IT’S that time of year again when hearts are warmed by the celebration of Saint Valentine.

Don’t panic if you’ve not got anything sorted for your special one this year as I have some last-minute things you can do to celebrate, as well as a chocolate box full of trips of all shapes and flavours you can book to enjoy now, or even later in the year.

Kicking off at home, there are some brilliant ways to celebrate in our eight cities. Many hotels lower their rates in winter. You might not snare a bargain on the big night, but check out the weekends afterwards for a better deal.

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In Edinburgh the brand-new W is sensational – I stayed there earlier this year and it’s right up there at the top of the Edinburgh hotel tree. And since my stay, they’ve opened a wee speakeasy-style bar that is ideal for romantic moments.

You don’t need to shell out lots of cash to be romantic either. How about a hand-in-hand stroll in Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh or a wander around the Glasgow Botanic Gardens (below)? In Aberdeen, a bracing stroll on surely the UK’s finest urban beach beckons, with a sweet treat from the street food vans on the promenade. In Dundee, saunter up Dundee Law for the city’s ultimate romantic view; in Stirling, ease up to the castle promenade for epic views; in Perth, it’s a Tay-side walk looking out for the beavers; in Inverness, it’s the wedding photograph favourite of the Ness Islands.

The National:

Or what about a break for two in Scotland’s newest city, Dunfermline? There are loads of free attractions you can enjoy before splashing out on a brilliant Indian feast at Dhoom. Kick off with a heart-warming wander through Pittencrieff Park, followed by coffee and cake in the Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries, with its excellent museum and views. You’ve still got the landmark Dunfermline Abbey and the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum to check out too.

Booking ahead, what could be more romantic than quite literally sailing away into the sunset?

Scotland has a wonderful fleet of small ships that ply our world-class waters. The Majestic Line have five ships, none sleeping more than 12 passengers, so it’s a very intimate and relaxed way to cruise and enjoy quality time together. The Hebridean Princess is a step up in luxury – so plush that the late Queen Elizabeth chartered her twice as a Britannia stand-in. I love Argyll Cruises too, whose converted fishing boat, the Splendour, only sleeps a maximum of eight guests. Skipper Ted is really welcoming and it’s a lovely wee family-run company.

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Moving further afield, I was back on the Canarian isle of Fuerteventura last month. I stayed in my favourite resort in the whole archipelago – Corralejo. This beach-fringed oasis enjoys temperatures in the 20s in February and is ideal for a laidback loved-up escape. It has all the resort trappings, but it’s still a real Spanish town.

It’s also a great base for hiking and exploring the north coast, including El Cotillo, a fishing village and emerging resort with some top-notch seafood restaurants. The revamped El Roque de los Pescadores is glorious.

The National: Love is in the air – and sea and rail

For a city break Cupid would approve of, it’s hard to look past Paris. Next weekend sees a Six Nations break, so you won’t have competition from thousands of rugby fans. Paris in spring may be eulogised as its most romantic season, but winter is a corking time to visit the French capital too. It’s noticeably less busy, most things are still open and hotel rooms are cheaper. This year is a huge one as the city will host the Olympic Games, so get in now before the crowds.

A wee walk along the River Seine, followed by a cosy dinner in the Left Bank, just the two of you, may be the stuff of romantic cliches, but it’s still a life-affirming joy. As is the view across the city from the Sacre Coeur, or a trip on a boat along the river in the shadow of that tower.

Another love-filled city break option is Venice. Italy’s most dramatic city gets ridiculously busy in summer, but it’s appreciably quieter in winter. It can be on the chilly side, but the sight of a gondola easing through the morning mists, or the crystal-clear view north to the Dolomites from the Lido, is one you’ll never forget.

The National: Love is in the air – and sea and rail

If you want to really go for it, hold off until May and book a cabin on the legendary Orient Express. It’s quite something rattling through the Alps and Dolomites in a wave of luxury and arriving within a stone’s throw of Venice’s Grand Canal.

So don’t panic if you’ve not sorted out a Valentine’s Day treat yet. And remember that we’re all lucky to live in what I reckon – after travels that have taken me to well over 100 countries – is the most beautiful country in the world.

Romance is right here in Scotland.

Here is wishing you a happy Valentine’s Day.


Cosy up with a dreamy view of the Forth Bridges at Orocco Pier in South Queensferry. This characterful boutique hotel is crafted around an old coaching inn on the historic High Street. Their Valentine’s special runs until February 18, costing from £185. For that, you can get a bottle of champagne waiting in the room, along with silk rose petals and a sweet treat, with £50 towards dinner. The next day, sleep in a little before breakfast – again enjoyed with a Forth Bridges view. They also have Valentine’s special dinners for £39.95 per person, including on the big night.