It’s always exciting planning a short break, especially when you find somewhere new that is so unique and architecturally striking.
Step up Rink Hill, a truly stunning bolthole for couples with incredible views over the Tweed Valley in the Scottish Borders.
Scottish Borders wasn’t an area we were familiar with to be honest, but we knew
there was plenty to do in the area with walks and small market towns to
explore. Before we arrived, we stopped
off for lunch in Melrose and then stretched our legs along the banks of the
Hill, although rural is still close to nearby attractions and facilities. This
romantic hideaway is nestled perfectly into the landscape. As we ascended the off-road track taking in
the Tweed Valley on our left, the property appeared out of nowhere on the right-hand
The 180-degree curved panoramic floor to ceiling windows were immediately striking, framed perfectly by the curved dry-stone walls on either side.
The property looked so natural in its setting and more importantly this was our home, well, for a long weekend at least!
neighbours (except some curious cows and passing fox), no interruptions, just
peace and solitude – utter bliss!
property is nothing short of stunning and exceeded our expectations. Light flooded into the large modern open plan
living area. The view across the Tweed
Valley was simply breath taking.
The clever design, with the half glass wall to the bedroom means that you can enjoy the same amazing panoramic view from both the living area and the bedroom. Makes you feel part of the outdoors, even when you are lying in bed!
The kitchen was very well equipped and to be honest was what we expected from a place of this quality.
It had everything you would expect, but the bean to cup coffee maker was a very nice extra and provided a great start to our day.
awoke each morning to this incredible view – what more can we say it was
We were lucky with the weather; October in Scotland can be sometimes unpredictable, wet and cold however we had three dry, crisp sunny days.
We ventured out each morning and enjoyed walks to the Three Brethren in Selkirk and Rhymers Glen and Cauldshiels Loch in Abbotsford.
At this time of year, the daylight hours were short with the sun going down around 430pm so we returned to the Rink Hill each afternoon in time to enjoy the sunset and the changing browns and yellows of the breath-taking Scottish Autumn landscape.
The changing weather was also interesting to watch as the clouds rolled in.
never needed to fire up the log burner as, even on a pretty cold Scottish
weekend in October, it enjoyed the best of the sun throughout the entire day
meaning Rink Hill was a very toasty place indeed.
stunning, large bathroom, with a double sized shower was fab and the free-standing
bath also with its own view was the perfect place to relax after our days
was just a tad too fresh in October to enjoy a morning coffee on the patio, but
in warmer weather you would be stretched to find a more peaceful location to
start your day or even end it with a glass of wine or two.
Fiona and Mike have created the perfect romantic rural retreat for you to return each day to relax, recharge and reflect on your adventures. Although, if that’s not for you, then simply visit to chill out and relax with nothing else but the Scottish Borders countryside to marvel over. Clearly the area has plenty to do and we’ll certainly be back for a visit.
For those looking for a luxury self-catering hideaway, the new to market, Rink Hill is easily up there with the best and we really can’t stress how relaxed we felt during our visit, and would highly recommend a visit.
Want to experience an unprecedented level of luxury then look no further than Fingal, a luxury five-star floating hotel berthed at Leith docks in Edinburgh.
We’ve visited Edinburgh many times, but Leith hasn’t really featured, with the only exception a visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia last year. We were therefore delighted to have the opportunity to stay aboard Fingal, Britannia’s sister ship and recent addition to the Leith landscape.
Fingal was commissioned by the Northern Lighthouse Board in 1963 and was the last ship to be built by the Blythswood Shipbuilding Company in Glasgow. Registered in Leith, Fingal was stationed for 30 years in Oban and then for 6 years in Stromness, ferrying lighthouse keepers, essential supplies and maintenance staff to lighthouses, as well as undertaking repairs to navigational aids throughout the West Coast and the North of Scotland.
Launched in January 2019 with 23 luxurious cabins this 237ft long floating luxury hotel and exclusive use venue has been beautifully restored and transformed and is in stark contrast to her hard working past. If you do visit, make sure you have a peek at the pristine engine room to remind you of her past and the elegant ballroom to show off her present.
All Fingal’s cabins have been named after one of the Stevenson lighthouses she maintained throughout her operational service.
We were staying in Girdle Ness one of the luxury cabins with a private door onto an open deck walkway, meaning you could enjoy some fresh air during your stay.
All the cabins have a nautical and historical theme with ‘lighthouse’ Davy lamps, heavy brass fittings, maps, compass designs and bespoke commissioned fabric and throws by local designer Araminta Campbell adding a real Scottish and personal touch.
Look out for the Fingal emblem throughout the room and the rest of the ship. If you look closely enough at Neptune’s trident you might just see something else you recognise!
The cabins also have a modern twist with smart TV, Wi-Fi and underfloor heating, although watch out for the slight floor level difference. Thankfully it has been ‘corrected’ for the king size bed being installed, meaning you don’t inadvertently roll out of bed!
We never dined on board as the ship is perfectly located to explore Leith’s bars and restaurants. We chose to visit the original Fishers Restaurant nestled on the historic Shore in Leith. Set in a 17th Century watchtower we feasted on a several very tasty and fresh Scottish seafood dishes – including a rather indulgent fresh lobster which was simply outstanding.
We returned to the Fingal for a wee night cap and an expresso Belvedere Vodka cocktail ! Maybe next time we’ll enjoy a light evening supper or afternoon lunch on the ship as we couldn’t help but notice some impressive and tasty looking dishes in front of the other guests as our evening came to an end.
After a very comfortable and peaceful sleep, the following morning we enjoyed one of the most tasty and artistic ‘Scottish’ breakfasts we have ever had.
We were only aboard Fingal for twenty four hours but during this time we did feel a sense of romance and relaxation. The ship really does offer a level of opulence and romance you only find in a handful of venues across Scotland. A real exclusive and luxury feel destination with some clever attention to detail complemented by very attentive and bespoke customer service.
If you want to spend some romantic and intimate time with a loved one and ‘push the boat out’ then Fingal would certainly be an excellent choice.
We were equally impressed with Leith and were overawed by its vibrancy, variety of bars and restaurants and diverse cultures even after only a few hours exploring. Its definitely on our radar for a future visit!
Other Information: This was a sponsored / discounted visit; however, the review / article is an independent, honest and true reflection of our experience.
