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Scotland’s seafaring life captured in evocative, expressionist artwork by John Bellany @ The Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh

During May 2020 the Open Eye Gallery is showing an enchanting retrospective to reflect John Bellany’s celebration of Scotland in his art through his enduring passion to explore life and work on the edge of the sea.

This environment was engrained into his blood having been born into a family of fishermen and boat builders in Port Seton, East Lothian.

Guide Me

It was through his childhood observation of this close-knit, deeply religious community where he found his artistic voice.

Eyemouth was where he began to draw boats as a young boy and as he later recalled.. ”the hustle and bustle of activity, that was the core of my life. I still think it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world. ”

Eyemouth Harbour

He returned here again and again – such as to sketch this scene of a huddle of fishing boats, as a student at Edinburgh College of Art.

Overlooking Eyemouth harbour is the 18th century Gunsgreen House built by a local Tea smuggler John Nisbet. His grandmother was born here and Bellany was guest of honour in 2010 when Gunsgreen opened as a museum, where a few of his local maritime paintings are given pride of place.

Gunsgreen House

Boats, fish and seabirds dominate his art, boldly illustrated in a dramatic expressionist, surreal style.

While at first glance By the Sea is a simple, colourful composition of yachts on the river, a large seagull beside a a flush cheeked woman in a headscarf, study the symbolic detail: a crucifix around her neck, a church and a boat yard on the shore. This encapsulates the hard working outdoor lives of those who worked in these fishing ports.

By the Sea

As a boy John helped with gutting fish and smoking finnan haddock, images of which which lingered in his mind.  Here in Sea Offering  the fishhead, skinned fishbones beside a skeletal figure holding a sandglass timer – an alternative grim reaper.

Sea Offering

By mythologising the fishermen’s world in his art, the subject of mortality is a recurring theme to reflect the Calvinist fear of death and the uncertain safe return after going out to sea.

Women are also a vivacious vital element in his paintings described as fisherlass, virgin, bride, seawife, maiden or diva – a constant muse.

Listening to the Sea

In Listening to the Sea this glamorous lady is dressed in black evening gloves, cigarette between her lips, listens to the waves in her conch shell. Her gaze is sensual and seductive – is she listening to the call of her lover.?

A close study of Sea Maiden reveals that her head is wrapped with an oily blue-scaled fish with its gleaming eye and tail, to complement her long red pig-tailed hair.  Sensual, soulful eyes are such an iconic characteristic of all Bellany’s serene portraits of beguiling women.

Sea Maiden

And here’s a joyous, rich red Amaryllis to brighten our days at home – through the window, a charming tranquil scene of a fishing port.


As an art student he visited a local bar patronised by Hugh MacDiarmid who advised him that in order to be true to others he must first be true to yourself.  Impressed that MacDiarmid wrote in Scots,”  Bellany knew how to be distinctive: ‘I’m going to paint in Scots.’

This is an evocative retrospective to showcase John Bellany’s mesmerising, mythical vision of Scottish seafaring life, culture and heritage. The son of a fisherman, a child of the sea, his art is true to that inheritance which inspires and enriches the imagination.

As an avid admirer of his captivating portraits and seascapes, I am fortunate to view a couple of Bellany’s wonderful, wild women of the sea, everyday at home.

Open Eye Gallery

John Bellany  –  May 2020

Woman of the Sea – a beguiling Bellany portrait in my own home gallery


Au Bord de la Mer – a serene seashore scene of a woman with a lobster

A Wild, Winter Voyage around the Hebrides is captured in wind-blown, salt-sprayed seascapes by Ross Ryan: “Batten down the Hatches” at the Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh.

Shipping Map from The Logbook, (Vol 2) by Ross Ryan

Shannon, Fastnet, Rockall, Malin, Bailey, Fairisle. …: the solemn, somnolent reading of the Shipping Forecast broadcast each night on BBC Radio 4, may sound like a poetic lullaby if safely at home, but an essential warning of impending gales for seafaring folk.

The map of the Shipping Forecast is the starting point of Ross Ryan’s The Logbook (Vol 2) which charts his recent intrepid expedition on board MV Sgarbh, a vintage, 40-foot, wooden fishing boat.

As both an artist and yachtmaster, in 2017 Ryan set off from Crinan on a solo painting trip, the result of which was an exhibition, “The Logbook, A Solo Winter Voyage”  at the Scottish Gallery in May 2018.

Inspired by this challenging experience, Ryan set off again on MV Sgarbh to explore Mull, Barra, Tiree, Islay and Jura over the recent winter season on his travelling Studio to compile an exhilarating range of work entitled “Batten down the Hatches.”

“This new collection of paintings is from two years of chasing gales, sailing to offshore lighthouses and discovering the people and their islands. As the world has also temporarily battened down the hatches, I hope this exhibition is a reminder of the beautiful seascapes of the West Coast that await for us”. Ross Ryan, 2020

For over 150 years, Robert Stevenson, his sons and grandsons, built the lighthouses around Scotland’s coastline from Bell Rock to Vaternish.  Designed by Thomas Stevenson, Dubh Artach Lighthouse (completed 1872), stands on a basalt rock 18 miles west of Colonsay and 15 miles South West of Iona.

From The Logbook (Vol 2 ), Ross Ryan

“With the swell rolling us excessively, anchoring was out the question, as was making a landing.   Soon it became apparent the only way to keep her steady was to steam slowly into the swell.  The painting got a drenching as we passed through the Corryvrekan whirlpool. What was lost in paint was gained in an authenticating layer of salt. “

Dubh Artach Lighthouse, 50 lonely miles from Crinan

This misty, murky image – oil and pastel on board – perfectly illustrates the remote location of this majestic monument  rising from the rough, rolling Atlantic.   The shimmering clouds and frothing waves is most atmospheric and certainly authentic: you can almost feel the chilling, salt-sea spray engrained in the oil paint.

Stevenson Light, Dubh Artach

Dubh Artach translates as black rock, or indeed, black death due to the numerous ships wrecked on the fearsome Torran Reef.  Robert Louis Stevenson wrote about a memorable boat trip to see his father’s great construction which saved so many souls.

A certain black rock stood environed by the Atlantic rollers, the outpost of the Torran reefs. Here was a tower, star lighted for the conduct of seamen. No other life was there but that of seabirds and of the sea itself …that .. growled … roared and spouted on the rock.  “Memories of an Islet” RLS (1887)

A poetic description of the same scene recently observed by Ross Ryan for this semi- abstract sketch, First Flash, Dubh Artach: a dot of a star clearly shines on the horizon with a peachy glow of a dying sun below a threatening sky.   With crafted layers and shades of pastel on paper, this is a stunning composition.

First Flash, Dubh Artach Lighthouse

Scotland’s tallest lighthouse is Skerryvore, (Alan Stevenson,1844) on a treacherous reef of rocks, 11 miles from Tiree.

Stevenson Light, Skerryvore

The bold, brash brushstrokes sweep a swirl of billowing cloud over the choppy sea, a place blessed with a mild sunny climate but strong gales, perfect for windsurfing.

Hurricane Force, Tiree

This has an exquisite Turner-esque quality focusing on the same maritime motif – the wave. Here is the visible power of churning, crashing waves in luminous detail.

While the pioneering Impressionist artists painted “en plein air” to embrace the landscape up close and personal, Ross Ryan immerses himself even more in the heart of the action.  The idyllic wee island of Vatersay is the most southerly in the Outer Hebrides, renowned for its sublime beaches and unspoilt natural habitat.  Braving the weather, the simple black splashes of rain clouds are so realistic.

Large Seas, Traigh Varlish, Vatersay

From The Logbook (Vol 2) Ross Ryan

“During the winter I painted from the shore, recording the sea in all her anger. Here is a force that could move a beach overnight and flick rocks like unwanted peas.”

On the North East coastline, Joan Eardley was also mesmerised by the vast sea and sky, setting up her easel on the beach at Catterline to express the energy and beauty of a ferocious storm.

Joan Eardley on Catterline beach

On this voyage, Ryan followed in the wake of the Scottish Colourists to the island of Iona.  Cadell first visited Iona in 1912 and then together with Peploe, this became their annual summer pilgrimage.

With a warm colour palette, these scenes portray the pure white sand, lapping waves and soft light of this timeless spiritual place.

Departing Light, North End, Iona

There is the distinctive classic artistic style of the Colourists here in The Sound of Iona, with sculptured shapes and tonal light in a precise pattern.

Sound of Iona from the Gordon’s

Islay, “Queen of the Hebrides,” is renowned for its distinctive smoky-peat whisky and Lagavulin Distillery is located on the edge of a bay in the south of the island.  An imaginative flurry of haphazard scratch marks denote the cloud-spattered sky on this grey day.

Sgarbh ghosting by Lagavulin

Time for a dram. Lagavulin 16 year old malt is described as ‘Lapsang Souchong tea, pipe tobacco, fishboxes, kippers and hint of kelp but always sweet’.

Sending a “Message in a Bottle”  is an ancient tradition. Ryan’s own project has taken him on a magical mystery tour to Tiree and Coll to paint the spot where his bottles washed ashore and meet the treasure hunters.

The scene where his bottle was found by Andrew

With delicate detail and fine perspective, the calm tranquility of Red Rock Beach.

Andrew’s Bottle, Red Rock Beach, Coll

By enduring the harshest of environments, Ross Ryan’s collection of artwork, photographs and Logbook creates such a vividly illustrated narrative of his seafaring adventures.

“Batten down the Hatches” is a most timely subject – 2020 is the “Year of Coasts & Waters” by Visit Scotland.  Take a virtual island-hopping voyage around the Hebrides at the Scottish Gallery and be inspired.

The Scottish Gallery

Batten down the Hatches’ – 29 April to 30 May, 2020

View the exhibition on line:

For further information on images, film footage, Ross Ryan’s travel blog and Logbook Catalogue, please contact the gallery by email:

While the gallery is closed, a selected painting from this exhibition is placed on an easel, changed by request, to view through the window.

The May exhibition also includes “My Border Landscapes” by Sir William Gillies and a tribute to the jewellery maker, Wendy Ramshaw.

Advancing squall, Iona, (oil and pastel on paper)

“Water of Life”: a modernist, majestic, painterly view of Scotchland by Euan McGregor at the Doubtfire Gallery, Edinburgh

Doubtfire Gallery, Edinburgh, which is celebrating its 10th anniversary, will soon have a new addresss in Stockbridge.  Until the gallery can open to the public, their Spring exhibition, Water of Life by Euan McGregor, PAI, has now been unveiled and available to view on line.

Euan McGregor graduated with a BA (Hons) degree in Printmaking at Glasgow School of Art in 1998. Awarded the Royal Glasgow Institute Travelling Scholarship he spent six months exploring and painting in Catalonia.  Specialising now in landscape painting and mixed media work, he lives in West Kilbride on the Ayrshire coast.

Scotch Whisky distilleries often featuring an image of a moorland grouse or Highland stag on their bottles to reflect our natural wilderness, the origin of uisge beatha, Water of Life.

“The proper drinking of Scotch whisky is more than indulgence: it is a toast to civilization, a tribute to the continuity of culture to use the resources of nature to refresh mind and body.” – David Daiches, author of “Scotch Whisky: its past and present”

Inspired by the malt whisky industry, Euan McGregor has toured Scotland, from Islay to Orkney, Moray to Wick, to visit a diverse range of Distilleries to capture their landscape setting from coastline to countryside.

I love the fact that these industrial-sized buildings often inhabit the wildest of places, so there’s a contradiction of sorts, but they work well together, especially as the product is so synonymous with its geography.” Euan McGregor

The whisky map has six regions which are absolutely key to the characteristic aroma, taste and style of Scotch – Highland, Speyside, Campbeltown, Lowland, Islands, Islay.

Islay whisky is especially distinctive due to the earthy peat used to dry the malt which creates a smooth smoky flavour. Bowmore is a quaint, quiet town on Loch Indaal, Islay, with its renowned Distillery founded in 1779 beside the harbour.

Euan McGregor is fascinated by the historic signage which guided the puffer cargo boats safely to port – “They are like proud beacons giving clarity to ships and tourists alike”.

Bowmore Day

This is a striking composition, (acrylic on board), with the giant letters highlighted in black on the white washed walls.  The tall chimney stretching up to the blue sky is like a lighthouse to warn skippers and sailors of the rocky seashore.

McGregor has skilfully ‘sketched’ the architectural structure of the huddled group of buildings beside the beach and lapping waves. While apparently simple, there’s such a tangible atmosphere, you can almost catch a whiff of the salt sea air.

A couple of years ago, I boarded a 12 passenger boat for a voyage to the Southern Hebrides for an island hopping adventure.  Islay, the ‘Queen of the Hebrides’  has eight whisky distilleries with the annual Feis Ile, Festival of Music and Malt, attracting over 3,000 international whisky loving visitors.

Bowmore was certainly a stunning sight as the Glen Etive sailed across Loch Indall.

Approaching Bowmore by boat

Oloroso sherry casks provide a fruity sweetness during the maturing process:  Bowmore 12 year old is described as a blend of vanilla, bergamot, perfumed smoke, sea spray and lemon zest, while the Black Rock Malt has the rich flavour of toasted fudge, cinnamon and marmalade.

Next stop is Caol Ila distillery (1846) at Port Askaig with views across the Caol Ila (Sound of Islay) to the island of Jura.

Caol Ila

Again a strong illustration emphasising the quiet location on the seashore: sharply geometric in design – white warehouse, a blue block of sea shimmering in the sunlight and the square flatness of the cliff behind.

A tasting note for Caol Ila: “ … heather and coffee notes as well as hint of brine on the nose like smoked fish or cockles in butter”.

On the south coast of the island is Lagavulin which officially dates from 1816, although records show illicit distillation here since 1742.  Moving away from a realistic representation, Lagavulin Detached is a cool, crafted fragmented illustration, extracting the oblong, oval and triangles of chimney, stillhouse, hill, sea, sky, like pieces of a jigsaw.

Lagavulin Detached

Akin to printmaking, this has an abstract, layered effect of space, shape and texture, interlocked with a delicate palette.  

“The buildings themselves are industrial cathedrals with specific shapes integral to the whisky-making process.”  Euan McGregor

And if you fancy a dram of Lagavulin 16 year old, expect a blend of figs, sherry, peat smoke, Lapsang Souchong with a long spicy finish.

