THERE was a sense of anticipation as the Edinburgh to King's Cross train rolled out of Waverley Station. It was like the roots had grown around our feet after spending a year and a half in our home of Bonnyrigg in Midlothian. It was good to sit down with the cards for a game of Scabby Queen, also known as Old Maid, as we passed landmarks such as Dunbar and Berwick-Upon-Tweed. We were soon back in our stride and heading to the Big Smoke.

Arriving in London there’s a sense of picking up pace having been living a much slower life, checking for masks, tickets and hand-sanitiser while running for our connection to Brighton felt like a challenge. The pace began to slow down after we arrived on the south coast. A local legend known as Nelly sat busking on a lap steel guitar belting out Primal Scream’s Loaded and some Hendrix. After a momentary pause, we continued to the Harbour Hotel.

The children had been deprived of a swim for many months so we headed down to the subterranean spa in the old smugglers’ tunnels under the seafront. After the swim, we went to the hotel bar where the walls were decorated by punk artist Jamie Reid both in original Union flag and Jamaican colourway.

We took a walk along the promenade past various Brighton rock, ice-cream and candy floss sellers to visit VIP (Very Italian Pizza) which lived up to its name – all the produce comes from a farm in Naples and the family atmosphere was a good fit.

While the family headed for the attractions on the Brighton Palace Pier, I opted for a jaunt around some of the most famous record shops in Britain. My first stop was The Record Album next to the train station, a treasure trove where I found a reasonably priced Japanese Bowie release from 1976 for a fraction of the online price.

We all regrouped for a visit to Rock N’ Roll With Me – the Bowie exhibition featuring photos taken by his boyhood friend Geoff McCormack. The exhibition – which runs to January – of Bowie shots stretch between 1973-1976 when MacCormack was the singer’s constant companion.

At the height of Ziggy Stardust’s success, he was an auxiliary Spider From Mars for tours of Japan and appeared albums including Aladdin Sane (1973) and Station To Station (1976). Through the exhibition, we join Bowie on tour, on cruise ships, sailing the Atlantic on cruise liners and travelling on the Trans-Siberian Express. It’s an immersive experience that is up there with the most memorable posthumous celebrations of Bowie’s life and work.

Our next stop was a location from the 1979 film Quadrophenia, the classic concerning 1960s Mod culture continues to draw fans to the aptly named Quadrophenia Alley. Covered in graffiti, this is where the film’s stars Phil Daniels as Jimmy and Leslie Ash as Steph enjoyed a moment while on the run from the police after a brawl with rockers.

Then it was Richmond. Across the road from the underground station is what was once the Crawdaddy Club where the Rolling Stones enjoyed a residency in 1963, the likes of Led Zeppelin and Rod Stewart also played formative shows here.

This was the spot where The Beatles first met the Rolling Stones after filming Thank Your Lucky Stars for ITV. On the walk from the station to the hotel, we passed Downe House where Mick Jagger lived with Jerry Hall. It is now occupied by Rupert Murdoch and Hall, since their marriage in 2016.

Further on up the hill another pricey location; The Wick, a grade 1 listed house, was on the market for £15 million. The house has become a part of rock n’ roll folklore after it was bought by Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood in 1971. He would persuade his Faces bandmate Ronnie Lane to buy the cottages next door and the pair lived as neighbours.

After joining the Stones, Keith Richards would also enjoy a stint in the house and it was in the basement studio after a jam with David Bowie that Wood, Richards and Bowie would come up with the bones of It’s Only Rock N’ Roll (But I Like It). The house has been owned by The Who’s Pete Townshend since 1996.

We finally reach the Richmond Harbour Hotel & Spa, which features a busy, all-day kitchen, bar and terrace close to Richmond Park. For dinner, we had a Ligurian fish stew with mussels, prawns, monkfish, tomato and fennel. The hotel staff were happy to help with suggestions for food or things to do.

On the journey from Richmond to west London we passed Talgarth Road, one of the locations from Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting. It’s this spot where Mark Renton moves Begbie and Sickboy into a property when they appear from Edinburgh at his flat.

In London, I meet up with an old school pal in The Ship pub in Soho where Bowie and the Spiders would enjoy a pint when recording at nearby Trident studios.

This was also where Keith Moon was banned for letting off a smoke bomb and where Jimi Hendrix fell down a flight of stairs.

From here I reconnected with the family where we visited the West End to see Amelie at the Criterion Theatre. We are soon transported to the streets of Paris and the sound of the accordion.

The next morning began with a trip to the London Eye. Our journey in the pod was a soothing experience, escaping London for a time. As we slowly began to rise into the air the Thames flowed below. We enjoyed the views of Big Ben, Westminster and the sprawling views of the cityscape.

Although intended to be temporary, it remains the most popular paid attraction in the UK. An alternative way to see more of the city is travelling by Thames Clipper River Bus. It’s hard not to think about Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious who embarked on the same journey for the Sex Pistols boat party in June 1977. Held during the queen’s jubilee year to promote the release of God Save The Queen, it’s a moment now entwined with the Thames history and pop culture.

We arrive at the Tower of London where one of the many wandering Beefeaters is discussing the grisly end William Wallace faced here. It was on Kate Bush’s Oh England My Lionheart that I first heard about the legend of the ravens: “Our thumping hearts hold the ravens in/And keep the tower from tumbling."

It is said that the kingdom and the Tower of London will fall if the six resident ravens fly off (there are seven just in case). The Crown Jewels, part of the Royal Collection, are the biggest draw, tourists are repeatedly told to put cameras away as they try to capture a moment with the diamonds, robes and precious jewels belonging to the kings and queens of England (and later the UK) which have attracted somewhere in the region of 30 million visitors.

We arrive at The Bloomsbury, an intimate, central London hotel with The Seamus Heaney Library named after the Nobel Prize-winning Irish poet. Heaney was a regular guest at the hotel and opened the space in 2011. For dinner, we were invited to the Dalloway Terrace where I went for Scottish salmon while the children enjoyed fish and chips. The grown ups were treated to a sparkling cocktail known as Sophia’s Fizz which included blood orange gin and sparkling wine. We raised a toast to getting back to one of the greatest cities on the planet.

Travel Facts:

Rooms at the Harbour Hotel start at £95 per night. For more information

Rooms at The Bloomsbury Hotel start at £315 visit

For train information visit

The Art of Banksy will run until May 2022 for more information visit

For more information on The Tower of London

Amelie continues during September for tickets

For travel on the Thames Clipper