CELEBRATING Hogmanay in Edinburgh is high on many people’s wish lists as the capital is known across the world for throwing a good party.
The revelry is not just limited to New Year’s Eve as the city starts gearing up for the festivities well before Christmas.
So, as thousands prepare to see in 2019 in style, I took a trip along the M8 from Glasgow to get into the party spirit.
Weekends in December mean there’s a good chance of braving some Scottish winter weather, of course.
But I was lucky enough to be booked into the Radisson Blu, only a stone’s throw from the Royal Mile and the famous Edinburgh Castle.
The hotel has an underground car park, which is a real luxury when the rain is lashing down.
The room was on the fifth floor with fabulous views of the city’s lights as darkness fell.
It also boasts the Itchycoo Bar on the ground floor so it would have been quite easy to just eat, drink and be merry without ever venturing out into the cold.
But I had a table booked at Cucina, an award-winning Italian restaurant in the Radisson Collection, a sister hotel to the Radisson Blu.
It was just a short walk up the Royal Mile and I arrived early to enjoy a cocktail or two in the Epicurean Bar.
The bar was so cosy and the espresso martini so tasty, I could happily have whiled away the whole night there.
I was glad I didn’t miss out on dinner though, as it was a real treat with great food and impeccable service.
I chose a scallop starter with pumpkin salsa and crispy bacon then a very impressive grilled whole sole in a prawn, caper and parsley butter.
It was delicious, as was the Old Fashioned cocktail I washed it down with.
All in all, it was a wonderful evening.
I had the foresight to order a cooked breakfast to be delivered to the room the following morning.
It was a feast – perfectly cooked and just the thing to fuel a spot of sightseeing and a trip to the Christmas market.
Edinburgh is famous for its market and it wasn’t hard to see why as, even before midday on a Monday, it was packed with shoppers and people sampling the huge range of festive food.
It was the perfect opportunity to get some leisurely Christmas shopping done, rather than my traditional last-minute dash to the shops. I also took in some culture at the Scottish National Gallery and had a whistle-stop tour of the National Museum of Scotland, both of which are within easy walking distance of the Radisson Blu.
Then it was back to the hotel for a bit of R&R as I had a treatment booked in the Melrose Spa and Health Club.
I’d opted for the signature rose and jasmine massage with beauty therapist Claire.
It was 80 minutes of pure bliss, starting with a foot scrub then a massage with scented oils, which gently ironed out all the knots in my shoulders.
The health club also has a sauna, steam room and pool, or there’s a well-equipped gym. I opted instead to return to my room to recuperate with a nap as walking up and down a few of Edinburgh’s hills that morning had been more than enough exercise.
By early evening I was feeling thoroughly chilled, so I headed out for a short stroll through theatreland to have something to eat at the Turkish Ada restaurant.
This was something of a no-frills hidden gem, and the lamb shish with baba ghanoush was as good as any I’ve had.
I can certainly vouch for the comfort of the beds at the Radisson Blu as that night I had the best sleep I’ve had in months.
The room was also extremely quiet so, despite being in the heart of the city, it was like a haven of tranquility.
Check out was not until midday – and the hotel are happy to extend that if they can – so I had plenty of time to get up and ready, though home-time had come around all too quickly.
Then it was back along the motorway to Glasgow, a city also known for its festive party atmosphere, but maybe not quite in the same league as Edinburgh when it comes to Hogmanay.