On the island of Orkney, Scapa distillery (1884) stands beside a natural harbour, Scapa Flow (Old Norse for ‘bay of the long isthmus’).  Scapa Clouds is a finely balanced composition, with such subtle shades of blues, green, grey, brown, placing the Distillery within the environment and weather under a threatening sky.

Scapa Clouds

A modern image of a majestic monument linking the past to present day with restful stillness.  Scapa Skiren malt whisky offers a blend of “honey, fresh cream, apple, anise, crushed nuts, juicy pear and lemon peel.”

Travel on to Caithness to visit the Old Pulteney distillery, Wick in the north east corner of Scotland.  Like Edward Hopper’s American landscapes, the focus here is on solitary buildings, closed doors and an empty road devoid of people and daily working life.

Old Pulteney, Wick

With such precision of angles and purity of colour, this tranquil scene has a filmic quality with sharp shafts of light and shadow.

The Speyside region stretches along the River Spey in Moray, Badenoch and Strathspey.  Glenlivet was founded in 1824, operating almost continuously since then to become the highest selling single malt whisky in the United States and the second largest selling brand globally.


This semi-abstract illustration has a stark winter mood with its ice-cold, blueish-white sheen.  The minimalist architectural design is like a surreal sculpture amidst the surrounding dramatic environment.  Glenlivet 12 year old offers a smooth texture and sweet flavour of vanilla custard, honey, banana, pineapple, apples and a little cinnamon.

Visit a few more distilleries too around this captivating exhibition, as well as land and seascapes from Gardenstown to St. Abbs with masterly perspective.

Reminiscent of those vintage pre-war British Rail posters to entice people to take a trip to cities and seaside, McGregor has a modernist painterly, aesthetic style: poignant, romantic, scenic views are graphically distilled to create a timeless sense of place.

This is about heritage and the haunting legacy of the craftsmanship by the masters of malt over the centuries.  Pour a glass of your favourite dram to sip slowly as you savour an evocative journey around Scotchland from rural glen to the edge of the sea.

Doubtfire Gallery 

“Water of Life” by Euan McGregor – 4th April to 6th June 2020

View on line:


tel. 07902 307147

New Address – opening soon

Doubtfire Gallery and Frame Creative Design studio

28 North West Circus Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6TP

St. Abbs



Viewpoints: Languid, luminous, lush landscapes of Scotland, Wales and Cornwall at the&Gallery, Edinburgh

As the British Isles unite together during this global crisis, the& Gallery, Edinburgh has brought together three artists from Scotland, Wales and England, who complement each other with vivid expressions of their personal sense of place.

Along with Brittany, Isle of Man and Ireland, these home nations share the ancient traditions of Celtic culture, heritage and language.  As abstract landscape painters, Anna Somerville, Elfyn Lewis and David Mankin celebrate the natural outdoor world around them with inspirational vision.

Anna Somerville graduated from the Edinburgh College of Art in 2000, winning the Elizabeth Blackadder & John Houston Travel Award, which set her off on a very successful career. At her studio at Summerhall, Edinburgh, she works in mixed media – spray paint, ink, graphite, oil pastel – on paper, linen or canvas, and you can see, at a glance, the layering technique of colour with mesmerising effect.

Aqua Coast Scape, Anna Somerville

Anna is constantly drawn to the seashore, such as Aqua Coast Scape, focussing on the distant horizon, the expanse of water beneath a cloudy sky, a slither of a sand dune and rocks. The streaking lines and layers blend various hues of colour together to create a marvellous mishmash of turquoise, emerald, orange, coral, pink, plum and damson.

With a bold use of colour and brash brushstrokes, there are occasional drips of paint adding texture and atmosphere, depicting perhaps, an approaching rainstorm. She describes her approach as instinctual, drawing from emotions rather than exploring any particular theme or narrative.

Wiinter Sunset, Anna Somerville

Around the gallery, there are also gloriously bright visions from dawn to dusk capturing the swiftly changing light as the sun slowly rises or quietly fades away.

Anna Somerville takes you on a journey to view tranquil scenes of mountains, meadows and lakes where you feel that you are there, in the open air, feeling the breeze with a scent of salty sea.

Teal Beach Scape, Anna Somerville

Elfyn Lewis grew up in Porthmadog, North Wales and now works in Cardiff,  winning  numerous awards including being named prestigious Welsh Artist of the Year 2010.

He likes to experiment and challenge his approach and technique. “Surfaces are layered with paint that overflows, dripping… until the upper layer explodes and transforms from a volcanic creation into a vivid landscape.”

Amdiffyn, Elfyn Lewis

Working with acrylic on board or canvas, these are certainly bold expressions of colour and light to portray a sense of place with fractured, fragmented structure: Amdiffyn, with its broad brush stroke streaks, is akin to viewing fabric fibres through a microscope.

This is such inventive crafted artwork, deconstructing the vision of a place down to its elements of materials and fluidity, such as Llangar with its swirling movement and shimmering light.

Llangar, Elfyn Lewis

There is a dazzling use of colour here, smoothed and pared down to present a surreal image. Arwain, for instance, is reminiscent of a glowing sunset above a dark indigo sea, yet viewed through a partially obscured frosty window.

Arwain, Elfyn Lewis

More realistic views too such as a diptych, Syrthio Mewn Cariad, which appears to be a craggy mountain as seen in the whiteout of winter and also in the green days of summer.

David Mankin lives in the far west corner of Cornwall where daily walks along the coast inspires his almost pure abstract land and seascapes.  The natural world presents an ever-changing palette, tone and texture when expressing the sea-tide, clouds, sand, rocks, grass.

Sea-distant Afternoon, David Mankin

Sea-Distant Afternoon is such an evocative dreamlike image – you can imagine a warm summer day at the beach, the glare of the sun, sandcastles, the lapping of waves on the shore.

Several other cool and composed seascapes with soft subtle shades of azur, buttermilk and ochre.  David is like a geologist in his manner of presenting the lines, space and shape of the coastal terrain.  He describes his work as “ an energetic process of destruction and excavation, which mirrors the acts of nature on the landscape.  I explore surface, colour, texture to form images which express my experiences in the Cornish landscape.”

Timeless Land, David Mankin

Like a patchwork quilt, Timeless Land reflects farm field, woodland and cloudy sky in geometric blocks, with a series of what could be tractor marks, animal tracks and foot prints, the remnants of life and nature.  The purity of cool colour and precise shapes creates a serene scene where sea meets the land in Invisible Shores.

Invisible Shores, David Mankin

This is just a quick whizz around the current Viewpoints exhibition at The & Gallery – so do take a longer browse around all these coolly composed, luminous, languid landscapes. This artwork will brighten your day …and would bring a splash of colour and quiet reflection to your home.

Home is where the Art is.

Viewpoints is on show at The& Gallery until 15 April, 2020

See the exhibition on line at the Virtual Gallery  – artwork images

Syrthio Mewn Cariad, (Diptych), Elfyn Lewis


ART FAIR: an eclectic showcase of paintings, photographs and sculpture at the Dundas Street Gallery, Edinburgh

Art Fair @ Dundas Street Gallery – The Robertson Collection

Since the mid 1970s, Malcolm and Lindsay Robertson, two of Scotland’s leading internationally renowned artists, specialising in Sculpture and Photography, have been collecting the work of their contemporaries.

