Tuesday, July 26, 2011


In the craziness of the weeks leading up to our departure for NI, Chris booked a weekend away for us in Edinburgh.  Neither of us had looked into the city much before we booked but the price was right and we could surely find enough to keep ourselves busy for a few days.  The weeks went by and we had been busy with so many other things that the planning, at least the way I tend to plan a holiday, went completely out the window.
We caught the plane to Scotland on Friday night.  We had our first hand at flying one of Europe’s discount airlines, Easyjet, and it was a fairly positive experience. The flight was only thirty minutes and, since we had a member of our group in the under five category, we were lucky to be able to have priority boarding, important since there is no assigned seating with the airline.  Limited to one piece of carryon luggage each, we had the five of us packed into two small bags, Kyra and Elliot each had a back pack and I had my purse.  I was expecting the worst but their efficiency impressed me.
We did know from the little research that we had done, that we wanted to get one of the tourist passes that gave you admission to several of the key attractions. We compared the two options over breakfast and realized that the one we really wanted was, according to the website, only available online. You redeem your confirmation code at a specific location and confirmation codes were emailed Monday through Friday only. We thought we were SOL but at least we know knew exactly what we wanted to do, savings or not. We inquired at the hotel concierge and were thrilled to find out that they sell the package that we wanted.
Our first stop was Edinburgh Castle. Our timing could not have been better. With our tickets already in hand, we were able to bypass to long line to enter the castle. There was a free guided tour and we decided not to join the large group that was about to leave. We admired the views from high above Edinburgh and looked over the castle walls.  Ten minutes later there was a much smaller group of people gathering for the tour. Our guide was fantastic and told us many things details to look out for in the various buildings when we looked around on our own later on. While walking between the of likely scripted segments of the tour she made a point of keeping the kids on the tour engaged telling them stories of lions that were rumoured to have lived at the castle which are not able to be part of the tour because it isn’t proven fact. The grounds were spectacular, the Scottish Crown Jewels were fun to see and we somehow missed the one o’clock gun entirely. We were likely touring the apartments were King James would have been born, looking at the many swords and plates of armour that adorned the walls of the great hall, or touring the Castle Vaults that housed prisoners of war in the 18th century.  The Scottish National War Memorial was wonderfully presented on the Castle grounds.
From Royals dwellings of the past to present, we made our way to the Royal Yacht Britannia. Since being decommissioned in 1997 after 44 years serving the Royal Family, the yacht is now a tourist attraction moored in Edinburgh.  A museum preceded our visit on board the ship and introduced the boats history through timelines, pictures and memorabilia. We boarded the ship with audio tour handsets, special junior versions for the kids. Gavin didn’t listen to all of it; he enjoyed randomly pressing the buttons.  We were surprised by the beds. None of them looked particularly comfy. All were twin beds with the exception of the honeymoon suite which was a double.  It was an interesting peak into the lifestyle of the royals and those that serve them.  Particularly interesting were the gifts on display given by the countries visited on the Britannia like a narwhal tusk from a visit to Canada.
Sunday morning started with a trip to the National Museum of Scotland. We focused on the Kingdom of the Scots section and walked amongst interesting artefacts from between 900-1707.  Weapons, a guillotine, clarsaches, jewels, painted ceilings, and a giant ceremonial sword all caught more than a passing gaze. The kids enjoyed piecing together jugs and dressing up in the discovery zone.

Clearly "someone" has some work to do

It would simply be wrong not to have a taste of Scotch in its homeland. The only actual distillery in the area did not allow kids under eight into the production area which meant we couldn’t all take the entire tour. The Scotch Whiskey Experience was a great all ages alternative. A Disneyesque ride in an oversized barrel brings you through the scotch making process from barley to cask.  We were then given a great presentation that broke down the key aromas characteristic of each of the four main regions - citrus from the Lowlands, vanilla from the Highlands, peat from Islay and banana from Speyside. With a scratch and stiff card in hand you were able to choose which of the regions you wanted to sample from. We then visited the world’s largest scotch collection for the tasting. Kids got a glass of Irn Bru and since Gavin is not a fan of fizzy drinks, he desperately wanted a sip of Mom or Dad’s apple juice instead.
We had a nice walk down the Royal Mile past William Wallace himself and many other spirited street performers. Some were far more impressive than others. The duelling banjos (minus two banjos and add in a set of bagpipes and an electric guitar) was truly impressive.
The last of our Royal Ticket package included a tour of the Palace of Holyroodhouse. More than the Queen’s official residence in Scotland, it has a rich royal history as home to Mary, Queen of Scots and was a interesting tour that brought you into history and back to the present. The courtyard itself was being transformed for the wedding of Zara Phillips being held there this coming weekend.  Shouldn’t probably mention that when asked where the washrooms were I was pointed in the direction of an unmarked door just off the courtyard itself. Hopefully they get nicer quality TP for special events ;o)

1 comment: