporary appliances including large fridge/freezer with wine cooler, double-sized cooker, dishwasher and wash machine.

Adjoining the kitchen and leading to the backdoor, is the fantastic addition of a boot room, providing guests with wellington boots, jackets and raincoats.

The Boot Room

Next to the kitchen is the impressive dining room which seats up to twelve people. This palatial yet comfortable room takes in the impressive views of Loch Ness and is where the famous photograph of the mysterious monster was taken.

The Dining Room

The property has six bedrooms over two floors which allows up to 12 guests to enjoy this lavish escape. Each of the bedrooms have their own distinct personalities yet manage to seamlessly blend together with the rest of the property. There are two super king four poster beds, two super king sleigh beds and two king sized beds each embellished with lamb’s wool throws and windows that take advantage of the surrounding views.

On the second floor, each of the rooms benefits from en-suite ‘Jack & Jill’ bathrooms which are generous in size and have the most exquisite interior design each containing a selection of premium towels and toiletries.

All of the rooms benefit from their very own tea and coffee stations, branded dressing gowns and slippers, meaning guests can relax in true highland comfort. I settled for one of the bedrooms in the upper floor that looked upon the surrounding hills, it was extremely relaxing and the huge comfortable bed insured I had one of the best sleeps ever.

What sets this private hire accommodation above the rest is when guests book directly with Highland Escape they can completely tailor your trip to make it as relaxing or as adventurous as possible. Highland Escape provides numerous bespoke packages which truly allow guests to get to know the area and enjoy this house to its fullest.

Me & Tony (Tour Guide at Tour Highlands)

I was treated to a privately escorted tour by Tour Highlands which included my very own knowledgable driver, luxury vehicle and customised itinerary.

Learning about Loch Ness

This individually designed tour really allowed me to delve into the history, culture and heritage of the region. This was one of the highlights of my stay and Tony our guide was extremely informative, humorous and friendly.

Whisky tasting at Glen Ord Distillery

As well as the above Highland Escape also have their very own luxury golf tours along with a concierge service, clay pigeon shooting and exclusive access to fishing areas in the Highlands with top guides, which I can’t wait to experience when I go back.

For guests who don’t wish to cook whilst on vacation then Highland Escape have the perfect answer. They provide guests with their very own chefs who can cook a bespoke restaurant-quality meal in the privacy of the home. Prior to my stay I pre-selected my food from an extensive menu of high quality local produce. As soon as I arrived back from my day trip around Loch Ness, the chef duo Steven and Veronika were already hard at work creating their culinary works of art.

Chefs Steven & Veronika

It was fantastic to sit back in the dining room with a glass of wine by the flickering fire and be served some spectacular dishes. This is just one of the services available which makes your experience at Highland Escapes both outstanding and remarkable.

Highland Escape provides a unique and memorable stay in a stunning area of Scotland. It shines not only due to the exceptional property but also because of the added bespoke benefits which truly makes a trip here unforgettable.

They have cleverly managed to combine the relaxation of a self-catering vacation with the added benefits of luxurious hotel service. If you are looking for a exuberant getaway at an affordable price in a remarkable location, then look no further than the immaculately presented Highland Escape.

Take a video tour on my IGTV.

Opening July 15th 2020. Book direct at highland-escape.com

East Haugh House Hotel

East Haugh House Hotel

Located on the outskirts of Pitlochry in Perthshire is the 17th Century built East Haugh House hotel and restaurant. Originally erected as part of the Atholl Estate, it was converted into a hotel in 1989 by the McGown family who still run the four-star hotel today. Their personal and dedicated approach has won the hotel numerous awards including fishing hotel of the year for 7 years running, best country sports hotel and Best Hotel In Scotland (under 50 rooms). Having previously stayed in the hotel over Hogmanay I couldn’t wait to go back in order to share my experience with you.

Driving into the hotel grounds you immediately notice the hotels stunning stone Victorian façade with turreted roof and quant sash windows. As soon as you walk into the entrance you instantly feel the relaxed and comfortable ambience. The thick tartan carpet leads you to a small reception area where warm and friendly staff check you in to one of the lovely rooms. There are numerous rooms to choose from; Small double/twin, Classic double/twin, Superior double/twin, superior room with Jacuzzi bathroom, Four poster room with Jacuzzi bathroom, Superior suite with movie room and Jacuzzi bathroom and Deluxe superior with open fireplace and Jacuzzi bathroom.

Superior Room with jacuzzi bathroom

As the hotel is surrounded by some of the best areas of fishing such as the River Tay and River Tummel, each of the rooms are named after classic salmon fishing flies. On this occasion I stayed in their recently renovated Superior Suite called the Red Drummond located on the top floor of the hotel.

The Red Drummond Suite

The Red Drummond Suite was open and spacious and was split into three large rooms over the one floor. The first room was the beautifully decorated bedroom which oozed the traditional charm of the surrounding countryside along with some contemporary touches. The slanted roof, dark ceiling beams and unique shape of the room gave the room a quirky style and the décor cleverly accentuated these original features.

Double Bedroom

Two ceiling windows allowed light to flood into the space allowing you to enjoy the view outside and catch glimpses of the turreted roof that brings so much character to the building. The room contains a large super king double bed, lots of storage space, bottled water and tea/coffee making facilities.

View from Suite

Off the landing is a very large bathroom with a luxurious Jacuzzi bath. Again the sloping roof adds so much charm to the space and the addition of a vibrant print wall covering carries the fish theme and also adds a touch of humour.

