Canada, Countries, Europe, Ireland, UK

The Queen’s platinum destinations

When you’ve already visited 120 countries (there are 195) then it’s difficult to choose your best… but here to mark her 70th anniversary of her coronation today, are the Queen’s platinum destinations.

But some stats before we go travelling…

Her Maj has sailed over one million miles on the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Now docked along the road from Murty Palace in Leith.

And she has travelled the equivalent of 42 times around the globe (and to think My Queen has only been round once!)

All of this too without the need for a passport.

African queen

Her Majestree: Kenya


Princess Elizabeth was on her travels, naturally, when she succeeded her Dad, King George VI in 1952, in Kenya.

The 70 years actually starts from this year as that was when she was crowned.

The story goes that she was up a tree at the time with her husband, Prince Philip.

Although this was no shinnying up the bark, or a kiddies’ treehouse.

It was the three-room hotel, Treetops, built into the top of a large tree.

And only closed last October because of Covid.

And in one of the other rooms, hunter Jim Corbett stayed awake to make sure no wildlife got near.

Queen of Scots

Armoured and dangerous: Funtime Jimmy

No such problems in Aberdeenshire in the north-east of Scotland.

It is said to be the Queen’s favourite place in the whole wide world.

It was in the Balmoral Estate (a favourite too of Queen Victoria’s) that she took refuge from the storm after Princess Diana’s death in 1997.

Of course the 54 countries of the Commonwealth have taken up most of the Queen’s time.

Canadian HRH

Loyal subjects: Canadians love the Queen

And Canada most of all where she has visited 27 times.

A favourite too of her parents.

There were in fact contingency plans in place for the Royal Family to take refuge there from the Nazis in Britain’s darkest hour.

It’s hard to imagine, of course, now but the most famous woman on the planet was once a navy officer’s wife.

Albeit that officer being a prince, Philip.

Malta monarch

The Queen was here: Malta

And she lived on base with Philip in Malta, the jewel of the Mediterranean.

Where she is said to have loved the easier pace of life than back home.

Among other aspects of her life which are less known is that the Queen is a Francophile, a fluent Gallic speaker, and that she also likes German.

No Teuton gags here or it will be oaf with der head!

Friend of Ireland

Her Maj has naturally been a regular visitor to Northern Ireland.

But it was only in 2011 that she set foot in the south of the island.

Where she was an instant hit, not least when she blethered with a stall holder in the English Market in Cork.

The Royal Bucket List

Flagging it up: Cuba

That leaves just 75 countries for Queenie to visit too (and she won’t let her 95 years put her off).

Among them Greece, where Philip had some unresolved issues, Madagascar, Cuba, Israel and Peru.

And that leaves the rest of us in the ha’penny place (her head was on that too) when it comes to the Queen’s platinum destinations.

And as the gratitudes are handed out over the course of the year, what most people will be glad of, is the four bank holidays Britons are getting this year.





America, Countries, Sport, UK

Women football ban

In a previous life I scribbled about saaacer but the women football ban never came up then.

Nor years earlier when I dated Bostonian Carol at university in Aberdeen who left the foot in with all the men she tackled.

On the football pitch you mucky devils!

While any adolescent Scot from the early 80s will identify with the rite of passage film Gregory’s Girl.

Although we in our all-boys school could only have dreamt of a keeper like Dorothy.

If we’d been allowed to play football competitively rather than on the playground. 

Michelle and Matthews magic

Prize girl: Michelle Akers

I confess too that I wasn’t as star-struck as I should have been when I met American soccer legend Michelle Akers, also in the Granite City.

Because England great Sir Stanley Matthews was there with her.

All of which reminiscences have been sparked by today’s woman’s FA Cup final.

When they will reflect on the first showpiece, between Southampton and Scots Stewarton Thistle, (more a back pitch) 50 years ago.

Male chauvinists

Team of all talents: The Dick, Kerr Ladies

Still it must have felt like Wembley where Arsenal and Chelsea will compete today for the players in 1971.

The women’s game in the UK quite amazingly and disgracefully had been in abeyance for the previous 50 years.

And not because it wasn’t popular, though that shouldn’t matter either.

