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Family Day Trips from Edinburgh by Train

Family Day Trips from Edinburgh by Train

*Our visit to Scotland was sponsored in part by ScotRail and Visit Edinburgh, and the experiences expressed here are our own as always.

The train systems in Scotland are well-known for their efficiency, comfort and timeliness, and our experience recently in Edinburgh was all of that and more. On a recent trip with just Ava, she and I loved exploring the countryside. We took several family day trips from Edinburgh by train and had a blast! They were the perfect combination of authentic Scottish culture, history and old-world beauty. Scotland by train with kids is super easy!

ScotRail train at Waverly Station

ScotRail trains are an easy way to explore the Scottish countryside, all from Waverley Station in Edinburgh.

Traveling via ScotRail, Scotland’s official rail system, we traversed the countryside in style. Ava and I loved reaching destinations around Scotland full of excitement and adventure. Beginning in Edinburgh, we set off from Waverley Station (located in the middle of the Old City). We planned several fun-filled family day trips from Edinburgh by train that left plenty of time to explore and enjoy.

girl on ScotRail train in Edinburgh Waverly Station

Ava was so content on the ScotRail train, she even did a little creative writing on the way to Stirling Castle!

Family Day Trips Edinburgh by Train

Stirling Castle

ScotRail Stop: Stirling Station on the Stirling Line

One of Scotland’s most beautiful examples of age-old royal compounds, Stirling Castle is an incredible experience for family members of all ages. We took a quick train ride on ScotRail from Waverley Station and followed in the footsteps of knights and nobles. From there, it was an easy walk from the train station through the charming village up to the hilltop Castle.

Stirling Castle entrance in the rain

Rain or shine, Stirling Castle takes visitors back in time to Medieval Scotland.

We planned our visit to coincide with a day offering a special experience of reenactments of castle life during Medieval times. Castle guides were dressed in period costume, demonstrating various parts of life in the 1500s. Included in our tour, we saw feasts in the main dining hall and examples of costume making, painting and more. The entire castle is set up to teach about Scottish history through interactive exhibits. including Palace Vaults. Specifically for kids’ exploration, these including a wardrobe room, a room with Medieval toys and games, and an exhibit on medicinal plants and herbs. Check the Stirling Castle website for a schedule of special events.

Ladies in Waiting at Stirling Castle Scotland

These Ladies in Waiting were standing guard in the Queen’s bed chambers at Stirling Castle.

Falkirk Wheel & The Kelpies

ScotRail Stop: Falkirk Grahamston Station on the Stirling Line

Falkirk Wheel

This day trip allowed us to see two different sights in the same day, both from the same train station about 25 minutes outside of Edinburgh. First we visited the Falkirk Wheel, a rotating boat lift that connects two waterways located at different elevations. A feat of engineering, the Wheel is the only one of its kind in the world. (I know it may sounds boring, but trust us it isn’t.)

Falkirk Wheel on the Scottish Canals

The canals of Scotland are connected by locks, and the Falkirk Wheel is the most impressive of them all.

Boarding a canal tour boat, we maneuvered into the lock which then lifted us slowly into the sky. When even with the upper canal’s water level, the locks opened and our boat captain moved us out of the wheel and into the waterway. It was dramatic and impressive – a very modern and innovative solution to the age-old problem of water navigation.

The Kelpies

From the Falkirk Wheel, you can rent bikes and easily traverse the 20 minute ride across the flat Scottish countryside to The Kelpies. (Since the weather was poor, we took a taxi!) Situated alongside the canals, The Kelpies are an enormous sculpture of  two horse heads. Towering nearly 100 feet high, they are made of stainless steel and incredibly impressive. According to ancient Scottish lore, Kelpies were mythological creatures that could transform their shape at will. They often chose the appearance of a horse, representing both strength and perseverance. Situating them next to the canals was a very symbolic move to signify Scotland’s progress into modern technology.

The Kelpies sculptures in Scotland

The enormous scale of The Kelpies sculptures are hard to comprehend until standing directly under them.

