Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Scotland, land of Four Seasons In One Day - it's cold, it's wet, it's sunny, it's snowing; where to go for the Easter holidays?

Isn't it odd, that you can live so close to some of the best historical and cultural sites  in the world and never make the effort to go and visit them?  Why is that?  Visitors from other countries are always amazed when I tell them that I've never been to Edinburgh Castle, or even to the Wallace Monument.  After all, to them, that's my culture, right?  Am I not proud of it?  Well, yes, but it doesn't mean I spend every minute of my free time on Culloden Moor or wearing a kilt and reciting Burns.

You are forgetting - I have children.  Seriously, we took them to Scone Palace last year (another place I had never been before) and although it was beautiful, surrounded by vast grounds and a great place to let them run around outside on that nice Summer's day, inside I spent a lot of time whispering in gruff tones 'DON'T TOUCH' while smiling politely at posh curators.

The grounds at Scone Palace are beautiful - and massive!  Good for running around in!
You don't know fear until you are trying to prise a small child away from a very large, very expensive display of very old malt whisky bottles without careering into the very impressive display of very expensive, engraved, crystal glasses for pouring malt whisky into.

I saw nothing in that palace.  Loads of Kings have been crowned there and sincerely, although very beautiful and palatial inside, I was far too concerned about keeping the children out of the roped off areas (which it turns out invite children to swing on them.  You do NOT swing on the ropes!)

I guess for me, I just feel like it's always there and I'll get around to it sometime.  You know, when the kids leave home(!)

Being Scottish, we're always quite quick to play down what is around us, while the rest of the world is agog at the history and natural beauty of our country.

But I guess it's like anything - you don't always see what is around you.  Before now we saw having to stay in Scotland on holiday as a punishment - the weather is so changeable, and apart from anything else, it seems a lot of the bigger, grander things live elsewhere; theme-parks, attractions, entertainment; Scotland does everything on such a small scale.  Even the buildings are wee and thin.  The first time we went to Manchester I couldn't stop looking up - I could never have imagined so many tall buildings in one place.

And no, I have never been to America.  I can only imagine!

In our case, this year, we have been 'demoted' if you like to small holidays, if and when the opportunities arise.

With the cost of living having gone up (yet again), the fact we pooled a lot of our resources into going to Disneyland Paris last year, not to mention our elaborate house move a couple of months ago, we are really having to think outside of the box in terms of getaways.  So instead of trying a 'staycation', which we weren't really keen on - petrol is expensive and being on the East Coast, we're not exactly central in location - we have decided that we should see some of the sights of our wonderful country.  After all, Scotland is easy to travel about in, and there are some truly fabulous low-cost options to try.

Being Scotland, and being the end of March however, doesn't leave us with a lot of options.  We considered these fab yurts up in Comrie:

Don't they look amazing?  I'm completely sold on them, and so are the kids.  My husband loves a bit of 'manly' outdoor stuff.  And Comrie really is a gorgeous place with some lovely outdoor stuff to do.  But like I said - it's Scotland.  The weather is changeable.  And we have young children, who although are hardy and adventurous and love outdoor stuff, aren't quite big enough to go abseiling, biking or walking for miles and miles in the cold and wet.
We are seriously considering it for the summer though - what an adventure to go 'glamping' in these beautiful hand-built Katanas or even to take your own tent for a cheap and cheerful night under the stars!

Instead, we have booked ourselves into The Blue Rainbow Apartments in Edinburgh.  We got a reasonable price via Booking.com, which I have to say has become my go-to for when I need to book anything in the UK.  It seems to turn up a better quality of different types of accommodation and we have found some proper gems through booking through this site.  And the beauty of it is too, if you find somewhere better before you go, you can always cancel a reservation and re-book, hassle-free and without charge. Winner!

Why Edinburgh?  Isn't it expensive?  Is it even child-friendly?  Isn't it just stuffed full of more stressful museums that your kids will destroy?

Well, yes and no is the short answer.

