Picture this: 10 days of travel with your best friend. A best friend that happens to also be your grandma.
While I was never fortunate enough to travel with my mother, I had the pleasure of accompanying my grandmother to Scotland in August this year. It was an adventure I will not soon forget.
Why did you go?
My dad happens to be an exceptional bagpiper, and his band, Hamilton Police, were competing in the World Pipe Band Championships. If you’ve never been to a pipe band competition, I would highly recommend it. Most of the competitions in Ontario also feature highland dancers and heavy competition (like caber toss!) If you live in Ontario, the Fergus Highland Games are a favourite.
What did you see?
- Beaumont Hospital, Dublin (a story for another day!)
- World Pipe Band Championships
- Loch Lomond, Glencoe, Glenfinnan, Morar, Mallaig and the Jacobite Steam train
- Edinburgh & HMY Britannia
- Dunfermline Abbey, Rosslyn Chapel, Stirling Castle (and some highland Coos!)
- An Outlander day tour featuring many of the set locations
- Hadrian’s Wall, Roman Vindolanda and the Scottish Borders
- Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and Mary King’s Close
What were the highlights?
The best days for me are the ones spent exploring. I don’t think I was disappointed by anything! I would recommend seeing all of the above. Photos don’t do these places justice.
In terms of tours, my grandma was particularly fond of the Outlander day tour that we booked with Slainte Scotland Tours. Our tour guide was fantastic (he’s an extra in the show!), and the day was well-paced. The locations were beautiful, the photos look great. Fans of the show will love it.
What vendors did you use?
We booked all of our tours, except the Outlander trip, through Viator. It was easy to book, easy to understand, and listed in Canadian dollars (you can switch the currency based on your needs). Overall, a great experience.
We booked our hotels through Expedia, using the Ebates app. Hotels are expensive in Scotland, particularly in the middle of festival season in Edinburgh. Get some cash back! I think all told I got $250 back from booking this trip. Your travel fund will thank me later.
We stayed at the Carlton George in Glasgow and the Holiday Inn Express in Edinburgh. Both are in terrific locations, the rooms were quiet, and offered good value. Good breakfasts (included at the HIE, additional charge at the CG) help a lot, too!
Our flight was with Aer Lingus, and I cannot say enough good things about their staff and our experience! (This may have something to do with our stop over at Beaumont Hospital. More on that in another post!)
I carried a TEP wireless device with me, and it was so handy! I would definitely recommend for anyone as obsessed with Instagram stories as I am. My grandma loved being able to access Google Maps whenever we needed to double check our directions.
Would you do it again?
In a heartbeat! I would love to do it again. I think in hindsight, I may have over scheduled us, but my grandma was an awesome sport about it. She kept the pace like a pro!
Would you change anything?
Aside from our detour to Beaumont, I would not have changed a thing. Next week I’ll get into the ups and downs, the more emotional side of this experience, and the lessons learned.