This past weekend was an Irish bank holiday, so we turned it in to a long weekend in Scotland! The ferry service makes it easy to get to Great Britain. We drove to Larne, Northern Ireland Thursday night and stayed at the Harbour Inn B&B. It is next door to the port and included wifi and made to order breakfast. The manager was so nice! The fast ferry had us in Troon, Scotland by 9:15 or so, and we headed toward our first stop.
New Lanark is a World Heritage Site; an old mill town built next to a river. It was a nice drive to get toward Edinburgh, too, instead of just taking dual carriageways. We walked around some, ate some lunch, and Kacey took a tour of the weaving stuff while Nolan and I checked out a couple other things. Next we headed toward Edinburgh.
We decided to go out to the Royal Britannia Yacht first, since we would have to drive to see this. This is the yacht that the royal family used up until the late 90s or so, and now you can tour it. It was an interesting tour, and you can still see how the royal family had things set up in their rooms. We had cake and coffee with the queen (well, she wasn't technically there) and it was a good snack. Nolan really enjoyed the engine rooms.
We headed in toward our hotel (recommended by the Paschals). The Premier Inn is across the street from the castle, and we had a fantastic view of the castle! The room was a little pricey, but it was a good location. Dinner was a little hard as we didn't know that Scotland has weird rules about kids in bars/restaurants. We finally found the 1780 restaurant which stated they had a kids menu. They had a large beer selection and interesting foods. We tried vegetarian haggis (just lots of oatmeal) and I had yummy lamb with tasty Glencoe Wild Oat Stout. I recommend eating here if visiting with kids!
The next day was our castle day. We walked up the hill and took in the brilliant views of Edinburgh. We walked around a few museums and cathedrals. We walked past the crown jewels and the World War I memorial. Then we lined up for a view of the cannon firing at 1pm. Nolan had a great view! We decided to walk down the Royal Mile to look for food next. We walked around St. Giles Cathedral some to take it in. We stumbled in an Italian restaurant that was ok, nothing exciting. We walked to the east end of the mile to visit Holyrood Palace, the home of the royal family when they visit. We went in for the tour as it started to rain a little. This was just an ok site; I suppose the English find it more interesting. Just a lot of nice stuff that doesn't get used very often. There is some history regarding Mary Queen of Scots here, but I think it is just their claim to fame here. As we left, the rain had stopped, so we headed back toward the New Town area for dinner. We walked back a different way, crossing over Waverly Station with views of Scott Monument. The weather wasn't quite nice enough to go up, so we walked toward Jamie's Italian, a place we had made reservations at the night prior. His restaurant was good, but they can't make a hot coffee! After dinner, I walked around a bit more for pictures while Kacey took the kids to the hotel.
The next morning, we went out to see St. John's and St. Cuthbert, next to the castle (but at street level). While services were getting ready to start, we kinda looked around anyway. St. Cuthbert has been transformed a little to be more modern, but still neat. Then I ran over to the Scott Monument to climb up since the weather was nice again. The view was nice, and it was a tight fit to get up some of the steps. The views of the city are better from the castle, but this was nice too. We got going to Stirling Castle next, hoping to find some food there in Stirling.
We arrived in town and didn't see any food. We learned we were in the new town later, but we asked a local and were directed to the Torbrex Inn. It was nestled in amongst homes and it was brilliant food! I got the Steak and Ale pie. The meat was fabulous and the puff pastry tasted like it had to come from the town's best bakery, but it was made in house. I highly recommend eating here! We headed next to Stirling Castle. This castle, we learned, has been restored and they have actors that play different roles in the castle. It is pretty kid friendly with activities for them along the way. Nolan attended Knight School and did some archery. We next started the long drive up to Inverness.
It was a beautiful drive, with a wide array of landscapes. We arrived in Inverness and it was a bigger town than we expected. We checked in and went next door to Contrast to eat dinner. This was supposed to be good and it did not disappoint. The scotch egg starter was delish as well as the haggis bon bons. We stayed the night at the Glen Mhor Hotel. This was one of the cheaper options in town, had free wifi and full breakfast, and had a nice big room, and renovated bathroom. They also brought in a rollaway bed for Nolan. It is also close to parts of downtown, so most things are walkable.
The next morning we had to be at the Clansman Harbour for our 1 hour cruise on Loch Ness. We cut it a little close, but got on with about 30 seconds to spare. They talked about stories and wildlife of Loch Ness. The 1 hour cruise goes out to Urquhart Castle, drops people off, picks up some more, and comes back to the harbour. It was a little cloudy the morning of our cruise, but not too bad considering the whole trip had been so nice so far. Upon seeing the castle, we decided we may not go spend a lot of time there. It is mostly ruins, and not very large. And many say the best part about it is the view, which we had already seen. So while we drove past it, we headed back in to Inverness for lunch before our scenic drive to Glasgow.
We decided we would drive down the main road toward the lowlands and stop at an information center along the way (we saw a few signs for them on the way up). We stopped at a place called Ralia Cafe that said it was a TI. The first person I talked to didn't know much. But the second guy warned us that the road ahead was shutdown due to a large accident; and since it was in the dual carriageway part, people were stranded. He said drive toward Fort William via Newtonmore and that it is a brilliant drive. So we headed that way and it really was. We saw more lochs, an old dam, and the Ben Nevis range. We took the cable lift half way up the mountain and it was great views. We moved on to see the fort at Fort William. Well, this is a very, very small ruin. We missed it at first glance. We drove toward Glencoe to see that area too. We saw the Three Sisters mountains and then drove by Loch Lomond. This loch is huge and beautiful! We arrived in Glasgow and tried to have dinner at a place reviewed well, but they were busy and there was no parking in the area anyway. We just checked in and walked to Merchant Square, a place also full of restaurants and bars. While there weren't as many as we thought, we found a few that allowed kids and settled on Arisaig. I got chicken with haggis and mashed potatoes and mashed parsnips, very tasty. I stepped in to the Beer Cafe next door; the owner was super nice.
The next day we were going to walk around George Square and a few sites, then drive to the Cathedral, then get on the road by noon to catch our ferry out of Cairnryan. All the sites were very close to our hotel. We hung out at George Square for a few minutes, checking out all the statues. We stopped at the Pret for sandwiches for lunch later. We also let Nolan watch a big excavator tear down a building while Kacey took some pictures of a famous old casino. The cathedral was good, but the big attraction is the huge necropolis and view of the city and cathedral from the hill.
All in all, Scotland had some great sites, great food, and nice people.
Pictures can be found here.