Monday, 30 September 2019

A Weekend Break to The Four Seasons Hotel, St Fillans


Readers, hello! We’ve been off on our travels again – last month we were in Mexico – more on that soon, but for now, I’m focussing on somewhere a little closer to home – Perthshire!

We were recently invited to enjoy an overnight stay at The Four Seasons Hotel, a 3 Star hotel in St Fillans, a small Scottish village located next to Loch Earn.

Outside The Four Seasons Hotel St Fillans photo by What Claire DidOutside The Four Seasons Hotel St Fillans photo by What Claire Did

The hotel was bought over two years ago by Sue, a lovely lady with a history of working in some of the big-name chain hotels who had a dream of buying a small independent place in the highlands of Scotland.

For those of you not familiar with St Fillans, it’s a small village, it sits right on the banks of Loch Earn (amazing views!) and enjoys a gorgeous vista over the hills and mountains beyond.   Around 200 people live in St Fillans and nearby you’ll find walking routes, golf, fishing and other water sports available to you.

The Four Seasons Hotel offers accommodation for all – providing a range of rooms and chalets for guests. A number of rooms are also dog friendly, which is great for those not wanting to leave their furry friend at home. We met a few friendly pups during our stay!

We arrived at the hotel late in the afternoon, having enjoyed a countryside drive up from Glasgow and a stop off at the antiques centre at Doune on the way.  We then went for a stroll around the village after checking in.  There was homemade shortbread waiting for us in our room and Sue had left a letter for us, with information about the local area, to make us feel welcome.  Our room (room 10) was located at the end of the corridor at the far end of the hotel and had spectacular views across the loch. 

The Four Seasons Hotel St Fillans photo by What Claire DidBedroom at The Four Seasons Hotel St Fillans photo by What Claire Did

It was roomy, had all the necessary amenities and the bath with a rubber duck waiting on the edge was a welcome addition.  There were bathrobes in the cupboard, fresh bottled water and a small TV, should you not wish to enjoy what’s outside the window!

Bathroom at The Four Seasons Hotel St Fillans photo by What Claire Did

As the weather was spectacular, we decided to sit at the outdoor seating area in front of the hotel, where several other guests had congregated to enjoy the views and a beer (or two) in the sunshine.  There are around 6 tables available for guests, each seating 2 to 4 people and bar food is also served outdoors during the good weather.   A few guests were enjoying the fish and chips when we were there, however having dinner booked in the restaurant later, we decided to hold back.  

A note to any guests – there isn’t a huge amount of facilities in the village itself, so it’s probably best to drive, or hire a car if you’re coming from overseas, to allow you to explore the surrounding area easily.  We brought our Uno cards with us, which provided hours of entertainment in the hotel bar, however we did spot a number of board games in the corner of the bar, so please don’t feel the need to pack your own!

We were booked in for dinner in the hotel’s Meall Reamhar restaurant where we were offered both the bar food menu and a more formal set menu.   We chose the bar menu, for its more varied selection, however the staff were kind enough to let me order the scallops from the set menu, so I could try them.  They were delicious and incredibly well cooked (there’s nothing worse than a chewy scallop).  Mr What Claire Did had the soup of the day to start with – a hearty portion served with fresh bread.

Starter at dinner at the four seasons hotel st fillans photo by what claire did


For mains, we both went for the fish – me, I had the fish and chips I’d spotted the other guests having earlier on.  2 small pieces, in a light and crispy batter, was just enough, plenty of chips and a side of minted crushed peas were very much enjoyable.  Swordfish was the dish chosen by Mr What Claire Did – which came with 4 different types of corn, including popcorn!  I didn’t try it, but he did comment that the fish had been well cooked.

main course Starter at dinner at the four seasons hotel st fillans photo by what claire did


The portions we had were generous, so two courses may well be enough for you, however, I’d been told the white chocolate tart with chocolate strawberries was a favourite and I felt it would be rude to not at least try it! Did I manage to finish it?  Not quite, but, I had also dipped into Mr What Claire Did’s bread and butter pudding by this point.  

dessert at Starter at dinner at the four seasons hotel st fillans photo by what claire did


The restaurant had 4 or 5 other tables in for dinner when we arrived, but the food arrived with us quickly and was hot and fresh.