There is a 30-minute guided walking tour. It’s worth the small fee for better understanding of why this attraction is so important to Scottish culture. For us, it was a great visit outdoors where we could experience the beauty of the Scottish countryside. We breathed the clean crisp air and spent time along the canals in a park-like setting. Here, there is plenty of room here for kids to run around and let off some travel steam!

National Mining Museum Scotland

ScotRail Stop: Newtongrange on the Tweedbank Line

The National Mining Museum Scotland is a very quick walk from the train station. It’s nestled into a largely residential neighborhood amid a growing suburban community. Along our way, we passed a sweet little downtown of shops, pubs and restaurants. This was the original site of the Lady Victoria Colliery, founded in 1894 as one of the United Kingdom’s many coal mines. It was also one of the last operating – it closed in 1981.

The National Mining Museum of Scotland entrance

The National Mining Museum of Scotland celebrates the hard work of coal miners throughout Scotland’s history.

Well preserved in much of its original state, the mine is now a giant exhibit of what life had been like for coalminers and their families. Kids were a prominent part of coal mining back in the day, and their stories were tragic. Some were indentured by their families to pay a bill. Other families had too many mouths to feed, and sent their kids to the mines. It was an eye-opener to understand the conditions in which these kids and adults worked, and how dangerous the mines could be. Organizers have done a great job appealing to kids at this museum, with tons of hands-on exhibits and places to explore. It was particularly spooky in some places, where the self-guided tour led us into some less traveled areas. Ava got the heebie-geebies and insisted she sensed ghosts, so we moved on!

coal bins at National Museum of Mining Scotland

Inside the National Museum of Mining in Scotland, there are some creepy spots in these old coal mines.

Abbotsford House

ScotRail Stop: Tweedbank on the Tweedbank Line

Abbotsford House is the country home of famous author, poet and playwright Sir Walter Scott.  The home and grounds are preserved much the way he left it, complete with Sir Scott’s myriad collection of oddities from around the world. The manor is a very romantic view back into the history and aristocracy of 19th century Scotland. Collections of knives and swords, armor, antlers and taxidermy beasts are still displayed as he left them. In addition, most of the furniture and his vast library collection are intact. There is a audio tour we found really well done, with versions for both kids and adults that keeps the younger ones entertained.

Abbotsford House of Sir Walter Scott

One of the most elaborate country manors in Scotland, Abbotsford House is a museum of collectibles and oddities.

If you visit during the Spring and Summer months, the gardens here are spectacular. They are filled with colorful blooms, interesting statuary and long green lawns stretching out into vast parkland. We also really enjoyed the restaurant here, built into an ultra-modern visitor center with a great menu. On a dreary day, it was the perfect place to stop for some warm soup, crusty bread and a nice cup of tea. Revived, we ventured back out into the famous Scottish fog.

sword and firearms collection at Abbotsford House Scotland Sir Walter Scott

Sir Walter Scott was quite a collector, and these swords and firearms are a tiny portion of the things on display at Abbotsford House in Scotland.

We Can’t Wait to Go Back!

With so many places to explore, Scotland remains high on our list of places for a return visit with the rest of the family. The rail system makes it so easy to explore! We still have yet to visit the northern parts of the country to see Loch Ness, Inverness and some of the more remote destinations.

We had a blast on the train, complete with cups of warm tea and free wifi. Family day trips from Edinburgh by train is definitely the way to go!

Edinburgh Waverly train station

Topped by an enormous greenhouse roof of glass panes, Waverley Station is stunning and historic in the middle of Old Edinburgh.

 

 


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Good Eats In and Around Edinburgh

Good Eats In and Around Edinburgh

Honestly we didn’t expect much from the food scene in Scotland, and we could not have been more wrong – we easily found good eats in and around Edinburgh that pleased both kids and adults. Yes, if you seek it out you can find Haggis and Black Pudding and all the stuff that has given Scottish food a bad rap. Most restaurants (catering to visitors anyway) serve dishes we can all enjoy without cringing.

For those unaware, Haggis is a Scottish specialty made from sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs, minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, and encased in the animal’s stomach, YUM! Black Pudding is made from pork blood. DOUBLE YUM! We’ll pass thanks. Since neither sounded particularly appealing to us, we set out on a quest to find food that didn’t make us wretch every time we thought about it.