Large bathroom

The small window allows you to take a bath while looking out towards the expanse of green and I thoroughly enjoyed the selection of luxury toiletries along with the fluffy white bathrobes and towels.

It’s all in the detail

What makes this suite stand out is the addition of a separate movie room which contains a 49’’ TV, DVD player and is connected to Netflix. The room also has its very own sofa bed and a fully stocked mini-bar and is a great space to chill out and relax before heading to your bed. There is also a TV in the bedroom but trust me you the bed is so comfortable that all you will want to do is sink into it and enjoy the quiet surroundings of the hotel. 

Movie room

 

What really stood out for me in this hotel is the food, and it is no wonder that the restaurant is recommended in the UK’s Michelin Guide and gained numerous awards. Their Chef Patron, Neil McGown along with Sous-chef Steven Fleetham heads a team of very talented chefs who produce dishes with ingredients that are both locally sourced and freshly cooked to order. The restaurant itself is located both in the bar area and a larger space that has been added to the building.

Restaurant

The bar area is small and cosy and a roaring fire makes it the perfect place to relax, enjoy one of the many delicious drinks and of course make your way through the tantalising selection of food.

Bar area and restaurant

We started off with one of their renowned cocktails, the aptly named kilt lifter! Not being a huge fan of whisky I was pleasantly surprised with this cocktail, so much so that I had to get the ingredients so I could make it myself.

Kilt Lifter

For the first course I tried the Seared west coast scallops with Chorizo, Cauliflower puree and pickled Cauliflower which were succulent, fresh and full of flavour.

Starter – West Coast Scallops

I then opted for the delicious Roast best end of Perthshire lamb, Champ potatoes, crushed minted garden peas and rosemary jus. The lamb melted in the mouth and the infusion of flavours were simply to die for.

Main – Perthshire Lamb

To finish I had a refreshing take on Eton mess, this time with banoffee. It was light and creamy and the perfect dish to finish such a beautiful and varied dinner. 

Dessert – Banoffee Eton Mess

 

Although I didn’t experience it the hotel also offers an array of activities and country sports, so much so that it has gained the accolade of Best country Sports Hotel at the Scottish Hotel Awards. With numerous packages available to suit everyone’s taste, you can take part in shooting, hunting and fishing to name but a few.

East Haugh House hotel has that traditional highland welcome and customer service that I long for when travelling around Scotland. Its relaxed ambience and comfortable rooms provide an excellent base to explore Perthshire and the surrounding areas. I love that it’s a family owned business and you can truly feel the passion from each and every one of them. It’s no wonder they have so many returning guests and I myself wouldn’t hesitate to book again when visiting the gateway to the Highlands. 

Blu Blazer Guy Rating:

Location – 4/5 – Easily reached by car and close to Pitlochry.
Customer Service – 4.5/5 – Warm and Friendly.
Accommodation – 4.5/5 – Traditional, comfortable and quirky.
Cleanliness – 5/5 – Spotless and immaculate.
Food and Drink – 4.5/5 – Varied menu and fantastic quality.

 

Luxury Hideaways – Crieff

Luxury Hideaways – Crieff

Located near the town of Crieff in Perthshire is a new kind of glamping experience from Luxury Hideaways. Set within acres of the countryside are two luxury stunningly designed eco-friendly pods that provide an idyllic and relaxing escape. Driving down the quaint farm road I didn’t know what to expect. I have to be honest and admit that i am not a huge fan of the glamping scene. That being said I thought I would give it a go, and let’s just say I’m so glad that I did.

As soon as I arrived and walked up to the pod I was completely taken by surprise with its stunning and serene location. Using a unique code given at the time of booking and handprint to enter (just one of the technology quirks) I immediately fell in love with its unique and contemporary design.

On opening the door you are transported into a capsule of beautiful interior design and comfort. The first thing you notice is the sumptuous looking bed that appears to float majestically below a large circular window that provides an Instagram worthy photo of the landscape outside.

The luxurious and deep king size mattress is draped in high-quality linens, embellished with a cosy grey alpaca throw from the White Company and heavy sumptuous scatter cushions. On each side of the bed lie wireless chargers, sleek bedside touch lamps and an array of switches to control the lighting within the room. A pull out TV allows you to lie in bed and enjoy all the latest Netflix, Amazon of iPlayer programmes have to offer.

I do have to admit, as the automatic window blind came down and I slipped underneath the sumptuous duvet, I didn’t want to leave. The bed was extremely comfortable and actually better than some five-star hotels that I have stayed in. That combined with the silence of the location provided me with one of the best sleep ever.

Technology plays a huge role in making this pod as chic and contemporary as possible and each detail has been meticulously thought out. The pod contains underfloor heating, air conditioning/ heating and a heated towel rail which can all be operated from a screen located on the wall. Mood lighting, up lighters and outdoor lighting can also be controlled, providing the perfect ambience to relax and unwind.

Wi-Fi is also included so you can remain connected and your bluetooth device can be connected to the pod so you can listen to your favourite music.

Every nook and cranny of the pod has been designed to fully utilise the space and this carries on into the compact WC area, where a sink, shower and toilet are located.

 

Concealed wardrobes illuminated by LED lighting enclose fluffy bathrobes and white towels and small drawers provide great quality cutlery and dishes.

A small seating area in the pod provides an area to relax and eat.

The pod also contains a state of the art Nespresso machine and kettle with an array of coffee pods and teas to choose from.

An impressive hamper and fully stocked fridge containing an array of high-quality goods were provided, which was a very thoughtful idea. It’s these small personal touches that make this place stand out.