The long answer is that yes there are more museums but there are a lot of child-centred museums, such as the new and improved National Museum of Scotland, which is not only jam-packed full of interactive displays and 'real dinosaurs mum! *excited jumping*', but is FREE ENTRY and at least half a day worth of entertainment.  At a £47million revamp, it's kind of a big deal!

Another fab museum to visit is the Museum of Childhood.
Again, free entry, interactive displays and Tom has been doing a project on old toys, so I think this will be of particular interest to him.

Edinburgh is full of culture, and something that always strikes me is the masses of people in Edinburgh who are always willing to help out and better their local communities, giving their time to good causes. There's always good feeling - and that goes a long way in such a large city.

Another enterprise which I am therefore really looking forward to visiting is the fabulous concept which is Gorgie City Farm.  Another child-friendly, interactive and FREE place to visit.  Their motto is explore, learn, volunteer - a great ethos.

We only have two days and not a lot of money this time to spend, but we always try to visit Edinburgh Zoo.  It can be quite a pricey day out if it's not planned properly in terms of food and such, but it is a fabulous day for the whole family.  There's a lot of walking involved for little legs, but so much to see an do, it's definitely worth the climb to the top of the hill.  And if your legs don't want to go all that way, there's a comfy (ish) ride on the zoo train, all the way up.

Scotland currently has two Panda Bears on loan from China and you do have to book a time slot if you want to see them - the bears are very sensitive so the keepers do their best to address the balance of a huge amount of visitors wanting to see them with the panda's need for peace and quiet.

There's a wee play-park in the middle of the zoo for some chill-out time after all that animal-spotting and some picnic benches so you can take a packed lunch. All we have to hope for is the weather;  it was quite dreich last time we went, so we shall be wrapping up warm this time around!

The male Panda, just chillin' - totally unfazed by all the attention last time we were there

And of course the penguin parade is a favourite!

This Macaroni Penguin was such a poser!

We chose these particular apartments because they look central and close to Edinburgh Waverley, which is a great wee train station in the heart of Edinburgh. Plus it's better than staying in a travel-lodge-style hotel for the night; when the kids go to sleep, Dave and I can relax with a cheeky bottle of wine or a couple of beers on the couch in a separate room, instead of sitting in silence in the dark  next to the kids' beds, trying to watch the BBC Three app on his phone!

Plus, we are going via train, which is making it even more exciting for the kids - and Mum doesn't have to drive, which is always a bonus.

Another thing I am hoping to do as a proper tourist this time (admittedly, if I've been in Edinburgh in any capacity, it was when I was child-free and touring the pubs with my student friends - ah , those were the days!) is to take the city-sightseeing bus tour.

An open-topped bus is exciting for the kids, there's commentary for us all while we 'ooh' and 'ahhh' at the sites and there's the option to hop on and hop off at various points, which is ideal.  We took this tour in Paris a while back and it was a great experience - we certainly wouldn't have seen so much in such a short amount of time if it wasn't for this great concept.

There is so much to do in Edinburgh - so much culture and heritage.  Two days really isn't enough, but with two small children in tow, two days is probably just right in the meantime.  When they are a wee bit older we can start going when the Fringe is on and I am definitely aiming to get them to the Edinburgh International Book Festival sooner rather than later.

Having this trip to look forward to is really brightening up my week.  It's been a long time since I looked forward to a Monday  And both Dave and I have the whole week booked off work too - extra time to catch up on our local history and surroundings for a change.


  1. Funny to think of holiday in Scotland as 'punishment'. It's beautiful and vibrant, solid, interesting, and a quirky mix of traditional and new. People were great when I visited... warm, quick witted, and for the most part, kind. True my Aunt apologized for the weather from day 1, despite it being generally great with only 1 day of endless wet in Glasgow, but it was fine. I'd go back again... kind of think my teens would love it!

  2. I suppose we are just spoiled and don't know we're living!
    It's always such a change to get away - I suppose it's the same no matter where you live. I love living in Scotland, but really love to visit Greece for some real sunshine for a change!


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