Hallmark Hotel: Glasgow

Saturday, October 12, 2019
Last week I was lucky enough to visit Glasgow for the first time as part of a gifted hotel stay by the lovely people over at Hallmark Hotels. I haven't stayed in a Hallmark Hotel before but I became aware of the hotel chain last year when they were offering free hotel stays for NHS staff, which is amazing! There are various Hallmark Hotels across the country, from beautiful locations in the north west such as Manchester and Chester to London, Cambridge, Derby, Glasgow and many more. 

I was very torn between visiting Cambridge or Glasgow, both cities are beautiful and I've wanted to visit them for years but I opted for Glasgow. The majority of my mums family are from Scotland and it's a country that I love to visit so I couldn't wait to visit. There are so many sites to visit within Glasgow itself but we went on a tour to Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond and the Glengoyne whisky distillery which you can read about on my blog now. 
Thankfully the train from Manchester to Glasgow was very inexpensive, the journey was easy and it was just over three hours, so I think it's a great destination for a weekend away from Manchester. The trains we booked went from Manchester Piccadilly to Glasgow Central and the latter is the perfect location for shopping, sight seeing and it is a short walk from the Hallmark Hotel.

From the station entrance and exit on Argyle Street, it is only a ten minute walk to the hotel so the location is absolutely perfect, especially if you have luggage or heavy bags. The location is ideal for a few reasons as not only is it close to the station but it is also close to the motorway if you're driving to the hotel and it is within walking distance of the city centre and the sights. However, it isn't too close to the centre to be affected by city noise or traffic which is something that always keeps me awake at other hotels.

*Hallmark Hotel Glasgow - Classic Twin Room 
I was very kindly gifted the hotel stay and we had one of their Classic Twin rooms which came with free wifi, free toiletries, a flat screen tv, tea making facilities, air conditioning and many more additions. The room was a little larger than I thought it would be and it felt instantly very homely which is something I rarely feel within a hotel. The toiletries included, facilities and the room decor itself were perfect and the room was very clean. I'm quite fastidious when it comes to cleanliness but it wasn't something I had to worry about at the Glasgow Hallmark Hotel.
The hotel exterior and the immediate surroundings aren't very...luxurious but I was very pleasantly surprised by the lobby and reception of the hotel which was very clean, sleek and luxurious but also inviting. The exterior of the hotel doesn't match the impressive and grand interior of not only the lobby, bar and reception but the rooms too. However, the interior, the food, the service we received and the amazing location make it a fantastic option near the centre of Glasgow.

Most of the Hallmark Hotel buildings seem to be quite unusual and this one is no different as alongside their classic rooms, such as the classic twin room we stayed in, they also offer a selection of self-catering apartments located in their converted 19th century rice mill which is amazing! One of my favourite things about this hotel is the flexibility and packages offered, for example, you can buy the 'dinner, bed and breakfast' option which is what we were gifted, you can purchase the room only or there are even packages for overnight accommodation, an evening meal, breakfast and a thirty minute spa treatment.
As well as the fancy lobby, clean rooms and variety of packages available, they also have an onsite spa and pool! Right next to the main entrance of the hotel is their spa and pool which features a 15 metre pool (one of the only hotels in the city to have one) and a state of the art gym! The spa has a sauna, whirlpool, steam room and options for beauty treatments from waxing, threading and detoxifying treatments to facials, peels, manicures, massages, non-surgical body lifting treatments and more. The location, spa treatments and inclusive options would make it a fantastic option for a special weekend away, hen party or birthday gift.

Sadly we didn't have time to take advantage of the leisure club, spa or the pool but we were booked in for the dinner and breakfast package. The hotel's restaurant has a great range of options that are included within the package for a range of diets including vegetarian, gluten free and vegan options. With the package we had, we could choose two courses and naturally I opted for a main course and dessert (because who would choose a starter over a dessert!) but you can pay for extras such as drinks or more courses if you wanted to.
You can have a look at the dinner inclusive menu online as well as they Hallmark Grill menu and lounge menu. I had the vegetarian pea, asparagus and leek risotto (which was fantastic and perfect after exploring the rainy city of Glasgow) as well as the vegan strawberry ice cream. My plus one had the crispy calamari, grilled steak and the sticky toffee pudding and she was happy with everything! The food was great, the staff were lovely and helpful and the food arrived very quickly. 

