Before moving to England if someone had asked me my top destinations for Europe I would have always responded Ireland or Scotland. I have always admired the music, culture, the accents. The movies I liked always romanticized those countries. Ireland was our first overnight trip from England and it did not disappoint. During our trip I repeatedly told my husband I wanted to live in Ireland. I already knew I would love Scotland just as much.
Scotland has the advantage being on the same island. We typically have to fly most places but can easily drive up north. So I knew Scotland wasn’t going to be a country I tried to jam pack into one trip. I decided we would do the Edinburgh area for a 3 or 4 day trip and save the highlands for when we had more time. The highlands I want to do when the days are long. We went to Edinburgh during winter solstice and the sun didn’t rise until just before 9 and set at 3:30. That does not give you a lot of time to sight see. If you plan on going to Scotland just once…I suggest you go from April-October to really maximize the daylight.
The drive up was pretty easy and took us about 7.5 hours with 2 stops. On the way up we could practically feel the health of our children deteriorating. They proceeded to be sick the entire trip with fevers, runny noses and terrible coughs. It didn’t stop us from having an amazing experience but sick kids mean you have to modify your expectations a bit….as well as functioning off a full nights sleep.
We stayed at the Premier Inn off East Market Street. It was a good, central location that allowed us to walk to everything along the royal mile. We dropped off our bags and headed straight to the Christmas markets. The first night we went was the Sunday before Christmas and it was packed. Too packed to fully enjoy. We saw the street of light show (highly recommend), rode rides in Santa Land, and browsed the stalls. This was the 5th country we have visited the markets at in the past month and it really never gets old! We went back on Monday and Wednesday nights and they were surprisingly not busy and much more enjoyable those nights.
Our first full day in Edinburgh was dedicated to the Royal Mile. This is the famous street that begins with the Queens palace and ends with Edinburgh castle. In between there are hundreds of whisky, souvenir and specialty shops. Also, plenty of restaurants to chose from. The Royal Mile is one long, steady hill that can feel pretty steep when pushing up a double stroller. Our first stop on the mile was Camera Obscura. This is not to be missed for people travelling with kids. Its very interactive and hands on for any age. The boys had a blast!
On the top floor there are some pretty great views. They do a magic show throughout the day up there (which we intended on watching but Carter decided he did not have time for that….so we kept it moving).
Our next stop was the Scotch Whisky Experience across the street but we decided that our interest in the tour did not match the price tag so we just browsed the gift shop. You have to save money where you can..especially when you know your kids aren’t going to enjoy it. Next, we headed up to castle and again, opted not to tour the inside. At this point I was hungry so we just walked around the outside of the castle and headed for lunch. I picked a place called Oink because it was something quick and easy. They use one pig per day and close when its gone so this was recommended to me for a lunch time meal . I got a pulled pork sandwich with haggis stuffing and it was pretty good! Not the kind of pork a southern girl is used to but you take what you can get in the U.K.! When you are in Scotland you have to eat haggis…it’s an unofficial rule! The boys refused to eat anything which became a theme for the trip. We would constantly buy things to try and coax them to eat and they just refused.
With the boys sick and fussy we bought them a nice wool blanket, sat them back in the stroller and just hoped they would relax and fall asleep as we walked along the royal mile. We did some shopping and took a walk inside St. Giles Cathedral. This is free to enter but you need to pay a small donation to take pictures inside. The cathedral is 900 years old and dedicated to a popular patron saint of Edinburgh. That evening we spent more time in Santa Land which magically helped the kids perk up!
Our second full day in Edinburgh it was cold and rained a good portion of the day which ruined some of my plans. I was not going to make my sick kids walk around in the rain. I had hoped to hike Arthur’s seat, a mountain that overlooks the city, but we opted to drive through Holyrood Park and get to the highest point we could via the road. I am sure the views from the top are amazing.
Another activity we had wanted to do that day was tour the Holyrood Palace. Its the official Scotland residence of the British monarch and of course being that I am obsessed with all things royal I had to go! It’s served royals in Scotland since the 1600’s and Queen Elizabeth spends time here in the summer. The rain was subsiding a bit so we got the kids out of the car to go and it was so cold and windy they were instantly miserable. My kiddos are not a fan of the cold..yet try and get them to wear hats and gloves *insert eye roll here*. We took some pictures from the outside and then decided to head over to an attraction that was indoors.
Our next destination is historically significant for our family. Some background on my husband: His family is from Wales and his grandfather (Bumpa) served in the royal navy. This of course made the family move throughout Europe as his duty stations changed. Ben’s mother met Ben’s father (American) in Germany and that is where they lived until they decided to make Illinois their permanent home. So that is a big reason why we wanted to get stationed in the U.K. Ben wanted to see his family history and be able to allow his boys to experience it.
It just so happens a ship Bumpa was on is now on display in Edinburgh. He worked communications on the Royal Yacht Brittania, where he traveled with the royal family all through Europe and Africa. It’s pretty amazing that the Queen he served so long ago is still Queen today!
The yacht is free of historical and informational signage as they prefer to use just audio touring. So if you want to know any history on the yacht at all you must use the audio tour. Its actually a fairly small ship and only a couple officer bunks so we had a fairly good idea of where Ben’s grandfather slept. There was also an officer lounge. They help make the tour interesting for children by hiding small stuffed corgi dolls in all the rooms. That way the child had to pay attention to add up how many corgi’s they find. At the end of the tour if you have the correct answer, you get a sticker. That was all Kellan needed to have a good time! Most of the tour is indoors but you do walk along the deck a bit so still bring an umbrella if it’s raining.
It was truly a wonderful experience to see some family history. The yacht is attached to a mall so there is plenty of shopping and places to eat after you finish your tour. There is also an indoor play place for rainy days.
That evening we headed back to the Christmas markets. There was barely anyone there due to the rain that day so it ended up being a lot of fun for us not dealing with the crowds.
Stay tuned for my post on our day trip to Stirling!