Scotland – Day 1

The night before our trip to Scotland I could hardly sleep.   I was so excited, I had spent quite a bit of time finding our hotel rooms and planning our journey and I couldn’t wait to see and experience the kilts and bagpipes and festivals.  

I want to give a big shout-out of gratitude to Alyssa, Christy and my Instagram friend Carrie for all their recommendations. Nearly everything we saw and ate and experienced was recommended by one of these ladies.  Thank you so much! 

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I honestly have no idea what building this is. Shame on me! But it is quintessential Edinburgh- the architecture and color of the building. And the clouds! I have such mixed feelings about the clouds because rainy weather can put a damper on tourism but they were such a part of the experience and really they were so beautiful.

My parents left early Thursday morning to catch their train to Edinburgh.  I’ll go ahead right here and teach you how to pronounce Edinburgh so you can practice whilst reading through.  It’s Eh-din-burrah.  (That’s the best phonetical spelling I can come up with.)

The train travels north more or less as the crow flies so my parents had a much shorter journey.  We left a bit after them and had to drive, and none of the motorways are very direct so it took us a couple hours longer.  It was about an eight hour trip from our house to Edinburgh, and we only stopped once.  

The Tattoo Festival we were attending that evening didn’t start until 9:00pm so I really wanted the kids to take a nap on the drive.  A few drops of melatonin after lunch did the trick and they all slept for at least an hour.  (I didn’t have to give Eli any melatonin, he was sleepy enough on his own.) 

We arrived in Edinburgh around 3:00 and I rolled the windows down because it was sunny and beautiful outside.  We could smell the sea air and it was all Richard and I could do to focus on navigating and not on all the gorgeous buildings.  

We made our way to hostel, parked our car, checked in to our room and then headed to the Royal Mile.  The Royal Mile is the main thoroughfare that starts at the Edinburgh castle and stretches down approximately one Scottish mile toward Holyrood Abbey.   Carrie taught me the word “busker” for a street performer, and I think the buskers were the kids favorite part of the royal mile.   

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The Royal Mile.

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This guy was so fun to watch. He is definitely a real person, he would blink and occasionally change positions. But he has some kind of system to keep water flowing and pouring out of the glass and into the cup, and then he has obviously worked up some neat trick for sitting this way. The kids were fascinated and Miriam said simply “He just has an imaginary chair.”

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Simon loved this clown until I wanted him to stand next to her for a picture. Why ARE clowns so scary?

Since my parents had arrived before us they went into the castle, but about halfway up the Royal Mile toward the castle it started raining hard.  I really didn’t want the kids to be soaked through before the Tattoo Festival even started so we decided to go back to our hostel and dry out before dinner.   

The kids ran around in their underwear in the hostel room while I threw all the clothes in the hostel laundry dryer (I was so excited that they had one!) and we waited until my parents finished at the castle.   The adults got baked “tatties” for dinner, and we took them to a mall food court to eat them out of the rain.  (The kids were thrilled to have KFC for dinner.) 

Then we made our way back up to the Edinburgh castle for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.  (I already mentioned this on FB, but a “tattoo” isn’t just an ink design on skin; it is also “an entertainment consisting of music, marching, and the performance of displays and exercises by military personnel.” 

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My dad discovered these steps, 104 steps of different types of marble from all over the world. They were so beautiful, never did I enjoy walking up 104 steps so much.

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My parents in front of the Ediburgh Castle, on the stage of the Military Tattoo.

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These guys were pretty good sports about the rain and everything. I’m really grateful my kids travel well.

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This totally looks like a selfie- but it’s not. I just cropped out my dad’s hand because he was holding the jacket of my collar out of the way. And there was a creepy-ish photo bomber in the background next to Simon.

The festival is a performance of various military bands and dance groups from all over the world.   I took a few pictures at the beginning but then put my camera away because I wanted to just watch without being distracted by taking photos.  But I found this website with some fantastic photos from the program.  

My favorites were the Tattoo Highland dancers, the Trinidad and Tobago Steel-drum Marching Band, and the Singapore Armed Forces Ceremonial band which included some bright and colorful costumes and dancing.  The whole festival was one of those experiences in my life where I just couldn’t stop smiling.  

We felt especially grateful that we didn’t get rained on.  As a last minute precaution my dad and Richard bought some rain ponchos for us, and we joked that buying them was the best investment ever because of course it wouldn’t rain if we were prepared.  

At the end, all of the performers came out on the stage for a final medley which involved a lot of dancing, including a hilarious rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and Pharrell Williams’s “Happy”.  When people from literally all over the world are all dancing and clapping along to a pop hit, the world really does seem smaller.  But nothing compared to the finale when everyone in the stadium stood up and held hands while singing the Scottish classic “Auld Lang Syne.”  It was international unity that gives me goosebumps when I recall it.  

There were fireworks at the end and a lone bagpiper played a solo from the castle balustrades.  It was remarkable.  

I think the kids enjoyed it too, despite it getting a little chilly outside.  They do the show at night because it needs to be dark, and there were colorful pattern projections on the castle, which served as a backdrop.  Simon fell asleep at the end and we had to walk back down to the hostel, but it felt magical in the air after the show.  

Now I can cross “Sleep in a Hostel” off my bucket list.  We stayed in a room with five sets of bunkbeds, and it was the six of us and my parents.  It was really inexpensive and we had no complaints.  The room had two bathrooms with showers, and it was simple to say the least, but we didn’t get back to it until after 11:00 at night and left first thing in the morning so it suited us just fine.  

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