Outside the pod is a large decked area and even though it’s located adjacent to another pod it has been cleverly designed to be as private as possible taking advantage of the countryside.

There is additional rattan seating outside which allows you to take in the serene views. If that’s not enough, the pod also contains its very own 30-jet Jacuzzi hot-tub. I especially enjoyed sinking into the warm hot-tub, laying back to watch the stars and sipping on a glass of bubbly that is also provided during the stay.

I found my stay at Luxury Hideaways truly unforgettable and surprisingly relaxing, I can’t recommend this accommodation enough. The combination of unique and quirky accommodation, technology, location and friendly communication with the owner prior to arrival all added to a very special stay. I arrived not knowing what to expect but left with a newfound appreciation of the luxury glamping experience. Whether it be for a romantic getaway or simply to disconnect from the world, you certainly won’t be disappointed with a stay at Luxury Hideaways – Crieff.

Head to their website or Instagram for more information and keep your eyes peeled for future locations such as Turnberry in Ayrshire, Delamare Forest in Cheshire and Appin near Oban.

Blu Blazer Guy Rating:

Location – 4/5 – Stunning location but may be difficult to reach without a car.
Customer Service – 4/5 – Easy to book and excellent communication.
Accommodation – 4.5/5 – Unique and contemporary with luxurious touches.
Cleanliness – 5/5 – Spotless and immaculate
Food and Drink – 4/5 – Great quality luxury hamper and supply of bottled water.

 

Cringletie – Sunday Lunch

Cringletie – Sunday Lunch

Amidst the rolling hills, fields and woodlands of the Scottish Borders is the impressive Cringletie. Conveniently located just 15 miles south of Edinburgh and two miles north of the Royal Burgh of Peebles, it is perfectly placed for a relaxing stay or a visit to their renowned restaurant for a delicious heartwarming meal.

I recently visited to try out their tantalising Sunday Lunch menu devised by their head chef Iain Gourlay, which was launched early in 2019 and has received some fantastic reviews. It was a cold and windy day just before Christmas when I arrived but as soon as I walked into the hotel’s beautiful entrance I was immediately greeted with a welcoming roaring fire. Walking up the beautiful staircase I couldn’t help but notice all the stunning architectural details but it is the dining room that truly surprised me.

As soon as you enter into the lavish room you are greeted with the most beautiful views of the gardens from the large sash windows that are voluptuously draped in heavy luxurious curtains. The opulence continues as you look up towards the ceiling where a beautifully painted mural sits. Although the room was large and airy it retained a homely warmth partly due to the deep-coloured thick carpet and the crackling fire.

I was seated next to the window at one of the many tables draped in white linen with comfortable chairs which fitted perfectly into the rooms décor.

The three-course Sunday lunch menu features an array of locally-sourced produce which includes roast beef from the Tweed Valley and also contains a number of vegetarian and vegan options. As it was a typical cold and crisp Scottish day,  I immediately gravitated towards the warming Chicken Broth with Chicken Dumplings for my first course and it immediately hit the spot, deliciously rich and full of flavour. In addition to this, the menu also delights with a Trio of Scottish Salmon or a Ham Hock & Gremolata Terrine.

Being a Sunday lunch I could not bypass the delicious selection of roasted meats. These were brought to the table and carved in front of me by the chef, and even before the food was placed upon my plate my mouth was salivating. I opted for a slice of all of them; roast beef, pork and turkey.

These were served alongside a selection of honey roasted vegetables, goose fat potatoes and greens. The meats were exquisitely succulent and full of flavour and paired with the side dishes, it was a perfect traditional roast. If these don’t take your fancy, there was also a fish dish of pan-seared fillet of Atlantic cod or another meat dish of slow-cooked pork belly, again with a selection of perfectly paired side dishes.

Dessert is always my favourite part of the meal and I always go for the sweet options rather than the cheese which was available on this menu. I went for the Chocolate & Hazelnut brownie with chocolate shards and yoghurt sorbet. Although deliciously decadent and moreish I did wish I had opted for something a tad lighter (due to the previous course) but who can resist chocolate and hazelnut together!

I really enjoyed my time at Cringletie House and it was a great little escape from the city buzz of Edinburgh. Its accessible location and scenic drive makes it the perfect place to combine some country walks along with an exquisite lunch or dinner. I myself am not a big fan of roast dinners but the delicious selection of food along with the ambience of the building made this meal truly enjoyable.  My only wish was if I could have stayed longer and enjoyed more of that crackling fire, however that only gives me an excuse to visit again.

Priced at £35 per person with a £7.50 supplement for cheese.

Blu Blazer Guy Rating:

Location 4/5
Service 4/5
Food 4/5

Radisson Collection Hotel – Royal Mile

Radisson Collection Hotel – Royal Mile

Situated in the heart of Edinburgh’s iconic old town, Radisson Collection Hotel Royal Mile takes pride and place near some of the city’s iconic sites. Surprisingly its contemporary exterior blends perfectly into the historic surroundings. If you are visiting Edinburgh then this hotel is definitely placed perfectly for you to enjoy the best of what the city has to offer. Not only are you located near the beautiful Royal Mile but just around the corner is the stunning Edinburgh Castle which sits majestically overlooking the city. 

From the historic streets outside, the foyer of the hotel is a complete contrast, displaying many contemporary elements. A stunning sitting area with neutral table and chairs and metallic lights is backed by a beautiful modern fireplace which adds warmth to the space. This is perfect place to sit and relax before exploring the city.

