Archive | Fashion and Beauty RSS for this section

Escape the city life for rejuvenating, relaxing Me Time at the Spa – Principal Hotel, Charlotte Square

The Principal, Charlotte Square

The Principal Edinburgh, Charlotte Square – formerly the Roxburghe Hotel and first opened in 1848 –  has had a multi-million-pound refurbishment, now transformed into a smart contemporary Boutique hotel within its seven grand townhouses, overlooking Charlotte Square Garden.  With vintage travel ephemera and quirky, colourful design across bedrooms, bars, bistros and lounges, it was named the Edinburgh Style Hotel of the Year 2018.

Junior Suite, Principal Hotel, Charlotte Square

The Spa has also had a makeover to create a relaxing retreat in the centre of the city for pampering treatments and leisure time around the pool, sauna and steam room. Located on the lower ground floor, the cool, quiet, interior space has a calming ambience which envelops you from the moment you arrive at the Spa Reception.

The Apothocary themed Spa

The thematic decor is all about reflecting the fragrant scent and traditional medicinal properties of herbs, plants and dried flowers which fill the large vintage bottles to represent a 19th century Apothocary.

Herbal Art display at the Spa

This follows through into the ingredients of the Signature Spa products – OSKIA is a specialist skin care formula created for luxury facial treatments to enhance a healthy complexion.

Oskia, multi award winning beauty products

The other skincare range is ishga, developed from natural, organic seaweed on the Isle of Lewis. In order to experience both of these Spa products, I selected the OSKIA Glow Facial while my partner Ken would be trying the ishga Face and Body Sensation.

We were shown to the Locker Rooms downstairs– very spacious and well laid out, where we changed into towelling bathrobes and slippers. From here, there is a direct access to  the swimming pool and thermal suite.  We then sat for a few minutes in the Relaxation room until our Therapists came to collect us for our respective beautifying treatments.

Tranquil Treatment Rooms

The rooms are small but decorated with soft, subtle shades of cappucino and taupe to enhance the sense of calm. Sitting on a hard wooden stool (?!), I was asked to select my preferred scented oil for either energy or relaxation. Lying on the massage bed, I was wrapped up under a duvet and towels, while a CD of Mood music provided a soothing soundtrack.

The OSKIA facial was extremely comprehensive covering the face, neck and décolletage with a flowing series of various creams and a mask to exfoliate, cleanse, tone and moisturise.  I always love the contrasting sensation of cold lotions followed by a hot towel to refresh and open the pores.  The application of a warm oil, drizzled over my face, was like basting a chicken – but I was not going to be roasted!  A gentle massage in circular movements works to penetrate and plump up the layers of skin.

Georgie Cleeve

OSKIA was created in 2009 by Georgie Cleeve after she damaged her knee in a skiing accident.  Understanding that race horses are given BSM, a natural sulphur supplement, she used this on her knee which helped to repair the tissue and cartilage joint. This was the springboard to create a therapeutic skincare range – the name is derived from ancient Greek meaning beauty and nutrition – which promotes collagen production and has anti-inflammatory elements for a brighter, younger-looking complexion.

Meanwhile Ken was next door for a Back, Neck and Shoulder Massage with ishga seaweed body oils to nourish the skin, pummelling the muscles to release knots and alleviate tension.  Other ingredients in the products include lavender, lemongrass and juniper which sound like the botanicals in a perfectly curated Gin!  This was followed by a rejuvenating Facial which showed amazing results.

Hebridean Island seaweed

Ishga marine skincare – named after the Gaelic for water – was founded by Malcolm, a Scientist, Joanna his wife, a beauty therapist, and Martin a seaweed expert.   Based in Lewis, the Outer Hebrides,  they source seaweed harvested from the sandy beaches combined with local salt water, the purest in the world as is the fresh water taken from mountain springs.

Ishga skincare – inspired by the seashore on the Isle of Lewis,

Seaweed has been used for centuries for its healing properties, and its vitamins, minerals and amino acid are ideal for people who suffer from acne or dry and itchy skin conditions.   Cucumber extract, Macadamia, Jojoba Oil, Thistle Oil, Hebridean Sea Salt and Aloe Vera are other natural ingredients as well as anti-oxidants to maintain a healthy and youthful skin.  As Ken noticed afterwards, his face was moisturised, toned and tightened for a brighter, smoother appearance of the skin.

This was a marvellous escape for the afternoon at the Principal Spa – around an hour and a half of recuperative, calming, Chill Out – Me Time followed by a rest in the Relaxation room.  The Leisure club is a myriad of corridors, rooms and staircases – the changing room (with the loos) are a bit of a trek and directions are needed to find your way back here.

Afterwards we went upstairs to The Garden – the indoor Greenhouse Conservatory Bar and Café –  for a refreshing Cocktail, a Rhubarb and Ginger Sling for him and an Elderflower Collins for me, all very fruity and healthy.

Cool Cocktails in the Garden

With sunlight streaming in from the glass roof and surrounded by flowers, it was like sitting outside – perfect for  ‘al fresco’ coffee,  tea, snacks, bar drinks, lunch or supper, whatever the weather.

The Garden – for all day drinks and good food.

The Spa offers a diverse menu of massages, facials, manicures and beauty treatments.  For a special treat, book an indulgent Spa Day such as Champagne, Deluxe and Signature Lunch or Twilight Tea packages.

While you may visit the Spa as a non-resident as we did,  why not plan to stay here for a mini city break.  Hotel guests in a Standard bedroom can enjoy the leisure facilities free of charge from 7-9am and again from 6-9pm. Those staying in all other Superior rooms are free to go at any time.  As well as the Pool, keep fit in the gym with Intenza Fitness cardio machines and equipment for stretching and strength training.  Studio classes offer yoga, zumba, spinning and bootcamp sessions.

