Day one: Leave home, drive up to Edinburgh. We only stopped when needed for toilet breaks and feeding the baby. We stopped a few more times than planned so we got in a bit later than we expected, but it was fine.
Day two: Edinburgh. Our first destination was the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions. On our way, we saw the Balmoral Hotel (where Harry Potter was completed) and the Sir Walter Scott Monument. After walking up many steps and some steep slopes we reached the Royal Mile and the World of Illusions. This was such a fun place, I highly recommend it for all ages, with or without kids. We spent time exploring the illusions on all levels, and the Andrew and Brandon especially liked the tunnel with spinning lights, and my favorite was the mirror maze.
After a pub lunch (haggis!) we headed over to the castle. Though the view of it was partially blocked from the street by the seating for the Tattoo, it is a magnificent structure that overlooks the city. We spent quite a while exploring the castle, including the museums that are housed there, and even got to see the Scottish crown jewels!
We had time for a bit of wandering and dinner after leaving the castle before we needed to be back for the Tattoo performance that evening. I grabbed some butterbeer (yum!) and we made it back to the castle esplanade just in time for the show. It was more of an international performance than I had expected, with performing groups from all over the world. It was especially incredible to see the mass of bagpipers in full regalia. We all loved it!
It was a lot of walking and a bit of a late night for the kids, so Brandon fell asleep in Aaron's arms on the walk back to our apartment. He (and the rest of us too) was so exhausted from the fun day.
Day three: Edinburgh. It was a rainy day, so we were glad that we brought rain jackets, waterproof boots, and an umbrella. We started at the opposite end of the Royal Mile at Holyrood Palace and Abbey. No photos allowed inside, sorry, but we did get some outside. We skipped the gardens though, since we had so much else we wanted to do that day and because of the weather. The highlight for the kids was that the audioguides came with headphones, haha.
We ate lunch at the café at Holyrood and then started the walk up the Royal Mile, stopping to shop on the way. We ended up buying (among other souvenirs) a silver ring for me, a kilt for the kids (just one, in Andrew's size, and they'll all have a chance to wear it eventually), and a kilt for Aaron.
We headed over to the Greyfriars Bobby statue to meet up with our guide for the Harry Potter walking tour! We had planned to do this the day before but we missed the start by just moments thanks to an unexpected potty break and bad directions (thanks a lot google maps) so we didn't get to do it in dry weather, but it was still great. The kids enjoyed some dueling while I got to indulge my Harry Potter obsession as we walked around the city for an hour and a half.
We took a wander through the St Giles Cathedral.
And we went back for a better look at the Scott Monument.
And we did a little more shopping before stopping for dinner and then going to back to the apartment for the night.
Day four: Drive from Edinburgh to Inverness, with stops at Falkirk, Stirling Castle, and Doune Castle. After we got the car loaded up, we got on the road toward the highlands!
Our first stop was Falkirk! It wasn't warm enough to visit the water play area, but we saw the kelpies, climbed around on the playground, and then went over to watch the Falkirk Wheel turn. The kids loved walking around the horse heads and playing at the playground, but they didn't have a lot of patience for the Falkirk Wheel (it takes a long time to rotate and it started to rain while we were watching, so we had to take shelter in the visitor center to finish our sandwiches).
We headed over to Stirling Castle, which was such a fun castle. In addition to the usual castle stuff, they had several exhibits directed at kids, which Andrew and Brandon (and Aaron!) loved. There were unicorns everywhere and Aaron finally agreed to let me use a unicorn theme next time we redecorate.
Duone Castle was fun to see partially because of its film/tv connections. It stars as Castle Leoch in Outlander, Winterfell in Game of Thrones, and several locations in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Day five: Culloden, Loch Ness, and Inverness. We started the day at Culloden Battlefield, which was only about 10 minutes from our flat. We opted to skip the exhibit and just walk around the battlefield. The kids enjoyed finding all of the red (English) and blue (Jacobite) flags. I've been learning a bit about the Jacobite Rising and Bonny Prince Charlie since watching and reading Outlander so it was neat (and sad) to see the place where the last battle on British soil took place, and where the Scots were buried in mass graves by clan.
We passed through Inverness on our way to Urquhart Castle on the banks of Loch Ness. We ate lunch at the café before watching a video about the history of the castle and walking down the hill to explore. This castle was mostly ruined, but it was large and it had some amazing views of the loch. This was also an interesting place because of the number of international tourists- I lost track of how many different languages I heard. I also overheard several people commenting on how sweet it was that I had my sleeping baby cuddled up to my chest. It made me smile every time.
We had originally planned a couple other stops around Loch Ness, but we decided to just head back to Inverness for dinner instead. We found a place called McGonagall's (Minerva's summer job?) and had a really great dish called Balmoral Chicken, which is chicken breast stuffed with haggis and wrapped in bacon. Yum!
Day six, part one: Eilean Donan Castle. On our way up to Plockton, where we stayed for the Isle of Skye portion of the trip, we stopped at Eilean Donan Castle. It's beautiful, it's intact, and it's surrounded by water where three lochs meet. Thanks to our tripod we were even able to snap some pretty good family pictures with the castle.
To be continued... Day six, part two - Day ten in the next post.