From London, we headed North, up to Scotland. We followed the recommendation of our Virtuoso partner, Sincerely Paul and opted to take the four hour train from London up to Edinburgh instead of the two hour flight. By the time we factor in clearing security and collecting luggage, total travel time was almost the same. In addition to being under half the price of the airline ticket, the train was a less stressful path that allowed to view some of the English countryside. An added bonus for the girls was our chance to view Harry Potter’s Platform 9 3/4 in the King’s Cross Station prior to boarding.
We spent our first week in Scotland based in the town of Bridge of Allan. The small town is situated about halfway between Glasgow and Edinburgh, just outside of Stirling. From our flat, we could walk to local restaurants, shops and grocery stores. We found a great little butcher and took turns creating menus with the fresh items we found at the butcher shop.
Using Bridge of Allan as our base, we explored much of the surrounding area. Our first stop of course was the Wallace Monument, where we climbed the many steps, stopping to learn the true stories of William Wallace along the way. A complimentary archery display was set up at the base of the monument, the girls were very excited to test their skills with the bow and arrow.
We visited several castles in the area, our favorite by far was the Doune Castle. Not as “refurbished” as some of the others in the area, the castle had a very authentic feel. With the complimentary audio guides, rather than follow a live tour group, we could select our own path through the castle, explore at our own pace, learning interesting facts about the structure as well as past inhabitants along our way. Doune castle became the bar for the remainder of our castle visits throughout the UK, and to date, it still stays at the top.
After a week of exploring the area surrounding Bridge of Allan, we drove north, deep in to Cairngorms National Park and spent two nights in the town of Braemar at the Fife Arms hotel. Only two hours from Inverness, we couldn’t pass up our opportunity to take a cruise on Loch Ness in search of Nessie. While we didn’t find Nessie, we did enjoy the cruise and exploring Urquhart Castle.
After our two nights in the Highlands of the North, we returned to the Edinburgh area and spent our final two nights in Gleneagles. Gleneagles is a huge resort and has so many activity options. The highlight of our stay and our week in Scotland was our family falconry lesson. In addition to the falconry, we enjoyed strolling through the manicured grounds, took a swim in the pool, dined in several of the resort’s restaurants, and enjoyed some down time in our suite.
Built in the 19th century, The Fife Arms Hotel is a Braemar landmark and is a category B listed building. Its size is evidence of the popularity of Braemar in the wake of Queen Victoria’s visits and her purchase of Balmoral. The building displays many of the traditional architectural characteristics of the area with its timber bargeboards, pink and grey granite and multi-gabled principal elevation. The building has retained all of its timber sash and case windows with their distinctive Arts and Crafts multi-aned upper sashes, and a large number of original chimney stacks.
As it seems to be in most places we visit, we could have easily stayed for more than our two nights. The kids really loved the kids room at the hotel. The town had several fun pubs and restaurants to explore. The area is well known for it’s fishing and outdoor activities being by the National Park. We’ll return again when the kids are a bit older and we can take a tour of some of the areas several scotch distilleries. It seemed like there was a new one in each small town we drove through.
An iconic country estate, Gleneagles has been a luxury destination for nearly a century. Located just one hour from Glasgow and Edinburgh airports, it offers the perfect five-star retreat for those looking for relaxation, fun and adventure. The 850-acre estate epitomizes Scotland’s rugged natural beauty, offering a glorious playground of country pursuits. Whether you visit to play its three championship golf courses, fly a Harris Hawk, ride horses, play tennis, go off-roading, train gundogs, shoot, fish, enjoy Michelin-star dining or relax in an award-winning spa, Gleneagles offers a world of experiences for the whole family.
Our Family Falconry experience was probably the highlight of our time in Scotland. It was fun to watch the girls handling the birds and watch them become more comfortable and confident as the lesson progressed. It would probably take two weeks to experience all the activities offered by the resort. On our next visit, we’ll be sure to take a horseback ride, learn about the retrievers, or possibly even go on a hunt with the falcons.
On Tuesday, we went to a big, big tower called the Wallace Monument. The guy that it was built for was part of our family. In the monument there was a video about him on one floor, and on another there were two giant swords. The swords were huge. There were also screens that showed how the land and things looked in the old days and then how they looked today. After all that fun stuff we went outside and did archery, which was really fun. After the monument, we went to a castle. We got to see the bedrooms and everything but it had fake beds and stuff. It wasn’t that fun.
The next day we went to antoher better castle. We saw the kitchen and got an audio guide. The toilets where holdes in the wall with bars over them and underneath was a big pit and it was somebody’s job to clean everybody’s out every week. I loved that castle.
Another day we met up with Mommy’s friend Nicola and she took us to see the Falkirk Wheel. It was kind of cool with one boat at the top and and other at the bottom and then they switched places. While there we found a playground and had a blast on the bungee trampolines. We bought post cards in the info center and then went to lunch. For dessert we had happy face sundaes. They were ice cream sundaes that you got to decorate yourself with marshmallows, mints, gum strings.
The next day we dorve to the Fife Arms hotel. It was awesome. There was a great kids room there that had a fake cash register, a fach kitchen with fake food, a coach, a big ball you can sit on and a video game connected to a big dv. The htoel had great food and was dog friendly. There were dogs all over the pub.
Our last hotel in Scotland was Gleneagles. Once we got there, we checked in and learned a little bit about the hotel. Our room was pretty big and i loved it, seriously, it even had a bunk bed and I got the top bunk.
The next day, we played in a giant kids room while mommy went to a meeting. Then, we went to wait for it… wait for it… Falconry! It was so cool at the beginning we looked at all these cool birds. But in the middle and the end birds would sit on your arm. You could push your arm forward and let go they would fly to the nearest thing close tot he ground then once there were there they went higher and landed. After Gleneagles, we flew to Ireland, but that’s a diffent story.
On the night we arrived, we ate at a place called, “A Friend of Mine” and then went to bed. The next morning, we went to the Wallace Monument and hiked 500 stairs to see all the floors and top deck. Out back, we tried archery. I shot 5 out of 7 bulls-eyes [targets] and Emily shot 2 out of 7. Then we went to the Stirling Castle. It was really cheesy, none of us really liked it. The next day we went to Doune Castle and bought audio guides. It was not cheesy, it was fun!
On our third day, we met up with Ms. Nicola and she took us to sthe wheel where we saw the boats get in and go around instead of through locks. After lunch, we visited the Kelpies, the two giant horse head statues sticking up out of the ground. Ms Nicola gave us each a journal with a cow holding a paintbrush in it’s mouth. What a fun day.
We then drove on the windy roads north and went to look for Nessy. The boat was packed and it was rainy, so I didn’t see her. In the middle of the boat ride, we got off and looked at the remains of an old castle.
We spent our last couple of days in Scotland at Gleneagles. On our first morning there we pet a pony and i rode a bike before going to Falconry. Falconry was so fun, we started by having the birds fly to a perch and back to us. Then we learned some of their calls, had them fly to a hedge and back, and finally I ran pulling a fake rabbit behind me and the bird caught it. It was so much fun!
There are several options for cruising around the perimeter of the UK- Large ship, small ship, expedition. The cruises are a great way to see the sections of the country you may like to return to at a later date. As we do with any cruise, a few days pre- or post-cruise can provide a little more time to explore some of the interior of the country.
Taking a tour with a small group provides the opportunity to experience the sites of the UK with other like-minded travelers on popular pre-designed itineraries. Let the tour companies organize the logistics, so you can “sit back, and enjoy the ride” Visit the top attractions during the best times and let someone else worry about driving on the other side of the road, parking, purchasing tickets.