Monday, March 28, 2016

An Amazing Trip to Edinburgh

We flew directly from Dublin to Scotland and absolutely loved Edinburgh! It is a tiny, big city....stunning, medieval, friendly, historical, cosmopolitan and completely unique. We tasted food we've never tasted, visited a castle and a palace minutes from our front door, and even hiked a prehistoric extinct volcano! Oh, and the plaid! The bagpipes! The Scottish accents! How can you not love a place where everyone sounds like Sean Connery and even the money is beautiful -- decorated with elegant script and colorful hummingbirds?
Our flat was in the red building
We were delighted with our rented flat in Chessels Court on the Royal Mile. The building was 300 years old, set in the only grassy square along Edinburgh's famous street. I noticed a walking tour stop outside our front door, so I did a little research and learned from the University of Edinburgh's website that Chessel's Court was built by Andrew Chessels and was a mid-18th century mansion.  The big kids all slept in one room, waiting their turn to sleep on a floor mattress (which we dragged from the bedroom where Bitsy's Pack n Play was set up). Oh, to be a kid!

We immediately set out to explore. Our first stop was a fabulous little shop only a hundred feet from our front door where we all picked out a wool tartan scarf. 

See Rob back there? We don't mind being a little touristy now and then. It's fun!
We passed kilt-wearing bagpipe players on our walk up to the Edinburgh Castle, which is two thousand years old and is perched atop an ancient volcano, towering over a modern city. Rob treated the kids to an ice cream cone while I bought a single admission ticket for myself...and with Bitsy in the front carrier, I whipped through the grounds in 15 minutes, letting my eyes take it in so I could read about what I'd seen later. Sometimes, that's how you sight-see with four young kids.

The next day was my favorite. We ate breakfast at Mimi's bakery, which made award-winning scones...a title we felt was well-deserved. Then we wandered the opposite direction from the day before down the Royal Mile to the 17th century Palace of Holyroodhouse, where the royal family lives when they're in Scotland. I had just planned to point it out to the kids and was so pleasantly surprised when they begged to go inside. They even wanted us to buy admission into the art gallery! We all wore the family headsets; it just cracked me up when John would come tell me some remote fact about Mary Queen of Scots. 
Mimi's for our Mimi!
Palace of Holyroodhouse, still actively used by the royal family
They were captivated by the child-friendly tour
The gorgeous ruined Holyrood Abbey, founded in 1128
Breathtaking grounds with Sir Arthur's Seat in the background.
We climbed to the top of that!
The kid-activity packs at the art museum were awesome!

We took a long and lovely rest at home. I stole an hour to explore the city streets and walked into a hole-in-the-wall gallery, specializing in rare and antiquarian prints and maps. I brought home two prints from the 1800's; one from the British Cassell's Magazine and the other from Jardine's Natural History, which was illustrated by a Scottish ornithologist, Sir William Jardine. It will be fun to frame them as a souvenir of our trip!

Then everyone was ready to go again. I love this crew's energy like crazy. We walked right past the Palace, where we had spent the morning, to the base of Sir Arthur's Seat, an 822 ft high extinct volcano a mile east of Edinburgh Castle. The kids took one look at the gentle, paved path to the left, and instead choose the wild steep one to the right. I'm so glad they did! We scrambled to the top.The panoramic view of Edinburgh was gorgeous, and I was so impressed by the strength of these four little kids. But eventually they started to get curious about the rocky ledge, and when I thought my heart might LEAP out of my chest, they ran all the back way down with only one significant tumble and zero injuries. On our victory walk back home, we found a Scottish pub that served haggis (sheep's liver, heart and lungs); I'm glad I didn't know exactly what was in it, because we all agreed it was delicious. The kids slept well that night. As Rob and I reflected, it made us even more excited to come back and go to the Highlands one day. I felt a real sense of pride as I try to instill my love for hiking in our kids.....they enjoyed it so much.
Getting ready to go up!

Looking down on the Palace from about a third of the way up the volcano

Our final day in Edinburgh was all about the kids. On our way to the playground in Princes Street Gardens, we walked past the famous Scott monument, which celebrates Scottish author Sir Walter Scott. Gardeners were preparing the flower beds for the season; on our next visit, maybe we'll get to see the famous flower clock. We climbed a steep, daffodil-dotted path up to Edinburgh Castle on the other side of the volcano, and took the kids to see the Camera Obscura in the touristy House of Illusions just as it began to rain. They loved it, and though it was overcrowded and an assault on the senses, it was totally educational (science!) and a perfect end of the day for them
Gothic monument to Sir Walter Scott. We sort of glanced at it as we walked by.

House of Illusions!
And that was a wrap! Our fabulous six-day United Kingdom vacation was a smashing success....even more so than we imagined. We got a wonderful sampling of Ireland and Scotland, enough to make us so excited to come back. 

No comments: