Understated and just under 4 hours by ferry from Oban, Tiree sits as the most westerly of the Inner Hebrides.Its single track roads ribbon round the island and will transport you to any number of magnificent beaches which are usually pretty deserted even in the height of summer.There you'll see basking sharks,seals,dolphins,otters running in and out of the sea and vertically diving gannets.During the summer months you can hear the distinctive sound of the elusive corncrake all over the island.Take an evening hike up Ceann a' Mhara and with the setting sun on your right, look straight into the Atlantic and see the amazing Skerryvore Lighthouse.
Listen to Radio 4's Shipping Forecast for regular weather updates, especially windspeeds.
A daily flight from Glasgow arrives with the Guardian! Bliss.
An avid festival goer of many years and an Edinburger, my hot tip for the Festival has to be the Mussel Shack at the Spiegel Tent venue. It's an outdoor seafood bar, lit up with sparkly fairy lights, in picturesque Princes Street gardens at the foot of historic Edinburgh Castle. You really are amid the spirit and energy of the festival and Edinburgh itself.
Try mussels marinere with fresh homemade breads or with frites, hot-smoked salmon in a crusty roll and oysters on ice with fresh lemon or tabasco. All washed down with cider or chamagne! Or you can sit at what feel like impromptu candlelit tables, taking in the atmosphere in the heart of the festivals greatest venue.
A relatively new addition to Thistle Street in the heart of Edinburgh's New Town, the Bon Vivant is a relaxed and cosy restaurant and bar which serves very reasonably priced food. Starters and deserts come as regular portions for around £3 or ingeniously as 'bite' sized for £1 each. The menu changes daily and the staff are always friendly.
55 Thistle Street Edinburgh, EH2 1DY
0131 225 3275 bonvivantedinburgh.co.uk
In the Isles of Scilly life is governed by the tides. Low tide, on a fine sunny day, is so picturesque as to take your breath away – deep beaches of white sand, green sea over shallow sandbanks, each tiny island stretching out to meet another. Take a motor launch trip (scillyboating.co.uk) from St Mary’s to Tresco or Bryher in the morning when the tide is high but just turning; if you get your timing right, by late afternoon the water will be too low for the 20-minute direct trip back, and your skipper will take you on a fantastic voyage ‘around the back’ of Bryher and Samson, out between the shipwreck-strewn Northern Rocks, with waves and wash even on calm days, with seals and lobster-pot buoys bobbing - exhilerating. On your return to St. Mary's, go for a fine dinner with the best sunset view ever at The Boat Shed (the-boatshed.co.uk) in Porthmellon.
uk, scilly isles
Google map: tinyurl.com/35ulfqe
If you didn’t know it was Scotland you might think you were in the tropics, with its white sandy beaches and azure blue sea. A perfect gem off the north-west coast of the Highlands, not far from Cape Wrath, Handa Island owned by the Scottish Wildlife Trust boasts 200,000 sea birds but much more than just that. You arrive after a ten minute boat trip from the tiny hamlet of Tarbet and are greeted by volunteer wardens who explain to you the history and wildlife of this tiny island. It’s a four mile hike around the island which takes in a gentle climb up to some spectacular Torridonian sandstone sea cliffs and stacks of over 100 metres high and where puffins, kittiwakes, fulmars, guillemots and razorbills nest in colonies. In the breeding season it’s a haven for wild-life enthusiasts and photographers. Arctic skuas and bonxies (great skuas) dive bomb you on the way up in defence of their nests. In May and June the flora is attractive too with orchids, bog asphodel, roseroot and thrift, to name just a few.
The way back is a cliff edge walk, passing boulder strewn bays, with dramatic views out to sea and the coast and the possibility of seeing basking sharks, whales, seals and otters. Finally you pass the ruins of a once thriving habitation, before the great potato famine emptied its occupants in 1847.
When you’ve completed your walk you just wait on the idyllic beach and a warden will radio for the boat to come a pick you up. What a service!