It was dark by the time we finished dinner, so we couldn’t enjoy the great views any longer. We did decide to have a drink in the small bar next to the dining room (the hotel has two bars; however, we didn’t visit the other) and play a few games of Uno before bed. 

sunset over loch earn taken from four seasons hotel st fillans photo by what claire did


The hotel is located in a quiet and picturesque location – despite being on the other side of the road from the loch, we weren’t bothered by any traffic noise from our room.

Our stay also included breakfast the next morning – there was a selection of cereals and juices, some pastries and a help yourself hot selection, however I didn’t try this. Toast and tea was brought to the table by the staff and each of the tables has a “reserved for X room” sign, so you can find your way to the table that designated for you at breakfast.

breakfast at the four seasons hotel st fillans photo by what claire didc four seasons hotel st fillans photo by what claire did


From chatting to the owner Sue before we left, it’s clear she’s keen to strike the balance between developing the hotel for future, but also not taking too many big steps that puts the local clientele and regular visitors off return visits.  The lounge area outside the restaurant has recently been redeveloped with modern furniture, is freshly painted and has some lovely plants that I’d happily have taken home with me! There are parts of the hotel that would benefit from development in the future, however, we can’t fault the cleanliness of our room when we arrived, which is always the first thing I look at.


The hotel offers several pet friendly rooms; however, these are clearly marked and not all rooms are available to pet owners.  The views from the rooms at the front of hotel also showcase Scotland’s scenery at its best.

A Saturday night stay in low season at The Four Seasons Hotel in St Fillans starts from £86 for a classic room (via booking.com) for 2 people including breakfast. 

For more information on the hotel, visit their Facebook and Instagram


Disclaimer: I was invited to enjoy a one-night stay at the hotel, on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis for 2 people.  Any opinions expressed are my own.




Friday, 30 August 2019

Mermaid Traybake Cake


Readers, I decided it was time for a recipe post again, as it’s been a while. I’ve been baking loads recently – a 60th birthday cake and various traybakes for the office too, which you've possible seen over on Instagram?

Just a short post tonight, but here’s a really simple recipe for you to try.  It only takes 4 ingredients, can be made in an hour or so and is great for kids birthday parties… AND... who doesn’t love mermaids?!

Leave me a comment if you manage to try this one out!

what claire did no bake mermaid traybake cake

Mermaid Themed Traybake Cake


Ingredients


50g unsalted butter
150g pink and white mini marshmallows
200g rice crispies (use more or less depending on how they mix up)
2 tbsp mermaid sprinkles


Method

  1. In a pan over a low heat, add the butter and marshmallows.  Heat until melted down to a liquid.  Use a lower heat and be patient.  Stir as you go. Be careful not to burn the mixture, or it won't keep the mermaids happy! 
    what claire did mermaid no bake traybake cake
    Melting butter and marshmallows
  2. Once melted down, remove from the heat and stir in the rice crispies until well coated.Transfer the mermaid cake mix to an 8x8in silicone baking pan and use a spatula to mould into the pan, ensuring it’s even and smooth on the top.
    what claire did mermaid no bake traybake cake
    Melted butter and marshmallows, ready to add rice crispies
  3. Cover the top in mermaid sprinkles and transfer the mermaid traybake to the fridge to set for a minimum of 1h. 
    what claire did mermaid no bake traybake cake
    Ready for the fridge
  4. Once set, bring back to room temperature before cutting into rectangles and serving.
  5. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.


what claire did no bake mermaid traybake cake

Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Travel Post - Alternative Algarve


Readers, I yet again apologise for the backseat taken in the blogging world. I’ve been trying my hardest to keep my Insta up to date, whilst also not becoming a slave to Insta. I’m also keen to try and post more regularly on my actual blog, because my little piece of the internet was designed to be about my words and life adventures.  Not me trying to get 20k likes because I’m in a bikini (sorry influencers).
what claire did travel blogger algarve portugal


