A Stop in Edinburgh, Scotland

Looking back at previous destinations, Edinburgh was a place we wanted to visit for some years, and had a chance to see during our 2014 trip of the British Isles.

That trip itinerary started with us thinking about spending time in London, but then researching destinations and airfare prices. At the time, a ticket from San Francisco to Dublin was significantly less expensive than a ticket from San Francisco to London. Buying tickets for a family of four, we decided to use this as an exploration opportunity.  We added a few inexpensive one-way flights and trains to the mix, letting us see Dublin, Edinburgh, York, and London. 


With 2 nights and 1 full day, it was a very quick stop in Edinburgh, but we simply didn’t have time for more – these  days, we do spend more time at destinations. If this is all the time you can budget, it can work, but you are likely to be much happier with more time in this delightful city.

Evening Arrival

With an evening arrival from Dublin, we did not find our way to St. Giles Apartments  rental just off the “Royal Mile” old town area until 9:00pm. Being summer in northern latitudes, there was still a pleasant amount of daylight when we arrived. We were enjoyed the apartment’s Old Town location and the separate bedroom it had for our kids.

Fortunately, the kids had enough to energy to go out and take a brief walk. We picked up some snacks and got a quick feel for the city, but really didn’t have time for much more than that.

The Portrait Gallery

In the morning, we decided to visit a few museums, one of which was the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. If you like art museums, definitely make a stop here! All of us enjoyed it.

The Castle

When we were done with museums, we got lunch in the New Town, then decided to head to the main attraction that we wanted to see: The Edinburgh Castle. Even though the history of this hill goes back to at least the 2nd century, the history of the castle only goes back to 12th century.


This was one of my favorite castles to take the kids. It’s in reasonably good shape, is nice and imposing, and has lots of room for small children to run without hurting anything.


On arrival, the kids were excited to see some cannons:

The defenses for this castle were quite important. In the 14th century, it changed hands many times. The most famous takeover was the surprise attack by Thomas Randolph, first Earl of Moray, who reclaimed the castle for Robert the Bruce in 1314.


In 1603, James VI of Scotland also became James I of England in the Union of the Crowns. Since his primary residence was in England, at this point, the Edinburgh Castle mostly just served as a military stronghold.

There was more fighting in the 18th century during the Jacobite Rising, then the castle dungeon was mostly used to hold prisoners of war. These prisoners mostly came from the Seven Year’s War, the American War for Independence, the Napoleonic Wars, WWI, and WWII. The youngest was a 5 year old drummer boy that was captured in 1805.


Now, the castle is operated by Historic Scotland and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The views of Edinburgh from the castle are quite good, so make sure you spend some time enjoying them.


All of us had a fabulous time visiting this famous castle.


St. Giles Cathedral

From here, we decided to walk the Royal Mile, making sure to stop at St. Giles Cathedral, which was right next to our apartment. There is a suggested donation to enter.


Founded in the 12th century, the architecture is quite impressive. In 1559, the cathedral became Presbyterian, with the famous Scottish Reformist, John Knox as its minister. Most people consider this to be the mother church of Presbyterianism.


We learned some background about the church becoming Presbyterian in the late 1500’s as part of the Scottish Reformation. During the religious infighting in the 1600’s, King Charles I forced it to be Anglican for some time, before it became Scottish Presbyterian again.

Museum of Childhood

We had a lot of fun at the Museum of Childhood, but apparently we decided not to take any photographs. It is small, but it was fun to go down memory lane and look at old toys.

John Knox House

Next up was the John Knox House, which was small, but fun for me and Jeremy. John didn’t mind sitting in John Knox’s seat and posing for a photo:


We enjoyed learning a bit more about this famous leader of the Scottish Reformation.

Our Evening

We finished our walk at the Scottish Parliament Building, went to the train station to go get our train tickets to York for the next morning, and then got a quick dinner at McDonald’s. We have a tradition for taking the kids to McDonalds in each new country we visit, so time was running out for that.


The rest of the evening was spent enjoying the atmosphere as we wandered behind the castle and through the Old Town.


What a lovely, if packed, day in Edinburgh! Scotland is on my list of places to return!

Keep reading our travel blog for more adventures in Europe!

Here are some more blog posts from this trip:


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