Spa Facts:

Opening hours, Monday to Friday, 6.30am – 10pm, Saturday and Sunday, 7am – 8pm

Address: The Principal Charlotte Square, 38 Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, EH2 4HQ.


Telephone +44 (0)131 240 5500


A Hamper ..and a Haven  ..of health and beauty at the Principal Spa


“Taking Shape” – a bright, colourful show for Springtime at Lennon Art, Edinburgh

Lennon-Art is a most welcoming gallery in the cultural (and culinary) hub of Stockbridge, Edinburgh, founded by the artist Alan Lennon.  The current collection Taking Shape very much celebrates the birth of Spring with a refreshing cocktail of colourful paintings and prints by Stephen Holmes, Alan Martin and Alan Lennon, interlinking a theme of abstract artwork with both lighthearted humour and thoughtful insight.

“The world doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?”   Pablo Picasso

Stephen Holmes studied Graphic design and has been influenced by surrealism, wildlife and children’s book illustrations for his cool quirky images of animals, people and places which primarily focus “on the relationship between free-form shapes and colours.”

Cat, Stephen Holmes

With sharp edged red, blue and orange cubes and triangles like a traditional Harlequin’s suit.  his painterly style echoes the modern masters – Mondrian, Picasso and Miro – but which is in no way a blatant duplication.

Figures and dog in front of the sun, Miro

In his own refreshing manner, Holmes captures the naivety and innocence in childlike images of cats, houses, city park and caricatures of people which will make you smile.

Red Haired Girl does a drunk dance, Stephen Holmes

A vivacious “Red-haired girl does a drunken dance”  evokes rhythm and energy while his rather sombre “ Self Portrait” is, of course, most revealing, akin to Joyce’s literary version, “Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man.”

Self Portrait, Stephen Holmes

Whatever the subject matter, there is pure inventiveness in each picture depicting an enchanting landscape with a wild and wondrous imagination.

 “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” Pablo Picasso

Moving down the route of abstraction, Alan Martin presents a patchwork of geometric shapes around curving lines described as Doodles using mixed media, mainly acrylic with pen and coloured pencils on card or canvas.

Archeology 3 – Alan Martin

While he has a strong interest in archaeology, astronomy and the seashore,  he says, “ I find it hard to talk and explain about individual paintings …  I simply enjoy playing with line, colour and shape …  manipulating the randomness that can result from using collage.”

Composition 23, Alan Martin

There’s a two-dimensional flatness over the canvas and the bold compositions would also be ideal for cushions, rugs and Fashion design too – the swirling patterns and bright prints by Emilio Pucci and Jonathan Saunders are perfect for flowing silk and soft fabrics from floaty summer dresses to swimwear.

Abstract print bikini, Emilio Pucci

The diverse range of Martin’s work also covers a porfolio of birds, fish, people and still life with a darkly, dramatic, Dali-esque narrative.

Cheers, Alan Martin

“There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterwards, you can remove all traces of reality.” Pablo Picasso

Alan Lennon’s oil paintings specialise in figurative work with a recurring theme  of a thoughtful,  philosophical mood.  Through a series entitled Essence, Substance and Silence, he has gradually developed a less representative dimension along the lines of Picasso’s manner of fragmentation.

Aspiration, Alan Lennon

These reflect a hidden depth of emotion and spirituality handled through facial expression and subtle gesture of crossed hands and feet such as in “Reflection” and “Aspiration”.

Reflection, Alan Lennon

Le Reve, Picasso

Lennon admits his figures are not based on people he knows.  Instead through his own imagination (and perhaps subconsciously adding an aspect of himself), presents a quiet, joyous Zen-like beauty of the world.  He is also a fine sculptor especially constructing a face, eyes and furrowed brows depicting sadness or love with extraordinary poignancy.

Sculptured heads and figures, Alan Lennon

“Taking Shape” is a well curated showcase of three artists who complement each other with their individual approach to reconfiguring the notion of the everyday, life and humanity with imaginative vision.

“The artist is a receptacle for emotions that come from all over the place, from the sky, from the earth, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web”  Picasso

Catch this exhibition if you can before it ends on 10 May … but whenever you visit there is always a varied collection of paintings, prints and sculpture throughout the year.

Taking Shape: 13 April – 10 May, 2018

Lennon-Art,  83 Henderson Row, Edinburgh EH 3 5BE

Open Mon-Sat, 12pm – 6pm.

Tel. 0131 556 6888

Charity Chic 2017: the annual Fashion Catwalk Showcase for Cancer Research (Stockbridge)

St. Stephen’s Church, Stockbridge

In the grand, baroque St Stephen’s Centre @ Saint Stephen’s Church, (designed in 1827 by William Playfair),  this year’s Charity Chic Fashion Show  in aid of Cancer Research UK (Stockbridge), will be another glitzy, glamorous and inspirational evening. When?  Friday 6th October,  2017 – 7pm to 9.30pm

Where? St Stephen’s Centre, 105 St. Stephen Street, Edinburgh EH3 5AB.

Charity Chic offers a fabulous night out featuring a colourfully creative Fashion Show, live music, a Bar and stalls to buy quality clothes, raffle tickets, cakes and much much more.

Elaine Lennon (left) launching Charity Chic 2014

Organised once again by Elaine Lennon, the assistant manager of Cancer Research, Stockbridge, the highlight of the evening is a Catwalk Extraordinaire: members of staff,  customers and friends of the shop will showcase the best of Charity Chic from High Street fashion to Designer couture, for men and women.

