A Wee Edinburgh Excursion

After feeling a bit low throughout much of Portugal, we were fired up to start the next leg of our trip. Our 10-day Scottish tour (Edinburgh + Highlands) seemed to be just what we needed in lots of ways:  

  1. A change of pace: Spain and Portugal share a lot of similarities in food, culture, scenery, etc.—a month into our European vacation, we were excited for something entirely new.
  2. City energy: As usual after a stretch of small towns and rural stays, we were ready for some city time, an itch teed up to be scratched by a couple of nights in Edinburgh.
  3. New blood: Perhaps most exciting was that our trio of travelers was becoming a quartet for this stretch—my mom was meeting us in Edinburgh and joining us in the Highlands. Fiona was eager for some grandma time, Dan and I were hopeful for a few kid-free outings and we were all ready for a little shakeup in our travel dynamics.

I’ll admit to campaigning for us to go out of the way to get up to Scotland when we did—I’d been to Edinburgh briefly after my sister’s wedding in 2006, and I was eager to go back to that awesome city and to see more of the country. Late-May/early June seemed to be our best chance of clear skies with no midges (though there’s no guarantee you won’t get rained out or bitten to death anyway) and that timing worked beautifully with my mom’s schedule as well.

Our flight from Porto to Edinburgh was easy, if oddly unsettling. It had been nearly a month since our last flight and suddenly, it seemed, all of the Covid restrictions that had been so tight during the first six weeks of our trip were gone. We were practically the only ones wearing masks in the airport, on the plane and on the tram into town, and I freaked out a little at the unmasked masses in our crowded hotel lobby.

Some fresh air was just the ticket then, so we took a short walk from our hotel up to Carlton Hill, where we explored the unfinished and evocative National Monument, climbed the Portuguese Cannon, saw sweeping views of the city and played in the grass on an unusually clear and beautiful Edinburgh afternoon. A little bookstore browsing and a delicious dinner complete with haggis croquet appetizers capped off an excellent first day.

The next morning, chilly and cloudy, was our obligatory visit to Edinburgh Castle, starting with a walk up the Royal Mile to take in all the bagpipers and souvenir shops and delightfully silly tourist attractions (Fi especially liked the funhouse-esque mirrors outside of Camera Obscura.

The castle itself is at the top of every must-see list for a reason—majestic and medieval, with tons to see and explore, perfect for history nerds and curious kids and casual visitors alike. Fiona had a kids’ scavenger hunt to complete, more cannons to climb and crown jewels to ooh and ahh over. We all had a blast.

That afternoon, Fi and I took the tram back to the airport to pick up Grandma Shirley, who was late emerging from the departure gates, much to Fiona’s frustration (“WHERE is Grandma? WHY isn’t she out yet? THAT grandma already came out!”). It turns out that Grandma Shirley’s lateness was due to her luggage getting lost—or more precisely, not making it onto her plane when she connected through London—but would be ready to retrieve in the morning.

Grandma was well and cheerful regardless, and we celebrated her arrival with a low-key Italian meal and an early bedtime in our probably-too-small-for-four-people hotel room (where it turned out being down one suitcase may have been a blessing). We would be back in Edinburgh for one last night in another week, but in the meantime… we were Highlands-bound, baby!

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