It has become clear that I am looked upon as a travel hero. I have lived in the UK for 2.75 years now and have managed to leave the island only twice. Once I made it as far as France, and once all the way to Western Canada. I do trip about England and Wales quite a bit (it's not like anything is terribly far). My children are wild and my partner a reluctant traveller. When I write my memoirs they will have much more in common with *"The Accidental Tourist" than Bill Bryson, although it hurts my heart to admit so. Living in different places has become my travel and local adventuring is most definitely my jam.
Yet, as I am a travel hero, I feel it is my duty to impart of my wisdom and learning so that others may follow in my footsteps if they so choose. This guide to visiting Edinburgh will no doubt become an internet sensation and tourism in Scotland overall will richly benefit from my knowledge.
Danielle's Guide to Visiting Edinburgh
Step one. As close to your departure date as possible, have one of your children break their arm. A more serious break requiring surgery is preferred, but whatever you can manage will work. Obviously, it must be an accident. Having a family member with an injury is vital for maximum enjoyment and maximum effort- the only two maximums I observe daily. Topping up and keeping track of pain medication while on the move adds a level of difficulty that you will be proud to master. Your anxiety and danger awareness will be heightened thus allowing you to look out for all as you climb hills, stairs, cliffs, and avoid playgrounds.
Step two. Drive. If you are Canadian, the long drive distances will not discourage you, as you will have travelled much further in the past (my record- 56 hours one way). Driving with family is preferred because it is the least expensive option, you only get to annoy each other rather than other passengers, and you can find out who in your family is prone to motion sickness (it is always me).
Step three. Stop somewhere mildly out of the way to annoy your partner. I booked us into the Scarborough Grand Hotel for a night because I love Scarborough and am always looking for excuses to go back there. The cold rugged North Sea really calls to me as do the moors and the Brontë ghosts. At the time of it's opening, the Scarborough Grand was the largest hotel and largest brick structure in all of Europe. It is beautiful, right on the ocean, and must have been magnificent to witness in all it's glory during the Victorian Era. At present, it is definitely run down and tired, but still an amazing building. We did have a magical family evening walking along the beach, playing games in the arcade, and eating the best Mexican food I have had in the UK (that's not saying a lot but also it is).
Step four. Make the most of your accent and cultural differences. When I booked the room, I asked for a cot, as we would be five people in a room meant for four. When we walked into the room, we were temporarily distracted by the fantastic views of the ocean. Then we noticed the playpen. And queen size bed. And what can only be described as a leather futon with no bedding. So... a cot has a different meaning in Canada than it does in England. I was hoping for an adult size fold up bed and I got a bed for a baby. Which brings me to step five.
Step five. Do. Not. Sleep. Mr. K slept on the futon thing. Mr. L, Mr. G, and I shared the bed. My partner insisted on "sleeping" on the floor. Mr. G stayed awake and kicked me until 3 am at which point Mr. K woke up and was ready to get on with the day. At 3 am, I retired to the bathroom floor, as I needed SOME sleep so that I could stay awake while driving to Scotland (safety first). I got a fitful few hours, I was occasionally disturbed by people needing to use the toilet and thoughts of rats.
Step six. Take the scenic route. It is worth the extra hour or five. Drive through the moors. I honestly did not want to leave. Rolling hills of purple where nothing much grows and I can pretend that I'm Catherine Earnshaw getting ready for my pyschotic break or Mary Lennox on her way to Misselthwaite Manor. My partner was even impressed with the terrain. There is nothing like the North Yorkshire Moors. They are eerily beautiful in the best possible way. We also had a stunning drive through the Scottish lowlands, which reminded me of the English countryside, but wilder. I wish we could have made it to the highlands, as I think that is where the real show is!
Step seven. Meet a family member or two in Scotland. Surprise your kids. There is nothing better than walking down a street in Edinburgh in the rain, after a long night and a long drive, and bumping into your Auntie and Uncle. The boys were so confused and pleased, "how did you get here Auntie?" You will be thankful for the extra hands to help with the children in the day and the friendly company in the evening. Be aware that the people without children will get to take naps and the people with children will not. Be aware that your children will likely wake up the people without children from their naps at regular and annoying intervals.
Step eight. Visit the National Museum of Scotland. It's the prettiest museum I have ever seen. It's also free. Even if you tour it with a grouchy autistic boy and his sweaty father, you will still be impressed. Thank you to Auntie and Uncle for being so kind and patient with the twins as they took them through the museum.