A glamorous model at Charity Chic 2014

From Top Shop to Top Brands, (e.g. Prada, Versace, Westwood), gorgeous clothes are donated year round to the Stockbridge branch by the public.  After a fine collection is shown off in style and swagger along the Catwalk, these clothes and accessories will then be available to purchase – if you are quick off the mark! – after the show.

This is the perfect opportunity to jazz up your Autumn-Winter wardrobe with a ‘nearly new’ coat, cosy sweater, smart trousers, shoes, handbag, hat, scarf, jewellery and perhaps a little black dress or dinner suit for festive parties.

Charity Chic catwalk 2014

The POP-UP Shop opens from 7pm, bringing the Cancer Research Boutique along to St. Stephen’s Centre with some amazing fashion bargains, gifts, treasures and gems, to be snapped up for one night only.

This is the eighth time Cancer Research Stockbridge has staged an annual Charity Chic fashion show, raising an estimated thirty thousand pounds at these fun, sociable evenings. Proceeds go towards funding clinical research, medical trials and specialist nurses, all of which are vital in the fight against cancer.

A packed audience at Charity Chic 2014

The spacious theatre-style venue at St. Stephen’s Centre will create a party atmosphere to meet friends, enjoy the Catwalk, have a drink, browse around the stalls and dress up in some lovely new fashionable clothes.

Volunteers are most welcome – do get in touch if you’d like to try your hand at modelling, run one of the stalls or help to organise the event.

Tickets are priced at £10.   And of course, this show is for a very good cause.

Pick up your tickets at the Cancer Research Shop, 30 Raeburn Place, Edinburgh.  Tel. 0131 343 6343

Or purchase on line:


Waldorf Astoria & Walker Slater Fashion Show: Autumn/Winter 2017/2018 Collection

‘The passion of creating clothing comes from the idea that if they are stylish, yet practical and robust, they allow you to be carelessly elegant and have confidence to look good.’  Paul Walker

Walker Slater, the Scottish tweed tailoring company, was founded in 1989 in Laggan before opening on Victoria Street, Edinburgh, followed by stores in Glasgow and London.

Walker Slater, Victoria Street, Grassmarket, Edinburgh

Specialists of fine casual and formal clothing for ladies and gentlemen, it was named Retailer of the Year 2015 at the Scottish Fashion Awards.

From traditional tailoring to contemporary style, Walker Slater is renowned for tweed jackets, trousers, waistcoats, three piece suits, overcoats and knitwear in quality wool and tweed produced in the Borders, Shetland and Harris.  What could be more classic than a beautifully designed, made-to-measure three piece suit for a special occasion.

Autumn Winter collection, 2016 – Walker Slater, always in style.

The Caledonian Hotel, Princes Street, Edinburgh is celebrating its fifth birthday in September as a Waldorf Astoria. With the grand art deco hotel as a backdrop,  Walker Slater will stage a fabulous fashion show –  a sneak preview of the Autumn/Winter 2017/18 collection.

This style event will take place in the hotel’s glamorously elegant Peacock Alley on the afternoon of Friday 15th September, hosted by Scottish broadcaster and Deacon Blue drummer, Dougie Vipond.

Peacock Alley, Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh

During the catwalk show, guests will experience a luxury Afternoon Tea inspired by the botanicals of Edinburgh Gin. Enjoy a seasonal selection of sweet and savoury treats, complemented  by a crafted gin cocktail, delicately flavoured with orange, lemon, heather, coriander, juniper, and pine.

Autumn Winter 2017 Tweed clothing collection for men and women

The new curated WS clothing range is sure to keep you warm during the Autumn and Winter months. Ladies may relish beautiful Scottish cashmere, everyday clothes from city street to country walks, and day to evening wear.

Smart, casual Winter wear

The preview will also launch ‘Messrs,’ a youthful collection with a contemporary look, fit and colour palette, from Harris Tweed suits to leather jackets.

Smart, contemporary tweed suits

“As an old Victorian railway station, The Caledonian has over 110 years of rich heritage in Edinburgh, of which we are very proud.  Walker Slater also has a strong Scottish heritage and worldwide reputation for style, offering the perfect synergy with Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh.” Dale MacPhee, General Manager, Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh, The Caledonian.

The much beloved “Caley” hotel today as part of the Waldorf Astoria portfolio, represents the epitome of international luxury travel, and this classic Scottish fashion brand, creates the ideal partnership.

Walker Slater boutiques also presents a range of fabulous, must-have accessories for women and men including bags, gloves, scarves, shoes, tweed-wrapped hip flasks and gifts, perfect for the winter season and Christmas.

Tweed bag – from city to country sports

“They have an attention to detail befitting a Parisian couturier and the flair of a Tokyo street-wear brand.” 

 Tickets for the Waldorf Astoria & Walker Slater fashion show with Afternoon Tea, are priced at £45 per person.

Be the first to join the A –List FROW *  by reserving your place soon!  (* Front Row @ fashion show)

Book tickets at Eventbrite at:

Throughout the month of September, an inspiring diary of events will celebrate the 5th birthday of The Caledonian as a Waldorf Astoria. Highlights include a luxurious stay in the Caley Suite, an Oyster & Champagne Masterclass at Galvin Brasserie de Luxe and classic Cocktails in the Caley Bar.

For more information:

Oysters and champagne at Galvin Brasserie de Luxe




Generation 3 – Christmas exhibition of arts and crafts at Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh

Christmas is the time of year when families gather together – the annual pilgrimage most of us will make soon, as captured in song from Sinatra’s “I’ll be home for Christmas” to “Driving home for Christmas” from Chris Rea.

For the Rollinson family they have planned a different kind of reunion for us all to share and enjoy. Generation 3 is a collective exhibition to showcase the arts and crafts representing three generations.

