How to manage what would be considered an expensive trip to Scotland?
Tips and other random stuff for a family vacay.
I took my 2 bratty teens to Scotland for 2017 spring break, and thought these 10 notable and random items would help future families.
1. British Pound: I took advantage that the Sterling had been plummeting since the June 2016 Brexit referendum. Surprisingly it was more economical to travel to the UK for spring break than any other sun destination I had explored.
2. Rent a flat in a fabulous area of Edinburgh: I found a charming and bright 2 bedroom flat on Dublin Lane road in the Broughton Market area of Edinburgh. It actually was semi-3 bedrooms as it had a large kitchen with adjoining family room with a pull-out couch. My bedroom overlooked another flat with ivy winding up the exterior walls. I loved walking around on the cobblestone streets of this neighbourhood soaking in the romantic gardens, wrought iron gates, and steps leading to ornate door knobs. We were located in a residential part of town, but within walking distance to notable areas. It was a short ten minute walk to Waverly train station, Scott monument and shopping on Princes Street, and the Royal Mile. It helped to have a washer and dryer to clean out clothes. When my kids fought as siblings do, I tried to hold my breath, and not scream. Why, did I spend all this money for unappreciative youngsters? Instead, I separated them taking each on an a solo parent outing while the other chilled in the flat. My son and I strolled the romantic Walkway to Leith observing the ducks in the water. My girl and I window shopped in John Lewis since it was high on her Scotland bucket list. I was actually proud that this girl who had no idea where Edinburgh and Glasgow was, made a list of establishments she wanted to sightsee.
3. Tesco and Marks & Sparks: Neither chain is available in North American, and I love the variety and UK grocery offerings. We loaded up on the usual staples of bread, peanut butter, pasta, but also purchased items not common in Canada including scotch pies and Pimms. My son discovered Irn-Bru, a local soda, and even searched for it when we returned home. I found it to be a disgusting sugary cotton candy taste.
4. Find a hotel in a central location of Glasgow that includes a hearty English breakie (cuppa tea, blood pudding, beans, toast, mushrooms, tomatoes, hash brown): This will warm your cold bones when you become chilled. We walked all over and were steps to the touristy Sauchiehall Street lined with cafes, bars, and restaurant, wonderful shopping on Buchanan Street in the grey and dampness. I also found a hotel that included a rooftop gym and sauna to work off the heavy cholestral meals. Indian restaurants with a variety of rich delicious spicy options are common, but I learned that most Muslim establishments do not serve alcohol. One can BYOB though. I will pay the $4-5 CAN per can in Vancouver as a stocking stuffer for him. One great option with Indian fare is that my daughter could order vegan. I learned that Glasgow has a high number of vegan restaurants. As a meat eater, I was surprised how rich and creative mac and cheese, shepherds pie, garlic toast, mash potatoes, veggie burgers could taste. Food orgasm.
5. Brellie and wellies: We were very lucky to experience sunny weather for our first week’s stay in Edinburgh. It was glorious to walk through centuries old side streets into cafes, pubs, gift shops selling tartan kilts. It actually rained more heavily in my home city while we were away in Edinburgh. However, when we moved to Glasgow by train (only an hour train commute) the wet weather and huge gusts of winds kicked in. I went through 3 umbrellas within 24 hours. My kids banned me from purchasing another stating I didn’t know how to properly use one. I do not recall my college offering Umbrella 101, and I’m from a rainforest region.
6. Learn some Scottish lingo: The Scots have a very thick accent, and I rarely understood what they were saying. At least the Irish can make a case they are speaking Gaelic. I’m Canadian, eh, and was confused. It was difficult not to be a conspicuous tourist looking at a map on the streets. Most people were very friendly offering directions except I became more confused when they talked to me. I tried emailing the AirBnb host for instructions on how to turn off the oven range. That led to an amusing written exchange about the oven “hob” and knob. She did leave a “wee dram” shot of scotch whisky) for me, shortbread and UK malt balls, “malteasers” for my kiddies which helped ease my confusion.
7. Walking Tour: It was difficult convincing my wayward teenagers to sign up for a walking tour in Edinburgh. We had to skip the ghost tour, unfortunately. This afternoon one was one of the best ways to see the city, and learn random facts about history and certain areas. It was led by a passionate architectural student. The group paid by tips. The guide can provide a suggestion for tip payment. How else would my kids and I learn there is a significance to a brick mosaic heart on the ground outside St. Giles cathedral that we stomped on walking by several times touring. She told them to spit on it for good luck. The heart of the midlothian is where public executions took place. The town folk would spit on there to support those being executed. We also learned where shit face drunk came from. Residents would throw their human waste from chamber pots out at certain time that coincided with bars closing. They would yell, “gaurdy-loo” dirty water to warn people, but those that had over indulged looked up instead of running away.
8. Museums are free: I still am in disbelief that the suggested entrance fee is a mere $5 GBP. What an economical, and educational way to engage my teenagers with the likes of Salvador Dali, Danish painters, Picasso, and impressionist artists. Instead they quickly learned each museum offered wifi. Oh well, I tried. My favourite museum, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, was located on Queen Street, only blocks away from my Edinburgh accommodation. I quickly forgot how wonderful school-aged children have the opportunity to be artistically educated when a zillion field trip groups were running up and down huge zebra and elephant re-creations in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow. I had to remind myself that I enjoyed a more serene experience on my safari in the Serengeti. I learned about a group of Glasgow artists called the “Glasgow boy” here while listening to the faint sounds of the 1 pm organist who played in the main hall. It was enchanting walking through stain glasses museums with extraordinary architecture.
9. Highlands: I was debating an overnight trip, but settled on a long one day tour. I am glad I chose the shorter as my kids thought it was boring. Really?!! This is why millions of tourists visit Scotland. I guess I was that disengaged in my youth. Maybe seeing the highest mountain region in the British Isles, Ben Nevis, and Loch Ness where the legendary the Nessie monster will mean something as the age. If not, I think the liked the warm salty and vinegary chips (thick French fries) when we stopped for lunch. I had never heard of Highland cattle. Are they ever adorable with their Highland cattle with long horns and thick long shiny coats.
10. Primark: This may sound silly, but we loved this department store so much that we visited various locations throughout each day of our holiday. My son had a budget of $150 CAN to buy something nice to wear. He filled his backpack with multiple items including sneakers, jeans, a belt, t-shirts. What a difference from the $300 CAN Nordstrom jeans his father purchased for him recently. His father and I are obviously on different incomes. My girl was in awe of the $2 GBP jeans she bought and all the undies/thongs purchased for basically pennies.
My only regret with this holiday is that we did not extend our stop in London. We transferred through Heathrow, and I thought why, why? Years ago, we spent a delightful time making our base in south Kensington, and touring around each day.
I am considering London for next Spring Break.