Edinburgh in a Weekend

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So, we went to Edinburgh! We drove up over a long weekend to see what all the fuss was about. What fuss? you may be asking. Well, ever since we moved to England, everyone has been swooning over Edinburgh, declaring it their favorite city in Europe (and by everybody I mean at least five different people.)  We really haven’t seen much of the UK in our two years here, and we’d like to change that. So, we decided a road trip up North would be just the thing. Sadly, (SO sadly!) I didn’t have my camera with me. I almost didn’t want to make the trip if I couldn’t photograph everything properly… But I decided it would be a good meditation on being present, and I worked hard the whole time not to be sad about it.

On the road, looking for adventure!
We had a wonderful trip. We drove to York on the first day, and walked the wall and did some other fun things there. We stayed overnight in a suite at a farm that we found on airbnb.com, and then finished the trek up to Edinburgh the next morning, where we would be renting a little apartment. (By the way, have you heard of airbnb? Find out why I love it!)

Alright, this city has not been over-hyped. In fact, I don’t know why I hadn’t heard much about it until recently. Edinburgh is beautiful, interesting and cool. The location is fantastic– atop a hill alongside the sea, with mountains in the background. The architecture is incredible, the color palette perfect, and there is so much to see there. My first impression was that I had walked into the pages of the most incredible pop-up story book. Here are some photos. Of course, I wish they were better… But they are what I have, and I really want to share them with you!

This city was made for October glory. The colors are all just right to glow in the midst of red, orange and yellow leaves. There is a beautifully aged black accent to all of the stonework and cement which looks almost too perfect. Here is one side of the caste, which is the highest point of the city, right in the middle of everything.
So, what did we do in Edinburgh?
In our 1.5 days there, this is what we did:
1. First order of business was getting some haggis and whisky.  Both were great– none of us had tried haggis before (frankly, the description sounds revolting) and Jeff and I were very pleasantly surprised by how much we liked it. Amelia was immediately sold on the city when a rather hammered older gentleman approached us, told Amelia all sorts of wonderfully complimentary things in a Scottish accent almost too thick to understand, and gave her £10 “pocket money.”  After spotting this bagpiper, she announced that she was ready to move there. Seriously, what more could a kid want?
2. We looked in shops and enjoyed being in a big city, as well as the possibility of finding some good coffee. And we enjoyed how incredibly friendly everyone was.  Seriously. It was wonderful.
3. We checked out the castle— but didn’t go inside. We have had too many “tourist trap” experiences, and it was really expensive. We did go into the shop and get portraits there, however:
4. We visited the Scottish National Gallery.  We mainly hung out in the natural history wing, since that is what enthralls Amelia most. Me too, actually. Here’s the view from the top floor:
5. We visited the Tartan Weaving Mill. Believe it or not, this was Amelia’s favorite part of our trip (besides getting money from strangers.)  She was so into the kilts and tartan patterns, and loved seeing everything and talking to people about it! On a side note, she also loved seeing the neo-hippies and otherwise unusual (read: weird) looking people that there are more of in a big, cool city. “The clothes sure are a lot of fun around here!” she exclaimed with delight. Bless her heart.
6. I hesitate to tell you about this one, but should mention it so you can avoid it– The Museum of Childhood.  This was super depressing and creepy. I had hunted it down, hoping it would be something fun for Amelia. Once we found it, we all checked out lots of dingy old toys  and eerie doll houses, plus a little puppet show machine you can turn on with a coin. Then I compulsively took her to the display about child coal miners and the example of the old shoe that had been turned into a sad, sad “doll” so I could grimly explain how good she has it now. Yes, I am that parent. Unless you really need to have that talk with your kid, you can skip this museum.
7. You know what my very favorite thing was? Sitting on a balcony with a wonderful view of Edinburgh both nights, just enjoying the feeling of being in a new place with my family. They provided blankets, and we took our time there, enjoying Middle Eastern food the first night, and whisky the second night. We watched as the sun set and the buildings gradually lit up. Amelia found people to talk to, and we had time to chat together about many things, including some of those bigger life issues you always hope that you have the right time and space to talk about thoughtfully with your kids. I felt deeply happy and grateful.
We got up bright and early the next morning. Jeff and I couldn’t sleep, so we gave up at 5:30 and started packing. We hit the road while it was still dark, at 6:30. We chose a route that would take us west first, rather than along the coast, where we had come up. Leaving this early in the morning was a fantastic choice. We had more time to follow signs that indicated good lookouts and interesting places. We got to enjoy scenes like this one in the morning mists:

It was really cold… But it if hadn’t been, we probably would have taken the time to walk down to that lake.