Tens of thousands turning out to see the lassies play.

No, because the chauvinistic chiefs of the FA banned women’s football in 1921 stating that it was ‘quite unsuitable for females’.

Despite the legendary Dick, Kerr Ladies and St Helens Ladies playing before 52,000 the previous Boxing Day.

Female pioneers

Equal pay: How the times have changed

The FA were perhaps worried that their women would swap their pinnies for boots.

But the Dick, Kerr Ladies were not to be put off.

And they took on a US tour and played men’s teams over there.

Whether that inspired the grandmothers of Carol Terry or Michelle Akers.

They did start an American revolution in women’s saaacer.

And that has made them the force in the game though the English are now catching up.

Football family

Yanks very much: US superstar Megan Rapinoe

I’ll maybe give Carol some thought if I do return to Beantown next year after 34 years away.

When I hope to revisit Fenway Park, home of the Red Sox, and the Celtics, their basketball team.

In the absence of a Boston team, I’ll adopt NWSL champions Washington Spirit from DC out of east coast solidarity.

Out of respect for Carol.

As no self-respecting Bostonian, or friend, would plump for a New York side (in this case Gotham).

So on My Sporting Weekend as I watch the Women’s FA Cup final I will reflect on the women football ban.

And did I say that I have the pinnie on today while The Worker, she’s out in the field?



Culture, Europe, UK

Your staycation stays the same in Aberdeenshire

In my previous incarnation in Edinburgh I set my holiday radar for the family for the UK, my fave our staycations in Aberdeenshire.

Language, culture and a lack of money all played their part.

But the sheer variety of holidays, activities and destinations was, and still is, a great selling point.

England’s finest

The Scary One Pottering around

We variously checked out the Laurel & Hardy Museum in England’s Lake District, Shakespeareland in the English Midlands.

There was Churchill’s War Rooms in London, Harry Potter in Watford and Dickens World in Kent before we even got to Scotland.

And Scotland’s too

Burns Cottage, Alloway,Scotland

And here in my homeland we hiked in the Highlands, channeled an innner Robert Burns in Ayrshire and performed poetry too.

That was over the sea to Skye and wolfed down whisky in Islay.

Whet your appetite? Well, you may very well be staycationing this year so the good news is that it’s a great holiday.

The bad news is that unscrupulous businesses are hiking up the prices, sometimes by double.

So to redress the balance in favour of those who welcome you into their homes and hotels for the love of Travel and their customers.

I give you one such in my beloved Aberdeenshire.

Stonehaven for the ages

Relaxed living

Kelly McAlpine is the managing director of five-star Dalriada Lodges, eight self-catering lodges on the coasts of Stonehaven, nearAberdeen.

Kelly said: ‘It’s unfortunate that some operators seem to be taking advantage of the pent-up desire to travel and the lack of confidence in overseas trips, to inflate their usual rates.

‘We’re a family-run business and we strongly believe that it’s important for us to keep our rates the same as they were pre-pandemic.

Pristine kitchen

‘Our loyal customers are important to us.

‘They love to come to our clifftop locations overlooking Stonehaven for a break.

‘We have many families returning several times to us.

Someon’s made the beds

‘And they like that they can book adjacent lodges.

‘So different generations can holiday together but still have their own space.

‘Without these guests we couldn’t have established Dalriada Luxury Lodges as successfully as we have.

‘And we’ll undoubtedly need these loyal customers to help us on what will be a long road to recovery from the events of last year.

“We’ll be holding our prices at our usual rates.

‘We understand the value of long-term relationships with our guests.”

Lodge an interest

And the sun always shines

The Dalriada family-run lodges occupy a prime spot overlooking Stonehaven bay. Each lodge has two en-suite bedrooms.

A spacious lounge and fully equipped kitchen with combi-oven, dishwasher and washing machine,

South-facing decking offers great views over the coastline, as well as private parking.

Someon’s been here before

And you will have  access to secure storage for golf equipment, cycles and outdoor gear.

Dalriada is pet-friendly too, and the site includes electric charging points for vehicles.