Well presented around the spacious Dundas Street Gallery is their selection of paintings by many Scottish artists including John Lowrie Morrison, Pam Carter, Peter Howson, George Birrell, Ian McWhinnie, the Spanish Surrealist, Salvador Dali with photographs by John Sexton and Ansel Adams.

The vibrantly colourful landscapes by Jolomo (John Lowrie Morrison, OBE), are recognised, and purchased by art lovers worldwide, with visitors often taking one of his iconic scenes of a white washed croft or loch view back home.  Among those buyers are Sting, Madonna, Simon Le Bon, Sophia Loren and Rick Stein.

Vibrant landscapes of the Highlands and Islands by Jolomo and Pam Carter

Here there are expressionist paintings capturing remote places around the Highlands such as charming village of Tayvallich, Argyll (where he lives), Ben More, the pyramid shaped mountain near Crianlarich, and Grogport, a tiny Hamlet on the Kintyre coast overlooking the Isle of Arran.

Captivated by the natural beauty of the Scottish islands, Pam Carter takes you on a magical journey to her favourite places in Skye and Barra. In the gallery is a stunning painting, Eoligarry Bay, with its Carbibbean-styled white sand beach.  Also a fine view of Stein, a crofting township on Loch Bay, Waternish, Skye, a place to spot fabulous sunsets.

Seascapes, Barra & Skye, (Pam Carter), Flowing Wave sculpture, (Malcolm Robertson)

Between 1946 and 1958, the United States conducted 23 nuclear tests at the Micronesian atoll, Bikini. These experimental explosions on the atoll of Bikini inspired Dali to paint the Three Sphinxes of Bikini (1947). The original painting is in a Japanese museum but here you can purchase a signed print of this powerful image: a head, representing humanity, a tree for nature and mushroom cloud a symbol for destruction.

Three Sphinxes of Bikini, Salvador Dali (1947)

As well as these and other artists, the exhibition showcases the extraordinary work by the two brothers, Lindsay and Malcolm Robertson.

Lindsay Robertson has been a professional photographer since 1971, and his portfolio of black and white landscapes has been used in calendars and international advertising campaigns.  Having visited the George Eastman Museum of photography in New York, he as given the unique opportunity to bring the Ansel Adams collection to The City Arts Centre, Edinburgh in 2008. The showcase of Adams’ legendary landscapes was complemented with images by Lindsay, ‘Caledonia to California’ covering John Muir’s journey from Scotland to America.

White Rhino, Lindsay Robertson

A most innovative project is his stunning series of animal portraits, entitled Endangered.  Just as a fashion photographer will snap a model in various poses in a Studio, here is a quirky line up of majestic animals – Giraffe, White Rhino, Elephant, Horse.  Far removed from their natural wild habitat here they are seen in close up, in the shadowy light of a Studio, expressing their beauty, strength and vulnerability.

Starbucks, Zulu, Elephant – ‘Endangered’ photographic series, (Lindsay Robertson)

The starkness and scale of the background places the animals within an environment which seems surreal… thus inspiring us to study and appreciate the detail, textures and character.”  Lindsay Roberston

On a childhood family holiday to Yosemite National Park, Ansel Adams began his lifelong fascination with America’s wilderness. He is, says Robertson, arguably the most revered lanscape photographer in the world.

Yosemite National Park, (Ansel Adams)

At the Dundas Street Gallery is his B&W print, Castle Rock, Summit Road, above Saratoga.

Castle Rock, Summit Road above Saratoga, (Ansel Adams)

Malcolm Robertson studied sculpture at Glasgow School of Art and then took on a most important architectural role as Town Artist in Glenrothes, designing and producing site-specific sculpture and murals creating an artistic urban environment.

Malcolm is now based in both Scotland and Florida, receiving private and public commissions for large scale works. His Public art can be seen around the world, from Stornoway to India, such as ‘Oor Wullie’ in Dundee, and ‘Vortex’ World Rowing Championships, Sarasota.

Crescendo #1 & #2, stainless steel sculptures (Malcolm Robertson)

As part of this exhibition, there are maquette models and smaller sculptures, such as Flowing Wave, a sweeping curve in shining stainless steel and Eternal Connection, a most impressive design like a figure of eight “knot” carved in bronze.

The Robertson Collection of Fine Art is certainly eclectic and inspiring.  Take a visit to the exhibition soon.


January 30th – February 6th 2020

Opening hours 10am – 8pm (Happy hour from 5pm -6pm)

Dundas Street Gallery

6 Dundas Street, Edinburgh EH3 6HZ

The Robertson Fine Art Collection for sale at Dundas Street Gallery

More information about Malcolm and Lindsay Robertson:



Plan the perfect escape to Lough Eske Castle for real adventures, relaxation and romance

Lough Eske Castle, Donegal – a luxury Resort for leisure and relaxation.

Whether for a romantic retreat, active, outdoor adventures, gourmet getaway, relaxing Spa break or planning your Wedding, Lough Eske Castle, County Donegal is the destination for all manner of travel trips and family celebrations.

Surrounded by 43 acres of woodland, on the lakeside with the dramatic Bluestack Mountains as a stunning backdrop, this is a five star Country House hotel and Spa, voted the World’s Best Luxury Country House, (four times) and in the Top 10 of best places to stay in Ireland.  On the site of a 15th century Castle, the original turreted mansion, built in the 1850s, was recently refurbished with a 40 million Euro investment to restore, develop and create this luxury leisure Resort.

There are nearly one hundred guestrooms, from traditional luxury Suites in the mansion with 4 poster beds, clawfoot baths and fine antiques; the Tower Suite on three levels is beautifully furnished, giving fabulous views over the Lough Eske and Estate.

A taste of aristocratic tradition – luxury bathrooms at Lough Eske Castle

Modern-styled, comfortable Garden and Courtyard Rooms (within the former Stables) are dog friendly for a homely hideaway, and there’s ideal accommodation for families with children..

Garden Room – spacious accommodation for couples, families + and your dog.

Dinner in the elegant Cedars Restaurant showcases modern, gourmet Irish cuisine with superb, seasonal produce from land and sea.  This north west coastline is famous for its oysters, sample local honey and the chefs go foraging for wild, natural ingredients.

Cedars Restaurant for modern Irish cuisine with seasonal, local dishes.

For a more casual meal, a menu of hearty gastropub food is served in the Lobby Lounge.

Father Frank Browne (1880-1960) is renowned for his extraordinary collection of photographs due to an unexpected change of travel plans.  Browne, a young Irish Jesuist priest, boarded the Titanic in Southampton on 10 April 1912, settling into his first class cabin at the start of the maiden voyage to New York.

Father Browne’s First Class suite, A37, Panorama Deck, on the Titanic

But within a day or so, he received a telegram from his superiors with the message, “get off that ship” and was obliged to disembark at Cobh, Ireland.  Following the tragic sinking of the Titanic, his unique black and white images taken on board were published on front pages of newspapers around the world and preserved today as a valuable archive.  An avid traveller and prolific photographer all his life, his visionary eye through the lens is compared with Henri Cartier Bresson and Robert Doisneau.