We both had a good nights sleep, the beds were very comfortable and there was no outside noise to disturb us, the latter is something I haven't experienced in a hotel for a long time! Included in the stay was breakfast which we had quite early on as we had to meet the coach for our tour in George Square. The breakfast options were great, from cereal, toast and pastries to English breakfast options and fruit. Both dining experiences at the hotel were easy, fuss free and there was a great range of choice. Also all of the staff from the waiting to the reception staff were all very friendly and helpful. 

I was very impressed with our stay at the Hallmark Hotel in the gorgeous city of Glasgow. The city itself felt quite like Manchester, the architecture was beautiful and there is so much to see and do within the city (including the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art) as well as in the surrounding areas (such as the Trossachs National Park, Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond). I think the packages available, location and facilities make the Hallmark Hotel within Glasgow an ideal option if you're visiting the city and I do not have any complaints! I cannot recommend this hotel enough and if you're looking to explore a new city or rediscover an old favourite, check to see if there's a Hallmark Hotel nearby as you won't regret it!

For more photos, videos and information about the hotel and the tour, check out my Glasgow 19 highlights on Instagram as well as the Hallmark Hotel website. 

Have you stayed in a Hallmark Hotel? Have you visited Glasgow? 


*Five Blogging + Freelance Hacks

Friday, October 11, 2019
Image from Pinterest
I've been blogging for over seven years and I've been working as a freelance writer for the past four years and while I feel as though I'm constantly learning and adapting to such a new industry, I think I have acquired a few useful tips that could help any blogger, freelancer or small business owner. I'm by no means an expert when it comes to blogging, social media or writing but I hope these basic tips can help and if you have any tips or advice then leave it in the comments below.

Keyboard Shortcuts & Text Replacement 
The simplest hack I have is to make a few keyboard and text replacement shortcuts! I started doing this with my blog URL years ago but now I do it for my email too. I've added a keyboard shortcut on both my phone and iMac so that when I type 'myblog' on either, my blog URL is typed instead which saves me time. I also have a note on my phone of my social media stats and my email so I can reply to tweets, facebook messages or campaigns quickly with all of the information that is needed instantly.

Another basic hack that I'm sure most people use are spreadsheets. I use them not only for keeping track of my blog post schedule but also for payments. I hate doing my self assessment tax return every year but keeping track of the payments as I go within a spreadsheet makes it a little less stressful.

Blogger Chats & Groups  
A few years ago blogger chats were everywhere and they were incredibly popular but sadly they aren't as much now. However, there are still a few each week and they're great opportunities to 'meet' new bloggers in the community, share links and share ideas. Blogger groups on Facebook are great too and I've been able to find lots of blogging opportunities and events through them.

Next up, I wanted to recommend a few apps that I use constantly. Aside from the basic social media apps, I also love using Colorstory to edit my photos, WordSwag to add text to images and Imaging Edge to take photographs remotely through my Sony A7 iii (I'd also highly recommend the Canon Connect app too).

Last but not least is ContentCal which is a service to help you plan, schedule and publish your social media content in one place with an easy to follow visual calendar to keep track of your upcoming content. One of the things I struggle with the most when it comes to working as a freelancer (alongside the embarrassing process of chasing up payments and the instability) is the time it takes to schedule and post to social media constantly and it is an aspect of blogging/freelancing that I'm failing at currently.

Posting on social media, editing photographs, replying to comments and engaging with content isn't difficult but it is very time consuming and since having laser eye surgery a couple of months ago, I find that the constant staring at a screen (whether it's my phone, iMac or camera) can be quite draining for my vision. So if there's a way to reduce my screen time and to make social media a little less time consuming and planned ahead of time then I'll take it!

ContentCal has a variety of pricing options based on your needs and the requirements of your business, from 'pro' to 'enterprise'. All of the options allow you to connect between four to twenty social media accounts, a visual calendar to monitor content, analytics and more. If you're looking for an easy social media management tool and fuss free social media planning then check out ContentCal for more information and prices.

Do you have any blogging or freelance tips? 


*Common Cosmetics Procedures + Future Plans

Thursday, October 10, 2019
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The terms 'cosmetic surgery', 'cosmetic procedures' and 'cosmetic dentistry' are filled with images of botched plastic surgery, dramatic appearance altering before/after photographs and the use of cosmetic procedures among celebrities. While there are gruesome and shocking aspects of cosmetic surgery and appearance altering procedures, I think there are so many that are more common now from botox, laser hair removal, fillers and facelifts to cosmetic dentistry, implants, peels, hair restoration and more.

I personally don't have a problems with anyone having these procedures if they can afford them and if it's something that they fully want to change. I haven't had any 'cosmetic surgery', although I believe that in various areas of the world laser eye surgery would be considered an elective and cosmetic procedure. I don't rule out any form of cosmetic dentistry, procedure or surgery in the future and I have a list of procedures that I'd potentially want in the future.

Teeth Whitening & Cosmetic Dentistry  
One of the most common forms of cosmetic procedures could be cosmetic dentistry which includes procedures such as the fitting of veneers and crowns, implants, orthodontic treatments and teeth whitening. I've tried various at home teeth whitening options with varying levels of success but I would love to have professional teeth whitening sometime in the future. For more information on cheap cosmetic dentistry check out The James Clinic.

Another very common procedure is botox. While the idea of botox (a neurotoxic protein) being injected into my skin does give me the shivers, I think it is procedure I would fully consider in the next 15 to 20 years time, especially for around my eyes. Celebrities from Cindy Crawford, Pamela Anderson and Courtney Cox to Linda Evangelista, Kim Kardashian and potentially (but unconfirmed), Pippa Middleton have had botox. The fear of face freezing is something that puts me off botox but I think with the right clinic and experienced medical professionals (it has to be performed by a licensed medical professional such as a doctor, nurse, dentist etc in the UK) it could be a safe treatment.

Laser Hair Removal & IPL
Last but not least is, along with teeth whitening, the procedure I've been thinking about for the longest time. Laser hair removal is another procedure I've tried at home and I have received mix results although I do need to try the IPL device I have again. The price and potentially the embarrassment (although there is nothing to be embarrassed about) is probably why I haven't enquired about it yet but I hope that it's something I will look into fully next year.

Have you had any cosmetic surgery or cosmetic dentistry? If not, is it something you'd consider in the future? 


*Staycation Ideas: Five Berth Caravan

Wednesday, October 09, 2019
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If you've been following me on Instagram (@ofbeautyand) then you'll know that I went to Glasgow for the first time last week as part of a hotel stay review (my review will be live very soon) and it has made me remember how much I love travelling and exploring new places. We had an amazing but very brief time in Scotland; however we were able to visit quite a few incredible locations such as Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond and more.

We both agreed that we'd love to go back to Scotland in the future and I would specifically love to go back to the Trossachs National Park again as the scenery was utterly beautiful, especially at this time of the year. While I adored the hotel, I think I would like my own little space while exploring and I think camping and caravanning are great staycation options.

The first thing you need to think about when it comes to a holiday or staycation is the location and Scotland is just perfect, especially at this time of the year when the leaves are turning and the landscape is even more breathtaking than usual. Caravanning would be ideal for that landscape as hotels in more remote areas might not be the cheapest option and with a caravan you would be able to visit various caravan sites and explore the surrounding area much more than if you stayed within a hotel.

There are so many wonderful sites to visit across the UK and some of my favourites have to include: Tatton Park and Dunham Massey in Cheshire, the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, The Tower of London and Buckingham Palace in London and many more such as the incredible national parks in the Yorkshire Dales and the Trossachs National Park near Glasgow.