Lounge Area

A long marble table lined with lights is backed by an open shelved wall displaying works of art, sculptures and candles. The reception area echoes the same decor with metallic desks which appear to float above the ground. 

There is an abundance of room types to choose from, including; The Collection Room, Collection Superior Room, Collection Premium Room, Collection Premium Room – Skyline View, Family Room, Junior Suite and the indulgent Designer Suite. I stayed in one of the Junior Suites which was located on the upper floors. As you enter the room the first thing you notice is the stunning uninterrupted views of the city.

The floor to ceiling windows makes it feel as if the room was floating above the city and it allows you to see aspects of the city that are truly unique. Being a longstanding resident of Edinburgh and having stayed in many Edinburgh hotels, this was one of the most striking views that I have ever seen. 

The room is extremely spacious, bright and separated into two separate areas, the lounge/dining area and the bedroom/bathroom area. The neutral decor of white and grey is accentuated with a wall of artwork and prints.

Dining Area

A large circular seat with printed material is the perfect place to sit back and relax and enjoy the huge projector and screen that’s provided in the room.  

The large and comfortable bed is backed with a smoked mirror which adds depth to the room but also reflects the beautiful views from the outside.

Bedroom

What I loved is that you can simply lie back on your bed and look out the window, admiring the historic skyline of Edinburgh.

Bedroom View

The bathroom is separated by a heavy mirrored door and is a complete contrast to the neutral decor, surprising you with a colour tone of bright pink and black.

A relaxing monsoon shower, a bath, fluffy bathrobes, comfy slippers and lots of bathroom amenities are the perfect way to start or finish your day.

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If its food and drink you are looking for then look no further than the hotel’s award-winning restaurant called Cucina which provides a range of seasonal dishes. Although I didn’t eat dinner at the hotel this time, I did opt for a few cocktails in the hotels Epicurean Bar. The bar sells an extensive range of outstanding cocktails created by some of the best mixologists around. The bar carries on the contemporary feel with low mood lighting and highlights of red leather seating.

Epicurean Bar

I experienced breakfast at Cucina with a range of continental breakfast options including cereals, fruit, pastries, meats, cheese and also a menu with hot food choices. I opted for the smoked salmon and scrambled egg which was a fantastic warm and tasty way to start the day.

 

Overall I had a brilliant stay at Raddison Collection Royal Mile. I loved the decor, the staff were extremely friendly yet non-intrusive and the beautiful views from the room made my stay truly exceptional. 

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View from Window

The hotel is perfectly placed to enjoy the best parts of the city yet was extremely quiet being located so close to the centre. If you are looking for modern facilities and decor in a historic setting then this is the place to book.

Blu Blazer Guy Rating:

Location – 5/5 – In the centre of historic Edinburgh.
Customer Service – 4/5 – Friendly and informative but non intrusive.
Rooms – 4.5/5 – Spacious and unique with stunning views of Edinburgh.
Cleanliness – 4.5/5 – Spotlessly clean
Food and Drink – 3/5 – Atmosphere in the bar and breakfast area could be better.

The Balmoral hotel – Spa Facilities

The Balmoral hotel – Spa Facilities

The Balmoral is one of my favourite hotels in Scotland and I have previously spoken about it in my article for Guild Magazine. It may be known for its elegant rooms, commanding architecture and its prominent mark on the Edinburgh skyline. However what people may not know is that beneath its floors lies a treasure trove of wellness and recuperation. Descend the hotel’s golden elevator and the doors open to reveal a tranquil retreat that both residents and non-residents can enjoy. The small reception opens up into a spacious spa with a swimming pool, gym, treatment rooms, steam room and sauna.

Swimming pool, Steam room and Sauna.

The recently revamped state of the art steam room and sauna located at the far end of the swimming pool is the perfect place to unwind. Situated adjacent to each other and separated by a shower area, the steam room and sauna have been an utter godsend for yours truly. Not only do they help ease my muscles, but they are great for circulation which is fantastic at this time of the year.

Relaxing in the sauna

The new décor of navy blue and gold accessories have added a more contemporary flair to the area.

The new look sauna and steam room area

The 15-metre swimming pool is perfect for relaxing in or swimming laps. What I love about this swimming pool is that it is always at the perfect temperature.

The surrounding lounge beds provide such  comfort, enabling you can lay back and relax or read your favourite book or magazine.

I especially enjoy the tranquil seating area where you can enjoy numerous complimentary hot drinks, Scottish mineral water infused with seasonal fruit and an array of smoothies, drinks and food that can be purchased via the reception. 

Treatment Rooms

Within the wellness area are numerous treatment rooms offering an array of treatments catered to your every need. Even though these rooms seem to be in close proximity of the central area, each room is a tucked away so that you can enjoy your treatment without hearing the outside world.

With soft music in the background, glimmering candles and an array of scents that linger in the air, these rooms provide a tranquil safe haven that are the perfect place to de-stress and unwind. There are two main skincare brands used within the spa. Firstly, Irene Forte skincare which is a range of luxury natural products handmade in Italy and created by Wellness Director at Rocco Forte Hotels, Irene Forte. As well as renowned brand Ishga who use seaweed sourced from the Hebridean Islands of Scotland.

Treatment room

I chose a a bespoke facial using the Irene Forte range. The Irene Forte Facial is a personalised facial tailored to suit your skin’s needs. There are three to choose from: Forte Purifier, Forte Brightener and Forte Hydrator. If your skin requires a combination then these treatments can be adapted. 