Anyway, as some of you might have seen on Insta, last month we went to Portugal for a week, specifically the Algarve.  You might wonder why this Glasgow blogger picked the Algarve?  Having not been in about 14 years, we got a cheap deal at an amazing hotel that we spotted on Holiday Pirates and decided to take the plunge and book a cheap week away.  It turns out our cheap week in the Algarve was indeed excellent. The hotel was fantastic and it was lovely to experience a different type of holiday. 
what claire did travel blogger lagos algarve


So for today’s post I’m talking Alternative Algarve and some suggestions if you decide to go as a couple in their late 20s or 30s – I think where we stayed MIGHT be a bit tame for some of the younger squad, but perfect if you're looking for peace and tranquility. 

Monchique – Many Mountains

We stayed near Monchique – a pretty little Algarve town up the mountains. It’s suffered terribly from last year’s forest fires, so we felt it really important to go and help their tourism spend.  It’s a long and winding road up to Monchique, so you’d really need to hire a car if you’re going, but it’s an incredibly peaceful place to be.  There are some traditional roadside restaurants, serving decent grub at affordable prices too!


what claire did travel blogger dinner in monchique algarve

Hire A Car

As I mentioned above, consider hiring a car.  The Algarve is fairly easy to drive around, well signposted and it allowed us to venture across many parts of the Algarve.  Hire from a reputable company though and consider the damage waiver, as the Portuguese drives are a bit different from the brits!

Like a Spa?

We stayed at Monchique Resort and Spa – a BEAUTIFUL 5 star hotel near Monchique.  We stayed bed and breakfast (the breakfast was epic).  There’s an underground car park for your hire car, a gorgeous pool with views over the mountains and most of the rooms are suites with massive beds, outdoor terraces with loungers and a home from home feel.    The Spa at the hotel is stocked by ESPA and my massage was wonderful.  The spa circuit was also a fabulous way to spend a few hours on a windy spring morning.

what claire did travel blogger monchique resort algarve

Head to Benagil Caves and Beach

A bit less touristy, you can drive here, park up the car, walk around the caves and then head down to the small beach for a bit of sunbathing afterwards.  If you’d like to get close up, there are cave boat trips and paddleboarding adventures here and its’ a favourite with the Algarve surfing community.

what claire did travel blogger benagil caves algarve


Eat Piri Piri Chicken

You can’t go to the Algarve and not enjoy a piri piri chicken (either half or whole, depending how hungry you are) served with fries.   This is a staple dinner in the Algarve and we found a great place that was stumbling distance from Monchique Resort and Spa, called Foz do Banho, where we had dinner for 2 for less than £30.

Spot Shipwrecks

If you happen to be down in the old fishing village of Alvor on your travels, see if you can spot the shipwreck near the beach… Top tip, you’ll see it in the afternoon.
Image Credit - Instagram dougies_wee_world


Visit the Most South Westerly Point in Europe

An hour or so will lead you to Sagres and on to the most south westerly point in Europe. You can see the lighthouse, walk along the cliffs and loudly shout NEXT STOP AMERICA… if you want to be that annoying person.
what claire did travel blogger sagres lighthouse algarve


Enjoy a Leisurely Seafood Lunch

The Algarve’s restaurants in the more out of town locations are what you would call “rustic”.  Don’t expect hip, modern interiors. Do expect incredibly fresh seafood, delicious Algarvian wines and a no rush attitude, where you can sit for several hours, chatting and enjoying yourself.
what claire did food and travel blogger seafood lunch algarve


Go Historic in Silves

A lovely town, along the west coast, Silves has beauty and history in equal amounts.  Have a quick lunch near the bottom of the town and build your energy levels for an uphill walk to the cathedral and castle. Walk the old walls and enjoy spectacular views over the town.
what claire did travel blogger silves algarve


 Enjoy an evening in Lagos
We decided to spend our second last night in Lagos – a beach town, with plenty of restaurants and bars to pass an evening.  We stayed in a rustic villa complex with a little outside patio around a 15 minute walk to the main town and a 10 minute walk along to the caves in Lagos.  We only stayed one night, but can recommend taking a stroll past many of the restaurants and bars, taking your time to find one you like. 