As we were celebrating an important occasion, our first cruise had to be extra special, so we chose one of the top ultra-luxury cruise lines in the world, Seabourn.
Aboard one of their new ships Encore, we set sail on a 7-night trip from Barcelona on what was billed as the Romance of the Rivieras, visiting Mahon, Marseille, St Tropez, Ajaccio, Monte Carlo, Portovenere and Rome.
At 690 feet long and 92 feet wide Seabourn
Encore is larger than the Odyssey-class vessels. She embarked on her maiden voyage in January
2017 from Singapore and has been exploring the world’s ports ever since. Carrying only 600 passengers in 300 suites
this seemed the perfect size of ship to experience our first ever cruise.
Before we boarded the Encore, we spent a few days exploring Barcelona staying at the five star Majestic Hotel. Located on Paseo de Gracia, it was perfectly placed to explore Gaudi´s famous buildings, and the city’s restaurants and bars.
The hotel was also celebrating its own special birthday, 100 years of luxury hospitality.
The Junior Suite was just what we needed to slip into the luxury life and relax.
We also enjoyed an incredible evening celebrating Linda’s birthday at the Mandarin Oriental Moments restaurant.
If you are looking for good food, culture, architecture, adventure and relaxation Barcelona has it all.
Barcelona really is an incredible city and deserves its own write up, so it is very much on our radar for a another trip. For our first few days it provided a great base for us to set off on our maiden cruise.
When we boarded the Encore, we were chilled and relaxed. Perfect, as we had another 7 days of very much the same planned!
After a pretty slick and impressive boarding experience and fantastic welcome from Cruise Director Ross we found ourselves sipping champagne and devouring canapés on the Colonnade Restaurant deck at the rear of the ship.
After lunch we headed for the main pool area for the sail away and live opera, the champagne was flowing, the sun was shining and the entertainment team gave us an incredible send off as we departed Barcelona.
‘Sail aways’ became a special part of our cruise experience trip
and we never missed the opportunity each day on deck as we left port.
We were staying in suite 828, a port side mid ship / deck suite. We had been advised this was a good location for our first cruise experience to see whether we had our sea legs or not. Thankfully we did!
All Veranda Suites feature a full-length window and glass door
to private veranda. They also offered a very
comfortable living area, queen-size bed, walk-in closet with personal safe,
interactive flat-screen TV with music and movies.
We also had a fully stocked bar and fridge, and a surprisingly
very spacious bathroom with separate tub and shower. Plush robes and slippers added to the luxury
feel. Our personal suite stewardess,
nightly turndown service, and pillow menu was a nice touch and added to the
intimate and personal experience Seabourn are famous for.
One of the main attractions of Seabourn is their award-winning cuisine. Encore offers a choice of dining venues and having the flexibility of being able to dine where and when we wanted was one of the reasons we picked this cruise line. Depending on our mood of the moment we could look out our glad rags for a fine dining experience or enjoy a casual dinner alfresco.
The food was so good and the surroundings that luxurious we never took enough pictures, a slight challenge when pulling together a blog like this. Hopefully we’ve captured enough to give you a flavour of our experience.
The main restaurant was a stunning venue and offered a real elegant dining experience but perhaps less intimate and romantic than some of the other restaurants. It features open seating and we always opted for a table for two. The menu was varied and the food was impressive, we also enjoyed a special tasting menu here to celebrate Seabourn’s 30th anniversary.
Our favorite restaurant was Sushi. An amazing team of chefs and front of house staff created authentic and exquisite sushi directly before our eyes.
You could choose to dine here for lunch or dinner. Incredibly fresh produce masterfully put together for us to enjoy – a real highlight of our trip with every visit – and added a little romance to the cruise as you shared and enjoyed the amazing dishes prepared for you.
The Grill by Thomas Keller was also a must visit and highly recommended. Michelin-starred chef Thomas Keller has provided the inspiration for this classic American restaurant from the ’50s and ’60s, serving simple but iconic dishes, like premium steaks, whole roasted chicken and Lobster Thermidor.
An intimate and exclusive experience with fab food too!
The Colonnade, is a casual restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating offering meals prepared in open-kitchen style and served as a lavish buffet. A nice venue, but we’ve never been one for buffets so we only ventured here a few times for breakfast, the odd afternoon snack and to recover from our tender incident! Read on to find out more.
The Patio offers a relaxed poolside dining option with grilled specialties and freshly baked dishes. This was our favorite spot for lunch. In the evening you can choose from a full menu and dine under the stars.
We did take advantage of room service most mornings and became pretty partial to an afternoon bottle of champagne and caviar on our veranda.
A nice touch, if not just a tad opulent!
The WiFi on the ship was generally ok, however it was chargeable, so we normally waited until we were in port to contact the outside world. This was probably our only real criticism of the ship as most luxury venues now offer WiFi / internet access as standard these days. On one hand it did allow us to ‘switch off’ more than normal, so that wasn’t a bad thing.
Our first destination was Mahon the capital of Menorca, second largest of the Balearic Islands and the second largest port in the world after Pearl Harbour.
We arrived early that morning and after enjoying the arrival and breakfast on our veranda we set off to explore.
The winding and narrow streets of this pretty medieval town were quirky, and the Gothic architecture and religious buildings were stunning.
Overall, we had an enjoyable few hours and returned late morning to the Encore for some sun, rest, relaxation and of course champagne and caviar!
Next up for us was Marseille, located in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region of France. An added twist for us cruise ship newbies was arriving into port by tender
The arrival into Marseille was a breeze, but the return journey to ship was eventful and quite simply the scariest experience of our lives!
Have to say we were a little disappointed with Marseille. The weather certainly didn’t help, as it took a real turn for the worst shortly after we disembarked the tender. We couldn’t really put our finger on it, but the City didn’t really come across as welcoming and was less than impressive.
We had also organised an open top bus tour, but given the
torrential rain and lighting, it quickly descended into a bit of a wash
out. So much so that we had to cut the tour
shortly, but only after we caught a glimpse of the famous Notre Dame de la
Garde Basilica. We’re putting it down to
the weather; maybe our next visit will be more enjoyable.