Vicky Ware - ceramic decoration

Vicky Ware – ceramic decoration

Starting a few decades ago with Peter and Rosemary’s Scottish saddlery business, their children and grandchildren have inherited the creative gene and developed their own distinctive artistic talent from glassware and jewellery to pottery and photography.

Generation 3After retirement, Peter Rollinson has developed his passion for cine, video and still photography in which to observe the natural world, flowers, trees and landscape, through the camera lens. As he explains the background to his art: “We tend to overlook something that is small, or that is a small part of a larger image. We may pass a dry stone wall every day and not see the different coloured stones used, or the fern growing from it. Or really see an old letterbox, a lone lobster pot or a tree stump. ”

Aged just 16, Natasha Rollinson began working with silver at a Summer course at Edinburgh College of Art which led to studying jewellery at the University of Ulster, and then training as a goldsmith. Her fine jewellery is based on traditional techniques matched by modern design.

Bubbles necklace - Natasha Rollinson

Bubbles necklace – Natasha Rollinson

Angelika Rollinson trained as a dressmaker in an atelier in southern Germany,  later making costumes for the Deutsche Oper Berlin.   Just like Vivienne Westwood who loves using Scottish textiles,  she has designed a range of Harris Tweed ladies’ capes for this exhibition.

Scottish style - Harris Tweed cape by Angelika Rollinson

Scottish style – Harris Tweed cape by Angelika Rollinson

And then we move from wool to leather:  William Rollinson worked in his family’s business and trained as a saddler. Today he makes and repairs saddles as well as creating quality leather products, dog collars, bags and gun cases. He also built his own Tipi Tent for camping on canoeing and fishing trips around Scotland.

Beautiful glassware by Sue Jack

Beautiful glassware by Sue Jack

Sue Jack trained in architectural glass at University of Wales and now divides her time between Edinburgh and Sutherland where she has an eco friendly house and glass design studio overlooking the sea towards Harris and the mountains of Assynt and Coicach. Inspired by the rugged wild landscape, Sue creates sculptural pieces and art works from kiln formed glass.

Sue Jack - decorative glass

Sue Jack – decorative glass

The new BBC series, The Great British Pottery Throw Down may encourage viewers to try their hand with throwing some clay … just as the ever popular Great British Bake Off show did with all those tempting cakes, buns and tarts.

Vicky Ware - rustic farmhouse crockery

Vicky Ware – rustic farmhouse crockery

Vicky Ware is the archetypal artisan potter, working and teaching in a studio at her home, a converted barn in rural Wales. Her handmade earthenware pots range from colourfully decorative glazed ceramics to functional plates, bowls and kitchenware.

Vicky Ware - artistic ceramics

Vicky Ware – artistic ceramics

And her rustic Terracotta Bread Pots sell like hot cakes!

As Vicky describes the creative design process … “ Hand thrown using grogged earthenware clay and fired to a rich toasted terracotta, each one is slightly different and has a spiral inside which gives the traditional crescia pattern to the loaf. The handles, as well as being part of the design, are a practical way of holding the pot to remove the bread.

Terracotta Bread Pots by Vicky Ware

Terracotta Bread Pots by Vicky Ware

“My pots are good for all types of bread and especially for sourdough, as you can prove and bake the loaf in the mould, retaining the texture and lightness of your dough”.

These beautiful moulds have revolutionised the way I bake! I have never had such a light and fluffy sourdough – the best loaf I have made.”  Kelli DiCapri – Artisan Baker

Generation 3 is a fantastic, diverse collection of exquisitely hand made and beautifully crafted artwork made with love and care – perfect gifts for your family and friends this Christmas.

Dundas Street Gallery,  Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH2 6HZ

28th November to 5th December, 2015 – 11am – 6pm daily.

For more information,  contact:

The Venice Simplon Orient-Express: re-living the elegant age of train travel

Welcome on board the Orient Express Venice-Simplon

Welcome on board the Orient Express Venice-Simplon

On Monday 30th November, 2015,  Channel 4 is broadcasting a documentary entitled,  “The World’s Most Famous Train” – a behind the scenes view of life on board the Venice Simplon  Orient-Express.

If you have never taken this iconic journey, this will be an enticing taster.

If like my partner Ken and I,  you have had the pleasure to indulge in its leisurely, luxurious lifestyle,  the film will be an opportunity to learn about the fine art of preserving its traditions and hospitality.  To step on board this very famous train is a dream journey, travelling back in time to the exquisitely elegant era of train travel.

Vivien - vintage evening gown and gloves - with Champagne

Watch the Channel TV documentary on 30th November, 2015 …  and please do read all about our experience of this most romantic 28 hour train journey from London Victoria to Venice.

Plan your journey here:

Scottish Juniper Festival: 12 – 14 June, 2015 to celebrate World Gin Day – Cheers!

world gin dayWorld Gin Day was founded by Neil Houston, aka YetAnotherGin in 2009. It started off as a day to bring his friends together to drink gin and has grown into a global celebration.

In 2013 Emma Stokes, aka Gin Monkey took over the reigns.

The concept is simple: arrange a party to enjoy a few sparkling gins together. with events happening all over the world. A day for everyone to celebrate the fresh tasting summer spirit.

“When life gives you lemons, make a Gin and Tonic.!” 

Gin-TonicWorld Gin Day is Saturday 13th June, 2015. ( )

In Edinburgh,  head up to Summerhall on the Meadows for the Scottish Juniper Festival to celebrate the wonderful world of gins and World Gin Day.

juniper festivalMartin Duffy is the brainchild behind this fizzing fun event, with the encouragement of Geraldine Coates the lady behind, who suggested that Summerhall would be ideal place.   Last year the inaugural Festival was attended by around 800 people, and this weekend promises to be much bigger and better  ..

