A Scottish Staycation

Who needs Barbados and Berlin when you can have Britain?

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Are you sitting comfortably? Then let our geography test begin.

  1. What is the capital of Italy?
  2. Which city is more Northern, New York or Miami?

Too easy?

How about what city is more southern Chester, or Liverpool?

If you got it, well done, you know the UK better than I do.

We are in the age of travel. As soon as kids reach the end of their school days they run for Peru or make to Thailand. Do they go to the remote outer Hebrides or explore Exeter? Hell no.

I was recently chatting with someone from Thailand about how beautiful Scotland is. It turned out they knew more about my homeland than I do. To risk further embarrassment, I convinced my parents to take me for a relaxing and educational staycation up north. So, after a fun-filled, alcohol fuelled week in Marbella with my friends (safe to say, uneducational), I made my way up the The Crinan Hotel nestled beside the Sound of Jura and Crinan canal.

If a bit of serenity is what you’re after, the Argyll and Bute area in which Crinan resides in is perfect. The Sound of Jura may translate to ‘Sound of Disappointment’ but time spent here will be far from that. Being a Londoner, I’ve gotten used to the hustle and bustle so it was a real change to witness silence, tumbling mountains, crystal clear lochs and of course lack of WiFi…

The Crinan Hotel (loved by the likes of Princess Anne) is owned by an art loving couple and boasts an art gallery and bar on its top floor complete with breathtaking views. There’s also a piano there which has been played by many famous guests such as Andrew Lloyd Webber. The hotel has two restaurants which specialise in seafood and it’s safe to say I put on a good few pounds the days I spent here. The decor is by no means modern but homely and comfortable with sofas you literally sink into. The Crinan canal was handmade hundreds of years ago as a travel alternative to the dangerous Mull of Kintyre. It’s crazy to think men did that with their bare hands. 

A car is a necessity if you want to explore nearby attractions such as Inverarray Castle, the Lock Fyne restaurant, Isle of Seil and Easdale and Glencoe – the haunting location of the Campbell’s massacre of the MacDonald clan.

Read on for some snaps of my trip and the best places to spend a Scottish staycation!

Did you go on a staycation this year?

Fresh seafood at the Loch Fyne restaurant

Fresh seafood at the Loch Fyne restaurant

The view from the Crinan Hotel

The view from the Crinan Hotel

The view from my bedroom

The view from my bedroom

Tiny caravan with no running water of electricity where eccentric artist, Fraser McIver lives. He washes in the canal every day! Brrr...

Tiny caravan with no running water of electricity where eccentric artist, Fraser McIver lives. He washes in the canal every day! Brrr…

Crinan canal

Crinan canal

To get to Easdale island you ring a bell and a little boat comes to collect you!

To get to Easdale island you ring a bell and a little boat comes to collect you!

Me playing the piano as played by regular guest, Andrew Lloyd Weber

Me playing the piano as played by regular guest, Andrew Lloyd Weber

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Glencoe

Glencoe

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Seil Island

Seil Island

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Fresh scallops at the Crinan Hotel restaurant

Fresh scallops at the Crinan Hotel restaurant

Dad and I sipping some bubbly on the top floor on the Crinan Hotel

Dad and I sipping some bubbly on the top floor on the Crinan Hotel

Crinan

Crinan

The trip to Easdale

The trip to Easdale

Inverarray Castle

Inverarray Castle

Top Scottish destinations:

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  • Gleneagles Hotel
    If you haven’t heard of this hotel you’ve been hiding under a rock. Most people think this is only good for Argyll sweater wearing golfers. No way! Gleneagles owns an impressive spa – go relax! Also, legend has it John Cleese got the idea for Fawlty Towers whilst staying here…
    http://www.gleneagles.com/?gclid=CIPw5MW80rkCFTLMtAoddjQAWQ

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  • Cameron House Hotel, Loch Lomond
    Okay I admit it, I haven’t actually stayed here, I went in for the loo on the way home (I do comfort breaks in style). Nevertheless, I did look around and it is STUNNING. The hotel even has it’s own private seaplane for stylish loch trips!
    http://www.devere-hotels.co.uk/hotel-lodges/locations/cameron-house.html
  • 4Stobo Catle, Peebles
    This is the best spa I’ve ever been to. It’s in an old spooky castle and is surrounded by rolling Scottish hills. Top recco!
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Gand is Grand

The London Lassie takes a trip to Belgium…

My ambition has always been to visit every country in the world and I suppose I have been to a lot of places atypical of the British ‘Packed it. Booked it. F***ed off’ – Russia, Finland, Mauritious, Hong Kong, Haiti, Australia…. Nevertheless I barely go off the beaten track. Did I befriend Aborigine women with sagging chests in the outback? No, I drank cocktails overlooking Sydney harbour. Did I explore some remote snowy Russian village? No, I went clubbing in a chic Moscow nightclub. Did I follow the Inca trail? No, I lay on the beach and drank Pina Coladas.

It’s not that I don’t have an interest in places off the beaten track. I just like the finer things in life and to be honest, I just haven’t got round to visiting these places yet. If you only have 5 days in Russia you’re obviously not going to skip Mosco and St. Petersburg right? However, I have started to realise that when you go off route, you discover so much more.

I recently went to Brussels to visit some friends I met in Sydney for a weekend of calorific cuisine (Pain au Chocolat and Moules Frites), crazy nights out, sunshine, amazing architecture and liquid gold beer.

On my first day my friends decided to show me another city. Antwerp – city of style? Bruges – picturesque and thrown into the mainstream thanks to Colin Farrell? Nope. Gand. I hadn’t heard of it either but I’m so glad I went!

Gand is Belgium’s answer to Venice. Mirror-like, rustic canals vein through its quaint side streets. The banks are filled with a contrast of modern apartments with balconies, adorned with Acne-wearing hipsters and antique like crumbling restaurants serving fine wine and Moules Frites.

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From left: Virginie, me, Sylvie and Maite. Mywhite lace skirt is from Topshop and is my new summer wardrobe staple.

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Restaurants serving calorific delights line the edges of vein-like, rustic canals.

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Moules Frites with white wine and garlic – yum!

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It seemed funny at the time to keep our lobster bibs on…

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Couldn’t resist snapping this cute loved-up couple!

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There was a music festival in Gand that day and the stages were set over the canals on bridges. When we got a boat trip (for 6 euro each!) we sailed under these ear busting stages and it was like having our own private gigs! The addition of sunshine, shopping in Gands selection of alternative boutiques, a gut-busting lunch by the river and a Hoegaarden beer made it the perfect day.

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Gand is only a 40 minute drive from Brussels, which is only 2 hours on the Eurostar from London.

Get to gorgeous Gand!