A drive from London to Edinburgh leaves favorable lasting impression
Chris A Hale
After literally months of planning our trip to Scotland, the decision was eagerly made by my family to drive to Edinburgh from London with a one-night stopover in Wales so we could see Stonehenge along the way.
After landing at London's Heathrow Airport, we enthusiastically waited in the customs line to embark on our highly anticipated cross-country adventure. The border control woman took our passports, stamped them, and asked where we would be staying. On hearing we were driving to Scotland, she replied that it would be much cheaper to fly considering the cost of petrol and the length of the drive. She even shook her head as if to chide us for our poor decision.
Were our spirits deflated? Nope. Did we reconsider and buy plane tickets? Absolutely not. Did we load up our rented Volkswagen Beetle and head out of town? You bet we did!
Stonehenge was terrific, a literal must see if visiting England. Cardiff, Wales, was fantastic, too, especially the castle by the same name.
Then we came to Scotland. Oh, wow! Let me try to paint a picture of how fabulous Scotland was.
We drove for approximately nine hours from Wales, through England, and across the Scottish border into Edinburgh.
Fluffy clouds cast purple shadows on rolling green hills separated only by stone walls or hedgerows. Sheep were everywhere, with one or two spring babies frolicking about, nibbling grass and languidly napping. They were so cute we had to stop multiple times just to take pictures.
Tiny villages with thatched-roof cottages and blooming gardens dotted our journey and were every bit as charming as we dreamed they would be. We had lunch al fresco by the side of a loch and enjoyed shepherd’s pie while watching the boats navigate the waterway.
The drive was made even more interesting because of the steering wheel on the right side of the car and driving on the left side of the road. Luckily, my wife was very helpful in that endeavor, giving me useful advice all along the way!
Bed and breakfast accommodations are plentiful in Scotland. We stayed at the delightful turn-of-the-century Heriott Park Guest House about three miles from the city center. The room was huge and the breakfast very tasty. It was a terrific way to start our day each morning.
Talk about colorful histories; Edinburgh could not possibly be outdone by any city I’ve ever visited. Participating in just one of the city's ghost walking tours would shock even the most jaded tourist. We actually joined in two; the Underground City Vaults tour and the Greyfriars Cemetery and Covenanters Prison expedition. Not only were they both very scary and entertaining; but both were extremely educational.
For those questioning whether to take their kids or not, we took our 10-year-old son and he had a great time on both.
Greyfriars Cemetery is the same cemetery depicted in the Disney movie about Greyfriars Bobby, the dog who never left his master’s side even after he was buried. However, the actual history of the cemetery is nothing like a Disney movie.
Of course we couldn’t miss Edinburgh Castle. I mean this literally; it is so large that it is visible from anywhere in the city as it sits majestically on a central hill at one end of the Royal Mile. Even more impressive than the distant view was walking along the ramparts and buildings of the actual fortress. Ancient cannons and gargoyles protect the environs every step of the way, too numerous to count, and we even got a chance to view the Scottish crown jewels, which consist of a crown, a scepter and a sword.
At the other end of the Royal Mile is Holyrood Palace, the residence of the queen when she is visiting Scotland. In between are some of the most intriguing businesses, historical residences and fun shops you could ever imagine.
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