Here’s a few delicious highlights to consider the next time you are in Edinburgh:

Zizzi  Italian Food – 1 Roxburgh Court (down Mary King’s Close)

Pastas and pizzas weren’t the only things on the menu at Zizzi, but they were so darn comforting.

A group of Italian restaurants with locations throughout the UK, Zizzi was the perfect stop for a casual dinner of food we recognized. It was comforting to be offered pizzas and pastas of many varieties in a great, warm, buzzy setting full of fun people laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Our pastas and pizzas were just as we expected – dependable and yummy. (It didn’t hurt that their Royal Mile location was directly next to our rooms at the Old Town Chambers Hotel).

Artisan Tap – 7-11 Wooer Street, Falkirk

Ahhh, burgers and a beer after a long day of sightseeing? Yes please!

Venturing outside of Edinburgh is absolutely necessary, as the sights in the countryside are wonderful – and easy to reach by ScotRail passes. While visiting the Falkirk Wheel and the Kelpies, we stopped into this casual restaurant and pub known for serving local brews. The burgers were delicious, and so were the craft beers I tried, including my fav – Schiehallion. Yup, they all had names I could not pronounce.

The Cafe at Abbotsford House – Tweedbank Train Station to Abbotsford/Melrose

Abbotsford House is grand and stately, sitting squarely in the countryside near Melrose, Scotland.

Outside Edinburgh by train to Tweedbank, Abbotsford House is the home of Sir Walter Scott that is now a really cool museum inside his country manor. The restaurant is remarkably good, set in a very modern building with contemporary design – completely opposite to the museum design and furnishings. With a light drizzle outside, the carrot soup was the perfect match.

Deacon Brodie’s Tavern – 435 Lawnmarket, Old Town Edinburgh

Deacon Brodie was one of Robert Louis Stevenson’s inspirations when writing Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde (evidently he was a real life Jekyl/Hyde dude). His namesake tavern serves up really great pub food, and we enjoyed a delicious Fish & Chips platter with a healthy splash of vinegar. The Steak, Amber Ale & Mushroom Pie in shortcrust pastry was also delish. Plus you really have to experience a traditional Scottish tavern while visiting, and this one is reaaaalllly cool.

Southern Cross Cafe – 63A Cockburn St, Old Town Edinburgh

The breakfast dishes at Southern Cross Cafe were a great way to start a day full of activities.

This cute little cafe is tucked into an historic building on the way to Waverly Station, and we stopped in for a delicious breakfast. Twice. The Eggs Benedict was perfectly prepared the way I like it, with yolks slightly runny and plenty of salty bacon. Ava had traditional porridge with cream and honey, and she gobbled it right up. The fresh morning rolls were the perfect topper.

The Dome – 14 George Street, Edinburgh

Can you believe how beautiful this dome is? It was awesome to eat delicious food in this gorgeous setting.

Within easy walking distance of the Royal Mile, The Dome really needs to be seen for full effect. It’s design is so stately and dramatic, with the bar sitting directly under the enormous dome of the building, with the restaurant surrounding it. This is fine dining, so pull out that nice sport coat you packed for occasions like this and treat yourselves to dinner here in The Grill Room under the enormous dome. Whatever you order will be fantastic (our steaks were among the best we’ve ever tasted), but the surroundings are the true star here.

There are plenty more great places to eat, so don’t worry. You will only need to eat haggis if you order it on purpose, you adventurous soul you!

 


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Exploring Edinburgh’s 101 Objects Along the Royal Mile

Exploring Edinburgh’s 101 Objects Along the Royal Mile

*This Is Edinburgh was kind to sponsor our experiences visiting the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, and we are so grateful for the opportunity to share it with you here.

Whatever your age, the romance and history of Edinburgh can be felt in so many ways – none of which is stronger than the Royal Mile and Edinburgh’s 101 Objects. Named the Royal Mile because it connects a route along High Street from The Palace of Holyrood House to Edinburgh Castle, the Mile is dotted with 101 interesting sights worth seeing along its cobblestone streets. Even the stones in the streets and the buildings on either side are immensely historic and interesting from an architectural perspective.