Back at the Seabourn tender pick up point is where things became interesting. We were greeted by a fantastic team albeit they seemed a little nervous. It transpired that the tender before ours was in difficulty due to the weather conditions and couldn’t dock with the ship. It then had to wait in the choppy seas until the ship could turn 360 degrees allowing it to dock under more favourable conditions. When our tender eventually set off, we assumed all was fine, but no! This was the most frightening 10 minutes of our life as the tender crashed through the choppy seas with us hanging on for dear lives.
When we eventually reached the ship and docked it was clear that
we were in the midst of a full-scale emergency operation as the crew, medical
staff and senior officers were there to help us disembark. Ok, we’re sure the crew knew what they were
doing and wouldn’t have put us in any real danger, but it was a very scary
experience. We found out later as we
recovered in the Colonnade that the tender before us had been stranded in the
choppy seas for over 30 minutes, so that put our own experience into
Like falling of a bike, we were back in a tender the following day. Destination this time was the little port of St. Tropez in France one of the best-known resorts in Europe.
Before we explored the harbour, we took a short panoramic drive to experience the beauty and contrast of modern Port Grimaud and the medieval Grimaud village.
Situated on a high hill and dominating the Gulf of St Tropez, is
Grimaud, a ‘perched’ village. After a short uphill walk, we meandered through the
quaint and rustic streets towards the centre of the village and then upwards
again to reach a stunning viewpoint.
Back down at sea level Port Grimaud itself is a charming village which looks like an old Mediterranean fishing village, but its really a modern complex of luxury houses, fully equipped marinas, and seven miles of meandering waterways.
We spent several hours and a short boat trip exploring before heading back to St Tropez.
Returning to St Tropez we found the harbour packed with tourists and fishing boats, excursion craft and luxury yachts all jostling for position.
On the waterfront were old pink and yellow houses, converted into cafes, cabarets and restaurants, luxury boutiques, galleries and antique shops.
After exploring some of the nearby streets and landmarks we settled down for a well-deserved cocktail or two at the famous Le Senequier Restaurant before returning to ship.
This was one of our best and busiest days off ship and we were pleased to return to recharge our batteries early afternoon. One of the things we loved about the Encore, and something we had been worried about before we boarded, was that we were always able to find somewhere to settle down for a few hours to enjoy the sun and relax. As you can see this was not an issue.
There were always sun loungers available throughout the ship regardless of the time you returned, including some very quiet and discrete areas if you looked hard enough.
Given this was our first trip we never wanted to miss anything, and ended up burning the candle at both ends. Waking early to ensure we never missed a port arrival and staying up late to enjoy an after dinner cocktail and catch the entertainment took its toll. Although we enjoyed the experience we both felt that we needed another wee break to recharge after the trip. Not great when you have day jobs to return to.
Speaking of entertainment, we normally don’t bother, but being on cruise we had to give it a try. We had heard great things about cruise ship shows. This was our most disappointing aspect as most of the shows were geared towards the more mature passengers, and the lead singers only made an appearance on a couple of evenings during our 7-night trip. The shows also didn’t have the scale or grandeur of some of the larger ships we had read about, but to be honest we didn’t mind as the smaller ships offer so much more in terms of intimacy and romance.
Ajaccio, located on the west coast of the island of Corsica was our fourth port to visit.
Following another enjoyable early morning arrival into port we explored the area on foot for a short time and then set off on a more successful and drier bus tour.
First, negotiating the old town area then heading west along a very scenic coastal route towards Torra di a Parata a 16th Century tower landmark. A pretty decent morning, giving us plenty of time to relax back onboard Encore in the afternoon.
We had always been a little concerned that a cruise would perhaps
feel overcrowded with issues over space on deck, but this really wasn’t the
case on Seabourn. You could always find a spot to relax, catch some sun, enjoy
a cocktail or two in several bars or simply chat to other guests.
Glamorous Monte Carlo was our second last trip and a must visit for anyone wanting to experience luxury and an insight into how the other half live.
The arrival early morning was spectacular, slowly edging towards port, squeezing past multimillion-dollar yachts, cruisers, watching the town wake up while catching glimpses of the famous Casino, parts of the Grand Prix circuit and the Prince’s Palace.
After disembarking we spent the morning exploring the obvious haunts including the grand prix circuit, grand casino, Hotel de Paris and Café de Paris.
We also took our own audio guided walk through the narrow streets, past the Oceanographic Museum and the cathedral containing the tombs of Princess Grace and Prince Rainier and stopped off to see the changing of the guard at the Prince’s Palace.
Monte Carlo was impressive and certainly a must visit
destination, but we’ve done it now and we wouldn’t necessarily rush back unless
of course we won the lottery and had to find somewhere to berth our mega yacht!
Our final port was Portovenere located on the beautiful Ligurian coast of Italy.
To be honest we hadn’t really known what to expect when we arrived, but it turned out to be our favourite trip of the entire week.
An old fishing village with a protected harbour it featured beautiful pastel shaded buildings, cobbled street and winding alleys.
It wasn’t too busy either and we enjoyed walking around exploring Chiesa di San Pietro and Castello Doria, which after climbing to the top gave us breathtakingly spectacular and dramatic views of the Encore herself as she waited for us returning.
All in a great destination that we hope to visit again, especially in the evening as we suspect the atmosphere would be pretty romantic.
Our final destination was Rome, unfortunately our flight home ruled out any chance to explore but we expect to visit again soon.
Our entire Seabourn Encore experience was fantastic and gave us
an insight into the world of cruising, something we had wanted to do for some
time. It gave us the opportunity to
visit some incredible ports enjoying some stunning scenery along the way and
celebrate to the full a really special occasion for us.
Importantly though we did it at our own pace and were able to enjoy the luxurious surroundings and cuisine on aboard whenever we wanted to. We are now officially part of the ‘Cruiserati’ and already on the look out for our next trip.
Other Information: This was not a sponsored / discounted visit; the review / article is an independent, honest and true reflection of our experience. Thank you to Seabourn for allowing us to use some of their images in this blog.
Bonus course! – A life size (well almost!) interpretation of Sydney Opera House made out of cookies!
Managed by chef Carme Ruscalleda and her son Raül Balam, Moments provided one of our best gastronomic experiences. A truly unique dining experience and a perfect setting to celebrate such a special evening for us.
We hope to visit again soon.
Other Information: This was not a sponsored / discounted visit; the review / article is an independent, honest and true reflection of our experience. Thank you to Mandarin Oriental for allowing us to use one of their images in the blog header.