Five Berth Caravans
Staycations, in my opinion, are so much easier, more convenient and often cheaper alternatives for a weekend break or a few days away with friends. They also offer the opportunity to visit more sites compared to travelling abroad (unless you're planning on a cruise) and staycations are more flexible in terms of the locations you can visit and the activities you can plan, especially if you have your own transport such as a car and caravan.

A five berth caravan would be the perfect weekend staycation for family or friends as not only would you have everything you need in one place but it combines your transport, kitchen, living space, facilities and bedrooms all in one which should cut the costs down when compared to a hotel stay, restaurant costs and transport.

I have been on camping holidays for most of my life and while I loved camping as a child including visiting some of the most beautiful places in the UK (including Fort William, Oban, Devon and Cornwall), it isn't something I'd want to do as an adult. I think a caravan, particularly a large option such as a five berth caravan, would be ideal.

If caravanning also sounds great to you and you would like more information, check out Bailey of Bristol which is one of the UK's leading caravan manufacturers. They have a fantastic range to choose from of various sizes and brands with a variety of specifications. Visit their website for images, prices or to download their brochure.

Have you been on a staycation or caravan holiday? 

*sponsored post

*Little Tricks That Will Help Anyone Beat Smoking

Tuesday, October 08, 2019
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If you’re a smoker, then you’ll know just how difficult it is to give up. For those out there who have never touched a cigarette, you won’t really have the full appreciation of just had enticing one more smoke is. And then one more after that. And then another. For non-smokers, it sounds as simple as just putting them down and never touching them again, but the mind and the body become so very attracted and engaged to them.

What starts out as a pretty 'harmless' little hobby soon turns into a big problem when somebody becomes completely hooked and cannot, for the life of them, quit it. Fortunately, there are things we can do to combat smoking. Some take little-to-no time to stop; others might need a few more weeks and months to end their habit. If you’re a smoker (or you know a smoker) and you would like to know a few little ways you could drop the rate or take the mind away from it, then here are some points for you:

Doing a big workout or exercising a little will improve your life no matter the situation. It’ll do wonders for you if you hope to cut out the ciggies, though. Exercising will help you physically and mentally. If you head to a gym or out for a run, then you’re going to be working on your body and improving your overall physicality. You will probably get cravings, but the intensity will be lowered – especially as time moves on. Mentally, you’ll see yourself as a fitter human being, and you won’t want to touch a cigarette as you may feel that it hinders the progress you’ve made. Furthermore, exercising takes a chunk of time out of your day where you may have had a cigarette or two, so you’ll basically replace smoking time with something a lot healthier.

Work Out The Math!
Cigarettes aren’t cheap. Smoking is a pretty expensive habit. In terms of the financial side, a lot of people don’t take into account how much they’re spending a month or a year on cigarettes. The main reason is that they don’t want to – cognitive dissonance comes into play here, and they don’t want to look at the big number next to expenditures that don’t need to be there. Go ahead; work it out. Look at the number that could be avoided. Surely that’s a good source of motivation in terms of stopping. 

Alternative Methods And Medication 
At this stage, we have many different medicinal means that can help with smoking and other similar habits. If you head to your doctor, then they will be able to discuss at length with you about the different types of treatment. They’ll be able to suggest different forms of medication to stop cravings as well as many techniques that might help you. Meditation may also help you at this point. The idea of meditation is that your thoughts and feelings will be shifted a little, and you’ll see things from a completely different perspective. It won’t cause you to stop straight away (it might!), but you’ll see lots of progress if you’re open to change.

This is a pretty similar idea to meditation. If you’re able to convince your mind that you don’t need cigarettes, then you’re golden – what’s happening upstairs is key to everything else, after all. When it comes to the practice of hypnosis, you’re basically tricking your mind into thinking differently about the entire affair. You can speak to genuine hypnotherapists and see what they can do for you. You can also head online and find different audiotapes to listen to while you sleep! Good luck!

Have you tried to give up smoking? Do you have any tips? 

