Earlier this month, Mr G and I travelled a whopping 5.9 miles from home for a date night at the Dakota Hotel Edinburgh. And because there’s no show without punch, VIPaws came too.
The Dakota is a four-star hotel located in South Queensferry, just west of Edinburgh.
Lunch – Down the Hatch, Port Edgar Marina
We’d decided to make a day and night of our short hop west, so I consulted (the font of all knowledge) Google to find us somewhere nice to have lunch. Down the Hatch at Port Edgar Marina sounded right up our street. It was dog-friendly and the menu was a mouthwatering fusion of local ingredients and North American flavours. The Canadian owner, hankering after a taste of home, had recreated a little corner of Canada in Scotland, poutine and all.
The diner was busy when we arrived, which is always a good sign.
The sun was shining so I suggested eating outside on the terrace. Mr G looked at me as if I’d just come up with the most outlandish idea ever.
We found a table inside and ordered Philly cheesesteaks, seasoned fries and milkshakes. We fell in love with Philadelphia’s famous meat sandwich when we visited the city in August.
The food was fab, but the milkshakes were double fab with a cherry on top – sugary, sweet and delightful. They probably contained a gazillion calories each, so a fruitless attempt to walk them off would be required after lunch.
The forth bridges
Three bridges span the Firth of Forth, linking the towns of North and South Queensferry.
The Forth Bridge (also known as the Forth Rail Bridge) opened in 1890. The incredible feat of Victorian engineering is one of Scotland’s six UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
By the mid 20th century rail travel was in decline and the car was king. On the 4th September 1964 The Queen opened the Forth Road Bridge and the Firth of Forth had a shiny, new vehicle crossing.
Fifty years of increasing traffic volumes took a toll on the road bridge. It was no longer deemed fit to carry the high volume of traffic using it. A new road bridge was commissioned and on 20th August 2017 The Queen returned to South Queensferry to open the Queensferry Crossing.
Crossing the Forth Road Bridge
Of the three bridges spanning the Firth of Forth, only the Forth Road Bridge is open to pedestrians. There’s talk of building a viewing platform on top of the rail bridge though. I’ll probably visit it when hell freezes over.
I’m not a fan of heights, or the cavalier approach to health and safety that was commonplace in the 1960s. For those reasons I’ve never been tempted to cross the Firth of Forth on foot. So, what made me suggest doing it that afternoon is anyone’s guess.
For three miles (there and back) we’d be suspended above the steely, grey waters of the Forth. The only barrier between us and the sea, would be a low railing with Westie sized gaps in it.
I was determined to cross the bridge without turning into a quivering wreck. Mr G loves heights and sheer drops, so the walk would be a breeze for him.
Once on the bridge I put the boy on an extremely tight lead. I fixed my gaze ahead and started walking quickly. I did manage a short photo stop, but kept well away from the railings. After snapping some photos I powered on like a woman possessed. The boy was happy to let me set the pace and made no complaints about his jog to Fife and back.
Mr G crossed at a more leisurely pace which involved multiple stops to take dozens of identical photos.
Back in South Queensferry, I was glad I’d braved the crossing. It had been a wee bit scary, but mostly it was exhilarating. And what I did see of the view was lovely.
After our walk we drove a few miles west to visit the grounds of a historic laird’s house.
House of the Binns
House of the Binns was built in 1612 for Edinburgh merchant Thomas Dalyell. The Dalyells still live in the house today.
Thomas’s son General Tam Dalyell or ‘Bloody Tam’ founded the Royal Scots Greys regiment. He also introduced the thumbscrews to Scotland, so his nickname was well deserved.
In 1944, Eleanor Dalyell (mother of Labour politician Tam Dalyell) gifted the House of the Binns to the National Trust for Scotland. Under the deed of gift the Dalyell family retained the right to live in the property.
The house is only open to the public during high season, but the grounds can be visited all year.
We spent the first ten minutes of our visit watching the peacocks who live in a colony on the estate. None were willing to give us a flash of tail fan.
Leaving the spoilsport peacocks we followed a trail from the side of the house. It led us into woodland, before emerging on a grassy hillside dotted with sheep.
We tiptoed through sheep poop to reach a tower on top of the hill.