In recent years our trips have gradually become more active and wildlife focused so where better to take it to a new level than Costa Rica with its abundance of wildlife. Catch our video here with all our encounters.
Lined with mangrove trees the mile-long Playa Tortuga is a remote beach and only a short 5-minute detour (by foot) across Route 34 from a circular walk direct from our hotel.
You can enjoy some amazing wildlife encounters and one of the most wild and natural beaches you’ll ever experience.
On our first walk down to Playa
Tortuga we had the most amazing encounters with a troop of White-Faced Capuchin
monkeys who were performing some aerial acrobatics directly above us and on our
last visit we managed to catch a small flock of macaws.
We found it best to visit Playa
Tortuga a couple of hours before low tide as it allowed you to paddle across
the inlet easier (watching for crocs of course – another reasons for
those walking poles!) and give you enough to time reach the other end and spend
time exploring the beach and caves.
Watch out for the less than
friendly crocodiles as you approach the end of the track and the inlet to the
lagoon. Also, don’t swim or paddle in the lagoon to the left of the beach
entrance as crocodiles have been known to frequent there accordingly to the
locals. Final piece of advice at the height of the day the sand became
incredibly hot – so keep those sandals handy!
Marina Ballena National Marine Park is located just offshore along the Central Pacific coast in South Puntarenas and protects more than 13,000 acres of ocean and 9 miles of coastline.
Comprised of mangrove forests, coral reefs and untouched beaches, the national park was only a 25-minute taxi ride from Hotel Three Sixty, so a must visit for us.
We arrived an hour or so before low tide so we could enjoy the famous Whale’s tail. Rocky formations surface about 1 kilometre from the shore and along with an open and vast sandy beach create the impression of an enormous Whales tail.
Worth a visit, and we spent a few
hours exploring the beach returning via a jungle trek through the mangroves,
where we had a few more wildlife encounters including a friendly spider monkey.
We also managed to explore the Ojachal hills and local waterfall during our stay with an exhilarating trip on horseback courtesy of Lalo tours.
Only 10 minutes by car from the hotel, this is an experience you won’t want to miss.
These are just a few things we got up to – with still so much more to do on our next visit !
Other Information: This was a sponsored / discounted visit; however the review / article is an independent, honest and true reflection of our experience. Thank you to Hotel Three Sixty for allowing us to use some of their images in this blog.
It’s late February and we’ve just
booked a low-key week long break to the Canary isles in March – but less than
24 hours later there’s been a change of plan and we’re instead heading off on a
bucket list trip to Costa Rica!
We had left our usual winter trip
plans a little late this year; it’s amazing how things come good when all
elements of a trip line up. British Airways released some business class
reward flights at the very last minute and we found possibly THE most
incredible place we have ever stayed on our travels so far.
Step up Three Sixty Boutique Hotel, Ojachal, Costa Rica. Located on the South West coast of Costa Rica with breath taking views of the South Pacific and quite simply the most extraordinary sunsets you will ever see. Three Sixty provided a complete transformation from our usual trips.
Just over a year old Three Sixty is built on a 58-acre trail lined rainforest reserve, with 12 individual villas and the main building taking up less than 8% of the total area. Floating at an altitude of almost 1,000 feet the views of the fractal rainforest canopy and its flora and fauna, palm-lined beaches, distant islands and the endless Pacific Ocean are simply incredible, transporting you to another world. The 300 km coastline view encompasses panoramas from Manuel Antonio to the Osa Peninsula, the migratory route of many species of whales and dolphins.
We arrived around 9pm and were
greeted with a warm smile by Rebecca who offered us a refreshing fruit
cocktail. There weren’t many
guests around and as the place was so peaceful and quiet, we thought we were
the only people staying.
Our 24-hour door to door journey from Scotland had taken its toll, with the final 3 ½ hour leg from San Jose Airport well and truly putting us into the exhausted territory. We checked in and headed to our villa to unpack and settle down for the night.
Despite being tired the first
impression of our villa was impressive with a large open plan living area and
bathroom with separate rain shower cubicle. Furnished with luxury
Indonesian furniture, a king size bed and Egyptian cotton towels and linens –
we immediately had a sense of luxury and something special.
The villa had the usual amenities
you would expect from a luxury hotel, but it was nice to see a Nespresso
machine, mini refrigerator, impressive Wi-Fi and importantly a first-class
modern remote-controlled air conditioning system. WiFi speed was
pretty good at around 7mbps and coverage was excellent throughout complex – so
good in fact we had to remind ourselves we were indeed at the top of a
We had a sneaky glimpse through
the floor to ceiling windows, but it was pitch black outside, so we had to wait
until the morning to see whether we had a ‘good’ view. As first nights
go, we had a great sleep, but we were both excited with what the morning would
bring so keen for dawn to break.
Wow! – I don’t think we will ever
experience a more exhilarating first morning.
Waking early to enchanting jungle sounds we drew back the curtains, the views were simply breath taking with butterflies, toucans and parrots to name a few in the trees providing a natural background soundtrack. See for yourself here.
We had caught a glimpse of the
main building the night before, but as we made the thirty second walk to
breakfast in the Kua Kua Restaurant the beauty of the main building became
It was simply stunning, made from traditional and modern materials it has open and airy architecture, natural floral walls and vaulted ceilings.
In the centre an enormous fountain fed by natural rainwater reminds you that you are in the middle of a rainforest.
We were greeted by Christina who immediately
made us welcome with her incredibly warm and engaging smile. Keeping with the
‘three sixty’ theme, the restaurant offers the concept of a full rotation of
cuisine through the seasons – for the time being though we had our sights set
on the Banana Bread French toast with maple syrup!
Breakfast was always special with fresh coffee, baked breads / pastries, fruit juice smoothies and some impressive dishes to choose from, including scrumptious avocado toast and freshly made waffles with fried chicken and syrup!
Yes, that’s what we said. Fried chicken and syrup. See for yourself – a great start to the day. Don’t forget the pancakes too!
The hotel was quiet and peaceful
during our stay and when we weren’t out exploring, we simply chilled out by the
The views from the sumptuous
padded sun loungers were incredible, and you easily lost yourself in your
thoughts as you watched the array of birds soaring above you and looked over
the rainforest canopy towards the Pacific Ocean.
