I have a new favourite beauty spot in the north-east. I’d heard people speak very highly of Newburgh beach but despite having lived in Aberdeen for the best part of 20 years, I had never been.
I fell in love with Findhorn Bay in Moray on my very first visit many years ago.
Peering through the driving sleet on a freezing Saturday night, we felt like travellers of bygone days scurrying towards a welcoming haven which glinted ahead in the dark.
What better to do on a windswept night on Skye, as a storm lashes at Portree’s quaint little harbour, than to sample some of the freshest seafood the Misty Isle has to offer?
All roads seemed to lead to the sprawling car park at Mains of Balquharn just to the south of Aberdeen at Portlethen.
As a fully-laden snowplough drove past outside, I couldn’t help but feel thankful that I was warm and cosy inside and tucking into delicious comforting food.
I had gone to Ullapool to pick up my husband from the Stornoway ferry.
It was a cold day outside which made the warmth of the smile that greeted us even more heartening.
I remember visiting Burghead as a kid and loving the mixture of beach, rockpools and busy harbour, and the way the houses seemed to huddle together for shelter in some of the narrower streets.
If you were to ask me to eat one food group for the rest of my life, it would have to be seafood.
Not being a regular flier, it had been a long time since I’d been out by Aberdeen airport. So I was amazed to see the changes that have taken place when I found myself in the area recently. Not least the arrival of Dyce Farm, sandwiched in between the new Crowne Plaza and Moxy hotels, and opposite the Aberdeen International Business Park.
I am not sure how the name Miller and Carter came about, but even although it might sound like an obscure comedy double act, one of its newest restaurants in Aberdeen is drawing a lot of appreciative applause from what I can see.
Curry, often referred to as Scotland’s other national dish, is more popular than ever across P&J country. Believe it or not, once the nation’s favourite carry out, the chicken tikka masala, was invented in a Glasgow curry house in the early 70s.
Dornoch Castle Hotel is one of Sutherland’s landmark buildings and sits in a prime spot opposite the 17th-Century cathedral once at the centre of a media storm after pop singer Madonna – then at the height of her fame – and film director Guy Ritchie had their baby Rocco christened there 18 years ago.
It’s funny how the simple purchase of a new bed in the January sales can cause chaos in our house.
"Is everyone at the table OK with insects?”
Sitting half way along a quiet country road between Beauly and Cannich, the Cnoc Hotel, just outside the tiny hamlet of Struy, doesn’t get a lot of passing trade.
Turriff, or as the locals would say, “Turra”, is an old market town famous for the “Turra Coo”, red sandstone buildings and the big agricultural show held in August.
While January is the ideal time for us to hit the gym, eat healthily and stay off the alcohol, quite the opposite happens in our family as 80% of us have January birthdays.
If location is anything to go by, the Struy Inn should be a real winner.
The writing was on the wall: as we descended the stone steps into No. 10, words of financial wisdom painted on the walls came into view. The new, revamped No. 10 sprang to life with a distinct wheeler-dealer stock market theme inside. It was not surprising as we were in the bosom of the affluent west end of Aberdeen, with its mix of smart up-market houses, oil firms and financial institutions. No. 10 also happens to sit below the impressive offices of global fund and property managers, Aberdeen Asset Management.
What had been a lovely autumnal day had taken a turn for the worse and as darkness fell so did the rain, hurling itself at the car windscreen like there was no tomorrow. As the wipers cleared, a wonderful sight came into view - the Golf View Hotel in Nairn, a golden glow emanating from its windows creating a welcoming beacon.
Atholl Hotel, Aberdeen The Atholl Hotel has enjoyed a bright new makeover since my last visit: new carpets and decor - plus a lift to the first floor - give this culinary landmark a fresh and attractive feel.
Early evening, and the sun was still splitting the pavements, giving the picturesque village of Fortrose on the Black Isle a decidedly holiday atmosphere. Tourists were enjoying a wander around the village, waiting for the tide to turn.
The Manor House in Oban is steeped in history. Originally a Dower house for the family of the Dukes of Argyll, it was later the home of the Fitzroy McLean family.
Typical. We set off on a sunny spring day for Newburgh, from Aberdeen, for lunch - and now it was a battle for survival: hail was pinging off our car like machine-gun fire.
“I should be so lucky . . . ” I couldn’t get the Kyle Minogue song out of my head as I swept up the elegant stairs of Hotel Colessio in Stirling. As I arrived, in the middle of a torrential downpour, I suspected Kylie had made a more elegant entrance when she spent two nights here with her entourage before performing at the SSE Hydro.