It was locked, but there were lovely views of the Firth of Forth from the foot of it.
The tower is known by various names, one of them being The Wager. It was commissioned by Sir James Dalyell in 1825. The story goes that it was built after the gentlemen living in the area made a bet to see who could think of the most frivolous and humorous way to spend £100. Sir James won when he suggested building a folly to overlook the lands of his nouveau riche neighbours the Hopes. Oh, the banter.
Dakota Hotel Edinburgh
Exploring done for the day, it was time to check-in at the Dakota.
The exterior of the hotel offers no hint as to what’s inside. The building is a mysterious black box that looks more like an MI6 office than a hotel.
Once inside though – wow. It’s a super, chic space. Subdued lighting, sumptuous sofas, muted tones and mellow background music make the Dakota a blissful, chill out zone.
Our room was an Executive double on the 5th floor. The decor had a contemporary loft apartment feel. There were plenty of extras to make you feel at home. Slippers, robes, a coffee machine and snacks – the perfect loafing in front of the TV after a busy day kit.
The boy discovered a bed, bowls, bottled water and treats waiting in the room for him. He was delighted with the Dakota VIPaws service.
Our en suite had a rainfall shower, quality toiletries and large fluffy towels. It was well lit too, which was a box ticker for me. I love low lighting, but when it comes to slapping on the war paint I like to see what I’m doing. There’s nothing worse than putting your face on in a dimly lit bathroom and going our looking like Coco the Clown when you’d been aiming for Coco Chanel.
Pre-dinner drinks with the boy
Dogs aren’t allowed in the Dakota Bar & Grill, but they’re welcome to join their pawrents in the hotel’s comfy reception area for drinks. The super, helpful staff will even set a table in reception if you prefer to dine with doggy. We prefer to dine in peace away from the boy’s persistent demands for food. We reached a happy compromise with him. He could join us for pre-dinner drinks, but we’d be dining alone.
Dinner – Dakota Bar & Grill
I’d heard good things about the Dakota Bar & Grill, so was looking forward to eating there.
We were welcomed on arrival and shown to our table. The restaurant was a serene space, perfect for a date night.
Anticipating good food, we treated ourselves to a bottle of champagne to accompany dinner.
Scotland’s, rich natural larder was well represented on the menu. The Scots are often perceived as a nation who deep fry everything (including Mars Bars). What tends to be overlooked is the fact that this wee country punches well above its weight when it comes to fine dining.
As we waited for our starters to arrive we grazed on some lovely homemade bread with a tomato and goats cheese dip.
My starter was caramelised shallot soup with a St Andrews cheddar crouton. It was French onion soup with a Scottish twist. I LOVE French onion soup and this was every bit as tasty.
Mr G had Orkney scallops with romesco, chorizo and spring onions. It took him approximately five seconds to clear his plate. Superb, was the word he used to describe the dish.
Our mains were equally delightful.
Mine was roast chicken, sauteed potatoes, creamed leeks and chestnuts. The chicken skin was crispy and the meat lean. The jus was rich and flavoursome and complimented the dish beautifully.
Mr G had fillet of cod with celeriac, bacon and mushrooms. He tucked in with relish. Apparently it was superb too.
Our desserts made up a hat trick of excellent dishes.
I had blackberry and almond crumble soufflé. It was easily once of the best desserts I have ever eaten. The soufflé was light, fluffy and packed with flavour. The crumble added a pleasing texture.
Mr G finished with lemon drizzle sponge with Scottish raspberries and pistachio ice cream. It was another popular choice.
Three fabulous courses later and with stomachs full, we toddled upstairs to bed. In no time at all we were sound asleep.
Dakota Hotel Edinburgh – The Verdict
After a restful night’s sleep, followed by a Continental breakfast to set us up for the day it was time to check out.
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay at the Dakota. The sumptuous decor, mellow vibe, great food and friendly staff made the hotel a fantastic venue for a romantic date night. And with bottled water, a plump bed to sleep on and tasty treats, it’s no surprise our beloved VIPaws had a wonderful stay too.
Our dinner, bed and breakfast were provided on a complimentary basis, however all opinions are my own.
Until next time ……