The team knew exactly when to bring us an ice bucket with a chilled water bottle, a sneaky afternoon cocktail or a beer served up by Eddy. Even better, was when we harnessed just enough energy to lift our head off the sun lounger, we had to walk no more than 10 steps to reach the Kua Kua for an afternoon snack.
You can choose from the bar Bocas menu or an afternoon lunch menu. We pretty much worked our way through the Bocas menu during our stay. The menus were very reasonable in terms of cost and perfectly sized portions kept us going until early evening dinner.
Don’t forget the desserts!
A gin and tonic cost around $10,
a very enjoyable bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc was $26, and bottle of
Corona beer was $7. Bocas ranged from $11 for fish tempura to $15
for a homemade burger. All very reasonable and tasty too!
In recent years our trips have gradually become more active and wildlife focused so where better to take it to a new level than Costa Rica with its abundance of wildlife. Look out for our other blog on this soon and a short video here!
With Playa Tortuga on our doorstep, Marina Ballena National Park close by and a local horse-riding tour this was the perfect place to explore.
We had had mixed information
before we arrived at the hotel over how easy it was to explore the area on foot
direct from the hotel. Some reviews said you could, and others were clear
that it was impossible to walk anywhere, and you needed a car.
The hotel team were a little surprised at our exploits, indeed possibly thinking we were a little crazy, however, provided you’re relatively fit, avoid the hottest part of the day, take a water bottle and don’t mind a few more challenging inclines there is a 5km / 1hr 15mins circular route direct from the hotel front door.
Halfway round there is a great
pit stop at Restaurante Citrus where you’ll find a cool beer (or two) the
perfect thirst quencher, ever!
We were a little apprehensive at first setting out to explore an unknown area, but we felt safe and comfortable exploring on our own on foot. You’ll experience some amazing vistas as you descend the tracks as well as some interesting bird life.
The locals had been performing
rain dances during our stay as they were going through a very dry spell for the
time of year. It meant that the dirt tracks up from the main Route
34 to the hotel were very dry and dusty; top tip is to take walking poles to
help you keep a sure footing.
If you’re up for the challenge
the last 100 metre climb to the front of the hotel is one to burn off some of
the banana bread french toast calories – alternatively a golf buggy is normally
on hand if you’ve ran out of energy!
Special mention to Jose from
guest services, who was always on hand to offer us his personal insight into
potential trips and wildlife in the area. A very guest focused individual
who had a very natural way of engaging and making guests feel at ease – a real
credit to the Three Sixty team.
Our villa was one of the best placed to enjoy the sunsets with the terrace offering an outstanding level of privacy and a feeling of being the only couple for miles around. Whether we had chosen a lazy day by the pool or had been out exploring the Costa Rican wildlife we always found ourselves on our terrace enjoying the mesmerising and ever-changing sunsets. Have a look here to see what we mean.
This was a real special part of
our trip as we relaxed with music playing. Not too loud though that it drowned
out the jungle noise but just enough to create a chilled feeling as we watched
the sun gradually disappear over the horizon.
Even when the sun had disappeared it was amazing how the sky kept cycling
through its kaleidoscope of colours and the jungle sounds began to change as
night set in.
Before we forget, depending on
where your villa faces, make sure you manage at least one early rise to catch
the dawn from the main building – we enjoyed a beautiful sunrise sipping a
Nespresso in the main building – a perfect start to the day.
Evenings at Three Sixty were very relaxed with a very intriguing dining menu to choose from including shrimp ceviche, octopus toast, a fresh fish main course, yellow curry and beef tenderloin.
Chef Nelson Spichiger sources his fresh ingredients locally, visiting local produce markets and fishermen each morning. The result is some very fresh and vibrant dishes.
All dishes were exceptional and
served with a real attention to detail complemented by first-class table
service from the waiting staff. A special mention to Fauricio who was so
passionate and enthusiastic about what he did; he and Erica were so attentive
and genuinely made our dining experiences more enjoyable.
Again, dishes were very
reasonable with starters ranging between $12 and $18 and main courses around
$21 to $25.
If you’re lucky to be there for
as long as we were Chef Nelson may offer to rustle up some specials for
you. Don’t forget if you’ve had an active day and want a lazy night you
can always order in room service from the Bocas menu to enjoy on your secluded
We really can’t thank Amalia and
her team enough; from our contact before we arrived to the experience during
our stay Amalia and her team made us very welcome and genuinely provided us
with a very personal, intimate and relaxing stay complemented by a very
high-class level of service. We would have to say that the entire
team at Hotel Three Sixty has set the level of service benchmark for others to
Costa Rica was on our bucket list
before now and with so much to see and do it is certainly high up on our list
for a second visit very soon – hopefully capturing a glimpse of the elusive
Perezoso (or Sloth) next time round.
Hotel Three Sixty was an
incredibly ambitious and innovative concept. A special mention to the
team behind it who have created an architectural masterpiece uniquely and
sympathetically nestled into the Costa Rican landscape.
More than likely Hotel Three
Sixty will feature on our itinerary when we return as we’re looking forward to
seeing the next stage of their eco-village plan fall into place.
Pura Vida as they say in Costa Rica.
Other Information: This was a sponsored / discounted visit; however the review / article is an independent, honest and true reflection of our experience. Thank you to Hotel Three Sixty for allowing us to use some of their images in this blog.
Our Scottish breaks to Avernish Lodge and Crosple Cottage in autumn last year were more rural in character and we wanted something a little different to shake off the January blues.
We know the the area around Crieff well, as we visit annually during December to enjoy the party nights at the Hydro. The high street in Crieff always has a good feel to it so we thought Crieff would be a great place to base ourselves for our first break of 2019.
A quick five-star property search threw up the Church Tower. Sitting in a prominent location as you enter Crieff from the South we had driven past the former St Ninians Church place many times and had no idea there was such a unique and unusual property hiding in there for us to enjoy.
Featuring exposed stone, oak flooring, and arched windows, the property is quirky and full of character. With spectacular 360-degree views of the surrounding area, the three-bedroom apartment has a small sitting area at the top of the tower.
The perfect place to watch the sunrise and the sunset with a coffee or glass of wine in hand.
A small fan heater kept the tower warn and comfortable as we watched the ever-changing scene and views over to Loch Turret and Ben Chonzie.