Step nine. Stay at an airbnb that is definitely usually used by people on a **hen do/**stag do/weekend out with a lot of drinking. Our Airbnb was very central and slept 14. The boys loved the bunk beds. Apparently the beds were not very comfortable, but as I had just spent a night sleeping on linoleum and am usually running on a 2/10 for how well rested I feel, I didn't notice. Sometimes being an exhausted mother has it's benefits.
Step ten. Walk up and down as many hills and stairs as possible. In this way Edinburgh can become a type of bootcamp for your waning fitness levels. It is good for tiring out children and frustrating those with broken arms. Mr. K stopped in the middle of many a tall stone stairway, refusing to continue on. Mr. L counted all the stairs to ensure that we were both encouraged and demoralized. Honestly, this is not even avoidable as Edinburgh is all hills. If your sister-in-law is CrossFit obsessed and you are more of the leisurely walking type, make sure to keep up with her when you are late for your ghost tour (serious times) as she leads you briskly up and down steep hills in a roundabout route (the direct route would have been more flat). Smile and be grateful.
Step eleven. Go on a ghost tour. Why? They are fun. You end up accidentally learning a lot of history and you get to go into cool places with your tour guide that you wouldn't usually be allowed in. For us, it was under the bridges and tunnels of Edinburgh. The UK has a lot of ghosts, might as well learn their names and stories. Our tour concluded near ***The World's End Pub, which originally fell right at the wall when Edinburgh was a walled city, causing it to feel like the end of the world for those living at that time. A fantastic place in the Royal Mile to enjoy an evening scotch as a reward for keeping up with my sister-in-law.
Step twelve. Drink scotch in Scotland. It's the rule. Or drink Irn-Bru. Or both. But never mix them.
Step thirteen. Appreciate the food. After London, Edinburgh is by far the most culturally diverse city we have visited in the UK. There were so many choices beyond the traditional pub fare. We had delicious Korean, African, Italian, and we definitely wanted to try more. Just understand that if you feed your children roast pork right from the pig which is prominently displayed in the shop window, they might lose their appetites. And they might become vegetarians. For the record, we are all pro haggis. It's delicious!
Step fourteen. Go to the Castle. You kind of have to. It's location has been inhabited since 2nd century AD. Parts of the castle itself date back to pre 12th century. It has been besieged or attacked more than any other place in Great Britain. It's beautiful with views of the city (so many stairs for Mr. L to count) and tourists as far as the eye can see. It was not a favourite spot for my autistic son, we are used to going to less crowded castles in England, but I am glad we went. It's the perfect spot to take a gorgeous picture of your partner and children. If you are lucky, he will return the favour (I am lucky but the pictures I get are less than gorgeous most of the time).
Step fifteen. Park on the street. Aquire a nice long scratch on the passenger side of your car. Order Amazon's top rated scratch buffing cream immediately. Then do nothing past this step- it has been a month.
Step sixteen. Think about Harry Potter a lot and visit the original Diagon Alley, Victoria Street and Candlemaker Row, in the grassmarket. If you have time, you can visit the 3 million other places that inspired Harry Potter as well as locations where Harry Potter was written. I can see how J.K. Rowling was so inspired by the city of Edinburgh, it definitely has a feeling of magic to it.
Step seventeen. Gaze at Arthur's Seat longingly. Think of all the things you wanted to do and did not get to. Arthur's seat is an extinct volcano, the main peak in the Edinburgh Hills. My children (and myself to be fair) were far too exhausted to hike it, as we left it until later in the trip. It was also raining, my son had his huge arm cast, and he had been struggling that day anyway. So many excuses. I did get to see it numerous times as it is very visible from a lot of the city. I would have also liked to see the Palace of Holyroodhouse. I will see it next time. Or never.
Last step. Be grateful. This is the most important step, always.
If you follow these steps, I promise you that you will have a fantastic time in Edinburgh PLUS you will be exhausted to a level that will help you to understand me better. You are most welcome. Edinburgh is ****pure barry.
*Brilliant hilarious book by Anne Tyler. Brilliant film as well.
**Hen do = bachelorette party. Stag do = bachelor party. I had to look that up, I had forgotten the Canadian equivalent. Also, hen do's and stag do's seem much bigger here. Usually a whole weekend of wild times.
***Not to be confused with the Simon Pegg movie, which mainly took place in Hertfordshire.