Guests can customise their  stay, including locally sourced breakfast packs, golf packages – and a round of golf for free.




Countries, Deals, Europe, Food & Wine, Ireland, UK

Hungry and Thursday – Teacake gobbler or nibbler?

The Scottish teacake is a very different cousin to its English relative just as your favourite blogger is very different from my very own Little English Teacake.

The Scottish teacake is a semi-circular chocolate-covered cake with a marshmallow filling and biscuit base.

While the English equivalent is a sweet bun with dried fruit, typically served toasted and buttered.

How do you open tbis?

And us Scots celebrate our teacake as an important culinary and cultural part of our identity.

Glasgow is my cup of tea

So that when Glasgow hosted the Commonwealth Games, dancing teacakes jumped around the track as part of the Opening Ceremony.

But while we all agree that we love nothing better than eating a teacake with our tea we will often spend the time arguing about how to ear them.

Oh, you broke the chocolate…

So are you a gobbler or a nibbler?

Apparently according to a survey of 100 Scots conducted by onepoll for the Chester Hotel in the Granite City of Aberdeen one in four of us eat the filling first and then the biscuit base.

While the second most popular method is to strip the chocolate first.

And it seems my age group, the 35-54-year-olds, are ten times more likely to be chocolate strippers than the next generation.

Where are you from?

One in ten of us are nibblers with more women than men going that way.

And 13% of us whack it down in a oner.

And if you want something else too

Even within that there are regional variations with some surprising conclusions.

While Edinburgh is seen as the refined capital of Scotland its citizens like to munch big mouthfuls of their teacake while Highland and Islanders will stick the oil’ teacake in their mouths in a oner.

On the bonnie, bonnie banks of Loch Lomond they like to eat the biscuit base first.

Don’t eat with your mouth full

One from each shelf?

I’m not sure how my fellow Glaswegians eat them, but outside of genteel Kelvinside I’m afraid that loquacious lot that they are they probably eat them while they’re still talking!

I know Aberdeen is in temporary lockdown but when you do get back out you should book yourself an afternoon tea at the Chester Hotel in Queen’s Road from €26.50 while a Champagne afternoon tea is also available.

Takeaway afternoon tea – provided in the Chester Hotel take-away tea caddies – are available to book online



All the world’s my stage

I’d envisioned myself in the romantic lead role for my acting debut.

Not as Plooky (that’s Scottish for spotty) Jack in The Northern College’s production of The Slab Boys in Aberdeen in 1984.

I was hardly likely to catch the eye of the ladies there!

Unimaginably my performance didn’t reach the ears of Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg.

And my career path took another direction.

But between jobs as I am, and out in Hollywood earlier this summer, I couldn’t help thinking they’d missed a chance.

Which is my roundabout way of saying I’m available to understudy for the Wexford cast of the Glencairn Cycle who are heading to San Fransisco next month.

Ship ahoy: Pic by PJ Browne

For the Eugene O’Neill Festival.

The Irish production will be showcased to American audiences aboard the Balclutha berthed at Fisherman’s Wharf on September 1.

And so it will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that Eugene O’Neill is of Irish stock.

Eugene’s dad James was a wee boy when he emigrated from New Ross, Co. Wexford in 1851.

Hence Wexford celebrating the playwright who won an Oscar for Long Days Journey Into Night.

Which, of course, tells the story of the O’Neill Family and their passage to America and their attempts at assimilation. 

Wexford has its own festival, its second, in New Ross from October 8-13.

Learning the ropes: Shipmates

And you can catch O’Neill’s magnus opus.

And twice daily the Glencairn Cycle of Plays aboard the Dunbrody Famine Ship berthed at New Ross Quayside.

Which are set aboard the fictional ship the ‘SS Glencairn’ with the plays titled Bound East for Cardiff, The Long Voyage Home and In the Zone.

Just the ticket

Tickets to the festival weekend at St. Michael’s Theatre in New Ross are available at €100. Tickets for individual events are available from €15.

For further details see and

And if you want more insights into my old stomping ground of Aberdeen

And more on Hollywood where they have the worst waiters in the world… because they all want to be actors.

They are only interested in you if you’re Steven Spielberg.