After completing a consultation and discussing it with my therapist we decided to go for the Forte Hydrator, because my skin felt a tad lack-lustre and a little dry. My therapist gave me chose of two oils to smell. I had to choose which I preferred to be used in my treatment, I of course chose orange blossom.   With the candles lit and my body settled into the comfortable bed I already felt my tensions ease away. Due to the fact that the Irene Forte skincare is inspired by Sicily a small Sicilian bell is rung before the facial, which is said to calm and relax the mind, it certainly made me feel extremely relaxed. 

Cleanse: Firstly my face was cleansed with Irene Forte Almond Cleansing Milk. This hydrating cleanser contains Almond, Olive, Rose and Jojoba Oil along with soothing Aloe Vera juice. It was great to take in the beautiful aroma as this was massaged onto my face and the nourishing texture really sunk into the skin.

Tone:  The Irene Forte Helichrysum Hyaluronic Toner was then used. This toner prepares the skin for the remaining products and includes Hyaluronic Acid which is an ingredient known for its hydrating skincare properties

Exfoliate: Irene Forte Almond Face Scrub was gently massaged onto my skin. Unlike some other exfoliators that can feel too harsh on the skin, this felt nourishing and very moisturising. The Almond Face Scrub is filled with Almond and Hazelnut granules, Aloe leaf juice, Hyaluronic acid as well as Olive, Avocado and Shea oil. This was then followed by my previously chosen Orange Blossom Face oil which is used to brighten and tone the skin. 

Mask and Massage: The Irene Forte Pistachio Face Mask was layered on the skin and felt immediately comforting. This age-defying mask is full of Antioxidant-rich ingredients and replenishing oils and again has a fragrance to die for. This was accompanied by a relaxing shoulder massage using the Orange Blossom Body Oil.

Moisturise: A trio of different product was used as the final part of the treatment. The Hibiscus Serum was applied first which lifts, hydrated and minimises fine lines and wrinkles. This was followed by the Prickly Pear Face Cream full of rich nutrients and anti-oxidants and finishing with Almond eye & lip cream.

I found this facial extremely relaxing and it was a great introduction to the Irene Forte skincare brand. I especially loved choosing my desired oil at the start, which added a sensory interactive experience to the treatment. The additional shoulder massage was a great way to include a relaxing aspect to the facial and left me feeling very de-stressed. My skin felt extremely supple and glowing afterwards and it’s definitely one I would do again, especially in the winter months when my skin suffers the most. 

After a long period of not visiting the gym, I thought I would also sign up to there in house personal training, Will Power Personal Training. Keep your eye on my next blog post to find out how I have been getting on. 

House of Gods

House of Gods

Boutique hotels are not usually synonymous with the Cowgate area of Edinburgh’s Old Town. A new addition to the Edinburgh hotel scene has set to change all that. House of Gods celebrates the dark mysterious side of Edinburgh with an unapologetic decadence. This hotel takes pride of place in Edinburgh’s old town with its exterior housing a large neon sign inviting you in and giving you a playful glimpse to what House of Gods has to offer.

As you enter the hotel, you walk through the exuberantly trendy bar. Here you clearly notice the cleverly constructed decor merging together different styles to create maximum impact.

Dark wooden panelled walls are brought to life with Japanese style art, all framed by neon lights and it’s very own disco ball dripping in pink. House of Gods somehow manages to capture the essence of Edinburgh and the Cowgate area, yet blends it seamlessly with a little smudge of Amsterdam and Japan thrown in for good measure.

As you arrive at the quaint reception area, friendly staff check you in. Wandering along the hallway towards your room feels as if you have stepped into the Edinburgh underground scene. The dimly lit corridor is adorned with rows of doors embellished with lavish decorative material.

There are 30 rooms in the hotel split into three categories: The Cabin, The Classic and The Suite. I stayed in the classic room number 106 which was cosy and intimate. The hotel’s motto is “Beige is Blasphemy” which is clearly evident throughout. The interior decor is dark, opulent and sexy exuding a naughty but extravagant side. The first thing you notice is the beautiful four-poster bed which is draped in a deep red velvet lined with an elaborate floral design.

The ambience is ramped up by the switch next to the bed, which when flicked, illuminates the bed with red neon light.

Neon Nights

The bed was small but very comfortable and due to the fact that there was no exterior window, I felt like I was in my very own cocoon and managed to have a perfect sleep.

The flow of the interior design is undisturbed by modern technology, cleverly camouflaged to utilise space as much as possible. Within the adjacent mirror is a cleverly concealed TV, the bedside cabinet doubles as a minibar, a safe is located under the bed and behind a small mirror is a Nespresso coffee machine.

Bedside cabinet

A custom hand-built bar in beautiful dark wood contains all you need for a delicious in-room drink. Pre-made cocktails, a bottle of wine and gold bar accessories really add a special flair to the room.

In-room bar area

The bathroom is more of a contemporary affair, all clad in marble with stainless steel accessories. The underfloor heating is an added bonus and the monsoon shower was to die for. I must say I was a tad disappointed that the bathroom didn’t continue the elaborate decor of the bedroom, however, the contrast provided yet another quirky side to the many personalities that House of Gods has to offer.

Other rooms in the hotel offer the same opulent vibe, each with a slight twist so there is something new to explore each time you stay.

The Suite

The suite even contains your very own brass roll top bath and a few additional cheetah friends to keep you company during the night.

The customer service perfectly represents what the hotel is all about; friendly, laidback and professional. A clever touch, which I personally liked, is that you can simply send a message via WhatsApp to the hotel reception if you require anything. I used the service and it was quick, easy and very convenient.