St Ninians dates from the late 19th
Century and was converted in the 1960’s into a Church of Scotland seminary
retreat and training centre. The Church
Tower, opened in 2007, combines original features like exposed church walls and
beams, with the comforts of modern living to provide a unique 5-star standard
of holiday experience.
As one would expect in a Church Tower there are 4 flights of stairs up to the apartment front door. Once in the Tower, there is a further flight of stairs to the living room / kitchen area, and another flight to the very top of the tower. A word of warning the apartment is not for those with limited mobility – if there ever was a case to travel lightly this was it!
You could also guarantee whatever you were looking for was on a different floor to where you were. This, to be honest wasn’t a bad thing, as it helped burn off a few extra calories to allow us to enjoy the treats available in the high street,
On the first floor, there are 2 double rooms, both with en-suite wet-rooms with under-floor heating and a twin room, together with a large family bathroom.
All bedrooms are decorated to a high standard as are the bathrooms. The en-suite wet rooms are also very quirky, with the open shower arrangement taking a little getting used to. Bathrobes and toiletries are provided adding a nice luxurious touch to the stay.
From the first floor, you ascend the light-flooded Tower, with the steel staircase. The Tower has retained its originally features in the old stone walls and evangelistic windows, but the modern LED lighting certainly brings it into the 21st Century.
Halfway up the Tower staircase, you enter the large open plan living area, with the balcony at one end and the dining area / kitchen at the other.
The, kitchen although small, was more than adequate, for us to rustle up some meals including some fantastic fresh seafood from Fish in Crieff.
The balcony enjoys impressive views over the Crieff hills and beyond, although given the time of year, we never managed to enjoy it to the full.
Off the living area is a snug and cosy tv room with 42″ wall-mounted TV, together with a comfy sofa. This was a great place to chill out and relax after exploring the Perthshire countryside. We thought we’d try another box set this time round and we settled down to watch Season 1 of the The Vikings – have to say we’re already hooked and working our way through Season 2.
The apartment is unique and quirky and certainly worth a visit providing you can cope with all the stairs.
Centrally located in Crieff, The Church Tower is perfect for exploring the South Highlands of the Trossachs National Park and Perthshire countryside and we managed to fit in several walks, enjoying a spell of rather outstanding weather for the time of year.
Walkhighlands has the usual great coverage in this area and we took in a few of our old favourites including The Knock of Crieff, Lady Mary’s walk and Laggan Hill circular.
We also managed a few new ones nearby at St Fillans Viewpoint circular and the River Earn walk from Crieff to Muthill – although looks like some locals had recently visited!
We had visited Highland Safaris a few years back for a red deer experience and a trip into the mountains to see the amazing Perthshire scenery, so we couldn’t miss the opportunity to visit again during winter. The weather on the day was simply incredible and perhaps the best day of the year so far, with blue skies and more than a ‘crisp’ in the air! You can read about our experience here.
We had a bit of a religious theme going on with this trip, not only were we staying at The Church Tower, in Crieff we had lined up a visit to Little’s Restaurant in the former Riverside Methodist Church in Rattray and Blairgowrie.
Cargill’s Leap and the Knockie circuit in Blairgowrie helped us walk off the calories from a very filling and tasty lunch. You can read about this here along with our visit to Fish in Crieff.
Basing ourselves so close to the Crieff Town Centre was a master stroke with a butchers, fishmongers, chocolatier, deli, bakers and confectioner within easy walking distance from the apartment, it may however have been better for our waistline if we had been further away from the chocolatier!
There were also a few great restaurants to eat in nearby and we had some pretty tasty food at the Tower Gastro Pub and Craobh. Although we never managed to visit during our stay The Lounge also deserves a mention for another excellent menu to choose from – one to visit again in December.
John Burke, the owner, has really created a unique place to stay and has respectfully kept the character of the Church and cleverly added modern and unique elements for his visitors to enjoy.
This was a really great trip and certainly on our radar to visit again in the future, although we’ve already got an eye on John’s newest property Dun Aluinn an exclusive use venue situated in Aberfeldy Perthshire, Scotland.
Just waiting for an invite to visit!
Other Information: This was a sponsored / discounted visit; however, the review / article is an independent, honest and true reflection of our experience. Thank you to John Burke / Dun Aluinn Estate 2018 for allowing us to use some of their images in this blog.
We visited Highland Safaris a few years back for a red deer experience and a trip into the mountains to see the amazing Perthshire scenery, so we couldn’t miss the opportunity to do so again during winter. The weather on the day was simply incredible and perhaps the best day of the year so far, with blue skies and more than a ‘crisp’ in the air!
Before setting out on our Winter Safari we had a pit stop and some lunch at the onsite café. The team there were first class, pleasant and genuinely engaging managing to serve up some wholesome paninis and baked potatoes in plenty of time – so much so that we had time for a coffee and some rather tasty home baking.
We set off with Jim in our land rover just around 1pm. He was so passionate about what he did for a living and the area he worked in – such a lucky person! Similar to our last trip with the Highland Safaris team, it wouldn’t be fair to tell their stories, but they were informative and interesting covering legends and folklore, the Schiehallion mountain and the history of the clans.
An exciting and ‘icy’ climb through the mountain tracks saw us at almost 2,500ft up Tairneachan. Stopping off a few times for some scenic shots and some to simply look, the weather was perfect for us, but very very cold!
The trip really opened our eyes as to how the mountains of scotland can be so incredible, but very dangerous at the same time if you don’t wrap up well and have the correct equipment. We were lucky to be in a fully equipped land rover, with expert guides on hand to keep us safe.
With temperatures dropping significantly every 1,000 ft the 20 mins stopover in a mountain bothy with some tea, coffee, Kenmore Shortbread and a dram of Dewars Whisky was perfectly timed.
Highland Safaris recently celebrated twenty five years of success which has seen it grow its business from one Land Rover taking small groups up into the hills, to its present level as one of Scotland’s premier five star rated visitor attractions, enabling visitors from home and abroad to successfully engage with Scotland’s wildlife, history and heritage.
We didn’t manage to visit the Red Deer Centre again this time round but would highly recommend it if you’ve haven’t been. The visit starts off with passionate, and informative talk about wild red deer which was good fun interactive and interesting and ends with an opportunity to hand feed the Centre’s herd of tame Red Deer. During our visit last time we also got to meet the Centre’s Barn Owl who was keen to show us her flying skills; overall, we had a great time learning the secrets of this majestic bird.