what claire did travel blogger lagos cliffs algarve




Sunday, 21 April 2019

Top Tips for a Short Trip to Prague


Readers, I’ve been on my adventures again. I’ve been in Prague.  Somewhat unfairly, Prague has a bit of a reputation for a booze culture, stag and hen parties everywhere and well, that’s about it.
Tram in Prague What Claire Did Travel Blog


This Glasgow travel blogger though, reveals that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Prague is beautiful – gorgeous architecture, narrow winding streets and plenty to do that doesn’t involve getting smashed in the pub.
Lovers Bridge Prague what claire did travel blog


My latest travel blog focuses on alternative Prague.  Other cool things that the city has to offer, secret Prague if you will. Not just about landing for a weekend and drinking cheap beer. 

If you happen to visit Prague and go to any of these places, be sure to let me know.

After my points above about booze, the first place I mention, is a bar. Oh the irony.  This isn’t any old bar though, it’s a 1920s speakeasy, with an amazing selection of cocktails, served in weird and wonderful ways.  You’ll need to reserve a table in peak times and it's one of the coolest bars in Prague. 
Hemmingway cocktail bar Prague


Fancy something a little different?  This 90 minute workshop in the heart of the Prague old town, costs around £30 per person. You learn a little about the history of chocolate and get to make some chocolate to take home with you.  A great activity for friends.

Chocolate Monkey Prague What Claire Did Travel Blog

Fan of a spa day? You’ll not be disappointed by a trip here.  Featuring a gorgeous, dimly lit, relaxation spa space, with sauna, steam room, pool and jacuzzi, it’s the ideal place to escape the city for a few hours, either when the weather is poor, or you want to rest those tired legs, after a day roaming the streets.
Charles iv spa prague what claire did travel blog


Eating Out
There’s too many places to mention from our trip, so here's some highlights. Prague does have something for all budgets. We’d advise avoiding the main square area and instead go check out some cool places in some of Prague’s neighbourhoods. Try and find where the locals go. 

We enjoyed lunch at Bakeshop (not actually far from the main square) but the pastries and baked goods were delicious.  It’s also really well priced for the quality.
bakeshop prague what claire did travel blog

For dinner, two standouts for us were Room – a tapas and mezze style bar attached to the Icon Hotel. So good, we went there twice during our 4 night stay.
Room tapas prague what claire did travel blog

Noi – a neighbourhood Thai restaurant, across the bridge, towards the castle.  Again, reasonably priced, with a  great selection of thai food. We ordered a selection of starters and mains to share.

Noi Thai restaurant prague what claire did travel blog


Choco Loves Coffee is a cool, old school café we found near our Air BnB.  It does homemade cakes and gourmet hot chocolate that you can pick out your personalised combination.  Delicious.

* * * 
Top 10 Random Prague Tips
  1. Get a 3 day pass for the public transport.  It’s incredibly cheap to get around Prague and we used a mix of trams and subways during our stay.  If the weather is good, it’s also a lovely walking city. 
  2. Avoid taxis – we’d been told they can rip people off, so be careful.
  3. Airporter – we used this great service to and from the airport, they even picked up our bags at a designated time from our Air BnB the morning we left and picked us up at a chosen location to go back to the airport. Cost was around £26 one way (split between 3 people). Great value.
  4. Walk Charles Bridge and head to John Lennon Wall and Prague’s narrowest street, for some cool Instagram photos.
    John Lennon Wall Prague What Claire Did Travel Blog

    Prague Narrowest Street What Claire Did Travel Blog
  5. The Gingerbread Museum is not a museum, it’s a shop.  That said, the gingerbread from there is amazing, so stop by and pick up your gingerbread as souvenirs.
  6. Don’t bother paying for the castle tour – it’s a lovely walk around for an hour or so, self guided.  We spent a morning there exploring the beautiful grounds.
    views from Prague Castle what claire did travel blog
  7. Plan your journey well in advance if you’re walking. Google Maps is a little slow in the narrow/backstreets of the old town and more than once we found ourselves lost and doubling back on ourselves.  Just a suggestion. 
  8. Make sure to try one of the delicious Trdelnik cakes – pastry, with cinnamon and sugar, filled with ice cream and toppings. You won’t be disappointed. You'll also be able to find many trdelnik shops across the city.  Price is around 4 euros for a whopping big cake. 
    trdelnik cake prague what claire did travel blog
  9. Buy a Lonely Planet Pocket Guide – we used this to plan out most of the places we went to.  The dining recommendations were superb!
  10. Wenceslas Square was a bit of a let down.  Worth a look if you’re walking by it, but I’d say there’s much more impressive things to see in the city.


Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Recipe - Asian Wild Boar with Noodles

Readers!

This Glasgow Food Blogger has been off getting experimental this month... the team from Wild and Game recently sent me some wild boar steaks to try as part of their Spring recipe campaign and I've been cooking up a storm in my Glasgow kitchen trying out their Asian Style Wild Boar recipe.

wild and game wild boar what claire did recipe development glasgow


This was super easy (time consuming but worth it, trust me) and we'd never had wild boar before. The long, slow cooking process creates a deliciously tender meat, rich in Asian flavours.  Fancy trying it for yourself?  Recipe and some cook-along photos below for you... to prove how easy this asian style wild boar recipe really is!

Also, did you know, game birds such as pheasant, partridge and grouse contain less fat than chicken, more protein and lower cholesterol, while wild boar is higher in protein and lower in saturated fat than beef? Facts!

“Game is in plentiful supply in the UK but many people still lack confidence when it comes to using it,” says Steven, who co-founded Wild and Game with Michael Cannon a year ago. 
“Our mission is to get more people in the UK enjoying game by highlighting how healthy, delicious and easy to use it actually is.”

wild and game logo

Disclaimer - with the new advertising regulations, I'm confirming I received some wild boar steaks from Wild and Game to try out their recipe with.  Any opinions expressed are my own. 



Asian Style Wild Boar with Noodles
Serves 2

Ingredients


2 Wild and Game wild boar steaks, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 asparagus spears, sliced
Half a red pepper, sliced
1 small carrot, sliced
Half a medium onion, sliced
100ml light soy sauce
1 large tsp garlic paste
1 large tsp ginger paste
2 tbsp honey
2 tsp cornflour
Sesame oil
600ml water

Method


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees centigrade, gas mark 3
  2. Heat some sesame oil in an oven-proof pot, add the meat and cook until browned.
  3. Mix the soy sauce, honey and cornflour in a small jug
  4. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a couple of minutes, then pour in the soy, honey and cornflour mix. Stir and cook until thickened then top up with the water.
    wild and game wild boar cook on hob what claire did glasgow
  5. Keep on the heat until bubbling well, then put the lid on and transfer into the oven and cook for 2 - 2.5 hours. Check regularly and top up with water when necessary. You want the sauce to end up quite thick and sticky.
  6. Heat some sesame oil in a wok or frying pan and fry the vegetables for a few minutes – don’t overdo it; you want them to retain their bite.
  7. Add the vegetables to the pot of meat and stir well. Serve with noodles or rice.
    wild and game wild boar what claire did recipe development glasgow

Monday, 11 February 2019

Top 10 Copenhagen Hot Spots


Readers,

Sorry for the lack of content recently.  I’m not sure how to describe the last few months other than slightly overwhelming. Lots going on just now and I think I was burnt out by the time I got to the Christmas break, that yet again, the blog took a backseat until I felt inspired to write again.

You probably saw on Instagram that Mr What Claire Did and I travelled to Copenhagen for a short break over the Christmas period.  The short holiday to Copenhagen, included a trip to Malmo in Sweden for the day (only 40 minutes by train from the central station) so we managed to see 2 countries on our trip.

Copenhagen was lovely for a travel blogger to visit – it’s very Instagram friendly, however it’s SUPER expensive, so I’d suggest a few days in Copenhagen for a couple, is probably enough.  Take plenty of spending money with you – you’ll need it.

I’ve picked my Top 10 Copenhagen Highlights to feature in this blog.  If you decide on a trip to Copenhagen and follow any tips from my blog, please let me know!