Father Browne Bar, with collection of photographs showing life on board The Titanic

Today, a selection of his vintage images taken on board The Titanic are displayed in the Father Browne Bar. Relax here with a dram or two and raise a glass in tribute to a remarkable man who, having obeyed orders, unwittingly saved his life.

The smart, sophisticated spot for cocktails is the Gallery Bar, within what was the former Ballroom. The drinks menu is extensive with a fine list of Irish Whiskey, Bourbon, beers, wines, champagne and all favourite tipples.

Relax in the Gallery Bar for fine whiskies, beers and signature cocktails

In the former conservatory is the CARA Organic Beauty Spa, with a thermal suite with indoor and outdoor relaxation areas, infinity pool, sauna, jacuzzi and eight treatment rooms. Experience indulgent, therapeutic pampering with soothing beauty brands, espa and Anne Semonin for facials and massages.

Thermal Suite at the CARA Organic Spa, an oasis for wellness and relaxation

Lough Eske Castle is a prime destination for bespoke weddings, perfectly tailored for each couple.  International visitors, especially from North America, have enjoyed planning memorable three or four day events.  Whether a grand occasion for 280 guests in the glamorous ballroom or an intimate family party, the wedding planners will create your special celebration.

The restful, romantic natural beauty of Lough Eske & Bluestack Mountains

But let’s wind back .. first comes the Engagement and what could more romantic than a Helicopter trip and a picnic in this glorious countryside as part of a relaxing stay with fine wining and dining.

And of course (Irish) Oysters and champagne is the classic aphrodisiac.  14th February is Valentine’s Day and as 2020 is a Leap Year – ladies, you are free this year to pop the question.!

Beautiful, bespoke weddings at Lough Eske Castle in vintage style

What to see and do nearby?  Donegal is on the West Atlantic Way, the longest coastal route in the world. Visit the tallest sea cliffs in Europe at Sliabh Liag and explore Glenveagh Castle set within a National Park, nicknamed the “Coolest Places on the Planet”.

Outdoor sports galore: hiking, biking horseback riding, hill walking, fishing on the lake and golf.  Donegal Town is just ten minutes drive away, a place to browse around and shop for Artisan arts and crafts – especially Donegal tweed – to take home a slice of Irish cultural heritage.

‘The Journey not the arrival matters,’ said T. S. Eliot. The best way to travel to Lough Eske Castle is to fly into Donegal Airport, the second most scenic in the world with stunning panoramic views along the coast.

Flying into Donegal Airport, the second most scenic take-off & landing on the planet

This is the start of your cultural, culinary and romantic adventure and experience a true taste of Irish hospitality. Cead Mile Failte – 1000 welcomes – as they say.

Perhaps plan a tour around Ireland, visiting Belfast and Dublin or explore the West Atlantic Way from Country Cork to County Donegal.

Find out more and book your visit to Lough Eske Castle here:

Reviews by happy guests:

“Lough Eske was our third stop on our four castle tour of Ireland, a trip my husband and I took for our honeymoon.  Donegal Seafood Chowder, Guinness Stew, comforting, home food experience. Overall, Lough Eske was exceptional.”

 “Staff and Facilities 5*.  Spa, Sauna and Jacuzzi, amazing!”

 “We spent Christmas at Castle Eske in one of the garden suites with our two little dogs Ruby and Bella – our third visit to the Castle. All I can say is that we had the most wonderful time”.

Postcard from Lough Eske Castle and Destination Donegal, Ireland.

Seven Crofts Gin – a wild, fresh-air distillation of Highland Loch and Landscape in a bottle

In a wide bay on Loch Broom, the charming, white washed village of Ullapool in Wester Ross, was established in 1788 by the British Fishing Society with a settlement of just seven houses. It soon developed as a thriving herring port and in the 1970s, became the base for a fleet of Russian “Klondykers”, factory ships to process and transport tons of mackerel back home.

Those original seven crofts and the wild scenic beauty around Ullapool were the inspiration behind the name of a new Scottish Gin created, curated and produced by the Highland Liquor Company.  Their logo brilliantly captures, in just a quick caricature, the waves of the loch, the town and rugged hills all around.

This gin has been five years in the planning, development, testing and tasting by the owners Helen Chalmers and Robert Hicks and their spirited team.  It was a challenging period of experimentation, trial and error with no less than 96 separate combinations before they selected their final unique recipe for Seven Crofts Dry Gin.

Seven Crofts is composed, not surprisingly,of a seven key botanicals – juniper, pink peppercorns, angelica root, coriander seeds, cubeb berries, cardamom, fresh lemon peel.

A few usual suspects in the ingredients, but two distinctively different spices here. Cubeb berries are from Indonesia and so often called Java Pepper, tasting like allspice with a trace of nutmeg. In gin, cubeb gives an aromatic pepperiness with pine and floral notes.

Cardamom is native to Southeast Asia and Guatemala, one of the most expensive spices, along with vanilla and saffron, and when used as a botanical in gin, it adds a grassy, grapefruit aroma.

Ben Thompson, Head Distiller of Seven Crofts Gin, Highland Liquor Company

This handcrafted small batch Gin is produced in twin copper stills named Little Ella and Little Ruthie, where Ben Thomson in charge of the fine art of Distillation. The Botanicals and grain spirit are heated over open flames and condensed using pure Highland water to release the full fragrance, flavour and character.  Then its’s time to wait patiently, as the gin is allowed to mature slowly before bottling.

The bottle and label design by D8 in Glasgow was inspired by old traditional Genever bottles.  The glass reflects the watery shimmer and soft pine green of the loch and landscape; its tall, slender shape is attractive to look at, comfortable to hold. This elegant and timeless style has been picked for the Top 10 Spirits Artwork and Bottle Design in the World.

So let’s sample a glass of Seven Crofts Gin: first I experienced the aroma by breathing in the fresh, aromatic, earthy, woody fragrant scent on the nose.

I then added a few cubes of ice, a good splash Fevertree Tonic, a slice of orange and zest of the peel. The rich blend of botanicals is certainly complex presenting a spicy, smoky, almost salty, taste, cut through with the sweeter citrus tones of lemon peel and orange garnish.

What the experts say:

Nose: Rich, round aromatic notes of juniper, pepper with a noticeable hint of ripe plum

Taste: Opulent notes of perfumed forest fruit and a suggestion of woodland. The juniper is assertive with spicy hints of coriander and pink pepper and a long, warm finish.

Finish: A fresh, clean G&T with balanced and elegant yet distinctive flavours of juniper, pepper, orchard fruit and a poised, spicy finish.

The Perfect Serve: Serve in a straight glass with lots of ice, a good quality tonic (1 part gin to 2 parts tonic) and garnished with a slice of orange.

Seven Crofts Gin, with its aromatic fragrance, is also perfect in a range of classic Cocktails.  Who can resist a Martini?   Simple but so sophisticated.

The classy, classic Gin Martini, stirred not shaken with twist of lemon or an olive

Gin Martini

8 cl Seven Crofts Gin (ice cold)

A tbsp Extra Dry Vermouth

Stir together in a chilled Cocktail glass – the classic method.

(or alternatively add ingredients with ice in a Shaker, then strain into the glass).

Garnish with a twist of lemon peel or an olive as preferred.

It is believed that Her Majesty the Queen is partial to a Zaza, a variation of a Martini with Dubononet, the French fortified wine with herbs, spices and quinine. Its spicy, fruity taste would blend well with Seven Crofts.

Named after a 1915 silent movie based on a French play about a cabaret singer, this is one of my favourite apertifs, which hits the spot with the kick of gin given a smooth, mellow fruity flavour.

The Zaza

6cl Seven Crofts Gin

6cl Dubonnet Red

Dash of Aromatic bitters (optional)

Shake the ingredients together with ice and strain into a Martini glass and add a twist of orange.

The Zaza – the Royal Tipple

The Negroni is the ultimate Italian cocktail invented by Count Camillo Negroni at the Caffè Casoni bar in Florence in 1919. Seductively crimson red, bittersweet and perfectly refreshing. Fashionable for 100 years.


2.5 or 3 cl Seven Crofts Gin
2.5 or 3 cl Campari
2.5 or 3 cl Sweet Vermouth

Stir or shake up three ingredients with very cold ice until blended. Strain into a tumbler over a large ice block and garnish with a twist or slice of lemon or orange.

Negroni – elegantly refreshing since 1919

Although only launched in 2019, Seven Crofts has already been selected by Buyers and Bars across the world including Nauticus, Edinburgh, The Savoy, London, Michael Caine’s Lympstone Manor and sipped from New York City to Singapore

Ullapool is located on the ever popular North Coast 500 – Scotland’s equivalent to Route 66 – and offers the great escape to explore the area with its majestic scenery, cosy pubs, freshest seafood, from crate to plate, Music Festivals, fishing heritage, outdoor adventures, hill climbing, wildlife, boat and ferry trips.

What could be a better destination to experience the distinctive taste of Seven Crofts Gin, its birthplace: the essence of Highland loch and landscape encapsulated -artistically distilled –  in a green bottle.  Cheers!

The majestic setting of Ullapool on the banks of Loch Broom

BE Together at Edinburgh’s Hogmanay ’19: a welcome handshake across the seas to bring in the New Year

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Festival is on the essential bucket list as compiled by Patricia Shultz in her book, “1,000 Places to See Before You Die.”  Also selected by Discovery Channel as one of the Top 25 World Travel Experiences.

The origin for the word “Hogmanay” is from the early 17th century, perhaps from “hoguinané,” Norman French meaning “last day of the year” or “New Year’s gift”.

Up until 27 years ago, Hogmany celebrations on 31st December in Edinburgh was a small, local celebration for city residents and perhaps a few visitors, which took place around the Tron Kirk on the Royal Mile.

Auld Lang Syne sing song at Hogmanay on the High Street, 1964

In 1993, the first organised Hogmanay Party on Princes Street ended with dazzling fireworks at midnight set off from the Castle.  The popularity grew and on 31st December, 1996, a crowd of 400,000 revellers broke the Guinness Book of Records for the largest Street Party in the world.

To ensure safety the following year, Princes Street was closed off for a restricted number of 100,000 ticket holders as part of a four day Festival to celebrate New Year.  Since then, Edinburgh has shown the world how to party as the Home of Hogmanay.

The Winter Festival season begins in mid-November when the city sparkles with Christmas spirit around the Markets, Fairground rides, theatre, music and entertainment for all ages.

Edinburgh’s Winter Festivals welcome visitors from before Christmas to New Year

The Hogmanay Festival has changed over the years, and I do miss the wonderful The Night Afore Fiesta, 30th December, a fabulous, free, family friendly event, (George Street or Royal Mile): giant giraffe puppets, a parade of elephants, Macbeth on stilts, musicians, crazy Spanish hair-dressers. This magical style of entertainment is now incorporated into the Street Party on the 31st.

Hogmanay ‘19 presented a three day programme of exhilarating events to bring people from far and wide across the globe to BE Together to celebrate the start of 2020.

The Festival kicked off on the evening of 30th December for the annual Torchlight procession when 12,000 torch-bearers, accompanied by the skirl of the Pipes and beat of the drums, set off to march from various starting points around the Old Town to Holyrood Park.

Torchlight Procession with pipers and drummers down the Canongate

The pattern of Torches spread out in Holyrood Park displayed an image of two people shaking hands.  Magical.!

Torchbearers create the design of a Handshake

For Clubbers, there was also late night music and dancing at Symphonic Ibiza, with live orchestra and DJ sounds, to get into party mood.

A diverse range of music, whatever your taste, was on offer on Hogmany, 31st December: a classic concert by candelight at St. Giles Cathedral, as well as the rousing Jazz from Ronnie’s Scott’s Big Band featuring a performance by singer Lianne Carrol.

Families with young children were not forgotten either, with a special Bairns Afore show in the late afternoon with music, comedy and fireworks in Princes Street Gardens.

Bairns Afore – the children’s own Firework party

The highlight of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay as always was the Johnnie Walker Street Party when a sell out crowd of 75,000 ticket holders gathered in the pedestrianised area around the city centre.

Picto Facto –  a zany group of Street Entertainers march along Princes Street

With a nod to Rio, it’s Carnival Time with a glittering, glamorous parade of giant puppets, dancers, fire throwers and jugglers to entertain the crowds.

Campagnie Remue Menage – a herd of Festive Reindeer parade up the Mound

PyroCeltica present a fiery, flaming circus performance

Live music stages all around the central party zone featuring a colourful line up of singers and bands including Marc Almond, Idlewild, The Snuts, Rudimental DJ, Arielle Free and the Mac Twins.  If you fancy a Hogmany Highland Fling, you could also book a ticket for the outdoor Ceilidh, traditional Scottish country dances, jigs and reels to keep you warm in the cold night air.

Get your dancing shoes on at The Ceilidh under the Castle

The Concert in the Gardens welcomed an international star, the Grammy and Oscar Award winner, Mark Ronson, who played a rousing round up of hits, with a guest appearance from Daniel Merriweather.  At Midnight, Ronson’s music soundtrack accompanied the brilliant blast of fireworks – an amazing eight minute display – set off from the Castle, which could be seen for miles around.

A majestic display of Fireworks light up the night sky at midnight to welcome 2020.

For those with the stamina, you could dance the night away at the After-Party till the wee sma’ hours of the morning.

The Loony Dook is a well established tradition (running since 1986), on the first of the day of the year, when brave souls take a refreshing (freezing!), dip in the Firth of Forth at South Queensferry.  With a crowd of spectatators watching the action, on 1st January 2019, 1,100 people, many in Fancy Dress, took the plunge – with £1 from the ticket price goes to the RNLI.  Over the Festival, £42,500 was raised to support community, social and health charities.

Loony Dook, South Queensferry – brave swimmers take a chilly dip on 1st January

With so many international visitors travelling to Scotland for New Year, it’s important that the Festival offers a taste of Scottish culture and cuisine. On 1st January, 2016, Scot:Lands was a brilliantly curated tour around city churches and pop up theatres, with performers from across Scotland showcasing poetry, music and film, complemented by a feast of regional food and drink from the Borders to Orkney.

This year, the renowned singer and musician Eddi Reader and her Band gave an early evening concert. The intimate space of the McEwan Hall, with bar drinks on offer created a casual Cabaret ambience.  With entertaining stories along the way, it was a seamless blend of pop songs, folk tunes and bluesy numbers from Elvis to Edith Piaf, from Rabbie Burns to Eddi’s award winning smash hits, “Fairground Attraction” and “Perfect.”  With a foot-tapping, jazzy beat, this was the perfect cool, Celtic heart-warming Gig to kick start 2020.

