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From San Francisco to Edinburgh Via London – 2018 UK Travelogue

Week 1 of our 2018 UK Travelogue features our journey from San Francisco to Edinburgh – via London, plus sites we visited our first few days in Edinburgh. Learn what to see in Edinburgh with kids.

Edinburgh, Scotland panorama shot from the top of Edinburgh Castle

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From San Francisco to Edinburgh Via London – 2018 UK Travelogue, Week 1

Hello from Edinburgh! Technically this isn’t a full week, but it’s easier to write these up on weekends. See the other weeks here:

June 19th and 20th: traveling from San Francisco to Edinburgh (via London)

We left our home in California Tuesday morning. In honor of our 17-year wedding anniversary on Wednesday, Mike decided to splurge on a limo to the airport. Very fancy! the kids loved singing along to the Annie soundtrack on the way to the airport.

Family riding in a limo

We got to the airport VERY early. Security took a while, then we had a gate that was pretty far away, but we still have a couple of hours at the gate until our plane took off. We ran into several people we knew who, it turns out, were also going on our flight. It’s a small world – and London is a popular destination!

Keeping Kids Busy On the Plane

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The kids were overjoyed to discover the plethora of children’s videos on offer on our United flight. This was great for keeping them quiet and busy, but terrible in that they chose to watch the screen instead of sleeping. I could have made them turn off their own screens, and I tried that, but then they just watched less appropriate shows on the screens of other people on the flight. So I opted into appropriate viewing on their own screens instead.

The new Peter Rabbit movie was a hit with the younger kids, although I found what I watched of it quite strange. Emma enjoyed A Wrinkle In Time, which I also liked, although I was surprised how many changes they made from the book.

Only five-year-old Anna slept on our nine and a half hour flight. This Super Scotland Sticker book was a hit for off-screen time – and great preparation for the trip.

Despite not sleeping, the kids were ridiculously cheerful when we landed in London. This was good, because the customs line was very long. We were happy to make it through that, and even happier to discover all of our luggage once we reached the baggage claim area.

Kids at London Heathrow Airport

Catching the Train to Edinburgh

We had a van hired to drive us to King’s Cross Station, but they weren’t there. They finally turned up in about thirty minutes after a couple of phone calls.

London traffic is pretty epic, and it took over an hour to drive to King’s Cross Station. All of us fell asleep on the van ride.

The kids enjoyed the Platform 9 3/4 shop there, but opted out of standing in the very long line to get their photo taken with a Harry Potter trolley.

We found some food in the King’s Cross station shops, and – once again – had a couple of hours of waiting time.

Taking the train from King's Cross in London to Waverly Station in Edinburgh

King’s Cross to Edinburgh Train Ride

Taking the train is the slow way to get to Edinburgh. It’s also the beautiful way to get to Edinburgh, and train rides are much smoother than plane rides. Somehow my two older kids made it through the five hour ride without falling asleep once. They spent most of the time reading on their kindles. My five-year-old slept nearly the entire way, and the rest of us all napped some.

Edinburgh Travelogue Part 1

Our Arrival in Edinburgh

Our train let us off at Waverly Station, which is right in the middle of Edinburgh city. We dropped by the Lothian transport office to pick up bus passes for Johnny (his pass from two years ago went missing) and Anna (she was too young for a bus pass on our last visit). The rest of us were able to simply add money to our bus passes from our last visit. Then we caught a taxi to our flat. We could have caught a bus, but at that point we were very tired, and we had a lot of luggage to deal with as well. We arrived at our flat about 24 hours after our departure from our California home!

Once at our Airbnb flat, I started unpacking and sent Mike off with the two older kids to pick up groceries at a nearby shop. They got home, we made dinner, and everyone went to sleep!