Tivoli Gardens Copenhagen
A must see for any visitor – Tivoli Gardens was the inspiration for Walt Disney’s theme parks.  Old school rides, suitable for the whole family.  Don’t forget to go on the old rollercoaster in the centre of the park.
Note – Tivoli is closed throughout January. 

Tivoli Gardens Winter Copenhagen What Claire Did blog


Tivoli Food Hall Copenhagen
A great find for a selection of cuisines from independent traders.  There’s food, drink and a great atmosphere throughout the day.  Open through the year – including New Years Day. We stopped off here for lunch before taking a train down to see The Little Mermaid and Palace area. 

Tivoli food hall copenhagen what claire did blogTivoli food hall copenhagen what claire did blog



1656 Cocktail Bar Copenhagen
Look out for the graffiti walls and the tiny windows and you’re there.  Near the Meatpacking District (more about that below) this small cocktail bar has a wide selection of cocktails for all palates.  Take note – it’s around 15 to 20 euros a drink, so one before dinner will probably suffice.

1656 cocktail bar copenhagen what claire did blog


Dining in the Meatpacking District Copenhagen
Keep on walking from 1656 and you’ll hit the Meatpacking District – a series of slightly grungy looking industrial units, transformed into some amazing dining experiences.  I’d highly recommend a trip here. I wish we’d found Copenhagen’s Meatpacking District sooner into our trip as the best restaurants were here.  Special mention to Gorilla and Fleisch where we had two amazing dinners (price approx £60 a head, including 1 alcoholic drink).

Meatpacking district copenhagen what claire did blog


Day trip to Malmo from Copenhagen
In case you didn’t know, Copenhagen is so near the Swedish border, that a 40 minute train ride, across the big bridge will take you to another country.

It’s lovely to walk around in if the weather is good (not the biggest city I’ve ever been to) but Malmo does have a castle, with a lot of history.  We really enjoyed the exhibition about the second world war.   There’s some cool shops, a lovely coffee culture and stylish people all around.  We passed around 4 hours in the city midweek.

Malmo sweden what claire did travel blog


Trains leave regularly from Copenhagen Central Station and it’s around £24 for a return ticket.

Illums Bolighis Department Store Copenhagen
If you’re interested in interiors and scandi design, this isn’t to be missed.  There are two stores in Copenhagen – I’d recommend just visiting the homewares store, if you’re interested in design.  Top tip – if you’re there just after Christmas (or before) they have an amazing range of Christmas décor available and the post Christmas sale, made some items affordable to us mere mortals.

window display illums boghlis copenhagen what claire did blog


Harbour District Copenhagen
Probably some of the most instagrammable buildings – the coloured houses down by the harbour are beautiful to look at and worth a wander on a dry day.  There are a number of restaurants in the local area, but I’d be tempted to suggest you walk back a few streets, away from the tourist hub for your Copenhagen lunch.

harbour district what claire did travel blog copenhagen


Axel Guldsmeden Hotel Copenhagen
This place was amazing! We couldn’t fault it. Cool bar, nice drinks, great décor and outdoor seating area, Balinese inspired rooms and spa… what’s not to love?  By Copenhagen standards, it was affordable - £450 for 4 nights and it’s also right behind the main train station, which was great for getting around the city.

axel guldsmeden hotel what claire did travel blog copenhagen



Brunch at Aamanns Deli Copenhagen
If you happen to watch Travel Man on Channel 4, then you’ll have seen them film in this upscale brunch/lunch stop in Copenhagen. The smorrebrod is out of this world – some of the most beautiful sandwiches you’ll ever taste are served here. They also look beautiful too.  Definitely make a reservation – doors open at 11am.  We arrived at 11am and other tables followed soon after. It’s not a cheap lunch… think close to £65 for two, however, it’s famous in the city and a foodies dream.

It's also Michelin Guide recommended. 

aamanns deli copenhagen what claire did travel blog


Pastries from The Local  Bakery Copenhagen
And at the opposite end of the scale, we found this slightly tired looking local bakery near the train station.  Looks can be deceiving though – the pastries were fresh and delicious. We stopped into this local Copenhagen bakery more than once on our trip for a snack to go in the morning.


brod bakery copenhagen what claire did travel blog