There is no restaurant located at House of Gods, but due to its proximity to the city centre, you are surrounded by an abundance of great places to eat. Their friendly and knowledgeable staff were happy to recommend different places for an evening meal.

Nearby restaurant, OX 184.

The cocktail bar; Lilith’s Lounge is definitely a cool place to hang out! It serves a range of cocktails ‘inspired by the fables of Rock n’ Roll’s hotel debauchery’. Mixologist Joey and his team are great at whipping up one of the many cocktails in no time at all.

My favourite was Rock N’ Rosé which includes Tanqueray No. Ten, Pomegranate & Rose syrup, Lemon Juice, Belsazar Rose and Brachetto D’Acqui.

House of Gods is certainly different from any other Edinburgh based hotel that I have stayed, which is one aspect I really liked about it. It has a unique and interesting style in both its interior design and customer service. House of Gods doesn’t conform to the norms of the Edinburgh hotel scene. Like marmite, it may not appeal to everyone’s liking or may not be your first choice but all I can say is give it a go and you will be thoroughly surprised.

Blu Blazer Guy Rating:

Location – 4/5 – Located in Old Town within easy reach of all tourist attractions.
Customer Service – 4.5/5 – Friendly and laid back. 
Rooms – 4/5 – Unique, cosy and full of character. 
Cleanliness – 4/5 – Spotless
Drink – 4.5/5 – Fantastic range of unique cocktails 

The Bonham Hotel – Edinburgh

The Bonham Hotel – Edinburgh

Overlooking the elegantly leafy and picturesque Drumsheugh Gardens in the West End of Edinburgh is one of the city’s hidden gems; The Bonham Hotel. Originally constructed as three separate townhouses in 1872, the 19th Century property has witnessed many transformations over the years. It wasn’t until 1998 that it was turned into the lavish Bonham Hotel, introducing the city to the boutique hotel concept. 

The hotel recently went through extensive renovation and in 2019 it revealed its brand new look to its awe-inspiring guests. Interior designer Nigel Howard, who has also worked with other boutique hotels such as The Dylan Hotel in Dublin and New Road Hotel in London, had the task of designing The Bonham’s new style. Although every room caters to the modern market, there is a specific nod to the past where each has been decorated to reflect the Georgian and Victorian history of the building. I was keen to visit the hotel to explore its new design and to experience the rooms and facilities that The Bonham Hotel has to offer.

Being situated in the elegant area of the West End and only 10 minutes from the citycentre, the hotel is perfectly placed. As a resident of Edinburgh I have lived in many areas of the city and the West End has to be one that resonates with me the most. Its refined crescents, tall elegant buildings and cobbled streets are exactly what your mind conjures up when you think of Edinburgh. Therefore this hotel couldn’t have a better location for me. 

As you enter the intimate hotel foyer you can’t help but be enchanted by the beautiful architectural features of the building. The calming decor, beautiful ceiling cornicing and wooden panelled staircase gives you a glimpse of what’s to come.

Hotel Reception

Due to the property being three separate townhouses the layout of the hotel is very quirky as this adds to the charm of the place. Whilst you walk around the corridors to your room you are greeted with numerous pieces of art that fit perfectly with the ambience of the hotel. Although the hotel has been recently refurbished you would almost think that it hasn’t been changed at all. This goes to show the interior designers ability to sensitively update the decor whilst respecting the surroundings and maintaining The Bonham’s historic charm.

There are 49 en-suite bedrooms in the hotel which are divided into different categories; Classic, Superior, Junior Suite and Executive Suite.

 

I stayed in one of only two executive suites known as the Rothesay Suite, named after Rothesay Terrace, a street located close to the hotel. As i entered into this first floor suite, It took my breath away. The lounge is an elegant space with a neutral palette accented by blue velvet sofas, dark antique furniture and a stunning wooden fireplace.

Rothesay Suite Lounge

A large bay window fills the room with light, brightening the expansive space, even on a typically cloudy day in Edinburgh. The traditional sash windows are elegantly framed by luxurious floor to ceiling drapes and a large dining table is perfectly placed to sit and gaze into the nearby gardens.

Through double doors is the impressive king size bedroom attached to a very large bathroom. Again the room is beautifully decorated and manages to exude the perfect blend of both traditional and contemporary. A small desk provides the perfect area to work and a large cupboard gives plenty storage space.

Rothesay Suite Bedroom

The Hypnos bed is the focal point of the room, adorned with heavy embroidered cushions and luxurious throw. I can confirm that it was extremely comfortable and I especially loved the plump pillows which leads me to wonder where do they source these from?

The bathroom was a more contemporary space with white metro tiles, large mirror and separate bath and a shower. Although spacious and modern, I felt it did lack some of the elegance and tradition that emanated from the rest of the suite. That being said, extra luxurious touches such as robes and slippers were provided as well as a range of toiletries from The White Company. The monsoon shower was the perfect wakeup call in the morning before breakfast. 

Bathroom Toiletries

The Bonham’s restaurant named No 35 provides a range of European inspired food with a slight Scottish twist using local suppliers. There are lots of lovely design features in this space, most noticeable the parquet flooring with a central carpet of monochromatic tiles.

No.35 Restaurant

Again the restaurant houses a beautiful collection of art which is enhanced by the soft dusky lavender walls and dark wooden panelling. The occasional chandelier bestows a slice of glamour and the rich purple velvet of the chairs provides a pop of colour. I opted for the Bonham Burger which was moist and succulent and also the duck breast which was rich and full of flavour. If you are staying for a few days its good to experience what the hotel has to offer to its fullest.

