I shared a little bit about our Europe trip in our post about what to do with 36 hours in London, but there's a whole lot more to Europe than that! After hitting the highlights in the city of Burberry, we rented a car and drove ten hours up to Edinburgh to enjoy three days in Scotland.
My first tip for this trip would be to not rent a car in London. It's obscenely expensive with various daily fees that the city tacks on, and the drive is relatively boring (lots of flat land and McDonalds along the way). It's rare for Nate and I to have that long together without the kids so that was nice, and we got to see Sherwood Forest at the halfway point of the drive, but overall it would've been better to opt for one of the high-speed trains that makes the journey in four hours. Then, I'd recommend renting a car just for the days you want to spend exploring the coast.
Once we arrived in Edinburgh, we plopped our stuff at the Principal hotel on George Street, a centrally-located hotel that's the perfect spot to explore from.
First up, we had black pudding and espresso at the original world-renowned Valvona & Crolla off Elm Row. It was definitely worth the ride over to see the quaint shop filled with all sorts of interesting jellies and confections from around the world.
The highlight of the day, for me, was standing in the room where Mary Queen of Scots had a revolver pointed at her pregnant stomach. Holyroodhouse was by far my favorite site, filled with intimate historic details and personality. I can't believe it was left off of most city guides I read.
If you're tempted to spend an hour climbing that big hill near the palace, don't. It's an easy trail but the view was a little underwhelming and I froze my butt off up there.
Next, we headed back towards the hotel and climbed the tallest monument to a writer. The Scott Monument, dedicated to Sir Walter Scott, is 200 feet tall and totally worth the 287 steps it takes to get to the view at the top.
Nearby, we tracked down the statue of Greyfriars Bobby. This loyal terrier spent 14 years watching over his master's gravesite, becoming a local fixture so beloved that an aristocrat erected a monument to him. It soon became tradition to pet his nose for luck, but the statue has become so worn in the face that residents are asking visitors to restrain themselves.
Back towards the castle, we learned the history of Scotch whisky at the Scotch Whisky Experience. This slightly-kitschy ride-tour was actually astonishingly informative. I was totally impressed with the effort that goes into Scotland's own liquor, and the bottle display was remarkable. Definitely worth the price of admission.
Starving at this point, we headed to Elephant House for haggis, neeps and tatties. The spot where Harry Potter was written has now become a revolving door of tourists, and I found it a little heartbreaking that JK Rowling's picture is plastered all over the wall and she can no longer find peace at the place that brought her so much inspiration.
On day two, we drove up Scotland's coast and spent a ridiculous amount of time wandering the aisles of a grocery store in Kirkcaldy as we loaded up on Scottish eggs and other breakfast-picnic picks. We took our time rolling through the hillside town of Drumeldrie and marveled at its rolling slopes, tiny forest breaks, sprawling ocean views and farm cottages. If I ever get an inclination to move to a Scottish hamlet and wile away my elderly years watching mist roll over an idyllic sea, this will be my destination.
We stopped in Anstruther for what is said to be the world's best fish and chips, and I was underwhelmed. I like my fish and chips small and crispy and massively-seasoned, and it seems Scotland's way of doing fish is by frying up the whole dang thing in a big pillowy bread-like coating with a side of “mashy peas” that look suspiciously like baby food.
In any case, our bellies were full and it was worth the stop to see the Scottish fishing village. Further up the coast, we took a quick peek at the ruins of Saint Andrew's Cathedral and finally stopped in our tracks at the jaw-dropping beauty of Dunnottar Castle and Stonehaven memorial. If you see one thing in Scotland, make it this castle.
We grabbed dinner at a spot in the towering, grey city of Aberdeen and then finally got to experience a real pub back in Edinburgh at Port O'Leith. It was ALL the rowdiness I expected!!!
The next morning, we drove by Linlithgow and on over to The Helix. An excited Scottish woman in the visitor's center told us the story of the kelpies that the monument depicts. They're said to be legendary river horses that have a taste for human flesh. So…you may not want to go swimming in any Scotland rivers.
We really enjoyed the historic open courts of Stirling Castle, taking our time to wander the grounds and listen to some animated tour guides share the storied history of the dueling interests who competed for the crown on this land.
The last afternoon was spent quietly watching the waves lap against lichen at misty Loch Lomond. Finally, we grabbed some more fish and chips at McMonagles on the outskirts of Glasgow, and called it a night.
What would be your must-see spots if you had three days in Scotland?