Ireland’s vibrant capital located at the mouth of the River Liffey offers historic buildings such as Dublin Castle, superb theater, free museums, beautifully landscaped St Stephen’s Green and lively pubs where Dublin’s prime socializing takes place. The city has also become a gastronomic hub with new exciting eateries such as foodie favorite Forest Ave on Sussex Terrace. Here I lunched on luscious suckling pig, tastiest vegetables and other yummies amid adoring locals.
THE WESTBURY HOTEL
A member of Leading Hotels of The World and part of the Doyle Collection, The Westbury is ideally located in the heart of Dublin and steps from Grafton Street’s fashionable shops and the Creative Quarter. A recent redo freshened up the property with lighter, brighter colors. The luxurious hotel features a treasure trove of amenities for guests to enjoy. Spacious rooms and suites done in elegant, contemporary décor contain plush furnishings, Lissadell linens and generous marble bathrooms. It was easy to see why the sumptuous afternoon tea in the redesigned Galley is a local favorite. The just launched and already hopping Sidecar bar oozes Hollywood glamour with its art deco feel, fabulous cocktails and fashionable clientele. As to the cuisine, stylish Wilde which opened last October has become one of Dublin’s premier fine dining venues. I savored a feast of Carlingford Lough oysters along with aged rib eye, Dover sole and creamy spinach cooked to perfection. www.doylecollection.com/westbury
Scotland’s capital enchants with its Georgian New Town sprinkled with neoclassical buildings and medieval Old Town. The Royal Mile runs through the heart of the ancient town connecting Edinburgh Castle perched atop an extinct volcano at one end with Holyrood Palace at the other. Strolling the bustling thoroughfare I passed the celebrated Scottish Storytelling Center, striking St. Giles Cathedral and countless shops selling cashmere, tartan and whiskey. This is the historic city whose cobbled backstreets, gothic architecture and mystical aura stirred the imagination of JK Rowling who wrote her first Harry Potter novel in Edinburgh’s cafes. I couldn’t resist visiting George Heriot’s School - the inspiration for Hogwarts. Afterward, I headed to The Scottish Café beneath the National Gallery for afternoon tea where gazing at leafy Princes Street Gardens I thought about writing a novel.
The 5-star iconic Balmoral Edinburgh with grand façade and landmark clock tower, a Rocco Forte Hotel located at prestigious No.1 Princes Street, just finished a major refurbishment. Contemporary rooms and sumptuous suites, such as the coveted JK Rowling Suite where the famed author resided while writing The Harry Potter sequels, offer stupendous views of Edinburgh Castle, the Old Town and the surrounding hills. Designer Olga Polizzi used Scotland’s landscape, the lochs and heather as her inspiration for the carpets, paint, colors and plush fabrics throughout the hotel. The restyling includes handmade beds by Glencraft, suppliers to the Queen at Balmoral Castle, and cushions with owls, hares, and birds from the irreverent Scottish brand Timorous Beasties to add a touch of mischievous humor. Guests can choose from a collection of over 500 Scottish whiskies at Scotch Bar. I especially enjoyed dining at Number One, The Balmoral’s elegant Michelin-starred restaurant on a sublime meal of hand-dived Dingwall scallops with cauliflower, curry and Scottish lamb. www.roccofortehotels.com
EXPLORE THE COUNTRYSIDE
The best way to see Scotland is to drive through its stunning countryside, so I a rented a car at Auto Europe. They are my top choice since they work with all the major companies and get the best deals, have many locations and provide excellent vehicles and service. Scotland’s gorgeous untamed landscape is a painter’s dream. I passed the highlands with dramatic mountains drenched in mists, lilac heather adorning the lush hills, glens and moorland, breathtaking Glencoe, fields of golden hay as well as the rugged coastline with craggy cliffs and secluded coves. Glamis Castle, the childhood home of the Queen Mother and the model for the castle in Macbeth and imperial Eilean Donan Castle are some of the many must see castles that punctuate the landscape. www.autoeurope.com
GLENAPP CASTLE - LUXE HOTEL
Glenapp Castle in Ayrshire, a luxe 5-star hotel and member of Relais & Châteaux, tucked away in a baronial estate on 36 acres of woodland with views over the Irish Sea, delivers the ultimate fairytale castle experience. Beneath the turrets and towers the opulent rooms and suites, each individually designed, showcase four poster beds, rich fabrics, period furnishings, fine antiques, art and picture windows offering scenic views. A stroll through Gertrude Jekyll’s beautifully designed gardens filled with exotic plants, flowers and herbs followed by a visit to the Victorian tearoom where lovely Lia serves up tasty cakes and jams makes for a perfect afternoon. Adventure seekers can reserve the Glenapp boat for a 30 minute ride to famed uninhabited Alisa Craig Island. Many however prefer to relax and enjoy nature’s splendor wandering the paths through the Azalea pond, the forests and giant redwoods. For dinner, guests enjoy gastronomic cuisine including aged Scottish beef, Loch Duart salmon and Goosnargh duck at their award- winning restaurant. www.glenappcastle.com
Stopping in nearby Glasgow, I took the Glasgow School of Art - Walking Tour where I learned about the city’s famed architecture and Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s innovative designs. I over-nighted at the Dakota Deluxe, a trendy hotel and favorite of the stylish set with an outstanding restaurant. Their honey roasted duck with apricot and ginger transported me to
foodie heaven. http://glasgow.dakotahotels.co.uk