Tag Archives: castles

Scotland, England, and Scotland

After a bit of airport stress (super security procedure and missed visa checkpoint!), we made it on our 6:35a flight from Dublin, arriving in Edinburgh less than an hour later. Our guide for the day, James Farrell, picked us up on his “wee red bus” in kilt and all. Pretty cool. ūüôā

We booked an all day tour knowing we wouldn’t be able to check into our flat until later in the day. My sister and I (& our families) “gave” this tour to our folks for their 50th wedding anniversary, which will be on August 1. We chose the “Wizards & Warriors” Heart of Scotland tour as it seemed to have a nice combination of nature, castles, and Harry Potter. Much of the tour took place in England, but we heard a lot about Scotland and it’s history along the way.

We drove to Holy Island first, which is accessed by a road (no bridge) during low tide. We were able to stay about 90 minutes before the tide started to rise. There are little wooden platforms for people who get caught by the tide and have to wait out the 8 hour high tide period! Before reaching the causeway, we again traveled along the Atlantic coast. Once on the island, we visited Lindisfarne Castle…Reed and Jackson paid for the inside peek while the rest of us sought out coffee (we hade been up since 3am, about 7 hours by this point!).

We reboarded our wee red bus and went about 40 minutes to Alnwick Castle. This is where much of the exterior of Hogwarts was filmed in the Harry Potter films. It was massive and really impressed us all. We poked around the grounds, in the various buildings, and explored the sites and activities for a couple of hours. It was fun to imagine what life in the castle would be like, both in terms of the English royalty and the fictitious Hogwarts worlds. It was really fun to share this time together.

It was about 90 minutes to Edinburgh from Alnwick, and we made a “comfort stop” at the cute little village of Etal along the way. It was a warm, sunny day, maybe around 75, so we felt extra lucky to enjoy all of the sites in the full sun. James Farrell must have been roasting in his wool kilt, wool sweater, and wool socks! He found our flat, right on the Royal Mile, and our host was there to greet us. Reed and I found a grocery store and we brought home dinner and breakfast provisions.

Friday morning we set out on foot for the castle a little after 11:00. Reed and my dad waited in line quite a long time for our tickets. It seemed as if every tourist in Edinburgh had the same idea we did! We entered the grounds and were impressed, though I think perhaps we had built it up a bit too big (at least I had). The view of it from a distance is maybe more awesome than when you are in the midst of it. Jackson said afterwards that it is his #3 of 5 we have seen so far. Luckily, our timing was good to witness the 1:00 canon fire.

We walked the short distance to The Elephant House cafe for lunch. This is where JK Rowling wrote some of her Harry Potter books. It was fun to sit inside and imagine the characters coming to life there. Then we went down the street just a bit more to find the statue of Greyfriars Bobby, the little dog who guarded his master’s grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard (written by Eleanor Atkinson). I was happy to see it as I’m reading the book now (thanks, Chris!). It was fun to explore a bit of the “Royal Mile” today – the apartment we are staying in is right on it!

Another Castle and a Few More Pubs

Today we had Dublin Castle on our agenda. It is kind of amazing that a¬†castle lies in city center and you don’t really even see it. It’s not¬†a towering one like Blarney, but it impresses nonetheless. We did a¬†fairly quick tour of it as we did not pay to enter the “fancy” part.¬†We did, however, get to go in the Royal Chapel, as well as the garden.¬†It was a warm, sunny day, so many people were out enjoying the midday¬†sun along with us. We lunched at The Stag’s Head, an historic pub I¬†had read about in my guidebook. It was really cool inside (check out¬†the stained glass windows), and our waitress was very friendly (she¬†attempted to serve Jackson his dad’s Guinness). ūüôā

This evening we had a literary pub crawl tour with our students.¬†Basically, you walk from pub to pub, as well as places like Trinity¬†College and St. Andrew’s Church, to hear tales of famous authors¬†(e.g., Samuel Beckett, James Joyce, Oscar Wilde) who frequented the¬†area. The two guides are actors and go in and out of character. It was¬†entertaining and informative, but we gave the kids a pass and I’m sure¬†glad we did as they would have found it incredibly boring (especially¬†with the 20-minute stops for people to get their pints). I ducked out¬†with my folks a bit early to get everyone settled into bed as we have¬†a 4:30am bus to catch to the airport for our flight to Edinburgh.¬†(Also the reason why this post is short!). More from Scotland…