The bar area of the hotel is intimate and cosy and has a sleek art deco design. It’s the perfect place to sit back and enjoy a pre-dinner drink as their is an extensive wine list to choose from. 

Hotel Bar

The hotel also boasts many areas to relax and enjoy afternoon tea or to escape and read a book. The lounge area is cosy and is filled with dark furniture highlighted with a stunning shade of blue velvet.

 

Located just off the reception area is an intimate library with tranquil shades of green as if nature has been brought in from outside, the perfect place to relax and unwind.

Next morning I opted for breakfast in the room, why have a beautiful suite and have to leave for breakfast? The food promptly arrived at the time requested and I had the pleasure of sitting at my very own dining table looking out to the autumnal trees in the garden. We had both a vegetarian and meat breakfast which were equally delicious, along with pastries, toast and numerous condiments.

 

If you can prise yourself away from the hotel, guests have access to nearby private Drumsheugh Gardens which are the perfect place to relax and unwind. In the midst of the leafy trees it provides a perfect inner city sanctuary, so much so that you almost forget that you are stone’s throw away from the hotel and Edinburghs iconic West End buildings.

Autumnal leaves of Drumsheugh Gardens

My stay at the Bonham Hotel was pleasantly surprising.  After all these years in Edinburgh I have not visited the hotel, so I didn’t know what to expect. The hotel oozed a special charm and captured the very essence of what Edinburgh is about. The staff were extremely friendly, the room was exquisite and the whole ambience of the hotel was welcoming and warm. My only regret is not visiting The Bonham Hotel sooner. 

Blu Blazer Guy Rating:

Location – 5/5 – Centrally Located and easy to get to. 
Customer Service – 4.5/5 – Friendly and non-intrusive. 
Rooms – 4.5/5 – Charming, spacious and stunning interior design.
Cleanliness – 4/5 – All areas of the room were spotless 
Food/Drink – 3/5 – Food was okay. 

 

 

Market Street Hotel

Market Street Hotel

It teased us with its highly conceptual marketing on social media and whispers of its arrival spread across Edinburgh like wildfire. Market Street Hotel, Scotland’s first design hotel from Carlton Hotel Collection opened its doors in August during the Edinburgh festival. I was invited to experience this new and exciting addition to Edinburgh’s hotel scene and could not wait to see what it had to offer.

Situated on the fringes of Edinburgh’s iconic old town, Market Street Hotel takes pride and place in its new home. Surprisingly its contemporary exterior blends perfectly into the historic surroundings. Stone sourced from within 90 miles of its location was used in order to create this seamless integration of old and new. As it towers above nearby Waverley station you cannot help but notice this crowning glory. 

 

Photo by Carlton Hotel

Market Street Hotel has turned  the typical hotel concept on its head by cleverly locating the reception on its seventh floor instead of the ground. The mirrored and amazing lit elevator whisks you up, where you are greeted by lovely welcoming staff in the open and airy foyer with views of the Edinburgh skyline.

Hotel Foyer

There is an abundance of room types to choose from, including; Cozy, Roomy, Roomy Bath, Vista and the indulgent Alba Suite. I stayed in the Vista room and as its name suggests this room was located on the upper floors having stunning views of the city. In order to take full advantage of these views the room contains a handy pair of binoculars, so you can take in the striking architecture of Edinburgh.

Vista Room

The rooms in Market Street Hotel are beautifully designed to get the best out of the space. A large king-size bed provides a sumptuous place to lay your head at the end of the night. Providing you with a pillow menu, they make all attempts to ensure you get a good nights sleep.

It’s all in the details

The heavy wooden shutters allow you to close yourself off from the city and be cocooned in your very own luxurious room. I must say it was one of the most comfortable beds I have slept in and the room was surprisingly quiet being so close to the city centre. 

The ante-bathrooms are a fantastic design aspect, providing guests with separate toilet, shower and sink areas. A relaxing rainfall shower, fluffy bathrobes, comfy slippers and Votary bathroom amenities are the perfect way to start or finish your day. In all honesty, I didn’t want to leave my room.

Everything, even down to the rooms amenities all exude contemporary design elements, an aspect that runs through the hotels DNA. From Dyson hairdryers, GHD straighteners, smart tv and even the option of a clothes steamer. 

What I especially loved about the room was its complimentary indulgence cabinet, with Nespresso machine and Aeroccino milk frother, locally roasted coffee and even a mini-bar which is so often not included within the price of a hotel stay.

Its iconic glass-fronted champagne bar on the top follow is called Nor’ Loft; named after the Nor’ Loch that used to lie beneath Edinburgh Castle. This exquisite champagne bar allows light to flood the space and provides uninterrupted views across the Edinburgh skyline.

The design is chic, laid back and contemporary. There is no shortage of seating and designated spaces have been cleverly segregated using a selection of sofas and chairs in an array of colours and textures. Its modern angular design provides perfect nooks and crannies where you can sit back and enjoy your sparkling glass of champagne.

If the weather is lovely you can head out to their spectacular terrace and enjoy a drink al fresco whilst taking in the views of some of Edinburgh’s iconic monuments and buildings. What I especially adored was its wall adorned with flaming bowls each placed at a height to represent the first notes of the Scotland national anthem… Cue “Of Flower of Scotland!”

Although there is no formal restaurant, the Nor’ Loft provide numerous small plates which are the perfect accompaniment to their selection of drinks. I especially loved their soy-marinated quail eggs and smoked chicken rillettes.