Using a handy map of the 101 Objects of Edinburgh to visit along the Royal Mile supplied by This Is Edinburgh, we walked from one end to the other and hit up a number of cool places along the way:

Scottish Poetry Library

More interesting than it might seem, this building houses a series of  mysterious and anonymous sculptures made entirely from the pages of books. They are miniature scenes, all painstakingly handcrafted from books into sculptures honoring great Edinburgh writers including Edwin Morgan, Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island and Jeckyl and Hyde), Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes) and more.

Home of John Knox

Inside the John Knox House stands the famous Geneva Bible, which Knox translated from Hebrew into English so it could be reproduced for the masses. Here in his home were hatched many royal plans and decrees. A learned man known among his peers for his wisdom, he lived a long and prosperous life in this house, which is furnished to represent his home as it appeared in the 1500’s.

The oldest standing building on the Royal Mile, the John Knox house harkens back to Medieval Edinburgh

Mary’s Close

During Medieval times and the Black Plague, tenements built along High Street were crammed full of poor peasants from front to back. These buildings were often constructed very poorly and condensed tightly to stretch across entire city blocks, which made them perfect tinder for regular fires and other catastrophes. When city architects started to rebuild them with more modern structures, they created Closes or alleys which tuck in off the street and tunnel under buildings to open back patios and courtyards in the rear.

Mary’s Close is one of many in the city, with this particular one made famous because it’s so well preserved and available for touring deep under the streets and buildings of the new City.

Statue of David Hume

David Hume is famous for his writings in philosopy, and there are monuments in his honor throughout Scotland. But that’s not what makes this relatively new statue of him such a draw. It’s said by local students that it’s good luck to rub his left big toe before taking exams. Whether that is true or not, the evidence is clear when you view his shiny brass toe attached to a very weathered, greenish and not-at-all-shiny body. Hmmmmm. Well we had to do it too, just in case.

Touch the toe! Touch the toe!

St. Giles Cathedral

This beautiful cathedral was built in the Gothic style around the year 1880, but has been a place of worship for more than 900 years. The Cathedral is crowned by a unique architectural trick that is lit at night to resemble an actual crown. The inside is even more spectacular, with very fine examples of stained glass windows and ceiling of particularly importance for its intricate carvings. Of particular interest is the incredible ceiling carvings in The Thistle Chapel, just to the right at the front of the building.

The Thistle Chapel ceilings are adorned with carvings and paintings

The Heart of Midlothian

Outside along the sidewalk in front of the church sits a heart made from differently colored paving stones, signifying the site of a former prison. Positioned in the center of the city, the Heart of Midlothian draws much along the Royal Mile attention now – people spit on it for good luck!

Don’t know why someone would want to spit on this nice heart!

Edinburgh Castle

Known for its beauty and starkness atop the hill in Edinburgh and perched on a cliff of enormous stone, Edinburgh Castle is a bit intimidating and foreboding. We could imagine what it must have felt like for a visitor to ride up the gates on a horse, asking for admittance. The walls are thick stone, the entry ways are guarded by draw bridges and thick wooden doors with spikes on the bottom. A long cobblestone road windows slowly up the hill through several more protective archways before reaching the interior buildings inhabited by the royals. Yikes!

Such a grand entrance across the drawbridge over the moat and into the castle

Once inside though, the exhibitions are amazing. The Royal Jewels are not to be missed, with precious gems so large we almost can’t believe they are actually real. The dungeons are also a point of high interest, and have been recreated as though they were housing nearly 100 inmates, prisoners of war that were packed into these nasty dungeons to live out their days.

94 More To Go!

We’re not sure it’s possible to visit all 101 Sights in one day, but we made a good effort. It would be so cool to come back and hit some more – it was hard to decide which ones to visit and which to skip when we planned our day, so I’m sure we missed some great stuff.

Have you hit any others on the list of 101? We’d love to hear what you loved (or didn’t) and what made your top picks!

