Last Christmas, I gave you a redletterdays voucher, worth £150, which we could use for a weekend jaunt either for pampering or wining and dining. Although the voucher was valid for two years, we’ve been burnt several times before, buying adventure, games, and various other vouchers only to never get around to utilizing them and sending money down the drain. This time I was determined to turn this voucher into some sort of experience, and even writing about it! We purchased our voucher from John Lewis, they come in a CD box style, and when you open up, you’re given directions to the website where you can put your voucher number in to check what experiences you have available. There is a lot of information in the CD package, and I suspect one could organize everything from the package, but this looks time-consuming.
Once on the website and with my voucher number entered, I could start browsing the experiences and seeing what took our fancy, there are lots to choose from with a wide range of prices.
The questions begin:
Do we get something under the value and see if we can a refund on the remainder?
Do we get something right on budget, even if it isn’t quite what we would like?
Do we purchase a further voucher (the current one added in) and go for something more expensive?
Let’s Go Edinburgh!
A weekend away then, and we opted for dining over pampering. Candy has never been to Scotland, and I’d only briefly passed into Edinburgh 30 years ago, so a weekend away dining in Scotland was the gig. Paying the extra, we hope to enjoy some opulence on an Epicurean scale for one night. Redletterdays does seem to work in mysterious ways, once I had the voucher and had decided where we were going to stay, I was given the property details and had to contact them directly to make the actual booking (I’d assumed I’d book with the property via the redletterdays website, and I had to tell the venue this was through redletterdays. They advised me to bring my voucher, we were staying at The Cranberry Tower Mansion House.
Slight Detour – Newcastle-Upon-Tyne
Another reason for this trip was that we had to drop our daughter back to university, you know the one, difficult and inconsiderate of all that we do for her, just about becoming slightly more civil now that she no longer lives with us full-time! So just quickly, last time we stayed at a B&B in town, this time we stayed out at Whitely Bay. We highly recommend this spot, great for a beach walk in any weather, just have the right clothes with you. If you want to sample something close to Geordie food, then head on down to Hinnies, if you are lucky Rick and Gemma will be on deck to sort you out, both great people!
Rick and Gemma at Hinnies
Edinburgh – what a beautiful city!
We arrive in Edinburgh and are greeted with the most beautiful streets and building architecture, we find our way to Yotel where we are staying. Now, Yotel is a budget hotel chain, and as we have a guesthouse – Stansted Lodge, we know that booking direct is better value and less problematic if you have to cancel. As always with inner city hotels, you will struggle to find parking, but if you are smart make sure you contact the hotel prior, they’ll usually have the place to park with subsidy vouchers. In this instance, you’re still better off dropping bags and stuff off at the hotel as the NCP parking is quite a distance.
We are very, very impressed with Yotel, the room was sufficient and clean, and extremely well-designed. The staff was superb, very helpful, and accommodating. We were able to source wine glasses, ice, and anything else we fancied to have our little room party. We spent the next few hours walking around the ‘old town’, this is a wonderful experience on its’ own.
Edinburgh Old Town
We took the liberty to buy some quite expensive single malt whiskey, along with some quality cheese and nibbles for later that evening. The single malt came with a little education on single malts, our whiskey is from a cherry barrel and not a bourbon one.
The Edinburgh Comedy Festival is the only one I know and hear about, so I felt compelled to spend my first evening in Edinburgh at a comedy venue, we chose The Stand Comedy Store, and it was a fantastic night. Make sure you get there almost on opening if you wish to get good seats, we did and filled the time by having a little snack, the food is very good and quite reasonably priced. The entrance fee was also really well-priced. Very enjoyable seeing some up-and-coming comedians plying their trade with a couple of more experienced artists keeping the crowd on their toes, also highly recommend this experience.
Afterward, we were fortunate to have a long chat with the very funny and extremely personable show compere to the evening JoJo Sutherland!
Edinburgh Comedy Store, After Show Laughs!
The following day we walk to Edinburgh Castle, you can’t miss it, like the Acropolis, you can see it from pretty much everywhere in the city. Upon entering the forecourt it’s clear you can’t buy tickets as such, you need to buy them beforehand, or you need to do it on your mobile while you’re there. We didn’t actually fancy going in, so we wandered around and then flowed down the Royal mile before walking back across town to St Andrew’s Square to hop on a hop-on hop-off tourist bus trip. In Edinburgh, these start at Waterloo. So go there and get on one early to get the best seats. We opted for the Red Bus fly-about town trip, if we did Edinburgh in a day again, I’d start here around 9 am, jump off at the Castle, spend 2-3 hours there, jump off at St Andrew’s Square, and do the shops, jump off at Grass market for lunch, you might have to go around twice.
Cranberry Tower Mansion – redletterdays voucher redeemed.
Time to see if we’ve got our money’s worth from redletterdays!
We arrive at Carberry Tower Mansion around 4 pm, it is relatively simple to find around eight miles out of Edinburgh. Now, another little nugget from me, if you skip the round-about and go half a mile down the road, you will find a little shop on the left, which takes you back around fifty years in time travel, but the owner has the best pies and bread rolls. In case you want a little nibble later or the following day, I’d suggest you indulge, very cheap but great quality.
Driving down the entrance you start to realise the grandeur of this estate. Upon entrance into what is the castle tower of 1480, you are greeted with the quintessential English castle regalia, complete with knight’s armour. All the staff were brilliant, we couldn’t fault their professional approach and friendly nature. As you make your way up the stairs you are almost overwhelmed with the grandeur, glass-stained windows, library, music, and drawing rooms. We were on the second floor, which is where Queen Elizabeth 2nd would reside when staying there many times with her sister Princess Margaret. Some of the suites were named after Mary Queen of Scots, more on that later.
After a few hours of reading in the library and a quiet little walk in the gardens, it was time for dining in the bistro. Our redletterdays voucher included the evening meal, but we weren’t sure what that meant! It means £30 credit for each person, so £60 in total, anything above this is from your pocket. The costs are fairly negligible in difference, but if you are budget-conscious, it seems on the Carberry Tower website adding dinner adds around £80 to your bill. Going via redletterdays, you might get around £20 cheaper for the experience. If we were doing this again, I’d book directly with Carberry Tower for just the room, still do the dining, but pay for that separately, no smoking mirrors this way.
Carberry Tower Mansion Music Room
Carberry Tower Mansion Library
Carberry Towers dining was very good, we went with dishes that we can’t cook ourselves (very well). The menu isn’t huge, and there are a lot of standards, but there is just about enough variety to give some new tastes. Dish prices were more than reasonable, the actual meals were very good, and portion sizes were more than adequate. We’d highly recommend dining at least once in the bistro, and I’d suggest staying two nights if you want to absorb the true majesty of the estate.
Our ‘Classic Room’ was more than adequate, the little sign stating the Queen had used this room as a dressing room in 1968 during her stay at that time gave it a little ‘quelque chose de plus’. The following morning it was breakfast time, which as you would expect included everything, including Scottish Haggis.
Redletterdays – Do it Again?
Would we go through redletterdays again for this type, (or any) of experience?
It was positive in that I would probably have never found Carberry Tower Mansion on my own, and that by browsing Redletterdays I found this magical place. Next time I think I’ll just try and find establishments directly, I’ll be putting together another blog – ’10 Best UK Historical Places You Can Stay’, in which Carberry Tower will be included. Given our form on not being able to redeem vouchers, I doubt we’ll get another one, having said that, this was a fantastic experience, so I’d certainly suggest doing a redletterdays experience at least once, ensuring that you do cash it in.