Now that summer's over and the kids are back in school it's time to get back to things. Including this blog.
I've been avoiding my computer downstairs (and really my whole area) because it's surrounded by boxes and boxes of our belongings -- well, mostly my husband's. We finished our kitchen remodel, except for about five boxes that are waiting on extra shelves.
However, we have just begun work on the basement which requires moving everything from one half (the storage half) to the other (i.e. mine), including over fifty orchids. Seriously it looks like the movers just dropped off an entire truck. And we still have three overflowing Billy bookcases left to pack up. I feel a bit silly that it just occurred to me that I could sit upstairs with my iPad away from the mess....so here I am.
If you follow me on Instagram you'll know that in August we went to Scotland, with a couple of days in London at each end. We planned the trip around the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, coinciding with my husband's birthday. It was a wonderful trip -- our first to Scotland -- and we tried to cram in as much as we could -- museums, castles, battlefields, shopping, and eating haggis.
We purchased tickets ahead of time for the Tatto and bought a family historic Scotland Explorer Pass. The pass lets you visit 78 different properties. You can choose from two options: 3 days out of 5, or 7 days out of 14. We chose the later. We did have to pay extra for both battlefield tours, as they weren't part of the pass. You can purchase other passes, including the Scottish Heritage Pass that include some battlefields. Here's a good list of pass options. It was cheaper for us to buy the Explorer Pass, as the Scottish Heritage Pass doesn't have a family option.
We tried not to over plan this time, which had it's good and bad points. We had a rough idea of what we wanted to visit and planned a day or two in advance around everyone's level of exhaustion and the weather. And the bad -- we should have stayed one-two nights in Stirling/Dunblane and then two nights in the Caingorms National Park. It would have saved us hours & hours of driving and we wouldn't have been so rushed to get to Urqhardt Castle -- which we had less than an hour to see since we had dinner plans on the clear other side of Scotland.
Our itinerary - including links:
Day 1 - travel; arrive at Heathrow after 10 p.m.
Day 5 - Edinburgh Castle, more shopping, the Elephant House, cemetery
Day 8 - drive to Glen Coe
Day 11 - The British Museum, gallery, shopping at Forbidden Planet
Day 12 - (sadly) fly back home
Where we stayed:
London -- Marriot Regents Park
We've stayed here several times. What we like about this hotel is that we can get two double beds (real important with a family!), the restaurant is good, and it's two blocks away from a Tube stop.
Edinburgh -- Doubletree City Centre
I can't say enough good things about the hotel or the employees. We got upgraded on check in to one of the suites and they brought in a roll-away bed so each kid got his/her own bed. This hotel set the bar for the rest of the trip, to which the rest of the hotels didn't really reach. It's in a great location and you can see the castle -- and fireworks -- from the hotel.
The waiters in the morning were really helpful, asking us where we were going and making some great suggestions, like visiting the cemetery where J.K. Rowling got inspiration for character names (yes, there's a Thomas Riddle). And who can compete with warm chocolate chip cookies?
Dunblane -- Doubletree Hydro
After three nights in Edinburgh we had high expectations for the Dunblane Hydro. It's beautifully furnished -- think hunting lodge with tartan, leather & antler chairs. The food in the pub was really good. This hotel was, however, disappointing in that their elevator was broken for our entire time there -- we actually left early because of this. We were put on the 4th floor (top) and I managed to twist my ankle at Stirling Castle. Not a good combo. The front desk workers just shrugged their shoulders and said, sorry. We saw several guests in wheelchairs being carried down flights of stairs as well. The other really annoying thing was that wifi only worked in the lobby and bar area, not in the rooms.
Stirling - Holiday Inn Express
What can I say, it's a typical Holiday Inn Express just like you'd find in the states. It was available and their elevator worked -- and free wifi everywhere! The employees were really nice & helpful. We did miss the extensive breakfast buffet from the Doubletree.
London -- the Trafalgar London
This is a Hilton/Doubletree hotel, and a splurge for us. We really loved this hotel - you can't beat the location. It's right at Trafalgar Square. They have a roof-top bar with great views and a fabulous breakfast buffet. It's now my favorite place to stay in London.