The talented and enthusiastic Ollie who is Nor Loft’s head barman is always on hand to recommend the perfect drink or cocktail. The bar of course has an exceptional selection of champagne and while staying in the hotel each guest is treated with a complimentary glass during their stay. 

It’s in Nor Loft where you also get to experience breakfast. It was such a treat to head up in the morning and be greeted by the gorgeous views of the city of Edinburgh. The staff go out there a way to make you feel very special and their enthusiastic and friendly nature is a breath of fresh air. Breakfast begins with a lovely section of pastries, cereals, fruits, hams, cheeses and bread for you to choose from.

My favourites was their vegan croissant filled with blueberry jam. Also included is a selection of hot food from the chef’s menu. I opted for the full Scottish breakfast of course which contained a selection of the best Scottish produce and was absolutely delicious.

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Other options included crushed avocado and poached eggs, scrambled eggs and smoked salmon and even grilled grapefruit. 

Overall I had a fantastic stay at Market Street Hotel. I loved its interior design, the staff whom were extremely friendly yet non-intrusive and the beautiful views from the rooms and Nor’ Loft made my stay truly exceptional. 

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Market Street Hotel is perfectly placed to enjoy the best parts of the city by directly straddling both the old town and the city centre. Being only across the road from Edinburgh Waverley train station and airport bus stop makes this hotel extremely accessible. All in all it is a fantastic design led addition to Edinburgh’s expanding hotel scene and one that I would highly recommend to everyone!

Blu Blazer Guy Rating :

Location – 5/5 – Centrally located
Customer Service – 5/5 – Friendly, welcoming and informative.
Rooms – 4/5 – Contemporary and spacious. 
Cleanliness – 5/5 – All areas spotlessly clean. 
Food/Drink – 4/5 – Great choice of drinks and food with stunning views over the city.

Yotel Edinburgh

Yotel Edinburgh

Located centrally in Edinburgh on Queen Street is the newly opened YOTEL. This contemporary hotel is located only a stones throw away from the city centre and is a perfect choice if you are visiting for business or pleasure. I was recently invited to stay at the hotel to check out its cabins (Yotel’s lingo for rooms) and the hotel’s amenities. 

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Queen Street, Edinburgh.

Firstly I was welcomed by a fresh and contemporary designed foyer. The self-check-in kiosks provided a quick and easy way to check-in without all the hassle of waiting in queues. I was very impressed with how efficient it was. All I had to do was enter a few details and before I knew it my room and key cards were ready. Don’t worry if you’re a technophobe, their mission control (Yotel’s lingo for Reception) is located directly across from the kiosks and the staff are there to help you 24/7 if needed. 

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Self Check-In Kiosks

The hallways leading up to the rooms give you an insight into the contemporary design that YOTEL is known for. Their design and concept of geometric carpet and slick white walls provides a modern flare.

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On entering the cabin, the first thing that surprised me was the size of the room. It was bright and airy with a relaxing palette of whites and greys, which was right up my street. The large windows flooded the room with light and I loved how the use of mirrors gave the elusion of more space and light. I especially admired how the old historic buildings outside contrasted against the modern interior of the room. 

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YOTEL’s signature adjustable smart bed was the focal point and I couldn’t wait to jump into it… lets just say I wasn’t disappointed! The cosy white duvet and plump pillows were luxurious (I’m all about the thread count) and the fact you could adjust the bed made it even more special.

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The large smart TV and adjustable mood lightening were also a fantastic way to chill at the end of the night. Small reading lamps and USB ports meant that you had everything at your fingertips,. The only thing I needed was my YOTEL Butler…okay they don’t have that yet but you never know! 

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I liked that the shower, toilet and wash basin were all located separately, making it more convenient when you are sharing a room with someone that takes ages to get ready in the morning. Don’t worry, both the monsoon shower and toilet are encased behind frosted glass.

 

The wash hand basin takes pride and place in the room with the added bonus of a large illuminated mirror and luxury toiletries from Urban Skincare Co., specially selected by YOTEL to help guests counteract the impact of urban living on their skin and hair.

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KOMYUNITI is a central area in the hotel where you can lounge around, socialise, eat and drink. Their reliable WiFi would make it a great area to work as well.

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It’s a large open space located off the foyer echoes the playful design of the rest of the hotel. Its large front windows allow lots of light to stream in and it has a fantastic ambience at night.

If you opted to have breakfast (which of course I did) then head through the sliding doors through to a designated area. The breakfast is a self service buffet style of continent style and also traditional scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages etc. The highlight of breakfast was not the food but the 360 degrees projections under the ceiling. 

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Also attached to the hotel is the very Instagrammable Kohi Coffee shop which runs along the front of the hotel. Again large windows allow light to flood the area providing a bright and airy space to enjoy their seasonally selected coffee.

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I didn’t try it during my stay as I enjoyed my coffee at breakfast, however I can’t wait to head back and try it in the near future. 

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I had always known of the YOTEL brand but never stayed in any of their hotels before and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. I had one of the best nights sleep and was very impressed that the room was so quiet despite it facing onto the busy Queen Street. From the funky contemporary design, the excellent amenities and the great customer service, I wouldn’t hesitate to book into one of their many hotels around the world in the future. 

YOTEL’s mission statement sums it up perfectly “We are social to the core, refreshingly inclusive and actively create a sense of community for work and play. We disrupt the world of hospitality through technology, design and our people. We deliver extraordinary value in sought after places.”