This year we have been able to use almost double the space to feature more Gin companies. Gin has always been a British classic but the gin scene is really thriving at the moment with so many new flavours and serves being championed by international, UK and Scottish gin brands. Over three days the festival showcases a variety of these extraordinary gins through engaging talks and mixology sessions.”   Martin Duffy

How may Gin brands do you know ?

At the Festival you will have the opportunity to sample a few of these  … No.3 Gin, Shetland, Brokers, Bloom, Martin Miller’s, Brockman’s, Crossbill, Daffy’s , Minus 33, Darnley’s View & Spiced, Burleigh’s, Edinburgh Gin and Rock Rose…

The botanicals which create Rock Rose ..

The botanicals which create Rock Rose ..

………. and also Eden Mills, Opihr, Hendrick’s, Blackwood’s, Ish, Pickering’s, Strathearn  … just add ice and a slice with a splash of tonic!

cucumber-and-hendricksEdinburgh Gin has created  a new summertime Gin in time for World Gin Day this weekend – Seaside Gin.  It features seaweed, scurvy grass and ground ivy, all the botanicals sourced from the coastline of white sand beaches and rocky coves around Edinburgh and East Lothian.   Serve with sparkling tonic or as a Seaside Martini with a platter of fresh seafood – the perfect ice-cold drink for a beach picnic or barbecue.

The new Seaside Edinburgh Gin for summer days

The new Seaside Edinburgh Gin for summer days

There are sure to be Gins you have never had the chance to taste ….for example, from the United States – Aviation and Death’s Door, or a sassy, spicy French gin, Saffron By Gabriel Boudier and brands from across the UK, Holland, Scandinavia, Spain and Ireland.

Visitors can also tour Pickering’s gin distillery which is based at Summerhall – the award winning Edinburgh brand.


Listen to a talk on Cocktails by Mike McGinty from The Blackbird in Summerhall’s 100 year old Anatomy Lecture Theatre.

The vast range of gins today has also created speciality tonics to match the different flavours of the spirit. The “Challenge of the Tonics” is an event with staff from 56 North Gin bar offering the audience a tasting session of five gin and tonics – Fever-Tree, Fentiman’s, 1724 , and the new Scottish tonic, Walter Gregors.

walter tonicThe same gin will be used each time to test the difference tonic can make to taste.  56 North offers over 200 varieties of gin, the largest choice in any bar in Scotland.

Also at the Scottish Juniper Festival you can browse around a Boutique showcasing fashion and crafts by local designers.  Pick up a bite to eat from the Street food vendors, visit the G&T bar within the Courtyard and an enticing Cocktail bar.

After having the chance to taste a few different, distinctive gins,  visit the Gin Shop to take a bottle or two of your favourite brand home.

Happy World Gin Day – Cheers!

Tickets are £21.50 with a choice of sessions over the weekend:-

Friday 12th June, 17.00 – 21.30
Saturday 13th June, 12.00 -16.30
Saturday 13th June, 17.30 – 22.00
Sunday 14th June, 12.30 – 17.30 – see Events

Facebook /ScottishJuniperFestival

gin and tonic keep calm

Experience a fabulous, fun city break in Manchester

My sister June lives in South London and I am in Edinburgh. As we were not going to be meeting up for Christmas this year, she suggested that we plan a Girly weekend – in Manchester. The perfect destination roughly half way between our two homes.

Transpennine Express - Scotland and North of England

Transpennine Express – Scotland and North of England

I set off on the Transpennine Express from Edinburgh Waverley at 10.08am on Friday 14th November, heading south west via Lockerbie, Carlisle, Preston and on to Manchester in just over three hours. It was a long snake of a train en route to its final stop at Manchester Airport.

A comfortable journey all the way, during which I had morning coffee and bagel breakfast and later,  an egg and salmon sandwich with a tiny 37.5ml bottle of wine for a picnic lunch. The time passed quickly as I read my murder thriller.  Scenic views too across the Border country and Lake District with its wild moorland dotted with grazing sheep.

Meanwhile my sister had taken a Virgin train from Euston and we both arrived around the same time, early afternoon.  Our rendezvous at Manchester Piccadilly Station worked well.

Doubletree by Hilton,  Manchester

Doubletree by Hilton,

The Doubletree by Hilton is a fashionably smart, modern hotel just five minutes walk from the Station – a perfect location for the weekend. The lobby is bright and spacious with rainbow coloured sofas; two bars and City Cafe restaurant are also on the ground floor.

The hotel lobby

The hotel lobby

Our standard Twin Room was compact in size but offered all facilities for a short break: shower-room (baths are available in the Suites), quality toiletries, bathrobes; Mac TV, fridge – bottled water, Tea and Coffee tray.

Standard double room

Standard double room

Armed with a map, we ventured out for a stroll to get our bearings. Just ten minutes up Piccadilly is Market Street, the pedestrianised shopping area.  It is very easy to walk around – there’s a free city centre hop on hop off bus too.

Market Street shops

Market Street shops

Friday night we had tickets for “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” at the Royal Exchange Theatre, the classic 1950s American play by Tennessee Williams. First, supper at Annies nearby at 5 Old Bank Street. The logo is a top hat over the capital A of Annies.  Founded by the actress Jennie McAlpine (Fizz in Coronation Street),  no wonder it has a showbiz mood.!

Jennie McAlpine and Chris Farr, owners of Annies

Jennie McAlpine and Chris Farr, owners of Annies

I warmly recommend Annies – for coffee, lunch, afternoon tea, evening meals. Upstairs is a cosy café and downstairs, restaurant and lounge bar where we sat in comfy armchairs for a cocktail as we studied the menu.

Homely British pub-grub at Annies

Homely pub-grub at Annies

The cuisine is traditional British hearty food. Soup, Prawn Cocktail, Lancashire Rarebit, Sirloin Steak. I selected Fish and Chips with mushy peas – delicious, lightly fried fish and fantastic hand cut chips. June had Annie’s Hotpot, chunky lamb and vegetables followed by Sticky Toffee Pudding.  We sipped a couple of glasses of House white wine.

Casual ambience, good soundtrack (Michael Buble, Jazz, Blues) and friendly service. And well done, the Ladies Loos have small towel flannels, (not a blast of hot air!). Live Music on Friday nights, Cocktail deals and seasonal menus.

The Royal Exchange theatre is like a glass and steel Spaceship inside the historic Great Hall. We had excellent seats near the front of the stage for a perfect, close up performance. (See review on separate page of Smart Leisure Guide).

Royal Exchange theatre

Royal Exchange theatre

Saturday, 9.30am – Hotel Breakfast. We were to be out all day so needed extra fuel to keep us going. Buffet for juices, fruit, cereals and hot dishes. Alternatively, your choice of eggs and omelettes, freshly made to order.

Time to hit the shops: Christmas markets near City Hall – arts, crafts, toys, candles, woolly hats, Festive Hog roast, mulled wine.



Manchester is fashion shopping heaven from Primark and H&M to Selfridges, Harvey Nichols, Armani and Vivienne Westwood and all very near each other and if it’s a cold wet day, go inside the Arndale Centre with dozens of stores under one roof.

From Market Street, it was just a short walk to Spa Satori, the Holistic Health & Beauty Retreat. (112 High St).  Our therapists, Devon and Maria took us to a warm, candlelit room with two beds for our treatment.

Massage and Facial at Spa Satori

Massage and Facial at Spa Satori

We experienced a relaxing and rejuvenating 90 minute Massage and Facial each with silky Eminence Organic oils and lotions. Perfect pampering!.

From the Spa, it was then off to Bill’s (8-12 John Dalton Street) for a late lunch. You may have come across another branch of Bill’s café-bar-bistro-delis across the UK, which have the tag line, “Serving delicious food from breakfast to bedtime”.  Industrial design with funky, vintage decor sets the scene.

Bill's Cafe Bistro Deli.

Bill’s Cafe Bistro Deli.

The menu is mouthwatering, a fusion of Mexican, Greek, American and British. We had two fantastic dishes, Mac ‘n Cheese with butternut squash, and Smoked haddock fish cakes with avocado salsa and chunky chips. This is seriously fresh, healthy and global home cooking with pizzazz.   Please open a Bill’s Bistro in Edinburgh!

Later on after more shopping, back to the hotel for a breather and then glammed up with lippy and posh LBDs.  Next port of call was Cloud 23, the ultra cool Cocktail bar at the Hilton Deansgate on the 23rd floor of Beetham Tower.

Cloud 23 - sky high cocktails

Cloud 23 – sky high cocktails

Reservations are recommended – often essential at night – as this is a sassy, stylish place for a drink with a skyscraper view.  Very romantic for a couple – or reserve a corner lounge area for a small party of friends.

Signature Cocktails feature five iconic drinks to celebrate historic people and places of Manchester. The Stratospheric blends Tanqueray 10 with passion fruit and Champagne for a sparkling celebration of the Hotel’s Tower. Gold Phantom (Cognac, Honey, Pineapple) commemorates Henry Royce and his famous motor car.

Night view from our window seats

Night view from our window seats

Described as a Forgotten Classic, June sampled the 1930s Cosmopolitan – the original version of the Vodka and cranberry cocktail made famous by Carrie Bradshaw on the girls’ night out around Manhattan.

Cosmopolitan - Carrie's cocktail

Cosmopolitan – Carrie’s cocktail

At Cloud 23, this is a pretty pink Gin with Raspberry Cosmo and tastes divine.   Non-alcoholic drinks too such as the refreshing Cloud 23 Lemonade. The Bar-tender will make anything you fancy, such as my fresh, tangy Marguerita, (Tequila with fresh lime) and a Dirty Martini, straight up with a twist – which hit the spot.

A cab back to the Doubletree by Hilton hotel for dinner at the City Cafe. First a glass of bubbly in the gorgeous little Blue Bar which is a hidden gem. Gorgeous black and white portraits,  soft sultry lighting, it has a touch of class.

Ice cold Champagne in the Blue Bar

Ice cold Champagne in the Blue Bar

After our aperitif we were taken next door to the Restaurant and seated at a window table. The Terrace outside here is popular on warm days for alfresco wining and dining.

The A la Carte menu is small but select.  We shared a platter of bread and olives as a starter. For my main course I loved the seafood pasta – thick pappardelle ribbons with a mountain of prawns, squid and mussels. Across the table, my sister had an imaginative Chicken and chorizo Risotto. And to finish – Cheese and crackers and Pear Tart.

After our buzzing day of retail therapy, beauty treatments, cocktails, good food and wine, we were ready for bed before the bewitching hour.

Sunday morning, after a Continental breakfast (coffee and croissants), it was soon time to pack, check out and make our way back to the station for our train journeys home – north to Edinburgh and south to London.

Tried and tested on this trip, Manchester is a fun, friendly, Cosmopolitan city for the ideal short break. With traffic-free shopping areas, theatres, arts festivals, buzzing bistros and style bars, it has a lively European Café society style; with sleek trams trundling around street corners, we felt we were in Amsterdam.!

Wishing you a marvellous, magical time in Manchester ….wherever you may wander.