*collaborative post 

Glasgow Photo Diary: Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond + Glengoyne Distillery

Sunday, October 06, 2019
If you've been following me on instagram (@ofbeautyand) over the past couple of days then you might have seen my Instagram stories of my quick visit to Glasgow! If you want to see more photographs then check out the 'Glasgow 19' stories highlight on my instagram profile. I headed to Glasgow with one of my best friends as I was very kindly gifted a free stay at the Hallmark Hotel in Glasgow - my review will be live very soon so stay tuned. 

There are so many sites to see within Glasgow itself such as the Kelvingrove Museum and Glasgow Cathedral as well as the Museum of Modern Art, the latter we did see on our first day in Glasgow. I did also want to explore a little outside of Glasgow into the surrounding cities and sites so I booked us on a tour with Rabbies (only the hotel stay was gifted - we paid for the travel and tour with Rabbies). 
Stirling Castle 
On the first day in Glasgow we didn't see too much as we knew that the day after would be a very busy and a very long day, including a three hour train journey back to Manchester so we looked through the shops on Buchanan Street (which is such a beautiful shopping street - most of the architecture in Glasgow is gorgeous) and we looked through the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art as well as relaxing at the hotel. 

However, the second day we had a very early start to meet our Rabbies tour in George Square which was only a twenty minute walk from our hotel and thankfully we made it with time to spare. The tour I booked was 'Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond and Whisky' which is a one day tour starting in Glasgow and it returned to the same point in George Square at the end of the day so it was very handy for us as we didn't have much time. 
Before booking the train and hotel, I hadn't heard of Rabbies before but they had great reviews and the price was fantastic considering the convenience of a tour, the location and the number of places we'd visit during the day. The mini bus was ideal for our small group, there were USB ports to charge your phone, the driver/guide (our guide was Iain) was very knowledgable and it was an easy way of visiting numerous places in one day.

We heading north on the M80 to Stirling which is a place I've wanted to visit for a while, not just because of the beautiful castle and history but because a few members of my mums family were from the area. The journey to the castle was quick and we were able to get a discount on the entrance fee to the castle because we were part of a Rabbies tour which is something I didn't know before we arrived at the castle so we saved a little money on the entry to the castle and the distillery.
The drive up to the castle was quite steep but the areas of Stirling that we passed through looked utterly beautiful and the castle was even more so. As we arrived before 10am, there were very few tourists which was great as it meant that we missed the queues. The castle itself is incredibly beautiful as were the gorgeous views! We didn't go on a free tour so we didn't learn as much about the castle as we could have but it was a lovely place to explore (even if it was freezing cold and very windy).

We had just under two hours to explore the castle and I think we only looked through the main sections of the castle - there's too much to fully explore within less than two hours! My only disappointment at the castle (and of the day) was that the castle seemed to be mostly renovated so it looked new which I wasn't expecting and it didn't seem as historic (if that makes sense) as the other incredible castles and royal palaces I've vivid such as Holyrood Palace and Edinburgh Castle. We were able to get some great photographs of the castle and views, visit the three shops and rest in the cafe which did have vegan options although as our next stop was for a lunch break in the small town of Aberfoyle I didn't buy anything but I'm glad there are a couple of vegan options available!
Aberfoyle, Trossachs National Park, Loch Lomond + Milarrochy Bay 
After visiting the castle we headed back on the road to the Trossachs National Park but we passed through a few beautiful villages on the way including Callander (which features a hotel were Queen Victoria stayed), Kilmahog, Balmaha and various smaller lochs in the national park such as Loch Achray, Loch Venachar and lastly Loch Lomond along the West Highland Way.

However, the first stop was for a lunch in Aberfoyle which is a small village in the county of Perthshire and the only vegan option I could find was chips but I'm from Manchester so I was not complaining! The drive from Aberfoyle through the Trossachs National Park was a bumpy one with lots of twisting, stomach turning and sometimes steep roads (so if that's something you are wary of then this might not be the tour for you - I don't get car sick but my stomach was turning).
The drive did feature some of the most beautiful scenery, from the dense woodland of the national park and the gorgeous lochs to the impressive hunters lodges and grand hotels along the route. We did make one stop before Loch Lomond and that was at Loch Achray were there were some rather cute (and also almost rather massive) highland cows!