One thing is for certain our two trips to Highland Safaris have been anything but ‘dull’!
This was our second trip and it certainly wont be our last, we hope to visit at some point in the future in either spring or summer to see how the scenery has changed. Overall a fab day out and we’re also looking forward to trying their Loch Tay Safari .
Other Information: This was a sponsored / discounted visit, however, the review / article is an independent, honest and true reflection of our experience. Thank you also to Clare Graham from www.advantagepr.co.uk for the connection.
We had a bit of a religious theme going on with our last trip staying at The Church Tower, in Crieff and then a wee visit to Little’s Restaurant in the former Riverside Methodist Church in Rattray and Blairgowrie.
Look out for our Church Tower blog coming soon, but first up Little’s Restaurant and Fish in Crieff.
Willie Little is well known in
the area and has a wealth of experience in the catering industry with Little’s
being the latest in a line of popular restaurants he has owned and run in Angus
and Perthshire over the years.
We had the pleasure of catching
up with Willie during our visit and what an interesting and infectious character
he is with some amazing and wonderful stories about the church transformation, floorboards,
dry rot, his plans for the future, how the renovation came in a ‘little’ over
budget and of course his passion for seafood.
The full story of the church transformation can be found here
Willie is so passionate about fish it’s no surprise his menus feature traditional as well as some more unusual dishes. Willie also has a love for seasonal Scottish fish and seafood and has a passion for sharing this with his customers both at the shop and the restaurant.
He spends his mornings at his fish shop in Crieff and then travels onto Blairgowrie in the afternoon to cook in the evenings in the restaurant. Thinking up his daily specials whilst driving from Crieff to Blairgowrie his restaurant team must be on their toes to spring into action for his customers arriving for lunch.
We arrived for afternoon lunch
and were given a very warm welcome by Helen who invited us in to marvel at the
unique surroundings. The renovation is
stunning and full of character; built in 1885 it became the headquarters in
1917 of the Labour Corps and around 20,000 men of all ages and ranks passed through
in the following two years. Built from Pictfield Quarry stone to seat 440
people, the church was completed and consecrated in 1887.
As Helen showed us to our table, we
couldn’t miss the unique and impressive central stained-glass window. Erected in 1922, the window, we are told, is the
only memorial in Britain to the 7,000 officers and men of the Labour Corp who
gave their lives in WW1.
Our attention was eventually drawn
away from the stained-glass window by an equally impressive fish menu and
specials blackboard with many traditional and unusual fish and seafood pairings
/ combinations to choose from.
Our starters were a selection of
seafood tasters including mussels with bacon, crispy squid rings, prawn
mayonnaise and smoked salmon along with an impressive dish of hand-dived Orkney
king scallops and black pudding. A very
tasty start to our lunch and the first restaurant we can truly say we really
enjoyed the squid – very moreish!
Mains were just as impressive
with a delicious fillet of sea bass, with rosti potato, smoked bacon, and
cabbage and Fish of the Day. Willies
passion is to encourage his customers to try types of fish they may not have
tried before. On the menu for us was
Megrim a flatfish similar in flavour to Dover sole. From the same family as
turbot and brill, it has softer flesh and thin skin that can be easily crisped
Served with toasted almonds,
sauté potatoes, and nut-brown butter, the Megrim was fab and very filling – a
word of warning if you think you’ve finished, flip it over and you’ve got
plenty more to work through. So much so,
the space normally left for desserts was easily breached.
Willie sources all his fish and
seafood from trusted suppliers in places like Peterhead and Kinlochbervie knowing
all the fishermen and the divers direct. What we found interesting was that he
knew where everything in his restaurant and fishmongers, Fish in Crieff, comes
Through his fishmongers, Fish in
Crieff, Willie has access to the freshest fish that Scottish waters has to
offer coming daily from Scrabster Market in the North of Scotland, from market
to plate within 12 hours.
Staying at The Church Tower only a few 100 metres along from his shop in Crieff, Willie was pleased to arrange for us to visit and try some of the fresh produce on offer.
We had hoped to catch Willie in
his shop, but he was long gone on his daily journey to Blairgowrie by the time
we arrived at the shop around 9am.
Suspect he had another busy day ahead of him.
Not to worry as we received another
warm welcome from Shaun who was hard at work filleting some Red Fish at his
work counter when we arrived. Very
knowledgeable and engaging Shaun showed us around the shop answering our
questions and giving advice on how to prepare and cook the different types of
fish and seafood.
The shop has everything you would
expect and much more and the people and visitors to Crieff are so lucky to have
this on their doorstep. We left with fresh
mussels, red fish, scallops and some cod fillet. Red Fish isn’t the most attractive fish, so
we’ll save you from the before pictures, but the fillets and finished dish was
a little more pleasing on the eye.
Back at the Church Tower we set about trying to create dishes that might not be too far out of place on Willies specials board, including Thai Chilli and Coconut Mussels, Red Fish with Sweet Potato and Thai Chilli and Coconut Cod Fillet.
We might need to work on our presentation, but even if we do say so ourselves, the dishes were fab. Nothing to do with the skills of the amateur chefs, but instead simply down to the freshness of the ingredients!
The Riverside Methodist Church in
Rattray and Blairgowrie was clearly a focus for the community and War efforts in
years gone by and it’s a pleasure to see that it has become so once again. With a warm and welcoming atmosphere Willie
has created a unique venue, in a prime location, serving outstanding cuisine which
perfectly showcases Scotland’s amazing seafood.
Fish in Crieff is equally as impressive and is the type of shop that we wish every high street would have, providing everyone with the opportunity to prepare dishes with the same ingredients as Willie and other top chefs serve up to their customers.
We really can’t recommend Little’s Restaurant and Fish in Crieff highly enough and we’ll definitely be returning when we’re visiting Perthshire again.
Other Information: Thank you to Littles Restaurant / Fish in Crieff for providing a few pictures for our social media feeds / blog. This was a sponsored visit, however, the review / article is an independent, honest and true reflection of our experience. Thank you also to Clare Graham from www.advantagepr.co.uk for the connection.
According to the website Avernish Lodge is situated on the banks of Loch Alsh, with stunning views over Eilean Donan Castle, is miles from any passing traffic and serenity is guaranteed. This is a 100% accurate description and just what we needed before winter took hold in Scotland.
