121pilot, a commercial airline pilot in the United States who has offered his insights and analysis on a number of topics on Live and Let’s Fly recently traveled with his brother and father on a very special trip to Scotland. He asked me if I would be interested in a trip report and I quickly said yes. Over the next week, you’ll read about his trip planning, flights, and time on the ground in Scotland. Today, he writes about his stay at the DoubleTree Edinburgh – Queensferry Crossing, drive from Edinburgh to Glasgow, and ferry to Isaly.
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Arriving in Edinburgh, we quickly hailed an Uber for the ride to our hotel. I had booked a stay at the DoubleTree Edinburgh – Queensferry Crossing for 111 GBP all-in; I felt that cash was a better option than points for this stay.
The hotel looked pretty nice online, and it lived up to that. It featured beautiful views of the River Forth and the nearby bridges from the front side. The hotel has been recently renovated and felt like a brand new property. Upon check in, as a result of my Diamond Status, we were given coupons for two free drinks and two free breakfasts in the morning. We had been assigned a Queen room with a river view but requested a twin room, if available. The only twin room they had was on the back side of the hotel which we chose as we were only going to be there for one night.
Here are some pictures from the room:
After getting settled into our room, we headed downstairs to the restaurant for a light dinner. It was a beautiful sunny day, and the hotel had taken advantage of this fact to open up the giant sliding glass doors in the restaurant.
We both ordered the special, a roasted red pepper soup that was simply delicious. We got the last two portions available, and I was very glad we did as it was just what we wanted after our day of food and drink with Lufthansa. Talking to our server, we learned that the hotel was receiving a lot of positive feedback on the soup. Hopefully it will become a regular part of its menu.
The next morning we got up and headed down the hall for breakfast. We apparently came in just as a bus load of tourists had departed, so the buffet had been hit pretty hard, as you can see in the pictures. Our coupons entitled us to the buffet as well as anything we wanted off the menu. The food was once again very good and the service was also.
Overall, we very much enjoyed our stay in the Doubletree Queensferry Crossing; I would not hesitate to stay in this hotel again. It’s reasonably located between the airport and city center, about 20-25 minutes from each.
Uber Trouble + Car Rental
After breakfast we checked out and tried to summon an Uber for a ride back to the airport to pick up our rental car. I was surprised to find that no cars were available. Apparently you can get one at the airport or in the city center but not in the outlying areas. The hotel called a cab for us, and we were soon on our way. We picked up our rental car (a very forgettable Vauxhall small SUV with barely enough cargo space for our bags and whose only redeeming feature was a millennial anti-theft device…AKA manual transmission) and hopped on the motorway for the drive to Glasgow. We met my brother at the train station and got on the road to Port Kennacraig to catch the ferry.
Very quickly as we exited Glasgow, we were off the motorway and onto single and dual carriageways. The roads in Scotland tend to be narrow and driving from the right side of the car you tend to be too far to the left which puts you in danger of curbing a tire. The curbs are often stone and will quite easily pop a tire or damage a wheel if you hit them. It was, however, a very scenic drive through the Scottish countryside. We stopped in at The George Hotel In Inveraray where I instantly regretted not letting my brother be the driver.
My brother, having come from a dry region of the world, was clearly anxious to start catching up with Dad and me. I’d been texting him pictures of our various tastings from the lounge the day before, and he ordered a tasting flight of six glasses which he and Dad shared.
I had to sit there and watch sadly.
We got back on the road and drove on to Tarbert where we stopped at the Islay Frigate Hotel for dinner. Their restaurant is upstairs with a nice view of the harbor and the food turned out to be superb. My brother had the fish and chips, which were fresh and locally sourced. Even I thought it was quite good, and I am not a fish lover. I went with the apple stuffed chicken dish off the specials board.
Wow! It truly was excellent. This was a bit of a theme that we noticed throughout our trip. My brother lived in the UK 20 plus years ago, and I made several journeys to visit him as did my folks. I remember we generally found food in the UK back then to be unremarkable. Most times it wasn’t bad, but it was never something that made you want to come back. This trip we all noticed and remarked on how much better food had become. Again and again we found places to eat that were producing truly delicious and memorable food.
So if your passing through Tarbert and looking for a good meal be sure and stop by the Islay Frigate Hotel.
From Tarbert, is was a quick drive to the ferry terminal at Port Kennacraig where we boarded the MV Hebridean Isles. The ferry ride to Port Ellen on Islay takes about two hours and was scenic.
Arriving in Port Ellen
In Port Ellen we stayed in the Isaly Hotel which I would not hesitate to recommend. I didn’t get pictures when we first arrived, but as you can see below the room was lovely and perfect for the three of us. The rate included free breakfast, with the option of ordering off the menu plus self-serve cereals and fruits. We ate dinner one night in the hotel restaurant and found the food very good.
Our second night, on the recommendation of locals, we made a reservation at the Sea Salt Bistro and Takeaway. It a very popular place, so if you want to dine there (and I certainly suggest you do) then make your reservation in advance. The food was absolutely superb and we very much enjoyed our meal.
Next: our time in Islay and journey to Oban.