Lastly, we stopped at Milarrochy Bay which is only one very small area of Loch Lomond and it's one that is sometimes missed by other tour buses but I'm glad we stopped there was it was so beautiful and almost completely empty. Loch Lomond is one of the biggest and most visited lakes in Scotland and it's easy to see why; from the beautiful waters and wildlife filled woodlands to the wallaby inhabited islands (yes, there are wallabies on one of the islands in Loch Lomond) and the plethora of activities to do on and around the lake.
I did enjoy Stirling Castle and the drive through the Trossachs National Park (not so much the bumpy roads but the incredible landscape); however I think Loch Lomond and Milarrochy Bay were my highlights of the day as not only was it such a peaceful place to be but the scenery is perfect, there weren't hoards of tourists and I think I would love to go back to that area as I think the walking trials and woodlands would be perfect to explore further.

Most of my mum's family are from Scotland, for as far back as we can go and I'm definitely proud to be part of such a beautiful country. I've been lucky enough to visit various areas of Scotland such as the Isle of Arran, Mull, Oban, Fort William and Edinburgh and while Edinburgh is my favourite city in Scotland, I think that the Trossachs National Park and Loch Lomond are well worth visiting and somewhere I would love to spend much more time exploring in the future, particularly during the autumn months.
Glengoyne Distillery 
From Loch Lomond we travelled on, you guessed it, more bumpy, steep and stomach turning roads but the scenery made me queasiness worth it! There are so many areas of Scotland that remind me of the villages we have passed through in Norway - I would love to live within Scotland or Norway rather than (beautiful but) rainy Manchester! Thankfully the drive from Loch Lomond to the Glengoyne distillery was fairly quick and again when we arrived at the distillery the entrance fee was reduced as we were part of a Rabbies tour.

I have to start this section with a disclaimer, I don't really drink alcohol apart from on special occasions so I did try the whisky on the tour as it was included in the distillery tour price - you don't have to try the whisky and if you are under 18 then the tour is free (obviously you can't have any of the whisky either). The distillery is almost bordering the highlands and it seems to be in the middle of nowhere but the buildings and surroundings are unexpectedly beautiful.
Growing up, we went camping with our friends every summer to various locations around the UK including Devon, Cornwall, Llandudno and Oban and my dad would drag us around beer and whisky distilleries so it is something I've seen before but until now I've never been old enough to appreciate not only the manufacturing process and machinery involved but also the final product.

As I've said, I don't really drink and I definitely haven't tried any whisky until going on the tour, never mind twelve year old single malt Highland whisky...I did drink all of the shot of whisky and it was surprisingly enjoyable. I didn't know what to expect other than the strength of it might go to my head but it had a tingling warmth to it which definitely helped fight the cold and wind we had experienced all day!
The buildings of the distillery were so quaint and completely unexpected as I thought it would look very industrial and mechanical but it seems like such a pleasant place to work especially with the waterfall, pond and beautiful autumn scenery around it. I only have a few photographs of the distillery and mostly of the outer buildings as you couldn't take photographs inside due to a fire risk because it is a working distillery.

The smell inside the distillery was amazing, it was interesting to learn about the various process involved and how the alcohol changes as it ages. The one hour tour was less than £10 with the Rabbies discount so I'd definitely recommend it and there's a great shop on the site as well where I bought my dad a mini bottle of the whisky I'd tried because I knew that if I didn't bring one back for him to try, he'd be very disappointed!

Overall, as we only had a couple of days in Glasgow I think a tour was the perfect way to explore much more of the country than you would on your own. The tour guide was great, the scenery was incredible (especially at this time of the year when the leaves are turning), the price was fantastic considering the length of the journey and the added discount at both Stirling Castle and the Glengoyne distillery was an unexpected bonus. If you have a day or two in Glasgow then I cannot recommend this tour enough and stay tuned for my review of the fantastic Hallmark Hotel very soon.

Have you been on a Rabbies tour? Have you been to any of the places mentioned?