Handa Island is so remote that many people have never heard of it and consequently it is not over visited but well worth the experience. Take a pair of binoculars, a camera, a packed lunch and some walking gear and you will be just rewarded. Boat fare is £10 return (which includes £2 to the Scottish Wildlife Trust).
Toast is a small and friendly cafe in Marchmont, a pretty and largely studenty area away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. As well as dinner in the evenings there is breakfast and lunch, and on weekends they serve brunch, which is a real winner! It includes not only the breakfast options (full scottish breakfast, croissants, waffles etc), but also delicious sandwiches and french toast. Portions are generous (order something with goat's cheese and you won't be disappointed!) and prices are very reasonable - as a student it is my favourite local eatery, and not only when the parents are visiting! The walls are filled with various art works giving it a low-key warmth, and the walk to get there from the town centre is a very pleasant one across the Meadows. Booking is not essential if you don't mind a few minutes' wait for a table.
146 Marchmont Road, Edinburgh, EH9 1AQ
146 Marchmont Road, Edinburgh, EH9 1AQ
0131 446 9873
google map: tinyurl.com/39r3ebf
Understated and under four hours by ferry from Oban calmac.co.uk), Tiree is the most westerly of the Inner Hebrides.The single-track roads which ribbon the Island will transport you to any number of magnificent beaches which are more often than not pretty deserted even in the height of summer.There you can observe basking sharks, dolphins, seals and vertically diving gannets. During the summer months the distinctive call of the elusive corncrake can be heard all over the island.Take an evening hike up Ceann a' Mhara, perch on the cliff's edge and with a setting sun to your right look directly out into the Atlantic and view the stunning sight of Skerryvore lighthouse. A daily flight from Glasgow (Flybe.com) usually arrives with the Guardian! Bliss.
Tiree, Inner Hebrides
Google map: tinyurl.com/36hp6g9
Tucked away in one of Edinburgh's most famous streets, this culinary gem is the perfect place to escape the Festival crowds without leaving the centre of town. Situated on the upper floor of 30 Victoria Street, opposite the fabulous Bow Bar (perfect for a pre or post-dinner drink), it is easy to miss from the street which lends a visit a pleasantly "in the know" feel. Once you're in, the low vaulted loft setting is intimate, charming and very romantic; the food is imaginative, unfussy, beautifully prepared and, (the best bit) excellent value.
The team at Sweet Melinda's genuinely care about ingredients with a focus on seafood and game the dishes are interesting and delicious - all sourced locally, cooked on site and served in the cosy restaurant filled with old quirky photos. Don't miss it if you're a festival goer or just a city visitor
This small Turkish restaurant a few minutes' walk from The Pleasance is ideal for tucking into some pre or post-show food during the Festival. The atmosphere is friendly and lively, whilst the food - in the form of platters of mezze followed by Turkish coffee and baklava - is fantastic and very reasonably priced (its also BYOB which helps to keep the cost down). There is often live music later on in the evening and, if you're really lucky, the owner will entertain you with his own guitar-playing skills (albeit he's only learned a couple of chords so far!)
For a day or a stay the island of St Martin's in the Scilly Isles is a treat. The walking is delightful; coastal paths give ever-changing breathtaking views or you can criss-cross the island through heather-laden moorland. Great Bay hosts a stunning beach with clear waters and soft white sands. On a hot day you could almost be in the Caribbean until you test the chill of the water! Stick with it for a swim and your body will tingle. For adventure try St Mary's Dive School (scillydiving.com) for snorkelling with seals There is a choice of places to stay including a campsite and self-caterers can buy home-ground veg from a roadside stalls complete with an honesty box. Unwind with a bottle of wine from St Martin's Vineyard (stmartinsvineyard.co.uk).
Isles of Scilly, St Martin's
google map: tinyurl.com/3xq5whv
Your own island to explore for the day! Speak to local boatmen about a trip to Calf of Eday and you will find Orkney in minature. You have wildlife to spot (very tame otters when we were there), great walking, archaeology, hill, and shore. Best of all is the knowledge that you are alone, there is a sense of exploring 'virgin' territory and instead of cut grass and interpretation boards the ancient monuments have moss, sheep skulls and proper fallen stones. It is a wonderful antidote to the twenty-first century with, of course, the reassuring thought that home-comforts are only a short boat ride away.