Slightly further north than our trip in October back to Crosple Cottage Loch Melfort, Avernish Lodge is ideally placed to explore the Kyle of Lochalsh and another great excuse for a journey via Glencoe.
We set off a little later than planned meaning we arrived at Avernish just as the sun was going down; when we approached the village of Dornie, Eilean Donan Castle was magically lit up to honour the 100-year Armistice celebrations. What a welcome to the area!
As we turned off the main road it felt like the local pipistrelle bats were guiding us along the track as the light faded for the day. Avernish Lodge, completed in 2016, is about a mile off the main A87 road down a quiet single-track road which gives access to several crofts scattered along the banks of Loch Alsh.
The lodge sits in an elevated prominent position on the hillside with unrestricted views over the loch and over to Glas Eilean, a small island in the middle.
It was a first for us arriving in the dark and little strange, however, as soon as we entered the lodge we were at home. The lodge is finished to an extremely high standard and has been very well looked after by guests and owner James.
You enter the lodge via a handy utility room with a sink, washing machine, tumble dryer and a drying cupboard for hanging up outdoor clothing.
The living area is large with a high-pitched roof, it’s a modern open-plan well equipped space complete with a log burning stove, HD television with Sky TV, Wi-Fi Internet and a solid wood dining table separating the living area and the kitchen.
The bathroom and en-suite are also very impressive adding to an already luxurious experience.
Our biggest decision when we arrived was which of the two bedrooms, we were going to sleep in.
The largest bedroom can be set up as two single beds or a super king, but the views from the slightly smaller en-suite bedroom overlooking Eilean Donan made it an easy choice for us.
There was something enchanting about falling asleep with the castle lit up in the distance. We didn’t fully appreciate the stunning view until the next morning – waking up to a glorious sunrise over the loch was even more special.
When we entered the living space the next morning the extent of the views of Loch Alsh from the floor to ceiling windows was mesmerising.
We both had our eyes on the luxurious rotating chair positioned in the corner window – luckily it was big enough to fit two! Many a morning started sitting here with a coffee enjoying the views.
Our ‘batch’ cooking at Crosple Cottage was a real success so we did the same again for our break at Avernish.
Again, we just needed a few pots and of course a microwave to prepare our meals, but the kitchen is fully equipped for the more adventurous chef to rustle up some local delights, but a must visit place is Buth Bheag seafood shack in Kyle of Lochalsh to stock up and sample some local produce.
The dining table was perfect place to relax, enjoy the view whilst tucking into a piping hot bowl of soup or casserole as well as a glass (or two) of red.
All rooms, including the living space, are fitted with independently controlled underfloor heating, which is great. A word of warning though, it can get very warm if the temperature is set to high so take it easy on the first few nights especially if you need to use the log fire as it heats up the large living area in no time.
During our week we were very lucky with the weather; November in Scotland can be sometimes unpredictable and very cold however we managed out every day to explore and most of the days the sun was shining.
On a couple of occasions, it was that warm we had to ditch the fleeces and jackets.
At this time of year, the daylight hours were short with the sun going down just after 4pm so as we returned to the lodge most days we could enjoy watching the sun go down.
Each of the bedrooms and living areas has a glass door that opens onto a paved patio area, offering outdoor access which you could make use of during the warmer lighter months.
Although the lodge is remote the broadband connection is not too bad and at a little over 5mbps allowed us to keep an eye on the weather, download some walks and fire up a Netflix box set to enjoy via our own Apple TV. The Smart TV also has a full Sky Sports and Movies package as well as access to a suite of apps such as BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, Netflix etc, perfect for those cosy autumn evenings with a roaring log fire burning beside you.
As we said before when holidaying in Scotland there can only be one series to settle down and watch – Outlander. Season 3 was our choice this time round and like our accommodation didn’t disappoint – no spoilers, but we can’t wait for Season 4 to complete so we can binge on it during our next stay wherever that may be.
No box set would be complete without a nice Scottish Gin to accompany it, Makar was this week’s choice (one of Linda’s favourites) with a wee Drambuie to finish off most evenings. Afraid, we made the fateful mistake of discovering a Bonnie Prince Charlie’s aka Prosecco and Drambuie! Very nice – they certainly had the desired effect.
Worth pointing out that while fibre optic isn’t yet in the area the coverage of EE’s mobile 4g signal at the lodge was impressive at lmost 20-25mbps and Vodafone’s 4g was around 5mbps. Always good to know for those social media hungry people who like to keep in touch or book up their next trip!
The lodge is very close to a number of popular tourist attractions, such as; Eilean Donan Castle, The Isle of Skye, Plockton and numerous other castles, mountains and tourist hotspots.
A wee pit stop went down well at the Plockton Inn before we ventured over to Duncraig Castle to explore. That’s on our radar for a visit next year!
During our stay we always turned left when we left Avernish along the main tourist route towards Skye, maybe next time we’ll venture right.
All our walks and the towns / villages we explored were generally within about a 30-minute drive although we did venture over to the Fairy Pools on Skye on our last day – well worth a trip.
Wildlife encounters included seals, otters, mountain goats, red deer and roe dear not forgetting the local bats! Highlight was this close up encounter with a very friendly chaffinch as we set of to explore the Fairy Pools.
Would highly recommend spending time having a look at walkhighlands.co.uk our go to website before you arrive and plan a few walks to get you started.
This is our second year we have holidayed in Scotland at this time of year and we would highly recommend it. The roads are generally quiet, and, on many occasions, we didn’t encounter any other walkers when we were out exploring – check out the scenery in these pics.
Yes, some venues are closed or have restricted hours, but the great outdoors are well and truly open and not to be missed.
James has created a real place to get away from it all and it was a wrench to leave at the end of our stay. For those looking for luxury self-catering accommodation and a holiday experience in a picturesque setting Avernish Lodge is up there with the best.
We really can’t stress how relaxed we felt here overlooking Loch Alsh and Eilean Donan Castle and we would highly recommend a visit.
With so much to do in the area James has created a perfect base for you to return each day to relax, recharge and reflect on your adventures and, of course, sip a wee refreshment.
Although this was a discounted visit, the review is an independent and true reflection of our experience. Thank you to James for use of some property images in this article.