Here I am, showing off my souvenir hat. Amelia got an aran wool sweater, and Jeff picked a nice scarf from the wool mills we visited. We all wore them on our drive home, like the (loveably?) dorky family we are.

And this was the moment that I struggled the most with not having my “real” camera.

I cannot overstate the beauty of the terrains we drove through. Wild, idyllic, verdant, and dramatic. My spirit soared as I just took it all in. I hadn’t realized how starved I had been for mountains and hills. Everything is relatively flat around here, and although pretty, very boring by comparison.
We came home very refreshed, even though it had been a very long day of driving. We are so thankful that we can actually drive to places like Edinburgh, and are looking forward to our next chance to get to explore more of Scotland. As always, it’s such a pleasure to get to share our adventures with you– so thank you for traveling along with us!

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12 Responses to Edinburgh in a Weekend

  1. Anonymous October 23, 2013 at 4:48 pm #

    A beautiful journey! Thank you for sharing. (I love your new hat!) ~Sherry

  2. Joanna October 23, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

    I love Scotland too, whilst I would never contemplate returning to England, I could contemplate going to live in some rural out of the way place up there. I love the West Coast the best and we stayed in a very friendly campsite place called Port Ban, maybe not the most up-to-date place in the world but they made up for it in welcoming a nearly drowned family from the rain and wind with a place in one of the staff caravans. Our children still think back to that wonderful holiday. So you really must go back up North and see some more of that great place

  3. Jennifer @ 20 something allergies October 24, 2013 at 12:46 pm #

    Perfectly lovely! My little brother (half-brother) has a lot of family in Scotland and spent some time there a few years ago. He was in love with it as much as you, and I can see why!

  4. Naz October 24, 2013 at 5:34 pm #

    Beautiful! Must travel there some day! 🙂

  5. Crystal October 24, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

    So Beautiful. We just moved to the England and everyone that we have asked where is you favorite place in all of Europe? They say “Edinburgh” they also mention that people are so nice!! I can’t wait to visit. We want to visit for the highland games.

  6. Caterina B October 25, 2013 at 6:48 pm #

    What a wonderful trip you had! I have not visited Edinburgh, but have always thought it would be a
    very interesting place.

  7. Anonymous October 26, 2013 at 8:42 am #

    Hi Ariana, so good to hear from you again. Your trip to Edinburgh sounds wonderful,good time to spend with your family. I was there once for the military tatoo. A trip to the dales or the lake district would be enjoyable too. Stay warm. Lina

  8. Anonymous October 28, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

    Edinburgh is wonderful, and so is Scotland in general. Your photos are so evocative of Edinburgh – it’s a long time since I visited and I’m quite jealous.

    You’re right that East Anglia is a bit flat if you have a hankering for the hills and mountains, but that’s where the jobs are for a lot of US citizens who come to work in the UK. However, England has plenty of hilly bits too. Try the Peak District in Derbyshire, the Cotswolds, the Shropshire Hills, the Yorkshire Dales, the North York Moors, and England’s gem – the Lake District. And there’s always Wales of course – lots and lots of mountains there!

  9. Cupcake Crazy Gem October 29, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    So glad you got to see Edinburgh! We have been living up in Scotland for 2 months now and this past weekend was the first time we went since my mom came to visit and so treated us to the outing! and I hadn’t been there for over 8 years and I loved being back! As you said it is a truly awesome city! If you ever want to come explore Glasgow (we are living just outside of it) then you’re always welcome to stay in our spare room (I love air bnb too…we used it tons on our usa west coast road trip we did this summer!) and I can show you the sights of Loch Lomond which you will just adore! Also..for other awesome road trips in England like the person said above Shropshire is a truly beautiful county, it’s where my parents live right now, go see Shrewsbury – I love all their quaint little card and gift shops and old style buildings, go to Ludlow – they call it mini Switzerland with it’s rolling hills and it’s one of the foodiest towns in the UK with amazing food markets and an award winning deli that does the best sandwiches and defo go to Ironbridge – the oldest ‘iron bridge’ in UK is a truly spectacular sight and it has a wonderful cupcakery called Queenie’s to get a delicious cupcake and spot of tea! Much Wenlock is also another cute village worth checking out…it can easily all be done in a long weekend 🙂


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