Eddi Reader & her Band: cool Celtic music and song

An estimated 180,000 visitors attended the Hogmanay Festival travelling to Scotland from 87 countries including Argentina, Australia, Bermuda, Brazil, China, Croatia, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Malaysia, Mexico, Nepal, New Zealand, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Singapore, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, USA and Vietnam.  After the midnight moment, revellers were offered a complimentary Johnnie Walker Cocktail.  Slainte Mhath!

Glamorous guests celebrate in style at the Johnny Walker Street Party

Thousands more watched the whole show from across the globe – USA, Italy, Canada, West Africa, Sweden, Australia and UK via the first ever live stream of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay to capture the atmosphere.

 “What a fantastic night! Tonight Edinburgh overwhelmingly celebrated a togetherness of Edinburgh people and visitors, showing to the world the true spirit of Scotland.  We thank the many people who worked together to make tonight the best ever Hogmanay.”   Charlie Wood and Ed Bartlam, directors of Underbelly, producers of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.

A fantastic night for these party goers too!

 I’m an Edinburgh resident and it was my first time at the Street Party. One of the best night’s of my life.  

 Edinburgh you are amazing!! Thanks for a great few days

 Thank you Edinburgh – absolutely amazing

 What an unforgettable experience. Thank you Edinburgh

 Fan bloody tastic.

 Where, when, how can I get tickets for 2020?

 If you fancy joining the Party in December this year, Underbelly has just put a limited number of Street Party tickets for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay ’20 on sale at an early bird rate £20.50 + £1.00 booking fee.

Read all about Edinburgh’s Christmas:

Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Festival – Christmas Market, Big Wheel and Fireworks.

Edinburgh’s Christmas 2019: Market stalls, Fairground fun & Festive foodie feasts at this cool Winter Festival

Edinburgh’s Christmas 2019 – the sparkling spectacle of Princes Street Gardens

“Life is not measured

by the number of breaths we take,

but by the places and moments

that take our breath away”

So begins Patricia Schultz’ travel book, “1,000 Places to See Before you Die.” Not surprisingly Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is one of those 1,000 breathtaking places across our planet.

Hogmanay, (New Year’s Eve) in Scotland’s Capital is part of the Winter Festivals season which kicks off in mid November, a perfect time to visit for Festive entertainment, a foodie feast, music and culture for all ages.

As a lifelong Edinburgh resident, I’ve experienced the classic, cool Christmas and New Year celebrations over the decades, and often think I should become jaded by the annual arrival of Christmas Trees, glittering fairy lights and the Funfair taking over Princes Street Gardens.

But no. Whenever the Big Wheel starts turning beside the Scott Monument, with the scent of mulled wine wafting in the air, I am thrown into the magical mood as Edinburgh begins to sparkle.

Forth 1 Big Wheel and Gluhwein @ Christmas Market, Princes Street Gardens

Created and staged by Underbelly, the Live Entertainment Company, since 2013,  Edinburgh’s Christmas 2019 was launched on Light Up Night with a family friendly gathering on the Royal Mile, with a stunning flying visit by Father Christmas on his sleigh.

Father Christmas flies along the Royal Mile on Light Up Night

The lights on the Christmas Tree (a gift from the people of Hordaland, Norway)  at the top of the Mound were switched on and the countdown to 25th December and New Year celebrations had begun.

The annual Christmas Tree, a present from Hordaland, Norway lights up the Mound

Edinburgh’s Christmas was open every day, except Christmas Day, from 10am to 10pm, from 16th November 2019 until Saturday 4th January, 2020.

The Star Flyer – 60 metres high beside the towering Scott Monument

In East Princes Street Gardens presents a wonderful Carnival of Fairground rides such as the Star Flyer, whizzing up to a rather scary 60 metres or take an exciting whirl on the Forth 1 Big Wheel. These sky-high Rides are located on either side of the iconic Scott Monument – so you can take an energetic trek up the spiral staircase of 288 steps inside the tower to a height of 200 feet 6 inches (61.11 metres) for panoramic views over the city.

The wee ones will have fun on the Carousel and Santa Train, then play hide and seek in the maze of Christmas Trees: 25p from the price of each ticket for the Santa Land Maze supports the Greenspace Trust Tree Time, a local initiative, to fund the planting of new trees in Edinburgh.

The pedestrianised Castle Street was home to Santa’s Grotto, while parents can slide down the adult-sized Helter Skelter before time for hot chocolate or mulled wine.

Helter Skelter Bar on Castle Street

A colourful programme too of free events such as the Scottish Norwegian Advent Concert at St. Giles Cathedral, the Nativity concert on the Mound and Carol singers around town.  It’s the time of year for Good Deeds, with free tickets and donations provided to local charities, community & youth groups, schools and Food Banks through fund-raising Carol concerts and events over Edinburgh’s Christmas.

As many visitors have posted on social media, a disappointing omission at Edinburgh’s Christmas 2019 was the Ice Rink which has always enticed a happy crowd, day and night.

The Skating Rink, St. Andrew Square enjoyed during previous Christmas Festivals.

Skating is the essence of a traditional, romantic Christmas.  Ice Rinks are a major seasonal attraction across the UK –  London, Swansea, York et al –  and, of course, at Rockefeller Centre, New York City, as witnessed in many Festive, feel-good movies.  Let’s hope we can don our skating boots again to add the ICE-ing on the cake at Christmas 2020.

Christmas Shopping – a mountain of Hats of every style at the Christmas Market

Browse around the traditional Market of wooden chalets – bigger than ever in 2019 with 163 stalls – for gifts, jewellery, craftwork, chocolates, French cheese, gloves, socks, hats, Loch Ness Leather, a family Highland business showcasing handmade products. Authentic Monster leather!?

Loch Ness Leather goods

A fine taste of British and European food and drink: Gluhwein, Greek Grill House, Salmon roasting over an open fire, Yorkshire Puddings, Rekorderlig Cider Lodge serving hot & cold cider cocktails and Swedish food.

…..Aelder Elderberry Liqueur, Fox Hat Argentinian barbecue, Alanda’s fish and chips, Caravan of Courage Vegan Fast Food.  (Just not sure about pink, sugary Candy Floss stalls!)

A hungry queue for Sausages (Polish and German varieties)

Alanda’s Lobster and Chips – the posh takeaway

After a good walk around, you could head over to The Johnnie Walker Bothy Bar to warm up and sample a dram or two, whisky cocktails and hot toddies.

The cosy, comfortable Johnnie Walker Bothy Bar for whisky galore

Christmas entertainment too around the city theatres: The smash hit musical, The Lion King at the Playhouse (running until 29th March), the fabulous 5 star Pantomime, Goldlocks and the Three Bears at the King’s Theatre (until 19th January), The Christmas Carol at the Lyceum and Scottish Ballet staged the premiere of The Snow Queen at the Festival Theatre.

In previous years, the Spiegeltent popped up for the Festival season in St. Andrew’s Square or Festival Square: Storytellling and shows for Kids, and Limbo, a spectacular dare-devil Acrobatic extravaganza – such a special ambience in the vintage Spiegeltent, a Big Top Circus had come to town.  (Please bring it back!).

