We’ve finally been able to leave the country!
A couple of weekends ago, we were able to make it up to Scotland for a long weekend. We chose Edinburgh as our destination and because it is pretty close-generally speaking-we decided to drive (it was only a 3.5 hour drive.) Oh my…what a gorgeous drive!! Going the route of northwest England, we drove through the outer edges of the Lake District. We have decided that we’ll definitely have to make it up to the Lake District again for a visit. Such beautiful ‘hills’ and scenery.
Scotland though, wow, it blew my mind how gorgeous it is up there. And to get into Edinburgh, you get off the major motorway about an hour out and drive into the city on country roads. What an opportunity to see so much more of the scenery, little villages and historical markers. I loved that about driving.
We finally make it to the city and to our hotel. Matt gets out to check in and after about 20 minutes of waiting for him, I realize something is up! He comes back out and unbeknownst to us, we made reservations for the wrong weekend-the following weekend. Oh Crap! To make matters worse, there is a huge Rugby game between Scotland and France that weekend, part of the ‘6 Nations Rugby Tournament’. Oh Crap!! Our hotel was sold out. OH CRAP!! So, they were awesome in helping us find another hotel close by that still had availability. AWESOME!
Of course they still had availability because they were a little more upscale than we were used too. But, we didn’t drive 3.5 hours to turn around and go home, so we bit the bullet and paid the extra. Ouch! Fortunately, they were about 5 minutes from where we were, so off we went. Also, because fate must have felt sorry for us, when Matt checked in they upgraded us for free and told us we’d have a better view! Oh Brother, were they right!
Our View, with a balcony that allowed us to go outside:
Because we got settled a little later than planned, we chose to walk around our area and grab dinner at a little Italian restaurant across from our hotel.
Saturday we woke up and got moving! Our agenda for the day was to make it to Edinburgh Castle and the Scotch Whiskey Experience. Check and Check! The weather was pretty good, overcast and a ‘little’ windy, but no rain. We went through the castle casually, making sure to duck inside all of the individual museums in the different buildings. I don’t know what this says about me, but I loved the prisons and the jewels. Matt enjoyed the history of war, with its guns and military intelligence. Sarah fell asleep for some of it and then just wanted down to run! She enjoyed being outside in the courtyards, walking on the rocky roads.
The Scotch Whiskey Experience started off like a Disney ride. We sat in a casket, moving through the history and how-to of scotch production. Sarah just sat wide-eyed, wondering what in the world we were subjecting her too. After the ‘ride’, we went into a tasting room where we learned a little more of the different varieties of scotch and where they originate in Scotland. We then got to choose which kind we wanted to taste–Matt chose smoky/strong and I chose vanilla/fruity. Now, I’m not a huge scotch drinker, so I sipped a bit, then gave mine to Matt.
Let’s just put this out there…I was winner winner chicken dinner…he liked mine better. After our taste tests, we went through the biggest scotch collection in the world. Beautiful! (And then of course, we went through the scotch shop and bought a bottle of the scotch that I had picked.)
By this time it was late afternoon, and after heading to the hotel for a bit to let Sarah get down and play, we headed back out to walk down The Royal Mile. This ‘Scots Mile’ runs between the Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Castle (the official residence of the British monarchy when they are in town), and is the main thoroughfare of Old Town. It’s now lined with shops, churches, pubs, small businesses, and street performers. Lots of lots of Scottish wool for sale on this stretch of street!
Of course, being the awesome parents that we are, we found a pub for dinner. We did make sure it was okay and they said yes, but the looks we were getting we very judgemental! Whatever, we’re Americans…that was our excuse! And, she enjoyed people watching, so that kept her fairly calm for an hour.
Now, the ‘awesome’ thing about traveling with a toddler, it that you’re back to your hotel earlier than you’d like, due to bedtime. Otherwise, there would be meltdowns in public, and really, who wants that? So, we got to enjoy the Edinburgh nightlife from our balcony.
On the plus side of early to bed, is early to rise. Our to-do for Sunday was to drive 2.5 hours northeast to see Dunnottar Castle. We picked a gorgeous day to drive and be outside–sunny with a slight breeze–and this was out in the middle of nowhere as well, so the views were beautiful. Built in the 9th century, Dunnottar Castle is surrounded by steep cliffs that drop into the North Sea (150 feet below.) The castle is best known for its protection of the Honours of Scotland (the crown jewels) from Oliver Cromwell’s invading army in the 17th century.
It was nice to walk through the building ruins, and the grounds, read the history, and imagine life back then. Sarah could again, run around, and climb, without hurting anything. We were also able to hike around to the area of land that runs adjacent to it on its south side–which was a lot more fun for Matt since he was carrying an extra 23lbs on his back in the form of a sleeping baby! I’d definitely visit this place more often if we didn’t have so much on our ‘European To-Do’ list.
We woke up Monday, ready for our last stop of the trip. In our travel guide, I happened across Rosslyn Chapel completely by accident. Located just 7 miles south of Edinburgh, it was an easy decision to head here after we checked out. (It also allowed us to take a different route home…Bonus!)
Rosslyn Chapel was built in the mid-15th century. At the time it was known for its ornately carved interior, rich in symbolic imagery, that contrasted with the architectural fashion. It is breathtakingly beautiful, inside and out…if you like that sort of thing. Today, it’s popularity is due to Dan Brown’s book, The Da Vinci Code, which we read and was another reason we chose to visit. It was a perfect ending to our trip. We left feeling that we had an amazing first trip to Scotland. (Unfortunately, photography isn’t allowed inside, so it’s outside shots only.)
Our drive home, through the Scotland countryside, was just awesome. Small roads with steep cliffs, sheep everywhere, small towns, and mountains with snow (in the distance). We really enjoyed our long weekend and look forward to a return to see other parts of the country as well. We definitely hope to visit Edinburgh again, as there was SO much we weren’t able to do, due to time.
What’s next on our agenda? Wales this month, and I believe a trip to Slovenia is in the works for May!