 

*This Is Edinburgh was kind to sponsor our experiences visiting the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, and we are so grateful for the opportunity to share it with you here.


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Scotland Sights By Train

Scotland Sights By Train

*Our experiences in Scotland were in part hosted by ScotRail, for which we are grateful to have enjoyed this sponsored opportunity.

Scotland is such a beautiful, green and friendly country – Ava and I had a blast visiting for a few days recently. Edinburgh is lovely, and I will soon write about our fun experiences in the city. However, there is a whole countryside outside of Edinburgh so easy to tour via an easy trip on the ScotRail train system.

Using Waverly Station in Edinburgh as our jumping off point, we traveled the rails into the countryside. It was a perfect way to mix some downtime into our sightseeing, which is always good when you have kids along. Ava was able to relax and catch up on her Snapchat streams (oy, that’s another subject we need to talk about), while I looked out the window at the gorgeous countryside whizzing by. Really those views are postcard perfect, and would not have been the same if we had rented a car and I was forced to drive on the wrong side of the road. How do people do that anyway?!?!

Some spots you simply cannot miss:

Stirling Castle

Arguably the best castle experience we have ever had, and that is saying a lot considering how many we’ve visited all around the world. There is something both grand and quaint about Stirling Castle. It’s enormous, perched for centuries at the top of a hill on a rocky outcropping in the sweet hamlet of Stirling – about a 30 minute train ride from Waverly Station.

This Lady of the Castle at Stirling rushed along the ramparts to avoid the drizzle

Early settlements at this site have been traced back to the 12th century (that is a looooong time ago, and Ava could not even grasp how ancient that makes this place). Now preserved as it was in its heyday during the 17th and 18th centuries, Stirling Castle is remarkable because it is fully furnished as it appeared during those Medieval times. The King and Queen’s residences and private rooms all contain the originals or reproductions of furnishings, allowing visitors to really feel that era. Attendants in period costumes populate the castle and grounds, greeting guests and demonstrating life at Court all those years ago. There are also a bunch of interactive displays on the ground floor specifically for kids, to help them learn and understand life in Medieval times.

You can read more about our visit to Stirling Castle here.

The Falkirk Wheel

An engineering feat that boggles my little brain, the Falkirk Wheel is basically a canal lock built to transfer boats from one level of canal water to another. However, the Falkirk Wheel along the Scottish Canals is so dramatic because it is a unique solution and the only one of its kind in the world. It works by balancing a canal boat in its chambers at top and bottom, carefully weighing the water and boat contents and then turning the “wheels” containing each to trade places with one another. One boat moves downstream to continue its journey, while the other is moved upstream to motor in the opposite direction.

An engineering feat, the Falkirk Wheel is the modern-day lock to rise all boats

Visitors can take a ride on boats that traverse the canal through the wheel, and it was fascinating. The views from the top aren’t too shabby either. This is something you have to see to believe and if you have kids who love to know how things work, this will keep them occupied for any hours/days/weeks.

The Kelpies

Mythical Scottish lore tells of creatures called Kelpies that can change shapes at will, taking the forms of many different animals including their favorite, horses. The Kelpies lived in or near the waterways of Scotland, so an enterprising artist sculpted two enormous horse heads coming up from the canals in Falkirk. (The Kelpies are not far from the Falkirk Wheel; you can rent bikes and cycle along the canals from the Wheel to the Kelpies across about 40 minutes of flat terrain).

The Kelpies are massive, rising out of the Scottish Canals with great presence

The Kelpies are made of metal sheets, and really are quite beautiful as they reflect rays of the sun and the waters around them. Did I mention they are enormous? We felt dwarfed by them, but unlike other large figures we might know, visitors cannot climb up inside. Very cool though!

National Mining Museum of Scotland

Another day, we took the ScotRail train from Waverly Station to Newtongrange, where we walked about two blocks from the station to the National Mining Museum of Scotland. Maybe it was because it was a Monday and no one else was there, or maybe because it was raining on corrugated metal roofs, or perhaps because we have very creative imaginations, but this place is spooky!