Visit Edinburgh during the Festive season for a truly enchanting time in the crisp, cool winter air – and it might snow! Inspirational shopping for unique gifts, cashmere and tweed, cosy cafes, quaint old pubs, hearty food, gourmet restaurants, whisky galore, ghost tours, Harry Potter, art galleries, museums, City of Literature walks, explore the Royal Mile from Castle to Palace, climb Arthur’s Seat – as well as the Festival fun for all ages.

The ever popular Harry Potter Walking Trail – part of Edinburgh’s hidden magic

The extended Christmas Market in East Princes Street Gardens on various levels, with improved accessibility for all, has been a sparkling success.

A total of 2,631,154 people passed through Edinburgh’s Christmas, 4.85% more than 2018.  Just under 650,000 tickets were sold for the special Festive events, attractions and Fairground rides.  There was an impressive 23.9% rise in the number of Edinburgh Residents with an EH postcode, taking the advantage of a 20% discount.

And this is what visitors thought about their experience of Edinburgh’s Christmas 2019:

It’s simply the best Christmas Market and even tops Bryant Park in NYC ! Please bring back the ice rink, that’s a huge attraction and not quite the same without it

Couldn’t believe how big it was. Plenty of stalls to browse and Carnival rides for the kids. Loads to eat and drink.  Definitely worth a visit

A fantastic place to visit and in my view it’s the best Christmas Market in the UK.

 Why not plan to visit Edinburgh’s magical Winter Festivals in 2020.?

NOTO, Edinburgh: a cool, classy taste of the Big Apple with a touch of exotic Asian spice

Chef Stuart Ralston is the renowned chef-patron behind the mega successful Edinburgh restaurant, Aizle, which he runs with his wife Krystal.  It is listed in the Michelin guide 2020: “Well balanced, skilfully prepared dishes are a surprise as the set menu is a long list of ingredients” to create a six course dining experience.

Aizle has recently been named the Trip Advisor Travellers’ Choice Award winner as the top fine dining restautant in Edinburgh and voted 5th best across the UK.

Noto, Thistle Street, between Frederick Street and Hanover Street. New Town.

Five years after opening Aizle,  he has recently launched an all day, casual dining concept, NOTO on Thistle Street, featuring an imaginative menu of sharing plates with a cuisine inspired by his time working in New York.

It is named in tribute to the late Bob Noto, a well known eccentric and man about town in New York City who became an inspirational friend when Ralston worked in NYC for four years, under several chefs including Daniel Humm & Gordon Ramsay and at the private members’ club, The Core.

Noto – two dining areas with simple decor of plants, wood and tree-twig sculptures

The décor across two dining areas is fresh and minimalist, with decorative twigs and branches on the white walls, green plants, dark wood floor and tables, vases of feathery grasses – all bringing a sense of nature and the outdoors, inside.

Decorative twig and branch wall sculpture

There is an adjoining cocktail and wine bar where you can also sit on a stool to enjoy a wide array of drinks and order food.

Noto Bar with ten stools – cocktails, whisky, champagne, wine, beers, port, sherry

Ken and I visited for a late lunch and instead of conventional starters and mains, the menu offers a diverse selection of small and larger plates ideally to share. We were advised to select two to three dishes each.  The menu (on lovely textured parchment paper), is attractively designed with the ingredients of each dish set out in lower case – all very appetising.

We select three of the smaller plates, “north sea crab, warm butter, sourdough,”  “berkswell cheese croquette (3pc)” and “jerusalem artichokes, truffled cheddar, walnut.”  And one large dish, “squid, clams, XO, koshihikari rice.”

Like most restaurants offering Tapas and sharing plates, they are prepared and served in any order which adds to the surprise element of the foodie experience.

A spicy Bloody Mary to complement the Asian inspired menu.

First, cocktails for an aperitif:  a spicy Bloody Mary, (Blackwoods vodka, pickled celery) which hits the spot.

And for Ken a perfectly shaken Negroni which was invented by Count Negroni in Florence in 1919 – so celebrating its 100th birthday this year.

A delicious Negroni – Cheers!

We settle in for a relaxing lunch with a quirky, varied music soundtrack playing in the background.

A large crab shell arrived with a creamy, buttery soup with thick chunks of crab, best eaten with chunks of bread rather than a spoon. The shell-bowl was quickly scraped clean.

North Sea crab, warm butter, sourdough

The award winning Berkswell Cheese is made by the Fletcher family at Ram Hall farm, near Berkswell, West Midlands.  Unpasturised ewes’ milk, from their own East Friesland flock, is used with a traditional artisan method made in small vats, and left to mature for at least 6 months. The taste is sweet and nutty similar in style to a Pecorino.

The small Berkswell croquettes were smothered in a fluffy white cloud of grated cheese, like a sprinkling of snow.

berswell cheese croquettes

Soft, rich texture, tangy, smoky flavour = simply delicious. (Just not sure why there are three croquettes to share between two people, meaning we have to cut one in half.)

One cheese croquette left to share.

Then the Jerusalem artichokes oozing the gorgeous aroma of truffle even before tasting. Totally different from globe artichokes, these root vegetables are from the sunflower family and look like a piece of ginger. Imaginatively cooked, they were like mini baked potatoes stuffed with the pungent-scented cheddar cheese and sprinkled with walnut shavings. (also three to share).

Jerusalem Artichoke, truffled cheddar, walnut

Our three courses are slowly consumed with the topic of conversation firmly about the distinctive food and combination of ingredients. Cocktails finished, we now select a glass of Sicilian Cielo Bianco to sip with the final large dish.

The “squid, clams, XO and koshihiari rice” arrived in a large bowl with flakes of Japanese tuna (dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna) – Katsuobushi – on the top.  The warmth of the dish makes these wave and dance which was magical to watch.

Squid, clams, koshihikari rice

The spicy condiment XO was created in Hong Kong, made with chilli, garlic, dried shrimp and cured ham, but vegetarians are offered a mushroom alternative. This gives this seafood risotto a real kick!. Koshihikari is a premium, small grain rice, soft, slightly sweet and is used for sushi.  This Asian seafood risotto was simply divine, each flavour, texture and taste blending together in harmony.

The dinner menu offers a slightly larger selection of dishes with a real Fine Dining touch: “oyster, cucumber mignonette, dill,” “partridge sausage roll, apple & sage,”  “ beef tartare” and “confit duck leg, Scottish mushrooms, fried egg”.

The kitchen has four full-time chefs, managed by Chef-patron Stuart Ralston and his Executive Sous chef Ash Fahy – (who both work on different days at NOTO and Aizle).

NOTO is open all day so ideal for lunch, brunch, afternoon/ evening meal or a leisurely dinner.  With stools along the bar, you can eat here too or just a cocktail or drinks anytime; a tempting idea is to pop in for a glass of Cremant or Champagne and share a platter of oysters.

Expect a creative culinary feast, presented with such artistic style and relaxed sophistication in true NYC manner.


47a Thistle St, Edinburgh EH2 1DY

Open daily, 12 noon to 9pm (Fri-Sat till 10pm)

Bar open till late.

T. 0131 241 8518