Once upon a time, at The National Railway Museum, I saw the Flying Scotsman. This beautiful 100 year old locomotive ran the first non-stop service from London to Edinburgh. I thought it would be fun to travel the original route with our kids. I convinced Peter it was worth our effort not to catch the train at our local station but instead, board the train in London, so we could have the complete non-stop “Flying Scotsman” experience.
We boarded the train and 30 minutes later, we heard the announcement, “Next stop, Peterborough.” Oops. Peterborough is our local station. The same station I was sure wasn’t a stop on the “non-stop” Flying Scotsman. We learned that “express” and “non-stop” are not the same thing and we were on the “express.” According to the conductor, the non-stop service doesn’t exist anymore. Oops, again. The only response from Peter was a brief look of annoyance. I felt bad enough, so it was nice of him not to rub it in.
Edinburgh is hilly, with shadowed stairways and secluded passages. These features create a wonderfully eerie and exciting vibe. I was sure I would turn a corner and bump into Professor Dumbledore!
One of the coolest parts of Edinburgh is that the city was built in layers. There are two valleys on either side of the Royal Mile and as the city grew, residents had to build up from the valley to link different parts of the city. We had fun wandering through different stories and getting confused in the maze. It’s a different experience to navigate a city by going up and down. Google Maps says you’ve arrived somewhere and you realize it’s not where you think it is. We entered a building on what we thought was street level, only to climb 7 flights of stairs and exit the building on what also appeared to be, “street level.”
Our first full day began, as always, on the hunt for sugary carbohydrates.
I could smell 101 Bakery from down the street but unfortunately it was closed! The food looked incredible so next time we will make sure to call first. Luckily we found…
Bits Bake shop. Bits Bake shop had a smaller selection of treats but everything we tried was delicious. The kids wanted the whole shop!
After stocking up on deliciousness we took the kids through the Innocent Railway Tunnel. This tunnel was the first rail tunnel in Scotland and originally used for coal transport. It was converted to a bike path in the 1980s to connect Edinburgh’s South Side to the East coast.
Cake for Lunch and Arthur’s Seat
Our next stop was Dr Neil’s Garden. The garden was beautiful and the women running the cafe were so friendly, we decided to have tea and cake.
We used the sugar high to get us to the top of Arthur’s seat, a beautiful and extinct volcano. It was 1 mile to the top and 400 ft of elevation gain. Thousands of flying bugs and Sage’s screaming dominated our hike but we trudged on and enjoyed some outstanding views. Sage’s bug rage took its toll and she fell apart at the summit. These moments are never well-timed but the weather was decent so we laid down, and helped her recover.
As we descended Arthur’s Seat, we stumbled upon the 1,000 year old ruins of St Anthony’s chapel. I wish I could time travel and experience this chapel in the 1300s. I wonder who else stood in this spot with their kids and enjoyed the view? We took a few pictures and made our way to Dynamic earth.
Dynamic Earth and Museum of Edinburgh
At Dynamic Earth we watched a film called “Whats Up?” We learned about the stars above Edinburgh and the solar system. The man who narrated the movie was so passionate about space I left wanting to become an astronomer! And, it’s important to note, the French Fries (chips) in the cafe were delicious.
From Dynamic Earth we walked the Royal Mile and and stopped at the Museum of Edinburgh. The museum is quirky, damp, and smells like a basement but it’s cozy and informative. There is so much to learn about Edinburgh’s history.
Royal Mile Tavern and a fried Mars Bar
For dinner we ate at the Royal Mile Tavern. Edinburgh has great food! After spicy burgers and sausage, we tried our first fried Mars bar. It’s akin to French fries filled with chocolate so it wasn’t my thing. The kids were happy and described it as, “ugly but delicious!”
We stopped at Alandas Gelato and shared a scoop of mint chocolate chip and stracciatella. One dessert isn’t enough for our crew, especially after walking 10 miles!
Our third day began at Edinburgh Castle. If you like military history this castle is for you. The majority of the exhibits feature historic Scottish battles which may be exciting for some people, but not for us. We enjoyed the firing of the 1:00pm canon, the prisons exhibit and the Honours of Scotland, which display the oldest crown jewels in Britain.
The castle is worth a visit but it’s a little information heavy for kids. Depending on your passions for Scottish history, this castle could take multiple days or just a few hours. I was so tired that the highlight of my visit was whiskey tasting in the gift shop.
Grassmarket for lunch and The National Museum of Scotland
After the castle we headed to Grassmarket to find a place to eat. We found the Hula Juice Bar which reminded me of the food I miss from Southern California. I was happy to see there loads of fresh veggies on the menu! The Grassmarket area has been a marketplace for over 1,000 years and used to be the site for public executions. Fortunately now, it is free of bloody heads and home to colorful and busy independent shops and restaurants. I loved it here.
We decided to finish off our 8 mile day at the National Museum of Scotland. This is one of the best museums we’ve ever visited. We went in with zero expectations and were so excited we went. The inside of the building is gorgeous. It’s worth the visit just to see how the light filters into the main hall. There are so many different exhibits to explore. Each section is the perfect size, visually creative, and engaging. There are many interactive opportunities for kids (and adults). We loved it here so much we returned the next morning before catching our train back to London.
I want to spend an entire year in Edinburgh. I want to do an underground tour, I want to learn more about the history of the city, and I want to explore every bookstore and boutique. The people-watching is fantastic and there are too many restaurants to try for one long weekend. We barely scratched the surface and I can’t wait to go back.