One of the best parts of any holiday to somewhere new for me is that feeling of the unknown. Not knowing how it’s going to pan out, not knowing exactly what you’ll be doing.
I had the same feeling for my first trip to the Stirling Highland Hotel. On this occasion, I certainly didn’t expect my first night there to end with me manhandling a near-10ft object and changing the position of a building’s roof with 22 turns of a large wheel.
My fiancee and I arrived early for the 3pm check-in. We found the hotel’s spacious car park very easily and walked into Stirling city centre, which was only five minutes away.
Going through the nearby Thistles Shopping Centre I was a bit taken aback. As someone who really hasn’t ventured out too often since lockdown restrictions were lifted, I wasn’t keen on the necessary rigmarole that comes with getting out and about during a global pandemic. This really added to the appeal of staying at Stirling Highland Hotel. With its array of facilities on site, you can very easily enjoy a few days there without having to venture further afield.
We stayed in a premium room on the second floor and it ticked all the boxes. The real selling point of the room was its location. It was a short walk from reception through a few different doors and halls. The room felt really private, which is a pretty rare feeling to have in a hotel with hundreds of people. It really did feel like we had our own space.
This really encapsulated the hotel as a whole. Despite its very central location, it too felt secluded. The cobbled hill with the Victorian hotel and Stirling Old Town Jail, and further up Stirling Castle, really feels like its own area despite the close proximity to the centre.
Dinner in the Scholars Restaurant was very good. The menu for the mains was fairly small, but had all the classics most people would be looking for. Neither of us could fault the food.
After dinner came the highlight of our stay, a trip to the on-site observatory – home to a near-10ft, 130-year-old telescope.
The telescope was gifted to the hotel, then a school, in 1889 by Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman. Bert, from the Stirling Astronomical Society, came to give us a tour of the observatory.
The journey up included a narrow winding staircase with a small door you had to duck through, which all felt very apt.
The view from outside the observatory is amazing, you can see all around the city and beyond. Inside housed the telescope.
I’m by no means into my astronomy, but I couldn’t help but be impressed by the sheer size of the telescope.
We were lucky enough to see the nearby Wallace Monument through it, a fantastic experience. Before we could do that though, I got the opportunity to move the roof of the observatory so the shutter was on the correct side to see the landmark. This was done by turning a heavy wheel 22 times, which felt like a workout!
Every hotel is looking for a unique selling point, and the observatory is definitely a very good one for the Highland Hotel.
Breakfast the next day was of the highest quality. So many options and so easy to order. Ordering was done from your table by just ticking what you wanted on the sheet provided. Service was very quick and the food was great. I don’t usually add on breakfast when I stay at hotels as I don’t find it to be worthwhile, but on this occasion it definitely was.
The service from staff in general couldn’t be faulted. They were so attentive. We also went out for dinner at another restaurant on our second night, and I really noticed that the service there just didn’t live up to the kind we received at the Highland Hotel.
After breakfast we tried some of the leisure facilities on site. There’s a gym, squash court, swimming pool and spa facilities. Everything had to be booked in advance to allow for social distancing.
The gym is probably one of the best hotel gyms I’ve been to. It has an impressive range of equipment. I booked two 45-minute slots for the gym and even though I was staying for the second slot, I was still made to leave the gym after 45 minutes so staff could go in to clean it before the next slot began. This is an added step that really goes a long way in the current circumstances.
We finished our stay with an afternoon tea at the hotel. Full of finger sandwiches and fancy cakes, this was definitely a sweet ending to a great couple of days for us.