Once home to an active coal mine, the National Mining Museum of Scotland is a fascinating look into the past

Coal mining was a huge part of Scotland’s economy through the past centuries as demand grew for the energy that burning coal supplies, among other by-products. Ava was freaked to learn that many poor families back in the day had “sold” their kids into indentured servitude in order to make ends meet (sometimes more than one kid from the age of 7 up!) There were many deaths due to caves falling in, noxious gasses and explosions of all kinds. It didn’t sound like those time were much fun, but the museum is super interesting. Solar panels, anyone?

Abbotsford, The Home of Sir Walter Scott

Another highlight of our trip was a visit to the country manor of Sir Walter Scott, famous for his novels like Ivanhoe and Rob Roy as well as many poems and plays during the 1800s. This dude was quite a collector and his home is quite literally filled with items he collected from his travels and interests, bringing them back to Abbotsford to adorn the walls, tabletops and his unbelievably voluminous library.

Sir Walter Scott’s home, Abbotsford, is an impressive collection of history

The walled gardens here are equally amazing, and we strolled among rosebushes and other flowers all protected by a Gothic-style structure. Abbotsford has a very good visitors center and shop, with a high quality restaurant upstairs that overlooks the manor and gardens. We loved our grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup as we watched the drizzling rain create a very period atmosphere. This experience was high on our list.

Transfer to London

When the time came to leave Scotland for London, it was just as easy to take the train from Waverly Station to Kings Cross. A different rail system makes this trek, smooth and quick along a dedicated track with very few stops that makes a beeline to London in about 4 hours. We had time to catch up on reading for Ava, and blogging for me. All with a spot of tea and a nice Scottish shortbread cookie, this ride was very comfortable. We recommend reserving seats in advance at one of the tables, to spread out and stake your territory.

And when in London, you really must take the train again – this time to visit The Making of Harry Potter at Warner Bros. Studios just outside London. That was an incredible experience!

*Our experiences in Scotland were in part hosted by ScotRail, for which we are grateful to have enjoyed this sponsored opportunity.


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Day Trip To Stirling Castle from Edinburgh

Day Trip To Stirling Castle from Edinburgh

* This trip was made possible by the gracious support of ScotRail, Scotland’s primary rail system, and we had a blast!

Scotland is an amazing place, and it’s really worth seeing more of the beautiful countryside outside of Edinburgh. We took a day trip to Stirling Castle from Edinburgh by ScotRail train, and it was a very easy 45-minute trip down the rails to the town of Stirling, Scotland.

With just enough time for a spot of tea and some gorgeous views of the countryside whizzing by, we reached the Stirling train station easily and set out for a nice walk through this charming town up the hill to the Stirling Castle. It drizzled rain while we were there, which added the perfect Scottish mystery to our visit of this historic place. On arriving, we walked over the moat and through the castle gates  – directly into the 16th century.

What’s a little rain in Scotland? It just adds flavor to the historic scene at Stirling Castle.

We totally geeked out and wanted to play Dungeons and Dragons or something. Maybe Game of Thrones perhaps?

Daily Life

On certain days, Stirling Castle comes to life with a population of actors in period costume, reenacting what it had been like to live here in the 1500-1600s. Women dressed as Ladies in Waiting and men as Courtiers greeted us as Lords and Ladies come to visit the Queen. In each major room of the Castle, demonstrations were set up to illustrate various parts of daily life.

Ladies in Waiting are dressed to attend the Queen in her bedchambers

For example, in one room a feast was set up on long tables with real food and dishes cooked during that time. We were told by the fair maiden that this was obviously a royal banquet because the food featured was chosen to display the wealth of the household when greeting VIP guests. (I guess we rated!) A roasted goose, partridges and other meats were set up, along with sweets like fruit pies, mincemeat tarts and these gorgeous figures made from sugary marzipan. The dragon was truly a work of art.

Inner Chambers

From there, we entered another hall filled with an armory of swords and shields as well as several suits of armor. We couldn’t help posing for a photo or two with these old guys.