Nearest airport London (not that one), Eday, Orkney. Loganair flies in from Kirkwall (use Flybe to get to Kirkwall). Or regular ferries from Kirkwall on Orkney Ferries.
Informal curries cooked and served in the grounds of the Edinburgh Central Mosque. Tasty, portions big enough to satisfy my growing 14 year old, variety enough for a seven year old, and catering for both vegetarians and carnivores. Best of all perhaps: a fabulous variety of non-alcoholic drinks from cans of coconut milk to doubtful highly coloured fizzy concoctions. A treat for all the family without breaking the bank. Take a jumper as the eatery is open air (marquee style roof to keep off the rain).
Potterrow, behind the National Museum of Scotland, near to the University - the minaret is a clue.
Google map: bit.ly/b3P3jl
There are plenty of delicious places to eat and drink in Edinburgh but on a sunny day you can't beat a picnic on top of Arthur's Seat or The Crags at Holyrood Park. Stop at Peckhams' to pick up some gourmet bread, cheese, olives, cakes and deli treats along with beer, cider or wine straight from the fridge and take the short walk to Arthur's Seat. On a clear day you'll have perfect views for miles around, including the Forth Bridge and the Pentland Hills. There are climbs, walks and plenty of space to just sit and enjoy the sunshine.
A beautiful cafe with incredible food. Off the beaten track slightly, in the heart of Marchmont, so you'll likely avoid swarms of festival-goers, but popular with the locals so it will be fairly busy nonetheless.
Booking is sensible on weekends for brunch, when they serve a classic menu cooked to perfection. Their Full Scottish Breakfast - an essential experience when visiting Edinburgh - is almost definitely the finest in the city. Sandwiches and proper mains available too. All dishes at reasonable prices and guaranteed to delight.
If you like coffee you must visit Artisan Roast. Once tasted all other coffee will seem like pale imitations of the real thing. They buy direct from the growers and roast on site. What's more, if you bring your own cup then you pay less!
Chop Chop has to be the best Chinese restaurant ever! The dumplings are to die for at this family friendly, family run business. If you visit Edinburgh you have to visit Chop Chop. Right next to Haymarket Station. PS: they've just opened one in Leith.
There can be few more pleasant ways to spend a sunny Edinburgh afternoon than taking a stroll through Holyrood Park (strenuous climb up Arthur's Seat optional!) over to The Sheip Heid, which claims to be the oldest pub in Scotland. Built as it was in 1360, they may have a point. Traditional pub grub is the order of the day in the atmospheric interior, while in the summer months an extensive barbecue menu is served in the pub's courtyard. And if - as is perfectly likely - the weather turns inclement, you can always skip the walk in the park and take comfort in a pint of local ale and basket of scampi and chips over a game of skittles in the pub's old-fashioned alley hidden away in the annex.
Jura is in the Inner Hebrides. It has 200 people, 5,000 red deer, mountains, beaches, and exotic gardens at Jura House. It has otters and eagles. It is remote and romantic, but it also has a pub, a distillery and an informal but remarkably good bistro/restaurant, The Antlers. And like all the best islands, it's a bit hard to get to (sometime resident George Orwell called it 'ungetattable'). So not too many others will intrude upon your solitude.
Papa Westray, one of the most northerly of Orkney's islands, claims to be Orkney in miniature. The island certainly has all the elements that make any Orkney holiday memorable; fascinating archaeological sites, beautiful beaches, cliffs full of sea birds, colourful wild flowers and a warm welcome. Papay Community Co-operative run the well stocked shop and some accommodation, other members of 70 strong community provide B&B and self-catering accommodation. Be prepared to talk to people, but the island has plenty of space for solitary walking too; maybe spend some time trying to spot one of the seven Corncrakes currently on the island.
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