City signposts to help tourists explore the city

Street signposts help tourists explore the city

Quick Facts – Manchester Piccadilly – Colourful city guide – Bills Restaurant. at Hilton Deansgate, Manchester

Innovation, Style and Pampering Perfection at Sanctorium Beauty, Princes Street Suites, Edinburgh.

The Sanctuary at the Suites – Princes Street Suites, 16 Waterloo Place, Edinburgh EH1 3EG t. 0131 557 1766.  t. 0131 558 1600

sanctuary 2
The Sanctorium is a hidden gem of a Spa, downstairs at the Princes Street Suites, the deluxe, designer serviced apartments in Edinburgh.

Princes Street Suites,  Edinburgh

Princes Street Suites,

Located at the East End of Princes Street, (conveniently just a few minutes walk from Waverley Railway station and also the new Tram route), this is certainly a perfect place to stay if planning a cultural or business trip, romantic getaway or weekend with the girls. The range of one to three bedroom apartments offer a home from home environment.

Designer chic suites

Designer chic suites

The Roof Terrace is a real asset – a private Penthouse Garden with tables and chairs where guests may sit with a bottle of wine and snacks at from lunchtime to cocktail hour and admire the city views.

Roof Terrace - a private garden for guests

Roof Terrace – a private garden for guests

Due to the quality, contemporary furnishings, décor and guest facilities, it won Serviced Apartments, Style Award, at the Scottish Hotel Awards 2014.  But you don’t have to spend the night or two here to enjoy a range of beautifying treatments at the Sanctuary Spa – it’s open to all.

As I live in Edinburgh, I spent an afternoon here recently to experience a couple of signature rejuvenating treats for the body and face.
The Spa is small and intimate offering a bespoke personal service. The moment you step through the door, the hustle and bustle of the city centre disappears as you enter a tranquil haven with an Art Deco touch of glamour. Sitting in the smart reception to fill in the questionnaire, I sipped a glass of champagne and began to relax immediately.

Sanctuary Spa - a tranquil haven

Sanctuary Spa – a tranquil haven

Then I was taken to one of the two warm, comfortable Spa Salons for my treatments. The heated bed was luxurious and I settled down ….

The Spa menu covers all the usual suspects for body, face, eye and hand and feet beauty care, from Swedish and hot stone massage to Shellac nails, eyebrow grooming to Facials.

What is special here is the fine selection of unique cosmetic brand products from Tibby Oliver and Eve Taylor to offer a different experience from other Spas.  The Tibby Olivier Empire founded by Julieann Parry, has grown from a small British company to open in Canada, America, Japan, Spain, Korea, Russia and Australia. The pure organic cosmetics are handmade in the UK, free from synthetic fragrances, artificial colours and not tested on Animals.

“I would not ask anyone to use a cosmetic product that I would not put on my own skin. I only use the best cosmetic ingredients that I can trace back to its origins, Eco friendly and preferably Fairtrade.” Julieann Parry

The Tibby Oliver range of treatments includes Faith Lift, the Non- Surgical Face Lifting Skincare System, and the Shrinking Violet Body Wrap. So, as I need to be beach bikini slim for the summer, I though I should try this “revolutionary” inch loss programme.

Wearing no more than a pair of disposable pants, my therapist Ashleigh measured my thighs, hips, waist and bust for the Before and After comparison. Then she rubbed a blend of cellulite-active oils over my entire body, before wrapping me in heat inducing “cellophane” style sheeting.

I then just had to lie on the bed to relax under a cosy duvet, while the oils penetrated the skin with fat-busting energy. The soft ethnic mix of music soundtrack was ideal. (Some Spas get it so wrong with orchestral muzak). After 20 minutes or so, still wrapped snugly, Ashleigh began to prepare for my second treatment – an Eve Taylor Ultimate Facial.

Eve Taylor (London) Ltd was founded in London in 1963, and today the world renowned company exports over 60% of its products worldwide. Eve Taylor started her career in the beauty industry as a beauty therapist and quickly became fascinated by Aromatherapy. After extensive research and study, she decided to develop her own range of pre-blended aromatherapy oils along with specific treatment methods and techniques.

My facial was certainly very distinctive in its “journey” from deep cleansing exfoliation to a gentle facial massage – the aromatherapy oils were lavender, ylang ylang and geranium. Two masks were applied to penetrate the skin layers for sublime softness and smooth appearance.

And finally, time to remove the Wrap and to find out if the Shrinking Violet magic had worked. Yes, in total I had lost 8 inches – simply by being rubbed with these active oils, and the heat within the skin tight wrap does the work over two hours.

As they say, “All I Need to get into My Little Black Dress Is Shrinking Violet Body Wrap”.

You are advised not to drink alcohol or caffeine over the next day as the oils continue to work under the skin. It’s a very popular treatment, news of which is spreading widely.

Pampering Parties in one of the Suites

Pampering Parties in one of the Suites

Pampering Parties for a small group of Ladies is also offered by the Sanctuary – a package of selected treatments – facials, massage, manicures, and glamorous makeovers can be experienced in one of the apartment Suites.

This brilliant concept is absolutely geared up for visitors to Edinburgh – an ideal weekend destination for Hen parties, Birthday celebrations, or Fashionable Girls who shop till they drop. And of course Pampering parties are a fun Day Out for ladies who live nearby.

Your tailor-made package can also include champagne, chocolates, canapés and light lunch snacks for a super indulgent “Me Time” with friends and family.  The Pampering Parties were awarded with an Innovation Award at the Scottish Hotel Awards 2014.

As I have not personally experienced this day of beauty and bubbly, I shall leave it to these guests who have recently visited the Sanctuary at the Suites – and by all accounts, had a seriously wonderful time. !