June 21: Our First Full Day in Edinburgh

Dressing up in the National Museum of Scotland

We spent the morning running errands, and then Mike took off for work and I took the kids to the National Museums of Scotland. We spent hours and hours in those museums two years ago, and it was the first place they wanted to return to! I was happy for them to run off some energy on the hamster wheel. They also spent a lot of time at the green energy interactive exhibits this visit. We stayed at the museum until closing time, then walked home (we’d caught a bus there, but it’s a nice downhill walk home and the weather was stunning). I cooked dinner and got the kids to bed. Mike had a dinner with students and got home after all the kids were in bed.

June 22: Craigmillar Castle

Craigmillar Castle in Edinburgh, Scotland

Mike was busy today with work and students, so the kids and I decided to go visit a castle.

Craigmillar Castle sits at the southern end of the city of Edinburgh – right next to the hospital where our oldest daughter Emma was born back when we lived here as students. It’s a hidden gem in the city, and the kids picked it as their second site to explore. Edinburgh Castle may be more well known, but we love Craigmillar Castle!

I bought a parent plus children Historic Scotland membership before leaving California. It gives us free access to castles all over Scotland, which means the kids and I can visit them whenever we like.

The weather was, once again, stunning. This is unusual for Edinburgh, even in the summer, so we’re making the most of it. Craigmillar Castle is in ruins, so good weather is particularly important (we did visit in the rain two years ago, but it was more pleasant in nice weather!)

Visiting Edinburgh's Castles

The kids loved running around the castle grounds, and finding the answers to a little quiz they were given at check in. If you visit Historic Scotland sites, bring along a pen or pencil so your kids can complete these quizzes! Craigmillar Castle actually had pencils we could borrow, but Edinburgh Castle (which we visted the next day) did not.

Craigmillar Castle added a new space since last time we visited, with coloring sheets for the kids, as well as games: skittles, naughts and crosses, and quoits.

Playing quoits at Craigmillar Castle

June 23: Downtown Edinburgh

Mike took the kids ton a city bus tour along with his students this morning while I caught up with things back at the flat. I met Mike and the kids at The Elephant House Cafe for lunch, where we enjoyed gluten free brownies, hot chocolate, and delicious baked potatoes. Then we walked up to the Royal Mile.

We left Mike at the David Hume statue on the Royal Mile, waiting for his students who were meeting him there after their lunch. The kids and I continued up to Edinburgh Castle, where we picked up another quiz for the kids to try during our visit.

This was our first time visiting the castle on a weekend, and it was packed! I definitely recommend visiting on a weekday instead, if you can.

We still enjoyed our castle visit, and the kids completed their quiz. We ran into Mike and the students, who had made their way up the Royal Mile to the castle as well. Eventually Mike said goodbye to his students and we caught a bus with him back to our flat, where we met up with a good friend from our grad school days for dinner. We had a wonderful time catching up and watching our kids play together.

June 24: Church, Old Friends, and Quiet Time

Today wraps up our first week in Edinburgh! We went to our old church and meet up with friends there, then Mike went into town with students for the afternoon and evening. The kids and I are playing in the flat and at the park across the street. The weather continues to be stunning, and I look forward to more adventures next week!

That’s it for our first week! Do you have recommendations on where we should go next week? on my Facebook page, or by tagging me on Instagram.

MaryAnne at Mama Smiles
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MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

5 thoughts on “From San Francisco to Edinburgh Via London – 2018 UK Travelogue”

  1. Natalie PlanetSmarty

    Wow, your kids are intrepid travelers. We have to load a lot of books on A’s Kindle before every flight, because she has no interest in movies. Here is hoping that she will sleep some on her upcoming flight to Germany. Enjoy your trip! It looks like you are keeping very busy and seeing so many wonderful things. I am jealous!

  2. I was disappointed with all they changed in the Wrinkle in Time movie too. It made me sad.

    I’m impressed only one kid had lost their bus pass in the ensuing years from your last visit.

    And finally, I’m so jealous, I want to go someday. Of course my list of places I want to go is really long…

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