Summer in the UK: The stars of Scotland

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

In the latest of our weekly guides to Britain, Jackie Hunter discovers an ecopod with the wow factor and glimpses the northern lights

The population of Edinburgh doubles to about a million in August's festival season, and good-value accommodation is elusive.

Instead of a pricey hotel room or flat rental, try Scotland's first "boatel". The Four Sisters (07762 476367; is a 55x10ft barge that's permanently berthed on the city-centre canal, 15 minutes' walk from the Royal Mile or Princes Street. Up to four adults and two children can comfortably share this unique and affordable four-star billet, stylishly furnished and equipped with sunloungers, a barbecue, even folding bicycles for those robust enough to pedal the city's steep, cobbled streets.

If you're on the rural west coast, there's a place to stay that's no less quirky – the new five-star Ecopod Boutique Retreat (07725 409003; dome, a 70sq m geodesic dome, at Kingairloch, with impeccable green credentials and a real wow factor. Even more breathtaking than its Austin Powers-chic interior is its views over Loch Linnhe and the mountains of Mull. The outdoor cedar hot-tub, a gourmet local food hamper, and the high-end audio-visual system all add to the sensory pleasures that nature provides.

The Peat Inn (01334 840206; the – a favourite with foodies for three decades – triumphed twice at the 2010 Scottish Restaurant of the Year Awards, winning both best restaurant and best chef. In the refined yet cosy dining rooms at this beautifully run 18th-century inn near St Andrews in Fife, diners feast on monkfish poached in champagne butter, carpaccio of wild venison with goats' cheese cream, or home-cured salmon on a dill blini with lobster and avocado crème fraîche.

Scotland's newest fine-dining destination is Edinburgh's Castle Terrace (0131-229 1222; castleterracerestau, which opened in mid July, a sister venture to the Michelin-starred Leith restaurant The Kitchin. In comfortable, elegant surroundings, its chef-patron, Dominic Jack, infuses Scotland's best seasonal produce with a dash of innovation. Summer dishes include Newhaven spider crab with mango mayonnaise, braised pork in a summer blanquette of Arran vegetables, and Fife strawberries with a peppered mascarpone mousse and olive-oil ice cream.

A three-year, £28m facelift resulted in Glasgow's magnificent Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (0141-276 9599; becoming the most visited museum outside London. This summer, one of the highlights is a specially commissioned installation by the acclaimed Scottish artist David Shrigley, which typifies his offbeat humour. Traditionalists may prefer the first major exhibition of paintings by the 19th-century Glasgow Boys, pioneers of Naturalism, to be shown in more than 40 years.

Edinburgh Comedy Festival (edcom grows bigger and better, expanding into new venues and new comic territory. A month in duration, it's now the world's biggest and most diverse laughter fest. This year you'll catch stars such as Paul Merton, Emo Philips, Dillie Keane and Alan Cumming, as well as rising talent including Josie Long, Shappi Khorsandi, Kevin Bridges and more. The venues range from theatres, offices and pubs to lawns and inflatable tents. They all rock with laughter from breakfast time until the wee small hours – it's an unforgettable experience.

You'll see even more stars if you go to Galloway for Europe's first Dark Sky Park. Awarded this rare status by the International Dark Sky Association, Galloway Forest Park's (0870 835 8558; 300sq miles of wilderness has a canopy of sky unpolluted by artificial light. Stand in its midst on an ink-blue summer night and you could witness twinkling meteor showers, the aurora borealis, or the just-discernible thumbprint of the Andromeda galaxy.

Perfect for escaping the holiday crowds, Machrihanish in Argyll is one of Scotland's most stunning beaches, fringed by dunes along three miles of the remote south-west Kintyre peninsula, close to Campbeltown ( .uk). These red-gold sands are beautifully unspoilt and usually deserted; the only people you're likely to see are the occasional surfers who pitch up here (this is a Blue Flag beach, noted for its clean Atlantic waters) and local dog-walkers. On the other side of the dunes is a golf course that is considered to be one of Scotland's best.

For more information go to: visit;edinburgh .org;; visitdum;

Arts and Entertainment
One of the installations in the Reiner Ruthenbeck exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery
artCritics rally to defend Reiner Ruthenbeck's 'Overturned Furniture'
John Cleese is promoting his new book
A-list actresses such as Deepika Padukone get paid a tenth of what their male counterparts make per film
The Black Friday Vines that will destroy your faith in humanity

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
Robbie Rogers: US former Leeds United footballer, 25, announced he was gay in February 2013, shortly after he left Elland Road. Rogers 'retired' after writing on his blog: 'I'm a soccer player, I'm Christian, and I'm gay.' Has since signed with Los Angeles Galaxy.
peopleUS footballer said he had hoped Michael Sam and Jason Collins coming out might have helped
Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'
TVGrace Dent thinks we should learn to 'hug a Hooray Henry', because poshness is an accident of birth
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax

Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt

The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager - Bristol

    £31000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the UK, the major project fo...

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Sales Executive - Meetings & Events (MICE) - £40,000 OTE

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: Are you a high achieving...

    h2 Recruit Ltd: Account Executive - Hotel Reservation Software - £40,000 OTE

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + benefits: h2 Recruit Ltd: A rapidly growing Hotel ...

    Recruitment Genius: Tyre Technician / Mechanic

    £15000 - £16800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Tyre Technician / Mechanic is...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game