Inside further, we ventured into the Queen’s bedchambers, where Mary Queen of Scots once resided in her royal estate (she was born here). Her room was hung with ancient tapestries all around, depicting scenes of war, peace, hunting, fishing and other noble activities. The canopy bed was adorned with deep red fabrics, draped across the bed and made into bed linens. To say it was ornate would be an understatement – it was downright over the top. Royalty liked it fancy back then!

The Queen’s bedchambers at Stirling Castle are decorated in historical designs and artifacts.

In these quarters, two ladies in waiting and a gentleman courtier were dressed as they would have been for a royal ball. They looked incredibly uncomfortable in these richly embroidered clothes of brocade and embellishment – I can only imagine what it must have been like when the weather was hot! Remember, they only bathed rarely and never brushed their teeth. So despite their finery, these people must have been smelly! Thank goodness for the invention of perfume.

But they looked good, and that’s very important.

Battlements

The outside perimeter of Stirling Castle was designed for defense of the Crown, and it was fortified by thick castle walls. The drawbridges and gates had metal spikes on their bottoms in case anyone tried to squeeze underneath as they were closing, and there were places where burning hot oil could be poured on those unlucky souls who got past the first rounds of defense. The towers were designed for arrows and crossbows, where archers would shoot through slits in the castle walls to reach the attackers below.

Setting the mood for more modern defense of Stirling Castle…

Along the parapets all around the Castle, ledges were designed into the walls for the cannons that would come in later centuries. Several were left on display for us modern visitors, and we imagined how difficult it must have been to load enormous metal cannonballs into these giants. Many of these battlements were soaked wet by the regular rains, and moss and ferns were growing out of the stone which gave it an even more authentic old world feeling.

A woman dressed in period costume rushes across the Stirling Castle battlements

Kitchens

Imagine how much food it took to feed a castle full of people every day! The kitchens were vast, and Stirling Castle has done a great job of displaying what took place in the palace cookery. In one area, enormous pots are set up on fireplaces meant to boil stews and vegetables for the royal tables. In another, bakery ovens are shown with bakers making loaves of hearty bread. Giant wheels of cheese, baskets full of fresh fruit, kettles of fish and a whole pig on a roasting spit illustrate the wealth of the Castle.

If this all makes you hungry on your visit, you can always pop over to the Castle’s Unicorn Café for a full meal or snack to get you by.

A banquet fit for a King and Queen? These were the royal specialties of the medieval days at court.

Hands-On for Kids

For those will younger kids, there is a very cool display on the ground floor with castle rooms dedicated to hands-on learning posts about life in the castle. In one, the clothing of the Queen and King and their courtiers were on display with real example of fabrics replicated from back then, all available to touch and feel. There are even small costumes the kids can try on to feel more authentically from the period.

In another room, an artisan is shown carving the famous Stirling Castle medallions out of giant rounds of wood. Upstairs in the castle, you can see the ceiling adorned with these medallions and family crests, which is a marvel of artistry and a well-known part of the Stirling Castle tour. Look for them in the King’s chambers upstairs.

The Trek

Plan on spending a good half day on this Stirling Castle adventure, what with the short ScotRail train ride, the walk through the great little town, and then the incredible castle tour. Although I would have preferred an earlier start (Ava likes to sleep laaaaaaate) we arrived at the Castle at about 10 am, and left around 1 pm for a little lunch in town.

Stirling Castle ticket prices are very reasonable – about $ 20 US for adults and $12 US for kids.

We highly suggest you purchase the Edinburgh Days Out Travel Pass from ScotRail, which allows the entire family to trek across the Scottish countryside from Waverley Station for two consecutive days, hopping on and off as much as desired. Rather than fumble around with unfamiliar change at train station ticket machines, we just whipped out our passes and buzzed right through. So easy!

The Edinburgh Days Out Travel Pass is about $ US for a family ticket, and approximately $ US for an individual (kids under 5 are free, and kids 5-15 are half price). Such a deal! Buy the Travel Pass at the ticket windows in Edinburgh’s Waverley Station or any other station just once, and then enjoy them to visit any destination to which ScotRail travels.

 

* This trip was made possible by the gracious support of ScotRail, Scotland’s primary rail system, and we had a blast!