Pamper Party perfection

I was arranging a hen party to Edinburgh for 10 girls and decided that a spa day would be a perfect way to end our trip. At Princes Street Suites, we started with drinks on the roof terrace which has amazing views of Edinburgh. We then moved into the suite and given robes and slippers. I had a back, neck and shoulder massage followed by an ultimate facial. All the girls agreed we had never felt so relaxed. The champagne did not stop flowing. All of the beauty therapists were lovely and friendly. They really did a fantastic job. The experience really was one of the highlights of our trip. I am already thinking about taking my mum to Edinburgh and we will without a doubt be visiting the Sanctuary at the Suites again.”


“I booked a full body massage and shellac pedicure for myself and my mum (a birthday pressie for her) the massage was amazing and my toes look fab. Afterwards we sat out on the Roof Terrace and it was great. We are looking to go back and I would definitely recommend this place”
“What a lovely relaxing morning a friend and I had at the Sanctuary! The staff were all lovely, we got fizz and chocolates on arrival and the massage itself was amazing. I have had a few massages over the years and this one has to be one of the best I have ever had. I look forward to going back!”


“A Change in Fashion” by Susan Gale: a stunning debut novel set in Yorkshire and Paris

A Change in Fashion - the front cover captures it all

A Change in Fashion –
the front cover captures it all

“A Change of Fashion” is Susan Gale’s first novel and it’s a stunning debut.  This is a heartfelt dramatic story spanning a decade, shifting from winter in England to the sun-drenched Cote d’Azur with well defined characters and evocative settings.

Susan Gale was born in Yorkshire and spent her teenage years in a small market-town at the foot of the Moors. She studied French at University and during the 1960s, experienced a year living and working in France, teaching English.

Those youthful memories of a new, carefree life in Paris must have lingered in the mind.  “A Change of Fashion” is not exactly autobiographical, but her travel adventures matched with an interest in design from Biba to Chanel, her passion for fashion is now all perfect material for this fictional tale.

Susan Gale in LBD - a lover of fashion

Susan Gale in LBD
– a lover of fashion

As she explains, “I store up pictures in my head which I draw on whenever I need to describe a place or create an atmosphere.”

They say do not judge a book by its cover. But the simple yet effective black and white image of the iconic Eiffel Tower with the silhouette of a young girl in mini skirt, heels and bobbed hair, represents the novel’s place and period perfectly.

Within a few pages, I was drawn into Holly Barton’s life and times. It’s Paris, 1967.  The atmosphere is captured in precise detail, clothes, food, people,  the apartment, as are the feelings of this rather naïve young girl – sheer excitement as well as nervous trepidation at the challenges ahead of her,  both professional and personal.

The mousse of asparagus soufflé was delicious, the sole in tarragon and lemon sauce exquisite and the Chateaubriand rich and succulent. White wines from the Loire gave way to deep red Bordeaux…. Throughout the meal she was constantly aware of the eyes opposite her, disconcerting, dancing with amusement at her obvious unease. ..”

The narrative is brilliantly cinematic, in fact expressed through all the senses, as the reader is taken on an emotional, time travel trip. Neatly placed flashbacks take us to rural Yorkshire in the early sixties to Holly’s family home.

December is one of the darkest periods of her life. During the short hours of daylight the skies periodically blacken to release yet another blinding snowstorm upon the moors. Vast sweeps of white level the landscape …deep drifts block the lane from Black Ridge Farm into the town”.

Then as soon as we are comfortably settled around the Yorkshire moors, we fast forward six years to a front row seat at a Saint-Laurent fashion show:   

Holly could see Diana Vreeland chief editor of Vogue, scribbling furiously in her notebook.  Jewel-coloured evening gowns in richly embroidered silks and satins, velvets and brocades followed, each one would make the fortunate wearer feel like royalty.”

Susan Gale must have done extraordinary amount of research to be able to convey the competitive work of the designers, models, fashion shows.  I love the authentic “real life” ambience, mentioning Chanel, Dior, Gucci, St. Laurent, et al. The graceful gowns, the cut of a coat, shimmering silk, all come clearly into vision through the words only without a single photograph required.

As well as the backdrop of Parisian’s elite society, another essential part of the plot covers feminism, women’s emancipation for equality and the fight for change in moral attitudes.

For those who love “The Devil Wears Prada”, are fascinated by fashion, past and present, and enjoy a page-turning dramatic love story, this novel is a must read.

Reminiscent of the classic tale of “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier, this has a similar plot where a young, innocent girl has her life turned upside down following a brief encounter, within a rich plot of dark memories and a secret family mystery.

Gale wisely steers clear of “Fifty Shades of Grey” erotic encounters – instead, sexual feelings and quiet moments of intimacy are illustrated with gentle simplicity – to entice your own imagination.    

The time seemed too precious to lie by the pool or on the beach at Cannes. Often they set off to explore the surrounding countryside, driving up tortuous Alpine roads past orchards of peach trees, vineyards and olive groves. .. they ate outdoors in little restaurants where the midday sun shining through the vine leaves overhead dappled their clasped hands on the table-cloth. …..”

Following Holly’s painful, passionate journey from wild windswept Bronte country to the glamorous hot spots of Paris and Monte Carlo, the contrasting locations and enchanting romantic tale would surely make a magical film. 

And if you want another opinion, I agree so much with this reader’s verdict.

“ I read this book in only three days – finding it difficult to put it down once I had started.  It is written so well you just fall into the world (of fashion), the backgrounds of Yorkshire and Paris, and the lifestyle of the decade.  And of course the love story.  I can definitely recommend it.”

Publisher – Susan Gale Publishing in conjunction with WRITERSWORLD 

ISBN 978-0-9576584-0-0.

Available from all good bookshops and on Amazon. 

Susan Gale

Susan Gale